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Captain Walter H. Ferguson

CAPTAIN W. H. FERGUSON, a well-known sea captain on the different oceans of the world, and one of the pioneers of Seward Peninsula, was born in Philadelphia in 1860. He was educated in the schools of Philadelphia and vicinity, and in his early manhood adopted a sea-faring life as a profession, rising rapidly to a command. After serving on the sea for twenty-two years, and hearing of the fabulous riches of the great Northland, he determined to try his luck at mining.

His first trip to Northwestern Alaska was in 1898. In 1897 he was employed by the North American Transportation and Trading Company as superintendent of construction at Dutch Harbor, and supervised the building of the company's river fleet at that place. After completing his work he went to St. Michael in September, 1898. While there he heard of the strike on Ophir Creek in the Council District, and in company with Dr. Townshend. of New York, and a mining expert, he at once proceeded to the diggings.

In those days there were no trails or well-kept road-houses, and traveling was different from what it now is. The traveler through this country pitched his tent where night over-took him, and cooked his meals over an open camp fire.

Arriving at Council City the party found even at that early date that the creeks in the vanity of Council had been staked to the mountain tops, and not having time to measure fractions or to go far afield for new locations on account of the lateness of the season, the party returned to Golovin Bay. While waiting at the Bay for transportation to St. Michael the Captain met Dr. A. N. Kittilsen and many of the old-timers who had during the season of 1898 prospected different parts of Seward Peninsula, and hearing good reports from these men, he determined to return to the peninsula in the early spring of 899. He was unable to remain in Alaska that winter on account of the necessity of having to go to the states to consummate some unfinished business.

The great strike on Anvil Creek late in the season of '98 intensified Captain Ferguson's desire to return, and he was among the early arrivals in the Nome country in 1899. During this summer he prospected and staked some claims in nearly every section of the peninsula. In the fall of 1899 he engaged in business in Nome, and took a prominent part in the affairs of that community. He was an active member of the Citizens Committee that deported a number of bad characters that infested the camp, and later, in the spring of 1900, when it became necessary for the citizens to again organize and assist in the government of the place, the Nome Chamber of Commerce was formed and Captain Ferguson was unanimously elected the first president of this organization. The good work done by this body of men has heretofore been noted. They raised $20,000, most of which was used to drain the town and put it in a sanitary condition. In the spring of 1900 18,000 people arrived in Nome, but so thoroughly had the Chamber of Commerce performed its work that only a few cases of typhoid fever were reported during this season. In January, 1900, Sam C. Dunham organized Camp Nome of the Arctic Brotherhood and Captain Ferguson was elected the first Arctic Chief of the camp. Ever since the organization of the camp he has been an ardent worker in the cause of the Brotherhood. In July, 1900, Captain Ferguson was appointed United States Commissioner at Council City, and filled this position until October, 1902. During that entire period he was feared by evil-doers and claim-jumpers. He would not permit any man to go on a claim and endeavor to hold it against the original locator. While Captain Ferguson was commissioner the Council District was well governed. He modestly disclaims the credit, but says it was due to the co-operation and support of the good citizens of that locality.

Since 1902 the Captain has been engaged in transportation and mining. He is also an attorney-at-law, having been admitted to practice before the courts of Alaska previous to his appointment as United States Commissioner. He is a rugged, forceful, energetic man, and was a good man at the helm during the first winter in Nome. The readers of this volume will see that he has left his footprints in the history of this country.

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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