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Dr. A. N. Kittilsen

DR. KITTILSEN was the first recorder of the Nome Mining District. He is one of the pioneers of Northwestern Alaska. After Dr. Sheldon Jackson had succeeded in securing the co-operation of Congress in the undertaking of introducing domestic reindeer in Alaska, and after the experiment had proved successful, further Government aid was obtained to the extent of procuring reindeer herders from Lapland to teach the natives how to take care of the reindeer. One of the terms of the contract, between the United States Government and the Lapland reindeer herders, specified that the Government should provide a physician who would go to Alaska and locate at the reindeer station where his services would be available in time of need. Dr. Kittilsen was selected for this post. He was of Scandinavian ancestry and sufficiently familiar with the language of the Laplanders to be able to communicate with them. He accordingly came to Northwestern Alaska in the spring of 1896, and besides practicing his profession where his services were needed, he filled the position of assistant superintendent of the reindeer station. During the second year of his residence in Alaska he was acting superintendent of reindeer.

The reindeer station was first established at Port Clarence, but in December. 1897, it was changed to Unalakleet. Dr. Kittilsen was at this station when Libby, Melsing, Blake and Mordaunt were prospecting on Ophir Creek during the summer of 1898. Three years previous to this date a man by the name of Johansen had discovered gold near the head-waters of the Neukluk, and had whipsawed lumber and made sluice-boxes with which to work the claim, when he received a letter from some friend or relative on the Yukon informing him of a strike which induced him to abandon his plans and leave this part of the country.

Dr. Kittilsen is familiar with all the circumstances connected with the discovery of gold on Seward Peninsula. He knows the story of the trip to Sinuk River in July, 1 898. This trip was made by John Brynteson, J. L. Haglin, H. L. Blake, M. Porter, Chris Kimber and N. O. Hultberg. The party started from Golovin Bay in a small boat to investigate the discovery of gold in the beach near the mouth of Sinuk River, reported by natives. A storm coming up forced the party to make a landing at the mouth of Snake River, and while waiting there for the storm to abate they went up the left limit of Snake River prospecting the country for gold. They crossed Anvil Creek and found colors in this stream but did not stake. Returning to their boat they continued their trip to Sinuk but did not find anything at this place.

After this party returned, Brynteson, Lindblom and Lindeberg arranged to return and investigate the prospects found on Anvil Creek. Dr. Kittilsen had quit the Government's service and was at Golovin Bay at this time. When the three prospectors got back from Anvil Creek they had with them thirty-five dollars in gold which they had panned, and their report was evidence that a big strike had been made. A schooner was chartered and Dr. Kittilsen, G. W. Price and Tornensis accompanied the three discoverers to Anvil Creek. The district was organized and Dr. Kittilsen was selected as recorder. The great richness of Snow Gulch was indicated by the result of four men panning a few hours and obtaining seventy-six dollars of dust. A couple of crude rockers were constructed, and $1,800 was rocked out of Snow Gulch and Anvil Creek.

The party lived in a tent on Specimen Gulch until November 10. By this date the season was so far advanced that it was impossible to do any more mining and they returned to the Sandspit on the westerly side of the mouth of Snake River, where they waited for Missionary Anderson and a Laplander to come after them with a deer team according to promise. The team failed to arrive when they expected it, and they started to return to Golovin Bay in their boat and got as far as Cape Nome when they met the deer team.

As Dr. Kittilsen assisted in the organization of the Nome Mining District and was its first recorder, holding that office until August, 1900, he obtained some valuable properties which he has since operated and is still working. Dr. Kittilsen's first residence in this country was continuously from the spring of 1 896 to the fall of 1 899, and during this period he traveled more than 5,000 miles behind reindeer. During his incumbency as recorder, the office was conducted in an admirable manner. The records today bear evidence that they were well kept, even though there was a scarcity of stationery supplies when the district was organized.

Dr. Kittilsen is a native of Wisconsin, and was born in March, 1870. His father was a Norwegian and his mother was the first white child born in the town of Christiana, Dane County, Wisconsin. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin, and was graduated from the Rush Medical College of Chicago in 1894. After practicing his profession two years in Wisconsin, he went to Alaska as narrated in the first paragraph of this sketch. In 1901 Dr. Kittilsen and Berthe Knatvold were married in Tacoma, Washington. They have one child. Anne Clarissa, now three years old.

Dr. Kittilsen is a man of sterling worth. The good fortune that has come to him as a result of his sojourn in the Northland could not have fallen in a more deserving place. As a pioneer of this country, and as a man who helped to frame the rules and regulations governing the new camp, his record is an interesting experience and a part of the early history of Seward Peninsula of which his friends and descendants may be proud.

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




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