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Robert J. Park

R. J. PARK is one of the pioneers of Nome. He is a conspicuous figure in its history, and a well known and successful citizen of the community. He is a native of Ontario, Canada, and will be forty-four years old June 22, 1906. He accompanied his folks to North Dakota in 1871. In 1885 he began a line of work, traveling as a salesman for safes, cash registers and bicycles, which he followed for fifteen years.

The Klondike strike gave him the gold fever, and he went to Dawson in 1898. Since that time the northern country has been his home, and the place where are located his business interests. He has had many interesting experiences, some of them more interesting than agreeable, such experiences as come to every man who has spent years in Alaska.

While descending the Yukon late in the season of 1898 he was "frozen in," and compelled to go into winter quarters on Dall River. His wife was with him and a participant in this experience. Sending her to the states via Dawson after the severe part of the winter had passed, he left Rampart in March, 1899, with two dogs and a sled, without tent or stove, and started alone on a trip down the Yukon to Nome. An account of this trip is an interesting story of itself. He was thirty days on the trail, camping whenever it was possible with wood choppers or natives. There were three nights, however, when he was compelled to make a camp in the snow and sleep before a camp fire underneath the canopy of the sky. In recounting his experiences he does not look upon the incident of this trip as hardship of an extraordinary nature. He was without money, except a small quantity of gold dust in a poke, but he says that he was not discouraged until he arrived at Nome. At Unalakleet he met Edwin Englestad, the trader, whose uniform courtesy and kindness to all "mushers" were ex- tended to the weary traveler, making one bright spot in this memorable journey.

Arriving in Nome early in April he saw what appeared to him to be the most desolate looking country he ever beheld. Near Nome he had fallen in with two men who had a tent, and the party had been augmented by another stampeder who had a stove. The Nome beach where the town now stands, was covered with seven feet of snow. There was no evidence of a town or camp at that time. The prospectors were compelled to dig a big hole in the snow to find ground upon which to pitch their tent. The tent was erected where the Eldorado Saloon now stands. Mr. Park was so disgusted with the surroundings that he intended to pull out for St. Michael as soon as he was rested.

Soon after his arrival he met Charlie Hoxsie, who came over from St. Michael. He was acquainted with Mr. Hoxsie and learned from him that the tent was pitched on his ground. He purchased from Mr. Hoxsie a lot 50x300 feet, agreeing to pay $200 for it ninety days after date. He arranged with R. T. Lyng, manager of the Alaska Commercial Company, for the purchase of a large tent and a stock of liquors and cigars. The tent was a striped one, and is shown in an engraving in this book, which was the first photograph ever made of Nome. Seventy days after buying this lot he sold a one-quarter interest in it for $22,000. This not only furnished him with ample capital to engage in business, but enabled him to acquire other property. As the result of his business during this summer, and his speculations in mining and city property, he left Nome in the fall with $70,000 in cash, and he owned property valued at $100,000.

The early part of this season was full of unique incidents. The arrival of the whaling fleet about fyjay 24, and the procurement of fresh supplies from the whalers, is remembered as a conspicuous feature of this season by the few men who spent this winter in Nome.

In the early summer of 1905 Mr. Park disposed of his interests in Nome, and returned to the states. He married Miss Louisa Couteron, of San Francisco, December 5, 1895. He is an enterprising, progressive citizen.  

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



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