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The History of Nome, Alaska

A Guide to Modern Nome, Alaska


    Nome was built along the Bering Sea, on the south coast of the Seward Peninsula, facing Norton Sound. It lies 539 air miles northwest of Anchorage, a 75-minute flight. It lies 102 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and 161 miles east of Russia. It lies at approximately 64 30' N Latitude, 165 25' W Longitude (Sec. 26, T011S, R034W, Kateel River Meridian). The community is located in the Cape Nome Recording District. The area encompasses 14 sq. miles of land and 9 sq. miles of water.

    Malemiut, Kauweramiut and Unalikmiut Eskimos have occupied the Seward Peninsula historically, with a well-developed culture adapted to the environment. Around 1870 to 1880, the caribou declined on the Peninsula and the Eskimos changed their diets.

    Gold discoveries in the Nome area had been reported as far back as 1865 by Western Union surveyors seeking a route across Alaska and the Bering Sea. But it was a $1500-to-the-pan gold strike on tiny Anvil Creek in 1898 by three Scandinavians, Jafet Lindeberg, Erik Lindblom, and John Brynteson, that brought thousands of miners to the "Eldorado." Almost overnight an isolated stretch of tundra fronting the beach was transformed into a tent-and-log cabin city of 20,000 prospectors, gamblers, claim jumpers, saloon keepers, and prostitutes. The gold-bearing creeks had been almost completely staked, when some entrepreneur discovered the "golden sands of Nome." With nothing more than shovels, buckets, rockers and wheel barrows, thousands of idle miners descended upon the beaches. Two months later the golden sands had yielded one million dollars in gold (at $16 an ounce). A narrow-gauge railroad and telephone line from Nome to Anvil Creek was built in 1900. By 1902 the more easily reached claims were exhausted and large mining companies with better equipment took over the mining operations. Since the first strike on tiny Anvil Creek, Nome's gold fields have yielded $136 million.

    The gradual depletion of gold, a major influenza epidemic in 1918, the depression, and finally World War II, each influenced Nome's population. A disastrous fire in 1934 destroyed most of the City.

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To the main Department of Community and Economic Development Alaska Community Database Online


History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development



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