The History of Dillingham

Dillingham is located at the extreme northern end of Nushagak Bay in northern Bristol Bay, at the confluence of the Wood and Nushagak Rivers. It lies 327 miles southwest of Anchorage, and is a 6 hour flight from Seattle. It lies at approximately 59 02' N Latitude, 158 27' W Longitude (Sec. 21, T013S, R055W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Bristol Bay Recording District. The area encompasses 33 sq. miles of land and 2 sq. miles of water.

The area around Dillingham was inhabited by both Eskimos and Athabascans and became a trade center when Russians erected the Alexandrovski Redoubt (Post) in 1818. Local Native groups and Natives from the Kuskokwim Region, the Alaska Peninsula and Cook Inlet mixed together as they came to visit or live at the post. The community was known as Nushagak by 1837, when a Russian Orthodox mission was established. In 1881 the U.S. Signal Corps established a meteorological station at Nushagak. In 1884 the first salmon cannery in the Bristol Bay region was constructed by Arctic Packing Co., east of the site of modern-day Dillingham. Ten more were established within the next seventeen years. The post office at Snag Point and town were named after U.S. Senator Paul Dillingham in 1904, who had toured Alaska extensively with his Senate subcommittee during 1903. The 1918-19 influenza epidemic struck the region, and left no more than 500 survivors. A hospital and orphanage were established in Kanakanak after the epidemic, 6 miles from the present-day City Center. The Dillingham townsite was first surveyed in 1947.

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