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The Land of Tomorrow By William B. Stephenson Characters: 12972

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

IF the idea that Alaska is the "land of ice and snow" is gradually disappearing another idea just as erroneous seems likely to take its place. This is that Alaska is the "land of gold." While it is true that along her streams and in the heart of her mountains lie minerals of the value of which no man can speak truly, the gold mines of Alaska are by no means her greatest asset. Her farms and fisheries, her enormous coal fields, the thousand and one opportunities to make money which do not exist in older localities are here to be had with small effort and little or no capital. I could cite many instances of those who have acquired wealth in this country from almost infinitesimal beginnings.

A wealthy man of my acquaintance who now owns a four story building covering a whole block in Seattle went to Nome when the great rush was on. Unlike the others he neither sought for gold nor located mines. All he possessed was a boat. He established a ferry on Snake River, which is only about fifty or sixty feet wide. He charged twenty-five cents a trip. As soon as he got together a little sum he bought a steamboat which had been wrecked on the river and converted it into a lodging house. Two years later he was president of a bank!

This is only one instance of hundreds which are a matter of personal knowledge. I know of four sisters who came to this country after a hard struggle in the States. They bought a few wash tubs and opened a laundry. Two of them mended for the miners. The other two washed and ironed. They netted a hundred dollars a day! Two of them married. The other two opened a millinery and dry goods store. They made a fortune. They live in the west now and could live in affluence if they so desired. They have invested in government bonds and other safe securities and are the best exemplification of the possibilities of the Great North that I know.

One thing which I should like to make plain and which is an item of value to the prospective resident is this: Alaska is a country where unfair dealing or trickery is not tolerated. In the early days when food was worth its weight in gold, when one was forced to pay fifteen dollars for an oyster stew and one dollar for a cup of coffee, this fact was made plain and nobody has tried it since to my knowledge. A fellow who had set up an eating house was caught one day putting sperm candles in the soup to give it a rich flavor. The miners made short work of that man. They put him in a boat, took away the oars and set him adrift down the Yukon! In my first years in this country the appearance of the first boat which got through the ice in the spring was a great event. We knew it would bring us fresh vegetables and eggs. This was before the days when we raised crops of any kind. Cheerfully we paid the fabulous prices for tomatoes, grape fruit, eggs and such things. And not infrequently we ate all that we purchased at one sitting!

In listing the business opportunities in Alaska perhaps one may as well begin with that most important asset of any country,-the land itself. Any of the valleys on Cook Inlet contain many acres of good agricultural land, some of which is timbered. The coast line from Wrangell to the Aleutian Peninsula, split by many streams, has also many acres. The better place to locate, however, is near the large towns. The Susitna and Matanuska valleys hold the coal fields and near them are thousands of acres where the wild hay for cattle grows in great abundance. There is much less loss of stock in Alaska in winter than in Montana and the Dakotas. The coldest day on the Alaskan coast last winter south of the Aleutian Islands was above zero. For fifteen years (and this is as long as the records have been kept) there has never been a week when the average temperature has been as cold as that of New York, Washington or Philadelphia. Alaska's climate gives the lie to her latitude.

It is, of course, the Japan current which transforms this part of Alaska. What magic it works,-this warm, life-giving stream! It clothes the northern isles in green vegetation, makes the silk-worm flourish far north of its rightful locality and brings warmth and joy to the dwellers of the Far North.

The government has committed itself to a new policy of development in Alaska. The vast riches of this country are not to be exploited at haphazard or at the whim or the will of private corporations or individuals. The national shoulders have been squared to the task of developing the country and her resources in a manner conservative, sane, and in keeping with the magnitude of the interests at stake. Practically all the land and natural resources of the country are still the property of the United States.

There is a plan on foot for the creation of a Development Board, to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It includes the voting of an appropriation sufficient to obtain men of ability who will devote themselves to the task and who will live in Alaska! This is as it should be. Alaska's interests, now batted back and forth between the General Land Office, the Forest Service, the Road Commission, the Bureau of Mines, the Bureau of Education and the Secretary of the Interior, would all be handled by one body whose raison d'être would be the welfare of Alaska. All her activities are closely related. All are a part of one huge problem and all should be directed by one governing board.





There are sixty-four million acres of agricultural land in Alaska which can be made valuable for tilling and grazing. Some of this is already under cultivation but there is not yet an output more than sufficient to supply the home markets. The farming area, according to the surveys which have been made, is as large as the combined area of the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, and in the opinion of the Department of Agriculture this area ought to be capable of supporting a population nearly equal to that supported by the farm products of these states.

Almost every kind of a crop can be raised in Alaska, although corn will not grow at all and the soil is not particularly good for wheat. But barley, oats, rye, potatoes

, cabbages, turnips, tomatoes, and nearly all the common garden vegetables have been grown successfully. The potatoes are of the best quality and run several hundred bushels to the acre.

Wild fruits grow abundantly. Nearly every kind of berry (except the cranberry) can be raised here. Only two years after the terrible eruption of Mt. Katmai, on the Alaskan Peninsula just opposite Kodiak Island, the ash-laden hillsides were again covered with verdure. The rich green grass grew as high as a man's head and it really seemed that the eruption was the best thing that had ever happened for Kodiak. The grass not only grew high. It grew much earlier than it ever had before and the berries were much larger and more luscious than they had been before the ash covered the land. The berry crop was enormous. Kodiak, like Ireland, is now an "Emerald Isle." The eastern part of it is covered with a magnificent forest of spruce beyond which lies luxuriant grass land, the abundance and quality of which for hay and forage is not approached by any grazing land in the United States. It is equaled only by the "guinea grass" of the tropics. At present this part of the country is almost entirely neglected. But one of these days the stock raisers of the world will wake up. They will find no finer spot on earth for the promulgation of their industry than the Island of Kodiak.

Of the berries which grow in Alaska the most important is the "Molina" berry. In shape and appearance it is much like our blackberry, or a cross between the blackberry and raspberry. When picked it comes loose from the receptacle like the raspberry. These berries grew in Kodiak before the eruption, it is true, but they were much smaller and less palatable and the vines were much less hardy and vigorous. In one respect they resemble the persimmon. They have an astringent taste which disappears only when the berry is dead ripe. But they are extremely delicate of flavor,-distinctive in that they resemble in taste nothing else that I know and when served with sugar and cream they are excellent.

There are two varieties of blueberries. One is known as the high-bush blueberry and the other is known as the low-bush berry. I have always thought it a little strange that the cranberry does not grow here. Conditions seem good for it. But it does not.

When the railroad is completed (which will be soon), when the farmer has an outlet for his produce and can enter the markets of the "Outside," the future of Alaska will be secured. The government is now selling the land at most reasonable rates. For four hundred dollars one can buy a three hundred and twenty acre farm. Pioneers are rapidly taking advantage of this to become independent land owners.

Time was in the United States when, beyond the Mississippi, Wilderness was King! But this did not prevent the settler from breaking his way through. So it is in Alaska. The trees are being hewn down for clearings and in those clearings homes are springing up. More men each year are locating homesteads and bringing their families with them, secure in the knowledge that their children can be educated in Alaskan schools, fed with Alaskan meat and vegetables, their bills paid in Alaskan gold. There is a market for everything that can be grown and this market will be much enlarged by the increased population which the railroad will bring. Alaska will soon be a populous and prosperous country and will one day ask admission to the Union. When she comes in, bringing her six hundred thousand square miles, she will be the largest State. Texas, so long the giant, will be a dwarf in comparison.

To sum up, then, the opportunities which offer themselves in Alaska,-there are (1) cattle ranges of enormous size; (2) immense salmon shoals; (3) huge tracts of farming land; (4) large forests (in certain sections) of fine timber; (5) an almost unlimited supply of fur. The United States has no tin mines except in Alaska. There is enough coal buried under the soil to keep the whole world warm for five thousand years! The coal, tin and gold must be mined. Here is a chance for large numbers of workmen. The fish must be caught and canned. The canneries employ large numbers of men. But the crying need of the country is for homesteaders, because the agricultural development is of prime importance to Alaska and to the world. The first binder operated in Fairbanks in 1911 and the first threshing machine in 1912. In time implement houses will be needed. Manufacturing enterprises offer a rich field. At present (1918) there is not a single grain mill in the country. This may be due, however, to the fact that there is not yet a large enough amount of grain raised to justify the building of mills. But in time there will be. There is unlimited water power for their operation.

Mr. Michael O'Kee, a Yukon Territory gardener, is regarded as the Luther Burbank of Alaska. He has specialized in berries and has proved that they may be grown just as well around the Arctic Circle as in sun-kissed California. Also, he has grown cabbages weighing eighteen pounds with heads hard and sound.

Reindeer breeding is fast becoming an important factor, and here again one must revert to the land. Reindeer need space, for they are the beef of Alaska and must have pasturage. This pasturage is always to be had. Reindeer steaks are and have been for a long time regularly quoted on the Seattle markets. That they will one day figure conspicuously in our meat supply cannot be questioned. Already the big packing concerns have sent their representatives to look over the ground. There is one drawback to this industry, however, which will have to be adjusted and regulated before it can become profitable. The cost of shipping is now prohibitive. Alaska has now a hundred thousand reindeer. Within the next ten years she will have three million.

A well-known mining engineer of Los Angeles who has recently studied the resources of Alaska has thus summed up his belief:

(1) The reindeer ranches of the Far North are destined to solve the meat question for the United States.

(2) The fisheries of the north coast waters will be able to furnish practically all the sea food for the entire country within the next century.

(3) The gold, copper and other valuable mines of Alaska have scarcely been scratched, and the next few years will see an Alaskan boom not now dreamed of by the most optimistic business men of the United States.

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