Old cabin at Talkeetna all that remains of Argonaut Tom Weatherell’s Alaska adventure | Alaska sketch
A Peninsula Clarion article from May 2021 reports that Thomas P. Weatherell came to Alaska in 1898 as part of a group of hapless Argonauts heading for the Klondike gold fields. His entourage, the Kings County Mining Company, left New York in February 1898 aboard the well-stocked sailboat Agate, circling Cape Horn.
Due to bad weather and hostilities between the United States and Spain, the Agate did not arrive in San Francisco to pick up other company members until August. It finally arrived in Alaska in October, too late for the company to push to the Klondike with several tons of supplies.
Instead, the Agate headed for the northern Kenai Peninsula mining camps of Sunrise and Hope. However, the company was once again in the throes of bad luck. The captain of the Agate, unwilling to navigate the waters of Cook Inlet, convinced the company to sail the lands from Katchemak Bay to Turnagain Arm (with all their supplies in tow). By December, they had only reached Skilak Lake, where they had built cabins and wintered. In the spring, the company dissolved. Most of its members returned to the East Coast, but several remained in Alaska, including Weatherell.
U.S. Census records show Weatherell joined the Cook Inlet Gold Rush. In 1900 he was at Kroto Creek, a tributary of the Sustina River. In 1910, his residence was Susitna Station, where he likely met the store owner, Horace Nagley. When Nagley opened a store in Talkeetna in 1920, Weatherell obviously went to work for him.
Nagley employed Weatherell for many years, selling and shipping supplies to mines in the Cache Creek area, 45 miles to the west. True to the tradition of other prospectors turned traders (like Jack McQuesten), the miners of Weatherell headed for the excavations. He was also the postmaster of Talkeetna until 1927 and was active in the Talkeetna Commercial Club, which functioned as the city’s chamber of commerce. Weatherell continued to operate seasonally in the Cache Creek area for many years.
According to the Talkeetna Historical Society, during the 1920s Weatherell hired another Talkeetna resident, Hjalmer Ronning, to build him a 19-by-25-foot cabin on Main Street near the Nagley store. Ronning was a Norwegian immigrant and a skilled carpenter. He erected a one-and-a-half story hipped-roof cabin for Weatherell, using spruce logs cut flat on three sides, dovetailed at the corners and held in vertical alignment with wooden dowels. A cutout at the southeast corner, facing the street, forms a sheltered alcove protecting the main entrance. The first floor has eight-in-one double-hung windows, and the street front has a small hipped dormer on the second floor with an eight-paned window. At one point, the corner cutout was closed and a gable roof addition was built to the rear of the cabin.
Weatherell moved in the 1940s, selling the cabin to another miner, Adolf “Missouri” Taraski. Since Taraski’s death, the cabin has had several owners and it has gradually fallen into disuse. For several years, it was listed by the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation as one of the ten most endangered historic buildings in Alaska. In 2010, the building’s owners, Suzanne and Todd Rust, received a grant from the National Office of History and Archeology to stabilize the unoccupied building.
Work completed during the project included removing the rear addition and front entrance enclosure, installing a new foundation, and replacing the lower logs and much of the siding. floor of the first floor. The building is awaiting further interior work to bring it back to a habitable state, but its beautiful Scandinavian log workmanship is visible to anyone walking the main drag. It is part of the historic district of Talkeetna.
• “An unusual and difficult trip to Kenai. Clark Fair. In the Clarion Peninsula. 5-11-2021
• “This is the Weatherell House”. Web page of the Talkeetna Historical Society and Museum,. 2021
• “Talkeetna Historic District, National Register of Historic Places entry form”, Fran Seager-Boss and Lawrence Roberts. National Park Service. 1992
• “The Weatherell House”. Fran Seager-Boss. In the newsletter of the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation. Volume 29, Number 2, Fall 2011
• “United States Census Records, Third Judicial District, Southcentral, Alaska: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.” Coleen Mielke. On searching our Alaska Family Roots website,http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~ coleen / genealogy / sud_central_alaska>
Ray Bonnell is a freelance artist, writer and longtime resident of Fairbanks. See more of his works on www.pingostudio.us.