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Alfred Creek

Lowell Family Legacy in the Talkeetnas.
Published 1-25-2021 | Last updated 1-25-2021
61.916, -147.616


GNIS Entry

History Name used by local prospectors; reported in 1906 by T. G. Gerdine and R. H. Sargent, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Description flows SW to Caribou Creek, 54 mi. NE of Palmer, Talkeetna Mts. 12 miles long.

Much has been written about the Lowell family, the first American family to settle Resurrection Bay around 1883.[1] With their Alutiiq and Russian mother Mary and American father Frank, they represented the Outer Kenai Coast’s primary cultural influences in a microcosm and are commemorated by multiple geographic place names around Seward. On the west side of Resurrection Bay, Lowell Creek and Lowell Point commemorate the entire family. Across the bay Mount Mary, Mount Eva and Mount Alice specifically honor the mother and two daughters and may be, as Edgar Blatchford (former mayor of Seward) has pointed out, the only features in southcentral Alaska named for individual Native Alaskan women.[2]

Farther inland, a tributary of Caribou Creek near Syncline Mountain and Belanger Pass in the Matanuska River valley honors a Lowell son. The name was established sometime around a gold strike on the creek in 1913, and over time its usage became more common than the Ahtna name Tsidghaazi Na', or 'Rough Rock Creek.'[3]

Alfred Lowell was born in 1876 while the Lowells lived in Nanwalek (English Bay), and in a brief life which only lasted until 1910 he left his mark as well. He was best known as a miner and a musher, but worked as a hunting guide, a fox farmer, and at certain points owned both a saloon and a dairy farm.[4]

“Alfred Creek was named for Alfred Lowell, of the pioneer Lowell family, who formerly lived in Seward.”
The Seward Daily Gateway, September 18 1913[5]

In the early part of his adult life, Alfred focused on the area around Seward. He staked an unnamed claim on Tonsina Creek in January 1904, followed by the Ready Money Placer Claim that May and the Black Bear and Peduck Lode Claims on Resurrection Bay in June and July.[6] He wasn’t merely dabbling either; in December 1904 he wrote to the Seward Gateway estimating that his Tonsina property could yield $20-30 per day (approximately $580 - $880 today)[7[8], and by October 1906 had proven himself right by sluicing out $19.23 of gold in a day of work.[9] Around the same time he also filed for a fish cannery site on Resurrection Bay, stating "I have used this stream and the ground described for the catching & curing of fish since May 1886."[10]

Alfred’s industriousness gradually drew his attention northward. In 1905 he began mushing the mail route from Seward to Tyonek[4], and in 1906 he put out ads selling his fox farm located on Renard Island (now called Fox Island) in Resurrection Bay to free himself to prospect along the Susitna River.[11] He built up a reputation as an extremely competent musher for the mail route from Seward to Tyonek and in 1909 was selected by the Seward Commercial Club to help establish and promote the Iditarod Mail Trail along with the acclaimed Japanese-American musher Jujiro Wada.[12][13]

It is currently unclear what Alfred’s connection was to the Matanuska region. So far no records have been found indicating that he personally prospected the area in the initial wave of discovery. He may been an esteemed friend or financed a grubstake, or been honored on the basis of his prowess as a musher who enabled the supply lines to the district. ‘Colonel’ Harry Revell, one of the “old timers who are somewhat familiar with the Alfred creek country” according to the 1913 Seward Gateway article, was a brother-in-law of Alfred’s through his sister Eva Lowell.[4]

It is hard to guess where those various talents might have led Alfred had he lived a full life. In October 1910, at only 34 years old, he drowned in Lake Kenai when a boat swamped while returning from a moose hunt.[14]

With gratitude to the Resurrection Bay Historical Society for recommending sources and clarifying genealogy.


Further Reading


The late Kenai Peninsula historian Mary J. Barry included an extensive biography of Alfred in volume I of “Seward, Alaska: A History of the Gateway City” which includes more detail than this article, although it does not mention any connection to Alfred Creek. Readers who are curious about Alfred, the Lowell family, or the early days of Seward are encouraged to find a copy at a local library or bookstore.


Sources


[1] Brue, S. “The Lowell Family and Alaska’s Fur Trade Industry: Seward, Alaska.” Alaska Park Science 3, no. 1 (2004): 39-43.

[2] Blatchford, E. “Perhaps unknown in the Chugach Native region, could be the only mountains named for Native women.” April 10, 2020 https://www.facebook.com

[3] Kari, J. and Smith, G. 2017 Dene Atlas. The Web Atlas of Alaskan Dene Place Names, Version 1.2. (accessed July 9, 2020).

[4] Barry, M.J.P., Seward, Alaska: A History of the Gateway City, vol. 1 (Anchorage: M.J.P. Barry, 1986), 27.

[5] “Seward May Send Man to New Strike.” The Seward Daily Gateway, September 18, 1913. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/2017218598/1913-09-18/ed-1/seq-2/

[6] Hildreth, H.H. Notices of Location of Placer Claim, Palmer District Mining Book 1, 520-527.

[7] “Tansina Creek Gold.” The Seward Gateway, December 9, 1904. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84025749/1904-12-09/ed-1/seq-1/

[8] “CPI Inflation Calculator” Accessed January 2, 2021. https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1906

[9] “Gets Gold on Tonsina Creek.” The Seward Weekly Gateway, October 13, 1906. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98059811/1906-10-13/ed-1/seq-1/

[10] Hildreth, H.H. Location Notice, Palmer District Mining Book 1, 391.

[11] “Fox Island For Sale” The Seward Weekly Gateway, February 10, 1906. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98059811/1906-02-10/ed-1/seq-3/

[12] King, R. “Iditarod National Historic Trail Historic Overview.” Bureau of Land Management. Accessed December 18, 2020. https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/Programs_NLCS_Iditarod_Trail-Historic-Overview.pdf

[13] “Wada Statue” The Tripod, Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, October 2015. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://www.iditarod100.org/uploads/5/2/4/5/52459009/tripod_oct_15.pdf

[14] “Information for Everybody” The Douglas Island News, November 2, 1910. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84021930/1910-11-02/ed-1/seq-1/