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Introducing Eagle

One of the better-preserved boomtowns of the Alaskan mining era, Eagle is a quaint hamlet of log cabins and clapboard houses, inhabited by folks who seem disarmingly cosmopolitan. The original settlement, today called Eagle Village, was established by the Athabascans long before Francois Mercier arrived in the early 1880s and built a trading post in the area. A permanent community of miners took up residence in 1898. A year later, the US Army decided to move in and build a fort as part of its effort to maintain law and order in the Alaskan Interior. Judge Wickersham established a federal court at Eagle in 1900, and the next year President Theodore Roosevelt issued a charter that made Eagle the first incorporated city of the Interior.

Eagle reached its peak at the turn of the 20th century, when it boasted a population of more than 1500 residents, some of whom went so far as to call their town the 'Paris of the North, ' though that was hardly the case. The overland telegraph wire from Valdez arrived here in 1903. This new technology proved particularly useful to the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who hiked overland to Eagle in 1905 after his ship froze in the Arctic Sea off Canada. From the town's telegraph office, he sent word to the world that he had just navigated the Northwest Passage. Amundsen stayed two weeks in Eagle and then mushed back to his sloop. Nine months later, the ship reached Nome, completing the first successful voyage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean across the Arctic Ocean.

The gold strikes of the early 1900s, most notably at Fairbanks, began drawing residents away from Eagle and caused the removal of Judge Wickersham's court to the new city in the west. The army fort was abandoned in 1911, and at one point, it is said, the population of Eagle dipped to nine residents, seven of whom served on the city council. When the Taylor Hwy was completed in the 1950s, however, the town's population increased to its present level. In the late 1970s, noted author John McPhee arrived, rented a cabin for part of a year and worked on his bestseller Coming into the Country, which immortalized life in Eagle, Alaska.

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