The Valdez/Copper River Area gold rush led to the founding of both Valdez and Copper Center. But whereas Valdez was founded by a coalition of oldtimers, prospectors and business men, Copper Center was founded by a company of Scandinavians led by Andrew Holman.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press carried an article on March 3, 1898 describing a large party of Scandinavians preparing to leave for Portland with the intention of forming a colony in the Copper River Area. The men, mostly young, were primarily Norwegians from Minnesota and the surrounding states.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, once they arrived in
the Copper River Area, they planned to form parties of ten to engage in
lumbering, agriculture, fishing, mining and reindeer raising. Prospecting
for gold is scarecely mentioned.
The list of 65 participants from various mid-western towns suggests that Holman probably recruited party members through some type of Norwegian or Scandinavian ethnic network - possibly a newspaper, perhaps the Lutheran church. The group arrived in Valdez in late March and made a rapid crossing of the Glacier and descent of the Klutina River being among the first to arrive in the Copper Center area where they promptly claimed a townsite. By July, there was a hotel and store. The store was noted for not selling alcohol. Guiteau reports in his Diary that Holman's restaurant was serving fresh vegetables from their garden in August.
Like other successful 98ers, Holman was a man who saw opportunities and took them. Copper Center was an obvious drop-off point for mail deliveries. By late spring, he had a contract for mail.
Abercrombie who inspected the gardens and ate dinner at Copper Center before heading down the Copper River was so impressed that he wrote in praise of the agricultural potential of the Copper River Valley.
Unfortunately, Abercrombie was so impressed with the area that in 1900 he claimed a military post which was primarily an agricultural station on top of Holman's townsite. Like so many men of ideas and action, Holman had neglected to file all the paperwork necesary to legalize all of his townsite.