The First Thanksgiving in Valdez: 1897

What must the first Thanksgiving in Valdez have been like for the early gold rushers?What happened to these men?

The first Thanksgiving in Valdez must have been a Thanksgiving filled with disappointment. The half dozen or so men here had been told that the Copper River was a navigable route to the interior. They arrived and found it wasn't. They were Valdez glacier route was a short, low elevation route to the interior. But as they looked at the head of Port Valdez and all the glaciers leading over the mountains, their discouragement must have deepened. Abercrombie reported the glacier route he took ran east/west, but men living at Orca and native guides said it was the big glacier running north/south -- a much longer and more arduous route than Abercrombie reported.  Today, a hundred years later, we can still grasp that sense of Thanksgiving Day dismay if we take a few minutes to look at the head of Valdez. Where is the route across the mountains?


But these men did not let disappointment dim their vision of the future. Young and Downing dreamed of finding copper as well as gold. They probably were responsible for giving Valdez the early name of "Copper City." The following summer, Young and Downing were the only party to file copper claims. They became successful prospectors.

Adam Swan dreamed of townsites and businesses. By Thanksgiving Day, he had claimed the landing area near the site of the Alyeska Marine Terminal as a townsite and named it "Swanville." By 1903, the newspaper called Swan "the father of Valdez" because he was "the first man to locate permanently in this part of the country."

This Thanksgiving Day let us look back with thanksgiving to those who helped found Valdez. And let us also give thanksgiving for their determination not to let adversity destroy their ability to dream and act upon those dreams.

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