Founding of Valdez: April 23, 1898

In early April, citizens began holding meetings. They were concerned about the proliferating townsites which often encompassed existing business and cabin sites and the growing number of sanitation and safety problems, expecially the misuse of guns and the contamination of drinking water. The names of those in attendance indicate that old-timers and newly arrived prospectors, soldiers and businessmen participated.

By April 21st, the citizens staked their own claim to a townsite over the claims of the Pacific Steam Whaling Company, Keystone and Portland groups. On April 23rd, with Bill Beyers, the fur trader who had had the only cabin at the head of Port Valdez prior to the rush as chairman, they elected their first Townsite Trustees.

The citizen founders soon had a lesson in the woes of democracy. They had elected their officers for a year with the expectation that they would develop a plat for the city so businesses and individuals could protect their investments and enact ordinances providing for public health and safety. Soon it was evident that some of the elected officials had their own ideas about the townsite plat's blocks, streets, and lots which they were unwilling to make public.


After three hectic weeks of meetings by the Townsite Trustees on one hand and the citizens on the other, on May 10th the citizens voted to disband the Townsite Trustees and elected a new Townsite Committee, which would serve at the pleasure of the citizens. Simultaneously, the fiercely democratic citizenry passed motions requiring that notices for all public meetings be posted 24 hours in advance in five places. Today, almost a century later, the 24 hour requirement remains in effect but the number of postings has been reduced to three.

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© Copyright 1998 Nancy Lethcoe and Virtual Valdez. This page is a Valdez Gold Rush site.