Including key events at McCarthy and Kennicott
Complied by Ray Kreig - Revised 8/18/11

July, 2011 - 100th Anniversary of the Mother Lode Road by Lee Ann Kreig - Wrangell St. Elias News.

1901 USGS report "Copper River district," Shrader and Spencer,
Discusses a trail which, "from Kennicott river...leads up McCarthy
Creek, which stream it crosses several times below the mouth of
Nikolai creek, coming in from the east";
7/1906 John E. Barrett stakes his homestead and mining claims on McCarthy creek, which he also names. He erects fences, posted signs, builds a cache and when winter approaches builds a boat to leave the country. He returns 1907 and builds cabin.
1907 Barrett rents property to The Alaska Syndicate ie. Kennicott as a freight and switching yard. End of the line for new arrivals.
1908-1910 Barrett builds his homestead and continues to develop his mining claims. These are the properties called the Green Group (Green Butte today) located on the McCarthy Creek Valley.  USGS Maps surveyed 1907 and published 1908 clearly show trails and the encampments of Mother Lode, Green Butte, as well as roads from McCarthy to Kennicott.  Barrett also does some farming.
1907-1911 Largest construction boom takes place. Dog sleds and Horses w/ sleds haul much of the freight in the winter.
1907-1910 Kennicott is established and rapidly takes shape.
3/29/1911 C.R. & N.W. Railroad reaches McCarthy/Kennicott
1911 Topographic maps of The Nizina district clearly show 6 miles of wagon roads established from the Nizina River valley up the Dan Creek and Chititu Creek.- 1911 USGS Map
1912- February 24, 1912 The Chitina Leader (newspaper) states "One of the most active sections is that country tributary to the railroad at Mile 191 where McCarthy Creek runs into the Nizina River (the Kennicott today). Quite a little settlement is already springing up there." more.... States - McCarthy had only one building in 1911 but many by 1912 -Chitina Leader, 17 February 1912
1912 Blackburn, the town is established between the McCarthy Station and Kennicott. Located between the Bloomquist and Barrett homesteads. Neither had patent to their property at this time.
7/1913 Word of the Shushanna gold strike arrives in the Copper Valley. Shushanna Gold Stampede Begins. Shushanna is now known as Chisana. Shortest route to Shushanna begins in McCarthy townsite then up McCarthy Creek, up the Nickoli Creek over Sourdough Hill (Ridge) across the Nizina River, up the Chitistone Canyon and over Skolai Pass to Shushanna (Chisana). Approximately 80 miles. This route includes 7 miles of the McCarthy-Greenbutte road. Stampede ends by 1916
10/17/1913 The Chitina Leader (newspaper) states "In a letter from James J. Godfrey, president of the Mother Lode Copper Mines Co. he says that the tramway has been completely and successfully installed, and that "it works like a charm." Work is now being directed toward improving the road from the end of the tram to McCarthy creek. This will complete the easy transportation of ore from the mine to the railroad. Two years ago a good wagon road was built about 12 miles along McCarthy creek to the town of McCarthy. It is expected to ship out 500 tons of high grade copper ore this winter."
1913 Barrett creates township of McCarthy and leases lots for twenty five years Mercantile town begins in earnest. Dan Creek, Chititu, Shushanna and Kennicott successes fuel McCarthy's rapid growth.
1915 USGS Water Supply Paper 372, "a water power reconnaissance in
South-central Alaska, map plate vi, "map of copper river basin
Showing location of gaging stations and measuring points," shows the
1916 A.R.C. & The Territory of Alaska receives $500,000 for the benefit of Alaskan Roads.  The Nizina District produces $250,000 in minerals in 1916. The local papers begin to solicit upgrades for the trails in this area and a bridge across the Nizina. It costs eight cents per pound to freight goods 25 miles. 20 men have lost their lives in the Nizina River since 1911. - The Avalanche, August 5 1916
1916 Mother Lode Mine reports the high grade ore being produced will require a large transport force for delivery to McCarthy. Mother Lode located up McCarthy Creek - Avalanche August 26, 1916
1916 Kennicott - Tjosevig property near the Bonanza report they will commence construction of about 600 feet of rock work to build a motor road that will bring ore to McCarthy- The Kennecott-Barrett Copper Co. is formed. The Dan Creek-Nizina telephone line reaches McCarthy. Again editorials solicit appropriations for the betterment of road conditions from McCarthy to the Nizina (the Sourdough Hill Trail) - Avalanche September 2,1916
1916 Chris Tjosevig reports $500,000 ore body at the Kennecott-Tjoesvig mine.-The Avalanche September 16, 1916
1916 Senatorial candidate Charles Sulzer campaigns in McCarthy, road conditions are high on the locals agenda. Residents of McCarthy contribute over $1500 for street improvements in 1916. The A.R.C. announces that the Sourdough Hill Trail will receive improvements. The McCarthy District receives the entire appropriation allotted to the Third Division. $2200 will be spent on the trail and foot bridge will be built over the Nizina at $1200 during freeze up. Phone lines are extended to Blackburn and Kennecott. - Avalanche September 23, 1916
1917 WW1 begins to affect McCarthy. Able men are required to report.
1917 Barrett receives patent to his homestead and issues deeds to any landholder who wants one in McCarthy. Businesses feel secure in expanding more.
1917 McCarthy reaches peak populations during this time. Copper prices are high because of the War.
1918 Nels Tjosevig conveys guests to Mother Lode in automobiles. Automobiles also ply the Chitina-Fairbanks route in 24.5 hours another reports 39 hours.- August 17, 1918 -The McCarthy Weekly News
1918 "An Official investigation into the Nizina Bridge building took place this week but nothing has been made public as to the decision. The contractor's work was accepted on June 28th by Engineer Schueber"- The McCarthy Weekly News November 2, 1918
1919 John Barrett elected by McCarthy's Commercial Club to represent McCarthy at the Territorial Legislature to lobby the Government "regarding the conditions (that) exist in this section due to lack of roads and bridges."- The McCarthy Weekly News, March 19, 1919
1919 "The foundation for the bridge over McCarthy Creek is assuming a business like appearance." - The McCarthy Weekly News January 4, 1919
1919 "Gus Johnson of the Road Commission reports having completed the bridge over McCarthy Creek this a.m." -The McCarthy Weekly News February 22, 1919
1919 $375,000 Appropriation made by the Territorial Legislature for construction and maintenance of roads in the Territory. The Third Division (McCarthy's area) receives $100,000. - The McCarthy Weekly News, May 17, 1919
1919 The U.S. Senate appropriates $300,000 for use on Alaska Roads. "Engineer Morrison has arrived on a inspection trip to the Nizina bridge."- The McCarthy Weekly News, June 28, 1919
1919 "Work has been started on salvaging of the Nizina Bridge by the Road Commission crew with Gus Johnson in charge." "The big truck is now making regular daily (trips) to the Lower Mother Lode Camp bringing in full loads of ore sacks."- The McCarthy Weekly News, July 19, 1919
1919 "When are we going to hear something is being done about the Nizina Bridge?" -The McCarthy Weekly News August 23, 1919
1920 "Today's train brought another tractor on the (for the) Government trail...already proved great success...hauls 8 to 12 tons...snow drifts no obstacle and mud seems to be its native element." The McCarthy Weekly News, February 21, 1920
1920 Federal Road Official on Tour of Inspection- Col. J.C. Gotwals attention has been drawn to the bad condition of Sourdough Hill trail... Commercial Club writes letter requesting $10,000 for maintenance…"- The McCarthy Weekly News, May 15, 1920
1920 Col. J.C. Gotwals acknowledges Commercial Club letter about road needs… promises to include some allotment for 1921... - The McCarthy Weekly News, June 5, 1920
1920 Col. J.C. Gotwals visits McCarthy to inspect Nizina Bridge site and Sourdough Hill Trail...The McCarthy Weekly News, July 31, 1920
1920 Road Commission survey crew at Sourdough Hill leaves...The McCarthy Weekly News, August 7, 1920
1920 "The Road Commission broke camp this week for the winter, they have completed several miles of new road and will be back in good time next season to complete it"- The McCarthy Weekly News, October 9, 1920
1921 A petition is now in circulation to secure a much needed wagon road to Long Lake- The McCarthy Weekly News January 8, 1921
1921 John Barrett is road making, clearing slides etc. on the Mother Lode Road... Road Commission Imports Cars- Six armored, Holt, five ton tractors, built for war use but never used, have just arrived here for the use of A.R.C. In addition to the tractors, 5 Dodge trucks were shipped here, one to be sent to each camp for local use. Everything is now in shape for the transportation of the supplies... A.R.C. horses also arrive from Anchorage...-The McCarthy Weekly News May 21, 1921
1921 Gus Johnson is expected back to McCarthy on the next train and it is believed that the road work in this section will commence shortly. The McCarthy Weekly News, June 11, 1921
1921 McCarthy Creek ran the highest for several years last Sunday...Returning from the Green Group by automobile, J. E. Barrett... two bridges washed out...three bridge abutments washed out ... A crew of men with a team were put to work by Mr. Barrett to make temporary repairs, as no appropriation has ever been passed for these very necessary repairs on the only completed road in this section..." We notice by the Cordova Daily Times that Col. Gotwal, in an interview to that publication stated that the Road over Sourdough Hill was being rushed to completion and would be finished by August 1(1921)..."- The McCarthy Weekly News, June 11, 1921
1921 Green Group reports more mine development and road repairs this summer...- The McCarthy Weekly News, June 18, 1921
1921 We Need A Bridge- McCarthy boosts a three mile boulevard built by the Road Commission that's all.(reference by H. Andrus of Chititu about necessity of Nizina Bridge after new death of John R. Underwood in the Nizina )We Need a Bridge is stated three time in this issue- The McCarthy Weekly News, July 30, 1921
1921 Superintendent Dan Jones, of the Road Commission arrives... freight delays... work will begin immediately...-The Mccarthy Weekly News, August 13, 1921
1921 Road Commission working on Sourdough Road for six weeks was disbanded for season....balance of appropriation to be spent drilling Nizina River to determine what type of bridge will be required...road completed to within 6,000 feet of river...Gus Johnson writes to The Territorial Road Board stating number request made for trails...White River being one...The McCarthy Weekly News, October 22, 1921
1922 John Barrett repairs McCarthy Creek Road...The McCarthy Weekly News, May 20, 1922
1922 Road Commission announces permanent camp planned and commencment of work on Nizina Bridge next winter...announces bridge across the Kennicott to help ranchers at Long Lake for the future...start piers on Nizina this winter...The McCarthy Weekly News, September 9, 1922
1922 A.R.C. opens office in McCarthy (Nizina Bridge Construction) The McCarthy Daily News, January 13,1923
1922 A.R.C. reports bridge across the Nizina a large project...six concrete piers 181-182 feet apart & long approaches built of pilings....remainder of winter putting down pilings and preparing concrete present 17 man crew and 10 horses...larger crew in future...summer of 1924 should witness freight across the bridge...-The McCarthy Weekly News, January 20, 1923
1923 A.R.C. reports all the preliminary work done on Nizina Bridge in preparation for the concrete work...250 tons freight to the bridge site...-The McCarthy Weekly News, April 14, 1923
1923 Green Butte ships a carload of ore....transportation a problem...A.R.C. operations should eliminate problem shortly...- The McCarthy Weekly News, June 16, 1923
1923 A.R.C.- Water Washes Away Bridge Abuttments- Nizina (prepatory falsework on the Nizina project) - The McCarthy Weekly News, June 30, 1923
1923 A. E. Trimm has contract to repair Mother Lode Trail...Green Butte ships more ore.. Forest Fires threaten bridges on Mother Lode Trail- The McCarthy Weekly News, July 28, 1923
1929 ARC Annual Report says $1804.55 spent on the route; ARC states: "This route extends from McCarthy up the McCarthy creek valley to the green butte mine. It was built by the mining company and maintained by them previous to last year. A flood in the fall of 1927 greatly damaged the road and its repair was undertaken by the commission. The road is passable for motor traffic;"
1931 ARC Annual Report indicates the $373.87 spent on the trail;
1933 ARC Annual Report indicates that $141.26 spent on the trail;
1938 USGS Bulletin 894, "Geology of the Chitina valley and Adjacent Area, Alaska, "Moffit, states, "in the Nizina district, a road 4 miles Long connects the town of McCarthy with Kennecott, and another 13 Miles along follows McCarthy creek to the old Mother Lode camp. This road was constructed privately but is now controlled by the Alaska road commission..." also, "Geology of the Chitina valley and Adjacent Area, Alaska," shows the McCarthy-Green Butte trail;
1951 USGS 1:250,000 scale map, McCarthy quadrangle, shows the route.
8/2/66 Walter Wigger purchases Mother Lode mine from State of Alaska
6/1970 The upper part of the road was easily passable for vehicles...No brush or alders in the center or sides for that matter. The only problem points came where the creek had meandered to cut into the road and one had to either cross to the other side or wade the creek...On two other occasions in July of 1970 I traveled up the McCarthy Creek road. One trip was in the lodge jeep and a second time in an old military ambulance. Both had four wheel drive and we had to at times drive through and across the creek. Other than at those points it was a good road and easily passable. [Neil MacKinnon   1/26/03 Declaration
1973 Photos by Walter Wigger of D-5 Cat, trailer, pickups at his Mother Lode mine.  These vehicles and equipment had obviously been driven up the McCarthy Creek - Green Butte Road. 
1974 McCarthy Creek - Green Butte Road bridges - Photos recording a trip by Eleanor Tjosevig, Charlie and Inge Ricci and the operator of a fuel business in McCarthy, Mr. Anderson.
10/21/76 RS 2477 was repealed by Title VII of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).  
12/1/78 Presidential proclamation creates Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument.
9/20/80 "100 year flood" in the McCarthy area wipes out twin beam bridges and abutments along the McCarthy - Green Butte Road.
12/2/80 ANILCA signed into law; Wrangell St Elias National Park and Preserve created.
1984-86 Walter Wigger crashes his airplane and essentially ends his use of Mother Lode. 
4/16/02 Pilgrim family purchases Mother Lode mine from Walter Wigger.  Wigger told Pilgrims they had access up the McCarthy - Green Butte Road from McCarthy.  Wigger included a D-4 bulldozer and trailer in the sale for transportation on this road.  Wigger provided an old photo showing the trailer and (a different) D-5 bulldozer which illustrated how the Pilgrims could transport building and other bulky supplies from McCarthy over the road.  He also provided a tank for fuel hauling to their property over the road from McCarthy.   
Summer 2002 Pilgrims reportedly used a Bombardier ORV track machine over the road to go to town.  It was passable without any clearing but alders brushed against the vehicle from the sides of the road in a few limited areas where site conditions encouraged unusually lush growth.  These were trimmed back.  There was no Park Service objection.  
4/11/03 Access teleconference (2-hour constituent meeting with McCarthy residents) sponsored by Senator Georgiana Lincoln.  It is reported that this was an incredibly successful meeting that brought amazing progress between McCarthy citizens and state legislators.  The most important results:  1) Overall awareness for DOT, the Governor's office and state legislators that McCarthy Residents wanted better access on the main road.  2) With knowledge that McCarthy Road initiatives would not be met with a divided local resident response; the results were very positive for the town. 3) Gov Murkowski pushed DOT to do more road work which went on through the summer. 4) Gov Murkowski STOPPED the bollard insanity!  He told D.O.T. NOT to re-install the bollards at the footbridge for the 18th+ time! Previously, DOT would install bollards (illegally) and residents would remove them. This went on for many years. The bollards have not been reinstalled since. 5) The greatest result: The "McCarthy Road Scenic Corridor" a 3-year project of vast improvement to the road, has been moved UP on the STIP. What was scheduled to begin in 2009 is now scheduled to begin in 2007.

The Park Service participated in this teleconference but incredibly said not a word about what they were about to do to the town a few hours after everyone dispersed.

4/11/03 In a highly controversial move, Wrangell St Elias National Park Superintendent Gary Candelaria declares the McCarthy Creek - Green Butte Road "illegal" and closes it for the first time ever:


No motorized vehicles* are permitted to use the illegal roads bulldozed on federal land located in the McCarthy Creek Drainage, connecting the state land around the town of McCarthy with the Marvelous Millsite private property.

* This notice does not apply to the use of snowmachines on adequate snow cover.  Adequate snow cover shall mean snow of sufficient depth, generally 6-12 inches or more, or a combination of snow and frost depth sufficient to protect the underlying vegetation and soil.

Superintendent, Gary Candelaria

No hearing in the affected area was conducting before this closure.  Although the notice is dated 4/8/03, it wasn't posted until 4/11/03, the first time McCarthy residents were made aware of it.

Hunter Sharp's 11/12/03 declaration to the federal district court in Anchorage left out these details:

1. The notice was posted at Mail shack and Lodge, AFTER an important town meeting and legislative teleconference on access! NPS (Hunter Sharp and Marshall Neeck) were at the meeting and never mentioned their road closing plan at a town meeting about access - perhaps because legislators where on the phone at that meeting?

2. Everyone in town and the legislators were so very pleased - as the meeting represented a sea-change in cooperation between all sides of the McCarthy-access debate.  Then two hours later NPS closes the road.

3. Within a week or so, there was such an UPROAR IN TOWN about this NPS road closure that Candelaria had to CANCEL HIS VACATION to fly back to McCarthy and hold a meeting. (The meeting was referred to in Hunter's statement).

4/18/03 Superintendent Candelaria addresses irate meeting of local residents upset about the unprecedented closure of the McCarthy - Green Butte Road .  

At the END OF THE MEETING: A heated exchange about the legality of the road closure, then the Superintendent pointed outside the window (at the Pilgrim family) and said: “Do you know who created your problem? Those folks created your problem.” The crowd went wild with hoots and cries of protest. Reported in NPS comes to town by Rick Kenyon, Wrangell St Elias News, May-June 2003. 

Road is open for motorized vehicles for subsistence, ie for everyone but the Pilgrims.

6/13/03 PILGRIM REQUEST #1 TO NPS FOR ACCESS PERMIT - Robert Hale Pilgrim, David Pilgrim and their attorney J.P. Tangen, met with NPS Regional Director Robert Arnberger in his Anchorage office about access to their property in the McCarthy Creek valley. At that meeting Mr. Chris Bockmon stated that all ANILCA permits ever done by NPS went through him and in response to Mr. Tangen's questions as to what form the Pilgrims should use to request access Bockmon and Arnberger said there is no particular form and to just send something in asking for access.
7/8/03 PILGRIM REQUEST #2 TO NPS FOR ACCESS PERMIT - Based on the comments made by Bockmon and Arnberger at the 6/13/03 meeting Pilgrims emailed the original access permit request to Superintendent Gary Candelaria asking for emergency access.  Two months elapsed before any substantive answer to this plea was received from the NPS.
9/2/03 PILGRIM REQUEST #3 TO NPS FOR ACCESS PERMIT - submitted by JP Tangen on behalf of the Pilgrims; NPS had sent the Form SF 299 that they had previously said didn't exist.   Received non sense reply from the NPS with questions such as what do you mean by "bulldozer", what do you mean by "deadhead" etc. 
9/14/03 PILGRIM REQUEST #4 TO NPS FOR ACCESS PERMIT - Reapplied explaining in detail all about driving a bulldozer with blade up etc.  
10/5/03 SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT (HARASSMENT) - A large Muskeg truck with giant tires and huge bed rated at 3 tons travels from McCarthy to the Green Butte mine (most of the length of the McCarthy - Green Butte Road).  Park Service does nothing about it.  The drivers and owners were not park inholders.
11/3/03 Pacific Legal Foundation sues Park Service to break blockade of McCarthy Creek - Green Butte Road (Hale v. Norton).


1993: Untitled map, Frank Morris, care of Department of Natural Resources, Division of Land, describes the Green Butte Road, stating: "this was one of the earliest truck roads with bridges and tunnels for ore haul to the railroad and servicing the mines at Green Butte, Motherload, and Nikolia (sic). Most of the initial construction was used by the Kennicott and Green Butte people. Maintenance and upgrading was accomplished by ARC general foreman Bill Cameron;" [from AkDNR RST 135 RS 2477 trail database]