Photos courtesy of Mike and Joan Sinnwell June 2008
Kennecott Alaska Ghost town
Okay – some say Kennicott, others Kennycott and still others Kennecott. In any case it was named after the Kennicott glacier that is still in front of the Ghost (Mill) Town of Kennecott. If you want to see a really neat ghost town this is for you. Not easy to get to as the last part of the road involves 60 miles of dirt, dust, old railroad bridges, and railroad spikes just waiting for your tires. All this leads to a footbridge to cross to get to a shuttle to take you to Kennecott.
Pretty amazing story about how the mine was discovered and then capital raised to finance getting the copper out. To quote the prospector Jack Smith, ” Mr Birch, I have got a mountain of copper up there. There is so much of the stuff sticking out that it looks like a green sheep pasture in Ireland when the sun is shining at its best”. It ended up being the richest copper strike ever found. Stephen Birch was in Alaska looking for investment opportunities for the Havemayer family. When he told them about the claim the Havemayers teamed up with the likes of J.P. Morgan, Guggenhiem, and formed a syndicate to get the copper out. Not an easy task as they had to get materials and equipment in from Valdez over glaciers, rivers Mountains and did I say “moving’ glaciers and minus 40 degree weather.
Well they hired an expert named Michael J. Henry to build a railroad and that is just what he did in about four years, 1907 to 1911. He used dog and horse sleds and took a steam ship apart piece by piece in Valdez and hauled it to the Copper river and reassembled it. Kennecott employed 600 men and had to pay top wages, better than anywhere else, to get miners to work in this remote area and hard conditions. They even had a social life with movies, dances, handball courts, skating rinks, children’s Christmas parties, and 4th of July celebrations. Many stories of the “Kennecott Family” have been recorded by the people that worked and lived there. This was where the Kennicott Copper Corporation got its start.
Below are just a few of the sites to see. And for those of you like me that must know the mill was thirteen stories high.