Volume 2 number 1, January 2000
TEOTWAWI: The Ten Most Important Events in Ester History
© 2000 by Mark G. Simpson
It should be obvious that the impetus for this column was the seemingly endless stream of drivel in the national media that went by variations on the general theme of ‘The 10 Most Important ___ of the Century/Millennium.’ People, events, technological advances, quotes—permutations of this theme abounded, and, unless you spent the last week of the year cutting a swath through the Tanana Flats, you had to have noticed a story of this nature. Not to be outdone, I thought that a list of significant Ester events, as perceived by current residents, would be a worthwhile project whose results could be thrown on the heap of self-congratulatory faux-millennial journalism for future generations to ponder.
You will necessarily require a word about my well-intentioned, albeit unscientific, methodology. Call it "Ester-style." A list of twenty-two events was compiled and distributed to approximately thirty (mainly here for fifteen years+) Ester area residents, who were then badgered into a surprising 79% response rate. The scoring was weighted in two ways. Respondents’ first three choices were weighted to reflect the perception that more thought was put into these selections. A blatant 10-20% additional weight was applied to all of the responses of a select few very long-term residents. The results were tallied with a total of 329 points possible. The results follow in ascending order.
Just past the cutoff for event #10 were four events separated by only four points, and therefore deserving of honorable mentions: The Construction of the Parks Highway Bypassing Ester (1976), The Arrival and Subsequent Infestation by Camerons (~1963-72), The First 4th of July Parade and Picnic of the Modern Era (1990), and The First Pig Roast of the Modern Era (1981).
10) Ester Volunteer Fire Department Founded (~1977) 45 points
Bylaws were drawn up by several residents, some of whom still live in the area. A fire station was constructed behind the hotel and a tanker truck was obtained. We are still being served by this fine Department.
9) New Golden Eagle Saloon Opens (~1983) 59 points
The apprehensively-awaited replacement for the old Red Garter/Chilkoot Charlie’s/Howling Dog/Gold Bucket/…/Moody’s Mercantile quickly became a social center, meeting place, and event headquarters for the entire area.
8) Ester Community Park Built (1986-7) 64 points
The transformation of four acres of tailings into the Ester Community Park was, and is, a multi-year effort by many dozens of people.
7) Ester Community Association Founded (1941) 75 points
Begun as a common-interest forum and social organization, the ECA remains a significant component of the glue that holds our community together.
6) Don Pearson (et al) Buys F.E. Company Bunkhouse, Creates Cripple Creek Resort, Tourism Begins (1958) 87 points
"What time train come from EAST?" Over a period of nearly thirty years, Don Pearson’s operations at the Cripple Creek Resort and Malemute Saloon became part of Ester’s persona. Employment at the "Resort" was a lure, a springboard, and sometimes a safety net for many current residents.
5) F.E. Company (Alaska Gold) Ceases Operations in Ester (~1963) 108 points
While the large-scale mining operation had been slowing for some time, when Dredge #10 came to a halt town residents were at a crossroads. Many left the area, but some found other work and chose to remain in Ester.
4) First Bar Established (~1905-06) 124 points
(Note: While this event was placed in the list with tongue firmly in cheek, it was included in over half of the Top 10 responses) This was probably about two miles east of the village, and was established to serve the hard-working miners of Berry. Little is known about it other than it had a fraction of the ferns found at the Eagle.
3) Post Office Established (1906) 148 points
You have read in these pages a history of the Post Office and its various locations. The original was established in Berry in the summer of ’06, with official certification of Mrs. Pidge as Postmaster in October of that year. Its importance to the community of Ester has grown in each succeeding year.
2) F.E. Company (USSR&M) Consolidates Claims, Begins Dredging (1929-33) 152 points
The thirty-year gold mining operation was chiefly responsible for the creation and sustenance of the village and its infrastructure. Its workers formed the early core group of Ester residents.
1) Gold Discovered (~1903) 289 points
While Ester Creek and others had already been staked willy-nilly, it was only when John (Jack) Mihalcik hit paydirt on #5 Above Discovery (Just upstream from Roger and Max) in November 1903 that the Ester Gold Rush began.
Mark G. Simpson is Director of Park and Recreations for the Ester Community Association and Commissioner of the EFL. He has lived in Ester for 21 years.