Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume One
Written by Laurel Downing Bill
This first book in this series like all the others are based on the writings and research of the author’s aunt, Phyllis Downing Carlson. In the first volume, the reader is treated to thousands of years of Alaska’s history from the time the first humans crossed the Bering Sea land bridge to the Klondike Gold Rush in the nineteenth century. The photograph of a mastodon graveyard is most impressive. Readers learn how the native Eskimos coped with the unknown with the magic of their shamans and the legends of the gods. An influx of Russian fur traders changed Native life forever. They brought illness and destruction to their hunting grounds and forests. Eventually Natives adapted by becoming guides for the newcomers exploration of the seas and the mining operations that later followed.
One of the short stories relates how the last gun shot of the American Civil War was fired from the Confederate ship Shenandoah off the coast of Alaska in June, 1865, two months after the war actually ended. These ships fired on whalers near St. Lawrence Island. The Shenandoah had previously captured thirty-eight Yankee warships. Not willing to surrender to Union authorities in the States, the Shenandoah sailed to England to surrender that November.
Bill traces the history of opposition to William Seward’s purchase of Alaska for the United States and the change of opinion once gold was discovered. Several stories detail singular individuals in Alaska’ s history. Readers learn about Captain James Cook, the explorer, Bishop William Carpenter Bompas, the missionary, Ivan Petroff, the census taker, and Old John Bonner’s murder mystery. One of Alaska’s most educated early citizens was George Washington Carmack who wrote beautiful poetry. Not only do the short stories cover all these areas, but the photographs, maps and drawings provide a feast for the eyes!
Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Two
Written by Laurel Downing Bill
Volume Two portrays the history of Alaska for a much shorter period, the end of the nineteenth century through the year 1912. Nevertheless, it packs quite a punch with more than 350 photographs and a saga of interesting characters and developments.
The Klondike Gold Rush brought the ongoing boundary dispute with Canada to a head. Stampeders from Canada walked freely across the border in an attempt to make their fortunes. Crime and robberies became rampart. Miners sometimes took justice into their own hands. One criminal was named “The Blue Parker Bandit.” A small group sailed from Seattle to steal one of the native totem poles for its city. Reportedly, Wyatt Earp and John Clum fled from Arizona to Alaska after the demise of Tombstone.
But as more settlers flooded the area and stayed, order needed to be restored. Leroy Napoleon McQuesten set up supply stations in the wilderness. Clum often traveled by mule and set up Post Offices. Frank Canton set up a court and became the first law officer. As towns sprung up and the area became more stable, the people demanded entertainment and culture. The Black Prince Boxer was listed as a popular attraction. The Monte Carlo Theater came to the town of Dawson. Poet Robert Service wrote his poem “The Call of the Wild.” Estace Ziegler painted scenes of Alaska’s rugged landscapes. The Iditarod trail was blazed;soon railroads and schools followed. Prosperity reigned until suddenly the Katmai Crater Volcano eruption created such a wasteland in 1912 that President Woodrow Wilson called it the largest national monument in the United States. As with volume one, these people and events are richly documented with photographs and drawings. Lots of changes were on the horizon which will be explored in volume three.
These books are highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Alaskan history, geography, and culture. Children age nine and above should be able to handle reading the text independently. All the volumes are a wonderful addition to the bookshelves of teachers, librarians, historians and the the general reader. Well-written comprehensive portrait of America’s forty-ninth state,
Contact: Laurel Downing Bill
Google +: http://www.plus.Google.com/LaurelBill
Aunt Phil’s Trunk volumes 1 through 4 are available through http://www.AuntPhilsTrunk.com and Amazon.com.
Volume 1: http://j.mp/SSiIKX
Volume 2: http://j.mp/SSiOT1