Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Chicken Alaska Preserves Historic School House With Its Memories of Tisha

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Window from Tisha's old school house peers onto cabins that once stored dog sleds and horse tack.

©Bert Gildart:  Chicken, Alaska, is known for many things, which I’ve posted about before. But aside from gold mining and the thorough interpretation provided by Mike Busby about his Pedro Dredge, it is also known for Anne Hobbs, a 19 year old lady who moved to Chicken in 1927 to accept a job as a teacher. The world knows about her adventures in this tiny mining community because she later reported on them in Tisha, a much acclaimed book that has received many accolades.

Much of what Anne described still exists and the Gold Panner Gift Shop provides tours of the old settlement and of the school in which Anne taught and on the people who once scrabbled for gold. Several weeks ago we joined guide Aaron Strickland, a well informed man from South Dakota who has worked in Chicken for several summers.

Because of his tour we were able to add mental images to the descriptions Anne Hobbs so eloquently pens.

SETTING STILL EXISTS

As Janie, Aaron and I walked around, we rehashed much of Anne’s  story. We tried to get a sense of the setting as it was almost 80 years ago. It wasn’t too hard, for the original structures are still there. Tisha’s old school house still stands, though in places permafrost has pushed the floors so they extend above the base of the walls.

But the basic structure is sound and both the exterior and interior create a mood. Tattered curtains cover several of the streaked windows, and when we peered through one we could see the old shed that once held dog sleds and horse tack.

Outside the school house we found a trail that led to several old cabins once occupied by some of the miners. Today, the trail is embedded with more moose tracks than it is with people tracks. Continuing, we came to the old general store, and a little later to an outhouse that permafrost has tipped — and continues to tip. Certainly, Anne had her challenges, and they assumed many forms.

ANNE’S STORY

Anne’s story, as recounted in Tisha, is told in autobiographical form and begins with her departure from Eagle, located about 50 miles away. She’d arrived in Eagle by a Yukon River steamboat, but to reach Chicken she had to join a pack train, led by Mr. Strong who appears throughout the book as the mail carrier. The trip from Eagle to Chicken required four days, and when she started she has no idea how tiring the wilderness trip would be.


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Click on each photo to see caption and larger Image. L to R: More moose track than people tracks; hay barn looking out door toward Tisha’s school house; interior of Tisha’s school house.


The rest of the book describes the difficulties she confronts, which include her romance with a local native man. It describes her challenges as a teacher and explains the way in which she was able to hold the interest of all the children who range in age. One technique she used was to have the children create a large map of Chicken. The project was a major success among residents in the tiny settlement.

All goes well until Chuck comes to school. Chuck was a young native boy whose English was poor, and because he couldn’t say “Teacher,” he called her “Tisha.”

PROBLEMS ARE MANY

Anne liked him, but he was half Indian, and because of that fact the other kids didn’t take to him. Next day half the class failed to attend, essentially because their parents forbade them to do so. Bigotry, then, is another of the challenges with which Anne must cope, and she does so, in part, through the dramatic sled-dog rescue of a kidnapped child.


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Click On Each For Larger Image. L to R:  General store; Paul Bytell old home; front of Paul Bytell’s home;  outhouse tilted by permafrost

 

We walked the old trail for almost two hours, feeling as though the tour backdropped not only Anne’s life, but also life before Alaska became a state. It was a raw country and the tour focused on  the challenges Anne faced not only in an untamed land, but as one of the state’s early day teachers. Tisha is a great book and is one you’ll enjoy regardless of whether you do or don’t make it to Chicken. But if you do, be sure to include the tour of Tisha’s cabin in your trip.

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Part of school house also served as Tisha's home.

NOTE: About This Time Two Years Ago I Was Climbing Mount Rainier. Now, I’m about to embark on a five-day hike over the historic Chilkoot Pass, and that will began August 12, or several days after writing this post. I’ll be joined by Adam and Sue, two friends Janie and I met while traveling this great country in our Airstream. Janie, who is holding down the fort, will publish this post. Assuming all goes well, I’ll be reporting on that trip upon my return. In the meantime, I’m filling in the gap with blogs I was unable to post earlier because of a lack of Internet receptivity in some remote areas in the Yukon. We’re now in Skagway, Alaska, where the Chilkoot begins. It concludes about 35-miles later near Bennett Lake in the Yukon. We’ll all return to Skagway via an old train. Janie will join us there by a one-way shuttle bus, and the plan is that she’ll have with her a small bottle of Yukon Jack. Together, we’ll all stumble aboard the train, just like some of the old Stampeders. Obviously, we’re keen on reliving all aspects of history.

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THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO:

*Climbing Mount Rainier

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2 Responses to “Chicken Alaska Preserves Historic School House With Its Memories of Tisha”

  1. Mary Brady Says:

    In your picture of Paul Bytell’s cabin…He is my great uncle (My mom’s dad and him were brothers) and I came to this site upon researching his life. Great to see it.
    I have quite a lot of info on his life as well.
    Please respond if you can.
    Thanks

  2. Becky Says:

    Love your pictures! We are coming up to Fairbanks in about 3 weeks and my mom told me (she lives there) that Anne Hobbs’ school house is still there so I started looking into it and found your pictures … so cool to see the actual place. We (my girls and I – we homeschool – who are 6 and 8) just finished up the story about 2 months ago after accidently stumbling on it, what an awesome story and there is no better way to top off the learning than to actually see it in person. I sure hope we can make it up there, souds like a 5 hour dive from Fairbanks, but looks to be worth it. Any pointers??? Thanks again for posting the pictures….PS – was there any word of Anne’s children still living in the area? I read that one or two were living with her in the 1970’s in a yellow house at the edge of town??? I assume Anne has passed away, any word on where she was burried?
    Thanks again — Becky

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