Category Archives: Iditarod Trail

Anderson’s Roadhouse

Pass Creek Roadhouse, Rainy Pass. Photo by Irving McKinney Reed, 1920. [UAF-1968-21-217]

Pass Creek Roadhouse, Rainy Pass. Photo by Irving McKenny Reed, 1920. [UAF-1968-21-217]

Researching roadhouses can be confusing at times, particularly when the same roadhouse is identified by reliable resources as having more than one name. Such is the case with Anderson’s Roadhouse in Rainy Pass, which is identified as the Pass Creek Roadhouse in this 1920 photo by Irving McKenny Reed. Mr. Reed was traveling the Iditarod Trail via dogteam in the winter of 1920 in the company of George Glass and his 17-year-old son, Ophir. In a magazine article about their expedition, written by Mr. Reed for the October, 1965 issue of Alaska Sportsman, he described the roadhouse: “…a long ramshackle log building facing south with a big cache on pilings behind.”

Anderson's Roadhouse, Rainy Pass 1914

Anderson’s Roadhouse, Rainy Pass 1914

Compare that photograph with this earlier one, taken from a slightly different angle, titled “Anderson’s Roadhouse log cabin near creek on approach to Rainy Pass, Alaska, August 1914.” Note the construction and placement of the buildings and the cache behind them. The file for this photograph at the University of Washington explains the origin: “Photograph from album created in circa 1914 by James Lennox McPherson, a civil engineer, that documents the activities of the Kuskokwim Reconnaissance survey party (known as Party No. 11 of the Alaska Railroad Commission expedition). The A.E.C. had assigned McPherson to research the feasibility of building a branch railroad from Anchorage west to the mining districts on the Kuskokwim and Iditarod Rivers.”

Outline of the Anderson's Roadhouse site features, from the Society for Historic Archeology newsletter

Outline of the Anderson’s Roadhouse site features, from the Society for Historic Archeology newsletter

An article in the Winter, 2012 issue of the newsletter for The Society for Historical Archeology explains how new research has uncovered details about the Anderson Roadhouse, citing the 1914 photograph above: “Recent historical research has brought to light archived collections of engineering survey photographs from 1914 and maps associated with a proposed railroad route along portions of the (Iditarod) Trail, which would have opened southwest Alaska to year-round transportation and supplies. One of the archived photos, found at the University of Washington, contributed to the field identification of the Anderson’s Roadhouse site due to the topography visible behind the building that was not evident in other historic photographs. Based on the 1914 photograph, the roadhouse consisted of a log structure with two main volumes and a lean-to addition built onto the south wall. A large cache made of logs and elevated on four posts is visible behind the house. Historic narratives indicated that the site included a ‘kennel’ for 100 dogs, and that the abandoned roadhouse burned to the ground in 1936 during a hunting expedition.”

The file note for Mr. Reed’s 1920 wintertime photo states: “The roadhouse was owned by the Anderson brothers at the time.” So did the name of the roadhouse change at some point between 1914 and 1920? Apparently not, as it was still referred to as Anderson’s Roadhouse in this 1922 Alaska Road Commission report:

Alaska Road Commission Annual Report 1922

Alaska Road Commission Annual Report 1922

For more information:

Article in the Winter, 2012 Society for Historic Archeology newsletter

Anderson Roadhouse, University of Washington digital collection

Pass Creek Roadhouse, 1920, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Irving McKenny Reed at Alaska Mining Hall of Fame


Pioneer Roadhouse

Dogteam in front of the Pioneer Roadhouse, 1916

The Pioneer Roadhouse, “A load of gold, Knik,1916”

In his 1919 book Adventures in Alaska, Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian clergyman who had accompanied John Muir when he discovered Glacier Bay, wrote about a trip by dog team from Iditarod to Seward, and he briefly mentioned staying at a roadhouse in Knik: “Four hundred miles from our starting point we put up at the ‘Pioneer Roadhouse’ in the little town of Knik at the head of Cook’s Inlet. This was one of half a dozen small towns around Knik Arm and Turn-Again Arm, two prongs of Cook’s Inlet. These towns had been in existence for fifteen or twenty years, with gold miners and their families living there…”

The Pioneer Roadhouse, also known as the Farewell Mountain Roadhouse

The Pioneer Roadhouse, also known as the Farewell Mountain Roadhouse; click the photo for information

In his 1974 book, Alaska’s Historic Roadhouses, author Michael E. Smith wrote the following about the Pioneer Roadhouse: “Also known as the Farewell Mountain Roadhouse in 1949. In 1917 it was operated by French Joe. Source: Unpublished manuscript by Charles Lee Cadwallader.”

This entry is shared at Coleen Mielke’s research pages, Matanuska-Susitna Valley: Researching Our South Central Alaska Roots, in a link to the transcribed text from pages 40-49 of Smith’s book. Mielke included Cadawaller in her Matanuska Valley Pioneer Directory, noting that he came to Alaska in 1917 and walked from Knik to Iditarod, where he worked as an accountant for two years before walking back to Knik. He later became a Valley businessman, building the Wasilla Bar and the Fishhook Inn. Nevertheless, his description of the Pioneer Roadhouse being at Farewell Mountain does not correspond with S. Hall Young’s clear description of it being at Knik, nor with the handwritten notation on the first photo above.

So were there two establishments on the Iditarod Trail named the Pioneer Roadhouse? Yes. The second photo is the Pioneer Roadhouse near Farewell Mountain, on the west side of the Alaska Range, 62 trail miles south of McGrath.

The Pioneer Hotel, which began as the Pioneer Roadhouse, at Knik, 1916

The Pioneer Hotel, which began as the Pioneer Roadhouse, at Knik, 1916

The Knik Pioneer Roadhouse, which later became the Pioneer Hotel, was built by Frank B. Cannon, one of the first residents of the town of Knik, who was reportedly living there in 1911. A dog barn was adjacent to the roadhouse, which sat directly across the trail from the pool hall, one of two original buildings still standing at the site. In the photo guide to the Tron Anderson Collection at the Anchorage Museum there are notations for business cards for the Pioneer Roadhouse and the Pioneer Hotel, both in the Frank B. Cannon section of the collection.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 9.33.05 PMFrank B. Cannon served as a member of the Territorial House of Representatives from 1917 to 1918. In a 1920 book about Alaskan Judge James Wickersham there’s a description of Cannon as presented when he was running for the position, and it illuminates his qualifications for being a roadhouse owner: “Frank B. Cannon is one of the old-timers of Alaska and is well and favorably known throughout a large portion of the Territory. He is now engaged in running a hotel and road house near Knik, Alaska, at which hostelry the Alaska prospector or traveler is always welcome whether he has the money to pay for his accommodation or not.”

The Knik Commercial Club in front of the Pioneer Roadhouse, 1912

The Knik Commercial Club members gathered in front of Frank Cannon’s Pioneer Roadhouse in Knik, 1912

Frank B. Cannon died in 1923 and is buried in the Anchorage Cemetery. An obituary in the Anchorage Daily Times for March 18, 1923 describes the man: “In the passing of “Uncle Frank” Cannon, Alaska loses one of its most beloved men, one who was actuated in his many noble acts by spirit of altruism that has built monuments in the hearts of all who knew him. Volumes might be written on his philanthropies, his aid to stranded prospectors and his hospitality while conducting a stopping place at Knik; where the wayfarer was never turned away and where the men who search the hills could always gather and sit around the big box stove and partake of frugal fare and depart to await the time when they were able to pay, and if not, never to be troubled to square the account. In departing, Mr. Cannon left behind him something more precious than gold—true traditions of the land he loved and served in minor and exalted positions of trust.”

Pioneer Roadhouse, 16 miles north of Rohn Roadhouse

Pioneer Roadhouse, 16 miles north of Rohn Roadhouse

The second – although it was most likely built first – Pioneer Roadhouse was built on the west side of the South Fork of the. Kuskokwim River about one mile southeast of the present-day Farewell Lake. Lodge. This is the roadhouse which was also known as French Joe’s, or the Farewell Mountain Roadhouse, and it was comprised of several buildings, including a dog barn.

The 1986 Iditarod National Historic Trail Comprehensive Management Plan identified the Pioneer Roadhouse as a Level One Site, recommending “Consider, with owner concurrence, as part of a thematic Iditarod Trail nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Perform historic and archeological research on the site to include testing, mapping, photo documentation and historic archival research as a prerequisite for site work.” The results of that recommendation can be seen online, in the Iditarod Quad Files McGrath C2.