NPS - National Park Service

06/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2021 12:40

Pioneers of Alaska Join the National Park Service to Dedicate Kennecott Cemetery Waysides

News Release Date:
June 21, 2021

Contact:CarrieWittmer, 907-822-7255

Copper Center, AK - On Saturday, June 19, 2021, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve hosted a unique dedication ceremony at the historic Kennecott Cemetery, located in the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark in Kennecott, AK. Co-hosted by members of the Pioneers of Alaska, and attended by the Recreational Aviation Foundation, the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians, and local community members, the dedication celebrated installation of new informational waysides about the cemetery.

The waysides provide a grave plot map and information on men and women who lived, worked, and died during the copper mining era in Kennecott in the early 1900s. Oscar Hansen, for example, was from Norway and worked seasonally on mining claims on Rex Creek. In 1921, he fell down a shaft in the Bonanza Mine and suffered 'multiple mortal skull fractures.' Joe Jurezac, originally from Russia, was a Kennecott Copper Corporation miner who died of meningitis only two months after his arrival there. The waysides illuminate the stories of individuals who came to Alaska but were destined never to leave; they help us imagine their world and their lives.

Work began on this collaborative project between the National Park Service and the Pioneers of Alaska several years ago. Funding for the research, design, and fabrication of the waysides was provided by the Grand Igloo Foundation of the Pioneers of Alaska, whose mission is 'to collect and preserve the literature and incidents of Alaska's history; and to promote the best interests of Alaska.' The Pioneers of Alaska formed in 1907 in Nome, Alaska and currently have thirty-two active Igloos located in sixteen Alaskan communities, with a total membership of about 3,800 active members. The Pioneers of Alaska have a rich history in Alaska's territorial and early statehood days. During the past one-hundred fourteen years of continuous activity, they have many accomplishments, and continue their work to make Alaska 'the Great Land' that it is today.

The dedication ceremony celebrated both the installation of the waysides and collaboration between Alaska nonprofit organizations such as the Pioneers of Alaska and the National Park Service to preserve historical artifacts for future generations.