Harding in Sitka

I mention this briefly in "Sophisticated Sitka", but I do think this deserves its own space.

In the summer of 1923 President Warren G. Harding came to Alaska to drive the golden spike that marked the completion of the Alaska Railroad that connects Seward to Fairbanks. On the way back, his ship was to stop in Sitka on July 23. The whole town was thrilled; all 300 inhabitants. (To be fair, Harding remains the only U.S. President to come to Alaska to visit, let alone Sitka.)

Dr. Georgeson of the Agricultural Experimental Station contributed produce and the ladies in town cooked their hearts out to produce the most wonderful banquet Sitka had seen since the departure of the Russian Chief Managers in 1867.

The great day arrived and sure enough, President and Mrs. Harding came ashore. They greeted everyone and he had his picture taken with notables like elderly Chief Kalyean, the descendent of the Tlingit chief who had killed his share of Russians in the 1802 and 1804 battles for Sitka. That evening the great event occurred and the dinner went off exceedingly well.

Sitka was so very happy. It was too bad that three days later President Harding died of food poisoning.

A lovely Sitka story. It is claimed by some in Fairbanks (see Jack de Yonge, Boom Town Boy) that the real cause of Harding's death was all the bootleg whiskey he drank in Fairbanks. How could he have been so lively in Sitka in that case? I think Fairbanks just wants to claim some glory.

There's also a site that says the Hardings stayed only the afternoon and left before dinner. No idea what that person is trying to say; likely someone from California prefers the poison theory.

Enjoy.
Dee

 



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