Information for the following text was gathered from 'The Race to Nome' by Kenneth A. Ungermann, which is out of print. Kenneth attempted to compile as much accurate and factual information as he could about the Serum Race to produce the book. It's an easy reading short book that gives you a good history of the Epidemic in Nome and the Race to save lives. Interested readers may be able to find a copy at a used book store such as Title Wave (You can find a book search on the Title Wave site that will find it for you!).
While the race to Nome began when Dr. Curtis Welch in Nome diagnosed a Diphtheria outbreak. With very little serum in Nome a call for help was sent out. While serum was being rushed north the logistics of how to transport it Nome where settled. It was decided that the fastest way to get the serum to Nome was to dog sled it over 600 miles from Nenana. Initially one musher was going to make the trip, then a second musher starting from the other end would meet him on the trail. Later it was decided a relay of mushers and dog teams would cover the 647 mile trail. The best mushers from each community along the way was selected. Dog teams where assemble by selecting the best dogs from all the teams. This was not a race for pride or honor, it was a race to save lives and every effort was made to get the Serum through. Below are listed the 20 mushers who where responsible for carrying the serum along the trail on the Race to Nome. I attempted to list the highlights of each leg as describe in Kenneth's book.
These men particapated in the race to deliver serum to Nome expecting nothing in return, except to help fellow Alaskans in need.
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William "Wild Bill" Shannon
Nenana to Tolovana Wild Bill mushed a team of nine malamutes 52 miles from Nenana to Tolovana.
Around 11:00 p.m. Jan. 27, 1925 Shannon received the Serum and written instructions from the conductor. The temperature was -40 degrees below zero. Only a few people gathered to see him off. He was greeted in Tolovana by Dan Green. I don't have the exact time but one text does mention that he figured he could make it by noon. Since it sounded like he had a cold but uneventful trip, I assume he made as planned, in 10 to 11 hours. (Wild Bill was killed by a Grizzly bear years later, while prospecting alone.)
Tolovana to Manley Hot Springs 32 Miles
Dan faced temperatures warming to -30 degrees below zero, but had a 20 mph wind for a while which made it cold running. After pulling his mittens of to free a tangle he found his fingers slightly frosted. He made journey without any significant difficulty meeting Johnny Folger at the roadhouse. I don't have a time for Dan.
Johnny Folger (Athabascan Native)
Manley Hot Springs to Fish Lake 28 miles
Johnny made his run at night and is reported to have made 'good time', but I didn't find anything about his time or team. He met Sam Joseph and his team at a Fish Lake cabin.
Sam Joseph (Tanana Tribe Native, 35 years old)
Fish Lake to Tanana 26 miles
Sam mushed a team of 7 malamutes for the 26 miles night run to his home in Tanana. The temperature in Tanana was recorded as -38 degrees below zero, yet Sam covered the trail in 2 hours 45 minutes, better than 9 mph. He was met by his family Titus Nickoli
Titus Nickolai (Athabascan Native)
Tanana to Kalland's 34 miles
There is not mention of Titus's team, time or travel along the trail. He met musher Dave Corning at the Kalland's.
Kalland's to Nine Mile Cabin 24 miles
Dave's team covered the trail at a fast pace. He is reported to have averaged 8 mph for the 24 miles. Again no mention of exact times or the team. He was met my Edgar Kalland at the Nine Mile Cabin.
Nine Mile Cabin to Kokrines 30 miles
Edgar had been a musher for the mail service and covered the 30 miles without fail. He was greeted by Harry Pitka at Kokrines.
Harry Pitka (Part Native)
Korkrines to Ruby 30 miles
Harry ran a fast team of seven dogs over a fast trail in good condition. It was a night run and he averaged greater than 9mph.
Ruby to Whiskey Creek 28 miles
Lead dog: Prince
Ran at a good pace despite a severe snow storm that he spent about an hour traveling through. He arrived at Whiskey Creek about 10:00 a.m. where the temperature was -40 degrees below zero. He was met my Edgar Nollner at Whiskey Creek.
Whiskey Creek to Galena 24 miles
Lead dog: 8 year old Dixie.
Edgar was 21 year old from Galena. He mushed a team of seven malamutes to Galena where the Serum was taken over by his brother George.
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Galena to Bishops Mountain 18 miles
George was a newly wed at the time and left his new wife in Galena while he took part in the great race. It appears that George made the trip using the same team Edgar used to cover the previous 24 miles.
Charlie Evans (Half Athabascan Native)
Bishops Mountains to Nulato 30 miles
Charlie at the time was 21 years old. He left Bishops mountains at 5:00 a.m. with a reported temperature of -64 degrees below zero. He pulled into Nulato at 10 a.m. covering the 30 miles in 5 hours. He ran a 9 dog team. Two dogs were borrowed and suffered frozen groins on the trip.
Tommy Patson (Patsy) (Koyukuk Native)
Nulato to Kaltag 36 miles
Patsy as he was called lived in Nulato. He ran the fairly straight trail on a regular bases carrying mail. He set the fastest speed noted during the Serum Race. He covered the 36 miles in three and a half hours with an average speed of slightly more than 10 mph.
"Jackscrew" (Athabascan Native)
Kaltag to Old Woman Cabin 40 miles
Jackscrew was a small man known for his unusual strength. Darkness and light snow fell on him. He jogged to lighten the sled until he passed the Kaltag Divide and began the downhill trail toward Norton Sound. He arrived at Old Woman Cabin at 9:10 p.m. Friday evening. He averaged almost 6 mph for 40 miles of difficult trail.
Victor Anagick (Eskimo Native)
Old Woman Cabin to Unalakleet 34 miles
Victor was sent from Unalakleet with an 11 dog team. He covered the 34 mile trail in 6 hours arriving at 3:30 Saturday morning. The Serum was now 207 miles from Nome.
Henry Ivanoff (Part Russian Eskimo)
Shaktolik starts to Golovin, passes serum to Seppala a short distance out of town.
About a half mile out of Shaktolik had to settle a fight in his team. While he was stopped he saw Seppala's Siberian husky team approaching form the other direction. The Serum was transferred to Seppala's sled on the trail.
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Shaktolik to Golovin 91 miles
Lead dog: Togo and Scotty
At 48 years old, Leonhard mushed a team of Siberian Husky's. He had left Nome with the intent of intercepting the serum at Nulato. He wasn't aware that the relays had sped the serum along the trial. Leanhard had left Isaac's Point on the north side of Norton Bay that morning. Having traveled the 43 tough miles with a tail wind he almost passed Henry Ivanoff outside of Golovin. They passed the serum on the trail and Seppala now turned his team around and headed back up the trail into the wind. The temperature was -30 degrees below zero as he faced a strong wind and darkness. To save valuable time Leonhard risked the 20 mile sea ice crossing between Cap Denbigh and Point Dexter in a blinding blizzard. He relied on Togo to keep them safe and on course and was not disappointed. On the North shore of Norton Bay he stopped at an Eskimo sod igloo he had spent the previous night at. He put the dogs in the kennel and fed them well, then took his sled inside and warmed the serum and himself hoping the storm would lessen. Early Sunday morning the temperature was -30 degrees below zero with a raging wind. Once again he headed out in conditions that otherwise would not have been tempted unless a matter of life and death. When he reached Dexter's Roadhouse at Golovin his dogs dropped in there tracks from exhaustion. The serum was now 78 miles from Nome, and it was Charlie Olson's responsibility to take it to Bluff.
Golovin to Bluff 25 miles
Lead dog: Jack, team of 7 malamutes
Charlie had left Gunnar Kaason at the Olson Roadhouse and traveled to Golovin at await the serum. Charlie left Golovin at 3:15 Sunday afternoon with the temperature at -30 degrees below zero and an estimated 40 mph wind. He was hit by gusts more than once that hurled him, sled and team off the trail. His dogs starting getting stiff due to the cold. He stopped and put blankets on each dog to keep them from freezing and suffered with freezing fingers as he had to remove his mittens for the task. Two of his dogs ended up badly groin-frozen. Despite the storm, Charlie arrived at Olson's Roadhouse about 7:30 p.m. where Gunnar Kaason was wondering if Charlie had held up to wait out the storm or not.
Bluff to Nome 53 miles
Lead dog: Balto
Gunnar was sent from Nome to wait for the serum at Bluff, while Ed Rohn was sent to Pt. Safety. Chest deep snow drifts to glare ice. For miles he was unable to see the trail and relied on Balto to get them throught. A message was sent to Solomn for Kaason to wait out the storm there. However the storm was so sever that Kaason did not see Solomn as Balto kept them on the man trial that passed to the south. It wasn't until miles later that Kaason could see landmarks that told him they had passed Solomn. Crossing Bonanza flat his sled was flipped by the wind, after righting the sled and untangling dogs he found that the Serum wasn't in his sled. He searched on his hands and knees in dark blowing snow until he found the package and resumed. After crossing Bonanza he had a quartering wind at his back and covered the last 12 miles to Safety in 80 minutes, arriving sometime after 2:00 a.m. Sunday. Ed Rohn was asleep in the cabin, expecting Kaason had held up at Safety to wait out the blizzard. Kaason decided not to wake Ed Rohn, who was suppose to take the Serum the final leg into Nome. The worst of the trail was behind him, the dogs where running good, so he began the final 21 miles run to Nome. He arrived in Nome around 5:30 a.m., covering the last 53 miles of the trail in seven and a half hours.
The initial serum shipment arrived frozen without any harm and was used to stem the epidemic. Five days later a second larger shipment of serum traveled the same route and the epidemic was ended.
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Chronology of the 1925 Serum Race
This chronology is based on the original accounts with distances based on the estimated mail route distances.
*See Revised Chronology as of 1989
|Jan 27-28||Railhead to Nenana to Tolovana||William "Wild Bill" Shannon||52|
|Jan 28||Tolovana to Manley Hot Srings||Dan Green||31|
|Jan 28||Manley Hot Springs to Fish Lake||Johnny Folger (Athabascan Native)||28|
|Jan 29||Fish Lake to Tanana||Sam Joseph (Tanana Tribe Native)||26|
|Jan 29||Tanana to Kallands||Titus Nickoli (Athabascan Native)||34|
|Jan 29||Kallands to Nine Mile mail cabin||Dave Corning||24|
|Jan 29||Nine Mile to Kokrines||Edgar Kalland||30|
|Jan 29||Kokrines to Ruby||Harry Pitka (Part Native)||30|
|Jan 29||Ruby to Whiskey Creek||Bill McCarty||28|
|Jan 29-30||Whiskey Creek to Galena||Edgar Nollner||24|
|Jan 30||Galena to Bishop Mountain||George Nollner (Edgar's brother, with the same team)||18|
|Jan 30||Bishop Mountain to Nulato||Charlie Evans (Half Athabascan Native)||30|
|Jan 30||Nulato to Kaltag||Tommy Patsy (Patsy) (Koyukuk Native)||36|
|Jan 30||Kaltag to Old Woman sherlter house||Jackscrew (Athabascan Native)||40|
|Jan 30-31||Old Woman to Unalakleet||Victor Anagick (Eskimo Native)||34|
|Jan 31||Unalakleet to Shaktolik||Myles Gonangnan (Eskimo Native)||40|
|Jan 31||starts Shaktolik to Golovin but meets Seppala.||Henry Ivanoff (Part Russian Eskimo)|
|Jan 31||Shaktolik to Golovin||Leonhard Seppala||91|
|Feb 1||Golovin to Bluff||Charlie Olson||25|
|Feb 1-2||Bluff to Nome||Gunnar Kaasen||53|
Total Time: 127.5 hours
Total Miles: 674
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|Revised Chronology 1925 Serum Run Mushers and trail covered as of 1989|
|Since the story of the Serum Race was mainly drawn from word of mouth, there may have been confusion as to who traveled what leg of the trail. More recent study has produced the following Chronology of the Serum Race.|
|Railhead to Nenana to Tolovan||William "Wild Bill" Shannon||52||Jan 27-28||-50 degrees|
|to Manley Hot Springs||Edgar Kallands||31||Jan 28||-60 degrees|
|to Fish Lake||Dan Green|
|to Tanana||Johnny Folger (Athabascan Native)|
|to Kallands||Sam Joseph (Tanana Tribe Native)|
|to Nine Mile Cabin||Titus Nickolai (Athabascan Native)|
|to Kokrines||Dave Corning||Jan 29|
|to Ruby||Harry Pitka (Part Native)|
|to Whiskey Creek||Bill McCarty||to -40 degrees|
|to Galena||Edgar Nollner|
|to Bishop Mountain||George Nollner (Edgar's brother, with the same team)|
|to Nulato||Charlie Evans (Half Athabascan Native)||Jan 30||to -64 degrees|
|to Kaltag||Tommy Patson (Patsy) (Koyukuk Native)|
|to Old Woman||"Jackscrew" (Athabascan Native)||to -50 degrees|
|to Unalakleet||Victor Anagick (Eskimo Native)|
|to Shaktoolik||Myles Gonangan (Eskimo Native)|
|to a rendezvous with Seppala||Henry Ivanoff (Part Russian Eskimo)||Jan 31|
|to Golovin||Leonhard Seppala||Feb 1|
|to Bluff||Charlie Olson||to -30 degrees, to 50 mph wind|
|to Nome||Gunnar Kaason||53||to -20 degrees, to 80 mph wind|
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