Rolfe Buzzell has been a resident of Alaska for 45 years. He earned a Master of Arts degree and a Ph.D., both in History, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was employed for two years as a historian for the National Park Service in Alaska and 29 years as a historian for the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources. He worked as a field historian documenting historic and prehistoric sites on public construction projects and he participated in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill cleanup monitoring the protection of cultural sites. Dr. Buzzell authored 60 interpretive signs posted along Alaska’s highways celebrating the Gold Rush Centennial, wrote approximately 100 professional reports including a history of bridges in Alaska, and worked as an expert witness for the State on litigation regarding the use of navigable waters and rights-of-ways for historic trails and roads across public lands. He mapped and documented the ruins of the gold rush town of Sunrise and is an expert on the Turnagain Arm Gold Rush of 1896-1898. He edited two books by people who lived in Sunrise and nearby mining camps in the 1890s. His article, “Women of the Sunrise Mining Camps, 1895-1901,” was recently published in Alaska History journal. He is currently writing a history of the town of Chitina in Alaska’s Copper River Valley.
Summary of Presentation: Historian Rolfe Buzzell will discuss two books he edited on the Turnagain Arm Gold Rush of 1895-1901. The first is the memoirs of Albert “Jack” Morgan, entitled Memories of Old Sunrise, Gold Mining on Alaska’s Turnagain Arm (1994 and 2013),in which Morgan writes about his experiences as a miner in the Sunrise area. The second book is Gold Rush Wife, The Adventures of Nellie Frost on Turnagain Arm, 1895-1901 (2016, 2020) which provides rare insights into the role of women in one of southcentral Alaska’s earliest mining camps. Dr. Buzzell will talk about the Turnagain Arm Gold Rush, which began 20 years before the founding of Anchorage, and how he came to edit the two manuscripts. He will also provide highlights of these two books, which provide markedly different perspectives on life in a remote mining camp. The books are available from Alaska’s “Ember Press.”