Elbridge Truman Barnette was born in Akron, Ohio in 1886. He was a Yukon riverboat captain, banker, merchant, and swindler. In 1886, he was sentenced to four years in prison in Oregon state for stealing from a partner in a horse-trading venture in Canada. Political connections of the Barnette family saw the sentence commuted after one year, on the condition that Barnette never return to Oregon.
After several failed business ventures, he decided to set up a trading post on the Tanana River, in the Alaska interior. His boat was loaded with 20 tons of supplies, when the steamboat floundered on the Chena River because of the weight. Barnette, his party, and supplies, were evicted off the boat. The sight of smoke from the steamer’s engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felix Pedro. Pedro bought some of the supplies and convinced Barnette to set up shop were he landed. A year later, Pedro struck gold that began a stampede to the area, making Barnette a rich man.
In trying to establish the settlement where Barnette set up his trading post, he got concessions from a Federal Judge who, in return, wanted the area named after Charles W. Fairbanks, a Republican senator from Indiana and later the twenty-sixth Vice President of the United States.
We walked and drove around, but today, Fairbanks is just another big city. In this part of the Country, all diesel cars have plugs.