Isabelle Cleary Barnette arrived in Alaska with a ship full of $20,00 worth of goods that she and her husband had purchased in San Fransisco to sell to the miners. Their intention had been to go directly to Tanana Crossing and set up a trading post there, but due to their steamer being unable to navigate the rapids they ended their trip on the banks of the Chena.
On the Chena they built and managed a trading post. In March they left the trading post to go down to the Lower 48 and get more supplies. Isabelle and her husband each drove a dog team over the Alaska Range to Valdez. After the month long journey they still looked great, and according to one man "they looked like they had been on a Sunday drive."
Once they got to Seattle, they bought a new steamboat and supplies. When they returned to their trading post they discovered that there had been a gold strike only sixteen miles away starting a new rush to the area. The Barnettes' named their trading post and the area around it Fairbanks. More and more miners came to Fairbanks to search for gold at the site of this new strike. In a short time a small town had sprung up around the tiny area of Fairbanks. A few months after the rush started there began to be a shortage of food. The miners accused Mr. Barnette of hoarding his food so that he could sell it later at higher prices. The miners grew angry and threatened to attack the place where the Barnettes' were storing their food. Thankfully the confrontation ended peacefully. It was said that this was due to the presence of Mrs. Barnette in the compound where the food was being stored.
The Barnette's had several claims that yielded quite a bit of money. That money combined with the money they received from their trading post was more than enough to make it possible for Isabelle to travel. She took several trips to places including, Washington DC, New York, Kentucky, and Mexico.
In 1910 Isabelle and her two children moved to Los Angeles. And in 1918 she sued for divorce. We have no idea why she divorced her husband, but the settlement gave her $500,000 which was quite a bit of money back then.
|"Isabelle Barnette represents the highest type of that noble class of frontiers woman who have dared to risk their lives to assist in establishing the foundation for American states."|
© Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Beckett and Sarah Teel
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