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The History of Haines, Alaska

An Explorer's Guide to Haines, Alaska

    Haines is located on a narrow peninsula extending into Lynn Canal, between the Chilkoot and Chilkat Inlets, 80 air miles northwest of Juneau. It is just south of the Canadian border at British Columbia, 775 road miles from Anchorage. It lies at approximately 59 14' N Latitude, 135 26' W Longitude (Sec. 34, T030S, R059E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Haines Recording District. The area encompasses 8 sq. miles of land and 7 sq. miles of water.

    The Haines area was called "Dtehshuh" (or "Dei Shu") by the Chilkat Indians, meaning "end of the trail." It was a trading post for both the Chilkat and Interior Indians. The first non-Native to settle here was George Dickinson, an agent for the North West Trading Co., in 1880. In 1881, S. Young Hall, a Presbyterian minister, received permission from the Chilkat Indians to build the Willard mission and school. The mission was renamed Haines in 1884 in honor of Mrs. F.E. Haines, who chaired the National Committee that had raised funds for the mission's construction. Four canneries had been constructed in the area by the turn of the century. During the Klondike gold rush in the late 1890s, it grew as a mining supply center, since the Dalton Trail from Chilkat Inlet to Whitehorse offered an easier route to the Yukon for prospectors. Gold was also discovered 36 miles from Haines in 1899 at the Porcupine District. Four canneries had been constructed in the area by the turn of the century.

    The first permanent U.S. military installation in Alaska, Fort William H. Seward, was constructed south of Haines in 1904. In 1922, the fort was renamed Chilkoot Barracks. Until World War II, it was the only U.S. Army post in Alaska. It was deactivated in 1946 and sold as surplus property to a group of veterans who established it as Port Chilkoot. The City of Port Chilkoot was incorporated in 1956.

    The Haines borough formed as a third-class borough on August 29, 1968, and in 1970, Port Chilkoot merged with Haines into one municipality. In 1972, the post was designated a national historic site and the name, Fort William Seward, was restored. Haines is also known for its famous strawberries; the Alaskan hybrid "Burbank," developed by Charles Anway, was a prize winner in Seattle in 1909. The annual strawberry festival developed into the Southeast Alaska State Fair, which draws thousands of visitors each year. The last of the early canneries closed in 1972 due to declining fish stocks. Expansion of the timber industry in the early 1970s fueled growth, but the sawmills closed in 1976.

    In 1974, the borough annexed 420 square miles to the south, including Excursion Inlet. In 1978, it annexed the former military petroleum distribution facility at Lutak Inlet. The City of Haines and the Haines Borough were consolidated in 2002. Tourism is now an important source of income in the community.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online


History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development