Okes Construction Company, Alaska Highway, 1942-1943
Alaska Highway History
An Explorer's Guide to the Alaska Highway ("Alcan")
Dateline: February 26, 2023
This page will present a brief history of the Okes Construction Company's work on the Alaska Highway, anchored by scans of several original Okes company documents which are in our collection.
The company, based at St. Paul, Minnesota, was owned by brothers Day I. Okes and Sidney R. Okes. They formed the company in 1933 as a successor to the Hanlon & Okes Company. Day Okes had graduated from the University of Minnesota school of engineering and had been a major in the Corps of Engineers in World War I. He died on December 5, 1956 at the age of 73.
The company's headquarters on the Alaska Highway was at Camp Alcan, two miles west of Fort St. John (now Historic Mile 49), seen in the postcard below.
Monday, May 18, 1942: It was announced in Edmonton today that the Okes Construction Co. of St. Paul has been awarded a contract to manage construction of 250 miles of the Alaska Highway, from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson. Preliminary clearing work is expected to be done by Minnesota lumberjacks, for which negotiations are underway. Contracts for actual construction of the road have not been let yet.
Friday, July 24, 1942, Minneapolis Star Journal, page 23: ALASKA HIGHWAY, F. W. A. CONTRACT NO. WAPH-14913. Sealed bids in triplicate will be received at this office until 4:00 P.M., Monday, July 27, 1942, and then publicly opened, for furnishing the following supplies for delivery at Saint Paul, Minnesota. (the F. W. A. was the Federal Works Agency)
In the same issue of the newspaper, a small ad ran: "CAMP waiters, dish washers & yard men, $30 wk., rm. & board, Apply Okes Construction Co,, 1506 E. 1st National Bank Bldg., St. Paul."
Sunday, September 20, 1942: Okes starts running ads for carpenters, automotive electrical mechanics, truck drivers and common laborers. Within a few days, Frank W. Morrison had hired on as a truck driver.
Frank W. Morrison, October 3, 1942
Frank W. Morrison, October 20, 1942
Wednesday July 14, 1943: the Minneapolis Star Journal published a lengthy article by George L. Peterson, largely about the Okes camp at Camp Alcan, where 90% of the employees were from Minnesota. See "Peterson Discovers 'Little Minnesota' Near Fort St. John".
Frank W. Morrison, October 12, 1943
Thursday November 4, 1943: The Okes Construction Co. of St. Paul and 14 associated contractors, all but two from Minnesota, have virtually ended their labor on the 250-mile stretch of the Alaska military highway from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson, have dismantled many of the camps, shipped back their equipment, and discharged their workers. A few are still at work on bridges and supplementary airfield contracts, but by midwinter all will be through.
Below: Ronald C. Paul and Ardis L. Paul, not dated, probably 1942. The folder was empty.