A Tea at Judge Wickersham’s House
WC has for more than 2.5 years cheekily “borrowed” the late Judge James Wickersham’s name and used it for this blog. Partly because of a guilty conscience, partly because there was free food, WC attended a tea at Judge Wickersham’s house Saturday afternoon. Sponsored by the Tanana -Yukon Historical Society, it was a tea, a birthday party and an important anniversary of one of the judge’s greatest accomplishments. And, if you set aside the over-loud, under-talented rock band on the nearby gazebo, it was a lot of fun.
James Wickersham was the first judge appointed in the northern two-thirds of Alaska. In1903, he relocated the federal court from Eagle to Fairbanks. That single act probably kept Fairbanks from being just another gold rush ghost town. He built the first milled-wood house in Fairbanks. In 1966, the house was relocated to
A-67 Alaskaland Pioneer Park, where it sits today, nicely restored by a lot of hardworking volunteers.
The Tanana -Yukon Historical Society gets most of the credit. The interior is equally lovely.
Not all of the interior is authentic, but the overall effect is very nice. And it’s a great place for a tea.
Because there was lots to celebrate. It was, as reader Paul Eaglin has noted, very nearly the Judge’s 155th birthday. Although not as honored as he should be, given his role in Alaska’s history, the day is officially marked by the Alaska Legislature. And it’s also the date in which the Second Organic Act was signed into law in 1912. The Act, the first bill that Alaska Representative James Wickersham (non-voting) pushed through Congress. It established local rule in Alaska, the first baby steps toward statehood.
The tea included birthday cake, hot cocoa as well as tea, and a lot of real historians, including Renee Blahuta, champion historic preservationist, Claus-M Naske, author of the leading history of Alaska, and the delightful Ron Inouye.
WC asked everyone he met what they thought that Judge Wickersham, a life-long Republican, would have thought of Governor Sean Parnell. Not everyone would answer. Among those who did, the consensus: Wickersham would be appalled. Wickersham was a Teddy Roosevelt Republican; i.e., a Democrat by today’s standards. The Judge would have thought our Captain Zero is an unprincipled opportunist. Perhaps WC has more in common with his borrowed namesake than he thought.
Thanks for the invite, Tanana-Yukon Historical Society. Keep up the good work. Happy Birthday, Judge Wickersham. And happy anniversary to self-government in Alaska, one hundred years old now. Happy Wickersham Day, everybody.