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Available online at Alaskool with the permission of John M. Poling's family. For personal or educational use only. Some changes in layout have been made to accomodate online publication, but content remains as originally composed. Posted 08/22/02



By John Marion Poling, B.A.

Presented to the Faculty of the University of Alaska in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements For the Degree of


John Marion Poling, B. A.

College, Alaska
May 1970

Table Of Contents




I. Backgrounds: Russian and American

II. Backgrounds: Settlement, The First Schools, and Incorporation

III. Establishing the Schools and the Struggle for Fiscal Control

IV. The Golden Years: Rise and Decline of the Schools, 1902-1918

V. A New Era Under the Territorial Department of Education, 1917-1940

VI. Integration of the Schools

VII. Of War, Teachers, and The Tide Of Change

VIII. The School Board, The City Council, and Fiscal Independence

IX. An Ending and a Beginning – 1958



A. Years of Service of Nome School Board Members – USBE and City Schools – 1900 to 1958

Nome School Boards – 1900 to 1958

B. Superintendents of the Nome Public Schools, 1901 to 1958

C. Graduates, Nome High School, 1906-1958

D. Essay by Lucien Riegaert, 1908

E. Course of Study, Nome High School, 1912-1913

List of Tables

  1. Elementary School Enrollment and Eighth Grade Graduates, Nome Public Schools, 1901-1917
  2. Elementary School Enrollment and Eighth Grade Graduates, Nome Public Schools, 1918-1932
  3. Elementary School Enrollment and Eighth Grade Graduates, Nome Public Schools, 1933-1946
  4. Elementary School Enrollment and Eighth Grade Graduates, Nome Public Schools, 1947-1958
  5. Enrollments and Graduations, Nome High School, 1901-1917
  6. Enrollments and Graduations, Nome High School, 1918-1930
  7. Enrollments and Graduations, Nome High School, 1931-1944
  8. Enrollments and Graduations, Nome High School, 1945-1958
  9. Summaries: Teachers, and Student Enrollment, Nome Public Schools, 1901-1917
  10. Summaries: Teachers, and Student Enrollment, Nome Public Schools, 1918-1931
  11. Summaries: Teachers, and Student Enrollment Nome Public Schools, 1932-1945
  12. Summaries: Teachers, and Student Enrollment, Nome Public Schools, 1946-1958
  13. Teacher Salary Averages, Nome Public Schools, 1919-1958
  14. Annual Budget, Nome Public Schools, 1900-1917
  15. Nome School Total Annual Budgets and Territorial Refunds, 1918-1947
  16. Nome School Total Annual Budgets and Territorial Refunds, 1948-1958

List of Charts

  1. Graph showing Nome Public School Enrollments, 1901-1958

List of Illustrations

1 - The Nome Public School, circa 1910, built in 1901-19021
2 - Carrie M. McLain, nee Stipek, Class of 1913, Nome High School1
3 - Nome, Alaska, 1900, a beach scene west of the city1
4 - Nome, Alaska, a winter scene in the 1920’s1
5 - First Teachers: Miss Mauzy and Miss Young with children, 19001
6 - Teachers and Pupils on an outing on the Bering Sea, circa 19101
7 - Miss Mauzy’s Primary Class, 1901-19021
8 - Mrs. Bernardi’s Primary Grades at the Bridge School, 1903-19041
9 - Miss Joyce’s Fifth and Sixth Grades, 1905-19061
10 - The Class of 1913, Nome High School1
11 - The Nome Public School Children with Teachers and Superintendent A. A. Ryan, May 19402
12 - The Class of 1940, Nome High School3
13 - Nome High School student body with Mr. Olaf Halverson, left, and Mr. William Angell, Superintendent, right, 19564

Photo credits: 1 = Carrie M. McLain collection, 2 = Author's personal collection, 3 = Edith M. Arnold, 4 = Gadyce Walker, '58.


During the time of organization of the Tanana-Yukon Valley Historical Society, in Fairbanks in 1961, my eleven year old son, Jack, and I became charter members at the first meeting, when Mr. Irving McK. Reed talked about his life in Nome, where he arrived with his family at the age of ten, in 1900. In the fall of 1962 I went to Nome to teach in the high school, and inspired by Mr. Reed’s accounts of the local history, began to delve into the beginnings of the Nome public school system.

Short summaries of the history of the schools had been written by students Ralph Lomen in 1904; Elva Ellis in 1908; and Lucien Riegert in 1908; all having the fresh approach of youngsters writing from personal experience history they had helped to make. Dr. Sheldon Jackson’s reports as United States Agent for the Bureau of Education, gave a good brief on the short-lived government school of 1900-1901. An excellent statement of the first year of the city schools was published in 1902 by the new board of education. To Mrs. Carrie M. McLain, of Nome, we are indebted for the full general sweep of the school history, which she experienced personally as a student from 1905 to 1913, as a member of the board from 1934 to 1940, and as an interested citizen over the entire scope of her sixty-four years as a resident of the community. To Mrs. McLain, I owe the deepest gratitude for her friendship, counsel, and material assistance in the preparation of this thesis during the past five years.

Many individuals have contributed to the search for widely dispersed sources of information. Mr. And Mrs. Al Phelps and Mr. And Mrs. Albro Gregory gave me access to the local files of the Nome Nugget, a newspaper that has recorded the current flow of history from the time of the great gold rush; the obliging and courteous staff of the University of Alaska library have also been most helpful. Citizens and former students, teachers, and board members of Nome, who have aided me in many ways are:

Irving McKenny, '07 Pearce Walsh, '36
Lillie Koch (Lewis), '18 Jane Scott (Perkins), '47
Donald Lyle, '24 Donna Lyle (Morgan), '55
Emily Polet (Boucher), '24 Bonnie Dunbar (Hahn)
Alvin Polet, '27 Mrs. Helen Fagerstrom
Grace Swanberg (Edman), '32 Mrs. Vera Gelzer
Robert Baldwin, '33 Sally Ailak, '64
Fredrick M. Bockman, '40 Glen Dahl, Superintendent
Edith M. Hoop (Arnold), '40 George Waldhelm
Caroline McLain (Reader), '46 Don Perkins
Mrs. Harvey Carlisle (Helen Southard Moore Bockman, Principal, 1920-21)

Emma S. Cameron
William Cameron

Gladyce Walker (Williamson), '58 William H. Ullrich
Gerry Fagerstrom (Casey), '54 Lucy C. Poling

I am grateful for the courtesies of all who contributed to this work.

College, Alaska
August 23, 1969

A History Of The Nome, Alaska, Public Schools: 1899 To 1958

From The Gold Rush To Statehood
(An Abstract)

The history of education in Alaska under the Russians, and under the American administration after the annexation through transfer in 1867, emanated from both missionary and government concern which developed the framework for the establishment of a general system of public schools, loosely organized until 1917, when the Alaska Territorial Department of Education was established by an act of the legislature.

Against this background, in the early years of the great gold rush on the Seward Peninsula, the Nome Public School System had its origin, first as a volunteer missionary-community effort, then as a school supported by the United States Bureau of Education, and finally as an incorporated city school district under local City of Nome auspices.

The early years were characterized by a struggle between the city council and the board of education for control of tax monies supporting the schools, with the ultimate victory of the council and the loss of fiscal independence by the board, a pattern that has persisted to this day.

Under the Nelson Act of 1905, the city schools were for white children and children of mixed blood leading a civilized life. In 1947, a non-discrimination act passed by the territorial legislature terminated this segregation, causing a large increase in the enrollments of the Nome Public Schools, with consequential problems of an acculturational nature accompanied by multiplied costs for plant expansion and operation.

The decline of gold production before World War I and the resulting loss of white population, reduced the school enrollment to its lowest point, 66, in 1923-24, with a gradual growth up to 166 in 1940-41, a general level that remained until the first voluntary action toward integration was made in 1945-46, leading to a total enrollment of 700 by 1957-58, the last year before statehood.

The school system has not been sufficiently supported under the rule of fiscal dependence, and the results have been disastrous in terms of the educational product. A change is needed in the basic plan of support. This paper suggests total fiscal support by the State Department of Education, with the locally elected school board acting as the sole, independent agent of the State Department in all matters of Nome Public Schools concern.