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Trail History

Portraits of the Past

Edgar and George Nollner

It was January 1925, and the isolated community of Nome was in trouble. An epidemic of diphtheria was spreading through the city at an alarming rate. With antitoxin reserves dangerously low, the situation had become dire. Authorities considered sending an aircraft, but the long distance and dangerous winter weather made flying out of the question.

Edgar Nollner 
Edgar Nollner survived the 1925 Serum Run and lived until 1998. His relatives remain in the Galena area.
Still, Nome’s children needed help. The Board of Health decided on a uniquely Alaskan solution: Diphtheria serum wrapped in an old quilt and covered in canvas would be mushed from a special train at Nenana to Nome. Galena, a town located between Nulato and Tanana on the Yukon River, was one link in a chain of settlements that made this emergency effort possible. 

George Nollner 
George Nollner, a happy newly wed, was singing a love song when he arrived in Bishop Mountain with the serum.
The serum was sent from Anchorage to Nenana by train. From there, a relay of dog teams carried the parcel down frozen rivers and over ancient trails to Nome, battling temperatures of -60° Fahrenheit most of the way.

Edgar Nollner picked up the serum at Whiskey Creek and quickly mushed his team the 25 miles to Galena. There he turned the package and his team over to his brother George, who mushed another 18 miles to Bishop Mountain, where he passed the package to Charlie Evans. A total of 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs carried the diphtheria serum the 674 miles to Nome.

The Iditarod National Historic Trail linked frozen communities to the ice-free port of Seward for moving mail, supplies, and gold. After World War I, airplanes slowly began to make dog teams and the trail system obsolete. Snowmobiles eventually replaced sleds as the main mode of winter travel between villages. But the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, run in March of every year, continues to commemorate the men and dogs that showed such incredible courage and determination in 1925.

Serum Run medal   Serum Run certificate 

High Honors

Special gold medals commemorated the life-saving heroism of the “Serum Run mushers.” HK Mulford Company, the manufacturer of the diphtheria serum, presented a special medal and certificate to each of the 20 “Serum Run” mushers.