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Trail History

Portraits of the Past

Oscar Tryck

Oscar Tryck
Oscar Tryck  (Photo courtesy of Tryck family)
Oscar Tryck was born in Sweden in 1879. A few years after his birth, the family immigrated to Iron Mountain, Michigan, where a large iron mine had started operations. Oscar and his brother Charles grew up in this rough and ready mining town. Once grown, the young men decided to see what the world offered elsewhere and left Michigan in 1903. 
The brothers arrived in Skagway, hiked the White Pass trail, and built a scow at Lake Bennett to run the Yukon down to Dawson. There they worked in the gold mines for a while. By 1904 the young men had left Dawson and continued down the Yukon to Tanana, where they supplied wood to a nearby U.S. Army outpost.
Oscar moved to Fairbanks in 1906. He did some prospecting and hauled freight for the Tenderfoot Mine. After news of the 1908 Otter Creek strike, his brother Charlie went on to Iditarod. In 1910 when the first news of the strike at Ruby arrived, Oscar and his four Belgian work horses were on the first boat back. When Charlie heard that his brother was in Ruby, he and his friend, Sam Godfrey, ran their dog team to Ruby, pioneering the route from Iditarod to Ophir over to Poorman and into Ruby. This route is still part of the northern route of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race and part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail.
In Ruby Oscar put his big horses to use hauling freight out to the new mines near Long. This had to have been grueling work. The Alaska Road Commission (ARC) report for 1912 notes
 Two horse drawn wagons are mired in deep mud on Ruby's Front St. in October 1911.
Photo reads " Freighting on Front St. in Ruby, Alaska, October 1911".  Two horse drawn wagons are mired in deep mud.  (Photo coutesy of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections, University of Alaska, Fairbanks)
the freight rate to these mines was high since no roads had yet been constructed.
Once established in Ruby, Oscar quickly traveled back to Michigan to marry his sweetheart, Lillian Blanche Tipping. They traveled back to Alaska, going through Valdez to Fairbanks, where they waited for the river to break up. Then the young couple traveled down river to Ruby, where they settled in and started their family. Oscar worked with the Alaska Road Commission, building the thirty-mile road from Ruby to Long. 
In 1917 the family moved to Knik, where a second son was born. Oscar worked at the Independence Mine for a while, but realized he liked building roads better. He started work as a foreman for the Alaska Road Commission in 1918 and continued until his retirement in 1937.  He helped build many of the connecting roads in the Wasilla/Palmer/Anchorage area.
Like most pioneers associated with the Iditarod Trail, Oscar Tryck did not make a fortune in mining gold but experienced a variety of jobs, hard work, and the many pleasures of family life. His interest in building Alaskan infrastructure has carried down through several generations.