Telling Alaska's Story: McGrath Library turns 65!

I'm again departing from my alphabetical approaching of sharing information about Alaska communities to highlight McGrath, Alaska, whose library turned 50 as reported by the May 5, 2006 Alaska State Library Friday Bulletin:


Librarian Julie Coghill and Board President Laural Baumgartner report that McGrath celebrated its 65th birthday last week!

Established on April 15, 1941, the library has continuously operated, though, as Julie notes, that's what "people around remember, although they say that there were a few times it was only barely hanging on, but continued to remain open." She reported that they celebrated with a birthday party on the 15th, "and it was a whole lot more fun than I had anticipated. Attendance was 49 and if you count me that would make 50. Our population is about 350. Some people stayed for all
three hours. We had kids on computers the whole time, we had people of all ages looking at books, and we had people doing art."


Congratulations indeed! Here are some community facts from the Alaska Department of Commerce Community Information Summaries to go along with this happy occasion:

McGrath (muh-GRATH)

Current Population: 347 (2005 State Demographer estimate)
Incorporation Type: 2nd Class City
Borough Located In: Unorganized
Taxes: Sales: None, Property: None, Special: 10% Accomodations Tax

Location and Climate
McGrath is located 221 miles northwest of Anchorage and 269 miles southwest of Fairbanks in Interior Alaska. It is adjacent to the Kuskokwim River directly south of its confluence with the Takotna River. The community lies at approximately 62.956390° North Latitude and -155.59583° (West) Longitude. (Sec. 18, T033N, R033W, Seward Meridian.) McGrath is located in the Mt. McKinley Recording District. The area encompasses 48.9 sq. miles of land and 5.7 sq. miles of water. The McGrath area has a cold, continental climate. Average summer temperatures range from 62 to 80, winters temperatures can range from -64 to 0. Precipitation is light, averaging 10 inches per year, including an average snowfall of 86 inches. The Kuskokwim River is generally ice-free from June through October.

History, Culture and Demographics
McGrath was a seasonal Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan village which was used as a meeting and trading place for Big River, Nikolai, Telida and Lake Minchumina residents. The Old Town McGrath site, was originally located across the river. In 1904, Abraham Appel established a trading post at the old site. In 1906, gold was discovered in the Innoko District, and at Ganes Creek in 1907. Since McGrath is the northernmost point on the Kuskokwim River accessible by large riverboats, it became a regional supply center. By 1907, a town was established, and was named for Peter McGrath, a local U.S. Marshal. In 1909, the Alaska Commercial Company opened a store. The Iditarod Trail also contributed to McGrath's role as a supply center. From 1911 to 1920, hundreds of people walked and mushed over the Trail on their way to the Ophir gold districts. Mining sharply declined after 1925. After a major flood in 1933, some residents decided to move to the south bank of the River. Changes in the course of the River eventually left the old site on a slough, useless as a river stop. In 1937, the Alaska Commercial Company opened a store at the new location. In 1940, an airstrip was cleared, the FAA built a communications complex, and a school was opened. McGrath became an important refueling stop during World War II, as part of the Lend-Lease Program between the U.S. and Russia. In 1964, a new high school was built, attracting boarding students from nearby villages. The City was incorporated in 1975.
A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community -- the McGrath Native Village; Medfra Traditional Council (not recognized). The population of the community consists of 54.6% Alaska Native or part Native. Slightly more than half of the population are Athabascans and Eskimos. As a regional center, McGrath offers a variety of employment opportunities, but subsistence remains an important part of the local culture. About 10 families in town have dog teams which they enter into the Iditarod, Kuskokwim 300, and Mail Trail 200 sled dog races. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 213, and vacant housing units numbered 68. Vacant housing units used only seasonally numbered 14. U.S. Census data for Year 2000 showed 206 residents as employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 10.43 percent, although 27.97 percent of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $43,056, per capita income was $21,553, and 9.8 percent of residents were living below the poverty level.

Some books and other items about McGrath

Google News stories mentioning the words "McGrath" and "Alaska" - most will be about the town, but not all.

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