Teller, Port Clarence

Teller, Port Clarence

by | May 21, 2021

Teller is an Iñupiat village located at the base of a spit separating Port Clarence Bay from Grantley Harbor, about 59 miles (95 km) northwest of Nome and 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Brevig Mission, Alaska. The present village of Teller is on the southern shore of Port Clarence and was established in 1900 following the discovery of gold at the Bluestone Placer Mine about 25 km (16 mi) to the south. The gold rush community took its name from the Teller Reindeer Station.

Frederick William Beechey on his expedition to meet Sir John Franklin in the Arctic found three Iñupiat encampments here in 1827 with about 400 inhabitants. In 1866, the Russian–American Telegraph Company, attempting to link America to Europe via Alaska, spent a winter at the present site of Teller. The U.S. Government introduced reindeer herding in Alaska when Captain Michael A. Healy of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service selected a site north of Teller for a reindeer station that operated from 1892 to 1900. The reindeer station was named Teller by Sheldon Jackson for U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior Henry Moore Teller. In 1897, eight whaling ships were trapped in ice near Point Barrow and the owners of the ships were concerned for the lives of the 265 whalers. A rescue was organized and in November 1897, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear sailed north from Port Townsend, Washington. It was too late in the year for the cutter to push through the ice, so an overland expedition was sent from Cape Vancouver in the Bering Sea. They stopped at the Teller Reindeer Station to purchase a herd of reindeer, and with the help of natives, the group reached the starving whalers with 382 reindeer on March 29, 1898.

In 1900, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church built a mission at the reindeer station and this became known as Teller Mission and today is called Brevig Mission. During the gold rush boom years in the early 20th century, the village of Teller had a population of about 5,000 and was a major regional trading center. Natives from Teller Mission, Diomede, Wales, Mary’s Igloo, and King Island came to trade here. A road now connects Teller with Nome, and Port Clarence is an important harbor and the last port of refuge for ships heading north into the Arctic. Read more here and here. Explore more of Teller and Port Clarence here:

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