Manley Hot Springs History

The history of Manley Hot Springs can be broken into three main periods:
Part 1: 1894-1913 - GOLD!
Part 2: 1902 - Agriculture
1903 - Present: The Land

by John Robert Dart



Part 1: 1894-1913 - GOLD!

Most people in Manley Hot Springs have a very interesting story to tell.  As with many oral histories, the story gets distorted over time for whatever reasons. What is clear after a thorough examination of this local lore and considerable time spent in area libraries, is that the truth about Manley Hot Spring’s origin may easily be revealed.

Photo credit: Howard Henry Collection, 73-274-275, Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Enlarge photo
Circa 1907: Looking north across Hot Springs Slough: L to R, Frank G. Manley's Hotel and Bathhouse, Northern Commercial Store, Warehouses, and Stable. Note power poles--steam driven generator produced electricity.


Gold prospecting, and ultimately mining, were the reasons for agricultural development at the Hot Springs. While this comes as no surprise to locals or Alaskans in the nearby Tofty and Eureka mining community, a refresher of the records gives a clear picture of how farming got started and how its quick demise came about.  Karshner knew, hungry mouths had to be fed!!!

Follow the money and it becomes clear that Frank G. Manley was buying up claims in the Baker Creek country in the Tanana River Valley.  Manley, in retrospect, was a savvy businessman, taking his early gold earnings from the Fairbanks Camp following the gold rush and spreading his wealth from camp to camp while buying up claims. 

Photo credit: Charles Spicer Collection, 2003-007-08, Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Group of travelers headed to Fairbanks via horse drawn sliegh. Note porch still not completed and writing on sleigh. Probably taken late March or Early April. Circa 1908


Stories of Manley indicate he was a horse thief from Texas, however I really didn’t give it much thought until now.  According to Rosalie E. L’Ecuyer, author of Prospecting and Mining activity in the Rampart, Manley Hot Springs and Fort Gibbon Mining Districts of Alaska, 1894 to the Present Era: “The will, which was made at San Angelo, Tom Green County, Texas, gave Manley’s true name as Hillyard Bascom Knowles.”



Manley holdings 1908

The map above shows Frank Manley's holdings in 1908.

Cora Chase Charlton’s article “Was He Justified?" on pp. 47-51 in the April 1909 Alaska-Yukon Magazine, coincidently describes a fictional story about two characters named Hillyard and Bascom.  This lady friend undoubtly knew Manley, as Cora had spent time both in Hot Springs and Fairbanks. By 1913, after his return from incarceration in Texas and the destruction of his hotel by fire, Frank G. Manley had lost interest in mining at Hot Springs. 


Photo credit: Howard Henry Collection, 73-223-7, Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Looking to the southeast John F Karshner looks over a newly planted hay field. Overland Bluff is in background. To the southwest, pens and greenhouse can be seen. Hot Springs slough meanders in the background. Elevation 450-475 ft. Vast Tanana River Valley is to the south.


So was it was lust, love, money, or the combination of all these that did things in for Manley?  Or perhaps it was just other business pursuits, since we know Manley had claims in the Iditarod District and had his machinery sent there.  Rumor has it the hotel was burned by an arsonist within the Karhsner clan.  The patent which was eventually issued to Cordelia M. Karshner would not otherwise have occurred due to the rules of homesteading.



Survey Commenced:  August 16, 1907
Survey Completed :    August 20, 1907

General Description
“Total area included within survey, 278.92 acres, of which 72.60 acres have been cleared, and of the latter 30.40 acres are under a high state of cultivation.  No evidence of mineral within the line of survey.  The hot springs, several in number, take their rise at the base of a bench, about 20 chs. Northerly from Hot Springs slough.”…  “The slough is navigable for vessels, of not to exceed four feet draft, at times of high water only;”
                        L.S. Robe,
                       U.S. Deputy Surveyor

“Now Know YE, That there is, therefore, granted by the United States unto the said claimant, the tract of Land above described:”…
By the President:  Woodrow Wilson
Patent Number 498680
Homestead Survey No. 916, under Act of Congress, May 14, 1898 as amended by Act of March 3, 1903.