Russian presence in south central Alaska was well established in the 19th century. In 1867, U. S. Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to purchase Alaska from a debt-ridden Imperial Russia for $7.2 million (about two cents an acre). The deal was lampooned by political rivals as “Seward’s folly”, “Seward’s icebox” and “Walrussia”. By 1888, gold was discovered along Turnagain Arm.
In 1912, Alaska became a United States territory. Anchorage, unlike every other large town in Alaska south of the Brooks Range, was neither a fishing nor mining camp. The area within tens of miles of Anchorage is barren of significant economic metal minerals. While a number of Dena’ina settlements existed along Knik Arm for years, only two white men.