Scottie Creek crosses the Alaska Highway 2 1/2 miles from the Alaska-Canada border, about a mile west of the U.S. Customs station. Just west of the Scottie Creek bridge, on the south side of the highway, stands a small cluster of abandoned structures. Those moldering buildings are all that is left of Thompson’s Borderline Camp, a business operated in the 1960s and ‘70s by Fuller and Dorothy Thompson, early homesteaders in the area.
Scottie Creek is located at the eastern-most upstream limit of the Tanana Valley. Named for a member of an 1898 USGS survey party, the stream originates in Alaska but loops through Canada, flowing 50 miles before emptying into the Chisana River, a tributary of the Tanana River.
Long before westerners entered the region, the valley was home to the Scottie Creek band of Upper Tanana Athabascan Indians. Prior to the 19th century these Athabascans practiced a semi-nomadic, subsistence-based lifestyle. Not until the mid-1880s, and the discovery of gold along the Fortymile River (about 100 miles to the north), did westerners begin filtering into the area.
The short-lived 1913-14 gold rush at Chisana, about 50 miles southwest of Scottie Creek, brought more westerners. However, the area still remained extremely isolated, and non-Native residents were limited to big-game hunters, trappers and traders.
Construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 finally ended Scottie Creek’s isolation. A 2015 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report states that one of the area’s residents at that time was Fuller Seth Thompson, a big-game guide. Fuller assisted with surveying and construction of the highway, and remained in the area after World War II. During the 1950s he homesteaded at Scottie Creek, building a cabin several hundred yards south of the highway.
His cabin (shown in the drawing) faces southeast toward Scottie Creek and is located on high ground between the creek and several small lakes to the north. The cabin is 12 by 16 feet, with a low-pitched metal-covered gable roof. It is constructed of unpeeled logs saddle-notched at the corners. The interior side walls are only about 4 1/2 feet high, with the ceiling about 7 feet high at the ridge-pole. The front door is less than 5 feet high and is flanked by small windows. The front windows have wood shelves beneath them. The southwest, northwest and northeast walls each have a single window. Much of the sod chinking between the logs is intact, and the cabin is still in good condition.
Other structures at the site include a collapsed metal shed, another collapsed structure that might have been a meat-drying rack, a cache, outhouse and two log doghouses.
In 1968, the Thompsons applied for a trade and manufacturing site next to the highway, and about that time they opened “Thompson’s Borderline Camp.” According to 1971 and 1972 issues of “The Milepost” and other sources, the Thompsons operated a duty-free liquor store, post office, gift shop, and garage and also rented out “unmodern” cabins.
Fuller died unexpectedly in 1972 and was buried adjacent to his cabin. Dorothy evidently operated the business after his death and according to “The Milepost,” the post office was open at least until 1979. When Dorothy died in 1993 her ashes were spread on Fuller’s grave.
Only five buildings are left from the business. All are dilapidated and the site is contaminated. The property is now part of Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, and current plans call for demolishing the buildings.
Based on the age and apparent historical significance of Thompson’s cabin, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to rehabilitate it and related structures for use as an interpretive site about Scottie Creek history.
Ray Bonnell is a freelance artist, writer and longtime Fairbanks resident. See more of his artwork at www.pingostudio.us.
• Conversations with Shawn Bayless, refuge manager for Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.
• “2015 Report of Cultural Resources Located at Milepost 1223 of the Alaska Highway within the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.” Robert Meinhardt, Amy Ramiriz & Kyle Beargeon. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2015
• Listings for Scottie Creek in 1971, 1972 and 1979 issues of “The Milepost: All-the-North Travel Guide.”
• “Navigability Report, Upper Chisana and Ladue River Drainage Areas.” U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 1983
• “Wild Resource Use in Northway, Alaska.” Martha F. Case. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 1986