Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Thereupon, at 1 o'clock p. m., the committee took a recess until to-morrow, Saturday, May 3, 1913, at 10 o'clock a. m.

SATURDAY, MAY 3, 1913.

COMMITTEE ON TERRITORIES,
UNITED STATES SENATE,

Washington, D. C. The committee met at 10 o'clock a. m. for the purpose of further considering the bills S. 48 and 133, providing for the construction of railroads in Alaska.

Present: Senators Walsh (acting chairman), Chamberlain, Shively, Hitchcock, Owen, Nelson, Lippitt, and Bristow.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Judge Wickersham, whom do you desire to be heard this morning?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. Mr. Chairman, I will ask that the committee hear Mr. Joslin. Mr. Joslin is president of the Tanana Valley Railway, located at Fairbanks, Alaska.

STATEMENT OF FALCON JOSLIN, FAIRBANKS, ALASKA.

Mr. Joslin. Mr. Chairman, I do not know clearly where to start in the discussion of this bill, but the question asked by yourself yesterday as to why, if the resources of Alaska were as great as indicated in the hearing yesterday, private enterprise did not proceed with the construction there, I think is a very pertinent question and one that should be answered probably before we take up the idea of the Government itself undertaking the construction there. If the country is really rich, why does not railroading proceed? Why does not construction continue?

I have lived in that country nearly 15 years, and that it is, per acre or per square mile, equal in natural wealth to any other area in the United States is my firm conviction. I do not believe even the richest territory of the United States surpasses Alaska per square mile in natural resources, and I say that from a great deal of study and observation.

I have here on the table in front of me three samples of wheat which I have recently received from the manager of the United States experimental farm at Fairbanks. I also have a photograph here of the farm. There are about 90 acres under cultivation there. These are three samples of wheat. One is a sample of Red Fife wheat, of the crop of 1912, showing a production of 55 bushels per acre, from the soil under natural conditions there. The other is a sample of Romanoff spring wheat, planted in the spring of 1912 and harvested about the ist of September, showing a production of 60 bushels per acre; and the third sample of what is called Wild Goose wheat of the crop of 1912, showing 60 bushels per acre.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. Had you better not read the letter that accompanies those samples?

Mr. Joslin. I have not the letter with me. That (indicating] is the Romanoff Russian wheat, and this (indicating) is the Wild Goose, and this sindicating) is a photograph of the farm, showing the wheat growing, and also showing several acres of potatoes.

Senator HITCHCOCK. From what point in Alaska does that come?

Mr. Joslin. That comes from Fairbanks, about the center of Alaska-about the geographical center of that Territory.

Senator HITCHCOCK. Have you any figures as to the wheat production of Alaska?

Mr. JOSLIN. This is the first wheat of quantity that has been produced in Alaska, as far as I know. There have been experimental crops produced in the last six or seven years, but no quantity-that , is, no great quantity. The crop from which this was produced was a small tract of probably an acre, or perhaps a half acre of each variety. You can see it, shown on the photograph, growing.

Senator HITCHCOCK. You say that was not harvested until : September?

Mr. Joslin. About the 1st of September; yes, sir.

Senator HITCHCOCK. That, of course, is very late, as compared with the rest of the United States. When was it planted ?

Mr. Joslin. It was planted in May; about the 25th of May. Some of it was planted the previous August. The winter wheat is planted in August of the year before.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Is any of that winter wheat?

Mr. Joslin. Yes, sir; the Red Fife, I believe, is winter wheat. If you will notice that photograph also, you will see several acres of Irish potatoes growing there which I was assured produced over 8 tons per acre under natural conditions of the soil and without ferti.ization. The oats which you see shocked in that photograph were partly thrashed out, and showed 115 bushels per acre. That was probably well cultivated and intelligently planted and harvested, but there was no fertilization, and it was done under the natural condition of the soil and climate. The manager of the farm reports for the year 1911 that his potato crop, after counting the cost of clearing the land, produced a clear profit of $300 per acre.

Senator Nelson. I suppose he is getting a dollar a bushel for his potatoes, or more ?

Mr. Joslin. Five cents a pound; about $3 a bushel.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. About how much less is that than we formerly did pay?

Mr. Joslin. The potatoes have generally ranged from 8 to 12 cents a pound in that district.

Senator HITCHCOCK. What has been the difficulty that they have found heretofore in the raising of wheat?

Mr. Joslin. There has been no difficulty except that no one has embarked in the enterprise.

Senator HITCHCOCK. It has not been on account of the shortness of the seasons, has it?

Mr. Joslin. It has never been supposed that the country was useful for agriculture. A great many people still believe, in spite of these showings, that the country is not available for agriculture.

Senator HITCHCOCK. On account of the soil or on account of the climate?

Mr. Joslin. On account of the climate. Certainly not on account of the soil.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. I will say, Senator Hitchcock, that Judge Wickersham yesterday explained that this whole valley is frozen and never thaws out at all except to a depth of about 2 feet.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. It thaws more than that after we once get it cleared.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Those crops are growing upon the top of frozen soil, are they not?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. Yes, sir.

Senator NELSON. The ground is covered with a kind of tundra, and as long as that is on it it does not have the depth to remove that and cultivate the land. The frost goes deeper.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. To about what depth does it thaw after cultivation ?

Mr. Joslin. I think after the moss and trash and roots are cleared from the land it continues to thaw, and I think eventually the frost will leave it entirely.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. That frozen ground extends indefinitely in depth, does it not?

Mr. Joslin. Probably for several hundred feet at any rate.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. You sink wells there, do you not, so that you ought to know?

Mr. Joslin. Oh, yes, sir; we have proved that the frost goes as deep as 300 feet in the river bottom at one place.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. So that cultivation, while it will doubtless permit thawing to a greater depth, will probably never result in the complete thawing of the ground?

Mr. Joslin. I presume not. That primeval frost is probably there for many ages to come. There is, I must say, a very large amount of land in that country that I believe does not contain frost. If you will examine that photograph again you will see that the farm is on the south slope of a well timbered knoll or hill; that it is covered with a dense growth of birch and poplar timber, with some spruce. That soil is dry and warm and is the most productive soil in the valley. In the foreground of that photograph you see the flat land which they have not attempted as yet to cultivate. In that flat land you find frost, but as far as I know you could dig into that hill at any depth you desire and find no frost. I have seen excavations in that hillside of 10 or 12 feet, and there was no frost whatever except what seasonal frost there may be in the winter when the ground would freeze a foot or two in depth.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. If that process of thawing continues so that annually it does thaw to a depth of 8, 10, 12, or 20 feet, will not the country then eventually arrive at practically the condition of the semiarid regions where irrigation is required ?

Mr. Joslin. I think not.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Why not?

Mr. Joslin. The precipitation in that valley is probably about 12 or 15 inches, but it comes at a fortunate period in the year. The rainfall usually begins about the 1st of July, and in the months of July and August, which are the growing months, we nearly always have a good rainfall at Fairbanks.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Have you a record of that?
Mr. Joslin. Oh, yes, sir.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Can you refer to it?

Mr. JOSLIN. I have not it here. It is shown in the Agricultural Department stations reports.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I have it here somewhere. I brought two copies of the report of the agricultural stations and I think you will find it there.

Mr. JOSLIN. So that we have in that valley two distinct classes of land. One is the valley or river bottom land. Here (indicating] is another photograph showing a crop of oats grown on that flat land, and some of the largest and oldest farms in the valley at Fairbanks are on the river bottom land. It was unquestionably frozen until it became cultivated. It is now no longer frozen except by what seasonal frost there is. You would have to go several feet in depth to find frost in that cultivated land.

Those birch-timbered knolls and a highland extending from an elevation of four or five hundred feet above sea level to twelve or thirteen hundred feet above sea level, in my judgment, are far and away the best agricultural land, particularly for grain. This crop of wheat, showing from 50 to 60 bushels an acre, is one of the most significant things about the development of Alaska. It is very recent. In my judgment to-day, if conditions were right, a man with some capital could go into the Fairbanks district and clear this land, or take up parts of it which have already been burned over, and therefore much easier to clear than the land such as is shown in that photograph with timber growing there, and make a very substantial profit from wheat and oat raising alone. I believe those yields are superior to the wheat crops raised anywhere in the Canadian Northwest, to which so many of our American citizens are emigrating. I have not myself heard of any crops in the Canadian Northwest that grew 50 or 60 bushels to the acre in wheat. Alaska will not develop as rapidly as those prairies, because the land in Alaska is covered with this timber growth and it must be cleared, and that clearing will proceed slowly.

I have at this moment a plan in my mind to go into the wheatraising business at Fairbanks as a profit-making proposition; but there are difficulties. The bringing of the seed there would cost about $1 a bushel. There are no thrashing machines in the valley, and it would cost five or six hundred dollars to get a thrashing machine there. Fencing and clearing of the land, if I undertook to fence and clear, say, 50 or 100 acres, would go into a very considerable amount of money. If I could produce 40 or 50 bushels per acre, and I am perfectly confident that I can with the experience of this farm before me; suppose I should produce a thousand bushels of wheat, what could I do with it? There are no mills there, and if I should ship it to Seattle it would cost me about $20 a ton or, say, about 60 cents a bushel. It would be impossible to market that crop if I produced it. It might be used for feeding hogs, cattle, and other stock, and probably could be so used. No doubt in the world crops will begin to be raised from this time forward much more rapidly than they have in the past.

Now the area of that kind of land is very great indeed. I have traveled along the Tanana Valley myself for more than 300 miles, and at no time have been out of sight of exactly similar land as shown in that photograph upon which those crops were produced. Below the mouth of the Tanana River for at least 100 miles there is the most enormously extensive area of this birch-covered land, warm, dry soil adapted to the raising of just such crops. Up the Tanana, not under my observation, but prospectors and miners who have explored those upper countries tell me, the areas there are equally as great. At the headwaters of the Tanana there is a great prairie section 50 or 75 miles in length and 30 or 40 miles in width with heavy grass growing on it. Undoubtedly it will be suitable land for grain producing and stock raising. The Agricultural Department estimates 100,000 square miles of agricultural land in Alaska out of nearly 600,000 miles of its

Senator HITCHCOCK. When you say agricultural land, do you mean land covered with timber?

Mr. Joslin. Land partly covered with timber.

Senator HITCHCOCK. You said this had been grown on land which had been covered.

Mr. Joslin. Yes, sir; a certain portion of this land on the United States experimental farm at Fairbanks was covered with heavy timber, as you see, and a certain other portion, 50 or 60 acres, was covered with only a slight growth of bushes. Where fires have burned the timber, it becomes easy to clear. It is not an expensive land to clear, but it must be cleared. It is not as easy to clear as the prairie land. Therefore, in the settling of that country, it will take a much longer time than to settle prairie countries in States such as Montana. Nor can we clear it or put it into production as rapidly as the Canadian Northwest, which is prairie land and only needs to be plowed and harrowed. It will produce crops in a single season, I am informed, sufficient to pay for the land.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. Cultivation of crops, then, apparently contemplates the destruction of the forests?

Mr. JOSLIN. Oh, yes, sir; to that extent.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN. In that respect you are the same as Wisconsin, for instance, and Indiana?

Mr. Joslin. The same as Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. All those States had to be cleared before they were cultivated. They were not prairie States.

total area.

« ZurückWeiter »