Editor’s note: Following is part three of the histories behind some common central Kenai Peninsula sites, this week covering the area east of Sterling to Cooper Landing. While some of the sites in this area have origins readily determined by a search of the records and a few key interviews, others may remain forever shrouded in mystery. Mystery Creek, for instance, was mentioned by the U.S. Geological Survey as far back as 1911, but its origin seems as mysterious as its name.
By Clark Fair
King Thurman, a trapper and prospector who frequented the Kenai Mountains near Cooper Landing in the early 1900s, went missing in the summer of 1915. When his body was discovered several months later inside his trapping cabin along Rat Creek (the outlet for Trout Lake), it served as a grim reminder of the dangers inherent in the Alaska wilderness.
Thurman, known as a man who liked solitary life and often ran afoul of the territorial game laws, this time had apparently run afoul of a brown bear with an attitude. According to information from U.S. Fish and Wildlife historian Gary Titus, two trappers seeking overnight accommodations happened upon Thurman’s cabin and discovered Thurman’s grisly remains lying on a bed inside.
The entire right side of Thurman’s torso was “torn and chewed up,” according to Titus, and so were his left hip, right arm and right leg. On the bed beside his body lay a .22-caliber revolver with a spent shell in the chamber. On his decomposing body, the trappers found a paper that, on top, declared the contents of the cabin to be the property of King Thurman, and, on bottom, were these handwritten words: “Have ben tore up by a brown bear. No show to get out. Good-bye. I’m sane but have to suffering the of death.”
The physical evidence seemed to support the notion of his message: Thurman had been savagely mauled by a grizzly but managed afterward to make it into his cabin, where he realized he could never reach medical aid in his condition, and so he shot himself to end his misery.
The trappers burned down the cabin, making it Thurman’s funeral pyre. Sometime later, the creek by which Thurman had built his cabin and spent so many solitary days, was renamed as a tribute to him and the lifestyle he had embodied.