Editor’s note: This is the third part of a three-part story concerning the Manitoba cabin at about Milepost 50 of the Seward Highway. Two weeks ago, Part One explored the contentiousness between the U.S. Forest Service and the owners of the cabin and its nearby mining claims. Last week, Part Two examined the earliest mining history related to the cabin and its likely progression of ownership. This week discusses the debate over the historic value of the cabin. Next week, the cabin gets a brand-new lease on life and recreational use.
By Clark Fair
One of the least well-remembered chapters in the history of the Manitoba cabin concerns its startling brief ownership by Dr. Steven Harris.
On Jan. 21, 1976, the Manitoba cabin — part of claims A, B and C of what by then had become known as the Good Rock Claims — were conveyed to Dr. Harris by owners Michael “Whitey” and Patricia “Mickey” Van Deusen. Shortly thereafter, Harris was contacted by U.S. Forest Service officials, who wanted him to know of pending class-action legal proceedings against the property.
About three years earlier, Wesley Moulton of the U.S. Department of the Interior had performed a “geological examination” of the claims in question in order to determine their mineral potential. Although former owner Willard Dunham disputed the authenticity of the examination, Moulton’s findings were accepted by his agency.
Moulton wrote: “There have been several prospectors but no mining activity since prior to World War II. (This contradicts a Forest Service observation that Dunham’s parents had been mining on the property between 1943 and 1949.) The present claimants (the Dunhams) are not miners and at the time of the examination did not even have gold pans or sluice boxes. There is no evidence of new prospecting, and it appears the claims are not being used for mining.”
Moulton’s assessment initiated a process of deeming the area “mineral withdrawn.” Since Forest Service
regulations stated that no mining could occur in such an area, any mining claims there could be voided.
Just as the feds were about to void the Good Rock claims, however, the Dunhams put the property up for sale, and the Forest Service postponed action until a new owner took over.
That new owner was the Van Deusens, who paid the Dunhams $1,750 for the property in a sale in September 1973. Almost immediately, Whitey Van Deusen filed the proper labor notices for mining operations with the Bureau of Land Management, and so the Forest Service was forced to wait again, until Dr. Harris bought the place in 1976.