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Pilgrim Hot Springs
Oral History Project


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Excerpts from Recorded Stories

"I think of the way that you know, my grandmother would talk about living at pilgrim it was kind of new, very new to her. It was such a huge adjustment because she was used to growing up in a close knit community. Growing up with other family members, when she was they were all taken to the orphanage. They were placed in dorm rooms, you know, that was divided up by sex and of course by age. And when they were picked up, they didn't speak any English at all. They were forced to, to learn English." Excerpt adapted for this website from a recorded oral history. To learn more about who shared their story, please reach out to us!

"Making mukluks" Photo courtesy of the Jesuit Archives Research Center, Pilgrim Springs Collection, date unknown.
Pilgrim Hot Springs children with large turnip harvest, date unknown. Photo courtesy of the Jesuit Archives Research Center, Pilgrim Springs Collection.

"One of my grandmothers fondest memories was being able to go and pick and gather greens as well as being able to go fishing. Another one was, when she was so very, very young, her and the other orphans had gone to the mouth of the Sinuk River, and they went fishing. Since their community was kind of nomadic, you know, they had a little sod house at the Sinuk River and they would just show up during fishing season, and be there and do all their fishing during that time of the year." Excerpt adapted for this website from a recorded oral history. To learn more about who shared their story, please reach out to us!

"During the winter time. The only access to pilgrim I believe was by dog sled. So it wasn't easy to bring a lot of things with them when they went by dog sled to pilgrim. I remember my grandma had said one time, you know, towards the end of fall, before the railroad had closed down the railroad between Nome and Pilgrim, they would try to stock up as much, you know, food items that they could and ration them out through the winter. There I remember my grandma telling me that one year that they had run out of, you know, their ration of food before the end of spring. So for a while, there they were, they were left eating potatoes, potatoes, a lot of potatoes." Excerpt adapted for this website from a recorded oral history. To learn more about who shared their story, please reach out to us!

Fourth of July Story from 1934

Click the image above to view a story about 4th of July activities that the orphanage hosted in 1934. The story was written by child resident Etta Buck. Text available to the right. Newspaper image Courtesy of the Nome Nugget, obtained via the Library of Congress, Chronicling America Program website.

Processing fish along the Pilgrim River. Photo courtesy of the Jesuit Archives Research Center, Pilgrim Springs Collection.

Text from the July 23, 1934 newspaper article in the Nome Nugget: "PILGRIM HOT SPRINGS NEWS LETTER: Following is a news letter written by a former Nome child, Etta Buck, who is now at Pilgrim Hot Springs. It tells of the Fourth of July program given there. Following is the letter: The Fourth of July, 1934, will not be quickly forgotten by the children of Pilgrim Springs. Rev. Father Gabriel Menager was the manager of the games and also the one who gave out the prizes to the happy winners.​ The bigger girls decorated a four-wheeled cart with colors of I red, white and blue and a true imitation of dear old Uncle Sam could be seen smiling on his nieces and nephews. We had the cart decorated because we were to have a real, live Uncle Sam to ride on it, who was a girl from Diomede who did not look an inch like Uncle Sam, but we surely appreciated her efforts, as she was the only one who volunteered to act that part. I shall tell you her name, for some of you at Nome must have seen or known her before. Her name is Miss Maggie Jack. She rode in the cart, which was pulled by some or the boys. There were also some boys who had toy flutes and trumpets, and you may be sure they were not quiet. Oh, yes, I must not omit to tell you about our elephants, which did not come from Africa,, but from Pilgrim Springs. There were two boys under each blanket. There were only two (boys) elephants but one didn't have any tail. We all marched behind a cart. I mean 'those who did not take part in the performances. We all had song books and sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” while the flag was being hoisted, and pledged our allegiance to the flag. After we had finished our singing. Rev. Father Menager handed each a Cracker Jack box, which we enjoyed immensely and were delighted with the toys they contained. Thus far the elephants were quiet, but now- they started to show their activities as they generally do in the jungle when they are hunted. We have seen how very useful is a corrosive sublimate sprayer for our gardens. On this occasion it was very useful as we used it for an elephant's trunk. We filled it with water, which the elephant squirted out of his trunk upon anybody who happened to come his way. Some of the children did not know where the water came from. When they found out they all ran from it. Oh, I wish you all could have seen him. We had so much fun with him. We then moved back to playground and commenced the races. The name of the outdoor races ate the potato, candle, gunnysack, three legged, pack race, hopping, backward running race and the cock fight race. We all enjoyed these races very much. The mosquitoes were having a fine feast on us, taking advantage of our interest in the races, so we went inside and had some more races indoors. I will name only the most interesting ones. In one of them the persons in the races had to kneel on the floor and push a walnut with their nose along the floor from one side of the room to the other, and whoever got there first was the winner. Don’t you think this is a good game? There was another one in which the persons in the race were to eat a soda cracker, and the one who whistled first was the winner. We then got ready for dinner and that was the end of the races. That was a real Fourth of July, and we hope you all had a happy one, too."

Pilgrim Springs Orphanage children stand with cracker jack boxes and bubble gum. Date unknown. Photo courtest of the Jesuit Arcives Research Center.

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