Manley Hot Springs History

The history of Manley Hot Springs can be broken into three main periods:
Part 1: 1894-1913 - GOLD!
Part 2: 1902 - Agriculture
Part 3: 1903 - Present: The Land


Part 2:

1902 - Agriculture

by John Robert Dart

Pulling Carrots in Karhsner's Field, (Manley) Hot Springs
Photo: University of Alaska Archives

John F Karhsner homesteaded the land surrounding the now known Manley Hot Springs after prospecting in the area.  Originally he was a farmer from Kansas, he saw more value in the land as a potential for farming than gold mining. In fact, during surveying it was required to ascertain if any gold or coal was present because the government would not allow homesteading on such land.  Moreover, the land could not be settled if occupied by natives. 

John F Karhsner, original owner of the hot springs, circa 1907
Photo: Howard Henry Collection, University of Alaska Archives


Karhsner found the land to be vacant and upon his prospecting determined that he would have a better life farming and selling his produce to local miners in the gold camps of the surrounding creeks and in far away Fairbanks and Iditarod districts.

While the effort was short lived it proved successful with the aid of Frank Manley a successful gold miner who invested his money by leasing the Hot Springs for $30,000.00, $20,000.00 of it in cash. Manley fronted $800,000.00 of gold to establish First National Bank of Fairbanks in it’s early years according to stories from Mr. Bill Stroker.  Bill still has an office at the bank today. 

The partnership that Karshner struck undoubtly allowed him to expand the operation very quickly indeed. Besides Manley building the hotel and baths the real bounty came from the fact that twenty to thirty acres of warm ground of a shallow nature exists on south facing slopes adjacent to the slough.  It is my attempt to give you the reader a better understanding of what Karshner may have intended to do.

Mr. Karshner states:

Began clearing land October, 1902.  Began planting peas beets, lettuce and turnips April 20, 1903. Came out of the ground May 1. Potatoes were up May 20, cucumbers, pumpkins, and beans May 26.  Sowed oats June 3, and they were ripe September 5.  Radishes and lettuce were large enough to eat in June.  Carrots turnips, beets, peas were large enough to cook July 4.  Potatoes large enough to use August 15.


Karshner had 3-1/2 acres in cultivation that year (1904).  A. H. Monroe, Rampart, stated after a visit in January 1903:

The thermometer registered 62 degrees below zero while I was there, and the wind was blowing some, yet I found turnips and ruta-bagas in the ground where they grew and were not frozen.