In Eagle  (907/547-2325, www.eagleak.org ), it’s almost impossible to find a resident who isn’t something of a historian (and a cheerleader) for the area. The Eagle Historical Society is one of, if not the, most successful and well-organized groups in the state. It was founded in 1961 after someone showed up at the old mule barn with a truck and made off with the entire collection of saddles.
The care, devotion, and thoroughness with which they display Eagle’s awe-inspiring array of artifacts is something to see. And their guided summertime tours ($7), which leave from Judge Wickersham’s courthouse steps at 9 a.m., is really the only way to see it; it’s a fun hands-on outing, during which you’re encouraged to operate an old peanut-warming machine or tickle the keys of an ancient pump organ.
One casualty from the 2009 floods was the well house next door to the court. The well, dug 60 feet deep by hand in 1910, still has water, but it’s no longer potable due to contamination from diesel and sewage.
The tour begins appropriately inside the courthouse, built in 1901 by Judge Wickersham for $5,000. All four rooms plus the hallway on the ground floor are covered with displays of the Han Native Alaskans, geology and archaeology, early pioneers, the telegraph story, and more.
Be sure to check out the front page of the December 7, 1905, issue of the New York Times with Amundsen’s story, plus the map of the Northwest Passage in the hallway. (A romantic footnote: The intrepid Suzan Amundsen, Roald’s great-granddaughter, continues a family tradition by taking a rest at the popular Eagle  checkpoint during the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race.)
Don’t miss the amazing Nimrod’s false teeth (homemade from caribou and bear teeth) and his remarkably accurate relief map of the vicinity—newspaper papier-mâché printed with moose blood. Upstairs in Wickersham’s courtroom is a small gift shop run by the Historical Society.
Then you mosey down to the Customs House on the Yukon waterfront, another two-story museum brimming with history. Study the six dated shots of the freezing of the Yukon River from October 13, 1899, to January 12, 1900, plus the photos upstairs of “wild” animals—Fred Ferwilliger’s wolf pups, Mae Collins’s pet black bear, and some bewildered-looking moose hitched to wagons and carriages. Sign the original U.S. Customs entry book. The building barely survived the 2009 flood.
A walk along the town’s grassy airstrip leads to Fort Egbert. The huge old mule barn, at 150 feet long and 30 feet wide one of the largest restored buildings in Alaska, is full of relics from Eagle’s past: tools, weapons, uniforms, wagons and tack, dogsleds, boats, a prototype Sears chain saw, an old outboard motor that looks like a cross between an early sewing machine and a Weedwhacker, and much more. Upstairs is the gold-mining exhibit with its own collection of Rube Goldberg equipment.
The water-wagon shed houses historic vehicles, including a Model A pickup and a Model B dump truck.
The Improved Order of Redmen Building, a wilderness version of a lodge or benevolent society, was ostensibly dedicated to the preservation of the ways and traditions of the area’s Native Alaskan people. Of course, only white guys were allowed to be members.
For more on the town and its rich history, pick up a copy of Jewel on the Yukon: Eagle City by Elva Scott; it’s sold in the courthouse.