Government: From Purchase to Statehood
When Congress approved the purchase of Alaska, it saw no need to give the sparsely populated new territory a civil government. The U.S. Army, under General Jefferson C. Davis, was assigned to maintain law and order. It proved to be a poor choice, with little effectiveness beyond Sitka. When the Army was withdrawn in 1877, the only federal authority in Alaska was the Collector of Customs. Conflicts developed between the whites and the Tlingits. An appeal for protection brought the H.M.S. Osprey, which anchored at Sitka until the arrival of the U.S.S. Alaska. Two months later this vessel was relieved by the Jamestown, under Captain L.A. Beardsley. With the influx of gold prospectors after 1880, and the demand for valid mining claims, civil government became imperative. In 1881, Congress gave Alaska its First Organic Act, based on the civil code of Oregon, which provided a governor and a district court with a judge, an attorney, a marshal and four deputies. John H. Kincaid of Nevada was assigned the first governor. At last Alaskans had the beginnings of a government.