Who Were the Participants in the 1925 Serum Run?

The 1925 Serum Run to Nome, also known as the Great Race of Mercy and The Serum Run, was a transport of diphtheria antitoxin by dog sled relay across the US territory of Alaska by 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs across 674 miles (1,085 km) in 5+12 days, saving the small town of Nome and the surrounding communities from a developing epidemic of diphtheria.

What were the names of the men who ran the 1925 Serum Run?

In 1925, these men participated in the race to deliver serum to Nome expecting nothing in return, except to help fellow Alaskans in need.

 

Thanks to Kent Kantowski for this information. It is a great resource for this historical event. 

William “Wild Bill”  Shannon

Nenana to Tolovana 

Wild Bill mushed a team of nine malamutes 52 miles from Nenana to Tolovana. 

Around 11:00 p.m. Jan. 27, 1925 Shannon received  the Serum and written instructions from the conductor.  The temperature was -40 degrees below zero.  Only a few people gathered to see him off.  He was greeted in Tolovana by Dan Green.  I don’t have the exact time but one text does mention that he figured he could make it by noon.  Since it sounded like he had a cold but uneventful trip, I assume he made as planned, in 10 to 11 hours.  (Wild Bill was killed by a Grizzly bear years later,  while prospecting alone.)

Dan Green

Tolovana to Manley Hot Springs 32 Miles

Dan faced temperatures warming to -30 degrees below zero, but had a 20 mph wind for a while which made it cold running.  After pulling his mittens of to free a tangle he found his fingers slightly frosted.  He made journey without any significant difficulty meeting Johnny Folger at the roadhouse.  I don’t have a time for Dan.

Johnny Folger (Athabascan Native)

Manley Hot Springs to Fish Lake 28 miles

Johnny made his run at night and is reported to have made ‘good time’, but I didn’t find anything about his time or team.  He met Sam Joseph and his team at a Fish Lake cabin.

Sam Joseph (Tanana Tribe Native, 35 years old)

Fish Lake to Tanana 26 miles

Sam mushed a team of 7 malamutes for the 26 miles night run to his home in Tanana. The temperature in Tanana was recorded as -38 degrees below zero, yet Sam covered the trail in 2 hours 45 minutes, better than 9 mph. He was met by his family Titus Nickoli

Titus Nickolai (Athabascan Native)

Tanana to  Kalland’s  34 miles

There is not mention of Titus’s team, time or travel along the trail.  He met musher Dave Corning at the Kalland’s.

Dave Corning

Kalland’s to Nine Mile Cabin  24 miles

Dave’s team covered the trail at a fast pace.  He is reported to have averaged 8 mph for the 24 miles.  Again no mention of exact times or the team.  He was met my Edgar Kalland at the Nine Mile Cabin.

Edgar Kalland

Nine Mile Cabin to Kokrines 30 miles

Edgar had been a musher for the mail service and covered the 30 miles without fail.  He was greeted by Harry Pitka at Kokrines. 

Harry Pitka (Part Native)

Korkrines to Ruby 30 miles

Harry ran a fast team of seven dogs over a fast trail in good condition.  It was a night run and he averaged greater than 9mph. 

Bill McCarty

Ruby to Whiskey Creek  28 miles

Lead dog: Prince

Ran at a good pace despite a severe snow storm that he spent about an hour traveling through.  He arrived at Whiskey Creek about 10:00 a.m. where the temperature was -40 degrees below zero.  He was met my Edgar Nollner at Whiskey Creek.

Edgar Nollner

Whiskey Creek to Galena  24 miles

Lead dog:  8 year old Dixie.

Edgar was 21 year old from Galena.  He mushed a team of seven malamutes to Galena where the Serum was taken over by his brother George.

George Nollner

Galena to Bishops Mountain  18 miles

George was a newly wed at the time and left his new wife in Galena while he took part in the great race.  It appears that George made the trip using the same team Edgar used to cover the previous 24 miles. 

Charlie Evans (Half Athabascan Native)

Bishops Mountains to Nulato  30 miles

Charlie at the time was 21 years old.  He left Bishops mountains at 5:00 a.m. with a reported temperature of -64 degrees below zero.   He pulled into Nulato at 10 a.m. covering the 30 miles in 5 hours.  He ran a 9 dog team.  Two dogs were borrowed and suffered frozen groins on the trip.  

Tommy Patson (Patsy) (Koyukuk Native)

Nulato to Kaltag  36 miles

Patsy as he was called lived in Nulato.  He ran the fairly straight trail on a regular bases carrying mail.  He set the fastest speed noted during the Serum Race.  He covered the 36 miles in three and a half hours with an average speed of slightly more than 10 mph.   

“Jackscrew” (Athabascan Native)

Kaltag to Old Woman Cabin 40 miles

Jackscrew was a small man known for his unusual strength. Darkness and light snow fell on him.  He jogged to lighten the sled until he passed the Kaltag Divide and began the downhill trail toward Norton Sound.  He arrived at Old Woman Cabin at 9:10 p.m. Friday evening.  He averaged almost 6 mph for 40 miles of difficult trail.

Victor Anagick (Eskimo Native)

Old Woman Cabin to Unalakleet  34 miles

Victor was sent from Unalakleet with an 11-dog team.  He covered the 34-mile trail in 6 hours arriving at 3:30 Saturday morning.  The Serum was now 207 miles from Nome.

Henry Ivanoff (Part Russian Eskimo)

Shaktoolik starts to Golovin, passes serum to Seppala a short distance out of town.

About a half mile out of Shaktoolik had to settle a fight in his team.  While he was stopped, he saw Seppala’s Siberian husky team approaching form the other direction.  The Serum was transferred to Seppala’s sled on the trail.

Leonhard Seppala

Shaktoolik to Golovin 91 miles

Lead dog: Togo and Scotty

At 48 years old, Leonhard mushed a team of Siberian Husky’s.  He had left Nome with the intent of intercepting the serum at Nulato.  He wasn’t aware that the relays had sped the serum along the trial.  Leonhard had left Isaac’s Point on the north side of Norton Bay that morning.  Having traveled the 43 tough miles with a tail wind he almost passed Henry Ivanoff outside of Golovin.  They passed the serum on the trail and Seppala now turned his team around and headed back up the trail into the wind. 

 

The temperature was -30 degrees below zero as he faced a strong wind and darkness.   To save valuable time Leonhard risked the 20 mile sea ice crossing between Cap Denbigh and Point Dexter in a blinding blizzard.  He relied on Togo to keep them safe and on course and was not disappointed.  On the North shore of Norton Bay he stopped at an Eskimo sod igloo he had spent the previous night at.  He put the dogs in the kennel and fed them well, then took his sled inside and warmed the serum and himself hoping the storm would lessen. 

 

Early Sunday morning the temperature was -30 degrees below zero with a raging wind.  Once again he headed out in conditions that otherwise would not have been tempted unless a matter of life and death.   When he reached Dexter’s Roadhouse at Golovin his dogs dropped in there tracks from exhaustion.  The serum was now 78 miles from Nome, and it was Charlie Olson’s responsibility to take it to Bluff.

Charlie Olson

Golovin to Bluff  25 miles

Lead dog:  Jack,  team of 7 malamutes

Charlie had left Gunnar Kaason at the Olson Roadhouse and traveled to Golovin at await the serum.  Charlie left Golovin at 3:15 Sunday afternoon with the temperature at -30 degrees below zero and an estimated 40 mph wind.  He was hit by gusts more than once that hurled him, sled and team off the trail.  His dogs started getting stiff due to the cold. He stopped and put blankets on each dog to keep them from freezing and suffered with freezing fingers as he had to remove his mittens for the task.  Two of his dogs ended up badly groin frozen.  Despite the storm, Charlie arrived at Olson’s Roadhouse about 7:30 p.m. where Gunnar Kaason was wondering if Charlie had held up to wait out the storm or not.

Gunnar Kaason

Bluff to Nome 53 miles

Lead dog:  Balto

Gunnar was sent from Nome to wait for the serum at Bluff, while Ed Rohn was sent to Pt. Safety. Chest deep snow drifts to glare ice. For miles he was unable to see the trail and relied on Balto to get them through. A message was sent to Solomn for Kaason to wait out the storm there.  However the storm was so severe that Kaason did not see Solomn as Balto kept them on the man trial that passed to the south.  It wasn’t until miles later that Kaason could see landmarks that told him they had passed Solomn.  Crossing Bonanza flat his sled was flipped by the wind, after righting the sled and untangling dogs he found that the Serum wasn’t in his sled.  He searched on his hands and knees in dark blowing snow until he found the package and resumed. 

 

After crossing Bonanza he had a quartering wind at his back and covered the last 12 miles to Safety in 80 minutes, arriving sometime after 2:00 a.m. Sunday.  Ed Rohn was asleep in the cabin, expecting Kaason had held up at Safety to wait out the blizzard.  Kaason decided not to wake Ed Rohn, who was supposed to take the Serum the final leg into Nome.  The worst of the trail was behind him, the dogs were running good, so he began the final 21 miles run to Nome. He arrived in Nome around 5:30 a.m., covering the last 53 miles of the trail in seven and a half hours.

 

The initial serum shipment arrived frozen without any harm and was used to stem the epidemic.  Five days later a second larger shipment of serum traveled the same route and the epidemic was ended.  

 

 

Chronology of the 1925 Serum Race

This chronology is based on the original accounts with distances based on the estimated mail route distances.

*See Revised Chronology as of 1989

 

Date

Musher

Trail Section

Weather

Miles

Jan 27-28

William “Wild Bill” Shannon & 9 dogs

Railhead to Nenana to Tolovana

-50°

52

Jan 28

Dan Green & 8 dogs

Tolovana to Manley Hot Springs

 -30° F Wind Chill -70° F

31

Jan 28

Johnny Folger (Athabascan Native) & 8 Dogs

Manley Hot Springs to Fish Lake

-30° F

28

Jan 29

Sam Joseph (Tanana Tribe Native)

Fish Lake to Tanana

-35° F

26

Jan 29

Titus Nickoli (Athabascan Native) & 7 dogs

Tanana to Kallands

-40°

34

Jan 29

Dave Corning

Kallands to Nine Mile mail cabin

-42° F

24

Jan 29

Edgar Kalland

Nine Mile to Kokrines

-44° F

30

Jan 29 

Harry Pitka  (Part Native)

Kokrines to Ruby

-47° F White Out

30

Jan 29

Bill McCarty & 7 dogs

Ruby to Whiskey Creek

-43° F

28

Jan 29-30

Edgar Nollner & 7 dogs

Whiskey Creek to Galena

-40° F

24

Jan 30

George Nollner (Edgar’s brother, with the same team)

Galena to Bishop Mountain

-50° F

18

Jan 30

Charlie Evans (22  year old half Athabascan Native) & 9 dogs (2 in sled due to cold)

Bishop Mountain to Nulato

-64° F

30

Jan 30

Tommy Patsy  (Patsy) (Koyukuk Native)

Nulato to Kaltag

-58° F

36

Jan 30

Jackscrew (Athabascan Native)

Kaltag to Old Woman shelter house

-50° F

40

Jan 30-31

Victor Anagick (Eskimo Native)

Old Woman to Unalakleet

-50° F Stormy

34 

Jan 31

Myles Gonangnan (Eskimo Native) & 8 dogs

Unalakleet to Shaktoolik

-40° F

40

Jan 31

Henry Ivanoff (Part Russian Eskimo) 

Starts Shaktoolik to Golovin but meets Seppala.

blizzard

 

Jan 31

Leonhard Seppala & Siberian team with Togo in lead. 

Shaktoolik to Golovin

warming breaking ice on sound

91 

Feb 1

Charlie Olson & 7 dogs

Golovin to Bluff

-30° F winds 50 mph

25

 Feb 1-2

Gunnar Kaasen & 13 dogs. Lead dog Balto from Seppala’s kennel

Bluff to Nome

80 mph winds

53

Total Time: 127.5 hours

 

 

Total:  674

  

Revised Chronology 1925 Serum Run  Mushers and trail covered as of 1989

Since the story of the Serum Race was mainly drawn from word of mouth, there may have been confusion as to who traveled what leg of the trail.  More recent study has produced the following Chronology of the Serum Race.

Trail Section

Musher

Miles

Date

Weather

Railhead to Nenana to Tolovana

William “Wild Bill” Shannon

52

Jan 27-28

-50 degrees

to Manley Hot Springs

Edgar Kallands

31

Jan 28

-60 degrees

to Fish Lake

Dan Green

 

 

 

to Tanana

Johnny Folger (Athabascan Native)

 

 

 

to Kallands

Sam Joseph (Tanana Tribe Native)

 

 

 

to Nine Mile Cabin

Titus Nickolai (Athabascan Native)

 

 

 

to Kokrines

Dave Corning

 

Jan 29

 

to Ruby

Harry Pitka (Part Native)

 

 

 

to Whiskey Creek

Bill McCarty

 

 

to -40 degrees

to Galena

Edgar Nollner

 

 

 

to Bishop Mountain

George Nollner (Edgar’s brother, with the same team)

 

 

 

to Nulato 

Charlie Evans (Half Athabascan Native)

 

Jan 30

to -64 degrees

to Kaltag

Tommy Patsy (Patsy) (Koyukuk Native)

 

 

 

to Old Woman

“Jackscrew” (Athabascan Native)

 

 

to -50 degrees

to Unalakleet

Victor Anagick (Eskimo Native)

 

 

 

to Shaktoolik

Myles Gonangan (Eskimo Native)

 

 

 

to a rendezvous with Seppala 

Henry Ivanoff (Part Russian Eskimo)

 

Jan 31

 

to Golovin

Leonhard Seppala

 

Feb 1

 

to Bluff

Charlie Olson

 

 

to -30 degrees, to 50 mph wind

to Nome

Gunnar Kaasen

53

 

to -20 degrees, to 80 mph wind

 

Did you know that there will be at least two separate expeditions in 2025 to commemorate the Serum Run? One will be led by our own Robert Forto of Mushing and the other by Jonathan Hayes of Maine. 

For more information on Robert’s expedition please visit the Serum Run Expedition website

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