April 17, 2014

Scotty Allen – Scotland to Nome

Allan Alexander Allan was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1867. The boy became known as Scotty. Growing up, he loved to work with animals. At the very young age of 12, he began vocational training on how to train horses. At the age of 19, he accompanied a beautiful Clydesdale Stallion on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and then to a ranch in South Dakota. Once in American, Scotty headed to the west coast where 10 years later, news of gold in the Klondike lured him to the far north.

Like many young men, Scotty left his wife and two, soon to be three children behind with the promise of returning rich or sending for them when he was settled. He didn’t strike it rich in the Klondike. He earned his wages as a teamster, moving supplies over the dangerous trails to the mining camps, first with teams of horses and then by dog team. He became well known in the Dawson area as a top notch dog driver.

News of abundant gold in Nome prompted Scotty to travel the frozen Yukon River, a distance of over 1,200 miles, with his dog team lead by Dubby. Get a map out and compare this trek to the Iditarod race. Scotty didn’t strike it rich prospecting for gold in Nome either so he took a job in a hardware store and focused on training dogs. once settled, he brought his wife and family to Nome.

In 1907, dog drivers in Nome banded together to form the Nome Kennel Club. The purpose of the organization was to improve the care and breeding of sled dogs. The club sponsored the All Alaska Sweepstakes running from Nome to Candle, a distance of a little more than 400 miles. In the mean time, Scotty acquired Baldy. With Baldy in lead, Scotty placed in the top three a total of eight times – with three victories.

After WWI broke out, Scotty was contacted by the French Military to train drivers and 450 dogs for transporting supplies and wounded soldiers in the mountains between Germany and France. The dogs became famous around the world and many received medals of valor.

Scotty was elected to the Alaska Territorial Legislature and served terms in 1917 and 1919. He and his family moved back to California prior to the 1925 Diphtheria Epidemic. Seeking the best dog trainer, Admiral Richard Byrd sought out Scotty to train the dogs for Byrd’s 1928 Antarctica Expedition.

Scotty, the most famous musher of his time once said, “Dogs are the most intuitive creatures alive. They take the disposition of their driver. That is why I never let my dogs know that I am tired. At the end of the day…, I sing to the little chaps and whistle so they always reach the end of the trail with their tails up and waving.” Murphy and Haigh, share these words in Gold Rush Dogs. Handler says that Iditarod mushers follow his advice today.

The Nome Kennel Club still exists and organized the All Alaska Sweepstakes again in 2008. Check the Internet for more information on that – who was the winner, what was the purse, what was the route, how long did it take, are the rules different than Iditarod? When Handler was in Nome, she ran in the 3 Dog – 3 Mile Business Man’s Race (open to men and women amateurs) sponsored by the Nome Kennel Club using dogs and a sled provided by club member, Dempsey Woods.

You can read more about Scotty Allan at www.litsite.org. and in Gold Rush Dogs by Murphy & Haigh.  Baldy of Nome by Esther Birdsall Darling includes many stories about Scotty – you can’t talk about Baldy without talking about Scotty.” Make sure to read my earlier story about Baldy of Nome. Here’s a question for you – Did Baldy become famous because of Scotty or did Scotty become famous because of Baldy?

Well, there you have it, some information on a Scott who gained fame in Nome for his ability to train and drive dogs in the best and worst of conditions. Stay tuned for another story about a Scott, John Stewart, who’ll be driving dogs from Anchorage to Nome in Iditarod XXXVIII.

Born to Run,
Sanka