eagle

 

Eagle was named for its lofty neighbors, the American eagles nesting on nearby Eagle Bluff. The village of Eagle is located on the left bank of the Yukon River six miles west of the Alaska-Canada border and at the end of the Taylor Highway.


Eagle came into being in 1874 as a trading post called "Belle Isle," built by Moses Mercier who operated it until 1898, just at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush in nearby Dawson City. Soon after the trading post was established Eagle became a mining camp. Then followed a military presence at Fort Egbert.


In 1898, Eagle became the seat of Government of the Third Judicial District of Alaska and in 1901 became a first-class city. At the beginning of the 1900's the new little town had a population approaching 2,000 and the future appeared to be bright. However, as is the way with many gold-rush communities, Eagle's heyday was brief. By 1910, Fairbanks and Nome gold prospects had lured away many, and the population had declined to 178. Fort Egbert was abandoned in 1911. Eagle Village population continued to decline. The current population according to a 2011 Alaska Department of Labor Estimate is 79.


The Catholic presence in Eagle dates from August 10,1899, when a Jesuit priest, arrived there. For $300.00 he bought a plot of land with two cabins on it in the most favorable part of town. The larger cabin became his residence and chapel. The mission was put under the patronage of Saint Francis Xavier.


The priest stayed five years in Eagle and received many into the Church while baptizing and blessing marriages and assisting at funerals. In 1904, he left Eagle to begin work in the then fledgling city of Fairbanks. From the priest's tenure onward, there has been no resident priest in Eagle. The Eagle community has been visited irregularly by Catholic clergy from Dawson, Fairbanks, Delta Junction or Tok.


In 2002 a Diocesan priest was assigned Saint Francis Xavier as its visiting priest, and also served two other "Road System" parishes of the Diocese of Fairbanks. However, most practicing Catholics have left the Eagle community and Saint Francis Xavier parish is now considered inactive.