Homesteading in Alaska by Melissas grandma
This is part of a letter Melissa's grandma Elsie wrote to her relatives in Wyoming in 1951 after she flew to Alaska to join her husband Russ who was homesteading just north of Anchorage.
Russ met us and we headed out to our new home, if you can call it that. He has a trailer house out here and a canvas stretched up and all our stuff under it. "Out here" is about halfway between Anchorage and Palmer and three miles from the post office known as Chugiak. We are about half a mile off the main highway set back in a little clearing but surrounded by trees other than that. At Chugiak is a one horse store. What gets me is the way they build out here. The store and post office are in one little building. On a little further is another little hole that sells groceries. That is o.k. but then the school house must be another mile on up this way and all by its lonesome. Then another ways, maybe half a mile, is the church and one house. We really aren't crowded and have lots of room to expand.
We have a five acre piece of trees here known as a homesite. This place has been burned over and so consequently doesn't have much on it, which is a boon to clearing it off. Six inches will probably take care of most of the trees which are birch and quakers. A dozer can really scrub them right off. On the other hand, there is nothing to build with. Lumber here isn't any cheaper than at home and for logs you wait your turn.
Set back in this woods all over are little clearings but right at present I'm saying it is a good thing we know quite a few people to begin with, or me and the kids would be as backwoodsie as Louezie and Little Jughead in the funnies in another year.
Russell is working in Anchorage and drives that 23 miles. Next week he plans to start work in Palmer as maintenance man for electrical equipment for the Matanuska Valley Co-op. That is 25 miles. He takes the car and here we are .
The sun when it shines is nice but so far I have been here eleven days and it has rained six of them. If and when it shines, I wash diapers like mad and then hole up again. The days that are nice are warm but when it begins to cool off, moisture sure collects on everything.
We didn't want any of us to have to sleep outside so decided we could make bunk beds out of our davenports. We hoisted the one already in the trailer house up and after much heaving and tugging and a few muttered threats we got our other one in by leaving off the arms. Don't have any room for any nightmarish dreams and I've about learned how to make the lower one while lying on it. Anyway, we are all inside when it rains.
Sunday while Russell and Clyde were putting up the mail box an old moose crossed the road nearby. Sheryll sure was tickled. One old cow and her baby like this place too. They stay here all the time. The other day when the guys were grading the road they met two little black bears. Bears and moose - but no snakes!
Some of the creeks are glacial and are the oddest color. I can't describe it but about the nearest I can come is the color water turns just after you add soap. No fish live in those streams. However, there are plenty of other streams that do have fish. Have a nice creek nearby but I can't manage fishing and two kids at the same time. Tried to pick berries with them yesterday. Managed to get enough for breakfast before ate all the rocks and bugs. June and I want to pick Sunday but I suppose it will rain a flood this weekend. I really haven't been here long enough or seen enough of the country to say whether I'm all fired crazy over it, but I know this for certain. I'm sure that it won't take much of this rain under the present conditions to do me for all time.
We got a freezer locker for $24 a year. One of these guys had better get a moose to put in it. Told Russell I'd help carry it out a steak at a time so we'd have some meat without buying it. Went to the co-op at Palmer the other day intending to buy some stew meat. It was $1.05 a lb. Guess we will live on wieners. Eggs are $1.35 a dozen and milk 40 cents a quart. Other things accordingly. Vegetables really do grow here, though, and in such a short time they are about the best I've tasted.
This letter is part of a book you can maybe find in your library. Between Two Rivers by Marjorie Cochrane. Alaska Historical Commission Studies in History No. 26. Letter used with family's permission.