We took a side trip into Anchorage for a couple hours, with a social stop along the way at the Eagle River Elks to pick up a Dog Pin for my collection.
Downtown we read about some history of Anchorage. “The Alaska Railroad Act of March 12, 1914 was a remarkable piece of legislation. Congress committed itself to a project without promise of monetary return. The president could choose a route and construct and operate a railroad anywhere in Alaska. With the exception of the Panama Railway, never had the US Gov’t owned or operated a railroad. Congress & the president believed Alaska was a ‘storehouse’ waiting to be unlocked and the key was transportation”.
The Tent City in 1915 was erected hastily on the muddy banks of Ship Creek by hopeful job seekers and lasted only months. It was filthy living quarters so the US Gov’t stepped in. They needed flat land for docks, shipping and railroad, so the president ordered a townsite carved out of forest on the southern bluff overlooking Ship Creek.
In the 1920’s there were 350 homesteads in the Matanuska Valley raising cold weather crops, grains and potatoes. They trapped, hunted, pickled fish and subsisted on les than $100 a year. There were no stable markets for produce & life was not easy. In 1935 the President’s experiment called the Mananuska Valley Colony began. 202 poverty stricken families from depressed northern regions of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota arrived in Anchorage. The government extended generous long-term lines of credit to buy and clear land, and for necessary farm equipment & livestock.
The experiment was eventually a disappointment, nearly a third of the families left, but the original farmers finally found a ready market for their produce with the advent of WWII and the military construction boom in Anchorage in the 1940’s.