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  Matanuska Valley Colony


April 1935


Saturday Evening, April 13, 1935

Alaskan Expedition to be Led by Wyoming Rancher

Washington, April 13--(AP)--A lean and bronzed Wyoming rancher is in Washington preparing to lead a new-style pioneering expedition into an Alaskan valley late this month.

He is D.L. Irwin and his title is "director of colonization for Alaska for the federal emergency relief administration."  The fertile Matanuska valley, 125 miles north of Seward, has been selected as the site for the first FERA rehabilitation colony in Alaska.

Under consideration for several months, the project has attracted attention of the American Red Cross.  Chairman Cary T. Grayson announced today that first aid training will be given the 480 relief workers who will spend the summer helping build the colony.  They will receive the training before the first contingent sails from California April 20.

Admiral Grayson added that a Red Cross public health nurse will be assigned to the colony for a year to serve as a visiting nurse and to teach home hygiene, while the junior Red Cross is assembling a library for both children and adults.

Two hundred families--including 1,000 persons--have been selected

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from farms in northern Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin to form the colony.  Each family will be lent $3,000 and will be furnished a 40-acre homestead.  Thirty years will be allowed for repayment of the money.  The 480 relief workers who help launch the project will return to the states in the fall, leaving the farmers to carry on.

Irwin is tall, slightly stooped.  His face is weather-beaten.  Crow's feet at the corners of his eyes bear out his statement that he has spent most of his life outdoors.

Early in 1934, he explained, efforts were begun to get him to leave his ranch to assume charge of the government experiment station in Matanuska valley.  He took his wife, two daughters and young son and went there in June, 1934.  In January of this year, he was summoned to Washington and told he was to take charge of the colonization project.

Of pioneering stock, Irwin's eyes glow as he talks about the venture.  He likes Alaska - America's "last frontier."

"I think Alaska is one of the few spots in the world where there is a future," he said, simply.

The colonists should succeed, he said.  They will be located within a seven-mile radius of a community center.  They must build their own homes and they must clear their own ground.  They will be able to kill some small game for food.  They will have excellent fishing.  It is truly a pioneering expedition, he said--but the government will help take the raw edge off the venture.  There will be portable sawmills, tractors and thousands of pounds of equipment.

"It's a great country," Irwin said.  "My family is still up there, you know, and we'll have to build our home like the rest of them.

"I'll be glad to get back."



April 22, 1935  page 1

Vanguard of Alaskan Migration Leaves Soon

San Francisco, April 22--(AP)--The vanguard of a new American pioneer pilgrimage--that of 1,000 men, women and children from the middle west to the Matanuska Valley in Alaska--today made final preparations for sailing.

The North Star is under orders to sail tomorrow with 120 unmarried men taken from transient shelter camps in California to start clearing ground for the colony.

Two weeks hence the 1,000 who will form the colony will embark here to start life anew in Alaska under the guidance of the federal government, which is sponsoring the migration.



April 25, 1935  page 4

Alaska's Warning

(Escanaba Daily Press)
SOBER-THINKING citizens of Alaska are not overly-optimistic about the rush of new settlers to that territory.

Reports of an impending boom in Alaska, resulting from the higher prices offered for gold and the federal government's program for migration of unemployed families from this section of the country, has started a rush of settlers northward.  Many of them are going into Alaska without funds, and it is feared that they will simply create a ticklish relief problem.

According to one Upper Peninsula resident, who has spent several years in Alaska, the opportunities for colonists in the Matanuska valley are not so rosy as government officials have it figured out.  The coal mines in that region have not such a profitable proposition due to the difficulties in marketing the product because of its inferior quality.  The cost of transportation to the markets is another prohibitive factor.

According to this former Alaskan, agricultural conditions are not so good either in the Matanuska valley.  The growing season is only about ninety days, allowing insufficient time, for instance, for potatoes to mature.  These potatoes will not keep, and it has been necessary as a result to import tubers from Idaho and the Yakima valley.  Fine berries are grown in the Matanuska valley, however, he says.

Of course, the government may have other plans for utilizing the natural resources of Alaska so that sufficient wealth and employment may be created to support the colonists that are being taken from the relief rolls of Northern Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other parts of the northwest.  There is no Utopia anywhere in this world at the present time, however.  Wherever colonists go they will have to work hard to reestablish themselves.




April 26, 1935  page 1

Alaska Colonists to Frisco Today

Northern Minnesota Families to Sail for New Land May 1.

St. Paul, April 26--(AP)--Burdened with baggage crammed into suitcases, shopping bags and tied in blankets, the group of 67 northern Minnesota families who are to found a government sponsored colony in Alaska arrived here today.

The first group arrived at 7:45 a.m., another several hours later and the last were to arrive at noon.

Mothers carried babies, fathers look to the family belongings and children were wide-eyed with excitement.  None appeared sad at bidding farewell to their home state.

Modern pioneers, the group of 275 men, women and children are going to the Matanuska Valley in the last American frontier--Alaska--hoping to wrest from its virgin and fertile soil that which their submarginal [sic] Minnesota farms were unable to provide.

A special train late today will start them on the first lap of their long trip, taking them to San Francisco, from where they will sail for Alaska May 1 on a government transport.

The colonization plan in Matanuska was sponsored by the federal government and directed by the Alaskan rural rehabilitation corporation.  The state emergency relief administration selected the colonists, who will be joined later by others from Wisconsin and Michigan.


April 29, 1935  page 5

Make Final Plans for Wisconsin Migrators

Madison, April 29--(AP)-- Final plans for the removal of 68 Wisconsin farm families to Alaska were being drafted here this week by officials of the Wisconsin emergency relief administration.

A field representative of the WERA has been making a firsthand study of the applicants for the Alaska expedition and some of the families have been selected.

The Wisconsin contingent will pro[b]ably meet at Spooner and Rhinelander before taking a train to Seattle.  The American army transport St. Mihiel will convey the settlers to their new homes in the Matanuska Valley of Alaska.

Forty acres of land and livestock, with a total value of $3,000 will go to each family chosen for the rural rehabilitation project.  The federal government will be repaid over a 30-year period for the funds advanced for the resettlement project.

Wisconsin's contingent is scheduled to sail May 15.