Aug 04, 2016
Roosevelt's New Deal - 202 families move to Alaska in 1935
I had never even heard of the Matanuska Colony Project, and its a fascinating story, one of several re-location projects the government undertook to generate jobs & get Americans back on their feet after the depression. The government chose 202 families that were on welfare (but supposedly with farming backgrounds) from Michigan, Minnesota & Wisconsin and moved them to the Alaskan territory around Palmer in the Matanuska Valley. They were given their transportation there (by train, boat & train again), a 2000 lb. personal item allowance, and a $250 furniture allowance to buy items from either the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog once their homes were built. They drew lots & were given 40 acres of land, and homes and barns were built for each family. For this they signed a 30 year mortgage, with the hope that they could earn enough from their crops to pay off the loan. They had a choice of 3 different house plans to choose from, but all the barns were the same. In the first 10 years, about half the families gave up & went home. More came to replace them, and many descendants still live in the area today. The agricultural co-op they started no longer exists, but saw reasonable success in the WWII years & beyond, as they were able to secure contracts with the military to provide all the soldiers in the area with food & dairy products. We got to talk with Barb Thomas, whose parents were some of the original colonists - she was born shortly after her family arrived in Alaska, and she volunteers at the Colony House Museum in town. One of the original colony homes was moved & restored in the center of the town to protect all this amazing history!