Anchorage First Settlers
Long before the Alaska Railroad set up shop on the banks of Ship Creek, there were early settlers in the area.
The mouth of Ship Creek, June 29, 1915
The Dena’ina, or Athabaskan people, had villages around Cook Inlet, including Point Possession, which is right across the inlet from Anchorage.
But the Dena’ina did not have a settlement at the mouth of Ship Creek.
One of the First
In 1909, a man named Thomas Jeter built a cabin near a lake. The lake came to be known as “Jeter Lake”.
But a few years later, Thomas Jeter was forced to move because his cabin had been built in the Chugach National Forest Reserve, which was not open to homesteading.
Not long after Jeter was forced to move, the land was opened to Homesteading and a man named Joe Spenard moved in. Soon, Jeter lake became known as Spenard Lake.
The Beginning of Government Hill
Photo of Nellie Brown’s Chicken ranch on Government Hill, date unknown
In 1911 or 1912, after being forced off his illegal homestead in the area that would become known as Spenard, Thomas Jeter may have been the first settler to build a cabin on what is now Government Hill.
At about the same time, J.D. “Bud” and Daisy Whitney settled near the mouth of Ship Creek.
You can learn more about Nellie Brown and her husband Jack right now.
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Martha Greer - White “Mother White”
Photo including the White House in the upper right, circa 1915
It appears by the ad below that the “White House” was later moved to 4th Avenue.
Newspaper advertisement that ran in the Cook Inlet Pioneer, the first newspaper in Anchorage.
The story of Martha Greer goes way back in south central Alaska history.
She gave birth to the first non-Athabaskan baby and named her Martha. But folks quickly began calling her child “Babe” to distinguish her from her mom.
April 24, 1915
In the picture above, Martha “Babe” White was selected to drive the first railroad spike at Ship Creek.
You’ll enjoy this biography of Martha Greer “Mother White” right now.
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Check out your Anchorage Memories Facebook Group right now.
The Early Days
Photo of men unloading cargo at the mouth of Ship Creek, 1915
In the photo above, you can see how barges were unloaded when the tide was out in Cook Inlet. The dangerous, quicksand-like mud of Cook Inlet meant that a wooden gang plank of sorts had to be used between the shore and the barge.
Can you imagine how long it took to unload the precious cargo?
The photo above shows the Anchorage docks in the background in 1950 Anchorage
Those first settlers in 1909 to 1911 could hardly imagine the future of the place they chose to live. For them, it was a beautiful-forested area on the banks of a creek. There was plenty of wood, fresh water, game and summer gardens provided for their needs.
Then around 1914, things began to change when the Alaska Railroad first began moving into the area simply known as the mouth of Ship Creek.
In the photo above is the beginning of Anchorage
Tent City sprang up fast as workers began arriving, and storekeepers set up shop on the banks of Ship Creek.
Thomas Jeter, the first settler in 1909 had no idea that a town would soon be built and that town would grow into the city of Anchorage, Alaska.
We tip our hat to the Dena’ina and those first settlers. Mary of Anchorage Memories is a descendant of the Athabaskan people from Point Possession on Cook Inlet and is proud of her heritage.
Do you want to know more? Check out the History of Anchorage right now.
It’s not Cook Inlet
The photo above was taken in July 2022 at 17-Mile Drive in Carmel, California. A long way from the banks of Ship Creek.
Have you ever lived in a small cabin in Alaska?
Both Mary and Mike know what it’s like to live in an Alaska cabin with no running water and an outhouse.
Mary spent her summers growing up across the inlet from Anchorage at Point Possession where her family still maintains a commercial fishing site.
And Mike’s family lived in a small cabin off Goose Bay road near Wasilla for a time in the 1950s.
Do you have a comment, suggestion for a future newsletter, or just want to say, “I’m grateful for those early settlers”?
You can contact us by replying to this email, or you can Contact Us right now.
Until Next Time
Mike and Mary