The Reids 1947 Trip to Alaska
At present I am looking for Mom's 1947 cash ledger to give me a timeline of the trip.
When found all pictures will have a caption on them showing date and location.
Maps of route
USA Route Canada Route Territory Of Alaska Route
Gib & Eileen Reid started north to Alaska from Chicago, Illinois June 1, 1947. They drove a military surplus jeep with a 6 canvas covered trailer hitched behind with everything they owned in it and $300.00 in their pockets. From what I can uncover, they stopped the first night in Minneapolis, Minnesota and most likely used Route 94. All pictures can be clicked on to be seen fullsize.
They crossed the Mississippi on the Hudson Toll Bridge, stopping to take a picture of Minnehaha Falls, and spent a few hours relaxing and taking pictures on the beach at Nokomis Lake before moving on.
Hudson Toll Bridge Minnehaha Falls Gib at Nokomis Lake Eileen at Camp area Nokomis Lake
Continuing on Route 94, the next picture was of a cloudburst out side Fargo, ND.
We have a picture of Gib just out side of Dickinson, ND with his new to them (Used) 30.30 lever action, model 1894 Winchester rifle. Purchased at a country general store, probable in the town of Dickinson, North Dakota. The receipt for the rifle is long gone, but in Eileens old cash book listing weekly accounts from January to December 1947. Listed for the week ending 6th June 1947, the last entry is for a "Rifle $45.00".
Gib with new 30-30
Also have pictures taken while they were resting, and camping at a trailer park in Glendive, Montana. Eileen washing up Gib cooking ? Gib writing home
(Quoted from Gibs notes start here) Referenced pictures are also in the album
"At that point we think we took Route's 200s and 13 to Wolf point which joins with Route 2 west. We remembered stopping at the Silver Dollar Saloon at Shelby, Mt. for a drink before turning north to Sweetgrass, Mt. Leaving the US, and going into Alberta, Canada on Route 4. This route then connects with Route 2 at Fort Macleod, and up to Calgary and Edmonton."
"At Edmonton we had to have our vehicle and 2 spare tires plus extra parts and equipment inspected, and then after an interview and check of our required minim of $200.00 cash, and identification we got written permission from a Sgt. Jim Harkness of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to travel the Alcan Highway. The Sgt. had an enchanting Scottish burr, and originally came from Edinburgh, Scotland before coming to Canada. He had been in England during World War 11, and he had also married an English girl, so we all hit it right off. He invited us out to dinner, and of course lots of good conversation. This friendship has contained to this day. We have exchanged visits at each others homes in Canada and in England. We also keep in touch through letters and cards. Jim is dead but we last saw Doris in England during our trip in April 1994. That night we set up camp in a field next to a military airport on the outskirts of Edmonton. Next morning we saw our first Jet plane flying straight up in the sky, and what a noise it made. After our early morning meal we left Edmonton. Through the years we have kept in touch by letters and cards, and on our trips outside we stooped to see them, but each time we stopped to see them, they were not home. When Jim retired he and his wife moved to England, and we stopped to see them at their home in Heathfield, East Sussex. Jim died in 1991 but we still hear from his wife Doris. (Now deceased)
We left Edmonton on Route 2, we did not have as many routes available as there are now days, so we took the only one, Route 2 north to the town of Athabasca, Alberta. It was raining a little, and the road was very smooth packed sand, we made good time for a while. As we got past Athabasca the weather got even wetter, the rain got even worse, it was very heavy rain, made driving tough. They had been having rain for the last two weeks. All at once the sand disappeared, and the road turned to a mud type gumbo, there were only 3 ruts in the road and they were so deep they were hard to get out of if another vehicle was coming. We noted there were no other vehicles moving on the road, we only saw the one stuck in the middle and a lot stuck at the side of the road, which we had to maneuver around, some of the ones on the side had slipped in the ditch, and the others had given up and had parked in the ditch. I had noticed when I shifted into front wheel drive the engine was pulling harder and we were going slower, so I shifted down into lowrange but we were still having a hard time maintaining speed. I got Eileen to hold the steering wheel so I could open the door and hang out the side to look at the tires on the Jeep and the Trailer. The tires on both vehicles were covered with mud clear out past the fenders, it looked like we had duel wheels, the mud was sticking out 8 inches from the sides of the tire, and not braking off when they went around, we were just barely moving. I kept watching the trailer tires, then as I noticed the tires on the trailer had stopped turning, we were dragging the trailer. The mud had packed under the fenders so tight, and the mud building up on the tires was sticking to it, so we were just dragging the trailer along. We saw a side road on the left and a dry clean grassy place on the far corner so we maneuvered over to it and parked for the night. The rain let up as we made camp, we were just starting to look for some fire wood when two guys in a car came sliding down the side road. This road was not to bad, as it had not had the traffic which main Route 2 had been getting. They stopped and got out and introduced them selves and helped get the fire going. They sat and talked for a while, wanting to hear about our travels. One fellow asked us to come down the side road to his homestead, and stay till the road dried up a bit. They informed us that the radio had been saying all day that Route 2 was closed to all vehicles for the next few days. The rain started up again and the guys went home and we hit the sack. In the morning before we had breakfast the fellow with the homestead came down and insisted we come to his house and stay for a few days till things dried up. So we did, he had a nice big place, all the buildings were log and he had a good amount of land cleared and under cultivation.
The Farm East of Aabasca, Alberta
His wife was in the Edmonton hospital having their first baby. The rain finely stopped and the road had begun to dry some so we loaned him our Jeep to drive in to see his wife and new baby. He was back that night. We left late on the third day with dreams of having a homestead like his some day.
We took another road, Route 34, and have a picture of a vehicle crossing the Smoky River on a small cable barge just as we had a few minutes before.Smokey River Cable Barge
A few miles on we had the trailer hitch break and stopped to have a blacksmith at Crooked Creek, Alberta do the reinforcing repairs and welding on Jeep and Trailer tongue.
"We took pictures of his pet bear cub."
(Quotes from verbal discussions March 2009 with Mom (Eileen) & Mike start here)
We met an Indian on a bicycle traveling south down the Alaska Highway near Liard River just north of
Muncho Lake (mile 456). Here he is riding his bicycle down the road towards us. Remember there wasnt much traffic in those days and we talked to almost everyone we met. So Gib asked him if there was any good place to fish nearby ? He says there is and he would show us where. They strapped the bicycle on the back and we drove on north with the Indian riding on the hood. A ways up the road he motions for us to stop and he & Gib take off over the bank towards the Liard River. They came back later with a mess of fish and we fixed them for dinner. A couple of hours later the Indian says he must get back to his village and takes off back south on his bicycle.
At a Repeater Station (mile 1164) we met a bunch of guys maintaining the station. One young fellow who was the manager of the station had his wife staying with him there. Mom says she was mighty happy to have another Woman to talk too. This was the first time she had another Womans company for a long time. Gib & Eileen ate dinner with these people in the cafeteria and Mom later got her first lesson in pool. Mom says they left there about 2:30 AM in the morning. It was still light. Camped just up the road for the night.
The next memories are at Border City Trading Post (mile 1225) Gib & Eileen stopped here for about 10 days the first week of July 1947. Here they met Billy, Matt & Pop who ran the Trading Post.
Billy, Matt, Gib & Pop
After a few days they went with Billy in his old truck, back down the Alcan to Haines Junction and then on down to Haines. Billy needed some supplies and Gib & Eileen went along for the ride. We have pictures of Gib & Billy at Chilkat Pass with snow on the ground on the 4th of July.
Gib & Billy at Chilkat Pass
We have a picture of Eileen & Billy dressed in Indian Ceremonial Robes at the entrance to the Frog House in Haines.
Billy & Eileen
They stayed the night in Haines and returned to Border City Trading Post the next evening. Gib and Eileen also made other local fishing excursions with Billy. One trip Mom remembers is Billy taking the local Indians in his old truck to pick up their government checks. Then they willingly spent them at the Trading Post upon their return. One thing Mom remembers being a hot item was small bottles of Vanilla Extract which contained a small amount of alcohol. Indians could not buy spirits in those days.
After the 10-day stay at the Border City Trading Post, they continued on to Tok Junction and the Alaska Customs. Cleared there they started towards Anchorage with a young hitchhiker named Walter. He could not get past customs at Tok because he didnt have enough money. Gib & Eileen gave him a lift towards Anchorage. I can not figure where he rode in that little Jeep with all the stuff they had with them.
About half way to Anchorage they stopped at a Trappers cabin July 18 1947 and the trapper let Walter & Gib fish the creek near his cabin. See picture in album.
Trapper, Gib & Walter
(Back to quotes from Gibs notes starting here)
Eileen and Gib arrived in Anchorage July 21 1947 to find an acute housing shortage. They decided to make a claim on some land and build their own house. They camped for 3 days at a camp site, paying $.25 a night to Langs Store. The store was located in Mountain View just out of Anchorage.
Leaving their small trailer at the camp, they drove their jeep around the Anchorage area looking for land. They backtracked along the Palmer Highway, scouting a compatible and attractive area between mile 18 and 21, meeting and talking to other families that had just come up the Alcan Highway.
Finding an empty spot at mile 21; where Lois & Bob Stewart made their homesteaded at a later date; we set up a small tent, borrowed from Gladys & Glen Rogers another newly arrived couple. We only stayed at this spot two weeks, making friends with the other newly arrived families along that part of the Highway. There was a feeling of camaraderie, sharing, and willingness for hard work among these, and other newly arrived pioneers, which made it possible to start and build the communities of Peters Creek, Chugiak, Birchwood, and Eagle River.
By the fall of 1947 there were 23 families residing along the Palmer Highway, from milepost 12 to milepost 26. This area became loosely called Eagle River, Fire Lake, Chugiak, and Peters Creek. There were no defined boundaries at this time. But many families had taken up residence by the summer of 1947.
The names of remembered families:
Community of Eagle River
*Mary Lue & Glen Briggs
They had lived and worked in Alaska for many years.
Dale & Ruth Briggs & family
Ray Tedrow & family
Mlva & Walter Peppel
In late 47 they moved into the Lars Nyberg home, right on the road. At that time they were
operating two other farms, 1 in Palmer, and 1 in Spanard. They came to Alaska with the colonist
Frank & Jo Brink
Art & Eleanor Brendel
Community of Fire Lake
Hal Naugle and Family
Fire Lake Lodge
*Vesta & Pete Marimans
Community of Chugiak
Eileen & Gib Reid
*Jim and Marie McDowel
*Boby & Simon Meadia
Marie & Joe Newman
They came from Holy Cross, Alaska on the western Yukon River.
*Ruth & Henning Johnson
*Cloyce and Justine Parks
Dotty & Les Fetrow
Paul & Margaret Swanson
Vernon & Alma Haik
Community of Peters Creek
Bernie & John Stockhousen
John Snider and family
Harvey Failer and family
Gladys & Glen Rogers
Leo Robinson and wife
*Reese & Grace Tatro
Reese had lived & worked in Alaska for many years
*The Edmonds Edmonds Lake
He leased his property from the Territory, and worked for Road Commission.
Note! The names preceded by an * had settled in this area prior to 1947.
The others came up the highway or from other places in Alaska in 1947.
The Reids were resting and doing some small labor jobs for the Moose Horn Trading post, which was opened in the summer of 1946. It was established, built, and operated by the Marie and Jim McDowel family. Jim suggested that the Reids look at some nice wooded property at mile 18. He showed them the land, and encouraged them to file a Contest on the land which had been unattended for several months. The land had previously been filed on by a Sgt. Dwainua. The Sgt. had built a small building; which would be called a very small shack today on the property. The land was located at mile 18 on the Palmer Highway, just 3/4 mile from Moose Horn Trading Post to the north, and a 1 and 1/2 miles from Fire Lake Lodge to the South.
During the early summer of 1947 Sgt. Dwainua would came out on weekends from Elmendorf Air Force Base, where he was stationed. He worked on his building, hand clearing and burning brush on the property. The Sgt. had been burning brush one dry hot weekend when his building caught fire and was burned to the ground, there was less than a trace of it left, and the clearing was badly blackened.
He did not come back after the fire; he ether lost interest or was stationed elsewhere. Neighbors had helped put out several fires that he had started, and were very concerned for the rest of the timber in the area, both his and theirs. The Sergeant had staked out the property, and had applied for a Trade and Manufacturing Site and/or a Home Site. There was enough room for Homestead also, and he may have had plans to apply for that too?
After following the set Land Office procedure the Reids were awarded the Contest, and were ready to move their new home on site. The site they picked was along the road with the remains of a log cabin, a well photographed Cache, and a two hole, log out house. During breakup and in early summer there was a small stream running by the East Side of the cabin. The roof poles had rotted and caved in, all that was left were the 4 foot walls above ground, and about one foot of wall set down in the ground. An old railroad worker named Mr. Storm built these buildings in the 1930s. As we understand it, he built this place before the road was put in, using horses to pull the logs to the cabin site. Old timers told us of using his cabin for a hunting headquarters when they were younger, as was the custom in those days. The door was never locked, and all that was expected of a user was to replenish the wood supply.
With the help of Simon Meadia and Joe Newman, Gib and Eileen had completed their new home and were ready to have it towed to their property.
The date was set, 15 of Sep. 1947, and Johnny Stockhousen drove up in his Army Surplus 1 1/2 ton Chevy. 4 x 4 to do the job. Their building was constructed from dump lumber, picked up at the Army Base burn dump. The combination was called a "Skid-Shack or Wanagan",(Want-to-go-again]. The small building was 10 feet wide and 16 feet long, and constructed, and attached to 2 large spruce logs, which were braced and bolted at each end, so they and the building were towable. The building was constructed on Bobby and Sie Meadias home site, so John Stockhousen hooked up for the half mile tow down the road.
He was able to tow the skidshack up off the road to the location the Reids designated, 30 feet west of the old cabin.
They were able to turn it so the end was facing northwest.
After jacking, blocking, and leveling the finishing touches like windows, roll roofing, and a door, interior covering could be applied. They were able to move in within the week. And in a few weeks they added a 7 by 16 room on the back for sleeping, and covered entry.
See my next article "Early Chugiak, Alaska" for the continuing story.