The New Deal Comes to Palmer

Just after his inaugural in 1933 President Roosevelt announced the New Deal, a bold initiative to put Americans back to work in the depth of the great depression. Major programs included the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps.
Alaska’s biggest New Deal project, the Matanuska Colony, bravely arrived May 1935 at a railroad siding with three cabins. “Build an entire community in five months, in Alaska, 2000 miles from supplies?” the pundits had grave doubts.

By that fall, an entire town and farming community had been created from scratch to support a couple hundred new families on farms with newly built homes, barns, and cleared acreage. How did that happen? Who were those guys?

Building the Matanuska Colony infrastructure in the summer of 1935 was far from easy. PHS is glad to present a description of these heady first months by renowned historian, Jim Fox:


Building a Town:

An introductory history of the transient workers of the
Matanuska Valley Colony of 1935.
By James H. Fox


We also have compiled the names of 654 of these New Deal workers, thanks to Jim. You can download it in pdf format, or in searchable excel spreadsheet:

Names of Transient Workers.pdf

 

Names of Transient Workers.xls

 

The introduction and the list of names are a work in progress. The story has many chapters yet to tell, and the New Deal workers list is not complete. We need your help.

So, please join us in commemorating the 75 th anniversary of the New Deal by sharing stories of these workers. Who is not on the list? Who stayed in Alaska or Palmer? Any relatives still here? What did they do? Tales! Photos!

Speaking of photos (click on the photos above), see about a thousand images of the Matanuska Colony at Alaska’s Digital Archives, http://vilda.alaska.edu/index.php by searching for “ARRC”, or the album number “ASL-P270”. You might see an old friend or relative.

Call a PHS board member if you have details to share, or email us at colony@palmerhistoricalsociety.org. We will post information on our web page as it becomes available and share it during monthly meetings.