50 years of homestead life
March 1962 to 2012
My neighbors, Hank and Marilyn have lived on their Homestead 50 years. That makes them a true homesteader in Alaska. I met them in 1967 when I came up here with my three children. The trail back to their house was a “trail”, as the real road ended at Halbouty. The road from Kenai, through Nikiski and to Halbouty, was gravel. Or should I say, part gravel, part small rocks, part ground shale, part dirt, part volcanic ash, and potholes. The road beyond Halbouty to Bishop Creek, was a trail. My first visit with Marilyn and Hank, in my old green, noisy, dusty Jeep, was a real eye opener to the hardiness of true pioneers and homesteaders. I admired them then, and my admiration continues to this day.
— Sincerely Ann Berg
The story below was contributed by daughter, Romayne Hindman
Their move to Alaska was long, as the Alcan was not paved then. Marilyn was six weeks pregnant, so with their first child, Gary, only 4 years old, made for a long trip. They lived in Anchorage six years before moving to the Homestead. They moved to the Homestead, with four children Gary, Chris, Bill and brand new baby Angel, only six weeks old. By filing on an existing Homestead someone had not proved up on, they were able to move into an existing cabin in March of 1962. Hank continued to work in Anchorage and kept Gary, by then school age, with him so he could finish the school year. They would come see the family on weekends and Hank would pack in groceries from Halbouty, on a trail 5 miles to the Homestead. Marilyn stayed at the Homestead with the new baby and the other two boys for six months. After that first summer Hank quit his job and joined them full time. To prove up on their Homestead, they had to have a cabin, live on the property a specific amount of time and clear and plant 10 Acres.
When the road was extended from Halbouty to what we know as Captain Cook Park, the160 acres shrunk to 140 acres because the road cut through the Homestead. The road remained gravel until it was paved in 1982. A Jeep Wagoneer was the family’s main mode of transportation.
The 20-by-20 cabin, that was already on the land, became their home. An addition of a large back room, made for the kids bedroom. With the addition of Romy in 1963 and Camille in 1968 they needed the room for their 6 children. With no power or well for water it took work just to provide the necessities. Water was hauled from the lake, to the house, which was (and is) a very steep hill. Blazo Lanterns provided light that was needed. Hank and the boys cut wood most weekends to provide the wood for the barrel stove that heated the cabin.
Marilyn hauled water from a nearby lake in the summer and in the winter. Hank built her a sled with a place for new baby, Angel, and a place for a water jug. Marilyn always inventive strapped baby Angel into the sled, one winter day. The trail to the lake was snow packed, so Marilyn gave this sled a little push and baby, empty water jug and the sled, went zooming down the snow packed trail around the corner, and disappeared. Running, Marilyn got to the corner, just in time to see her baby, water jug and sled, disappear around the next bend. When she finally caught up with the sled, at the bottom of the hill, baby Angel was still tucked in her place, asleep, and everything was fine!
Every summer Marilyn, with some help from the family, planted a huge garden, growing potatoes, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, spinach, zucchini, beets and more. She has always had a large greenhouse, raising about one hundred pounds of tomatoes each year. Summer and Fall was always filled with lots of berry picking, harvesting the garden, making jams and jellies and canning. Over the years they have developed a nice strawberry and raspberry patch, yielding gallons of berries. Marilyn has always loved flowers; the yard is bright, colorful and beautiful. All gardening plants and flowers were started by seed in the Spring. It was not unusual to have a 1000 starts in the house come May. And most of the years water was hauled from the lake to water the garden and flowers as well as for the home.
They also had chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, and even a horse for a few years. They would raise 100 chickens each year for butchering. They had layers they kept year round for the eggs. The goats provided milk and great companionship, Marilyn always said that the goats were better watch dogs then the dogs were.
Hank and the boys always hunted moose and bear. There was always plenty of fish. Marilyn would can the fish and part of the moose, Hank liked to get his moose during the late hunting season because it was cold enough to just leave it hanging all winter and cut a meal of meat to eat, right from the hanging moose. The bear was made into sausage. It was kept by layering into a barrel or crock, putting a layer of lard, then a layer of lightly browned sausage patty. When ready to eat, the layer of lard was scraped off. The sausage patty was preserved and ready to fry up for a meal.
The earthquake in 1964, did not affect the Every family, as they did not have electricity and only a battery radio to connect them to the rest of the world. Their radio fell off the shelf and broke during the earthquake so there was no communication at all. It was several days before they got to the neighbors and realized how hard the quake had hit the rest of Alaska and the problems they were having in other towns. Marilyn said that the ground rolled, the trees waved back and forth like blades of grass, but the Every family was very safe.
Their mode of entertainment was cross-country skiing and sledding. Marilyn snowshoed.