Cabin builder good example of early settlers

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2000

The cabin restoration project is a labor of love for Ranger Gary Titus, who has spent years tramping the peninsula's backcountry and researching the trappers and hunters whose crumbling homes he discovers there.

"These are the men who brought the Kenai Peninsula to the world's attention," he said. "I sit in the old cabins a lot, trying to put myself in their shoes."

Berg is his special favorite.

Andrew Berg, a Swedish-speaking Finn, moved to the peninsula in 1888 or 1889. He worked fishing, gold mining, trapping and hunting, living most of the year on the shore of Tustumena Lake.

A cabin he built there in 1902 is on the National Historic Register.

Berg was said to be the strongest man and fastest walker in the area, Titus said.

He became the peninsula's first licensed hunting guide and later worked as a game warden.

Berg began building a second cabin, which he called his "homestead cabin" in 1935 and finished it in 1937.

In 1939, friends found the elderly Berg ill in bed and shipped him up to Anchorage, where he died. His exact age was not recorded, but he was believed to be about 80.

Titus told how Berg and other sourdoughs guided wealthy visitors on hunting trips -- visitors who returned home to dazzle people in the Lower 48 with their tales of the giant Kenai moose.

The peninsula's reputation as a hunters' paradise led to the founding of the Kenai refuge in 1941 as the Kenai National Moose Range. In 1980, it was renamed the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

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