Clark Fair

Little Family photo courtesy of the Soldotna Historical Society
Ira Little poses in the doorway of the cabin he recently completed with the help of his buddy, Marvin Smith, in the winter of 1947-48. The cabin stood on a high bank above the Kenai River in the area that would soon be known as Soldotna.

Bound and Determined: The Smith & Little Story — Part 2

On Dec. 19, 1947, Smith and Little had filed on adjoining homesteads

 

Ira Little poses outside of his recently completed Soldotna homestead cabin in 1947. (Little Family photo courtesy of the Soldotna Historical Society)

Bound and Determined: The Smith & Little Story — Part 1

The lives of Ira Little and Marvin Smith were inextricably linked

 

This Al Hershberger photo of his good friend Hedley Parsons was taken in Germany in 1945, after World War II had ended. Parsons and Hershberger came to Alaska together a few years later, and in 2010, when Parsons was interviewed for this story, he may have been the last person living who had actually attended George Dudley’s messy funeral

This parting was not sweet sorrow — Part 2

The funeral was scheduled for 2 p.m. on May 5, and spring break-up was in full, sloppy bloom at the Kenai Cemetery

 

Former North Kenai resident George Coe Dudley, seen here during the winter of 1950-51, was a hard-drinking man. His messy funeral in 1967 in Kenai echoed his lifestyle. (Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger)

This parting was not sweet sorrow — Part 1

“Dudley was an easy-going, laid-back sort of guy, always laughing and joking, as well as hard drinking.”

Former North Kenai resident George Coe Dudley, seen here during the winter of 1950-51, was a hard-drinking man. His messy funeral in 1967 in Kenai echoed his lifestyle. (Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger)
Happy Valley homesteader Wayne Jones looks through the telescope built by Rex Hanks, circa 1950. (Photo from “The Pioneers of Happy Valley, 1944-1964,” by Ella Mae McGann)

A Kind and Sensitive Man: The Rex Hanks Story — Part 4

Rex Hanks had a reputation as a forthright, hard-working, inventive and sensitive man

Happy Valley homesteader Wayne Jones looks through the telescope built by Rex Hanks, circa 1950. (Photo from “The Pioneers of Happy Valley, 1944-1964,” by Ella Mae McGann)
This is the only known photograph of Rex Hanks, seen here with his wife, Irmgard, next to their two-story home in Happy Valley—circa 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Katie Matthews)

A Kind and Sensitive Man: The Rex Hanks Story — Part 3

After working and searching for a couple of months, he found property that pleased him near the waterfall at the mouth of Happy Creek

This is the only known photograph of Rex Hanks, seen here with his wife, Irmgard, next to their two-story home in Happy Valley—circa 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Katie Matthews)
Photo by Clark Fair
In the summer of 2016, this was all that remained of Rex Hanks’s original homestead cabin, located just above the waterfall on Happy Creek.

A Kind and Sensitive Man: The Rex Hanks Story — Part 2

By the end of 1958, the little graveyard’s inhabitants numbered four.

Photo by Clark Fair
In the summer of 2016, this was all that remained of Rex Hanks’s original homestead cabin, located just above the waterfall on Happy Creek.
Nell and Homer Crosby were early homesteaders in Happy Valley. Although they had left the area by the early 1950s, they sold two acres on their southern line to Rex Hanks. (Photo courtesy of Katie Matthews)

A Kind and Sensitive Man: The Rex Hanks Story — Part 1

The main action of this story takes place in Happy Valley, located between Anchor Point and Ninilchik on the southern Kenai Peninsula

Nell and Homer Crosby were early homesteaders in Happy Valley. Although they had left the area by the early 1950s, they sold two acres on their southern line to Rex Hanks. (Photo courtesy of Katie Matthews)
What are almost certainly members of the Grönroos family pose in front of their Anchor Point home in this undated photograph courtesy of William Wade Carroll. The cabin was built in about 1903-04 just north of the mouth of the Anchor River.

Fresh Start: The Grönroos Family Story— Part 2

The five-member Grönroos family immigrated from Finland to Alaska in 1903 and 1904

What are almost certainly members of the Grönroos family pose in front of their Anchor Point home in this undated photograph courtesy of William Wade Carroll. The cabin was built in about 1903-04 just north of the mouth of the Anchor River.
The Canadian steamship Princess Victoria collided with an American vessel, the S.S. Admiral Sampson, which sank quickly in Puget Sound in August 1914. (Otto T. Frasch photo, copyright by David C. Chapman, “O.T. Frasch, Seattle” webpage)

Fresh Start: The Grönroos Family Story — Part 1

The Grönroos family settled just north of the mouth of the Anchor River

The Canadian steamship Princess Victoria collided with an American vessel, the S.S. Admiral Sampson, which sank quickly in Puget Sound in August 1914. (Otto T. Frasch photo, copyright by David C. Chapman, “O.T. Frasch, Seattle” webpage)
This trio of images appeared in the January 1942 edition of Alaska Life magazine, in an article entitled “The Mayor of Seward Builds a Dream House for $2,000!” To the left and right are interior views of the Benson home. The center photograph shows W.R. Benson and his dog near the front gate of his yard.

Hometown Booster: The W.R. Benson Story — Part 3

William Raymond “W.R.” Benson was certainly not shy about sharing either his beliefs or his ideas

This trio of images appeared in the January 1942 edition of Alaska Life magazine, in an article entitled “The Mayor of Seward Builds a Dream House for $2,000!” To the left and right are interior views of the Benson home. The center photograph shows W.R. Benson and his dog near the front gate of his yard.
document from ancestry.com
William Raymond “W.R.” Benson’s draft-registration card from 1942 reveals that he was 52 years old, living in Seward and self-employed. His wife, Mable, is listed as a person who will always know his address.

Hometown Booster: The W.R. Benson Story — Part 2

W.R. Benson was a mover and a shaker throughout his life, but particularly so in Alaska

document from ancestry.com
William Raymond “W.R.” Benson’s draft-registration card from 1942 reveals that he was 52 years old, living in Seward and self-employed. His wife, Mable, is listed as a person who will always know his address.
William Raymond “W.R.” Benson (front row, far right) poses along with the rest of the Sigma Nu fraternity at Albion College in Michigan in about 1908. Despite a lifetime spent in the public eye, Benson was apparently seldom captured on film. This image is one of the few photos of him known to exist. (photo from the 1908 Albion College yearbook via ancestry.com)

Hometown Booster: The W.R. Benson Story — Part 1

W.R. Benson was a man almost constantly in motion

William Raymond “W.R.” Benson (front row, far right) poses along with the rest of the Sigma Nu fraternity at Albion College in Michigan in about 1908. Despite a lifetime spent in the public eye, Benson was apparently seldom captured on film. This image is one of the few photos of him known to exist. (photo from the 1908 Albion College yearbook via ancestry.com)
In the early 2020s, the extended Keeler clan continues on the southern Kenai Peninsula, with (far right) Vikki, the daughter of Ina (Keeler) and Spek Jones, her son Brad and his infant son Hugh. At left is Spek Jones and his mother Nelda Jones. Photo courtesy of the Keeler Family Collection.

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 8

Three siblings from the Keeler family of Oregon came to the Kenai Peninsula to live between 1947 and 1951

In the early 2020s, the extended Keeler clan continues on the southern Kenai Peninsula, with (far right) Vikki, the daughter of Ina (Keeler) and Spek Jones, her son Brad and his infant son Hugh. At left is Spek Jones and his mother Nelda Jones. Photo courtesy of the Keeler Family Collection.
Floyd “Pappy” Keeler, standing in 1951 in front of his cabin on the homestead of his son Jack, is holding a girl who is likely Barbara Sandstrom, while her sister Rhoda, standing by a truck, looks on. Ray Sandstrom photo courtesy of the KPC historical photo archive.

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 7

Speculation was rife after the younger brother of Floyd Nelson Keeler went missing

Floyd “Pappy” Keeler, standing in 1951 in front of his cabin on the homestead of his son Jack, is holding a girl who is likely Barbara Sandstrom, while her sister Rhoda, standing by a truck, looks on. Ray Sandstrom photo courtesy of the KPC historical photo archive.
Virgil Dahler photo courtesy of the KPC historical photo archive
This aerial view from about 1950 shows Jack Keeler’s home on his homestead east of Soldotna. The stream to the left is Soldotna Creek, and the bridge across the stream probably allowed early access to the Mackey Lakes area. The road to the right edge of the photo leads to the Sterling Highway.

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 6

“Most of those homesteaders won’t last”

Virgil Dahler photo courtesy of the KPC historical photo archive
This aerial view from about 1950 shows Jack Keeler’s home on his homestead east of Soldotna. The stream to the left is Soldotna Creek, and the bridge across the stream probably allowed early access to the Mackey Lakes area. The road to the right edge of the photo leads to the Sterling Highway.
Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger
Don and Verona pose inside their first Soldotna grocery store in 1952, the year they opened for business.

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 5

By 1952, the Wilsons constructed a simple, rectangular, wood-frame building and started the town’s first grocery

Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger
Don and Verona pose inside their first Soldotna grocery store in 1952, the year they opened for business.
Members of the Keeler family and some Anchor Point church members get a ride on Jimmy Elliot’s “mud sled” on the way to services at the Elliot home, circa 1956. Lorna Keeler is sitting on the far-left side of the sled. April Keeler is the middle girl of the trio sitting in back, and Larry Keeler is standing behind those girls. (Photo courtesy of the Pratt Museum)

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 4

Lawrence and Lorna Keeler and their family moved from Oregon to Alaska in June 1948 and began building a new life for themselves

Members of the Keeler family and some Anchor Point church members get a ride on Jimmy Elliot’s “mud sled” on the way to services at the Elliot home, circa 1956. Lorna Keeler is sitting on the far-left side of the sled. April Keeler is the middle girl of the trio sitting in back, and Larry Keeler is standing behind those girls. (Photo courtesy of the Pratt Museum)
Brothers James (left) and Lawrence Keeler with their Kissel car, circa 1910s. Both brothers enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in World War I. James was killed in battle. Photo courtesy of the Keeler Family Collection.

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 3

Lorna Keeler had a well-deserved reputation for being the bachelor’s friend in time of need

Brothers James (left) and Lawrence Keeler with their Kissel car, circa 1910s. Both brothers enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in World War I. James was killed in battle. Photo courtesy of the Keeler Family Collection.
Louvie “Vi” Chapman photo courtesy of the Pratt Museum
This cottonwood-log structure was Anchor Point’s first-ever school, located on the south side of the Anchor River. It was replaced with a better school on the north side, on property donated by Sherman and Louvie Chapman. Seen here are the first teacher, Helen Smith, and some of her students, including Larry Keeler standing next to Smith.

Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 2

On Aug. 3, 1948, Lawrence and Lorna made their official move from Kenai to Anchor Point aboard a vessel called the John Adams

Louvie “Vi” Chapman photo courtesy of the Pratt Museum
This cottonwood-log structure was Anchor Point’s first-ever school, located on the south side of the Anchor River. It was replaced with a better school on the north side, on property donated by Sherman and Louvie Chapman. Seen here are the first teacher, Helen Smith, and some of her students, including Larry Keeler standing next to Smith.