Almanac: Driven to leave their mark — Homesteaders put their stamp on peninsula’s roadways

Editor’s note: This is part two of a history of some of the road names on the central Kenai Peninsula. Part one, published last week, covered roads off the Sterling Highway from Three Johns Street at Mile 76 to Echo Lake and Gaswell roads at Mile 100. Part two covers roads out to Webb-Ramsell Road off Cohoe Loop, plus 13 more along the Kenai Spur Highway as far north as Halbouty Road at Milepost 29.5.

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Drivers who leave the Sterling Highway and venture behind the stands of conifers and deciduous trees that parallel the blacktop may find all sorts of odd appellations: Loud Court, Tobacco Lane, Granny Ann Avenue, Magic Dragon Lane, Mule Shoe Street, Missing Link Road, and too many others to list. But those who stick to the main drag and head south will pass by the green signs indicating these byways:

  • Tote Road (Milepost 101) — The name of this road has an uncertain origin, but some believe — since temporary roads were often called “tote roads” because individuals using them had to hand-tote everything up and down their often rugged routes — that this road may have been so dubbed until it was eventually improved for regular traffic. If so, the name obviously stuck.
  • Cardwell Road (Milepost 103.5) — This road was named for Bill and Vivian Cardwell, who homesteaded there. Bill, who used to work at Penn’s Hardware in Soldotna, moved to Oregon after he retired.
  • Irish Hills Avenue (Milepost 103.5) — Thomas and Barbara O’Rourke, originally from Massachusetts, settled in the area, and Thomas celebrated his Irish roots by naming the road before eventually moving back to the East Coast.
  • Pollard Loop (Milepost 107) — Clayton “Doc” Pollard, a semiretired Anchorage dentist, and
    Photo courtesy of Kenai Peninsula College Anthropology Lab. Joe Faa, whose corral inspired the name of Corral Street in Soldotna, is seen here with one of his horses on his property in the 1950s.

    Photo courtesy of Kenai Peninsula College Anthropology Lab. Joe Faa, whose corral inspired the name of Corral Street in Soldotna, is seen here with one of his horses on his property in the 1950s.

    his wife, Lucy, began spending summers in the Kasilof area in 1935. They brought with them their two sons, George and Clayton Jr., and in the 1940s the Pollards settled there permanently. Walter Pollard, brother to the elder Clayton, also settled in the area. Although Doc Pollard had not planned to continue dental work once he moved to Kasilof, local need sometime pressed him into service, often in his own home. George, who operated for many years as a hunting guide in the mountains around Tustumena Lake, still lives in the home built originally in 1928 by Louis Nissen along the shore of what became known as Pollard Lake.

  • Cohoe Loop (Milepost 111) — The name Cohoe was arrived at by homesteaders in the area. When they petitioned for and got a post office, the name they chose for its location was Cohoe. Residents Charlie and Freda Lewis were among those pushing for the establishment of a post office, and, once it was granted, Freda became the postmaster. When the Alaska Road Commission was building the road, it was initially called the Crooked Creek Road.
  • Webb-Ramsell Road (a spur off Cohoe Loop) — The Webbs and the Ramsells were early homesteaders in the area. Wayne and Trudy Webb, who fished commercially, came to Alaska in 1939, and moved to the peninsula in 1946. Archie and Ann Ramsell came to Alaska from South Dakota in 1935 and homesteaded in Cohoe in 1946. Ann was a nurse, and, prior to moving to the peninsula, Archie worked as a fireman on the Alaska Railroad.
  • Corral Avenue (Milepost 1.0, Kenai Spur Highway) — Joe and Eleanor “Mickey” Faa came to the central peninsula in 1950, and Mickey became postmaster a year later when the first postmaster, Maxine Lee, packed up and left her husband, Howard, and the state. In 1954, after essentially running the post office out of their home and business, the Faas bought the Lee home and a portion of the Lee homestead, mostly north of where Soldotna Elementary School now stands. Mickey moved the post office back to its original location, and Joe, an avid horse lover, opened up large swaths of land to create hayfields, and then built a barn and corral in which to keep his stock. The street was named for Joe Faa’s corral.
  • Marydale Avenue (Milepost 1.0) — Dick Gerhardt was one of Soldotna’s earliest homesteaders, and the current Marydale Avenue functioned as one boundary of his property. He named the street after his wife, Mary, while the suffix “-dale” refers to a place of passage (usually a valley).
  • Knight Drive (Milepost 1.0) — Ed and Lorraine Knight came to Alaska from Chicago in the early 1950s and settled in Soldotna a few years later. Ed was a meatcutter and worked in construction, while Lorraine, who had formerly delivered mail, served as the mayor of Soldotna from 1975 to 1978.
  • Irons Street (Milepost 1.5) — Jack and Margaret Irons came early to Soldotna and settled in what came to be known as Ridgeway. For a while, they operated a restaurant, which they later sold and which became Four Royle Parkers. In the early days, the Irons’ home was the site of a regular communal laundry day that they shared with a handful of other homesteading families.
  • McCollum Drive (Milepost 9.5) — Across the highway from Kenai Middle School is a road named for Flo and Glenn “Red” McCollum. Red, who moved to Kenai in 1959, was a well driller and a commercial fisherman, and served on the Kenai Harbor Commission. He died in 2002.
  • Tinker Lane (Milepost 9.5) — Directly across the highway from McCollum Drive is a short road named for a married couple who lived in Alaska only a short time. According to David Thornton, whose family was the second to settle along the road, Frank and Lottie Tinker came to Kenai from Oklahoma in the early 1960s. Frank, a World War I veteran, was in his 70s at the time, while Lottie was in her late 50s. Before they left the state in the mid-1960s, Lottie worked as a housekeeper for a time for Kenai mayor Bud Dye.
  • Walker Lane (Milepost 10) — Delta Calvin “Pappy” Walker is described as a character by
    Photo courtesy of “Once Upon the Kenai.” Pappy Walker is seated here on his TD-6 International bulldozer. He is flanked by Floyd Head (left) and Raymond Gee.

    Photo courtesy of “Once Upon the Kenai.” Pappy Walker is seated here on his TD-6 International bulldozer. He is flanked by Floyd Head (left) and Raymond Gee.

    nearly everyone who knew him. He and his wife, Mandy, came from Oklahoma to homestead, and Pappy, a plumber by trade, used his TD-6 International bulldozer to clear land for people all over the local area.

  • Lawton Drive (connects to and runs perpendicular to Tinker and Walker lanes) — Luella and Jonathan “Larry” Lawton came to Alaska from Seattle in 1939 and moved to the peninsula in 1941. In Kenai, the Lawtons bought land from Pappy Walker and built their home on the place. Larry worked as a supervisor for the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Kenai.
  • Miller Loop (Milepost 19) — This road was named for George and Lovina Miller, who homesteaded in the Nikiski area. George came to Alaska in 1950, and he married Lovina in Kenai in 1962. He was a private contractor and a leader of the local Native community.

    Photo courtesy of “Once Upon the Kenai.”  George and Lovina Miller pose here at their wedding in 1962. Before this day, George had been a lifelong bachelor, while Lovina had been widowed twice.

    Photo courtesy of “Once Upon the Kenai.” George and Lovina Miller pose here at their wedding in 1962. Before this day, George had been a lifelong bachelor, while Lovina had been widowed twice.

  • Wik Road (Milepost 25.5) — Many Wiks live and have lived in Nikiski, but according to longtime area resident Peggy Arness, it was Alfred Wik who had property on the road and for whom Wik Lake is named. Many of the Wiks were commercial fishermen, and in the mid-1920s John Wik and his family operated a small cannery at Boulder Point, on the beach north of the East Foreland.
  • Lamplight Road (Milepost 28.5) — In the early 1960s, Paul Costa purchased a few acres from homesteaders, Ken and Margaret McGahan, and constructed the Lamplight Bar along a stretch of the Spur Highway known locally as the North Road. The road leading past the bar and away from the highway took on the name of the popular drinking and entertainment establishment.
  • Holt Road (connects to Lamplight Road and Miller Loop) — This road was named for Les Holt who had a home there. Holt, who came to Alaska from Arkansas and homesteaded in 1957, fished commercially, did construction work, and was also a trucker and heavy-equipment operator.
  • Halbouty Road (Milepost 29.5) — According to an account written in 1992 by Donnis Thompson, many homesteaders before statehood received with their land patents the rights to any oil, gas or minerals on their land. Because of this fact, small, privately owned drilling companies were often in a better position to negotiate for drilling rights. One of these wildcatter drilling companies was Halbouty Oil Company, run by Michael Halbouty from Texas. As access to a drilling site, he built a three-mile road off the highway near Daniels Lake and tried his luck. The dry well sent Halbouty elsewhere in search of black gold, but the road he made was so good that it became a permanent passageway for local residents, including Thompson and her husband Stan, who built their own homestead road off the end of the Halbouty’s.
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1 Comment

Filed under Almanac, history, homesteaders

One response to “Almanac: Driven to leave their mark — Homesteaders put their stamp on peninsula’s roadways

  1. Jim Taylor

    As always, awesome work Clark Fair.

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