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Colonist Letters from the Vasanoja Family


Letter #18

L. I. Vasanoja

Palmer, Alaska

Mrs. A. J. Morris.



Palmer Alaska

July 24 – 1935

Dear Sigurd,

                Was thinking of you folks. I thought I’d make it a [illegible] can be done. I really meant to write before this but I think that I am actually getting lazy keeping around not doing any thing is getting on my nerves. Only going [illegible] this camp and headquarters to see what they are going to do next. They actually are not doing anything but promise, and believe me we are getting fed up on their promises. 18 more families going back on this next boat leaving this Friday. Some have left the corporation and are on their own somewhere in Alaska and that’s what I would do if I was able to work but as I am now I’d better be where I am taken care of at present and not think of the future.

                Helen and I were in Anchorage a week ago yesterday Helen had her upper teeth pulled 4 of them. You should see her now mush eat mush now, when we have all the stake’s we wish and I had a Xray of my back it showed that my ribs have healed good and were perfect but it also revealed (arteritis) (I don’t know how it is spelled but that’s how it is pronounced) in my spine all along the bruised portion  and also a fracture of my spine on a portion he called something like “Lumbard [lumbar]”any ways it’s the next joint on my spine below my ribs the joint should look something like this [drawing] but is like this [drawing], one corner is chipped off. Dr said best was to leave it alone, if they went to operate they would make it much worse than what it will be if left alone. So I guess they can sure clear my 40 for me as I am not able to and never will so I am taking it as easy as possible. Of course so far I don’t even need to cut my wood altho I believe I could if I’d try hard. But then on the other hand it would only prolong the soreness and encourage the arteritis [sic] (a kind of [illegible]) so far as I know now there will be no compensation of any kind. But then time will tell I have a wonderful apetite [sic] and am getting fat.

                Now remember I wrote you before where I was promised work at the office here. Well the [illegible] keeper Mr. Sullivan from Wash D.C. (a very nice fellow and almost a pal of mine) came up one day to see if I could come and work in his office. I said sure I can do that and so he’d see the higher ups and so that draged [sic] and draged [sic] like all the rest finally I asked him one day and he said he didn’t know as they would be a general [illegible] up and a new program for next WEEK, and its been a new program every other day since just the other day I said I must do something or I’d be stuck here for life so he said don’t worry he is giving me hours same as if I’d work each but then that’s another promise. But will look into that pretty soon. Well things changes here so often & I went into the architects office and they showed us a new type of house they had figured out and drawned [sic] the plans that morning. So we changed our plans as they wished us to do so. Altho this new plan we really liked better but we [illegible] were discarded this morning. So we are left awaiting another New Deal next week that it all is about it keeps us guessing that I do know and can see by now we’ll never be able to pay even interest on our loan [illegible] Community bill by farming, and I don’t believe that that whatever were send up here to do [illegible] agreement reads to the Navy is in here now and army plants have been here most of the time and quite a sum of money is going to spent on airports and a lot of talk is going [illegible] a naval base, so I think it is all on account of fortification that we was here. Alaska is a big area with small population, so you see this is one way of populating Alaska we number over 1000 and 67 the stork is expected to bring before Oct 1st so far two babies have been born but three passed away as we had another death [illegible] since I wrote you last a [illegible] he was buried the 8th. [illegible] several scarlet fever cases on hand at present but none serious. These Wash D.C fellows at least got us better medical aid so now we have a frame hospital and any case that is more doubtful they are taken to Anchorage immediately. Believe me we were pretty muted up [illegible] there for a while and the kids don’t forget their cod liver oil either twice every day as I figured that a strong body was the best to fight the germs as we all have been exposed to all of them. So will sure feel lucky if we all pull thru.

                Oh no. Salmon! Wish you could be here for supper. Some fellows went fishing last nite and they brought two wash tubs full of salmon we had two of them and I know they were fresh. [line is cut off]

Gun, net, gaff hook or any other means.

                I have not my barrel and salt yet but we’ll get them this week and go and get my fish a years supply we are kind of fed up on the fresh fish but am just dying for some smoked and salt dish only wish we had some of our old potatoes so we could have baked potatoes. There Alaska spuds are like sugar soaked sponges hardly any starch at all mostly water. Will even if the spuds are not good we have nice red currants which are now ripe the Lingon ber. are red on one side and so are the High bush cranberries have not seen any ripe raspberries yet there are no wild strawberries here and have not heard or seen how the blueB are canning hear there are lots of them here. Wildflowers are sure plentiful the mts. are most beautiful now listening to the radio be quite [sic] every body! – must change my program too. Just heard over the radio the Matanuska news (our neighbor in the next tent have a radio going every nite and we hear it just as if it were in our tent. So we just heard Mr. Irwin returned for W.D.C. and then to New York and a Capt. Austin from the Navy is taking his place charge of the construction department and he promises us another new program honest every time I hear new program mentioned it just makes me laugh. Mostly all of the new leads are navy signal corps or army officers we have [illegible] less & radio communication to Wash D.C. now So it confirms me more that this is a fortification project more than any thing else. Well just as I was saying the Mts. are beautiful I am going to see some of them before I go back Alaska has its possibilities there’s no doubt about that. But one must wait and see yet for a while. This country is mostly not a pretty country for farms as the Valleys are rather [illegible. Line of text cut off]

Letter #19

Mrs. A. J. Morris



Dear [illegible]   

[illegible] Ogden Utah fun. [illegible] Plenty to eat. Children all fine. [illegible] is exciting so far. Not too crowded in cars. only nine people on. Just heard we stop 2 hrs. at Ogden. Pearl asked me to write.

                Pearl V.

Ben Vasanoja



                Sunday 7d M

Near Ogden Utah

[illegible]. Having a nice trip [illegible] OK [illegible] at frisco [illegible] 2 PM. [illegible] May 1st about 8 day only [illegible] . Well [illegible] more [illegible] Helloo [illegible]

Mrs. AJ. Morris

At. 1 Box 14

Cromwell, Minn.

Dear Aunt Sigrid

We are having a lot of fun but this train sooty. There are quite large [illegible] and [illegible] far off in the distance we are in [illegible]


Letter #20

Mr EB Vasanoja



4/16 -1935

Can you raise as [illegible]? I believe this picture was taken at Anchorage. But from where the vegetables came from I don’t know Anc looking the [illegible] of this [illegible] to say hour its going to turn [illegible]

Mrs. A.J. Morris



7/16 – 1935

[illegible] Helen is with getting some [illegible] work [illegible]. This is not so [illegible] much bigger than the picture shows all is well every body [illegible]

Mrs. E.B. Vasanoja



Palmer Ala

Dear Ben Helen [illegible] to say so not [illegible] her so an [illegible] send. [illegible] card of Palmer from the air this summer look. [illegible] much difference but hope to [illegible] shows from [illegible] 26th [illegible] above from now on [illegible] chimney now plenty to eat [illegible] left [illegible]

Letter #21

Dear Sigrid

Just left Omaha 5:40 AM Sat. stoped [sic] 1 hour. Rest were sleep I took children for a walk. We didn’t [illegible] until 4:30 P.M. [illegible] We had [illegible] @ ym [illegible] child. Y.N. [illegible] didn’t see anything of [illegible] do it [illegible] looks O.K. [illegible] in full Blossom kind to [illegible] train [illegible] train yesterday stoped [sic] almost at every stop. [illegible] now us more [illegible] all is O.K. until exciting, nice lunch from [illegible] some I know [illegible] is on too from Alaska will arrive Frisco. [illegible] 2:PM [illegible]

Mrs. A.J. Morris



Letter #22

This is the ship we came here on we are [illegible] in dock unloading all freight. The grown ups have privileged of going ashore. But the children [illegible] stay on board we are under quarantine for measles make here for a week. This is taken on dock at Seward the snow caped [sic] mts all around and the timber is spruce The name of the ship is St. Mihiel pronounced (My-heel) Michael) two ways [illegible]


Mr. E.B. Vasanoja



6/2 35

Dear Ben: you can look of this when you want to see snow we can see is from it here from most any place of the Valley [illegible]. It is about 200 miles away – the Highest point on the N. American continent.

                Seen my 40 and am very well satisfied with is almost like a table & not the hardest to clear either. Mostly spruce no brush. We are all well hop the same with you  very nice weather & 23 hrs of daylight. Getting to like this country more every day. Back is getting better too can go for long walks. Love [illegible]

Mrs. A.J. Morris



                Dear Sig: Here is a part view of out tent city. You can see part of Palmer station in the far right corner the warton P.O. doesn’t show it’s [illegible] of the last tent. You can also see how [illegible] the news rep & phogrs. Are note this is [illegible] a CCC camp it actually was put up for the colonists ad is so occupied now. These mt. is the Alaska Range north of Matanuska River & they are 16 miles away, do they look it? [illegible]

Letter #23

Dear Sigrid,

                I had to write because they said I was going to on the other side.

                I have been fishing salmon and trout. The salmon are no good any more. Daddy has ordered an 22 automatic rifle. I will go up in the mts. and shoot whistling pigs. It is starting to snow on the mts.

                They are digging the cellar for our house. They will be starting on our house pretty soon. We saw some goats on the mountains on Sunday. It is after nine, so I will have to quit.

                                                                                                With Love,



                We just heard thunder. The 3rd time this summer. They are not very frequent here. We have had several earthquakes, altho Helen & I have only felt one the same one Dorothy & [illegible] each felt a different one. That sure is a great feeling now hear the earth rumbling first then a few seconds later comes the shake it gives you a sort of spooky feeling when the dishes rattle in the cupard [sic]. The earthquakes are quite frequent therefore we have no brick chimney.

                Am making “saunan [illegible]” out of 2 gas barrels expect to have “sauna” in a couple weeks here are two so far been in each of them one is on the campground. [Illegible] go Pearl & Helen to write so I guess I’ll leave it to them. Maybe Laurence will finish the other side of this. Got back at 6:30 PM. [illegible] 5:A.M. moon is awful bright. North star is almost over head. Seems all at peace  -[illegible]

Letter #24

On Board St. Mihiel

(noon)     About 310 miles off Sitka, Alaska

Sunday May 5th 1935

Dear Brother,

                Though I’d start writing because we expect to land at Seward tomorrow nite about 5:PM, but we will have to stay on board ship maybe for 3 days. The Transients are going ahead [illegible] and [illegible] in there before  we go.

                The trip so far has been most wonderful the 1st day out was quite stormy and most people were seasick. [illegible] and myself are the only ones so far that haven’t been sick. Yesterday & day before was almost calm to day it [illegible] quite a bit there are large swells not really waves. Seen several kinds of fish in [illegible] two bunches of whales one was a real monster of [illegible]. We are taking a direct route from Frisco to Seward and haven’t seen land since the evening we left Frisco. I like San Francisco [illegible] and if I [illegible] in Alaska I’ll try to [illegible] in California some place. Most of the farms along the railroad either need cutting or hauling in their hay. I didn’t like the look of the prairies and that drought stricken area sure looked bad.

                 I don’t [illegible] what I have written & what not there has been so much to see, hear and so that half the time don’t know [illegible] what we are at   At San Francisco they sure gave us some welcome signs all over (Welcome Alaska Colonists) the city band, Mayor & chief of police met us at the depot and escorted us to our hotel they gave us sheet car tickets fruit & presents to the kids and again yesterday on board ship the captain & nurse dished out Brittle cake candy & presents to the kids. Some movies taken of the whole performance we have several news agents & Paramount Sound Move operator on board. When we left Frisco there must have been at least 8 movie cameras clicking and 50 newspaper camera men they snapt [sic] 3-4 pictures at the same time. Must have been some 3500 or 4000 people seeing us off mostly curiosity seekers and news paper men some day you may see us on the news [illegible] in mooring pictures. There are only two other Finns one is Matt [illegible] stepbrother to Frank [illegible] from Crom and the other is Oscar Kerttula he came from near Grand Rapids Itasea County. The bunch in general looks quite good and we have made friends with quite a few. This ship is a oil [illegible] making a least 17 knots an hour [illegible] have not inquired about its size but would judge it to be about 350 or 400 feet long about 6o feet wide. No guns on her although mess halls [illegible] are made for soldiers. Few sleeps in the staterooms but most have cots [illegible] high in [illegible] good cots to sleep in and we sure can sleep too, the food is fairly good but not like home cooking.

                Just went to look at the [illegible] report we traveled during the last 24 hrs 361 miles and have 468 miles yet to go we get a report every noon shows just how far we got—temperature of air and water [illegible] there will be another reception [illegible] to meet us at Seward, will write again when we kill a few mosquitos. Love from —[illegible]

Letter #26

Palmer, Alaska

Sept. 19th, 1935.

Dear Sig:

                I am glad you received the [illegible] O.K. was afraid that maybe they wouldn’t [illegible]. Its been so long since I wrote last I don’t remember what I have [illegible] is not so much to write about Helen I were at Anchorage Labor day. 2 days in all had a wonderful time and met some fine people.

                Have not written to the [illegible] either, but I may send them a line in the morning no. I am not such a good master of the Finnish language as you and Many others think as I write my letters in English and they [illegible] they sure like my writing have had several requests for more. But I am not getting anything except the paper and I don’t read that very much.

                 [illegible] might start building our house this week. At present they are digging the cellar. Its getting pretty cold notes but we are O.K. in our tent we have [illegible] so we have fire all night. Am going to move our tent to the homesite this next Sunday here are only 8 families left from 32 at camp and most of them will be going next Sunday and all expect to be in their homes by Oct. 10th although the houses [illegible] be finished they will be [illegible].

                Some of the furniture are coming in every day now although our [illegible] to be shipped until Oct 5th But there is going to be a long shoremans strike Oct 11th so they are asking every thing in before [illegible].

                Will I must say that I am convinced that things can be grown in Alaska. I have seen the most wonderful head lettuce parsnip carrots cabbage etc. & flowers only they don’t seem to grow until August. Can you imagine the haying starts right now and won’t be done for a week yet. They don’t do any fall planting here.

                I am getting more & more stuck on Alaska and feel that I am here for good all ready the kids like it too. Our kids go to school at Matanuska and others are tutored at home until our school will be built they just started on that today: The hospital is coming rite along and will be finished in another couple weeks hope to get some help for my back then so they will have all [illegible].

                Can’t think of any thing else the kids are growing and are in the best of health Maralyn has gotten her [illegible] all fixed [illegible]. Marcella wants to show you what she has learned in school all ready you must turn in so she turned the sheet. Now she says she didn’t know it was upside down. [illegible] trying to make the girls write it [illegible] hard for them to write they all say they don’t [illegible] write. Hopefully they write something anyways. Say hello to [illegible] is she is [illegible]

                                                                                Love from all of us,