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The History of Palmer, Alaska

A Guide to Modern Palmer, Alaska

(Click on the photo to enlarge it)

Photo of the musk ox farm at Palmer, Alaska.     Palmer is located in the center of the lush farmlands of the Matanuska Valley, 42 miles northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. It lies at approximately 61 36' N Latitude, 149 06' W Longitude (Sec. 04, T017N, R002E, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Palmer Recording District. The area encompasses 4 sq. miles of land and 0 sq. miles of water.

    Palmer was established around 1916 as a railway station on the Matanuska Branch of the Alaska Railroad. In 1935, Palmer became the site of one of the most unusual experiments in American history: the Matanuska Valley Colony. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, one of the many New Deal relief agencies created by President Roosevelt, planned an agricultural colony in Alaska. 203 families, mostly from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, were invited to join the colony. They arrived in Palmer in the early summer of 1935. Although the failure rate was high, many of their descendants still live in the Mat-Su Valley today. For much more information about the project, see the ExploreNorth article, "The Matanuska Colony".

    Construction of the statewide road system, and the rapid development of Anchorage fueled growth in the Mat-Su valley. Many people in Palmer today commute to jobs in Anchorage, either by road or rail.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

Photograph is © 1999-2010 by Murray Lundberg.

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development