The lake on Every homestead

Apr 29, 2020

Marilyn Every is hoping to officially name the lake on her family's homestead in Nikiski.
Credit Kenai Peninsula Borough

Monday would have been Marilyn and Hank Every’s 68th wedding anniversary. Hank died in 2014, but the day still brought a commemoration of their life together, the last 58 years spent on a lake in Nikiski, which is now a step closer to bearing their name.

“He wanted to name it Lake Marilyn after me. But you have to be gone five years before they’ll even consider naming it after somebody, so we just decided to use our family name,” Marilyn said.

Marilyn submitted a proposal to the Alaska Historical Commission to name it Every Lake. The commission agreed and the proposal now goes to the federal level. If it’s approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Every Lake will appear on official U.S. Geological Survey maps.

The Everys moved to Alaska in 1956 and Hank worked at For Richardson in Anchorage. They wanted to homestead but were just a little too lake. When Alaska became a state in 1959, land was no longer available to be claimed for homesteads. The only way you could get a homestead was if someone relinquished one. The Everys tried for a few parcels in Palmer, but those fell through. They got to know some people in Kenai who put them in touch with Norman Geiser, who was relinquishing their claim on a homestead in Nikiski just west of Bishop Creek.

The Everys got the parcel in 1962, bordered on the southeast corner by a long, beautiful lake, where they made their home. The parcel is now bisected by the Kenai Spur Highway but at the time, there was no road access.

As was often the practice for homesteaders, Hank went back to work in Anchorage during the week and Marilyn and the kids stayed on the homestead.

“Of course, there wasn’t any jobs back then,” she said. “He stayed up in Anchorage and worked at Fort Rich and he’d come down on weekends. And the road ended at Daniels Lake, so I was five miles from the road with no telephone, no electricity, no running water. … I moved down here in March of ’62 with a 6-week-old baby, a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old and was left here all by myself all week long.”

The family became commercial fishermen, with set-net sites along Cook Inlet.

“And we’ve been fishing so long that we have grandchildren and great-grandchildren that are still commercial fishing. Our original ones are at Boulder Point but we also have the ones on each side of the dock there at Nikiski,” Marilyn said.

Hank was one of the founding members of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. The family used to order their dry goods from Kenai Packers.

“They’d come out in a big four-by-four. And we’d buy enough groceries to last almost the year long — canned goods and powdered milk and canned milk and all that stuff,” she said.

Of the couple’s six kids, one has a house on the old homestead and two others live in the area. Marilyn is pretty modest about the family, saying the family wwasn’t known for much outside being fishermen for so long. But when it came time to gather letters of the support for her petition, she found plenty of people to speak on their behalf

“I said our biggest problem was we’re so old that most of our friends have passed away,” Marilyn said. “But I did get Tom Wagoner, he used to be a senator. And then a lady in Kenai that’s taught at the high school that we’ve known since the day, practically, that they came to Alaska. I got about a half dozen real nice letters.”

The timeline for review by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names is up in the air, given impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. But a representative of the Alaska Historical Commission says it usually takes at least a couple of months. Marilyn says she’s been living on that lake for 58 years so a little bit longer won’t bother her.