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Kenai Conversation: Soldotna's homesteading history

Mullen patent.JPG
Sabine Poux
/
KDLL
Marge Mullen with her family's homesteading patent.

It has been 72 years since Frank Mullen went door to door collecting data on the individuals and families putting down roots on the western Kenai Peninsula for the 1950 Census. That means for the first time — per the U.S. Census Bureau's 72-year rule — we can go through that data and get a more detailed sense of who was here at the time.

The era captured in this data was a period of growth for Soldotna in particular, where homesteaders started arriving three years prior.

To get a better snapshot of what Soldotna was like for those early homesteaders, we interviewed Al Hershberger, 96, and Marge Mullen,102. They both arrived on the Kenai Peninsula in 1947.

We also interviewed Clam Gulch historian Brent Johnson, whose family arrived on the central Kenai Peninsula in the 1950s.

On the program, we play excerpts from those interviews and parse through the data with historian Clark Fair. Take a listen.

Thanks to Al Hershberger and Adam Dunstan from Kenai Peninsula College for tracking down photos for this episode. You can find more photos from the college's photo repository here.

Check out data from the 1950 Census here.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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