Story Time w/ Aunt Phil: History in the Valley
In this week’s story time with Aunt Phil, author Laurel Downing Bill talked about the history in the Valley.
Many Alaskans enjoy living in the beautiful Matanuska Valley, an area that is seeing continual growth. In the early 1930s, Governor John Weir Troy had big plans for developing the Mat-Su.
Troy, who governed Alaska from 1933 to 1939, believed that a larger population and more and better roads would help the Territory achieve statehood. He advocated for more people to come north to farm in the Matanuska Valley or to search for gold in surrounding areas because he thought those people would eventually go to work in the public sector. That increase in population would make markets for agricultural products, timber and other resources of the Territory.
When Troy was appointed governor in 1933, Alaskans heaved a collective sigh of relief. Alaskan's thought Troy, who came to Alaska during the Klondike gold rush in 1897, knew what to do to make Alaska stronger.
Born in Washington state, he sailed for Skagway to find his fortune after hearing about gold nuggets in the north. But instead, the 29-year-old found work hauling gold seekers over the mountains and waterways into Whitehorse. After the gold fever subsided, he became editor of the Skagway Daily Alaskan. When it folded, he moved to Juneau and became editor of the Daily Alaska Empire, which he soon purchased and ran for 27 years.
Troy had mined, mushed, trapped and fished with the masses. He'd been rich and poor, and he'd lived through hardships and knew about luxury. Governor "Johnny" was a true Alaskan through and through.
He saw the success of the Matanuska Colonization Project as a first step to adding population to the Territory and, along with the Alaska Railroad, causing people in other areas of Alaska to think about agriculture. He believed that agricultural colonies should be established in other parts of Alaska.
Alaskans believed in his vision that a large, permanent population would help Alaska become a state instead of just a territory of Uncle Sam's.
Had Troy not been forced to leave his position as the Territory's governor in 1939 because of illness, more colonization projects might have dotted Alaska's landscape during the 1940s.
Although he died in Juneau in 1942, at the age of 73, his dream of statehood finally was achieved 20 years after he stepped down as governor when Alaska officially became a state in 1959.
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