In 1962 the federal government provided an opportunity for a man and his family to stake up to 160 acres in Alaska. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) identified acreage that was compatible for growing an agricultural product and with access to markets. In exchange for the land you were required to file your paperwork, clear 40 of the 160 acres, and plant and harvest a crop. A habitable dwelling was required to be constructed as well as a rule that you must “live on the land.”
My wife and I purchased our homestead, one of these original tracts of BLM land, near the town of Talkeetna, from the Freeman Estate in 2000. One day we found an old yellow tool box sitting on a 1942 caterpillar dozer and discovered a name tag which read, Jack Warden. My friends and I were making an effort to bring the “old cat” back to life. We said, “If old Jack were here now what story would he tell?” I later learned that Jack Warden staked the homestead in 1962 after landing here in his Citabria floatplane. He ended up building a 12×12 log cabin with a flat roof. We had to wonder why he chose a flat roof . . . and vertical log construction.
A local pilot told me Jack Warden used to fly out of Talkeetna, was now retired and living in Homer. I called the Homer operator and suddenly the name on the tool box had a voice. I got Jack on the phone and this was his story…
Jack came to Alaska in 1962 with a dream to become a missionary pilot. He learned of the homestead opportunity and got a map from the BLM. Jack then flew to an unnamed lake where he landed and staked his wilderness paradise—160 acres with a 33 acre lake completely surrounded by the property boundaries. While camped by the lake he began constructing the habitable dwelling. One night he stepped into the cool evening air and heard the voice of the Lord say, “Jack, preach the Gospel.” Jack asked if he could finish the cabin and did not receive an answer . . . thus the flat roof. That fall Jack left for Bible school.
Jack sold the homestead “improvements” to Gordon Freeman. The Freeman family pursued the patent, and received it after the survey was completed in 1964.
Jack went on to the Assembly of God Bible School in Minnesota, returning to Alaska in 1964. He replaced the pastor of the Assembly of God Church in Valdez who had been killed in the tidal wave of the 1964 earthquake. Jack spent the rest of his working years flying and preaching throughout Alaska.
Gordon Freeman told me Jack’s dream was “to have a lawn with children playing by the lake.” That dream has come to pass.
The lake is known as Freeman Lake, and the hill just to the southwest end of the lake is known as Jack Warden’s Hill.
Yukon Don came to Chugiak Alaska with pioneer parents in 1959 and graduated from Chugiak High School in 1968. He served in the US Navy from 1969-1972, touring 13 countries in Africa on a Navy Destroyer while deployed to the Middle East. Until recently he owned and operated Tanner & Sons Electric, Yukon Don’s B&B Inn, and Tanner’s Trading Post with his wife Beverly. He is a certified pilot, diver, naturalist, chaplain, loss control professional, and investigator currently employed with Matanuska Electric Association, Inc. He has hunted, fished, and adventured all around Alaska for 50 years including a 2000 mile trip down the Yukon River in 1980.
More articles about Alaska adventures and history by Yukon Don Tanner:
Launching A Dream – Yukon River Adventures pt. 1
On The River – Yukon River Adventures pt. 2
The Conclusion – Yukon River Adventures pt. 3
Subscribe to Last Frontier Magazine and request part 1-3 of Yukon Don’s Yukon River Adventures!