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The First Homesteaders in Alaska

When the 1862 Homestead Act was extended to Alaska in 1898, veterans had special rights to obtain homesteads faster than the normal homesteading requirements. As early as 1901, some veterans were selling their rights to homesteads to fish companies who then received homestead patents in coastal areas of Alaska.

The first 2 patents made for homesteads in Alaska under authority of the 1862 Homestead Act were both issued on June 28, 1901 for fishing companies:

  • Sailor Fishing and Mining Company – for under one acre ( .69 acres) on the tip of an island in Southeast Alaska. The land had been assigned by Argalous T. Cooper, who appears to have been a military veteran and able to use his service as the basis for getting a homestead.
  • Thin Point Packing Company – for 20 acres, with this land also likely an assignment of a military veteran.

By 1903-1908, a few Alaska homesteads were patented to people who apparently actually met the 1862 Homestead Act requirements of living on the land for most of five years, building a habitable dwelling, and cultivating a portion of the claim.

  • First Man who had rights to an Alaska homestead: This destinction may go to William J. Abbott. Abbott assigned his rights to a 9.92-acre homestead on the Kvichak River about 270 miles west of Anchorage, to the Horse Shoe Fishing and Mining Company. The company received a patent to the land under the 1862 Homestead Act on February 27, 1901. Abbott was probably a military veteran, which is why he could have received his rights prior to that date.
  • First Women who had rights to an Alaska homestead: Three orphaned sisters, Mary Belle, Carrie Irene, and Lillian Dee, inherited rights to their deceased father James H. Sackett’s 29.72-acre homestead on Taku Inlet, about 20 miles southeast from Juneau. On Jan. 13, 1908, the sisters assigned the land to the Northwest Fisheries Company.

Last Homesteaders in Alaska

Smith Homestead near Big Delta, Alaska 1984Elizabeth M. Smith.







Last female homesteader in Alaska

The distinction of being Alaska’s and America’s last female homesteader to receive a homestead requiring cultivation of the land, goes to Elizabeth M. Smith. She received a homestead patent on Oct. 18, 1984 for 116.32 acres of land near Big Delta, Alaska. She was among a group of 10 homesteaders, including her son William J. Smith, who filed adjoining homestead claims in 1974 on land west of the Richardson Highway. All received patents to their homesteads in 1984, with Elizabeth Smith the only woman in the group. All people who got homesteads later in Alaska were men.

Mrs. Smith was feture in an article from the Journal Star. Read it!

Deardorff homestead near Lime Village 1988







Last male homesteader in Alaska and in the U.S.

The distinction of being Alaska’s last male homesteader, and the last homesteader in the entire nation to receive a homestead requiring cultivation of the land, goes to Kenneth W. Deardorff. He received a homestead patent on May 5, 1988 to 49.97 acres of land on the Stony River near Lime Village in southwestern Alaska. He filed his homestead claim in 1974, but its remoteness caused delays in his receiving patent to the land until the spring of 1988.

Last Successful Homestead Claimed 

Although Kenneth W. Deardorff received the last homestead patent awarded in the USA to a person who had personally fulfilled requirements of the 1862 Homestead Act, he was not the last person to apply for a homestead and then get it. Clark R. Milne, of Alaska, received the second-most recent homestead patent on June 19, 1987. However, he had applied for a homestead on Aug. 19, 1980, thus over six years after Mr. Deardorff filed for his homestead. The timing of Milne’s homestead patent being awarded earlier than Deardorff’s was due to Milne’s homestead being surveyed earlier than Deardorff’s. Both are in relatively remote, road-less areas of Alaska, with Milne’s located southwest of Nenana, Alaska. Survey crews happened to be scheduled for Milne’s area before Deardorff’s. Had it been otherwise, Milne would have been credited as America’s last homesteader.


Yearly Statistics for Homesteads Patented in Alaska Pre-1905 to 1961
Read the History of Homesteading in Alaska Brochure!
History of Alaska Homesteading Brochure
Download print version

Archaeology Month Poster- Celebrating the History of Homesteading

Check out this year's Archaeology Month Poster
Homesteading in Alaska 1898-1988

For more information contact:
Alaska State Office
Bureau of Land Management
222 W. 7th Ave., Unit 13
Anchorage, AK 99513
Public Room: 907-271-5960
FAX: 907-271-3684