Palmer, Alaska History

Nestled in the mountains, at the heart of Matanuska Valley, is the small town of Palmer. With a population of roughly 6,000 people, its located 42 miles northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. Named after George W. Palmer who built a trading post near the Matanuska River in the early 1890’s, Palmer offers a unique history and heritage.

In 1935 under President Roosevelt’s new deal, the Matanuska colony was established to aid in the depressed states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Giving relief to the Iron Range region, 203 families were chosen to colonize Palmer. The applicants were picked for their knowledge of farming which led to Palmer being the only Alaskan community originating from an agricultural lifestyle.

The colonists arrived by train and ship, and lived in a tent community their first summer. This deal was a government funded loan to those selected to move to Alaska and farm a tract of land. Lots were drawn for the 40-acre parcels for each family to farm.

Now, skipping ahead almost 85 years there are 20 of those original families still farming in the Palmer area today and providing produce to be purchased in the local grocery stores. The Alaska State Fair showcases the giant vegetables that the fertile valley land generates. Palmer offers a rich history of dedication to its natural resources.

Today the pedestrian friendly downtown Palmer offers a quaint hometown feel. There are locally owned shops, boutiques, farmers market, artists, music, books and a Palmer History Museum with a stunning display of flowers.

Come experience the unique heritage of Palmer, Alaska and above all the breathtaking beauty.