The Matanuska Colony was one such project that moved 201 families from the cutover region of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to the Matanuska Valley in Alaska. The cutover region was known for the devastation caused by lumber companies who totally cleared all the timber in the area. Many families in this area were completely destitute. When word of the project got out, thousands of families wrote to the White House pleading for the opportunity to go to Alaska. When the Matanuska Valley Colony project was approved in March 1935, it was decided that only families from this cutover region would be selected, partially due to the similarity in climate conditions as well as farming styles to the Matanuska Valley. Investigative case workers reviewed thousands of families and selected colonists on the “basis of vigor, self-reliance, familiarity with hardships and hard work, and their adaptability to climate conditions” (Williams Collection Letter from Harry Hopkins to John N. Garner, President of the Senate June 24, 1935). These families were also selected due to their pioneer-like spirit as well as their supposed interest in a new life. In May 1935 two shipments of families headed to Alaska; the federal government paid for their transportation as well as 2000 pounds of their personal goods to be shipped to Palmer, Alaska. Alongside the families the government sent transient workers from California to help build the colony alongside the colonists.
When visiting the town of Palmer it is instantly noticeable the connection the residents have to their history. "Pioneer" is used at every corner; the Pioneer Cafe, Pioneer Gas, etc. Each year the town has a celebration called Pioneer Days where they honor the pioneers of the valley. Today only three original colonists remain. In the center of town is their historic district where they have a beautiful garden that showcases many flowers as well as their giant vegetables. Their community center holds a museum of the colonists showing artifacts of the early colony. Throughout the downtown area many original buildings still remain. The school and dormitory as well as the post office and trading post have all been restored and reused in various ways. The town's creamery is still in tact but in need of much love and attention. The surrounding area around the small town of Palmer is mainly still farmland, and even though there are no more 40 acre plots that the colonists were used to, many families have made their homes in Palmer. The Matanuska Valley Colony was only the beginning for those who have made a home in the valley, and today Palmer rests as the heart of the valley in displaying its rich history and a promise for its future.