Crusty old Joe's

Kodiak Alaska Military History

The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum

Chiniak History

Historical excerpts of the Chiniak Area Comprehensive Plan May 1987
The Dictionary of Alaska Place Names (1971) contains the following entry for Chiniak:

"Former Eskimo Village reported by Ivan Petroff in the 1880 Census."
Prior to World War II, there were only trails from the Olds River to Chiniak. In 1942, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the present road and were the architects of the rather complex military installations scattered throughout Chiniak. Actual construction of the entire complex was done by civilians working round-the-clock. According to Hank Eaton, who was in the Quarter Master Corps and responsible for the daily ration reports, there were between 7,500 and 8,000 Army Troops stationed at the Kodiak complex.

In the early 1950's, the Alaska Road Commission and the Bureau of Public Roads maintained a small camp just south of Frank Creek to help work the roads leading to Chiniak and Pasagshak. Towards the late 1960's, Smokey Stover was the foreman of the road camp and the crew included Jim Garoutte, Ray Monigold and Leigh Niblock.

In 1954, the U.S. Naval Security Group (Communications Security) moved from Bells Flats to Chiniak (Little Navy). Enlisted men built the log cabin on Chiniak Lake during their off-hours as a recreation cabin.

In 1956, the U.S. Naval Station Kodiak personnel and their families were allowed to occupy the quonset huts adjacent to the Miller Field recreation area.

Also in 1956. the U.S. Air Force started construction of the Advance [sic] Communication and Warning Site. Two years later, it was decided to convert the AC & W Site to a deep [sic] space tracking station. The mission of the Tracking Station was to collect and record tracking and telemetry data.

In 1960. the Tracking Station became operational. It was provided technical and maintenance support by 121 civilians. Two (2) U.S. Air Force officers performed the command function. None of these men were allowed to have their families in Chiniak.

On March 27, 1964 an 8.6 (Richter Scale) earthquake and tsunami hit Alaska and Kodiak. The N.E. end of Kodiak Island sank 5 1/2 feet. The Chiniak Road was virtually impassable. Naval families could not get to their recreation quonsets. so the Tracking Station personnel took advantage of this and chartered sea planes to fly their families in and started occupying the quonsets.

In 1965, the U.S. Navy ordered all families out of the quonset area. Later that year, the village of Chiniak was born. The only families living on the road system at that time were Omar Stratman at Mile 30, Jake Blank and Clayton Parker at Mile 36; Dave Henley had workers living at his sawmill at Mile 36.2 (the current Lucas residence); Gale & Hope Carrithers at Mile 40; and Walt Dixon at Mile 42. The Carrither' s place was the first patented property on the Chiniak Road.

In 1969, the Hudson's Electric Company started serving the community. Dave Hudson owned and operated the business. He was assisted by Steve Alvine, wbo did much of the maintenance work. At it's peak, Hudson's Electric sold power to 55 customers. This service was discontinued on July 1, 1974.

In May 1970, the Cross Country Race from Miller Field to the Harbor Masters Building in Kodiak was added to tbe Kodiak King Crab Festival's activities. This first race was won by Chad Ogden, a high-school aged Chiniak resident. Chad died that summer and the race was subsequently named the Chad Ogden Memorial Race. Also that summer, Spahn's Snack Bar General Store and Gas Station opened for business at the Cliff House at Mile 42.

In August 1971, Chiniak's first permanent Grade School was born. Two double-wide trailers were installed across from where the current community library stands at Mile 41 with an enrollment of 35 students. Ivan Gilliam and Moonyeen Lindholm were among the first teachers. Since 1965, school had been conducted at the Little Green Scbool House located at Little Navy. Fred Zharoff, one of the first teachers, taught there for three years, followed by Sally McCall and Ivan Gilliam.

In September 1971, John Morse of the Chiniak Tracking Station started the first Boy Scout Troop in Chiniak with 9 local boys. The Chiniak Home and School Association held its first meeting and Donna O'Neil was elected the first Chairperson. The primary purpose of this association was to raise money to improve the condition and uses of the school. The Chiniak Home and School Association provided support for the school by supplying library books and carpeting for the school floor.

Later that Fall, school bus service was started. Jack Durham of Mile 35 was the first bus driver.

In November of 1971, the Chiniak Advisory School Board was formed with Bob Snyder, Mildred Walker and John Morse as members. The Chiniak Volunteer Fire Department was also formed, with 37 volunteers. Total equipment included an old boat trailer (to haul 30 lb. CO2 bottles), a siren mounted on a pole at Bob Spahn's. CB radios and personal vehicles. Dutch Myers was elected Chief, Bill Kirk Secretary/Treasurer, and Don Cable Training Officer.

In the summer of 1972, the Kalsin Bay Road Maintenance Station, operated by the State of Alaska, opened as a permanent camp. Ernie Simmons was the first resident operator of the camp. He was joined by Floyd Case in October. Up until this time, Emerald Maintenance Company serving the Tracking Station had voluntarily. helped to maintain the road from Mile 20.

In the Fall of 1972, Chiniak became a voting precinct. This was due largely to the efforts of Sharon Ogden, who had worked in Governor Egan's Office. The first voting Judges were Millie Walker, Leatress Kirk. and Vickey Mackey.

In 1973. Hopper's Liquor Store opened at Mile 42.

In March 1975, the U.S. Air Force announced that the Tracking Station would be closed. Most of the families were gone by fall, although a few stayed until the following summer, charged with the task of closing and inventorying the station, Closure of the Tracking Station resulted in approximately $5.5 million in annual savings to the Air Force. After the Air Force announcement that the Tracking Station would be closed, the Department of Defense declared the installation (buildings and property) excess to its needs. Of the residents that remained in Chiniak some became self-employed in seasonal construction and fishing industries and some obtained full-time jobs in the City of Kodiak. This is very similar to the current employment patterns that exist in Chiniak.

Leisnoi, Inc., acquired control of the excess real and personal property of the Tracking Station on December 30, 1975. Sometime later Shelikof Net established a crab pot construction business at the Tracking Station. The business lasted about 1 year.

At the Borough election held in the fall of 1977, the Chiniak Advisory School Board was reestablished. John Lucas, Crystal Ranney and Geno Gurerro were elected to serve.

On April 29, 1979, Lesnoi, Inc. was given interim conveyance to the tracking station. That fall, the Chiniak Community Project replaced tbe Chiniak Home and School Association. Judy Lucas, Verda Koning and Teresa Stone served on the first board of directors.

In 1982, the Chiniak Comprehensive Planning Committee, including the Pattersons, Stones, Penningtons, Lucases, Crowleys, and others, held its first meeting at the home of John and Judy Lucas. Subsequently, more than twelve planning meetings were held in order to develop the draft Chiniak Area Plan. It was submitted to the Borougb Assembly on April 7, 1983. The Assembly sent it back to the committee for further work and revision. No further action was taken.

On New Year's Eve, December 31, 1982, the Road's End Bar opened at the home of Ernie and Dotty Hopper, located at Mile 42.

On January 21, 1984, the dedication of the new Chiniak School facility took place. This structure was the culmination of years of hard work by many individuals. The community obtained a direct appropriation from the Alaska State Legislature, late in the session of 1982, and construction of this 8,100 square foot building began in the spring of 1983. Along with a 720 square foot generator/water treatment building, the school is mainly comprised of two large classrooms, a learning resource center, multi-functional kitchen and a large multipurpose gymnasium. The 1986 enrollment at the Chiniak School was about thirty children.

In 1984, spearheaded by Anne Salzer, the Chiniak Public Library was established in the former school building. The Library features a collection of over 4,500 books. An Apple lIe computer is available for public use and the library provides a limited selection of entertainment and utility software. The Library also provides access to the State Library System and the State Film Library through a microfiche catalog. From time to time the Library provides story hours, young people's programs and films for family entertainment. The Library is operated by community volunteers and is open ten hours per week. The Library is also used as a community meeting hall.

In the spring of 1985, the Chiniak Volunteer Emergency Medical System (EMS) was officially established. Teresa Stone and Deborah Walser are certified EMTs serving the area from Middle Bay to Chiniak including Pasagshak. They work in cooperation with the Kodiak Fire Department.

* Thanks to Chiniak resident, Bill Kirk, for his efforts in largely preparing this section of the Plan. Additional information was submitted by Vince Walser, other planning committee members, and obtained from Source! (bibliography) .

This document is based on one at the Kodiak Island Borough website. (link updated 7 April 2015)

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Main index         This page created 26 May 2005, minor corrections 3 June 2010, 7 April 2015