Seldovia is a small community of approximately 260 people on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska. Another 150 people live in the surrounding area. Occupied for thousands of years, the Seldovia Bay area was a meeting and trading place for the Kodiak Koniaqs, the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq from the Aleutian Islands, the Chugach people from Prince William Sound, and the Dena’ina people of Cook Inlet. Russians arrived in the late 1700s, establishing a trading post and a church. With the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867, European-Americans arrived, particularly Scandinavians, drawn by Seldovia’s rich fisheries and other natural resources. All these traditions infuse the culture of modern Seldovia.
Once the largest community in the area, Seldovia was known as “the boardwalk town” for its elevated town center along the beach, filled with busy canneries and other commercial enterprises. But in the mid-20th century, Seldovia underwent several tremendous upheavals in a short span of time. A new highway was built that connected the community of Homer, on the opposite side of Kachemak Bay, to the Alaska road system, pulling commerce and families away from Seldovia. The fisheries economy largely collapsed, and the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake caused the land to subside several feet, flooding waterfront properties and the boardwalk during high tides. The waterfront, which was also the business district, was demolished and the beach was buried under a seawall, completely changing the face of the community.
Today, Seldovia survives as a smaller, quieter town, depending largely on local government, commercial fishing and tourism for its economy. Modern Seldovia culture is strongly influenced by both Alaska Native and European-American traditions. Seldovia remains relatively isolated, accessible only by boat or small plane, and most of the families who make their home here can trace their roots back several generations in this little village by the sea. Although life here can be challenging, Seldovia is a community of people who are reluctant to leave.
The Seldovia Project Jukebox contains recordings of oral histories collected by Jan Yaeger for the Seldovia Village Tribe’s oral history project, In Our Own Words. In Our Own Words was funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and designed to capture Seldovia’s stories and history as remembered by the community and tribal elders who remember Seldovia as it was in its heyday. The Jukebox was completed in 2015 and 2016 by Lisa Krynicki and Karen Brewster of the Oral History Program at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Andy Anderson was born in 1946 and raised on a farm in southern Illinois. In 1964, at age 16, he moved to Seldovia, Alaska where his brother was already living. He worked in the canneries and as a commercial fisherman, before becoming the community's chief of police in 1979. He also did construction work in Anchorage, ran tug and diving boats in Cook Inlet, and was a heavy equipment operator on the North Slope. Andy retired from the Seldovia police department in 2011, after serving for 32... Read More
Laurel Baird was born in 1949 to Nellie Lena Anderson Olssen and Lawrence Olssen, and grew up in Seldovia, Alaska. Her father was a fisherman of Swedish heritage, arriving in Seldovia in 1912. Her mother was from Chignik, Alaska and was of Russian and Alutiiq/Sugpiaq heritage. In 1959, the family moved to Kodiak, Alaska for a few years as her father followed the fish. Laurel was gone from Seldovia from 1965 to 1980. Laurel is a member of the Seldovia Native Association. She remembers growing... Read More
|Joseph "Josie" Carlough||
Joseph "Josie" Carlough is Alutiiq and was born in 1933 in Portlock/Port Chatham, Alaska, thirty miles down the coast from Seldovia. His family moved into Seldovia when he was nine years old after a fire destroyed the Portlock community. From the age of one year old, Josie was raised by his mother, after his father was killed in an accident while working on a pile driver. His mother was from Port Graham, Alaska and his father from the Lower-48. Josie grew up in Seldovia and spent his life... Read More
Alta Colberg moved with her family from Seattle, Washington to Seldovia, Alaska in 1936, when she was a young girl. She married John Colberg, a local man, and raised her six children in Seldovia. Alta and her husband owned and operated the Linwood Bar for many years, a popular Seldorvia eatery. Alta was a member of the Hospital Guild, which raised funds to purchase equipment for Seldovia’s hospital. She served on the Seldovia City Council during the “Urban Renewal” period after the 1964... Read More
|Louis "Lou" Collier||
Louis "Lou" Collier was born in eastern Washington. In 1948, shortly after graduating high school, he came to Seldovia, Alaska working as a cook on a salmon tender boat out of Seattle. He served in the military in Korea for two years and returned to Seldovia in 1953. Since then, Lou has served on the Seldovia City Council and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly when it first formed in the 1960s, was project manager for six years of the Urban Renewal Program after Seldovia was devastated by... Read More
Darlene Crawford grew up in Seward, Alaska and moved to Seldovia in 1959. She worked at the Wakefield Cannery as an accountant in the 1960s, as the city clerk treasurer for six years, and at the Seldovia Native Association from 1975 until 2007. She also has served on the city council and as mayor, and operated a shop selling ceramics. Currently, she is chairman of the Seldovia Arts Council, is treasurer for Seldovia Bible Chapel, and runs a small wedding and event photography business (... Read More
John Crawford is Alaska Native and was born at a trapping camp on the Kuskokwim River near McGrath, Alaska. In 1939, his family moved to Anchorage, and in 1945 they moved to Seldovia, when John was about nine years old. His father found a job working on a fish tender boat. Eventually, he bought his own boat and started fishing and working in the tender fleet. John graduated from high school in Seldovia in 1955. He was involved with establishment of the Seldovia Native Association in the... Read More
Fred Elvsaas was born in Seldovia, Alaska in 1933 to Agnes Ponchene Elvsaas and Herman Elvsaas. His father was originally from Norway and his mother was from Kodiak. Fred grew up in Seldovia, with the family moving to Hoen's Spit in the summertime where his mother had a large garden. Fred worked as a commercial fisherman. He played an active role in the establishment of the Seldovia Native Association (SNA) after the 1972 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and served as the organization's... Read More
Originally from Illinois, Shirly Giles came to Seldovia, Alaska in April 1963 with her husband who had already been living in the community. Shirly raised four children in Seldovia and worked at and helped run the library for many years. As a long time resident, Shirly has been active in many aspects of community life and has seen how Seldovia has changed through the years.
John Gruber was born and raised in Seldovia, Alaska. His family history in the community goes back to the late 1800's, with his great-grandparents on his mother's side, Adam Bloch and Eliza Balashoff. His grandmother, Susan B. English, was born in Seldovia in 1904, and his mother, Cecelia "Midge" English, was born there in 1929. His father, Bob Gruber, came to Seldovia in the 1950's as a pilot with Inlet Airways, based out of Homer, Alaska, and met and married Midge. In 1960, Bob Gruber took... Read More
|Carl Lindstedt, Jr.||
Carl Lindstedt, Jr. was born in 1946 and grew up in Seldovia, Alaska. His father, originally from Sweden, fished for cod in the Bering Sea before settling in Seldovia where he continued to fish and also work in the store in the winter. His mother came to Seldovia from Washington state. Carl's father was co-owner of the original Linwood Bar, with the Lin in the name being from Lindstedt. Carl followed in his father's footsteps and became a commercial fisherman.
Walter McInnes was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1931 to Bertha Hazel Andrew and Walter McInnes. He was raised in Colchester, Ontario, a village-type community near Windsor. Walter first came to Alaska in 1949 as a sailor aboard a cruise ship in southeastern Alaska. He attended Central Technical School in Toronto, Canada, where he learned to be a radio operator, and in the 1950s worked in the Canadian Arctic building the mid-Canada and DEW-line radar defense systems. In 1959, Walter... Read More
|Michael "Mike" Miller||
Michael "Mike" Miller was born in 1941 to Richard "Dick" and Grace Miller. The family moved to Seldovia in 1945, when Mike was four years old, after his father got a job as a bush pilot flying for Harry White whose business was based out of Kenai. After he stopped flying around 1951, Dick Miller became a police officer in Seldovia. He died of cancer in 1956, so Grace moved her family back to California where they had lived before coming to Alaska. Mike was fifteen years old and proceeded to... Read More
Clara Moonin is of Aleut and Indian descent and was born in 1956 in English Bay, Alaska (it is now known as Nanwalek). Her father, Alexander Moonin, was born in English Bay, and her mother Margaret Ukatish Moonin was born in Portlock, Alaska. Clara and her five siblings grew up living in English Bay, Port Graham, and Seldovia. Her father and mother worked in the canneries, and her father also was a commercial fisherman. While Clara was growing up, the Russian Orthodox church was an important... Read More
Doug Pieren was born in Palmer, Alaska in 1943. His grandparents came to Alaska in 1934 and homesteaded in the Palmer/Wasilla area. His parents met in Wasilla, when his father was in the Army. Doug spent part of his youth in Oregon, before returning to Alaska and coming to Seldovia for the first time in 1962. His step-father, Harley Ekren, and his mother operated the Ekren Cannery at Kasitsna Bay from 1955 to 1975. Doug worked in the Ekren and other canneries, served in the Army, and settled... Read More
|Dr. Larry Reynolds||
In 1974, Dr. Larry Reynolds came to Seldovia, Alaska from California, and started a medical practice. He provided general family practice and obstetrics care in Seldovia, as well as has had medical privileges at the hospital in Homer, across Kachemak Bay. In the early years, he flew patients back and forth and did his rounds in his 1946 Stinson airplane. Larry is an avid backcountry skier, who has spent many weeks every winter camping and skiing in the remote mountains near Seldovia. He and... Read More
|Hugh Q. Smith||
Hugh Q. Smith came to Seldovia, Alaska in 1970 to be a vocational shop and high school math teacher at the Susan B. English School. He retired in 1986, after 16 years of teaching. Seeing a need for housing in the community and being a shop teacher, he purchased properties, started building, and employed his high school students on the construction projects. Hugh not only was a contractor who built homes and subdivisions, but was involved with construction of the city's library/clinic/fire/... Read More
Originally from California, Jack Thomas came to Seldovia in 1968. He first worked for Kenny Arndt of Homer, putting in a water line at King Cove. He then worked in the logging business at Jakolof Bay. After the logging ended, Jack worked for Josie Carlough fishing for crab. He taught himself how to weld, and his welding services have been in high demand in the community. For awhile, he also had a mining claim at Red Mountain and helped develop and maintain the road. He also worked as a heavy... Read More