The Last SettlersJennifer Brice and Charles Mason $24.95
Published in 1998 | 150 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0290-2
“This is a book I will not forget. The visits Brice and Mason had with these settlers are expertly captured in these tightly written pages; I find the images they pass on are not easily put out of mind.” — Alaska
“This is a fine collection for anyone seeking an armchair guide to wilderness settlement or those for whom home is somewhere beyond.” — ForeWord
“The prose is straightforward and clear, occasionally lyrical, and the photos, though not intended as direct illustrations of the text, are strong in their evocation.” — Creative Nonfiction
When Jennifer Brice and Charles Mason began this project in 1991, examining the lives of two 20th century pioneer families in the Alaskan wilderness, neither realized that they were documenting the ending of American migration to the frontier. While the American frontier was declared closed in 1893 for 48 contiguous states, the federal Homestead Act remained in effect for nearly a century in Alaska, and in 1934 the Homesite Act provided up to five acres of land to new settlers. In 1981, blocks of land totaling 30,000 acres near Lake Minchumina were opened to homesites, businesses and mineral leases. Two years later, 10,250 acres in eastern Alaska, near the Ahtna village of Slana, were opened to settlement as well. Would-settlers besieged the Fairbanks office of the Bureau of Land Man Now, however, fewer than 100 people make their homes on what is truly the last federal frontier. Of these few last settlers, two families, the Hannans and the Spears, are at the center of this clear, unsentimental portrait of people whose daily existence is forged out of the crucible of myth.
JENNIFER BRICE is the author of Unlearning to Fly, a memoir-in-essays. Her personal essays have appeared in such journals and anthologies as Manoa, The Gettysburg Review, River Teeth, American Nature Writing, and The Dolphin Reader. An associate professor of English at Colgate University, she lives with her daughters in Hamilton, New York.