The Buzby Family    –    An Alaska Pioneer Family              A  A  A

The Buzby Homesteads

Harry Buzby and Louisa Hunt

Photo of young Harry Buzby and Louisa Hunt, posing for their wedding day picture.

Harry Buzby was born in 1863 in Burlington, New Jersey. With his parents, he gradually moved westward, first to Illinois and later to Nebraska. Buzby also lived in Montana and Willamette, Oregon, and he took an interest in northern prospects at the time of the Nome gold rush. He spent a short time in Nome, then moved on to Skagway around 1901. He later sent for his wife Louisa and four children, Bessie, Jason, Theodore, and Marian, who had remained in Willamette.

The homesteads

In 1905, the Buzby family claimed a homestead half a mile upstream of Fairbanks on a bend of the Chena River. There they cultivated produce and wild berries, grew hay for livestock, and at one time experimented with a Norwegian variety of oats. They operated a commercial green-house and kept horses and livestock. In the early years, they had a fur farm as well, with mink, marten and foxes. After a few years on the homestead, the Buzbys added two more sons to their family, Elton and Robert, in 1909 and 1911.

Photo of the Buzby's home, early 1930's

On the property, there was a log house, agricultural buildings, and fenced, cleared fields. The house was a three-room cabin, with sections added to the original in typical Alaskan fashion. The house was close to the river, which was an important transportation route. To the south was a small slough that cut across the river from bend to bend, effectively making the northern part of the homestead an island. Just south of that lay the Richardson Trail to Valdez.

Around 1921, after more than fifteen years on the homestead, the family sold their interest in the homestead and moved back to the states. . . .The Buzbys then resided in California and later Tillamook, Oregon, where Harry bought agricultural property and livestock. In 1926, they decided to return to Alaska to operate a dairy business. Harry bought the patented Lou Joy homestead a quarter of a mile east of the original Buzby property. The family stayed on this homestead until the military purchased part of it for the original Ladd Field in 1939.

Buzby's Dairy

Buzby Dairy advertisement from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, 1928

From 1926 until the early 1930s, they operated the Buzby Dairy, one of several family dairies operating at that time. "My dad and I were the dairymen," youngest son Bob recalled. "My mother of course took care of the milk once it got in the house. I did the delivering. We sold cream by the pint, and butter, and eggs, and the usual. Bob remembers delivering milk to customers in town with a horse and wagon in summer and a sled in winter. Winter deliveries were tricky, as Fairbanks temperatures sometimes dropped to thirty and forty degrees below zero. To keep the milk from freezing, Bob put hay in the sled, loaded the bottles, covered them with blankets, and carried heaters with the load.

Meanwhile, the older children had grown and moved out on their own. One of the daughters, Bessie Claire, married Chester Spencer in 1911. The Spencers homesteaded a previously unclaimed parcel in between the original Buzby homestead and the Joy homestead where Harry, Louisa, and Bob were operating the dairy. On the other side, just to the northwest, Harry's son Elton claimed a homestead from 1928 - 1934. Thus the Buzby family in one way or another left a homesteading legacy on not one but four adjoining properties over the course of three decades.

With a large network of descendants still in Alaska, the family continues to contribute to Alaska life.

This article is adapted from Homesteads on Fort Wainwright, Alaska by Kathy Price, published by the US Army, Fort Richardson, Alaska. Information presented on U.S. ARMY - Alaska (USARAK) Web Site is considered public information and may be distributed and copied (unless otherwise specified.)

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