Before the Colonists: George Palmer

The Matanuska River. Somewhere near here George Palmer built his trading post. (Photo by Northern Light Media)


Trail Comes Out River

George Palmer’s trading station on the Matanuska River was established between 1894-1898* to take advantage of the trails between the Cook Inlet region and the Copper River area. According to Wikipedia: “The indigenous Dena’ina Athabascan name for the river is Ch’atanhtnu, based on the root -tanh ‘trail extends out’, meaning literally ‘trail comes out river’.”  (*see Jim Fox’s comment below for a correction to this date.)

In her small book titled Old Times on Upper Cook’s Inlet, Louise Potter describes the early trails through the Valley: “…the Indians must have marked walking trails through the Upper Inlet country

Dogteam hauling coal in front of George W. Palmer’s store, 1909. (Alaska Railways Photograph Album UAF-1996-0190-8 University of Alaska Fairbanks)

well before 1898 and, after that time, prospectors brushed-out trail after trail, both winter and summer, leading from the coast to the coal and gold mines. Many of these trails were later widened for the use of dog teams and for saddle and pack horses and sleds. Eventually, some even became the government mail routes and, today, are busy roads.”

Louise Potter continues, “A map of the Inlet area, copyrighted in 1899, shows eight such ‘Trails Used by Natives…’” and she describes the one which probably led to the name “trail comes out river”: “A summer trail from old Knik up the Matanuska River, passing ‘Palmer’s Upper House’ (store) and King’s House to Millich Creek and, via Hick’s Creek, Trail Lake, and Nulchuck Tyon Village, to the Copper River (pretty much the route of the present Glenn Highway).”



4 comments on “Before the Colonists: George Palmer

  1. Jim Fox says:

    George Palmer couldn’t have built his Matanuska trading post in the 1880s as he didn’t arrive in the Alaska until 1893. The post was built between 1894-1898. See Coleen Mielke’s definitive history of G.W. Palmer on her website. All the old and new books have copied each other’s erroneous information of him without ever looking at the census.

  2. Helen says:

    Thank you, Jim, I’ll make an annotation to that per your comment. And yes, the conflicting information I’ve run across has been frustrating and time-consuming, and then I miss points like this one. I’ve been told by many people that I need to speak with you about the history of the Colony, please send me a note at on how best to get in touch with you.

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