Alex Family History Eklutna Village

by Coleen Mielke

 Protected by Copyscape

In the late 1800's, one of the duties of the Russian Orthodox priests stationed at St. Nicholas Redoubt (Old Kenai), was to minister to 7 remote Indian settlements once a year. In 1893, those settlements were Aleksandrovsk, Seldovia, Ninilchik, Kustatan, Tyonek, Susitna and Knik. During his visit, the priest would minister to the faithful, visit the sick, perform last rights and funerals, build or repair chapels and (most important of all) attempt to convert non-believers to the Russian Orthodox faith.

In 1888, Father Nikolai Mitropol'skii spent the winter in Knik and helped the Dena'ina finish their chapel. It was a hand hewn log building that measured 19' 1" x 30' 4", and it was named the St. Nicholas Chapel.

In 1897, when hundreds of gold prospectors flooded into the Knik area, the Dena'ina Indians decided to move their village across the Knik Arm and onto old Dena'ina territory where it was much quieter. They called it "New Knik" (later Eklutna). The move was so permanent that they dismantled their St. Nicholas chapel and took it with them.

One of the families that moved to "New Knik" in 1897 was the family of
Beł K'ighił’ishen.
He was born in 1876 in the Hutnaynut'i area (todays Bodenburg Butte area). When he was baptized by Russian Orthodox missionaries, he was given the name Vecilia Alick (phonetic spelling on 1910 U.S.Census). He married Matrona Nicholi of Susitna Station in about 1903 and they had seven children.

In 1918, the Alaska Railroad tracks reached New Knik which was near the mouth of Eklutna River. Railroad employees started calling Vecilia Alick, "Eklutna Alex" and the name stuck.

"Eklutna Alex" had traditional summer fish camps at Ship Creek and the mouth of Chester Creek. However, shortly after the railroad town of Anchorage opened in 1915, he moved his fish camp location to Fire Island where he and his son Mike built a smoke house. The Alex family descendants used this fish camp until the 1970's. At last report, the orignal smoke house was still standing.

In 1927, Eklutna Alex built a cabin on the far east end of Eklutna Lake where the Dena'ina traditionally hunted for moose, caribou and sheep. The cabin stood for about 85 years before it washed into the creek. Eklutna Alex was one of the last active Dena'ina shamans, he died of a stroke in 1952 and is buried at Eklutna.

Orville Herning, a merchant at Knik from 1906-1917 and Wasilla from 1917-1947, kept a daily journal. The following entries refer to Eklutna and the Alex family:

12/15/1908   Alex came over from Old Knik to trade.
12/29/1912   Ben Agnew got back from trip to Arm with Iditarod mushers, put them off at
             Alex place below Eagle River.
11/6/1914    Peter Herbert boated Elliotts grub over to Eklutna Roadhouse.
10/17/1915   Alex over from Eklutna after grub for Elliott.
5/2/1918     Alex over from Old Knik with geese for sale.
2/7/1927     Alex, Wasilla and Pedro families mushed back from Susitna Station via Nancy.
5/15/1930    Mike Alex mushed in from Caswell, 43 miles today, to trade.
11/29/1917   Got out price list of groceries and mailed to Chickaloon, Moose Creek and
2/9/1920     Pedro Goosmar and Nagulga Watson over from Eklutna to trade.
3/17/1920    Esi and Wasilli boy over from Eklutna.
4/24/1920    Knik Indians left for Eklutna, no moose.
2/13/1921    Alic Wasilli over from Eklutna to trade.
2/21/1922    Knik Natives back from potlatch at Eklutna.
8/14/1938    Indian Jim died at Eklutna.

Eklutna Alex's oldest son Mike, devoted his entire life to the preservation of Eklutna Village, it's Dena'ina culture and it's people. He was also a devout Russian Orthodox layman.

In 1926, just before he married Daria Nellie Ephim, he built a log home in the middle of Eklutna. The log home was originally 17' x 20' and a 17' x 17' addition was added on in the 1930's. The "Mike Alex cabin" was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Mike Alex worked for the Alaska Railroad for 28 years and he and Nellie had 13 children. In his later years, he worked with James Kari of the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, attempting to document Dena'ina names, place names, language and legends.

In 1953, Chief Alex had a major heart attack. During his recovery, he was visited by an Orthodox priest who encouraged him to get well and continue his work for the church. In 1954, he did just that. Alex and his sons started building a new village church (south of the Old St. Nicholas church). The new wood framed building measured 18'2" x 30'10" with a 10'3" x 8'4" vestibule; it was finished in 1962.

In 1976-1977,  the final years of his life, Chief Alex and his children oversaw the restoration of the deteriorating Old St. Nicholas chapel which sits near the traditional Dena'ina grave yard in Eklutna. Villagers put a new concrete foundation under the old church, replaced some sill logs and flooring and installed support cables to stabilize the 89 year old building. They also completely rebuilt the bell tower. The Old St. Nicholas chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Chief Mike Alex devoted his entire life to the preservation of Eklutna Village and its people. He was Eklutna's last traditional chief; he died in 1977.

Eklutna Alex went by different names and phonetic spellings:

Date of Birth (or age)
Vesilia Alick
1910 U.S. Census
age 35  
Married 7 years in 1910  
(3 children born -  1 living in 1910)
Eklutna Alex
1920 U.S. Census
age 40  
Nicknamed Eklutna Alex by Railroad crews
Eklutna Alex
1930 U.S. Census
age 55  

Wasilla Alex
1939  B.I.A. Census for Eklutna
born 1876
Widower by 1937.  Living with the Ondola family. Listed as  father-in-law of John  Ondola who married Olga Alex
Eklutna Alex

Eklutna Alex
1942  B.I.A Census for Eklutna

U.S. Social Security Death Claim
date of birth given as  2/9/1876  

Some sources list date of death as 1952. Social Security lists death as 10/23/1953 (may  not be accurate)
Place of birth listed as Matanuska

Died of a stroke
Social Security dates exist because someone submitted  a Social Security death claim 3/6/1979

Matrona  Alex
1910 U.S. Census
age 25  (in 1910) records say she was from Susitna Station
Wife of Vesilia Alick
Matrona Alex
1920 U.S. Census
age 35  (in 1920)
Wife of Eklutna Alex
Matrona Alex

Matrona Alex
1930 U.S. Census

Anchorage Times
age 48  (in 1920)

Matrona Alex died 12/10/1937
Wife of Eklutna Alex

Wife of Eklutna Alex
Born Matrona Nicholi of Susitna Station

Mike Maxim Alex
born 3/12/1908
died  8/26/1977
U.S. Social Security Death Index
U.S. Social Security Death Index
Married Daria Nellie Ephim (4/18/1909--8/16/1963)  
Daughter of Chief Big Ephim of  Susitna Station
Olga Alex
age 9  
died 3/10/1965
U.S. Census for Eklutna 1920
Anchorage Times 12/2/1989
Married John Ondola
Nicoli Alex

age 7  
U.S. Census for Eklutna 1920
Aaron Leggett

Buekranda Alex
age 4  
U.S. Census for Eklutna 1920

Roy Alex

Gronia Alex

Dovia Alex
born 8/15/1916
died  9/24/1996

born 1/17/1918
died 3/31/1988

born 6/17/1921
died  3/31/1988

age 1

U.S. Social Security Death Index
U.S. Social Security Death Index

U.S. Social Security Death Index
U.S. Social Security Death Index
Eklutna grave date
Eklutna grave date

U.S. Census for Eklutna 1920
W.W.II Veteran  

Married Rupert D. Baird

Same person as Gronia Alex?

Billy Alex

age 14

U.S.   B.I.A.Census for Eklutna 1940
Aaron Leggett

Accidental shooting

The children of Mike Alex and Daria Nellie (Ephim) Alex:


Herbert Alex


born 9/25/1929
born 9/24/1929
death  2/1971

1942 B.I.A. Census
Social Security Death Index
Social Security Death Index

Lois Alex
born 12/15/1930
1942 B.I.A. Census
Married name Munson
Margaret Rita Alex
born 3/26/1931
1942 B.I.A. Census
Married name Kuphaldt
Katherine Alex
born  3/7/1932
1942 B.I.A. Census

Jewel (Julia) Alex
born 2/7/1936
1942 B.I.A. Census
Married name Cooper
Virginia Alex
born 5/6/1938
born 10/14/1938
died  8/1985
1942 B.I.A. Census
U.S. Social Security Death Index
U.S. Social Security Death Index
Married name Melvin
Married name Hamrick
Married name Bennett
Daniel Alex
born 6/7/1939
born 3/9/1940
died  9/12/2007
1942 B.I.A. Census
U.S. Social Security Death Index
U.S. Social Security Death Index

Bobby Paul Alex
born 4/27/1942
died  1/3/2011
U.S. Social Security Death Index
U.S. Social Security Death Index
US Army Veteran 1964-1970
Maxem Alex
born 9/25/1944
died  7/8/2016
Cremation Society of Alaska
Cremation Society of Alaska

Linda Alex

Married name Powell
Timothy Alex

Andrew Alex

Mildred  Jane Alex
born 1948
died 2004
Year of birth found in UAF student Yearbook
Date of death from Aaron Leggett

Information sources:
Shem Pete's Alaska by James Kari and James A. Fall
Through Orthodox Eyes by Andrei A. Znamenski
National Register of Historic Places
Social Security Death Index
Cremation Soceity of Alaska
Aaron Leggett
1939 B.I.A. Census Records
1940 B.I.A. Census Records
1942 B.I.A. Census Records
1910 U.S. Census
1920 U.S. Census
1930 U.S. Census
1940 U.S. Census
Anchorage Times
Eklutna Grave Information online
O.G. Herning Journals
Orth Dictionary of Alaska Place Names


Please contact me if you have corrections or additions to this page, Thank you.