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Thelma Caulkins papers

Guide to the Thelma Caulkins papers

Collection number: HMC-1223.
Creator: Caulkins, Thelma.
Title: Thelma Caulkins papers.
Dates: 1936-1975.
Volume of collection: 0.45 cubic feet.
Language of materials: Materials in this collection are in English.
Collection summary: Primarily letters and journals of a woman who moved to Alaska with her family as part of the Matanuska Colony Project.

Biographical note:
Thelma Clark was born to Maude Perkins Clark and Clifford Garfield Clark on April 14, 1906 in Goodland, Indiana. In 1914, she moved, with her parents and  brother, Clairmont, to Montana. In 1923, she met Herbert Henry Caulkins, who had recently moved to Montana to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Viola and Ray Marsh. The couple became engaged in 1926 and married on March 24, 1928. Thelma and Herbert Caulkins had four sons, Richard (Dick), Donald (Don), James (Jim), and Carl.

In 1936 the Caulkins family was accepted into the Matanuska Colony Project, a New Deal project, in which families, mainly from the Midwest, settled in Southcentral Alaska’s  Matanuska Valley. The family arrived in the Matanuska Valley in December of 1936 and purchased Homesite Tract No. 74, near Palmer, from the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation. Herbert worked clearing land in the colony, and in 1940 went to work for the U.S. government helping to build Fort Richardson. The family moved to Anchorage in 1942 to be closer to Herbert’s job, and returned to Palmer in 1943.

In 1946 Herbert Caulkins purchased a fishing location on Cook Inlet and began fishing for the Emard Packing Co. Beginning in 1947 the family spent their summers at “fish camp.” In 1953, while at fish camp, Thelma witnessed the eruption of Mt. Spurr. From the fall of 1956 to the spring of 1957, Thelma stayed on Chirikof Island with Herbert, who had job there butchering cattle. Herbert Caulkins died in Palmer, Alaska in 1975. Thelma died in 1991 at the Palmer Pioneer Home.

Collection description:
The collection consists primarily of letters and diary entries written by Thelma Caulkins. The letters are written mostly to her parents and her brother and sister-in-law, Clairmont (Bud) and Alzora Clark, and describe her move to Alaska and life as a pioneer living in the Matanuska Valley. Subjects of the letters include the family’s journey to Alaska; their adjustment to life in the Matanuska Colony; the family’s health; Herbert’s work and family finances; Thelma’s experiences at the family’s fish camp; and the months she and Herbert spent on Chirikof Island. There are also letters to Thelma’s friend Marvel Woods. The diary entries include accounts of a trip to fish camp; the eruption of Mt. Spur; a trip to Seattle on the Emard Packing Co. tender, the Katherine Kane; and a trip to Alaska from Montana on the Alaska Highway. In addition to the letters and diary entries, there is a settlement agreement with the ARRC and a land sale contract.

Arrangement: The collection is arranged in roughly chronological order.

Alternative formats: Transcripts of the letters in the collection have been compiled into a book, Mother’s Letters, by Thelma Caulkins’s son, James Caulkins.

Digitized copies: Selected items have been digitized and can be viewed on Alaska’s Digital Archives. For information about obtaining copies, please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Rights note: Copyright to materials in the collection has been transferred to Archives and Special Collections.

Preferred citation: Thelma Caulkins papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

Works used in preparation of inventory:

Caulkins, James, ed., Mother’s Letters, 2nd ed. 2015.

“Obituary: Thelma V. Caulkins.” Anchorage Daily News. July 28, 1991. http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0F78E4A005C323D5?p=AWNB (accessed February 4, 2015).

Related materials: The Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation records (HMC-1174) contain records pertaining to the Caulkins family.

Acquisition note: The collection was donated to the Archives by James Caulkins in 2016, and a deed of gift was signed at this time.

Processing information: This collection was described by Gwen Sieja in 2016.

Container list:

Folder Description Date
1 Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation settlement agreement and land purchase contract 1936, 1938
2 Thelma and Herbert Caulkins postcards to their parents 1936 November 18-1941 June 24
3 Thelma Caulkins letters to her parents 1938 January 2-April 4
4 Thelma Caulkins letters to her parents 1941 November 25-December 15
5 Thema Caulkins letters to parents and Alzora and Bud Clark (brother and sister-in-law) 1943 February 5-1943 December 24
6 Thelma Caulkins letters to Alzora and Bud Clark 1944 January 12, April 17
7 Thelma Caulkins letters to her parents and Herbert’s parents 1947 February 27-May 3
8 Thelma Caulkins account of the Mt. Spur eruption and letters to her mother 1953 July 9-23
9 Account of a trip on the Katherine Kane 1953 August 5-24
10 Account of a trip from Montana to Alaska on the Alaska Highway 1954 March 18-25
11 Account of a trip to fish camp and encounter with a bear 1956 May 22-25
12 Thelma Caulkins letters to her parents and Alorza and Bud Clark regarding her stay on Chirikof Island 1956 October 19-1957 April 4
13 Thelma Caulkins letters to her parents and her son James Caulkins undated, 1957, 1962
14 Letters to Marvel Woods 1960 May 14-1964 July 2
15 Thelma Caulkins letters to Alzora and Bud Clark (with newspaper clipping regarding the death of her son Don) and Viola and Ray Marsh 1975 January 8, October 23
16 Mother’s Letters, edited by James Caulkins 2015


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