Jessie C. Ainsworth caught a boat to Seward, Alaska, in January, 1950, after a nurse friend at the Seward Sanitorium telegraphed that a job was waiting. Twenty-one days later she arrived and began work the next day.
Jessie was born in Prescott, Ariz., and ran a boarding house there before joining the U.S. Army in 1943. She trained in Des Moines, Iowa, in Tennessee and in San Francisco, then served 4 years overseas in New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan and Korea. She returned to Arizona from Korea Sept. 22, 1948, when war broke out between North and South Korea. She soon moved to California and packed fish in a processing plant.
Her 2 children, Clyde Ainsworth and Emily Mae [English], are both deceased. She resides in Kenai.
(Please note that some information is outdated, as this is reproduced from the 1985 book. Jessie's daughter Emily Mae had three sons, Jim and Will J. Satathite and John J. English, all of Kenai, and a daughter, Joanne Richter of Igo, CA, all of whom survived her in 1978.)
Jessie Curtis Ainsworth totes her gun and tools in a wheelbarrow.
I came to Alaska in January, 1950, to work at the Seward Sanitarium. Before that I had been in the regular army WAC, travelling overseas in Alandia, Dutch East Indies; New Guinea for 6 months; and in 1946 in Japan, where I was supervisor of mess halls. After that I was in Korea for a year. There were some exciting times then, when Japanese would wander in with rifles looking for food, and the guards were not allowed to shoot at them!
I came back to the States in 1948, travelled around, and finally found a good job in a fish camp in Eureka, California. Then I received a Christmas card from a friend I had known in Arizona. She was now working at the Seward Sanitarium in Seward, Alaska. I jokingly wrote and asked what the chance for getting a job there was, and she wrote right back. "Catch the next boat; your job is waiting for you.," After that I went to Seattle, Washington, and by boat to Anchorage, Alaska, and then to Seward. Went to work the next day. Later I got on the health boat and went up the chain and helped the doctor to care for the ladies. I was a therapist for several months.
In the summer of 1952, I came back to Seward and took a job for the highway department as a cook. The Seward Highway was finished in October so I left and came to Kenai and worked on my homestead. There were no roads; I had to carry everything in on my back. My nearest neighbors were 6 miles away. I got my cabin built by late summer, and decided instead of staying there all winter doing nothing, I would go back to Seward to the sanitarium and work until spring. Then I came back to Kenai, chopped trees, cleared my land, and built my woodshed by myself. I worked all summer until the snow got deep, then went back to Seward Sanitarium again. My job was always waiting for me when i went back there, because I was such a good cook.
The second fall I was there they cut a right of way for the road to my homestead, but it wasn't fit for travel by car, so I had to carry my supplies 5 miles every day. Sometimes it would be 2 a.m. when I would get off work and go ploughing through the timbers to my homestead, and it would be 6 a.m. before I got home. I carried my rifle everyday, and kept a constant lookout for bears. Each day there would be bear tracks all over my car. they would look in the car to see if they could get into something. This happened every day when I left my car on the road. It was 3 years, you see, before I could drive all the way into my homestead.
One time when I was working afternoon shift, I was sitting at the table looking at a Sears Roebuck catalog when my door darkened all of a sudden. I looked up and there was a big brown bear standing right in my door, just 4 feet from me. I was using a nail keg to sit on, so I jumped up and made a big noise with it and hollered "Woof" at him, like an old hog, and jumped up and ran to the brush. I was lucky as I had no way to get away from the cabin with him standing right there in the door, and that was the only way out. I'll tell you I was scared.
One time I was just ready to go to work when a black bear came right up in my front yard, about 50 feet from me. I shot that bear, then rushed up to some neighbors and they came and took him and skinned him and cut him for meat. I didn't want any of it because I couldn't stand the thought of bear meat. There were so many bears in the area at that time; they scared me. My house or cabin was just 100 feet from the trail that the bear and moose all travelled, along the edge of the lake. I never knew when I would meet one of them on the road. I had a little black and white dog I took with me all the time. He would run around in the brush and come dashing out. He would scare the liver out of me; I would think it was a bear.
One morning I was coming home from work in Kenai, I had had to work late. It was just getting good daylight and my little dog ran on ahead up to the cabin, then came running back to me all excited, then down to the lake. I followed him, and saw what he was after: a black bear taking a morning swim in the lake.
I carried all my water from the lake for about 3 years until I had a well drilled. Trappers would come over a lot to my place and tie their dogs by the hole I got my drinking water from. I would kick them out of there whenever I caught them. Two or 3 years later they would tell everyone it was a joke and they did this just to see me come down there and order away. There was this old fellow who would come over on the lake, right close to where I would get my water. He was cleaning fish and throwing all the stuff in the water. Well, I went right down there and threw him out. That's the way they thought they could do but I didn't let them get away with it.
In 1958 and 1959 I cooked at the school in Kenai. I had to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to get to work on time, but I made it and was never late. In the winter time it was surely hard, because the roads would not be cleared. One time there were these big drifts and I could not see beyond them. I would get my car running fast and run into the snowbank to see where I would come out on the other side. I ran into a ditch once, but never had any accidents.
While I was working I had somebody come in and put up the logs for me and build the casement. That is how I got my house built. I worked and hired somebody to do what I couldn't. I was 63 when I stopped working. My back was hurting so bad I had to stop cooking. So I finished my house, cleared my land, and raised a garden, chickens, and rabbits. I stayed there until 1976.
I have always enjoyed travelling, and if I could find something I could get some experience out of, I would try it. When they first started to build the Alcan Highway, I had hoped that I could go over it sometime and tell how I got to Seward. I didn't get to do that, but I saw a lot of country, overseas, in the States, and in Alaska too.
- Jessie Ainsworth
Jessie Ainsworth's homestead cabin.