John Hedberg was born in 1866 in Brattforsbruk, Sweden, and came to Alaska about 1898, eventually settling in Nikiski where he homesteaded land located around the area where Hedberg Road is now marked. After marrying Anastasia Stephan in 1908, he and his wife had a number of children; it is said that the total was 13 but known children were John Jr., Lillie, Elmer, Alice, Mary and Flora (both of whom died in 1918) and Gladys. Mr. Hedberg gained the nickname "Moose Meat" from his skill in hunting moose and his generosity in sharing his harvest with others.
In 1925, John Hedberg was granted 160 acres under the Homestead Act, located "on the east shore of Cook Inlet, 2 miles south of East Foreland, Alaska" (Section 21). In 1937, patent number 1094814 was issued to Hedberg for Lot 10, Block 112 of the 1915 Anchorage Townsite. This lot was 7,000 square feet and was located on 6th Avenue halfway between B and C Streets. He was apparently living on this lot in 1940 when he was enumerated in the census with his daughter, Gladys Hynds, and granddaughter Beverly at 127 E. 6th Avenue. This is now a commercial area.
The following information is reproduced from the book, Once Upon the Kenai, compiled by the Kenai Historical Society in 1985:
The legendary "Moose Meat John" was born in Sweden and as a young man, resented the fact that he was put to work in the mines while his brothers studied to become engineers so he earned passage to the U.S.
His homestead, on what is a Chevron USA property today, was surveyed in 1916 and patented in 1925, signed by President Calvin Coolidge. He was a logger, fisherman, hunter, delivered mail by dog team, prospected, labored, etc. Moosemeat John lived in Anchorage in later years but visited often on the Kenai. He was an expert in utilizing tides and currents of Cook Inlet in his open dory. He disappeared in the inlet and presumably drowned August 16, 1951.
Note: Moose Meat John's homestead cabin was acquired by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and relocated to the corner of Main Street and Overland Avenue in Old Town, Kenai. Part of his homestead land comprises the Nikiski Community Park at 49604 Kenai Spur Hwy (approx. mile 23).
Moosemeat John Hedberg (right) and friend Allan Petersen hold a moose skull.
John Hedberg was born in on March 13, 1866. He left his home as a young lad and came to America by steamer, working his way across the United States in the logging camps until he reached the West Coast.
Like many other adventurous men he came north to Alaska before the turn of the century. He landed in Seward and from there he delivered mail by dog team to Sunrise, Hope and Knik - this was before the town of Anchorage was built.
On his 160-acre homestead he built a large log home where he lived with his family when the children were growing up. The homestead was located on the Kenai Peninsula at Nikiski where today stands the Chevron USA refinery and multi-million dollar dock.
He was a mighty hunter. When moose were hard to find or so far up in the hills he always returned home with moose meat. This he shared with many neighbors and friends; because of his generous giving of his kill he was called "Moose Meat John." His instinct and skill as a hunter may have developed when he lived with the Indians. He loved these people and they accepted him as one of their own.
People could see the lone fisherman in the early morning setting his nets down at Bootleggers Cove. He traveled with a dory and skiff on Cook Inlet. Often his outboard motors gave him trouble and it was necessary to take the oars in hand in order to reach his destination. This he did with his strong arms and determination; truly he was a human dynamo with remarkable strength and endurance.
While living in Anchorage he worked for the Alaska Railroad and acquired property in town and in the Chester Creek and Mountain View areas. Customarily he walked everywhere with his backpack, prepared to stay where his day's journey ended. He took daily walks down to the dock, the cannery, Ship Creek and the Alaska Railroad yards.
One could recognize him at some distance coming down Fourth Avenue. Beneath his narrow brimmed all weather hat peered his deep blue eyes, and his rosy cheeks were surrounded by his fluffy grayish white beard. His Filson jacket (Alaska Tuxedo) turned back at the lapels showed the black and red plaid shirt he was wearing. His woolen trousers were held up with suspenders and his pant legs were stuffed into laced knee high shoepacs. Carrying a homemade walking stick and pack on his back - this is the image of "Moose Meat John" that remains in our memories.
He was a man with a voluminous singing voice and spoke with a strong Swedish accent. In his conversation he was emphatic, firm in his thoughts and expressions; he left no doubt in his listener's mind, only his strong convictions. He neither drank nor smoked; his was a good life although rugged.
His life of over a half century in Alaska, each year, each season and miles on the trail, trips on Cook Inlet with the Turnagain blows and tides, all had etched deep lines in his kindly face. The softer lines came from the happy times and the joy of talking with family and friends. His magnetic steel blue eyes were deep with insight and understanding. His experiences and stories were many and unique.
In Autumn of 1950 he made his last trip down the Inlet; his arrival at Kenai was established, but all ended there. He was never seen again, or any part of his boat and belongings.
John Hedberg, prospector, miner, homesteader, hunter, provider, trapper, fisherman, and Alaskan old-timer will always be remembered as - "Moose Meat John."
(Photo from MarthaBrown36 on Ancestry.com)