NOTE: THIS AREA IS PERMANENTLY OFF LIMITS!
The first application for a homestead patent on land to become Elmendorf was filed by Axel Hirvela. He came to the United States from Finland in 1890 and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1896. Both his parents were from Finland. He was listed as a farmer who could read and write English. It appears that he initially began homesteading in the vicinity of Knik in the early 1900s or 1910s. He relocated to the Elmendorf area, on the opposite side of Knik Arm, and officially filed for a homestead in 1914, at age 41. Hirvela remained on the property until 1943, when he contested the government's entry onto his land.
The United States sued him, and the case was taken to a jury trial. Although no further documentation about this trial was found, he was likely forced to take a settlement determined by the jury to be fair. Hirvela would have been about 70 years old when the payment occurred. No record of an obituary was found for Axel Hirvela.
Although many children of other homesteaders remember Hirvela, they do not remember much about him. However, during interviews, an interesting story was told concerning his bachelor status. Hirvela was writing letters to a woman in the lower United States and, in his letter, asked her to marry him. She accepted the offer and wrote back to let him know she would be leaving on the next ship to Anchorage. Due to the postal system, the letter and the woman came on the same boat; there was no Axel at the ship to meet her when she arrived. Since she was unaware that he had not received her letter, she went into town to inquire about him. Hirvela rushed into town to find her once he received the letter, but those few days had allowed her to fall in love with and marry the clerk at the store where she had inquired about Axel. Hirvela never did marry.