Joe Brooking McGaughey, who was the original homesteader and patent holder of a 160-acre homestead on Island Lake Road in Nikiski, died on Saturday March 23, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia, where he had lived for the last 40 years.
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Mr. McGaughey was 87 years old and is survived by his wife of 65 years, Lillian, whom he met in Canada while on his way to Alaska in 1949. They had seven children, 13 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and several great-great grandchildren.
He was born in 1926, joined the Navy when he was just 17 years old during WWll and was aboard the SS Enterprise in the battle for Iwo Jima. Upon his release from the Navy he settled in Alaska, where he built a log home, known as "The Big House" to distinguish it from the temporary cabin made of Tem-Tex, where he and his family lived for a year while the Big House was built. The log home, which housed all nine of the family, did not have one nail in it, as he whittled pegs out of wood to secure the logs.
In 1964 he sold the homestead to Murray Bell, who then sold it to the Millers, and it later became known as Miller's Hideaway. His life on the homestead is recorded in the book "Just Breathing the Air," available on lulu.com.
Mr. McGaughey was of Ulster-Scot heritage, whose people had settled in Texas. When he came to Alaska, he brought with him the survival skills he learned from hard times during the Great Depression growing up on a Texas farm.
His daughter Lydia writes, "I am so proud of my Daddy and I have been so blessed that he and mother raised me. I love their Ulster-Scots and Scots heritage and the personality, determination, adventure, creativity, innovation, and individuality they got from their own parents. It made them fearless and confident. He taught all of us the Bible at home, where we often worshipped when we were too snowed in to get into town. He was an active member of the church of Christ both in Kenai and in Anchor Point. Daddy was a great man, who always supported his family with his own hands, working for others, or for his own business during our years in Homer, and I know there is a lot about him that I want to pass on to my descendants."
McGaughey lived in Alaska several years previous to 1949, but finally settled on the homestead from 1952-1964. He moved his family to Homer in 1964 to start a new life in the fishing business, built his own boat and welded his own crab and shrimp pots. He fished for Ekron Canning Company between 1965 and 1967.
In 1967 he read of the Australian government invitation for Americans to settle in Australia, and moved his family to Tasmania, Australia.
Published in The Peninsula Clarion on Apr. 21, 2013