Weimer, Robert M. "Bob"

1899-1974 | Homesteader, Commercial Fisherman, and Trapper

Robert M. "Bob" Weimer spent many years trapping and fishing in the Cook Inlet area.  In the 1940s, he established a 160-acre potato farm near Sand Lake on the outskirts of Anchorage.

Robert M. Weimer was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on September 16, 1899, to John E. Weimer and Kate Carns Weimer. He grew up in Ferndale, Pennsylvania, where his father was a laborer.[1]

The younger Weimer worked at various jobs in Pennsylvania, including in coal mines and at a steel mill. He also worked as an automobile mechanic and traveled across the country working on farms to earn a living. Eventually, he bought a steerage ticket on an Alaska steamship and arrived in Seward in April 1929.

In 1929, Weimer traveled to Alaska with the intention of earning enough money to return to Pennsylvania to start a trucking business, but settled to live, work, and raise a family in Anchorage.   He was hired by the Anchorage Light and Power Company to work on the construction of the original Eklutna power project tunnel (1,900-foot long, seven feet wide, and eight feet high in size), part of a larger project to supply electrical power to Anchorage.[2]

During the Depression, Weimer also worked for the Alaska Road Commission on the construction of the Mount McKinley National Park road to Kantishna, a project which began in 1922 and was completed in 1938.[3] In 1930 he partnered with George Carter to trap at the mouth of the Susitna River. Weimer continued to trap and fish in the Cook Inlet area for much of the rest of his life.

On Christmas Day 1934, Weimer married Catherine Marion Cavanaugh.  She was born in Anchorage on March 18, 1916, the daughter of Peter J. Cavanaugh and Agnes Jean Ross Cavanaugh. Catherine grew up in Anchorage where her father was a construction foreman for the Alaska Railroad. As a young girl she and her family spent one summer at the Alaska Railroad’s Hurricane Gulch construction camp, where her father was working on a bridge crew for the Hurricane Gulch railroad bridge (Mile 284.2), a 918-foot steel arch bridge completed in 1921 that crosses Hurricane Gulch, the longest and tallest bridge on the Alaska Railroad.[4] Catherine graduated from Anchorage High School, Class of 1933,[5] and attended one year of college at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in Fairbanks (now the University of Alaska Fairbanks). She left college to marry Robert Weimer.[6]

During the first two summers of their marriage the couple lived in Flat, where Weimer worked on a gold dredge. One winter Catherine joined her husband, Robert, on a beaver trapping trip to the Deshka River area, accompanied by their two-year old son, Robert “Pete.”  Their camp was a lean-to with a spruce bough bed. Catherine later remembered her difficulties keeping the flapjack batter from freezing when she made the morning pancakes.

After leaving Flat, the Weimers returned to Anchorage where Robert Weimer went into the “wood” business: selling firewood. Weimer had worked for the Wells Garage in Anchorage, where he met Catherine Cavanaugh. Later, they bought a 160-acre homestead in the Sand Lake area of Anchorage, mostly for the birch timber. The homestead was in the area of what is now the intersection of Jewel Lake and Raspberry Road. After clearing some of the land they planted thirty acres in potatoes, for which they had a good local market. The family remembers that during the hectic potato harvest season they hired up to one hundred people to dig potatoes. During the winter the family worked to wash, bag, and sell potatoes. In 1959, Weiner retired and sold the homestead to a housing subdivision developer.[7]

Weimer was also a commercial fisherman working in Cook Inlet, where he fished from a twenty-six foot open dory and sometimes worked set net sites. In the 1940s, he was elected by the Alaska Fisherman’s Union as their business agent, negotiating contracts with various salmon canneries. He also continued to trap. In November 1974, at the age of seventy-five, he was alone preparing for trapping season at Coal Lake when he drowned. The body was not located until the following spring.[8]

When Catherine Cavanaugh Weimer was sixty-five, she hiked the Chilkoot Trail with her three children, one daughter-in-law, and five grandchildren. Like her husband, she was active well into old age, continuing to fish, dipnet salmon and work in her garden. In radio’s early days in Anchorage she read children’s books over the air on station KFQD. In later years she was an election official serving at a local polling station. At the time of her death on July 28, 2009 at the age of ninety-three, she was oldest surviving person born in Anchorage.

Catherine M. Cavanaugh Weimer is buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. She was survived by her two sons, Robert “Pete” and Russell, and a daughter, Bonnie Weimer Tisler.

Robert and Catherine’s son, Robert “Pete” Weimer, born in 1937 in Anchorage, remembered the family’s cabin home when he was a small boy as having two wood burning stoves, one in the kitchen and one in the main room. He recalled that Raspberry Road was named for the raspberry patch on the family homestead. He fondly remembered playing in mud puddles, netting hooligan and snagging salmon in Ship Creek, playing baseball and football where the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center now stands, delivering newspapers, and collecting and selling glass bottles. He and his friends snuck into “Slim” Eagleston’s salvage yard, pretending to be pilots in the wrecked airplanes there.[9] 


[1] John Weimer, Ferndale, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, ED 158, stamped page 219, National Archives Microfilm Publication, T624, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Roll 1325, U.S., 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed August 22, 2016).

[2] Michael Carberry and Donna Lane, Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage’s Historic Resources (Anchorage: Community Planning Department, Municipality of Anchorage, 1986), 123.

[3] Northern Access: History and Background Information, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/planning/mgtplans/n_access_visitor_facilities_study/pdf/4history.pdf (accessed August 22, 2016).

[4] John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 94-95.

[5] Ibid., 348.

[6] Obituary, “Catherine M. Cavanaugh Weimer,” Anchorage Daily News, July 31, 2009, A-9.

[7] Entry for “Weimer, Robert ‘Bob’,” in Fond Memories of Anchorage Pioneers, Vol. II (Anchorage: Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 15, Auxiliary 4, 2003), 170-171.

[8] “Trapper is Dead, Jury Finds,” Anchorage Daily Times, December 21, 1974, 1; “Body is Located,” Anchorage Daily Times, June 21, 1975, 7; Robert M. Weimer, “End of the Trail,” Alaska magazine, May 1975, 59.

[9] Entry for “Weimer, Robert E. (Pete) and Judy,” in Fond Memories of Anchorage Pioneers, Vol. I (Anchorage: Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 15, Auxiliary 4, 1996), 38-40.




No entry for Robert "Bob" Weimar was published in John Bagoy’s Legends and Legacies: Anchorage 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2001).  By Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, August 22, 2016.  This biographical essay is based on the entries for Robert Weimer in Fond Memories of Anchorage Pioneers, Volume II (Anchorage:  Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 15, Auxiliary 4, 1996), 170-171, and his son, Robert E. "Pete" Weimer, found in Fond Memories of Anchorage Pioneers, Volume 1 (Anchorage: Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 15, Auxiliary 4, 1996):38-40.  

Preferred citation: Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, “Weimer, Robert M. ‘Bob’,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, http://www.alaskahistory.org.

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website, www.cookinlethistory.org.