Heffentrager, Isaac H. "Ike"

1906-1999 | Machinist, Alaska Railroad

Isaac "Ike" H. Heffentrager was born in Skippack, Pennsylvania on August 9, 1906, to Frank and Catherine B. “Katie” Heffentrager and was the middle of seven children. His father was a bricklayer.[1]

Heffentrager joined the U.S. Army in 1924 and was stationed in Alaska. He served his three-year hitch and was discharged at Vancouver Barracks, Washington in 1927. Alaska was in his blood, and he returned to Anchorage the same year. He worked as a night policeman for the City of Anchorage for a time and then worked as a machinist for the Alaska Railroad for thirty years, retiring in 1960.[2]

In May 1929, Heffentrager met Anna Wagner in Anchorage. She was born on March 25, 1912, in Plauen, Germany, to Oscar and Gertrude Wagner. She immigrated to the United States in 1915 with her mother, Gertrude, and lived briefly in California before the family moved to Alaska. Her father had died and her paternal uncle, C.W. Wagner, had sent for them to come to the United States. Anna and her mother traveled across the country via train to California. The trip was somewhat difficult, since neither of them could speak or understand English, but that was not unusual in those times.[3]

Ike and Anna Heffentrager were married on May 21, 1929, and soon bought a finely built 20 ft.-by-24 ft. log home at 136 7th Avenue, Anchorage. It was built in 1919 by Sam Bieri, a carpenter of Scandinavian descent, for S. Volsky, who decided not to occupy it. He sold the house and the lot to Bieri, who owned it for the next twelve years. In about 1931, the Heffentragers purchased the house. During their thirty years of ownership, the exterior was unaltered except for the addition of two windows. Ike Heffentrager added partitions, finished the bedrooms and kitchen cabinets and made other improvements to the interior. It is an excellent example of early log construction and was later named the Heffentrager-Bieri House. On its original site sits the James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building at 222 West 7th Avenue.[4] The old log house was later moved to Eagle River, Alaska, and renovated.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Anna Heffentrager sang regularly on the radio in Anchorage. She was a member of the Anchorage Community Chorus, Episcopal choir, and the Mothers Club.[5]

The union of Anna and Isaac Heffentrager produced a son and two daughters: Frank Lee, Mary Margaret, and Gertrude Katherine. Daughter Mary Margaret and her husband, Edson Anderson, were lost on a fishing and hunting trip on Cook Inlet in 1951, and were presumed dead.

Heffentrager loved the outdoors and was a hunter and fisherman. He was a member of the Anchorage Philatelic Society for many years.

After his retirement, the Heffentragers relocated to Washington and lived on Whidbey Island for a short time before moving to Edmunds, Washington, spending their remaining years there.

Anna Wagner Heffentrager died on January 10, 1999, at the age of eighty-six, in Seattle. Isaac Heffentrager died several months later, on June 9, at the age of ninety-two. Both are buried in Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle, Washington.[6]


[1] Isaac H. Heffentrager, Certificate of Attending Physician or Midwife, August 9, 1906, Pennsylvania (State) Birth Certificates, 1906-1908, Series 11.89, Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11, Pennsylvania Birth Records, 1906-1908 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed August 3, 2016); and Frank B. Heffentrager, 1910 U.S. Census, Skippack, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, ED 147, stamped page 63, National Archives Microfilm Publication T624, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Roll 1379, 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed August 3, 2016).

[2] Isaac Heffentrager, U.S. 1940 Census, Anchorage, Third Judicial Division, Alaska, ED 3-22, page 6B, National Archives Microfilm Publication T627, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, Roll 4580, 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed August 3, 2016).

[3] John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 286-287.

[4] Michael Carberry and Donna Lane, Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage’s Historic Resources (Anchorage: Community Planning Department, Municipality of Anchorage, 1986), 59.

[5] Obituary, Anna Heffentrager, Anchorage Daily News, February 7, 1999, B-2, America’s News [database on-line], Anchorage Public Library, Anchorage, AK (accessed August 3, 2016).

[6] Obituary, Isaac Heffentrager, Anchorage Daily News, July 22, 1999, B-6, America’s News [database on-line], Anchorage Public Library, Anchorage, AK (accessed August 3, 2016).


This biographical sketch of Isaac Heffentrager is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001), 286-287. See also the Isaac Heffentrager file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 4, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited and revised by Bruce Parham, August 3, 2016. 

Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, ed., “Heffentrager, Isaac H. ‘Ike’,” 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.