Pfeil, Emil H.
1886-1954 | Prospector, Miner, Alaska Railroad Worker, and Building Contractor
Emil Pfeil invested in real estate when Anchorage's future was promising due to the military build-up leading to America's entry into World War II in 1941--the same year that he retired from the Alaska Railroad. With business partner, Thomas "Tom" Bevers [Beavers], they built the Bevers and Pfeil apartment and store building (4th Avenue and E Street). He served one term on the Anchorage City Council (1935-1936) and also was on the Board of Directors of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
Emil Herbert Pfeil was born in Seisen, Germany on March 4, 1886. He immigrated to the United States, at the age of twenty-six, aboard the S.S. President Lincoln of the Hamburg-American Line, leaving from the port of Marburg, Germany on April 4, 1912. He arrived in New York, New York, on April 17, 1912. As a young man he was a seaman who sailed to many ports of the world prior to coming to Alaska in 1919.
In 1920, Pfeil arrived in Anchorage and first worked as a miner at the Chickaloon coal mine until its closure. He then went to work for the Alaskan Engineering Commission (AEC) as a tie cutter in Sutton. When the Alaska Railroad headquarters were built in Anchorage, he was hired as the first blacksmith and eventually headed up that department. He put in a few years prospecting and in 1924 returned to work for the railroad until his retirement in May 1941. He also ran a dental lab in downtown Anchorage.
In 1929, Pfeil met Muriel Caroline Anderson. She was born in Spokane, Washington on October 9, 1899, to John Anderson and Augusta “Gussie” Johnson. She was raised and educated in Washington. Muriel arrived in Anchorage in 1925 to accept a teaching position with the Anchorage public schools and, eventually, became a school principal and taught commercial subjects. Emil Pfeil and Muriel Anderson were married in 1929, and she gave up her teaching career to be a mother and a housewife. The couple had three children: Robert (born in 1930); Caroline (born in 1933); and Muriel Adele (born in 1935).
In 1935, Pfeil built a stucco-covered, frame residence as his family home at 618 I Street, Anchorage. The home’s most distinguishing feature was the steep pitch of the roof and dormers. It is still in use as a residence.
The best known garden in downtown Anchorage was Muriel Pfeil’s garden at the corner of 6th Avenue and I Street. The garden was filled with dozens of different flowers and vegetables. A few years after the garden was begun in 1936, she planted blood-red-and-black poppies. The seeds came from the garden of a friend in Hope, Alaska, and were just plain old poppies. She planted them in the late 1930s, and they have been coming up on their own ever since. Local gardeners have been unable to reproduce, in general, the impressive display. When Muriel Pfeil was eighty-nine, she was interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News about her garden and remarked: “I don’t know if there’s something in the soil or not. They don’t have as good luck. The poppies come up, but they don’t come up tall or as large as these.” She added: “We never plant them. They come up every year . . . . They get all over the yard.”
After his retirement, Pfeil became interested in real estate and constructed several housing project homes in Anchorage. With partner Thomas "Tom" Bevers [Beavers], he built the Bevers and Pfeil apartment and store building on the corner of 4th Avenue and E Street. His longtime interest in civic affairs led to his service on the Public Utility Board, a single term on the Anchorage City Council (1935-1936), and a term on the board of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska, Anchorage Rotary Club, and the Anchorage Elks Lodge.
Emil Pfeil was killed in a plane crash on September 30, 1954. His pilot companion, Arthur McInroy, operator of the McInroy Drilling Company, was injured in the crash, when his Piper Super-Cruiser float plane crashed into Lake Spenard and sank. In addition to his widow, Muriel, he was survived by his son, Robert, and two daughters, Muriel and Caroline.
Muriel C. Pfeil died on March 30, 2001 at the age of 102. She is buried in the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, along with her husband, Emil, and daughter Muriel Adele Pfeil (1935-1976).
 Draft registration card, Emil Herbert Pfeil, Anchorage, Alaska, 1942, Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Alaska, April 27, 1942, NAI Number 4504983, Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group 147, National Archives at St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016).
 Entry for Emil Pfeil, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Deutschland, Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_ 1822, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016); and Entry for Emil Pfeil, “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers,” S.S. President Lincoln, April 17, 1912, National Archives Microfilm Publication T715, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, NY, 1897-1957, Roll 1842, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016).
 “Emil Pfeil Dies in Plane Crash,” Anchorage Daily Times, September 30, 1954, 1; John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 207-208; Emil Pfeil, 1930 U.S. Census, Anchorage, Third Judicial District, Alaska, ED 3-14, page 40B, National Archives Microfilm Publication T626, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Roll 2627, U.S., 1930 Federal United States Census [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016; and Sheila Toomey, “Field of Flowers Brighten City Poppies Please through the Years,” Anchorage Daily News, August 16, 1988, C-1.
 Muriel Caroline Anderson, Washington, Birth Records, 1870-1935 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016); and Muriel Anderson Pfeil, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016).
 John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 207-208.
 Michael Carberry and Donna Lane, Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage’s Historic Resources (Anchorage: Community Planning Department, 1986), 29.
 Sheila Toomey, “Field of Flowers Brighten City Poppies Please through the Years,” Anchorage Daily News, August 16, 1988, C-1.
 “Emil Pfeil Dies in Plane Crash,” Anchorage Daily Times, September 30, 1954, 1.
 Muriel C. Pfeil, U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed September 17, 2016).
This biographical sketch of Emil H. Pfeil is based on an essay which originally appeared in John P. Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 207-208. See also the Emil Pfeil file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK. Photographs courtesy of the Pfeil family. Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012. Note: edited, revised, and expanded by Bruce Parham, September 17, 2016.
Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, “Pfeil, Emil H.,” 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.