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Lincoln Street in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

On October 18th, 1867, Russia’s claims in North America were transferred to the United States. I wanted to know about the decade of 1867-1877, the decade following the Transfer, which took place in Sitka. Sitka was the primary settlement in Alaska. How was it that in the Russian days, Tlingit people controlled southeastern Alaska, but by the end of the 1870s, they were impoverished and marginalized. What happened?

Highly integrated into the economy

Army records and first-hand accounts show that Tlingit people were highly integrated into Sitka’s economy. For example, when the steamer John L. Stephens came in to port for the Transfer, Tlingit people came out to sell them fresh food. Tlingit people sold food, cut firewood, and did other work for the Americans. There was a curfew, but during the day they were free to come through the stockade and work, buy or sell things, or to sit and observe.

Right after the Transfer there was a flurry of activity as the Russian American Company assets were sold off. One sign of the optimism was a city government, formed in December 1867.

The Army troops brought drunken crime and mayhem to Sitka, by officers and enlisted men alike. In May 1869, enlisted men even robbed the cathedral. Crime ebbed and flowed through the decade, but between October 1868 to March 1869, there was an average of 26 military offenders a day in the guard house.

The Russian America Company paid the fare for anyone who wanted to leave, and more than 500 Russians did.

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This is approximately where the Pioneer Home is, now. The blockhouse on the left edge is in about the same location as the replica today. Taken in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

In 1868 the Army had established a total of five posts in Alaska, but in 1870 closed them all but Sitka. The city government faltered and finally failed due to lack of funds. Sitka’s population fell.

The Army was supposed to be temporary, as it had been elsewhere in the west. California, Oregon, Nevada and Nebraska were already states in 1867. But in Alaska, the immigration didn’t come, and by early 1869, the US government was virtually the only economic activity in Sitka. The once-a-month steamer was subsidized by a Post Office contract.

In the 1870 census, three years after the Transfer, the population still included about 1200 Tlingit people, but on the other side of the stockade, other than the Army, there were only 390 persons, down from the 900 or so at the time of the Transfer. 250 of these had been born in Alaska, 21 in Russia. Most of these people were “creole,” people of mixed Russian and Native heritage, mostly Alutiiq and Unangan. They were usually called Russians after the Transfer.

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The Double Decker, held in trust by Sitka’s Collector of Customs for the destitute Russians who lived there. It was between Lindoln Street and what is now Seward Street, about where Service Transfer building is (across from the White Elephant shop). View is looking south, toward the church. Taken in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Poverty in Sitka was so bad that the Army was giving rations to nearly half of the Russians in Sitka, to prevent starvation. A sign of the desperation is the shocking total of 37 of the Russian women listed as prostitutes in the 1870 census.

Why did Alaska not get the rush of immigration and investment like in other parts of the West? One reason was that it was not needed, because so much land was already available. The other reason was the economy: the main industry was the fur trade, which was not doing well, in part due to over hunting, but also due to the post-Civil War recession, the Long Depression of the 1870s, which extended to Europe as well.

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View of part of Sitka’s Village, from Japonski Island in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

The fur trade and military, political and social relationships

The fur trade had been the dominant industry of the North West coast well before the Transfer, since the mid-1780s. Native people were producers, but the big profits were as middlemen, controlling access by other Natives to trade goods.

Epidemics

A major impact of international trade was epidemics. Smallpox swept the coast around 1775, 1802, 1836-37, and 1862, each time killing a large proportion of the population affected, even entire villages. It would be hard to overestimate the impact of epidemics; depopulation was probably the major factor in the defeat of indigenous people across the Americas.

The lucrative sea otter trade was pretty much over by 1820. The Russians established New Archangel in 1804, but due to chronic shortages of personnel and resources, never really controlled more than the immediate site of Sitka. The Russians purchased furs from the Tlingit, and also tons of food like halibut and venison. They employed Tlingit people and many Russians had relationships with or married Tlingit women.

An illustration of this complex relationship was when in 1831 the Company extended the fence around New Archangel, and one benefit, according to the governor at the time, was to keep the Tlingit from selling rum to the Russians.

When a Russian governor allowed relations to deteriorate in the early 1850s, he was censured and removed. But his neglect of diplomacy led to a Tlingit attack on the fort in 1855, in which five or six Russians were killed and dozens wounded. The Russian authorities had to pay attention to diplomacy, and regularly paid Natives for injury done by Russians, even when accidental.

The Hudson’s Bay Company began expanding into the coastal region from the 1830s, and leased trading rights and for a time, a fort from the Russians at Wrangell, where the Russians had to intervene diplomatically between the HBC and the Tlingit.

The Tlingit clans who controlled trade routes to the interior, at the Stikine River (Wrangell) and the Chilkat (Haines area), were wealthy and powerful players in the regional fur economy. Clans defended their rights by forcing the Hudson’s Bay Company to abandon trading posts up the Stikine River in 1838, at Taku in 1842, and above Chilkat on the Yukon in 1852.

Sitka from Coast Pilot

Sitka showing the Village and the stockade. This was in the first Coast Pilot, published in 1869, from a drawing made in 1867 aboard the USS Lincoln. Images courtesy of the NOAA Central Library and John Cloud.

In the 1850s and 60s, more and more British and Americans were coming into the Northwest. Tlingit people traveled to Puget sound to trade, and to work for, and interact with the white settlers, as well as with other tribes. In the mid-1850s, thousands of “Northern Indians” including Heiltsuk, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit people gathered each year at Fort Victoria. While in the 1840s Tlingit sold sea otter pelts to the Russians, after 1851, they took furs the thousand miles to Victoria to trade.

In British America the British Navy enforced “gunboat diplomacy” on coastal tribes, and in the United States, it was equally violent, as Native people were forced onto reservations. Russian America was a de facto haven of Native control.

In 1856, Tlingit people from Kake on the beach at Port Gamble, in Washington, were ordered to leave, did not, and the USS Mississippi fired on them, killing 27, including an important clan leader. The survivors asked for compensation from authorities but did not get any. The following year, relatives made the voyage back to Puget Sound, and killed the Collector of Customs at Whidbey Island, as someone with comparable status to their clan leader, and returned to Russian America.

By the 1860s the Russian American Company, in spite of their efforts, still dependent on the fur trade, was losing money, and were concerned that Americans would swarm into Alaska as they had into the American West, both factors in their decision to cede their claims in 1867.

What changed, for Tlingit with the Transfer?

On one side of the stockade, the Russians, formerly dependent on the Russian American Company, were starving. On the other side, Tlingit weren’t starving, but were losing ground economically. This seems to refute the myth that subsistence, living off the land, was enough. In this period there was nothing keeping them from fishing and hunting, and yet they were complaining of poverty by the end of the decade. American traders aggressively displaced Tlingit from what trade there was. In an 1870 report to Congress, Frank Mahoney, a Sitka businessman, wrote that on Kuiu and Kupreanof, the Natives “catch some furs, . . . , besides trading with some of their neighbors. Their trade has fallen off considerably since the occupation of the Territory by the Americans. They formerly were in the habit of getting their trading goods from small crafts from Victoria, but at present the Indians north, south, east, for two hundred miles, either come to Sitka or get their wants supplied by the small crafts that load or are owned by Sitka merchants.”

Indigenous trade in the 1870s centered on Port Simpson, and at various times Customs Collectors considered imposing duties on goods coming in by canoe, but they did not enforce it, maybe because of the relatively small quantity and the hassle.

It was gold prospectors, backed by the military, who broke the Tlingit trade monopolies, first on the Stikine, then on the Chilkat routes.

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The Customs House and Barracks. The Barracks are about where the current City offices (old Post Office) is now. This is looking toward the wharf, the current Petro Marine fuel dock. Taken in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

What changed, politically, for Tlngit people?

The only law in the Army period was the 1868 Treasury Act, which established the Customs Service in Alaska. The Army had the responsibility of government, but no legal authority. There were so few immigrants, that Congress ignored Alaska. Civil government would have been expensive; as it was, the costs of supporting the Army and the Customs Service, and the monthly steamer, cost more the government got back from customs. And, America was in a depression.

The Army’s biggest concern was always keeping alcohol from Native people. (This would be a paper in itself.) When there was a ban on alcohol importation, there was a rise in distilling, by Natives and non-Natives, with molasses imported by the barrel. (You might know that the word “hootch” comes from the product made in Xootsnoow, or Angoon.) Again and again, Army commanders ask for some definition of their role.

When the Army commander in 1874 sent alcohol sellers to Portland for trial, the judge decided he did not have authority to jail civilians, and threw out the case, which led to one of the traders suing the Army commander for unlawful arrest.

Tlingit made threats, but no organized resistance

Right after the Transfer, Kiksadi Clan leader, Mikael Kooxx’aan, initially refused to take down the Russian flag in front of his house. American accounts tell how the Tlingit, perhaps Kooxx’aan, complained that even though they had allowed the Russians to stay in their territory, they did not intend them to give it to anyone who came along. Tlingit leaders from other kwaans, when they met with General Davis to invite trade, told General Jeff Davis the same thing, that they did not recognize American claims.

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Sitka from Aleutski Island in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Kake War

Tlingit law requires compensation for an injury or death, even if it is accidental. Traditionally, this was a life for a life, of equal status, but throughout the North West Coast, this was commonly negotiated in material compensation.

In early 1869, an Army sentry killed men leaving Sitka by canoe. This was following an incident when General Davis entertained clan leaders at New Year’s 1869. Chilkat Kaagwaantaan clan leader Koh Klux, or Colcheka in Jeff Davis’s rendering, was insulted by a guard when he went through the stockade gate, he grabbed the soldier’s rifle and walked off with it. There was a violent confrontation when soldiers were sent in to apprehend him, and two Tlingit men were killed and a soldier badly wounded. Koh Klux gave himself up, and General Davis had him put in jail. There was an order following this incident that people couldn’t leave Sitka, but this apparently was not in effect when a sentry killed some men who were leaving.

Relatives of the men, from Kake, went to General Davis about compensation, but he repeatedly refused to work with them. These relatives then killed two Euro-Americans, who were camping at what is now called Murder Cove on Admiralty Island.

This led to the so-called “Kake War” in 1869, the first of three incidents in which the U.S. military attacked Alaska Native villages, when the USS Saginaw shelled three villages and burned all the houses but one to the ground, a total of 28 clan houses, many of them 30 or 40 feet square. They also destroyed canoes.

The Kake incident was repeated at Wrangell, later in 1869, after soldiers killed two Tlingit men, after one of them assaulted a woman at the fort. When the victims’ father retaliated by killing a white merchant, the Army shelled the village of Kaachx an.áak’w, then when he gave himself up, summarily tried and hanged him.

The Americans did not always treat the Natives unfairly. One of the deaths at Sitka in 1869, of a Chilkat man, was compensated by a merchant, Frank Louthan, who paid in blankets. He not only wanted to prevent violence, but the Chilkat refused to come to Sitka and trade until it was resolved. General Davis himself, later in 1869, when an Army policeman shot and killed a Tlingit youth, paid the family, to prevent a white person being killed. The Army punished petty criminals regardless of race, putting them in jail.

There was never any organized resistance, and the Army was never afraid of the Tlingit. The brutal retaliation was to put down “insolence,” – again and again you see references to a “saucy” or “insolent” Tlingit leader – to demonstrate the overwhelming dominance of the United States.

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Sitka from Noow Tlein/Castle Hill in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Indian Wars and Racial Stereotype

The most striking thing in reading documents from this period is the virulent stereotype of Natives, as “savages.” This was the era of Manifest Destiny, the height of the Indian Wars, and the height of racist justification for taking Native lands:

Natives are passive and lazy. They are shrewd, greedy, treacherous, brutal, and untrustworthy. And yet every American observer records experiences and interactions that contradict every aspect of this portrayal. The heart of the stereotype is that Native culture is so “primitive” that mere “contact” with the “civilized” culture, especially alcohol, breaks it. This stereotype lays the blame for Native poverty on Natives themselves and their inadequate culture.

I believe there were three main factors, in the Tlingit loss of power over this decade: the declining fur trade, and being pushed from their central role in it. The second factor is deliberate subjugation by the US military and officials, driven by racial stereotype. The third was the high mortality from introduced diseases, exacerbated by poverty.

I believe that the Transfer brought an acceleration, of what was already under way in the Pacific Northwest before 1867.

Indian Village 1878

After 1877: Army pulls out, Navy comes in

The Army pulled out of Alaska in June, 1877. The US government was cutting back on the size of the military, and they needed all available men for the Nez Perce War. Sitka Tlingit immediately began to take apart the stockade, to salvage the contents and occupy government buildings, to assert their right to be on the other side whenever they wanted, and even demanded and got compensation from a merchant for a death.

Alaska was left to the Treasury Department, which in Sitka consisted of a Collector of Customs. There were only three Revenue Cutters on the entire West Coast, and one of those had to patrol the fur seal grounds. Alcohol imports were banned, but there was no law to control molasses or to allow destruction of stills, even if there had been a police force to do it. From August to November 1878, Portland merchants shipped 4,889 gallons of molasses to Sitka.

In 1879, the non-Native Sitkans, claiming they were afraid of a Tlingit attack, sent to Victoria for a British warship for protection. The alleged threats were by Kiksadi leader Katlian, demanding compensation (and wages owed) for the deaths of five Kiksadi men working on a whaler. The HMS Osprey responded, and the government stationed a U.S. Navy ship at Sitka.

In 1879, the commander of the USS Jamestown found 360 U.S. citizens living at Sitka, of whom 34 had been born in the United States.

Sitka by DeGroff

Sitka by Edward DeGroff, looking toward the wharf. “Baranof’s Castle” is on the left.

Increasing Economic Activity

But by the end of the 1870s, the national economic depression was over. The first canneries were built at Old Sitka and at Klawock, in 1878.

More visitors started to come in the late 1870s, and the Pacific Steamship Line had the first tourist cruise to Glacier Bay in 1882.

A large gold strike in 1880 at what is now Juneau put Alaska on the map.

These new industries, however, had limited opportunities for Tlingit to participate, and, backed by the government, they took Native land and resources.

Tlingit still suffered devastating losses to disease, in common with other impoverished groups in America, even as other Americans were seeing dramatically increased lifespans.

Missionaries

The first Protestant missionaries in southeast Alaska were Tsimshian Natives, at Wrangell during the Cassiar gold rush in 1873. Presbyterian Sheldon Jackson took this opportunity to send missionaries and teachers to Wrangell, then to Sitka in 1878.

From the earliest days of American occupation, Tlingit leaders asked authorities for schools. In 1879 naturalist John Muir and Presbyterian missionary S. Hall Young reported that every village they visited, with “but one or two exceptions” was interested in missions and schools, having heard of the work of William Duncan, at Metlakatla, in Canada.

The Tsimshian Christian community of Metlakatla was the most famous, and there were also Methodist missions. The major mission sites had sawmills, and there was even a cannery at Metlakatla, and an enormous church and new frame-style houses.

The invitation to missionaries by the Tlingit could have been in part to get sawmills and new, prestigious, frame-style houses, and to regain economic ground.

Anthropologist Aurel Krause visited the Tlingit at Chilkat in 1882, and reported that “after they had gone to church for half a year and sent their children to school, went to the missionary and complained that they had not been rewarded for their virtue and had not received boards to build their houses as the Tsimshian had.”

This is not to say that the Tsimshian or Tlingit were not sincere, but economic opportunity was probably part of the attraction of Protestant Christianity.

Some of the earliest students at Sitka included young men of standing in Tlingit society. The Sitka mission saw rapid success because of the early support of certain Tlingit leaders, and the dedication and drive of the first students.

Boys 1883 Sitka School

Students in the Presbyterian school at Sitka. Rudolph Walton, Kawootk’, may be the young man in the front, second from left. Photo from the Presbyterian Historical Society, Sheldon Jackson Collection, on the Internet Archives (www.archive.org).

The Choice

The missions promised empowerment, but operated on the same stereotype the military had, that Tlingit culture was a problem. They believed they were helping Native people by getting rid of Native culture and language. Native people who joined the Presbyterians made a deliberate choice. But in spite of their sacrifice, Native Presbyterians were still subject to racial bias, poverty, and high rates of early death.

The Shelling of Angoon

In 1882, the Revenue Cutter Corwin destroyed most of the village of Angoon, over a protest by Angoon Tlingit demanding compensation from a whaling company for an accidental death. In contrast to the shelling of Kake in 1869, which received little attention, the destruction of Angoon was condemned in Congress and in American newspapers (although Angoon residents did not receive an apology until a century later).

This incident, and Sheldon Jackson’s influence, led to the 1884 Organic Act, Alaska’s first government, 17 years after Alaska became American. Sheldon Jackson’s influence privileged Christian missions, and the U.S. government even provided monetary support for mission schools until 1894. They excluded the Russian Orthodox Church, which Protestants considered decadent and superstitious. Nevertheless, by the late 1880s, the Russian Orthodox church at Sitka grew rapidly with Native converts. This could be because this church allowed more Native control than the Presbyterians did, and, who knows, possibly because of the limits of what the Protestants could deliver as far as economic mobility.

Sitka by Merrill

E. W. Merrill photograph of Sitka Channel and the Village in the 1900s. E. W. Merrill collection, Sitka National Historical Park.

The dynamics of the decade of 1867-1877 led to the Alaska we know today. High rates of death, subjugation by the government, and economic marginalization – all driven by the stereotype of the weakness of Native culture – put enormous, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles in the path of Native peoples’ success.

Alaska Natives were not citizens until 1924. Schools were not integrated in Sitka until 1949, and aboriginal rights to land and resources was not addressed until 1971. Native languages, technology and history are still not seen as valuable in most public schools.

It’s clear, looking at the history, that problems the Native population has now are not because of anything about them other than what happened to this population, when they were defined a certain way, as primitive and uncivilized.

And yet the stereotype persists today, that there is something about Natives themselves that keeps them from succeeding. Seeing this stereotype in its full-blown form in the 19th century, you can’t help seeing it throughout our culture now. By learning about our history we will bring this stereotype, the false linkage between Native culture and social dysfunction, into the light of day, and abolish it for good.

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Sea otter, 1806

Sea otter, an image published (in black and white) in The World: or, the Present State of the Universe, being A General and Complete collection of Modern Voyages and Travels. Selected, arranged, and digested, from the narratives of the latest and most authentic travellers and navigators. By Cavenshish Pelham, Esq. This book was published in London in 1806. This colored image is from Ancestry Images.com.

I put together the following for a Sitka Maritime Heritage Society boat cruise, as background for a presentation by Jerry Deppa about how sea otters came to be reintroduced to Sitka Sound.

First, picture the northwest of North America 300 years ago: populated by many distinct indigenous nations, with thousands of years of complex histories, wars, trade, and customs. North American indigenous societies, and technology, were far from static, and far from passive, far from the stereotype of simple, timeless people living on natural bounty. In fact, Native people actively managed important resources, and social systems and language are as complex and “advanced” as those of Europe.

Sea otter were valued by North Americans for their rich fur, and were eaten.i Sea otter are a kind of weasel, but spend their lives at sea. Unlike other marine mammals, sea otter do not have a layer of fat under their skin, but are insulated from the cold ocean water with dense, soft fur, with 6,000 hairs per square inch. This makes it the most luxurious fur in the world.

A robust trade network on the NW Coast flourished in localized specialty products such as hooligan oil, baskets, red cedar canoes, and seal oil.ii Regional trade came together at a huge annual market at The Dalles on the Columbia River.iii

This was also the European Age of Exploration, and, of global trade: In 1778 Captain Cook, on his last voyage, spent time working on his ships in Nootka Sound. While there, they traded for some sea otter garments. In 1779, they made a huge profit on them in trade at Canton, China.iv

Cook’s journals were published in the mid 1780s, and the rush was on.v

Soon American ships dominated, nearly all out of Boston.vi Trade moved from Nootka Sound (on Vancouver Island) as sea otter were hunted out, and, as traders tried to get closer to the sources of the skins (to bypass Native middlemen): Sitka was the hot spot in the 1790s.vii While sometimes trade was accompanied by violence, it was mostly civil as shrewd Yankees met their match in shrewd and experienced indigenous traders. Elaborate trading protocol developed.viii

British traders were handicapped by Hudson’s Bay Company monopoly on NW Coast, and East India Company monopoly in China, which meant they had to pay to play. And wars raged on the European Continent during the peak years of the trade, which further handicapped European traders.ix

Americans alone sold an average of 14,000 sea otter pelts/year at Canton 1805-1812. The peak years for profits were 1790-1810.x

Over the next several years, increasing competition and fewer furs made the trade less profitable. The trade moved to land furs and other products, and ventures like supplying the Russians at Sitka. In the late 1830s the Hudson’s Bay Company, trading out of forts on land, completely took over the fur trade on the Northwest Coast, as well as supplying the Russians.xi

Impact on United States: After the Revolutionary War, the sea otter skin trade was a fortunate replacement for lost British markets. Sea otter furs were the only thing Americans had in any quantity that the Chinese wanted.xii They traded for porcelain, silks, tea, and profited in each of the three transactions: trading furs for guns and other goods with the Natives; trading Chinese luxury goods for sea otter furs; and then their biggest mark up was selling Chinese goods on the domestic market.xiii Profits from the North West Trade produced some of the capital for American industrialization.xiv

Every one of these hundreds of thousands of furs was purchased from Northwest Coast Natives – which brought great wealth into the Northwest Coast indigenous economy. There was an explosion of art. The Native middlemen profited the most, as guns, ammunition, beads, fabric, iron etc. were traded far into the interior for more furs, which in turn were traded for further profit with Americans and Europeans.xv

But – international trade also brought devastating smallpox epidemics: in the early 1770s an epidemic was brought by a Spanish explorer; further outbreaks in 1795 and 1811, and a devastating epidemic in1836-37, plus other diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis, killed more than half the people originally here.xvi It is hard to overestimate the impact the decimation of the Native population must have had. What could it have been like, to see a third, or a half, of your community sicken and die over a short period of time? It must have been traumatic, to lose children, parents, grandparents.

What was the impact on the North West Coast Natives? Wealth while it lasted, but, then the sea otter were gone; after that the trade was in land furs, which were not as profitable; by the 1830s changing fashions and social disruption in Europe meant there was a smaller market and lower prices; due to hunting pressure, there were fewer fur-bearing mammals of any sort, and the Hudson’s Bay Company was relentless in eliminating the middle man, meaning less of the profit for indigenous entrepreneurs.

The Russians:

The Siberian fur trade of 1600s and 1700s brought Russian fur traders sweeping across Siberia, hunting and trapping animals but mainly demanding “tribute” or taxes to the Czar in the form of furs.

In 1742 the survivors of Vitus Bering’s last voyage returned to Siberia with sea otter furs. Like Cook’s men 30 years later, they discovered how valuable sea otter furs were in the Chinese market. Between 1743 and 1800 there were a hundred expeditions for furs to Alaska and the North Pacific islands. Over time, companies had to be bigger and take longer to go farther, as sea otter were exterminated closer to the Siberian mainland.xvii

Native people were much better at hunting than the Russians – so, the Russians forced Natives to hunt for them.

There were deadly confrontations,xviii and Russians forced Native labor not just for hunting, but providing food and equipment for the hunting expeditions and sustaining the Russians themselves. Devastating disease epidemics; taking people away from providing for their own needs; and violence caused the population of the Aleutians – people who had developed rich and unique technology and culture over thousands of years – to drop to only 20% of what it had been.

Merchant Grigorii Shelikov built the first permanent Russian fort, on Kodiak, in 1784. There were only a few companies left by that point. These companies consolidated in 1799 as the Russian American Company, with a charter by the Czar to govern Alaska.xix

So, by the 1790s, the Russians were also moving into southeastern Alaska, as they ran out of sea otters farther west. They brought fleets of hundreds of Native hunters in baidarkas (kayaks).xx

Alexander Baranov – who had been Shelikov’s manager, then became the first Governor of the Russian American colonies – wrote that Southeastern Alaskan sea otters belonged to Russia, and that the Americans and British, trading with the Tlingit, had no rights to them.xxi

In 1794 the Russian ship Phoenix (built at Seward) with 170 baidarkas took 2000 otter just at Yakutat.xxii The first hunting expedition to the Sitka area was in 1796.xxiii

Over the years 1797-1821 Russians took average of 3000 sea otter a year;xxiv in those first years, most of those were from southeastern Alaska.

Alexander Baranov established a fort at Old Sitka, about seven miles north of present-day Sitka, in 1799.xxv It seems remarkable that they could establish a base for hunting sea otter, which would have diverted the profits from those skins from the Tlingit, to the Russians.

In 1799, 115 Native hunters working for the Russians died from paralytic shellfish poisoning from mussels at what is now called Poison Cove. In spite of this tragedy, they took 1800 furs that season.xxvi

In 1800 they took 2000 sea otter, and in1801 4000 sea otter, just in the Sitka area. Sitka’a harbor also had various British and American ships trading from the Tlingit at this time.xxvii

The Russian-allied hunters taking thousands of sea otters from the Tlingit waters, in addition to insults and abuses, led a multi-clan alliance of Tlingit to destroy the fort in 1802.xxviii They salvaged the stored sea otter pelts, and went to Captain Barber on the ship Unicorn, according to him to demand surrender of the survivors he had on board. Barber instead forced the Tlingit to turn over the pelts and the captives they held, which he then took to Kodiak and gave back to Baranov in exchange for 10,000 rubles (in furs) for his trouble.xxix

Sitka, or New Archangel, was established on the site of Noow Tlein, now downtown Sitka, by the Russians in 1804, following the Battle of Sitka at Kaasdaa Héen, or Indian River. This battle might have gone the other way, but, the Russians had the naval ship Neva, and the defending Kiksadi lost canoe of gunpowder and several young leaders in an accidental explosion. Baranov had also retaliated against other clans who had participated in the 1802 sacking of the Old Sitka fort, which may have discouraged potential reinforcements.xxx

The Kiksadi clan and their relations made a strategic retreat, but, this was the end of Russian hunting in southeastern Alaska, although Baranov reported 500 furs from 1804-early 1805.

At the newly-established fort of New Archangel, the Russians and the 700 Native people working for them suffered scurvy, and near starvation the first winter; in 1805 the Russians bought the American ship Juno, which they sent to California the winter of 1805-06 for supplies from the Spanish.

Fast forward: sea otter were largely hunted out by 1820, and by the early 1830s Russians saw they were driving sea otter and fur seal (they had discovered the Pribilof Islands,where the animals breed) to extinction, so began conservation in areas they controlled, in western Alaska. Through moratoriums on certain areas, they built sea otter back up.xxxii

In southeastern Alaska, the Russians purchased sea otter furs from the Tlingit. The average number of sea otter pelts sold by the Russian American Company 1842-1860 – hunted by Company employees in Western Alaska, and purchased from Tlingit in southeastern Alaska – was 1,347/year.xxxiii

Of that total, the Tlingit sold an average of 150 sea otter a year to Russians, but after 1851, Tlingit took them all to the newly-established port of Victoria to trade, because they got better goods than the Russians had.xxxiv

The Russian American Company was dependent on fur trade, which, after the 1810s, was mainly land furs. After the sea otter hunted down, the fur trade was not that great. The Russian American Company tried to diversify, but couldn’t. Expenses grew as the Company supported retirees and widows, and it was always expensive to supply the colonies. Sad state of the fur trade part of why they sold out.xxxv

In 1867 Russians sold their claims to the Americans. Fur hunting and trading was wide open. Fur seals were very nearly wiped out in the international frenzy for profit.

Summary:

From 1780s through the 1870s the fur trade was pretty much the only economic activity in Southeastern Alaska. After the 1830s, the fur trade was not that great, with declining takes, changing fashions,xxxvi then the American and European recession of the 1870s.

This is what the incoming Americans saw – the impact of repeated, severe disease epidemics over the previous century and a half, and poverty due to the poor state of the fur trade over the decades before and immediately after the Transfer. The Tlingit economy was probably made worse by the pullout of the Russians, who seem to have bought more food and other items from the Tlingit than the Americans did.

The impoverished state of the Tlingit in 1867 fed into stereotypes and prejudice against Natives, and justification for denying citizenship, and for excluding Natives from civil and economic opportunities.

 

In addition to the sources in the end notes, other useful books include Ilya Vinkovetsky, Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire, 1804-1867, Oxford University Press, 2011,

and Kenneth N. Owens with Alexander Yu. Petrov, Empire Maker: Aleksandr Baranov and Russian Colonial Expansion into Alaska and Northern California, University of Washington, 2016.

iJames Gibson, Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992) 7-8

iiGibson, 8-11

iiiGibson, 10

ivGibson, 22

vGibson, 23

viGibson, 38

viiGibson, 135

viiiGibson, 110-126

ixGibson, 24

xGibson, 315

xiGibson, 79-80

xiiGibson, 36-38

xiiiGibson, 58

xivGibson, 292

xvGibson, 270

xviGibson, 272-277

xviiGibson, 12-13

xviii Petr Aleksandrovich Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian American Company, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), 10

xixTikhmenev, 14

xxGibson, 13

xxi Dauenhauer, Nora Marks, Richard Dauenhauer, and Lydia T. Black, editors. Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká / Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804. Seattle and London: University of Alaska Press and Juneau, Alaska: Sealaska Heritage Institute, 2008, 140

xxiiTikhmenev, 35

xxiiiTikhmenev, 45

xxivTikhmenev, 153

xxvTikhmenev, 61

xxviIbid.

xxviiGibson, 14

xxviiiTikhmenev, 65

xxixIbid.

xxxDauenhauer, 219-325 (Baranov burning villages, 249)

xxxiiTikhmenev, 206-206, 235

xxxiiiGolovin, Captain-Lieutenant Pavel Nikolaevich, The End of Russian America: Captain P. N. Golovin’s Last Report, 1862. Basil Dmytrishyn and E. A. P. Crownhart-Vaughan, translators and introduction (Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society, 1979), 164

xxxivGolovin, 154

xxxvTikhmenev, 215

xxxviGibson, xi

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Cover 2018

The 2018 Outer Coast calendar is now available! Printed in glorious color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art, poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2019 on the last page.

You can order on line from www.theoutercoast.com, buy in stores in Sitka, or, soon, buy in your favorite Alaskan or select Northwest bookstore. (If the store doesn’t have it, tell them to order thru distributor Taku Graphics.)

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of courage – having faith in what we know is good, and having a “frenzy for the future”: the faith it takes to work toward making the future even better than today.

Poetry includes a sonnet by Rainer Maria Rilke from his Sonnets to Orpheus, and some great quotes from Walt Whitman.

We have two beautiful poems by Caroline Goodwin from her latest book The Paper Tree, published this year (2017) by Big Yes Press.

And, a lovely haiku by Sitka’s own John Straley, from his recent book 100 Poems of Spring, published by Shorefast Editions in 2016.

Plus a couple of classics from poet Lew Welch (1926-1971). Here are some images of the 2018 calendar:

March 2018 image onlyApril 2018August 2018December 2018February 2018January 2019July 2018June2018May 2018October2018November 2018September 2018

 

 

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matisse4

A Still Life by Henri Matisse

The very beautiful still-life paintings by Ms. Love’s Fifth Grade class in 2015. I’ve been meaning to put these up for a while. The students first learned about color mixing. They did these paintings in one session, painting from still lifes set up with colored cloths and fruit. They are done with tempera paint on canvas board (just because the teacher had some she wanted to get used!).img_2132smallimg_2133smallimg_2134smallimg_2135smallimg_2136smallimg_2137smallimg_2138smallimg_2139smallimg_2140smallimg_2141smallimg_2142smallimg_2143smallimg_2144smallimg_2145smallimg_2146smallimg_2147smallimg_2148smallimg_2149smallimg_2150smallimg_2151smallimg_2152small

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Presented by Rebecca Poulson at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Alaska Historical Society

Introduction: This is a fascinating group of people, whose choices and circumstances are at the heart of Alaskan history. My research only scratches the surface.

I’d like to thank everyone who has shared their stories and who has worked to document this history. See the bottom for written sources, but I’d also like to specially thank Mrs. Carol Feller Brady, the late Ellen Hope Hays, and Mr. Gil Truitt for sharing their memories, knowledge, and insights into this community and Harold Jacobs for sharing his knowledge of Tlingit genealogy and tradition. Without their generosity this history would be a closed book.

5

The school plat; the Cottages are at the bottom. Sheldon Jackson Collection, Alaska State Library Historical Collections

The Cottages was a model community for Christian Natives, former students of Sitka’s Presbyterian mission school. It was located on mission property at the edge of the Sitka National Historical Park, on Kelly and Metlakatla Streets. The first three homes were built in 1888. By 1889 there were 6, in 1900 9, 1910 15, 1920 18, 1930 17.

7

Photo Shop Studio photo of Sitka in 1928, showing the Cottages at far right, and the Indian Village on the left, separated by the town of Sitka

It was a tiny community of no more than 18 homes, and fewer than 70 residents; more of a neighborhood than a community. There were strong ties to the Village, where nearly all the rest of Sitka’s Native residents lived until well into the 20th century.

8

9

Sitka from the Western Harbor, from the 1869 Coast Pilot of Alaska, First Part.

Why was the Cottages founded? This requires looking back at the circumstances of the founding of the mission itself, in 1878.

In the mid 1780s to the 1810s, the maritime fur trade in sea otter pelts brought great wealth to the region without taking away indigenous control. By the mid-19th century, however, settlers, traders and miners, backed by military force, were aggressively displacing Native people in British Columbia and Washington Territory.

In Southeastern Alaska, the Russians did not have the ability to be aggressive toward the Tlingit. Instead they relied on diplomacy and engaged in mutually beneficial trade. Tlingit clans were major players in regional commerce.

After the 1867 Treaty of Cession, southeastern Alaska became the American frontier. Americans had the military might the Russians did not have. American traders displaced Natives from trade. I believe that it was this rapid destruction of the indigenous economy, under threat of force, that made missions attractive in the late 1870s, when they were not earlier.

Americans brought the belief that Natives are inherently inferior and must be subjugated for the good of society. Results of the treatment of Native people based on this narrative are then taken as evidence of their natural inferiority. This discriminatory cycle was probably behind why Native people wanted missions and schools, and ultimately, why, in spite of the sacrifices this group made, the settlers at the Cottages suffered much the same fate as other Native people.

10

The Sitka school began in earnest in 1880, and very soon had boarding students – a small group of young men and boys who asked to be allowed to live at the school. The mission laid claim to the present campus in 1882, and students and staff soon built a large dormitory and school building.

The school was this successful right from the start, in large part because of the desire of certain Tlingit leaders to send their children. Missionary Sheldon Jackson, who founded Alaska’s Presbyterian missions, was a prodigious fund raiser. He fictionalized how depraved Natives were before Christianity, but that would not have been effective without the clear evidence of success in the mission students, in the growing facilities, and especially in the Cottages.

11

Cottages families in front of Cottages Hall, around 1904. Collection Sitka National Historical Park.

cottages-ids

This is my effort at matching the names to the persons in the photo – no guarantees!

Starting left to right, front row – Eaton Hunter, Ralph Young, Don Cameron, John Cameron, Frank Price, Ben Peck, Tillie Howard, George Howard, unknown, Esther Cook, mary Cook, Tillie Wells, Bella Simpson, George Bartlett, Ruth Bartlett, David Howard (Middle?) Louis Simpson (boy?), Mrs. George Bartlett, Mrs. Albert James, Jean Wanamaker, Louisa Peck, Mrs. Maud Wells, Mary Simpson, John Newell, Lila Newell, John James

Mrs. Ralph Young (in white blouse?), Mrs. Elsie Newell, Mrs. John James, Mrs. John Willard (holding grand child), Mrs. Don Cameron, Mrs. Thomas Cooke, Mrs. George Howard, Mrs. Ray James (holding Ray Jr.), Albert James,

(Next row?) Edward Grant, Thomas Cooke, John E. Gamble,

Very top row? George Howard, Peter Simpson, John Willard, Willie Wells, Ray James Sr., Andrew J. Wanamaker, Cyrus E. Peck Sr. Identifications from publication The Voice of Brotherhood.

13

The Cottages Band, 1904. Alaska State Library Historical Collections, Sheldon Jackson College Collection.

14

Cottage Women’s Missionary Society. Photo Sitka Historical Society 91.26, folder 660.

Cottage Women’s Missionary Society Back Row – left to right: Mrs. John James Mrs. Cook Miss Gibson Mrs. Wanamaker Mrs. Young

Next row: Mrs. Newell Mrs. Dundas Mrs. Ray James Gibson Young (boy)

Next row: Mrs. Albert James & Baby Dorothy Mrs. Geo. Howard Mrs. Willard Mrs. MacKay Mrs. C. Bailey

Bottom row: Jenny Sing Mrs. Simpson Mrs. Sam Johnson & baby Ruth Bartlett Mrs. Bartlett & baby (two of the children are not identified)

Identifications from a Sheldon Jackson College pamphlet, collection Sitka National Historical Park

Contrasts and Conflicts

The Cottages presents a problem for us today. Cottage leaders stated that the old ways will bring Native people down. They were proud to be living in American-style homes and wearing American clothes, proud to be speaking English. We see the deliberate abandonment of language, in particular, as a great loss. I think the important thing is not to project our 21st century ideas onto them.

Even as Cottages leaders stated that they needed to put the old ways behind them, the reality was that life at the Cottages was permeated with Native identity. If we just go by the photographs, and the way it was framed at the time, we would think that these people’s identity began fresh with their adoption of an English name.

12

Cottages families, in front of Cottages Hall, late 1906/early 1907. Sitka National Historical Park SITK 808.

But, a Cottage person’s identity would have been based on his or her Native name, family, lineage, relationships and in clan and house history going back thousands of years; identity changed with conversion, but was not replaced.

And, place. These people were still in the place their ancestors had enriched with complex significance. Only a few hundred yards away was the site of the 1804 Battle of Sitka, the major conflict between the Russians and the Kiksadi clan, that resulted in the cession of what is now Sitka to the Russians. Newcomers would not feel the resonance of that event, of what led up to it and the consequences, instead seeing a pretty view or a resource to be exploited.

So while these people look like they have completely assimilated, they knew who they were.

Who were these founders of the Cottages?

15

Cottages families in 1912. Merrill Collection, Sitka National Historical Park.

Some of the Cottages residents in 1912: Bottom row: Dorothy James Truitt, Jennie Simpson Sing, Ray James, Jr.
Middle row: Tillie Howard Hope (the mother of Ellen Hope Hays), Mr. and Mrs. Sloan, Carol Feller Brady’s mother Elizabeth Kadashan James, Carol’s father Ray James with Carol’s sister Flora, and David Howard (Tillie’s brother).
Back row: Ray James’s sister Olinda Bailey, Peter Simpson, Jr., Mary Simpson, Peter Simpson with Baby, Jennie Willard, John Willard, and Ray James’s brother, Albert James.

 

The community included important tradition bearers. Marriages were proper marriages between opposite clans. Perhaps partly due to culture and partly due to economic need, many traditional food gathering traditions were also followed.

Many of the families were closely related. Matriarchs of three families were sisters, whose parents, Kok Gla or John and Lucy or Mary Sloan, while not English speakers or graduates of the school, also lived at the Cottages.

These women are Kiks.adi, Point House. The eldest was Amelia, who later married Don Cameron, who came from Chilkat. Mary Sloan married Tsimshian Peter Simpson, and Lottie was the first wife of George Howard, Tlingit from Kake.

A fourth sister married a businessman born in England, Bernard Hirst. They lived in downtown Sitka, and their sons attended the “white” school.

In 2004, Ellen Hope Hays, who grew up at the Cottages, a Kiksadi Point House woman, whose grandmother was one of the Sloan sisters, showed me this photograph, saying, this is a photograph of descendents of those who fought the 1804 Battle of Sitka. The photograph was taken in 1912, one hundred years after the Battle, and one hundred years before she showed it to me – and her own mother is in the picture, as a girl. The leader of the Tlingit defense in 1804 was a Kiksadi Point House man, Shk’aawulyéil. Her grandmother’s great- grandmother was his sister.1 Another granddaughter recently told me that this photograph was taken at the fort site.

There is therefore a wide gap between how the Cottage members saw themselves, in the context of history, place, and lineage, and how the community looks to us now.

A granddaughter says that Amelia Cameron and her parents did not go to the school or speak English, but lived there because of clan ownership. Her husband, Don Cameron, was Kaagwaantaan. He was a translator for ethnologist John Swanton, and himself provided traditional narratives.

 

The Cottages community included William Wells or Kaads’aati, of the Luknax.adi, and Rudolph Walton Kawootk’, a Kiksadi man. Both were among the “original students” at the school. Both were in line to become leaders, and they and their families made the decision in 1880 to send them to the school. Both became devout Presbyterians.

Elizabeth James was sent to Sitka from Wrangell, by her father, Kaagwaaantaan leader Kadashan, an early convert to Protestant Christianity, and he and his mother were also tradition bearers, contributing material to Swanton. Elizabeth married a son of Amelia Cameron, one of the Sloan sisters.

Perhaps the best known of the Cottage community is Peter Simpson, a leader in civil rights and land claims. He was a member of the Christian community at Metlakatla, British Columbia led by missionary William Duncan, and part of the exodus in 1887 to New Metlakatla in the United States.

Models

The missionary activity by William Duncan was well known to Presbyterian missionaries, and to Tlingit people, who have strong trade and even family ties to the coastal Tsimshian. Founded in 1862, the Christian Native community of Metlakatla had their own frame houses, large church, and a sawmill, and other industries.

It seems likely that the Cottages was modeled at least in part on Metlakatla. We can’t know how much of the idea for the community came from the missionaries, and how much may have been the idea of certain Tlingit people.

In 1887, William Duncan led 800 Christian Tsimshean people from Metlakatla, in British Columbia, to New Metlakatla, in southeastern Alaska. The following spring, in 1888, Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson brought Peter Simpson and 31 other boys from Metlakatla to his Sitka training school.1 (7)

19

Hamilton and Simpson Sawmill, Port Gravina, Alaska. Taken by B. A. Haldane of Metlakatla, Alaska, 1895. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 297380.

Then, in the fall of 1892, when he was about 21, Peter Simpson and some other Metlakatlan graduates of the Sitka school returned south and started Hamilton, Simpson and Company, a sawmill, at Port Gravina – a town they founded – across Tongass Narrows from Ketchikan. The all-Native company eventually had a fishing operation, ran a tug, owned a large store, a carpenter shop, and rental cottages. Gravina burned down in 1904 and was not rebuilt.

Of course most enterprises in southeastern Alaska failed sooner than later, but Natives had more obstacles to success. Simpson’s granddaughter Isabella Brady told how as Natives, they could not get title to the land to rebuild, and says that this is the source of his lifelong fight for land claims.2

Could it be that the Cottages settlers hoped to have a place to do business? Commerce at the Cottages was limited to a boatbuilding operation and sales of handicrafts to tourists, but, by the teens, people associated with the school and the Cottages dominated Sitka’s boatbuilding and commercial salmon seining, which was a big deal at that time.

The boatbuilding operation began in 1906 under Peter Simpson. Men who worked with Simpson, nearly all related by marriage, went on to build most of the hundreds of boats built in Sitka in the 20th century.

20

Peter Simpson’s shop at the foot of Metlakatla Street. Photo Sitka Historical Society.

21

The boat at center is named “William,” perhaps the boat built for Rudolph Walton. Merrill photo Sitka National Historical Park.

 

Simpson’s shop was on the point of land below Metlakatla Street. In the fall of 1908 he had five men working there, and enlarged his shop. In 1909 they launched a 34-foot boat for Rudolph Walton, the William, and had built “many” others.3 (15) In 1910, when he was nearly 40, Simpson employed his brother-in-law George Howard, who was about his age, and John James at his shop.4 (16)

23

Sealing boats gathered for blessing by the Orthodox priest. The store may be Rudolph Walton’s store. Herring Rock is at right. Merrill Photo, collection Sitka National Historical Park.

George Howard left the Cottages, and built a home and boatshop on the northern edge of the Village in the teens. He built sealing boats and fishing boats. Peter Simpson was often “high boat” in the fur seal hunt in the 1920s.

Hope working

Andrew Hope at the bandsaw, fisherman Andrew Soinio in foreground. This may be Scotty Jennings’ boat shop, in the 1920s. Photo from a glass slide in the collection of the Sitka Historical Society.

Andrew Hope, who was a graduate of the Sitka school, married the daughter of Lottie Sloan and George Howard. His eldest son grew up as the adopted son of the Cameron family at the Cottages.

25

Early day salmon seiners, from The Silver Years of the Alaska Canned Salmon Industry: An Album of Historical Photos by Laurence Freeburn.

Dozens of boats were built by this handful of men and their associates. I’ve counted over 50 documented vessels (over about 32 feet) built in Sitka in the 22 years between 1909 and 1931, and at least 31 were built by Alaska Native builders. There were many smaller boats as well. The largest output was in the teens, when engine-powered seiners came to Alaska.

Most of these early seiners were financed by the canneries, for top producers, and nearly all of these men were also affiliated with the Cottages.

These men did not learn to build boats at the school. I believe they learned by working with Scandinavian and other immigrants of the time, and Tlingit craftsmen applied their woodworking and boat design knowledge to the new technology. Other Native builders built boats in villages and towns all over southeast. There were a few non-Native boatbuilders as well.

Rudolph Walton or Kawootk’ was one of the original students at the school. His name was given him by his sponsors at the school, a Philadelphia family who named him after a prominent Presbyterian of that city. Walton was proud of the association.

Walton was a carver and jeweler, and sold his work at the Cottages, but then built a store and home in the Village in 1905.

In 1906 he was at the center of a school integration case, when his step-children were barred from attending the “white” school. The testimony in this case, expecially the way Natives are treated, reveals the gross racial bias that was not usually on display. He was involved in clan affairs, for which he was condemned by the missionaries; while his attempt to get his kids a good education resulted in condemnation by other whites.

This epitomizes the bind that Cottage people were in: they made the sacrifice of their traditions and language, and apparently of clan leadership, in order to secure a future for their children, but in spite of their proper clothes, education and manners, they were still treated with gross bias – possibly, as for Walton in the Davis Case, even more so, because they dared to challenge the status quo.

Most of the founders of the Alaska Native Brotherhood had been educated at the Presbyterian mission school and were affiliated with the Cottages.

We are fortunate to have people with us today who grew up in the Cottages, and who tell their story, or even write about what it was for children in the 1930s, the last days as a community.

They describe the joys of growing up with the Sitka National Historic Park for a backyard; of playing with cousins, and feasting on traditional foods, when families went fall fishing, or to canneries in the summer. And the grandparents, aunts and uncles and great-aunts and uncles, as well as parents who practiced and taught traditional food gathering. How musical many of the residents were, and the excellence of the Sheldon Jackson School choir and basketball programs, and how warm and welcoming the school staff was to these young kids. And the spontaneous picnics, and church-centered celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and being a part of the Sheldon Jackson School community.

But the striking thing in these narratives is that most are stories of survival. What unfortunately shaped this community, was premature death and the unfortunate consequence of repeated, severe trauma: alcohol abuse. This, I believe, was a direct result of forces that were against Native people from the very start.

By the 1880s, most Americans saw enormously improved living standards and life expectancy. But this improvement was not enjoyed by Alaska Natives. Even in the 1930s, homes in the Cottages did not have running water. Economic and social marginalization stemming from racial discrimination probably had something to do with it, but whatever the cause, Alaska Natives saw a horrific rate of premature death. At least two men’s deaths were related to overwork.

Ellen Hope Hays, who was a child of the Cottages, said that it was disease that had the biggest impact on Native people, more than racism or alcohol.

I went to the Division of Vital Statistics in Juneau and copied out the deaths in Sitka in the 1930s. When I ordered the list by age at death, I was shocked. At least eighty percent of the family names of those who died at age 30 or younger are those of Native families.

Peter Simpson outlived all 15 of his children – only two lived to adulthood, and both lost children of their own, and died leaving others. Carole Feller Brady’s entire family died – parents, three sisters, and two brothers – by the time she was still only a teen. Many of the families were closely related, and the small size of the community, made these intense losses devastating.

In 1937, four young men from the Cottages – two graduates, a current student, and the young husband of a graduate – drowned. In 1936 and 37, 5 other Cottages residents also died prematurely. This is from a community of only 17 homes.

Nine of the seventeen people in this photograph died prematurely.

By the 1930s, Sheldon Jackson School staff were concerned about the situation, in which alcohol abuse was a problem in many homes. Cottages founders tried to revive the Cottages Society, but the devastation wrought by so much trauma was out of anyone’s control.

Carol Feller Brady, whose two idolized older brothers were among the drowning victims, and whose father died of tb the year before, tells how school superintendent Les Yaw told her sister not to be too hard on their mother, who was drinking: “her heart is buried six feet underground.”

Everyone we’ve interviewed had stories of tremendous loss, of siblings, parents.

But all those people also have beautiful stories of family, food, and traditions. Their stories help us to understand how they survived circumstances that overwhelmed others, whether by force of will, by not looking back, or by cultivating forgiveness. “Life was hard,” is as close to a complaint as we’ve heard.

We can also learn from the story of the Cottages how racism shaped the experiences of Native people, and how those same stereotypes and assumptions persist today, ironically stemming from the consequences of generations of deliberate categorization of Natives as inferior.

Selected sources:

Joyce Walton Shales, “Rudolph Walton: One Tlingit Man’s Journey Through Stormy Seas, Sitka, Alaska, 1867-1951” (Ph. D. diss., The University of British Columbia, 1998)

Sergei Kan, Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999)

Twelfth Census of the United States, Census of Alaska, Southern District, Sitka, Alaska 1900, accessed at family search.org.

Thirteenth Census of the United States, Population – Alaska, 1st District, Sitka, Alaska 1910, accessed at findmypast.com.

Ted C. Hinckley, Alaskan John G. Brady, Missionary, Businessman, Judge, and Governor, 1878-1918 (Miami, Ohio: Miami University, 1982)

Don Craig Mitchell, Sold American, The Story of Alaska Natives and Their Land, 1867-1959 (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2003), 65-110

A. E. Austin, “History of the Mission” The North Star 5 no. 12 December 1892 1-4

Zachary R. Jones, “’Search For and Destroy’: The US Army’s Relations with Alaska’s Tlingit Indians and the Kake War of 1869,” Ethnohistory 60, no. 1 (Winter 2013), 1-26

Susan Neylan, “Longhouses, Schoolroom, and Workers’ Cottages: Nineteenth Century Protestant Missions to the Tsimshian and the Transformation of Class Through Religion” Journal of the CHA 2000 New Series 11, 51-86

Peter Murray, The Devil and Mr. Duncan (Victoria, British Columbia: Sono Nis Press, 1985)

1.This and most of the other Tlingit geneology from Harold Jacobs, personal communication.
2.Murray, p. 207 (boys to S.J.); William Gilbert Beattie, Marsden of Alaska (New York: Vantage Press, 1955), p. 19 (boys to S.J., incl Simpson); North Star, September 1888 (Simpson in school here).
2 Isabella Brady (grand daughter of Peter Simpson), personal communication
3 North Star, March 1909, p. 2 (boat for Walton, many boats past few years), Chronology p. 38 (Walton’s boat the William)
4 1910 Census (Simpson, Howard, James building).

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This is part 2 of three parts of my history of boatbuilding in Sitka. Most of the research was done in 1989 and 1993, when I interviewed boatbuilders and their sons and daughters. Enjoy, and please  contact me with requests for use, with corrections and any other information or questions.

Andrew Hope at the bandsaw, fisherman Andrew Soinio in foreground. This may be Scotty Jennings' boat shop, in the 1920s. Photo from a glass slide in the collection of the Sitka Historical Society.

Andrew Hope at the bandsaw, fisherman Andrew Soinio in foreground. This may be Scotty Jennings’ boat shop, in the 1920s. Photo from a glass slide in the collection of the Sitka Historical Society.

Introduction

Sitka has always been a maritime community, dependent on the ocean for transportation and livelihood. For hundreds of years, Tlingit people of Sitka built and used canoes, carved and steamed from single trees. When the Russians and later Americans moved in to Sitka, they introduced European-style planked wooden boats and ships. This history is about these boats. Hundreds have been built here, a large number of them by Tlingit and other Alaska Native builders.

Boats were built in Sitka because people needed them, and could not afford to buy them, and was not an industry producing boats for selling outside the immediate area. In the 200 years since the first permanent Russian settlement here in 1799, Sitka has been a Tlingit stronghold, Russian fort, Russian American colonial capital, American frontier town, fishing village, site of a WW II military installation, pulp mill town and now the small city we know today. Boat and shipbuilding in Sitka, and the builders and their backgrounds and activities, reflect Sitka’s varied history and economy and our location on the eastern edge of the North Pacific.

The Russians of the Russian American Company built ships and boats for their own colonial operations, for hunting, supplying outposts, exploration, and taking furs and correspondence back to Siberia. They built the first ship in Sitka in1805. In the beginning at least, these ships were not very good, and reflected the difficulty of maintaining a colony which was halfway around the world from support, and in a climate and geography alien to them. Shipbuilding was an important part of their endeavor to become a self-sufficient colony. They built at least 27 ships, most of them about the size of large fishing boats today. A few of the ships were fairly large, and included the first steamer built on the west coast of North America.

After the purchase of the territory of Alaska by the United States in 1867, some American entrepreneurs built sailing ships and boats for fishing, mining, or trading enterprises, but this boatbuilding activity was sporadic, reflecting the varied and unstable economy of that time, mainly trade and prospecting.

But once fisheries became a mainstay of Sitka’s economy after the turn of the century, hundreds of boats were built, not only fishing boats but pleasure boats and others. Through the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s there were at least eight boat shops in Sitka at various times. All of the builders did other things as well, like fishing, carpentry, or mining. The owner of the boat was often involved with the construction, and some fishermen built their own boats by themselves.

When the fishing tapered off, boatbuilding declined too. In the peak years of Sitka boatbuilding, there was demand for boats, materials were available, and time was cheap, which is not the case today. The decline of wooden boatbuilding in Sitka followed the pattern in the United States generally. Both labor and high-quality old-growth wood have become relatively expensive. Wooden boats are being replaced by fiberglass, aluminum and steel ones.

The following narrative includes most of the boats built here which were large enough to be officially documented, which is five net tons, or about 32 feet in length for a power boat.

Information comes from the federal lists of documented vessels; Sitka newspapers; and many interviews, most carried out in 1988. Thank you to all the people I interviewed and talked with and to those who helped me in the libraries and museums. There will certainly be mistakes, and I would appreciate corrections and additions.

PART II: AFTER 1900

Sitka’s first cannery started up in 1878,i (16a) and fishing gradually became an important industry here. But it was not until decades later, after the turn of the century, that fishing boats of any size were built here. Records are still available of decked boats over five net tons, which is about 32 feet. Very few boats were recorded as built in Sitka before 1915, but between 1915 and 1930, at least 43 were built here, almost all fishing boats.ii (1) (There seems to often be a delay between the boat’s completion and its documentation.) A total of 20 of these larger boats were documented in the three years between 1917 and 1919.. It was around this time that gasoline engines revolutionized the process of seining (pulling a net round a school of fish). Gas trollers (hook and line fishing boats) were also built locally. Many boats too small to require documentation, including small trollers, sealers and rowboats, were built as well.

Much of the fishing boatbuilding in Sitka up through the 1950s had its roots in the Cottages settlement, a group of houses adjacent to Sheldon Jackson School (now college). Here, in 1907, a Tsimpshian graduate of the school named Peter Simpson started a commercial boat shop. Later, his brother-in-law George Howard, who had been working with him, built his own shop in the Sitka Village, on Katlian Street, which was later used by his sons. Then, in the 1920s and 30s, Simpson’s nephew by marriage, Andrew Hope, started building boats, and eventually had his own shop. Among them, these men and those who worked with them built the majority of the boats built here.

Another builder, Frank Kitka, built several seiners, his last one documented in 1920. He built at least six large boats, first at the Brady sawmill then at a shop on Charcoal Island. He built his last boat on Katlian Street.

In addition, John Bahrt was building smaller boats on Seward Street. Kristian Norholm, a Norwegian immigrant, built his own shop in 1924. Arthur `Scotty’ Jennings had a shop on Katlian Street in the 1930s; he was an immigrant from the north of England. Still others built rowboats, and some fishermen built their own boats.

The Cottages

The Presbyterian mission school, which is now Sheldon Jackson College, began as a day school for Native children in 1878. It soon became a boarding school, where the children learned reading and the Bible, and received training in sawmill engineering, metal work, furniture making, carpentry, and other skills which they used in work on the school. The Presbyterians acquired a portable sawmill in 1882 and staff and students built several buildings by the end of the decade.

In 1886 they had built a boat shop, on the bottom floor of the carpenter shop, where the Sage building is now. This shop was probably for building and repairing the school’s own boats.iii (1)

None of the school’s early carpentry instructors seems to have been a boatbuilder. Students did, however, build a 14-foot rowboat for the Alaska Pavilion at the St. Louis World’s Fair, in 1904.iv (2) In 1910 some instructors built a launch, but it was out of the water again in less than a year, where it stayed for another year.v (3) By 1912 boatbuilding did become a regular part of the school’s program and continued to be so most years until the school became a junior college in 1944. The boat shop had electricity, and a bandsaw, lathe and circular saw by 1915, which they used to repair the school’s boats and to build rowboats.vi (4)

By 1906 or 1907 some graduates of the school had set up a commercial boatbuilding shop at the Cottages settlement, adjacent to the school, but the path from the school to the new shop was not direct.

Peter Simpson – grandfather of Sitka boatbuilding

Peter Simpson came to the Sitka Training School in 1888 when he was about 17 years old and stayed here a couple of years before returning south to Gravina (near Ketchikan) to be the engineer at a sawmill he co-founded. Years later, some time between 1895 and 1899, he came back to Sitka, and was a steam engineer here. When he finally started building boats at Sitka he was in his mid-thirties, about 17 years after he had graduated, and after a career as steam engineer in the intervening years. It is hard to tell at what point or from whom he might have learned boatbuilding. At the time boats were being built all over southeastern Alaska, probably often by people with no formal training at all, and Simpson may himself have been self-taught.

Peter Simpson came to the United States with missionary William Duncan. In 1887 Duncan, who had gone to Canada from his native England as an Anglican missionary, fell out with church and government authorities, and led over 800 Tsimpsean Natives from their village of Metlakatla, British Columbia, to New Metlakatla, at the site of an abandoned Tlingit village near Ketchikan in southeastern Alaska. Peter Simpson was about 16 years old at the time of the exodus. Besides an elementary education from Duncan, Metlakatlans had plenty of opportunities for practicing practical skills. At both towns the people built all their houses and other buildings. At old Metlakatla they built and ran a water powered sawmill and a cannery, and by 1890 New Metlakatla also had a sawmill and cannery.vii (5)

Peter Simpson’s contemporary Edward Marsden, also a teenager at the time, built his mother’s house in the new village, and ran the mission steamer during the move.viii (6) Simpson’s practical education probably began fairly early.

In addition, traditional craftsmen, Tsimpshean and Tlingit, had a strong tradition of working in wood and canoe building, and knew the properties of the different local woods. Although boatbuilders working with planked boats used different techniques, they used the knowledge of wood and woodworking tools of traditional craftsmen.

The spring after the move to Alaska, in 1888, Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson brought Peter Simpson and 31 other boys from Metlakatla to his Sitka training school.ix (7) Peter Simpson was about 17, and he stayed here a couple of years.

Peter Simpson was still at the school in 1890, and was in Sitka in 1891, when he married Mary Sloan, a Sitka Tlinget woman of the Kiksadi clan.x (8)

Then, in the fall of 1892, when he was about 21, he and some other Metlakatlan graduates of the Sitka school returned south and started Hamilton, Simpson and Company, a sawmill, at Port Gravina, across Tongass Narrows from Ketchikan. The all-Native company eventually had a fishing operation, ran a tug, owned a large store, a carpenter shop, and rental cottages. They milled wood for building Ketchikan, but had some problems getting paid; in 1900 Peter Simpson filed a lien against a sawmill in Ketchikan, which got lumber from Gravina and never paid. But the operation lasted until everything burned down in 1904. They could not get title to their business site, because as Natives they were not considered citizens of the United States.

Peter Simpson was the engineer at Gravina and later was their steamboat engineer, and he was the vice president of the company. In a letter to the head of the Sitka school published in the North Star, the Sitka school’s newspaper, he credited the school with all the training for running the mill. “To say that Sitka Industrial Training School train me to do this.” Later in the same letter he writes, “we put all the machinery all in order and runs just as easy as the tide comes up.”xi (9)

He was still working at Gravina in 1895, but by 1899, although he was still an investor in the Gravina mill, he was living in Sitka.xii (10) He was in Sitka with his family in 1897, but that may have been only a visit. His granddaughter Isabella Brady says she has heard he ran a ferry between Douglas and Juneau, sometime between his time at Gravina and his return to Sitka.xiii (11)

In 1900 Simpson was the foreman of a sawmill in Sitka, either at the school, at the mill of John Brady (a supporter of the school) or at the other sawmill in town, owned by W. P. Mills.xiv (12) Even after he started building boats, Simpson seems to have been primarily an engineer. In 1910 and 1912 he spent the summer as foreman of the W. P. Mills sawmill, and spent the winter of 1911-1912 running the school’s steam heating plant and electric plant. In 1909 he remodeled the Native Public School.xv (13)

But by 1907 or so he was also building boats at the Cottages. In the fall of 1908 he had five men working there, and enlarged his shop to 22 by 60 feet. The school paper says that they had orders enough ahead to keep them busy until spring.xvi (14) In 1909 they launched a 34-foot boat for Rudolph Walton, another graduate of the school, a jeweler and later fisherman, and the school paper said they had been building many boats in the past few years.xvii (15) In 1910, when he was nearly 40, Simpson employed his brother-in-law George Howard, who was about the same age, and John James at his shop.xviii (16)

George Howard had married Lottie Sloan, the sister of Peter Simpson’s wife Mary Sloan, in about 1890. (George Howard later married again, around 1907.) George Howard was Tlingit, from Klawock, and also a graduate of the Sitka school. He was living at the Cottages in 1900, but at that time he had been foreman of the school shoe shop. By 1910 he was a boatbuilder, working with Peter Simpson.xix (17)

The Cottages settlement was adjacent to the school, on Kelly and Metlakatla Streets, just west of the Sitka National Historical Park. More cottages were on the present Visitor Center parking lot. It was on mission property, where married former students of the school built their own single family houses, as an alternative to returning to their home villages and living in traditional clan houses. Simpson’s shop was, eventually, on the point of land where the Merrill monument is now.

In the 1910 census, there was a fourth boatbuilder, John Bahrt, son of ship carpenter H. L. Bahrt. He was 28 in 1910. In the previous census, in 1900, he had been a laborer. His father still called himself a ship carpenter on the census, but he was involved in mining and other ventures.xx (18) Between the 1900 census and the 1910 census, Peter Simpson, George Howard, John James, and John Bahrt had all switched to boatbuilding from other jobs. This was probably in response to the need for fishing boats.

The Fisheries

Seining

The sudden increase in boatbuilding — from no boatbuilders at all in 1900, to four in 1910 — was probably due to an increase in demand for fishing boats.

By 1889 there were already 13 canneries in southeastern Alaska, including one at Sitka, at Redoubt.xxi (19) But the early seining (catching fish with a net, towed around a school of fish) was done with large rowboats, which apparently were supplied by the canneries, and the fish were carried on steamers to the cannery.

After the turn of the century, however, gas engines were rapidly adopted in the salmon seine fishery.xxii Many of the gas seiners used out of Sitka were built here.

The earliest seine boats were large flat-bottomed open boats, propelled by oars, and nets were pulled by hand. Engines were introduced on seiners on Puget Sound soon after the turn of the century. According to Herman Kitka, in 1914 Tom Sanders Jr. fished a motorized seiner, the COMET, that had been brought up from Puget Sound, for Deep Sea Salmon Company. He outfished everybody, and soon all the seiners had engines.

Herman Kitka says that the earliest motorized seiners had loose decks of 2 x 12’s which were picked up to empty the hold. This was not the case for more than a couple of years, because of the problem with rain water and snow in the boat in the winter.xxiii (1a)

Many of the seiners built in Sitka over the years were financed by the canneries. Sometimes they were built for the cannery, and sometimes they were built for an individual fisherman, who would help build the boat. The canneries had boats built for good producers, obligating the fisherman to fish for that cannery to repay the debt. Some fishermen would eventually buy their boats, but others fished on cannery boats indefinitely.

Trolling

Trolling peaked in the 1920s or 1930s. Trolling is catching fish with a hook and line, pulled slowly through the water. The early gas powered trollers were much smaller than the boats today, maybe from 20 to 25 feet long. Until the Second World War there were also the hand trollers, who fished by hand from rowboats. Some hand trollers used rowboats, and others used the carved canoes. A typical hand troller rowboat, at least in the 20s and ’30s, was around fourteen or sixteen feet long.

Sealing

Sealing boats, another special kind of boat, eventually evolved into a specific type, built at Sitka.The fur seals pass offshore of Sitka every spring on their way to their breeding grounds on the Pribilof Islands. At a few places in southeastern Alaska and in British Columbia, Native hunters would head out in boats or canoes and hunt them. Up until the turn of the century American and Canadian sealing ships would also take boats and hunters, skilled Native hunters if they could get them, and take the seals on the ocean on the seals’ migration route. Between the almost unregulated slaughter at sea and the official slaughter by the Alaskan Commercial Company on the Pribilof Island breeding grounds fur seals were very nearly wiped out. The sealing fleet shrank with the numbers of fur seals, and 1897 was the last year by law any American ships participated. High seas sealing by all nationalities was outlawed in an international treaty in 1911.xxiv (20)

Natives were always allowed to go out from shore, however, even when sealing from ships was banned. In an 1894 law, the Natives were restricted to open rowing or sailing boats, with five or fewer aboard.xxv (21)

In 1902 sealers were going out from camps at Biorka Island in all kinds of boats, including canoes.xxvi (22) But at some point a type of boat called a sealer came into common use. The Davis family, boatbuilders in Metlakatla, claim to have built the first sealer in 1905.xxvii (25) The sealing boats were around 20 to 25 feet long, graceful rowing boats built for speed. Bob DeArmond, who grew up in Sitka in the 1920s, remembers them having five rowing stations, with a steering oar in the stern, and a harpooner in the bow. He says they were similar to the whaling boats used by the Navy as launches, but much more lightly built, and thus faster.xxviii (24) The boats were sometimes built of spruce for lightness. Sealing boats were built and used for sealing at least into the 1920s. There was a Fourth of July sealing boat race into the 1930s, and the boats were well taken care of. In 1934, the champion was the SKOOKUM, over the “8”.xxix (25)

Other purposes

Boats were built for other purposes too, like pleasure, or for carrying freight, prospecting and mining. Motor boats smaller than about 32 feet are not documented, but there were probably many smaller boats, from skiffs on up, built for trolling, general duty and subsistence food gathering. Besides planked rowboats and launches, carved canoes were also being produced; in the 1900 census, three men listed their occupation as canoe builder. Their ages were from 35 to 56.

John Sarvela

Machine and metal work for Sitka boats was done at Sarvela’s machine shop, where the city grid is now, on Katlian Street. John Sarvela came to Sitka by way of northern California from Finland. He worked first at the Ready Bullion mine at Douglas. There was a strike by all the miners in 1908, and he took the opportunity to move to Chichigoff. While waiting for his family to join him there, he built a small boat, called the BEAVER, named after its engine. In 1916 or so he had the LULU built at Sitka by one of the Sitka builders, from a model he had carved. In 1918 the family moved to Sitka, and he started the machine shop, later taken over by his son Bill Sarvela.xxx (25a)

Frank Kitka

Herman Kitka says that his father, Frank Kitka, built the NECKERBAY, documented 1915, for John Young; OLYMPIC, 1918, for himself; ZINGO, 1918, for John Joseph, financed by the Deep Sea Salmon Company; BUSY BEE, 1919, for George T. Myers; and the ATLAS, his last boat, for himself in 1920, documented 1922. He also built the PTARMIGAN and the DIXIE, which may have been too small to document. He first built in a shop at the old Brady sawmill, near the present Thomsen Harbor. When that building collapsed, he built boats in a shop on Charcoal Island, which had machinery powered by a gas engine. That shop was on the beach below the site of the kindergarten, and burned down before the military took over the island.

This same shop was used by Hoonah boatbuilder Johnny Lawson, to build the PERSEVEARANCE, documented in 1927, and the O.K., documented in 1929.xxxi (1c)

Kitka built his last boat, the ATLAS, in 1920, on Katlian Street. Both the ATLAS and the earlier boat OLYMPIC were built for himself, because his main occupation was as a fisherman.xxxii (1b)

The ATLAS was out of the water at Allen Marine Ways for several years until the fall of 1993.

George Howard and Sons

George Howard might have had his own shop at the Cottages by 1912, but in 1912 or 1914 he built his own shop and house on Katlian Street, on the town side of what is now the Seafood Producers Cooperative plant.xxxiii (2) The earlier shop was much smaller than the one which replaced it in 1940, and was only big enough to build the hull of the boat and not the superstructure.xxxiv (2a) The house and shop were torn down in the summer of 1990.

George Howard probably built the ACTIVE, documented in 1917, for himself and his sons, and he built the U & I, documented 1919. The year of documentation is not necessarily the year the boat was launched, and is often a little later. The U & I was completely rebuilt in 1947 by troller Oscar Johnson, near Lindenburgh Head, and is still fishing.xxxv (3)

In the 1920 census, taken in January of 1920, George Howard and his son George Howard Jr. were on Katlian Street and listed their occupations as boatbuilders.xxxvi (3a) George Howard and his sons, David and George Jr., advertised in most issues of the Sitka Tribune, from 1922 through 1924. In their ads they used a photo of a seine type boat. Some ads read, “GEORGE HOWARD BoatbuildING PLANT Now Ready to Take Orders for Boats from 14 ft. up to 40 ft. Lumber on Hand.” The newspaper, in June of 1922, reported that they were turning out sealing boats, and that they had laid a keel for a 48-foot boat.xxxvii (4)

In March of 1923 they were building two boats, one for James Ryan, launched that month, and one for someone from Kake.xxxviii (5)

Every summer the Howards closed up shop and went fishing. George Howard built the large seiner PROGRESS, documented in 1923, for himself, his sons, and son-in-law Andrew Hope.xxxix (6)

The Cottages Through the 1920s

Herman Kitka says that Peter Simpson built the DREADNAUGHT, 1915, for Myers Cannery, for Jimmy Keunz; the ALBATROSS, 1917, for John Cameron, another resident of the Cottages; the BARANOFF, 1918, for Ralph Young, of the Cottages; the EAGLE, 1919 for Pyramid Packing Company; the MARY WARD, 1919, for Deep Sea Packing Company for George Ward; and the KATHARINE, 1919, for Deep Sea.xl (7)

Simpson is said to have built the MOONLIGHT, 1918, although the documentation lists her owner, Edward Grant, as the builder. Grant fished the boat into the 1940s, when he was killed aboard the boat when his neck scarf caught in the exposed engine. It was beached on Graveyard Island at Hoonah, until bought by a troller, Pete Moe.xli (19)

The MOONLIGHT is still fishing; the boat was completely rebuilt in 1979. By that time she was in rough shape from lack of maintenance from a series of owners. Her present owner says that before the rebuild the boat was unusually lightly built, with widely spaced frames, and no floors, the pieces which join the pairs of ribs.xlii (20) This might indicate the speed with which these boats were built, although it may be a characteristic only of this particular boat.

Peter Simpson built the troller SMILES, documented in 1920.xliii (8) According to the 1920 census, Cottages residents Raymond James and Simpson’s son Louis Simpson were building boats with Simpson.xliv (8a) He also advertised in 1925: “NOTICE Order your trolling boats from the Simpson Shop, Peter Simpson.”xlv (9) But in 1922, 1923, and 1924, he is only mentioned as a sealer (one of the most successful), and fisherman in the newspaper, and he also advertised his boat, the ALCO, for hire.xlvi (10) He could have been building trollers, which at that time were too small to require federal documentation.

Boatbuilder Louis Simpson, Peter Simpson’s son, died at the age of 40 in 1936 in a flu epidemic of pneumonia.xlvii (10c)

In 1922, John Willard advertised “boat work a specialty” at the Cottages, perhaps at Simpson’s shop.xlviii (10a)

Early day wood for boatbuilding

Herman Kitka says that even in the early days, most builders used Douglas fir, shipped on the steamers from Seattle air-dried, and not too many builders cut their own wood.xlix (10aa) This was apparently most often the case with the cannery financed boats.

For political and economic reasons the sawmill industry has never thrived here. For a long time after the purchase of Alaska cutting wood commercially on government land was not legal, and then when it was legal, the law was hazy and export from the state was still illegal.l (10b) In some years there was no operating sawmill in Sitka. By contrast, the logging industry in Washington and Oregon was large, competitive, and organized. Even today Douglas fir, from Washington and Oregon, is readily available, while lumber from local trees is very difficult to obtain.

Andrew Hope in the 1920s and 1930s

Andrew Hope, a well-known Sitka builder, was very active by the end of the 1920s. Andrew Hope was born in Sitka in 1896. His father was English, and his mother was Tlinget, from the Kogwanton clan. At Sitka his father was a store clerk for the Sitka Trading Company and was also involved in mining, and eventually left for the Yukon gold rush. Andrew went to the Sheldon Jackson school, and also attended the Cushman school, in Tacoma.li (21)

In 1912, he married Tillie Howard, when both were about 16. Tillie was the daughter of boatbuilder George Howard, and niece of Peter Simpson, and so young Andrew probably started his boatbuilding career working with these men.

Apparently Hope did not have his own shop until about 1940, when he built his shop on the town side of what is now Murray Pacific.lii (22) The shop still stands, although part of it was taken off to widen the street a few years ago, and it is now the shop of Harry Jimmy. Before he had his own shop, he may have built in the Howard family boatshop or Peter Simpson’s.

In the 1920s and 1930s, documents name him as builder of the BIORKA and STARLIGHT, documented in 1927; the PYRAMID, 1929; the NEPTUNE, 1930; BUDDY, 1931; and the ADMIRALTY, 1938.liii (23)

He probably had a hand in building others for which there are no records.

The NEPTUNE was built for and to some extent by “Cap” Pavloff, behind where the Wells Fargo bank is now. Pavlof used the boat for fishing and for running to his homeplace of Kodiak or beyond. Pavlof had been a captain of trading vessels in Alaska.liv (24) The NEPTUNE was documented in 1930, and is another survivor of that era, still fishing out of Sitka.

Andrew Hope built many of his boats from half models, hand carved scale models (½ inch to a foot) of half a boat, cut lengthways.lv (24a) Molds for the full sized boats were then scaled up from the model, and very seldom did the full size molds have to be faired in at all.lvi (25)

Hope built the ADMIRALTY for George James of Angoon. This boat was a copy of another Angoon boat, the seiner U & I, maybe the boat George Howard built in 1919, although there were two boats with that name.lvii (25aa)

John Bahrt.

Builder John Bahrt was also working in the 1920s, according to his nephew and namesake, who remembered helping his uncle build at least one small boat, for John Peterson. He said his uncle used copper fastenings, and preferred Douglas fir.lviii (11)

The shop was at the family home, where the Seward Square Mall is now, so boats had to be launched on rollers to put in by the old sawmill. lix(12) That waterfront has all been filled in now, and is the parking lot and tourist dock at Crescent Harbor.

John Bahrt was later the first gardener at the new Pioneer Home. He died in 1962, at the age of 82. lx (12a)

Kristian Norholm

By the early 1920s, Sitka’s builders were joined by Kristian Norholm, a Norwegian immigrant. In 1922 he was planning to put up a boatbuilding operation at Sawmill Cove. He had somewhere launched the ROSARIO, which might have been a repair job to a Norwegian-owned Seattle boat of that name, and repaired another boat. In the spring of 1923 he had built a covered ways at “Norholm Cove,” probably where older Sitkans remember his shop being, near the Forest Service building and the old airplane turnaround. He also had an engine for hauling boats up. At the time there was only a trail to his shop, and he landed materials by boat.lxi (13)

The shop was not very big. The ways were wooden. Most local boats then were not very big — 30 feet was a large boat.

Norholm did repair to the larger boats, like the halibut boats up from Puget Sound, which were almost all Norwegian-owned. He built some boats as well: he built the 32-foot CARRIE for George Rice, a local plumber, in 1922.lxii (14) Bill Sarvela helped him once when he was a teenager, in the mid-20s, on a repair to the MORNING STAR, owned by Sergius Williams. Norholm also used clenched nails, iron nails driven through the plank and frame and bent over on the inside. Bill Sarvela helped by bending them over inside, while Norholm drove them from outside the boat.lxiii (15)

At Aleutkina Bay Norholm had a cabin with a log floor adzed smooth, and a mine he worked on, drilling and blasting a tunnel. He also fished, on halibut boats and at least once herring seining. He was also something of a character.

Norholm had come to Sitka around 1915, probably to do something other than build boats. He died of exposure after being hurt in a fight at his mining claim in 1933, when he was about 48.lxiv (15a)

Other Boatbuilders

Johnny Lawsson, a fisherman and builder originally from Hoonah, built the PERSEVEARANCE in Sitka, documented 1927, and the O.K., 1929, in the Charcoal Island shop used by George Howard. The shop burned down shortly before the military took over Charcoal Island before World War II.lxv (15b)

The Tribune also mentions T. F. Demidoff repairing Booth Fisheries’ boat ELSIE, and building a 20-foot yellow cedar boat, that took him two years to finish.lxvi (16) He is also reported in 1928 building a 32-foot troller at the sawmill, with plans to install a 12-15 horsepower Sterling gas engine.lxvii

Another boatbuilder in the 1920s or 1930s was Gustav Karvonen, who built small rowboats, and a 34-foot troller for a Juneau man.lxviii (17) He also repaired the LULU for the Sarvelas. Bill Sarvela remembers him as a “meticulous, little bit of a fellow” who would sand the inside of his boats so that the slime would not stick.lxix (17b)He built skiffs on Aleutski Island, or possibly the same shop Frank Kitka and Johnny Lawsson used, on Charcoal Island. He had an engine to run a bandsaw.

His skiffs were superior to the Davis model, according to Bill Sarvela. The Davis model rowboat was a type of boat, first double-ended and later with a square stern for an outboard engine, built by the Davis family in Metlakatla and distributed all around southeastern Alaska. They were relatively narrow. Bill Sarvela says the fishermen preferred Karvonen’s, because they were more beamy (wider) and easy to row.

Karvonen got oak for ribs from barrels. The planking was spruce or yellow cedar. They had a transom (square) stern, and were wide all the way up to the transom.

He built a few on Aleutski, then a few more on Middle Island, after he moved there to a former fox farm. Eventually he had to come in to live at the Pioneers Home, but died soon after.lxx (16a)

Scotty Jennings

In the 1930s Hope worked with Arthur “Scotty” Jennings, an Englishman from Newcastle (a city near the Scottish border). Scotty’s shop was on pilings just beyond the ANB hall.lxxi (26) The spot is now filled, and is a parking lot beside ANB Harbor.

Jennings served in the English army in the First World War, when he would already have been in his late thirties. He may have originally come to Sitka to fox farm. He was a small, quick man, a “feisty little Englishman,” also somewhat deaf and “cantankerous” in his later years.lxxii (27)

He had a large shop, a former handpack cannery. Bill Sarvela remembers him as excitable, and says he would curse people always stealing his hammers, which he found again when he cleaned up the piles of shavings in his shop.

Jennings built prams, flat-bottomed boats with flat ends, about eight feet long, used as tenders on the fishing boats. Jennings could build the prams quite quickly. He and Andrew Hope once built a dory for Bob DeArmond, which DeArmond rowed to Tacoma, where he went to high school. Apparently they did not usually build dories, because they had to find a model, a dory from a halibut boat.lxxiii (27a)

He did boat repair, although he didn’t build large boats. He also worked for Sitka Light and Power Company on their generator on Sawmill Creek Road, and did dock work.lxxiv (27b)

He advertised in the newspaper in 1934 and 1935: “Boatbuilder and General Boat Repairs. Sitka Alaska.” The newspaper also reported his renovation of the Midget Bar, and his putting in a files system at the commissioner’s office. He died in June of 1949, at 68, at Juneau. He had gone there to go to the hospital, because Sitka did not have a hospital then. He was buried there, not having any relatives here. The shop eventually collapsed, and was torn down.lxxv (29)

Adolph Thomsen

Adolph Thomsen, for whom Thomsen Harbor is named, was a Sitka businessman and fisherman who built two boats for himself in the 1930s: the SOPHIA and the EROS. Both boats were around 40 feet long. Before settling in Sitka he had been a deep water sailor, originally from Denmark. At Sitka he and his family fox-farmed on Biorka Island. His wife Sophia raised chickens, goats, sheep, cows, and horses, and carded, spun and knitted wool into clothes for the family. She also caulked the SOPHIA, which did not leak a drop, according to their daughter, Anna Baggen.lxxvi (30)

In 1923 he owned three fishing boats, the MAINE, the GEDNEY, and the HECLA.lxxvii (31) He still had the HECLA in 1935 when he launched the SOPHIA. The Arrrowhead reported, when the boat was built, that it was intended for halibut fishing.lxxviii (32) The SOPHIA is probably still in use, registered out of Wrangell in 1989.

Thomsen built the EROS in 1937, after the family moved to town, near the present Baranof School playground. She had to be launched on rollers down Baranof Street.lxxix (33)

Endnotes.

i. R. N. DeArmond, A Sitka Chronology (Sitka, Alaska: Sitka Historical Society, 1993)

ii Merchant Vessels 1921, 1928, 1941.

iii Ted C. Hinckley, Alaskan John G. Brady: Missionary, Businessman, Judge, and Governor, 1878-1918 (Miami, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1982), p. 123 (1882 sawmill); North Star, April 1889, p. 68 (six cottages); North Star, March 1888, p. 14 (carpentry shop, others); North Star, 25 December, 1886, p. 3 (boat shop in carp. shop). The North Star was the Sheldon Jackson School newspaper.

iv. Hinckley, p. 338 (rowboat 1904 expo)

v. Thlinget, March 1910, p. 4; idem, February 1912, p. 2 (instructors launch). The Thlinget was the successor to the North Star, the newspaper of the Sheldon Jackson School.

vi. Sheldon Jackson Annuals, No. 814 in Sheldon Jackson College Archives, Sitka, Alaska (1915 annual: boys keep small fleet in repair, build rowboats, hope to build launch; have bandsaw, lathes, circ. saw in shop, elec. lights — also in program 1912, 1924, 1930, 31, 32, 33; 38-39 boys built 4 skiffs, 6 round bottom boats).

vii. Peter Murray, The Devil and Mr. Duncan (Victoria, British Columbia: Sono Nis Press, 1985), p. 42 (industries by 1890)

viii. Murray, p. 17 (Marsden ran steamer)

ix. Murray, p. 207 (boys to S.J.); William Gilbert Beattie, Marsden of Alaska (New York: Vantage Press, 1955), p. 19 (boys to S.J., incl Simpson); North Star, September 1888 (Simpson in school here).

x. Sitka Sentinel (Sitka), 31 December 1947 (married in 1891, Sept. 17); Isabella Brady, interview by author, tape recording, Sitka Alaska 18 November, 1988 (Mrs. Simpson was Kiksadi); North Star, May 1890, p. 118 (Simpson still here).

xi. North Star, November 1892, p. 238 (Gravina letter); Patricia Roppel, “Gravina,” Alaska Journal, vol. 2 no. 3 (1972): 13-15; Alaskan, 21 January, 1893, p. 3 (started); idem, 11 March 1893, p. 3 (report); idem, 1 April 1893, p. 3 (in operation).

xii. North Star, April 1895 (still down there); Alaskan 13 May 1899, p. 3 (Simpson back in Sitka).

xiii. Alaskan late fall 1897 (arrives with family on steamer); Isabella Brady interview (ran ferry).

xiv. 1900 U. S. Census (was sawmill engineer)

xv. Thlinget, September 1909, p. 2 (rem. pub. school); Thlinget, August 1911, p. 1 (steam heating plant); Thlinget, May 1911, p. 3 (to install water wheel); Thlinget, April 1910, p. 3 (Mills’ sawmill); Thlinget, February 1912, p. 2 (sawmill up); Thlinget, May 1912, p. 4 (lights all winter, next summer at Mills’ sawmill).

xvi. North Star, October 1908, p. 3 (starting 1906 or 1907, orders to spring).

xvii. North Star, March 1909, p. 2 (boat for Walton, many boats past few years), Chronology p. 38 (Walton’s boat the William)

xviii 1910 Census (Simpson, Howard, James building).

xix 1900 Census, 1910 Census (Howard marriage, jobs).

xx. 1900 Census, 1910 Census (John and H. L. Bahrt), Alaskan, passim (activities of H. L. Bahrt).

xxi. Alaskan, 13 April 1889, p. 1 (number of canneries 1889).

xxii. Homer E. Gregory and Kathleen Barnes, North Pacific Fisheries, with Special Reference to Alaska Salmon (San Francisco: American Council Institute of Pacific Relations, 1939), p 24 (gas engines spread)

xxiii Herman Kitka, interviews by the author, tape recordings, Sitka, Alaska, October and December 1988 and March 3 1992 (early seiners, financing, the first seiner) The Comet was later rebuilt by Frank Kitka’s brother Peter Kitka in 1926 – Kitka interview 3/92

xxiv. Gerald O. Williams, The Bering Sea Fur Seal Dispute: A Monograph on the Maritime History of Alaska (Juneau, Alaska: Alaska Maritime Publications, 1984) (sealing late 19th century).

xxv. Alaskan, 28 April 1884, p. 1 (sealing law).

xxvi. Alaskan, 17 May 1902, p. 3 (all types of boats)

xxvii. Marty Loken, Davis Boats, Traditional Small Boats of the Northwest Volume Two (Seattle: Center for Wooden Boats, 1981), p. 11 (first sealing boat).

xxviii. R. N. DeArmond, pers. com. winter 1991 (what sealing boats were like).

xxix. Sitka Arrowhead, 14 July 1934, pp. 1, 6 (Skookum beats 8).

xxx Rudy Sarvela, interview by author, tape recording, Sitka Alaska December 1 1988 (History of John Sarvela).

xxxi Herman Kitka Sr., interviews October, December 1988 and March 1992

xxxii Herman Kitka, interviews October, December 1988 (Atlas) and March 1992.

xxxiii George Howard Sr., interview by author, tape recording, Sitka, Alaska, November, 1988; George Howard Sr. and Louie Howard, interview by author, tape recording, Sitka, Alaska, December 1988; and George Howard Sr., interview by author, tape recording, Sitka, Alaska, July 1990 (shop, house built 1912); City Deeds #542 Book 2, granted 2 May 1914 (to

build); Thlinget, March 1912, p. 2 (many new boats from H and S shops, latest 35-footer with red & y c tender); Thlinget, May 1912, p. 4 (H busy all the time).

xxxiv Kitka interview (first Howard shop small)

xxxv Howard interviews (grandfather owned Active at one point); United States Coast Guard, Marine Safety Office, Vessel Documentation, Vessel Files and Abstracts of Titles, Juneau, Alaska (U & I built Howard).

xxxvi 1920 Census (Howards boat builders).

xxxvii Tribune, 1922-1924, passim (ads); Tribune 9 June 1922, p. ?

xxxviii Tribune, 2 March 1923, p. 1; Tribune 16 March 1923, p. 3 (boats for Kake,

James Ryan).

xxxix Tribune, 23 June, 1922 (going fishing); 24 September 1923 (back from

fishing); Coast Guard Vessel Documentation (Progress).

xl. Tribune 23 June 1922 (Willard), Kitka 1992 (boats built by Simpson).

xli. Pat Wood, phone interview by author, 16 November 1988; Merchant Vessels 1921,

1928, 1941, 1948

xlii. ibid.

xliii. Mark Jacobs Jr., interviews by author, tape recordings, Sitka Alaska, November, December 1988 (Smiles built by

Simpson).

xliv. 1920 Census (Simpson, others boatbuilders, Cottages).

xlv. Tribune, 29 February 1925, p. 4, and passim (Simpson ad).

xlvi. Tribune 27 October 1922 (fishing Alco); 16 March 1922, p. 4 (Alco for hire). Tribune, 26 May 1922 (sealing); Tribune, 9 June 1922 (high boat seals).

xlvii City of Sitka Death Certificates (Louis Simpson).

xlix Kitka interview 3/92 (early builders used fir).

l Hinckley, pp 126-28, 133, 144-46 (legality of wood cutting in late 1880s, 1890 Brady shut down) p 145 (1891 Lands Act still not clear on timber use).

li Kathy Ruddy, phone interview by author 9 December 1988; Ellen Hope Hays, interview by author, Sitka, Alaska, 27 October 1988, Sitka Sentinel 15 April 1968, p. 1 (birth date, father English, mother Kogwanton, schools), Alaskan, passim (Percy Hope mining).

lii Hays interview; Sentinel, 15 April 1968, p. 1 (marriage to Tillie); Kitka interview; Hays interview (shop in 1940’s); Howard interview; Jacobs interview (had shop at time of P-H).

liii.Coast Guard Vessels Documentation (boats built by Hope)

liv Sentinel 5 Dec 1947 (obit); John Bahrt, interviews by author, tape recording, Sitka, Alaska, November and December 1988 (to go to Kodiak); Greg Cushing, phone interview by author 16 November 1988 (built at NBA); Coast Guard Vessels Documentation (built by Hope).

lv

lvi Herman Kitka, Sr. interview by author, tape recording, Sitka Alaska March 3, 1992 (Andrew Hope’s building methods).

lvii Mo Johnson interview by author, tape recording, Sitka, Alaska January 17 1988 (Admiralty copy of U&I)

lviii. Bahrt interview (methods of Bahrt)

lix. Ibid.

lx. Bahrt interview (gardener at Pioneer Home), Chronology p 137 (died Oct. 9 1963).

lxi. Tribune. May 1922 (shop to build at sawmill cove); Tribune. 6 April

1923, p 1 (Norholm Cove); Bahrt interview (trail to shop, halibut boats).

lxii. Tribune, 9 June 1922, p. 1 (Carrie); Merchant Vessels 1928

lxiii Bill Sarvela, interview by author, Sitka, Alaska 17 November 1988 (copper fast., helped).

lxiv Sitka Court System, Death Certificate (when he came, how he died).

lxv Kitka 3-92 (Lawsson built Persevearance).

lxvi Tribune, 23 February 1923 (Elsie repaired by Demidoff); Tribune. 24 August 1923 (20′ boat)

lxvii Chronology p. 57 (Demidoff troller)

lxviii B. Sarvela, 1992 note on draft (34′ troller) and Bahrt (Karvonen built boats).

68 R. Sarvela (repaired Lulu).

lxix B. Sarvela interview

lxx Sarvela interview, Bahrt interview (Gus Karvonen) (died – ?)

lxxi Hays interview, Kitka interview (worked with Scotty); Sentinel 29 June

1949, p. 1; Sentinel 1 July 1949, p.1 (obit).

lxxii. Kitka interview (came to fox farm); Tribune, 17 November 1922 (A. Jennings leases for fox farm); Sentinel, 29 June 1949, p. 1; Sentinel 1 July 1949, p. I (obit).

lxxiii Bob DeArmond, personal communication (model for dory).

lxxiv Arrowhead 8 September 1934, 3 November 1934 (carpentry); B. Sarvela interview; Kitka interview (did repair, no large boats).

lxxv. Sitka Arrowhead 5 May 1934 through 1935 (ad); Sentinel 29 June 1949, p 1; 1 July 1949, p. 1 (obit).

lxxvi Anna Baggen, phone interview by author, November or December 1988 (fox farm, activity of Sophia).

lxxvii Sitka Tribune, 20 April 1923, p. 1 (owned three boats).

lxxviii Arrowhead 11 May 1935 (launch), Coast Guard Vessel Documentation (in use).

lxxix. Baggen interview (Eros) Chronology p. 75 (Eros launched 1937).

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Here are the three parts of my Boatbuilding in Sitka, most of which I did in 1988 and 1993, when I interviewed boatbuilders and the sons and daughters of boatbuilders in Sitka. I also did quite a bit of research in the vessel documentation files at the Coast Guard offices in Juneau, in several volumes of the Merchant Vessels lists, and old newspapers.

This first part includes Russian boatbuilding; since then there has been much more published from the Russian American Company and other archives, so it could be updated.

Boatbuilding in Sitka Part One – to 1900

by Rebecca Poulson

Please do not use without attribution and permission

The first shipbuilding done at Sitka was in 1805, when Sitka was a Russian fort. From 1808 until 1867, Sitka was the center of government of Russia’s American colonies, which extended across Alaska and at one time as far south as California. For many of those years, Sitka was also the center for shipbuilding and repair in the colonies.

The Russians built at least 24 ships at Sitka, ranging from 38 to over 130 feet, before the colonial effort was abandoned and their claims sold to the United States.

The following information on shipbuilding comes from the History of the Russian American Company by P. A. Tikhmenev, written in 1863, published by the University of Washington Press in 1978; the Biographical Dictionary of Russian America by Richard Pierce, published by Limestone Press; and other books on Russian America, many of which are published by Limestone Press.

The construction and loss of ships reflected the Russian American Company’s successes and difficulties in establishing their presence in North America. Lack of skills, manpower and materials resulted in problems with many of the early ships. Many ships were wrecked on the thousands of miles of coastline they had to travel between outposts and between Alaska and their Siberian supply points.

THE EARLY DAYS

Before 1799, various Siberian merchant companies and independent hunters were in Alaska, hunting sea otter for their valuable pelts. In 1799 the Russian-American Company was formed from several companies, primarily the company of G. I. Shelekhov. This new company was granted a monopoly from the Russian government to trade in Russian America, and to colonize territory in the name of the Russian government. The chief manager of the company was also the governor of Russian America.

The first Russian ships built in Alaska were built to the west of Sitka, before the formation of the Russian American Company. Alexander Baranov was the Alaskan head of the trading company of G. I. Shelekhov, the forerunner of the Russian American Company. The company wanted him to build ships himself or buy them, because they had found building them in Okhotsk, the eastern Siberian port they used for supplying Alaska, was too expensive. They sent Baranof some iron, sails, rigging, and a shipbuilder, Englishman James Shields, an officer in the Russian Navy.i(2) Shields arrived on a ship he and his men had built at Okhotsk for the company in 1791.ii(3) Their first ship was built near the present town of Seward: the PHOENIX was finished in 1794, and was 73 feet long. The ship was built under very poor conditions. Workers were discontent, even violent, and Natives and rival traders were hostile, and the builders had inadequate materials.iii(4)

After completing the PHOENIX in 1794, Baranof sent her back to Okhotsk with three years worth of furs. In the same year the company was granted an exclusive charter from the Russian government to trade in and to rule Alaska.iv(5) Also in 1799, the Russians built a fort at Sitka, a few miles from the Tlingit fort and settlement on the present site of Sitka. English and American ships had already been coming into Sitka Sound to trade for furs from the Tlingit.v(1)

They then built two more small ships, the DEL’FIN (Dolphin) and the SV. OL’GA (St. Olga). These were smaller ships, about 40 feet long, the size of an average Sitka fishing boat today. Shields did some exploring along the coast in the DEL’FIN, and Baranov took the tiny OL’GA for his traveling among the company outposts. Both of these boats leaked, and the DEL’FIN had to be patched several times during Shields’ trip, because of inadequate nails and splitting wood.vi(6)

Shields later disappeared with the PHOENIX when it went down in 1799 on the way to the colonies from Okhotsk with supplies and 85 men. The loss was a severe blow to the operations in Alaska.vii(7) The OL’GA lasted until 1803, but it was in very poor condition by then. All the useful materials were taken off of her to build two more boats (41 and 51 feet) at Yakutat that winter,viii(8) which must have involved a considerable amount of improvisation.

The Russian outpost at Old Sitka was attacked and burnt in 1802. The two ships built at Yakutat were used by Baranof when he went to try to retake Sitka in 1804. Fortunately for him, he met at Sitka the armed Russian Navy ship NEVA, and after a battle with the Tlinget they established their settlement at the present site of Sitka.ix(8a)

In 1805 the first ships were actually built at Sitka. Nikolai Petrovich Rezanof, a director of the Russian American Company, visited Sitka on an inspection tour in 1805 and began the building of a slipway and the tender AVOS’ (“Maybe”) and another boat, both to his design. The AVOS’ was launched in 1806.

On his way to Sitka from Russia, Rezanof had gone to Japan as an ambassador, but had been rebuffed. The AVOS’ and the newly purchased American ship JUNO were used in an attack and raid on the northern Japanese islands, in 1806 and 1807, which had been ordered by Rezanof, with the idea of forcing the Japanese to trade with Russia.x(9)

The winter of 1805-6 was a difficult one for the Russians at Sitka. There was near-starvation, scurvy, discontent, plots, and drinking.xi(9a) Rezanof mentions the shipwrights, Koriukin and Popov, who had travelled with him from Kamchatka. There was a lot of drinking in Sitka that winter, he writes, but they were good workers, when sober. At one point Koriukin got into a knife fight with the young Russian commander of the JUNO, which had been purchased that winter. Rezanov also reports that the shipwright Koriukin was a very good draughtsman, who drew good sketches, surveys and maps.xii(10)

The AVOS’ was lost in 1808 off Unalaska, carrying Company cargo and dispatches.xiii(11)

Because of Koriukin’s and Popov’s drinking, in the fall of 1806 Baranov instead hired an American shipwright named Lincoln. Lincoln built the SITKHA, a brig, launched in 1807, which was lost that same year. He built the 300-ton brigantine OTKRYTKIE, in 1808, and laid the keel for the CHIRIKOV, a 120-ton schooner. These last two ships would have been about a hundred feet long. Apparently Lincoln’s ships were well built. They lasted into the 1820s, although by that time they were in poor condition.xiv(12)

After Lincoln left, the Company did not build mor

Sitka in 1805, after having taken over the site of the Tlingit fort Noow Tlein in late 1804

Sitka in 1805, from Captain Yuri Lisianski’s Voyage Around the World. The Russians had taken over the site of the Tlingit fort Noow Tlein in late 1804, with the assistance of Captain Lisianski in the armed Russian ship Neva.

e ships until 1817: the schooners PLATOV and BARANOV, which were about 50 feet long.xv(13) Between 1817 and 1825 the company tried to move their shipbuilding operation to their settlement at Fort Ross, California, under a shipwright trained by Lincoln. They built four ships there, but the experiment was a disaster. The ships were all rotten and useless within a few years of being built, either because the wood was used unseasoned, when it was still wet, or because the species of oak they used was prone to rot.xvi(14)

THE PEAK OF SHIPBUILDING

Between 1799 and 1821 the Russian American Company had built a total of 15 ships in Russian American outposts and at Okhotsk, in Siberia, and bought only 13. But the early Russian American Company had a terrible record of sinking ships: over the same period of time, they sank 16. After 1821, a smaller proportion of company vessels were built in the colonies, although they still added up to a good number.xvii(15)

Only a few tree species commonly grow to any size around Sitka, and these include Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophyla) and Alaska yellow cedar (Chamaecyparus nootkatensis). Yellow cedar is very rot resistant and is often used for boats. Spruce and hemlock are not rot-resistant, but Sitka spruce has excellent strength for its weight, making it good for masts. Hemlock is more brittle but slightly denser.

Frederic Litke, who led a Russian round-the-world voyage which stopped in Sitka in the late 1820s, wrote that the ships built in Sitka did not last long, because of the type of wood used, or from not leaving it to dry. He says they used cypress for the frame, fir for the decks and bridge, and larch for the sheathing, and sometimes for the bridge.xviii(16)

The trees we would call fir, larch and cypress do not grow here, but in the expedition report naturalist Friedrich Heinrich Baron von Kittlitz, who was with Litke, identifies a picture of a hemlock tree with what the Russians called fir and a spruce tree with what they called larch, in an engraving from a sketch he did of the forest on Mount Verstovia. He writes that both are very well suited for masts and the construction of ships, particulary the larch. He says the fir is less esteemed, being more subject to rot. He also identifies the Russians’ “perfumed wood” with a description of Alaska yellow cedar.xix(17)

Litke also reported that at Sitka they had all the workshops and stores necessary for ship building and repair. In fact, ten more sailing ships were built at Sitka before 1842. Most of these were small schooners, for use within the colonies for local trading, replacing the baidarkas and rowboats they had been using.xx(18)

Ferdinand Wrangell, during his administration of Alaska from 1830 to 1835, closed all the colonial shipyards except the one at Sitka. The yard at Sitka was then the only place on the entire northwest coast of America for Russians, or United States vessels, to get ship repair done and to get ship supplies.xxi(19)

Wrangell writes that the shipbuilding was under the direction of a creole – what they called a person of mixed Russian and Native ancestry – named Osip Netsvetov, from St. Paul, Alaska, who had been sent to St. Petersburg (the capital of Russia) to learn his trade.xxii(20) From the beginning of the Russian American Company the directors wanted to train the the children of the Russian employees and local Natives in various trades they could perform for the company in the colonies. In exchange for their training and education they were obliged to work for the company for a number of years.xxiii(20a)

Chief Manager Wrangell also had a sawmill built at the Ozerskoi Redoubt at Redoubt Bay south of Sitka in 1833, which was only the second on the entire west coast. The first had been set up by the Hudson’s Bay Company.xxiv(21) Before the sawmill they must have sawn out their lumber by hand.

They also built a cover for shipbuilding by spring of 1834; before that they worked out in the open.xxv

Wrangell says they used yellow cedar for the ribs of their ships, and for row boats, which they did not use at Sitka, but sold to foreigners. He says they used larch for planking and pine for decks;xxvi(22) these were probably Sitka spruce and western hemlock, respectively. This was the same pattern reported by Litke in the 1820s.

In 1835 the yard retimbered an American ship, renamed the LADY WRANGELL. The shipyard workshops included an instrument shop, a foundry, and a sail loft in 1842.xxvii(23)

In 1838 machinist Edward Moore arrived in Sitka from Boston with an American-built steam engine. The shipwright Netsvetov built the paddle wheel steamship NIKOLAI, launched in the spring of 1839, and Moore helped install the engine. This may have been the first steamer built on the west coast. Unfortunately, the 130-foot NIKOLAI, as early as the summer of the launch, was recalled to Sitka because of leaks and other problems. That same fall they decided the new boat was unsuitable for use on the open ocean. In addition, the governor wrote that the building of the NIKOLAI had strained all the resources of Sitka, and besides, the larger ships built in the colonies and at Otkhosk were generally short-lived. He did believe it would still be practical to build smaller ships and boats.xxviii

They built a sailing ship in the winter 1839-40, and in 1841, they built the MUR, whose major engine parts, except for the boilers, were fabricated at Sitka by Moore.xxix(23b) The 8-horsepower MUR was used as a harbor tug. In 1846, in addition to repairs to company ships, two whalers, one German and one American, were repaired. The MUR was sold in California in 1847, and another steamer, the BARANOV, and a small schooner, the KLINKIT were built in 1848. The KLINKIT was also sold in California, in 1849.xxx(23c)

By the time they built their last ships at Sitka, the Russians were using mainly yellow cedar, which is one of the most rot-resistant American woods, but much less common than spruce or hemlock in the woods around Sitka.

In 1845 the sawmill at Ozerskoi Redoubt was getting run down, and most of the timber near there had been cut, so a new water-powered sawmill and flour mill was built at Sawmill Creek.xxxi(23d)

Between 1842 and 1863 the shipyard at Sitka built one more small sailing ship, rebuilt the NIKOLAI after it wrecked, and built two more side paddle wheel steamers out of yellow cedar: the 129-foot POLITKOFSKY, in 1863, and the smaller tug BARANOF, in 1860.xxxii(25)

THE LAST ONES

Shipbuilding by the Russians came to an end permanently with the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. But two of the last ships built in Sitka, the side paddle wheel steamers POLITKOFSKY and BARANOF, were sold at the time of the purchase, and lasted long into the American era.

The British consul at Victoria bought the BARANOF, which was about 70 feet long, changed her name to ROSE, and took off the side paddle wheel and put in a propeller. He used her to trade for furs right after the transfer. Later she carried mail on Puget Sound, then traded again in Alaska for the Alaska Oil and Guano Company until 1877.xxxiii(26)

This ROSE was perhaps the same steamer run by Amos Whitford, partner of future governor John Brady in the Sitka Trading Company in the 1880s. Before the partnership with ex-missionary Brady, Whitford used the ROSE for trading liquor, among other things. During the Sitka Trading Company days he used her for general trading for their Sitka store (operated out of the building called the Old Russian Trading Post in old photos) around southeast Alaska until they replaced her with the schooner LEO. The Russian-built ROSE lasted at least until 1897.xxxiv(27)

The 129-foot POLITKOFSKY attracted more attention than the little ROSE. She looked funny even to contemporary Americans, and she was in use for some 40 years, presumably just looking more unusual as the years went by.

The Victoria Colonist, on the POLITKOFSKY’s arrival there in 1868, called her (tongue in cheek) “a magnificent example of homemade architecture.”xxxv(28) Twenty years later, in 1887, Sitka’s newspaper, the Alaskan, quoted an article from the Tacoma Ledger: “The funniest looking old side wheel steamboat of these waters was at the wharf yesterday. It was the steamer POLITKOFSKY with a boom of piles….” They also said, however, that she looked like a “strong staunch craft.”xxxvi(29)

The Alaska Commercial Company had bought the POLITKOFSKY at Sitka right after the transfer, taken her to San Francisco and sold her boilers (for more than they had paid for the ship), then sold the ship. For decades the POLITKOFSKY towed logs and sometimes carried the mail on Puget Sound.xxxvii(30)

By 1901, however, she had been stripped down to a barge. On her last trip, she was towed to Nome during the gold rush there, loaded with coal. She was left there on the Nome sands, and finally broke up in a storm in 1915.xxxviii(31)

AFTER THE AMERICAN PURCHASE – RESOURCEFUL ENTREPRENEURS

Most of the following information on ships built after the American purchase comes from early Sitka newspapers and from government records of documented vessels.

In 1867 the United States bought the territory of Alaska from Russia. At Sitka the purchase included the Russian shipbuilding ways (tracks for pulling ships out of the water) where Totem Square is now, which became part of the military reservation. The shipyard was equipped with several related workshops, including a shed for boiling pitch, a sawing shed, a smithy, and a steam kiln.

But only two years later, the ways were dismantled and destroyed.xxxix How ever active ship building or repair had been in the years before the sale, afterwards it came almost to a halt. Shipbuilding was to be sporadic, and generally done by the prospective ship owners themselves. Many of the boats did not last long or were sold right away, reflecting the instability of Sitka’s economic life before the turn of the century.

In 1880 and 1890, according to the census in those years, Sitka’s population of around 1200 was over two thirds Tlingit. Of the rest, excluding the Army, in 1870 over half were born in Alaska, and probably mixed Russian, Siberian and Native Alaskan descent. The remaining population was mostly foreign-born, the majority from Europe. Of the over one thousand residents in Sitka in 1870, besides Army personnel only fifty residents were from the United States. In 1880, only half of the white population spoke English.

Economic activity in the first few decades after the transfer seems to have been just as diverse as the population. It consisted mainly of speculation in land and property immediately after the transfer, fur hunting, fishing, and mineral prospecting, as well as dealing in liquor, supplies, and services for the other ventures.

In 1870 eight men listed shipbuilding trades in the Army census. One was Irish, and one was a New York caulker who had come to Sitka with the Army and married a local woman. The other six were born in Alaska. Three of these Alaskan shipbuilders lived in a building with over 100 residents, so if they were working at all, it was probably only casually. xl(2)

Ten years later, in 1880, two different Alaska-born men on the census cited shipbuilding trades, one a boatbuilder. There were also the New Yorker, and H. L. Bahrt, a ship’s carpenter from Germany. He, too, married a local woman, and his descendants are still in Sitka.

While these men might have done boat repair, and possibly small boat building, there does not seem to have been an organized boatbuilding shop for some 40 years. Instead, boat and ship building in the decades after the transfer seems to have almost all been done by the boat owners themselves, for their own schemes and enterprises.

Probably the first ship built at Sitka after the transfer was the SITKA, documented in 1871. The SITKA was a 10-ton schooner, which would have been about 35 or 40 feet, the length of a medium sized fishing boat. In fall of that year her managing owner was A. T. Whitford.xliUnfortunately she was wrecked in 1875, only a few years after being built, while carrying a load of cod.xlii(3)

In early January 1872, the year after the SITKA was built, the EDWIN H. FRANCIS was built; her managing owner was also A. T. Whitford.xliii The same year the NELLIE EDES was built by her owners, John Cook and William Phillipson, at Sitka. This enterprise may have been typical of the boats built in the ’70s and 80s. Both men had captained trading vessels out of Sitka by 1869, when Phillipson was only 25. Neither was born in the United States.

Phillipson was born in Spain, but also interpreted for the 1870 census, so he probably spoke Russian. He was Sitka’s postmaster from 1871, at one time ran the Navy coal depot, and also had his own store, dealing in everything from medicine to furs, by 1876. In addition he ran the NELLIE EDES himself in 1874, 1875, and part of 1877 around southeastern Alaska. He seems to have been a man for his time: he had come to Alaska from somewhere else, he was young and entrepreneurial, and he did a little of everything, from government work to running a trading boat.xliv(4)

Unfortunately for him, Phillipson died fairly young. After his death the NELLIE was in Kodiak, and was sold at least six times between 1880 and 1883, and was used for trading and hunting out of Kodiak until she disappeared from the record in 1887.xlv(5)

More than ten years passed after the NELLIE EDES before the next ship on record was built. The L AND H, a 48-foot sloop, was completed in 1884. This boat was registered out of San Francisco by the following year.xlvi(6)

Then in 1888 the Sitka Trading Company, which included merchant and future Alaska governor John Brady, built a 52-foot lighter for carrying freight to and from ships in the harbor, for a fee of one dollar per ton. This same Sitka Trading Company had owned the ROSE, probably the boat built by the Russians in 1860, but in 1888 they were running the American-built schooner LEO with their trade goods around southeastern Alaska. The store owners often ran the ship themselves, like Phillipson had done with his small ship.xlvii(7)

The following spring, 1889, Captain G. W. Fleming launched the 50-foot schooner SITKA. Fleming had launched a steamer at Kodiak shortly before, for the Alaska Commercial Company. When the SITKA was built it was intended for use in hunting and fishing, and possibly to service two canneries to be built at Sitka, according to the Sitka newspaper the Alaskan. Fleming sold out his interest a few weeks after the launch, to W. P. Mills and J. W. Johnson, competitors of the Sitka Trading Company. They used the boat for seal hunting and for carrying goods to Mills’ Yakutat store.xlviii(8)

In 1898, only nine years after her building, the SITKA, under other owners, was wrecked at Cape Ommaney. A petition to the Collector of Customs in May of that year said that the crew of three had set out for Wrangell inexperienced and ill-provisioned, and that the canvas was rotten.xlix(9)

In 1892, according to the Alaskan, four ambitious builders set out to build a 60-ton schooner, which is about 70 feet. They were still cutting wood but planned to have the boat built in only four months. The boat is not mentioned again and was probably never built.l(10)

Besides the merchants building boats for seal hunting and carrying trade goods around Alaska, other individuals were probably building boats for themselves, which were overlooked or too small to have been documented (boats under five net tons, generally between 25 and 30 feet for sailing vessels, are not documented) for hunting, prospecting, and other activities.

In April of 1894 the Alaskan reported two men building a 20-foot yellow cedar boat, as an experiment, with the intention of building two more for other Sitkans.

Two former Coast Survey employees, Carl Jansen and A. B. Sandstrom, built a sloop on Apple Island in 1894 to use for prospecting. Jansen died from a gunshot, apparently while cleaning a gun, which might be the only reason the boat was recorded in the newspaper.li(12) Perhaps there were other hopeful Alaskans, with more time and materials than cash, building boats to take advantage of economic opportunities they saw, in mining, hunting, logging, and so on.

Andrew Anderson, Charles Homberg, and L. P. Johnson built their 38-foot schooner NORTH STAR near John Brady’s sawmill (behind the present Thomsen Harbor) in 1895. They used spruce planking and yellow cedar timbers. Like the 1889 SITKA, she was for sale right after her launch, which was in late December. She lasted at least until 1911, working out of Sitka.lii(13)

A few more boats were built before the end of the century: The 45-foot sloop HIGO was built in 1895, and the 48-foot schooner ROVER in 1896; neither was in documentation by 1911.liii(14)

The 52-foot propeller steamer CAPELLA was built in 1899 for prospecting. The CAPELLA was, like the NORTH STAR, built at John Brady’s sawmill. Her builders had the help of a Juneau boatwright named John Nelson. The CAPELLA was still carrying freight in 1920, registered out of Wrangell.liv(15)

The last boat mentioned by the Alaskan before the paper stopped publishing in 1907 is the PIONEER, built by the carpenter of the U.S. Revenue Cutter RUSH in 1901, for carrying water to the ship. Her launch was accompanied by a luncheon and three speeches, one by Governor Brady, to the assembled officials and officers and Sitka society. The governor’s daughter smashed a bottle of Indian River water over the bow. The Alaskan notes that boatbuilding had lately been neglected.lv(16)

Boatbuilding was to increase within the next few decades, however, with the exponential growth of the fishing industry.

Endnotes

i Richard A. Pierce, Russian America: A Biographical Dictionary, Alaska History Series, no. 33 (Kingston, Ontario and Fairbanks, Alaska: The Limestone Press, 1990), p. 21 (Shields begins 1793); Petr Aleksandrovich Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian American Company, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978) p. 33 (building of); Pierce, Dictionary, p. 462 (difficulties); Petr Aleksandrovich Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian American Company, Volume II: Documents, ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donelly, trans. Dmitri Krenov, Alaska History Series no. 13 (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1979), pp. 63, 65, 71, 76 (difficulties and fighting).

ii Pierce, Dictionary, p. 462 (building ship Okhotsk).

iii Tikhmenev, History, p. 59-60 (no more Okhotsk).

iv Tikhmenev, History, p. 53 (arrival of Phoenix, monopoly).

v Tikhmenev, History p. 44 (Sitka harbor trading place).

vi Pierce, Dictionary, pp. 22, 463 (Olga built); Tikhmenev, History, pp. 33 (Olga built), 42, 43 (Olga B’s boat, bad shape); Tikhmenev, History, Vol. II, pp. 96, 102, 105, 108 (Olga B’s boat); Tikhmenev, History, pp. 69 (Del’fin gone), 41 (Del’fin surveying S. E.); Tikhmenev, History, Vol. II, p. 65 (Del’fin surveying); Pierce, Dictionary, pp. 22 (Del’fin built), 463 (Del’fin built, survey, leaks).

vii Tikhmenev, History, p. 59 (great loss); Pierce, Dictionary, p. 463 (Shields sank).

viii Tikhmenev, History, pp. 74 (ships built from Olga), 69 (Olga decrepit 1804). Barratt p 147 (Between 1801 and 1804 no ships made it to the Alaska mainland from Okhotsk – frequent shipwrecks); Tikhmenev, History, p 63 (next ship overwintered, wrecked; next one took two winters, used up supplies they were carrying).

ix Tikhmenev, History, p. 74 (retaking Sitka), Glynn Barratt, Russia in Pacific Waters, 1715-1825 (Vancouver and London: University of British Columbia Press, 1981), pp 126-129

x Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangell, Russian America: Statistical and Ethnographic Information, With Additional Material by Karl Ernst Baer, trans. from German edition of 1839 by Mary Sadouski, ed. Richard A. Pierce, Alaska History Series no. 15 (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1980), p. 9 (launched 1806); Tikhmenev, History, pp. 95 (built, attack), 101 (attack); Pierce, Dictionary, p. 235 (attack); Barratt pp 144-146 (raid on Kurile Islands).

xi Barratt pp 130-132, 156-149 (winter of 1805-6).

xii Pierce, Dictionary, p. 310 (replaced by Lincoln); Tikhmenev, History, Vol. II, pp. 192 (good when not drunk), 196 (knife fight).

xiii Tikhmenev, History, p. 147 (lost).

xiv Pierce, Dictionary, p. 310 (Lincoln hired, ships built); Wrangell, Russian America, p. 9 (ships built); Tikhmenev, History, pp. 147 (Sitka built, lost), 148 (Otk, Chir built), 150 (Otkrytkie, Chirikov in 1820).

xv Tikhmenev, History, p. 150 (Plat, Bar built).

xvi Pierce, Dictionary, p. 181 (Ross ships lasted less than 5 years).

xvii Tikhmenev, History, pp. 151 (built 15 by 1821) 208-210 (ships by 1842), 360-364 (ships to 1862).

xviii Frederic Litke, A Voyage Around the World, 1826-1829: Volume I, To Russian America and Siberia, trans. from French edition by Renee Marshall, with a parallel account by E. H. Baron von Kittlitz, trans. from the German and with an introduction by Joan Moessner, ed. Richard Pierce, Alaska History Series no. 29 (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1987), pp. 46-47 (woods, shipyard).

xix Litke p. 210, 211 (i.d. of spruce & hemlock).

xx. Litke, pp. 46-47 (workshops); Tikhmenev, History, pp. 208-210 (boats built by 1842); Tikhmenev, History, pp 208-209 (built 5 1827-28 to replace baidarkas and rowboats).

xxi Tikhmenev, History, pp. 208-310 (shipbuilding by 1842), 472 (note 25, on shipbuilding); Pierce, Dictionary, p. 545 (closed yards, Sitka yard).

xxii Wrangell, pp. 9-10 (Creole building).

xxiii Tikhmenev, History, p. 33 (Shelikof: teach Natives), Svetlana G. Fedorova, The Russian Population in Alaska and California, Late 18th Century To 1867, Alaska History Series no. 4, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1973), p 245 (indenture)

xxiv Pierce, Dictionary, p. 545 (sawmill).

xxvKatherine L. Arndt and Richard A. Pierce, A Construction History of Sitka, Alaska, as Documented in the Records of the Russian-American Company, Sitka National Historical Park Historic Context Study under Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Second Edition (Sitka, Alaska: Sitka National Historical Park, 2003), p 77

xxvi Wrangell, pp. 9-10 (woods).

xxvii Tikhmenev, History, p. 472 (note 25 — Lady Wrangell); Fedorova, p. 223 (workshops at Sitka, 1842), from Bob DeArmond (source??) (Date of repair of Lady Wrangell).

xxviii Tikhmenev, History, pp. 208-210 (building by 1842).

xxix ??? (all of tug’s engine except boilers)

xxx Richard A. Pierce, Builders of Alaska, The Russian Governors, 1818-1867, Alaska History Series No. 28 (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1986), p 30 (Whalers repaired, Mur sold, Baranov built, Klinkit built, Klinkit sold).

xxxi Ibid. (sawmill at Sawmill Creek 1839)

xxxii Tikhmenev, History, pp. 360-364 (ships to 1862); E. W. Wright, ed., Lewis and Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (Lewis & Dryden Printing Company, 1895; reprint ed., New York: Antiquarian Press, 1961), p. 156; United States Treasury Department, Bureau of Navigation, Twenty-ninth Annual List of Merchant Vessels of the United States, with the Official Numbers, etc., For the Year Ended June 30th, 1897 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897). The List of Merchant Vessels is an annual list of all the commercial vessels over five net tons. It gives for each vessel the official number, the rig or engine type, name, tonnage, register length, breadth and depth, the year and place built, and the home port. These lists are used often for the material which follows. Future references to the list will be abbreviated to Merchant Vessels and the year. The name of the Bureau and Department publishing the list, and the exact title of the list, vary through the years. The List of Merchant Vessels has not been published for several years.

xxxiii E. W. Wright, ed., Lewis and Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (Lewis & Dryden Printing Company, 1895; reprint ed., New York: Antiquarian Press, 1961), p. 161 (Rose after purchase).

xxxiv Hinckley, Ted C., Alaskan John G. Brady: Missionary, Businessman, Judge, and Governor, 1878 – 1918 (Miami, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1982), pp. 54 (liquor), 61 (trading), 66 (replace by Leo); Merchant Vessels 1897; Merchant Vessels 1887 (only one Rose in documentation in 1887).

xxxv Lewis and Dryden, p. 156 (Homemade, quote).

xxxvi Alaskan (Sitka), 12 February 1887, p. 3 (Tacoma quote).

xxxvii Lewis and Dryden, p. 156 (Polly in WA).

xxxviii Gordon R. Newell, ed., The H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle: Superior Publishing Company, 1966), p. 258 (end of Polly).

xxxix R. N. DeArmond, ed., Lady Franklin Visits Sitka, Alaska 1870: The Journal of Sophia Cracroft, Sir John Franklin’s Niece (Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Historical Society, 1981), pp. 72-92 (transfer map), Alaska Times 2 October 1869, p. 2 (destruction of ways).

xl Army Census, October 24, 1870, and 1867 building inventory, included in DeArmond, Lady Franklin, pp. 72-125.

xli DeArmond, Chronology p. 6 (Whitford managing owner, Sept. 27 1871)

xlii Andrews — Marine Disasters — Washington Historical Quarterly (Driven ashore, total loss); letter, I. D. Dennis, dep. to Collector, 24 September 1875, Customs Letters volume 13, recd #70 (where?) (cod, wreck).

xliii DeArmond, Chronology p.6 (Edwin H Francis built)

xliv Customs Letters 24 February 1874, #275 (built by Cook and Phillipson); Secy. Treasurer 22 April 1874, Customs Letters Vol. 10 No. 62 (both aliens); Richard A. Pierce, Alaskan Shipping, 1867-1878: Arrivals and Departures at the Port of Sitka (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1972), passim (Sitka boats & masters); DeArmond, Lady Franklin, p. 116 (Phillipson bio).

xlv Customs Letters, 11 July 1878, # 374; Customs Letters 1880; Customs Letters 1883, from deputy Collector at Kodiak (being sold); ????? (disappears in 1887).

xlvi Merchant Vessels 1885 (L and H).

xlvii Alaskan, 10 November 1888, p. 3 (lighter).

xlviii Alaskan, 15 December 1888; idem, 6 April 1889, p. 3; idem, 23 March 1889, p. 3; idem, 27 April 1889, p. 3 (building the Sitka).

xlix Alaskan, 30 July 1898, p. 3; idem, 4 June 1898, p. 3; idem, 28 May 1898, p. 2; idem, 21 May 1898, p. 3 (wreck).

l Alaskan, 22 January 1892, p. 2 (unbuilt boat).

li Alaskan, 10 February 1894 p. 3 (Apple Island sloop).

lii Alaskan, 1 December 1894, p. 3; idem, 5 January 1894, p. 3 (North Star), Merchant Vessels 1911 (still there).

liii Merchant Vessels 1897 (Higo, Rover).

liv Alaskan, 20 May 1899, p. 3; idem, 24 June 1899, p. 3 (Capella), Merchant Vessels 1921

lv Alaskan, 23 November 1901, p. 2 (launch for USRC Rush)

 

 

 

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