March 30, 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the US purchase of Alaska from Russia. To commemorate this sesquicentennial, the Alaska Historical Commission funded a research project by the Kodiak Historical Society into the history and records of Fort Kodiak at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This post is the result of that research.
After the US Purchase, for two years (1868-1870) Kodiak went by two names: St. Paul and Fort Kodiak. Fort Kodiak was one of six Army posts established in Alaska following the purchase. Alaska was purchased without any discrete plan for a civil government. Many presumed that Congress would soon pass legislation to give Alaska some form of government. Initially, it was decided that Alaska would be managed as a military district. General Jefferson C. Davis was sent north as the first military commander of the Military District of Alaska. He was responsible for assuring peaceful relations between Alaska Natives and white settlers and was supposed to encourage trade. Davis established military posts at Sitka, Wrangell, Tongass, Kenai, the Pribilofs and Kodiak.
John and Diane Lovejoy had never been to Kodiak before, but when they visited this August, they were coming home. John’s mother is Natalya Kashevaroff, daughter of Father Andrew Kashevaroff. If you have lived in Kodiak, the last name is likely familiar. Kashevaroff Mountain, Kashevaroff Road, Kashevaroff Villa, monuments behind the Holy Resurrection Cathedral– the family was prominent enough to warrant such a liberal sprinkling of their last name around town.
John and Diane came to Kodiak specifically to learn more about their family history. During their visit, I accompanied them as they sought out Kashevaroff clues. Their journey to Kodiak resulted in the radio program “Kashevaroffs Coming Home,” the first installment of the museum’s new radio show, Way Back in Kodiak. This blog post isn’t meant to rehash the information contained within the radio program, but rather to share photographs and supplementary information.
John’s great great great grandfather, Artamon Kashevaroff, and great great grandfather, Filipp Kashevaroff, came to Kodiak from Russia on the famous vessel, the Three Saints. Also on board the Three Saints were Saint Herman and the first Russian Orthodox missionaries to come to Alaska.
Recently, historian Dawn Lea Black determined that a slate gravestone within the Baranov Museum’s collection could have belonged to the grave of Artamon. Frustratingly, the most critical information for determining the owner of the gravestone chipped away long ago. Yet, we can see that the person arrived in September of 1794. The only vessel to arrive that month was the Three Saints. Moreover, the gravestone indicates that the person departed from St. Petersburg and was “… of Golikov.” Artamon and Filipp were Golikov’s serfs, or “serfs of Golikov.” We know that Filipp died in Sitka, and he is likely buried there. We also know that the other settlers who arrived on the Three Saints were killed in Yakutat. So, through some serious research on the part of Ms. Black, we have come closer than ever to being able to prove that this gravestone belonged to the founder of one of Alaska’s most historically significant families, Artamon Kashevaroff.
Filipp Kashevaroff was an apprentice to James Shields, Russian-American Company shipwright. He also worked as a storekeeper and a teacher. He married Alexandra Petrovna, an Alutiiq woman. Their children became recognized as Creoles in 1821. The Creole estate was created within the Russian social and political system to accommodate the children that resulted from Russian/ Alutiiq and Russian/Aleut marriages. They were granted special economic privileges, including being exempt from state taxes, and were educated at the expense of the Russian-American Company.
Filipp and Alexandra’s son, Alexander Kashevaroff, was the most famous Alaskan Creole. He became a Russian explorer, the head of the Russian Navy’s Hydrographic Department, and managed Russian-American Company outposts in Siberia. His brother, Peter Kashevaroff, became a priest. Peter stayed in Kodiak after the 1867 sale of Alaska to the US. He married Mariia Arkhimandritov, sister of Ilarion Arkhimandritov, captain of the bark Kad’yak. This was the same Kad’yak that was used to ship ice from Woody Island to San Francisco. It sunk in front of Spruce Island. Mariia and Ilarion’s sister, Pariscovia, married the Lieutenant Governor of Russian-America, Vasilii Pavloff. He was in charge of the Kodiak District when Kodiak became American. In this one generation, three powerful Russian American families were united in marriage: the Kashevaroffs, the Arkhimandritovs, and the Pavloffs.
Father Nicolai’s brother, Andrew (or Andrei), became founder of the Alaska State Museum. It was Father Andrew that collected the spruce root hat that is jointly owned by the Alutiiq Museum and the Anchorage Museum.Peter and Mariia (or in American Alaska, Mary) had several sons who became Russian Orthodox priests. One of them, Nicolai Kashevaroff, was the priest in Afognak and Kodiak for many years. It was Father Nikolai who penned a recently discovered letter held in the Russian Orthodox Diocesan Archive. This letter was written in 1931, and is written in three languages: English, Russian, and Alutiiq. It shows that people in Kodiak were both speaking, reading and writing in these three languages well into the 20th century. It also hints at the educational attainment of the Kashevaroff family. Also held within the archive are the school records for Kashevaroff boys that date to the early 1820s, records kept by their teacher, Saint Innocent.
Father Andrei was a teetotaler, yet his daughters veered in the opposite direction. Xenia, Sasha, and Natalya became flappers, intimately involved in an avant-guard circlethat included the likes of John Cage, Ed Ricketts, Jack Calvin, John Steinbeck, Dorothea Lange, Joseph Campbell, and others. Much more can be said about Father Andrew, Father Nicolai, and the Kashevaroff family. For more information, please listen to “Kashevaroff’s Coming Home,” or contact the Baranov Museum.
I admit it. I have lusted over this Alaska Improvement Company can from the moment I read that Kodiak resident Nick Troxell had purchased it on e-bay. In fact, I went so far as to save a place for it in the fisheries exhibit that we are putting together as part of the museum’s exhibit redesign project.
Now, I am overjoyed to report that I can replace the words on the exhibit object list, “Nick T.’s salmon can: procure,” with “Alaska Improvement Company salmon can from Nick T.” Thanks to him, the Baranov Museum has the first historic Kodiak salmon can in our collection. It joins a box end from an Alaska Packers Association cannery at Karluk and a handful of other objects related to the early history of salmon fishing and processing in the region, and helps us to document and interpret Kodiak’s incredible maritime heritage.
The story of canning salmon at Karluk ranks as one of the more important stories in the history of Kodiak, if not Alaska. For fisheries biologists, the story of Karluk’s fishery is important on a worldwide scale, as the prodigious historic salmon runs boggle the mind and have inspired generations of research. In fact, speaking of science, one can trace thehistory of salmon biology to the Karluk River. It so happens that a team of fisheries biologists are in the final stages of creating a book that focuses on the history of science in the Karluk River system. A History of Sockeye Salmon Research, Karluk River System, Alaska, 1880-2010 will be published in 2014. I interviewed one of the authors, Dr. Richard Bortoff, for the most recent episode of Way Back in Kodiak, “Canned at Karluk.”
Of course, it wasn’t just scientists who were interested in the Karluk red salmon runs. Thousands of fishermen and cannery workers joined the hundreds of Karluk villagers on the Karluk Spit, beginning in the 1880s. The first cannery to open on Kodiak Island opened on the Karluk Spit in 1882. The Karluk Packing Co. was financed by the Alaska Commercial Company and founded by two former AC employees, Oliver Smith and Charles Hirsch. These gentlemen salted salmon on the Karluk Spit prior to opening what was one of the earliest canneries in Alaska. Yet, word quickly got out about the massive salmon runs within the Karluk River. This is not hyperbole- it wasn’t rare to catch 40,000 sockeye in a single beach seine set at Karluk in the 1880s and 1890s.
Our salmon can dates from somewhere between 1889 and 1911. It was in 1889 that the Alaska Improvement Company began canning at Karluk. They built a cannery on the south side of the Karluk River, across from the Karluk Spit. Long after canning operations were transferred to Larsen Bay, the beach was referred to as “the Improvement side.” In 1898, the Alaska Improvement Company joined the Alaska Packers Association (APA). That was the end of the Alaska Improvement Company, but not of its labels. For brand affiliation, the APA continued to can under the Canoe brand. Further research is required to determine when the APA added its own insignia to the can. However, in 1911 all canning operations were moved to Larsen Bay. As a result, that was the last year that cans were made and filled on the Karluk Spit, though much of the salmon canned at Larsen Bay still was beach seined from the Karluk Spit.
To discover more about the journey of our salmon can, including information on the Chinese cannery workers who packed it, the crude tools that formed it, and the fishermen that caught the sockeye within it, please listen to “Canned at Karluk.” Also, if you have historic salmon cans, salmon labels, or historic salmon canning equipment from the Kodiak region that you are willing to part with, please be in touch with the museum.