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Full text of "The Russian settlement in California known as Fort Ross; founded 1812, abandoned 1841. Why the Russians came and why they left"

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The Russians in California 


The story of the rapid con- 
quest of Siberia, beginning with 
the advance of Yerniak, the robber 
chief, across the Ural mountains in 
the sixteenth century, ending with 
the discovery of the northwest coast 
of America by Admiral Behring of 
the Rusdian Jiavy, is one of the 
most remarkable achievements in 
the conquest and occupation of a 
country in the annals of history. 

Behring discovered the fur seal 
as well as the proximity of the 
Asiatic and American continents. 
In the course of time the rumors of 
the discoveries reached the Europe- 
an capitals of London and Madrid. 
It had a long way to travel over- 
land to St. Petersburg. Once 
started, the rumors soon reached the 
sharp ears of the diplomatists and 
were promptly reported to their 
home goveroments. 

The result was the fittirtg out of 
Captain Cook's expedition for dis- 
coveries in that quarter by the Eng- 
lish, a like expedition from Mexico 
by order of the King of Spain. 

In the English expedition came 
the first pioneers of American peo- 
ple to the Pacific coast: John Led- 
yard, a native of Connecticut, and 
Captain John Gore, a native of 
Virginia. The latter, on the death 
of Captain Cook at the Hawaiian 
islands, took command as the rank- 
ing officer, and returned with the 
■fleet to England. 

We omit the complications which 
arose between England and Spain 
over their respective claims on the 
northwest coast of America, the 
outgrowth of these early voyages, 
and return to the Russians, with 
whom we have directly to deal. 

The charter of the Russian- 
American company gave them some 
extraordinary privileges, which, in 
fact, included the government of 
the country, and it soon absorbed 
all the various independent associ- 
ations and became supreme on the 
northwest American coast. 

A bold and enterprising adven- 
turer named Shelekof, a man of 
great executive ability and energy, 
was mainly instrumental in organ- 



izing the Russian-American Fur 
Company. He selected for the 
head of the monopoly he had cre- 
ated Alexander Baranoff. Baranoff 
was a striking type of the strong 
race from which he sprang. He 
started life as a clerk in a retail 
store in Moscow. This offered no 
field to a spirit so adventurous as 
his. He went to Siberia in 1780. 
He was actively engaged in busi- 
ness when Shelekof put him at the 
head of his company, and he never 
displayed belter judgment than in 
this selection of an agent, liaran- 
off was energetic, daring, politic on 
occasion, and bold as Cffisar when 
boldness was needed. He could ex- 
ecute the plans of others, and with 
equal ability could conceive and 
execute plans of his own. His in- 
fluence over the Russian was un- 
limited, and he ruled not only the 
natives but his more unruly coun- 
trymen of the lowest class who 
were sent out to him. He was a 
small man, under average in size, 
with blue eyes, a bald head and 
sallow complexion. He was diplo- 
matic and could shape words for a 
flexible meaning, and when he 
wanted to could make them as di- 
rect as a rifle ball aimed point- 
blank. For instance, he wrote to 
his company " Send me a priest 
well-informed, who is a peaceable 
man, not suspicious and not biggot- 
ted.'' For the rest, he was in the 
habit of getting on periodical sprees 
on hot rum, in which he generally 
involved everybody around his 

"castle" before he got through, but 
they never interfered with his busi- 

One of the most notable of the 
events of his life was the building 
out of American timber and the 
launching of the first American- 
built vessel on the northwest coast. 
It was named the Phoenix by Bar- 
anoff and was floated in August, 
1794, and afterwards made regular 
trips between the American and 
Asiatic coast. 

Starting about the same time, the 
Russians had crossed and occupied 
Siberia, had crossed Behring sea 
and occu{)ied the American coast 
and established communication 
with Asia by a ship built of Amer- 
ican timber, before the Knglish 
moving on the Atlantic coast had 
yet more than reached the Mississ- 
ippi river. 

Nothing could better illustrate 
the push and drive of the people of 
this mighty nation now pressing, if 
it has not already attained, the 
first place among all European and 
Asiatic powers. 

With this much by way of intro- 
duction, we will relate in detail tl»e 
even more daring occupation -by 
order of Baranoff of the territory 
of California, and it was undoul)t- 
edly his intention tu hold it against 
its then owners for all time, and 
his successors would have done so 
but for the timely promulgation in 
1823 of the Monroe Doctrine which 
gave notice to all the world that no 
occuj)ation of American territory 


by European powers would be tol- 
erated by the United States. 

This principle was finally and 
forever settled as far as Russia was 
concerned in its treaty with the 
United States of April 17, 1824, in 
which Russia agreed from thence- 
forth to establish no settlements on 
the American continent or any ad- 
jacent islands south of the parallel 
of 54.40. This treaty, though the 
Russian settlement in California 
was not mentioned, involved its 
abandonment and put an end to any 
further Russian encroachments in 

The Russian American Far Com- 
pany had now concentrated all the 
fur interests of the northwest coast 
under the direction of Baranoff. 
They occupied all the Aleutian Is- 
lands and made a permanent 
settlement on the American coast. 
It was destined to play a large part 
in the history of California, as we 
shall see. 


The first event which may be con- 
sidered as leading to the settlement 
of the Russians at Fort Ross, was 
the sailing from Sitka on March 
8th, 1806, of Chamberlain Resanof, 
of the Russian-American Fur Com- 
pany, on the ship Juno (formerly 
an American vessel) bound for Cal- 
ifornia on a trading voyage. Be- 
fore Resanof's return to Sitka he 
seems to have determined to make 
a settlement somewhere on the 
('alifornia coast where hiscompany 

could carry on agriculture, and 
trade with the Californians. It was 
deemed unneceesary to ask permis- 
sion of Spain, as Spanish authority 
north of San Francisco Bay was 
not recognized by the Russians; 
and the Russian government had 
already authorized the company to 
extend Russian sovereignty as far 
south as possible without infringing 
on the rights of other nations. 

Resanof was ambitious. He 
hoped to eventually acquire for his 
country all the territory from San 
Francisco Bay to the Columbia 
river. The important mission of 
locating the site for the future set- 
tlement was intrusted to Kuskof, 
who by order of Baranoff sailed on 
the Kodiak, and after touching at 
Trinidad, arrived at Bodega Bay 
(always called by the Russians^ort 
Rumiantsoff) on January 8th, 1809. 
Here the Kodiak remained at an- 
chor until August. After carefully 
exploring the surrounding country, 
some temporary buildings were 
erected, some otter and beaver skins 
were procured and friendly rela- 
tions were established with the 

On August 29th Kuskof sailed 
for Sitka, and upon his arrival was 
able to report favorably concerning 
the country. He had found a fine 
climate, good tillable lands, plenty 
of fish and fur-bearing animals and 
a tolerable harbor. And as the 
country was entirely unoccupied by 
European or American settlers, the 
conditions were favorable for the 


colony. So the Czar of Russia was 
petitioned to open negotiations with 
Spain with a view of a treaty al- 
lowing trade with New Albion, as 
Northern California was then 
called. And he was also asked to 
give the settlement the protection 
of the Russian government in case 
of opposition by the Americans. 
And this protection, it is said, was 
promised by the Czar; while, as to 
trading with the Californians, the 
company were told to make such 
terms as they could. Upon re- 
ceiving this encouragement, Kuskof 
attempted a new expedition to 
Bodega, but was unsuccessful, for 
while stopping at Queen Char- 
lotte's island, he was attacked by 
Indians and was compelled to re- 
turn to Sitka. 

In 1811, Kuskof again sailed for 
Bodega in the schooner Chirikof 
and upon his arrival he at once're- 
newed his explorations in the en- 
deavor if possible to find a better 
place than Bodega at which to 
establish his headquarters and 
build his fort. He found a place, 
sixteen miles by water north of 
Bodega, called by the Indians Mad- 
shuinui where, though there was 
no land-locked bay, there was ex- 
cellent anchorage, and good pro- 
tection from all summer winds; 
and he found that all other ad- 
vantages, such as soil, timl)er, water 
and pasturage were much better 
than at Bodega. 

The valley of the Slavianka 
(Russian River) was examined for 

fifty miles but no place was found 
that compared favorably with Mad- 
shui-mui, so after a thorough in- 
vestigation of the whole country, 
Mad-shui-mui was chosen and work 
was commenced at once. The site 
selected was a table- land about 100 
feet above the ocean and containing 
something over 1000 acresland was 
according to Russian observation 
in latitude 38" 33' longitude 123" 
15' (our coast pilot puts it now in 
lat. 38' 30' long. 123' 15' ). The 
friendship of the native chiefs was 
secured by making them presents 
and the Russians claim, and it is 
probably true, that the country was 
ceded by the Indians to the Com- 
pany There were at this time in 
the Russian Colony, 95 Rus!>ians, 
including 25 mechanics. There 
were also about 80 Aleuts with a 
fleet of 40 bidarkas (skin boats). 
The Aleuts were sent out to hunt 
otter along the coast, but with in- 
structions to not enter San Fran- 
cisco Bay, for it was oest at this 
time not to offend the Spaniards. 
The Russians prepared timber for 
several months and when all was 
ready the Aleuts were recalled to 
aid the mechanics, and all weirt to 
work on the fort and other neces- 
sary buildings. And in a few 
months a fortified village had 
arisen on the shore of New Albion. 
In the fort were mounleil at first 
only twelve cannon, but the num- 
ber of cannon was increa8e<i^ to 
about forty in after ypiri*. All wa,. 
completed early in September .nifl 


on September 10th, or August 30th 
of the RuBsian calendar, the name 
day of Emperor Alexander, the 
establifchment was formally dedi- 
cated with great festivity and 
named Robs from the root of the 
name Russia, a word extending far 
back into antiquity. 

As to the exact original meaning 
of the word Ross there seems to be 
a difference of opinion, but it is 
certain that the people of the Volga 
were formerly called Rus, and the 
Russians generally were called the 
people of Ross, and the country is 
j'et called Rossia or Russia. 

About this time there was dis- 
tributed over California a procla- 
mation issued by the Russian 
American Fur Company and ad- 
dressed to the people of California. 
It was a very conciliatory document 
and was intended to make friends 
of the Californians, and thus ad- 
vance the interests of the Russians. 
But it seems to have done no good, 
for the Californians were jealous of 
their own rights and suspicious of 
foreigners. Thus it was that the 
Russians, in less than a year's 
time, found themselves firmly 
planted in California without have 
ing met with any resistance from 
the Indians or Spaniards. The 
Spanish were cognizant of what 
was going on at Ross, but were en- 
tirely unable to prevent it. But in 
August, just before the dedication 
of Robs, Commandanet Arguello, of 
San Francisco, sent Moraga, "a 
Spanish officer," with seven men, to 

Ross to investigate. Moraga re- 
turned September Ist and reported 
that the Russians had built a fort 
protected by artillery, and appar- 
ently intended to remain. Moraga 
was courteously received by the 
Russians and was allowed to make 
a complete inspection of the fort. 

Morago was again sent to Roes, in 
January, 1813, when he conferred 
with Kuskof about trade. He was 
made acquainted with the plane of 
the strangers and returned January 
27th. Arguello communicated to 
the Viceroy the result of Morago's 
two visits to Ross. There is nothing 
in the Spanish record to show that 
the Governor or Commandante of 
California ever gave the Russians 
permission to settle in the country 
or even consented to trade with 
them without the Viceroy's permis- 
sion. Meantime, the Viceroy had 
learned that the Russians had set- 
tled on the coast, and in July he 
wrote to Arriaga instructing him to 
watch the strangers. He did not 
fear hostilities from the Russians, 
but feared that they were not what 
they seemed. They might be con- 
nected with Anglo-American de- 
signs upon California. Thrte weeks 
later, on receipt of Arriaga's letter, 
the Viceroy again wrote, enclosing 
the treaty between Russia and 
Spain, and instructing the Com- 
mandante to notify Kuskof that his 
occupation of Californian territory 
was a clear violation of the treaty, 
and requesting him to immedintely 
remove his establishment. 



Meanwhile the Russians were to 
be closely watched, and the military 
authorities of the peninsula and 
also of the interior were to hold 
themselves in readiness to furnish 
aid in case of an emergency. These 
communications reached California 
early in 1814, and in April Moraga 
was a third time sent with an es- 
cort to Ross with letters in which 
Arriaga made known to Kuskof 
the Viceroy's instructions. The 
Russian commander declined to give 
a definite answer until he could 
hear from his Buperior, Baranoff. 
So he waited until June before ans- 
wering, and then he answered, that 
as he did not fully understand the 
Spanish letters, he could not act of- 
ficially upon them. These letters 
were carried to San Francisco by 
the agent, Slobodchikof, who took 
down a small cargo of goods to 
trade for grain. The Russians 
hoped that the trouble caused by 
the Viceroy's orders would blow 
over, so that trade might proceed. 
It was the company's policy to keep 
affairs as quiet as possible at St. 
I'etersburg and Madrid, and to trust 
for the permanence and prosperity 
of Ross to the revolutionary condi- 
tion and consequent weakness of 
Mexico. On July 30th Moraga 
made out a full report on the estab- 
lishment of Ross, particularly on 
the strength of its defenses. 

In 1815 Arguello wrote a peremp- 
tory letter to Kuskof, stating that 
by the Viceroy's orders, the settle- 

ment at Ross must be immediately 
abandoned, if friendly relations 
were to be maintained between 
Russia and Spain. Kuskof's reply 
was that he could do nothing with- 
out instructions from his superior, 
Baranof. Yet in August the Rus- 
sian vessel Suvarof, Captain Ma- 
karof, arrived at San Francisco and 
trade continued. In 1816 there 
arrived at San Francisco a Russian 
vessel, the Ruiick, with a scientific 
expedition, under command of 
Lieutenant Otto Von Kotzeb'ue, and 
Sola came up from Monterey and 
made a complaint concerning the 
actions of the Russians at Ross. 
Kotzebue said he had no authority 
to act, but consented to send for 
Kuskof. The latter went to San 
Francisco and a consultation was 
held at the Presidio, but nothing 
came of it, as Kuskof would do 
nothing. And as the Spaniards 
knew that Ross was impregnable 
to any force that the Californians 
could bring against it, the Russians 
were not interfered with. 

The following is a description of 
the settlement as it appeared at 
this time: The site of the fort, 
eight miles northwest of the mouth 
of Russian river, is about 1.50 yards 
from the sea, on a plateau 100 feet 
above the water, and is so protected 
by ravines as to be of difficult 
access to an enemy. All the build- 
ings are of re<lwood. The fort is a 
quadrangular enclosure of about 
300 by 250 feet, its angles facing 
the Cardinal points. It ie formed 


of heavy timbers eight inches thick 
and fifteen feet long set upright 
and buried three feet in the ground, 
leaving them twelve feet high and 
surmounted by a horizontal beam 
or plate, on which are spiked thin- 
ner timbers, three feet long and 
sharpened at the top. On the north 
corner of this inclosure is a hepta- 
gon blockhouse watch tower, solidly 
built of timbers one foot thick. 
It is twenty-five feet in diameter 
and two stories high and has four- 
teen port-holes for cannon. On the 
south corner is an octagon block- 
house watch-tower, twenty-eight 
feet in diameter and with sixteen 
port-holes for cannon. There are 
also some twenty port-holes in the 
stockade. All of these port-holes 
when not in use are closed by a 
block of wood hung on heavy 
wrought-iron hand-made hinges, 
this stopper being of the same thick- 
ness as the wall and fastened on 
the inside by a heavy iron bar. 
On the east corner, and just inside 
of the stockade is the chapel, twen- 
ty-five by thirty feet and surmount- 
ed by a belfry with a chime of bells, 
and a dome. Within the fort are 
the Commandante's house, the offi- 
cers' quarters, barracks for the Rus- 
sian employes and various store- 
houses and domestic offices. Some 
of the buildings are of two stories. 
The commandante's house has glass 
windows, carpets and a piano. 
The chapel is decorated with paint- 
ings and all present a neat appear- 
ance. A well in the inclosure sup- 

plied water for emergencies but a 
well outside and the creek furnish- 
ed water for ordinary uses. Out- 
side the stockade are the hut« of 
the Aleuts and natives and in the 
immediate neighborhood is a wind- 
mill for grinding grain, a tannery, 
workshops, farm buildings, gran- 
aries, cattle-yards, etc. Beyond is 
the vegetable garden, and down at 
the foot of the cliff is a small wharf 
and boat-landing. Near by is a 
shed for the protection of the bidar- 
kas or skin-boats, another shed for 
storing lumber, another for work 
connected with the building of ves- 
sels, a blacksmith shop and a bath 
house. At Bodega there are some 
warehouses and at the half-way 
house near the river there is a sta- 
tion occupied like that at Bodega 
by some servants of the company. 
The population of Rose averaged 
from 200 to 400. The Russians 
were officers, chiefs of hunting 
parties, and mechanics. The Aleut* 
were hunters and fishermen. The 
California Indians were laborers 
and servants. All were, when nec- 
essary, farmers and soldiers-fl From 
1812 to 1840 the Russians kept up 
an establishment at tha Farallones 
as well as at Ross. The object was 
to capture fur seals, 1200 to 1500 
skins being taken annually .though 
Winship, Gale, Smith and other 
Americans had taken the cream of 
this wealth a few years earlier. 
After 1818 the seals diminished 
rapidly until only about 500 could 
be caught annually. Still the Ru«- 


sians kept five or six Aleuts at the 
Islands to kill sea-lions and gulls 
and gather eggs for use at Ross and 
Sitka. Annually about from 500.0 
to 50,000 gulls and about 200 sea- 
lions were killed. Of the latter, 
the meat was salted for use, the 
skins were used for making boats 
and the bladders were made into 
watertight sacks, and the blubber 
was tried out for oil, both as fQod 
and for. lamps, as the hunt for otter 
became less and less profitable. 
And as obstacles interfered with 
success in the way of trade, the 
agents of the company turned their 
attention more and more* to home 
industries at Ross. Agriculture 
was naturally one of the most im- 
portant of these industries. A con- 
siderable quantity of dried beef, 
leather and butter was sent to 
Sitka after the home wants were 
supplied and at last the company 
had 2000 cattle, 1000 horses and 
1000 sheep to sell with the estab- 
lishment. The first livestock was 
obtained from the Californians, but 
not without difficulty, as trade was 
prohibited. There was scarcely any 
article of wood, iron or leather 
which the mechanics of Ross could 
not make of a quality sufficiently 
good for the California market, and 
to the very last they received fre- 
quent applications from the Span- 
iards. Several boats were built for 
the Spanish officers or friars. Tim- 
ber and tiles were sent north and 
south and even to the Sandwich 
Islands. Pine pitch was sent in 

large quantities to Sitka in barrels, 
which, like those used for butter 
and meat, were made at Robb. 
Four vessels of respectable di- 
mensions were built at Ross be- 
fore 1824 and three of them, the 
Ruldakof, V'olga and the Ki- 
akta, the reader meets in southern 


In 1821 Kuskof died and was suc- 
ceeded in command by Karl 
Schmidt. Schmidt died in 1823, 
In 1828 Duhant Cilloy, a French- 
man who was making a tour around 
the world in his yacht, arrived at 
Ross. He made a sketch of^the 
place as he found it. He reported 
finding here all the luxuries used 
in Europe but unknown in other 
parts of California. He gave a de- 
tailed description of the orchard 
and the fence around it, etc. 

Vessels continued to arrive at 
San Francisco, two or three a year, 
from Ross and Sitka, with goods to 
trade for grain and other articles 
which could be procured from the 
Spaniards. In 1831 the Russians 
made an attempt to extend their 
agricultural poBsessions south-east- 
erly but they desisted on account of 
the strong opposition of the Cali- 
fornians. In 1832 Governor Figu- 
roa was instructed to report in de- 
tail on the force maintained by the 
Russians and the probable inten- 
tions of the strangers. He wan also 
ordered to establish settlements in 
the north to check farther encroach- 
ments. In 1833, Figuroa sent Al- 

'wbanqell's arrival at boss 

feres Vallejo to Ross to purchase 
arms, munitions and clothing for 
the Californian soldiers and at the 
eame time to secretly acquaint 
himself with the exact condition of 
affairs. Vallejo carried letters to 
manager Kostromitinoff and to 
Wrangell whom it was thought 
might have arrived. These letters 
•were filled with expressions of 
friendship and good-will and of a 
desire for closer frieadship and 
commerce with those highly es- 

trampled upon the laws of nation* 
and aimed at territorial encroach- 
ment. Wrangell was expected at 
Ross to found a new settlement at 
Santa Rosa, and with the same 
object in view the desertion of the 
neophytes of San Rafael was beinf 

Wrangell finally arrived at Row 
and employed Hartnell as an agent 
to obtain cargoes of produce and if 
possible . to secore certain conces- 
sions in regard to the payment of 

Fort Boss ia 1828, from a sketch by Dubant ClUey. 

teemed neighbors, the Russians. 
The manager of Ross was also 
urged to use his influence with the 
Czar to promote the recognition of 
Mexican independence. Vallejo 
succeeded in purchasing the requir- 
ed articles at Ross and on March 
oth made his report 

Two days later Figuroa wrote to 
the national government at Mexico 
denouncing those highly esteemed 
oeighbors as intruders who bad 

duties. Wrangell also wrote to 
Figuroa a letter in which be warm- 
ly defended his country against 
the charges of the English navigair 
or, Beechey, charges which be de- 
clared to be without foundation to 
the effect that Russians bad griev- 
ously wronged the Californians by 
killing otter illegally, by engaging 
in contraband trade, and even tak- 
ing possession of the Santa Barba- 
ra islanda. Other foreignera bad 



certainly done these things, but the 
Russians never. 

In 1836 manager Kostromitinoff 
was succeeded by Alexander Rot- 
chef. The ex-manager seems to 
have succeeded Hartnell as agent of 
the company at San Francisco. He 
obtained from the Governor of Cal- 
ifornia a permission to erect a ware- 
house for his company on any site 
which he might select. With Cap- 
tain Richardson's consent he decid- 
ed to build at Sausalito. But before 
any use was made of this concession 
the deputation took up the matter 
and decided that the governor had 
no power to grant such a privilege, 
and that it was not expedient to 
allow a foreign company to secure 
such a foothold in a Mexican port. 
Accordingly, in September, Gutier- 
res issued an order that no building 
should be erected. Subsequently, 
in 1839, Rotchef petitioned for the 
privilege of building a warehouse 
at Yerba Buena. but the conces- 
sion was not granted. 

During this period Sonoma was 
founded as a pueblo; and several 
citizens, chiefly foreigners, were per- 
mitted to occupy ranches on the 
northern frontier, all with a view 
to check the apprehended advance 
of the Russians. 

Again, in 1839, Vallejo warned 
the Mexican government of danger 
from the Russians which might be 
averted only by an increase of the 
force at Sonoma. 

In 1837 Ross was visited by Slo- 
cum and in 1839 by Laplace, each 

of whom published a description of 
the place. Meanwhile Governor 
Wrangell was very anixous to ac- 
quire more territory to the south 
and east of Ross. He wished to 
extend his possessions at least to 
San Francisco Bay on the south 
and to Sacramento on the east, and 
if thig was to be done it must be 
done at once, as the most favorable 
time had already passed. If this 
territory should be occupied against 
the wishes of the CalifornianB it 
would not only anger them but 
would be sure to meet with strong 
opposition from foreign powers. 
So Wrangell's best plan was to con- 
ciliate the Caiifornians. He wished 
to present farther and in a stronger 
light, as the Russians had been do- 
ing for years, the danger of en- 
croachment by other foreigners, 
especially the Americans. Also the 
marked contrast between the past 
conduct of his people and those of 
other nations, and the manifest ad- 
vantage of preferring such friendly 
and orderly neighbors, rather than 
the horde of turbulent adventurers 
who were sure to get possession of 
the northern frontier. 

Wrangell wished to go to Mexico 
in person to secure from the author- 
ities of the republic at once a ces- 
sion or sale of the desired territory. 
The company having approved his 
plan and agreed to pay for the 
establishments of San Rafael and 
Sonoma, in case Mexico would con- 
sent to cede the territory, the Baron 
resigned his position a« Governor 



of the American Colonies and ob- 
tained jiermission to return to Rub- 
Bia by way of Mexico, with author- 
ity to represent the Colonial Gov- 
ernment in negotiations with the 
Republic of Mexico. With his in- 
structions came a successor to 
Wrangell in the person of Ivan 
Ruprianof and the ex-governor, sail- 
ed at once. After his arrival at 
Mexico he with some difficulty ob- 
tained an interview with Vice-Pres- 
ident Barragan and other high 
officials, but he could accomplish 
nothing, as the Mexicans would not 
entertain the proposition to cede 
any territory on any terms. 


With the failure of Wrangell's 
mission the company decided to 
abandon Ross, and they at once 
began to seek a purchaser. At a 
conference between Ruprianof and 
Douglas of the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany, a proposition was made to 
sell Ross for $30,000. "Of course," 
writes Douglas in his journal, "they 
cannot sell the soil but merely the 
improvements, which we can only 
hold through a native." An an- 
swer was to be given in the autumn 
after a consultation with McLaugh- 
lin. But the English company de- 
cided that the purchase was not 
desirable as it would very likely 
displease the Californians and 
would probably cause serious com- 
plications with the United States. 

This negotiation having failed, 
the company next tried Alverado. 

The governor asked for farther in- 
formation as to the nature of the 
property offered and made haste to 
inform the Mexican governroent of 
the impending change and a long 
correspondence ensued, but no trade 
resulted. iThe American ship, Lau- 
sanne, Captain Josiah Spaulding, 
coming down from Columbia in 
July, 1840, believing Bodega to be 
a free port, belonging to Russia, 
thought he might land his passen- 
gers there and perhaps accomplish 
something in the way of trade with- 
out paying anchorage dues or other 
duties. The Russians had never 
before permitted such operations 
and on this occasion it seems that 
Rotchef told Spaulding that he 
must not trade nor go by land to 
San Francisco as he had intended 
But Rotchef then went to Monterey, 
leaving the Lausanne at Bodega, 
and the captain, crew and passen- 
gers were free to do as they pleased 
as there was no Russian guard 
nearer than Ross. So Spaulding 
also started for San Francisco with 
Mcintosh as a guide. Four of the 
passengers went to Sonoma to ask 
Vallejo for pass-ports which should 
enable them to remain in the coun- 
try. Vallejo was naturally startled 
at the appearance of the armed for- 
eigners, with the news that Bodega 
was practically abandoned by the 
Russians and that a foreign vessel 
was lying there free from all re- 
strictions in respect of contraband 
trade or of landing passengers. Ho 
immediately despatched Alferes 



Lazaro Pina and a guard of sol- 
diers to Bodega with instructions 
to re-embark all persons who had 
landed and to enjoin upon those in 
charge of the vessel to land no goods 
on penalty of being treated as 
smugglers. As Monterey was the 
only port open to foreign trade, 
I'ina was to remain at his post, 
prevent all traffic and intercourse, 
keep a strict watch and report. 
Subsequently he was directed to 
collect tonnage dues on the Laus- 
anne at the rate of $1.50 per ton. 
Spaulding, accompanied by several 
persons from San Francisco who 
were traveling without passports, 
called at Sonoma on his way to Bo- 
dega. His companions were not al- 
lowed to proceed and the captain was 
called upon to pay his tonnage dues. 
He declined to do so on the ground 
that Bodega was a free port belong- 
ing to Russia; but after discussion 
he agreed to pay the demand if it 
should be declared lawful by the 
proper authorities. He was then al- 
lowed to depart with an order to 
Pina to return to Sonoma as soon as 
the vessel had sailed. As Spaulding 
had cited the manager at Ross in 
confirmation of his claim that Bo- 
dega was a Russian port, Vallejo in- 
structed Pina to state clearly to Rot- 
chef that Bodega belonged to Mexico 
and not to Russia though the use of 
it by Russian vessels had been toler- 
ated. That the commander at Ross 
had no control of it, except by per- 
mission of the Californian govern- 
ment, that he had no right to find it 

strange that Californian troops 
were stationed there.especially when 
he was in the habit of traveling in 
the country without a permit and 
in disrespect of the frontier authori- 
ties; and of representing to visitors 
that Bodega was a free port, and of 
taking the liberty to permit foreign- 
ers to enter the country in defiance 
of law. Meanwhile Rotchef came 
back from Monterey and was filled 
with wrath when he found the sol- 
diers on guard and saw a copy 
made by a subordinate, in his ab- 
sence, of Vallejo's instructions to 
Pina. He was violent and insult- 
ing in his anger. He raised the 
Russian flag, defying the Californ- 
ians to pull it down, and offered 
his protection to the foreign pass- 
engers who went with him to Ross. 
Pina made no resistance, but re- 
ported to Vallejo. The latter sent 
a communication on the matter to 
Rotchef and another to be forward- 
ed to the Governor at Sitka. But 
Rotchef refused to receive the doc- 
uments. V'allejo subsequently is- 
sued an order forbidding Rotchef 
or any of hie men to travel in the 
country without a license. The 
Lausanne sailed away about July 
26th, leaving five or six foreigners 
who were aided by the RuSbians to 
reach Sacramento. Pina by Val- 
lejo's order did not attempt to inter- 
fere beyond warning Rotchef that 
he would be held responsible for the 
entrance of the men. Much more 
angry correspondence followed, but 
it is not important at this late day. 



In January, 1841, Vallejo report- 
ed to the minister of war concern- 
ing liis controverey with Rotchef. 
He took much credit to himself and 
mentioned as a result ot that con- 
troversy, the proposed abandon- 
ment of Koss. The Russians had 
consulted him as to tlieir right to 
sell to a private person the build- 
ings as well as the live-stock, and 
he had told them that the nation 
had the first right and must be 
consulted. The reason why this 
cautious answer was given was that 
some foreigners from the Columbia 
or elsewhere might outbid a citizen 
of California and thus raise a ques- 
tion of sovereignty which might 
prove troublesome to the Mexican 
interests in the future. 

Vallejo also urged the govern- 
ment to furnish a garrison and au- 
thorize the planting of a colony at 
Ross upon its abandonment by the 
Russians. In February, Kostrom- 
itinoff, representing the company, 
offered to sell the property to Val- 
lejo himself for $30,000, payable 
half in cash or in bills of the Hud- 
son Bay Company and half in 
produce delivered at Yerba Buena. 
The general was willing to enter- 
tain the proposition but could not 
make a definite answer until July 
or August, as he must have author- 
ity from his government. When 
the answer came from Mexico it 
was not a satisfactory one, as the 
Mexican government seemed to 
think that the Russians had been 
frightened away and would leave a 

flourishing settlement to be taken 
possession of by the Californians 
as soon as they were gone. So 
Vallejo received some useless in- 
structions about the details of the 
occupation and the form of govern- 
ment to be established at Ross. 

In July, Kostromitinoff, having 
returned from Sitka, an elaborate 
inventory was made of the property 
offered. Vallejo and Alverado 
were again approached but they 
absolutely declined to purchase, as 
they had concluded that the prop- 
erty should ' and would revert to 
the Californians and that no other 
purchaser could be found. Alvera- 
do stated in a letter that his only 
fear was that the Russians would 
burn the buildings rather than let 
them fall into the hands of the 
Californians. But there was an- 
other purchaser, John A. Sutter. 
The bargain was made in Septem- 
ber. The formal contract was 
signed by Kostromitinoff and Sut- 
ter in the office of the Subprefect 
at San Francisco, with Voiget and 
Leese as witnesses, on December 13, 

By the terms of the contract 
Sutter was to pay for the property 
specified in the inventory, 130,000, 
payable in installments. The es- 
tablishment at New Helvetia (Sac- 
ramento) and the property at Bo- 
dega, and the two ranches of Khleb- 
nikof and Tschernich, "which prop- 
erty was to be left intact in pos- 
session of the company's agents," 



were pledged as guarantees for the 
payment. The Russians say that 
the contract was approved by the 
California government and it is 
certain that no official disapproval 
was made. 

Sutter obtained from manager 
Rotchef a certificate of transfer of 
the land, dated one day earlier 
than the contract, in which docu- 
ment the commander certified that 
the conjpany had held peaceable 
possession for 29 years and that 
they had sold it to M. Le Capitaine 
Sutter for $30,000 and had delivered 
it into his possession indisputably 
This document in after years was 
paraded as Sutter's Deed and was 
made the basis of a somewhat 
plausible claim to the possession of 
the land. Manager Rotchef with 
all the remaining servants of the 
company sailed on the Constantine 
which left San Francisco in Decem- 
ber, 1841, and probably left Ross 
in January, 1842. A few Russians 
remained on the ranchos to look 
after the company's interest. Sut- 
ter sent Roberts to look out for 
him at first, but John Bidwell took 
his place early in 1842. He was 
succeeded by Wm. Benitz in 1843. 

In the meantime most of the 
movable property and live-stock 
were removed to New Helvetia. A 
few hundred cattle were left, as 
they were too wild to be driven. 
The Californians made no effort 
to occupy the place, for as they had 
virtually consented to the sale the 
State had nothing at Ross to pro- 

tect. In 1845 the Mexican govern- 
ment granted to Manuel Torres 
four leagues of land called the Mu- 
niz grant, including the establish- 
ment of Ross. Torres sold the 
grant to Wm. Benitz, and Benitz, 
afterwards, to avoid a law-suit, 
also bought for 6,000 dollnrs the 
Sutter or Russian title. 

The inventory by which the 
property was sold to Sutter includes 
the following: A square fort of logs 
1088 feet in circumference, twelve 
feet high with two watch-towers, a 
house of squared logs, 36 by 58 feet, 
double board roof, six rooms with 
corridor and kitchen. Another 
block house 24 by 48 feet with six 
rooms and corridor. House for 
revenue officers, 22 by 60 feet, ten 
rooms; barracks 24 by 66 feet, eight 
rooms; three warehouses, kitchen, 
jail, chapel with a belfry and dome. 
Outside of the fort, hiacksmith-ehop, 
tannery, boat-house, cooper's shop, 
bakery, carpenter's shop, two wind- 
mills for grinding, one mill moved 
by animal power, three threshing 
floors, a well, stable, sheep-cole, 
dairy-house, two cow stables, hog- 
pen, corral, ten sheds, eight baths, 
ten kitchens, 24 houses, nearly 
every one having an orchard. At 
Kostromitinoff rancho, house, farm 
buildings, corral and boat for cross- 
ing the river Siavianka (Russian); 
at Khebnikof rancho, adobe house, 
farm buildings, bath, well, corral. 
At Jorges rancho (Russian Gulch), 
house, stores, fences, etc. At Bodega, 
warehouse 30 by 60 feet; three 



email houses, bath, ovens and cor- 

The purchase also included the 
schooner Constantine, which was 
rechristened the Sacramento. This 
vessel made frequent trips between 
Ross, Bodega and Sacramento, tak- 
ing from Ross to Sacramento all the 
moval>le property bought by Sutter 
which could be utilized. Even sev- 
eral of the newest houses were taken 
down and moved. The one cannon 
left at Ross was taken to Sacra- 
mento and was finally donated by 
Sutter to the California pioneers. 
About 4,000 head of cattle, horses 
and sheep were driven overland, and 
one old Indian who assisted in the 
driving is still to be seen occasion- 
ally at Ross. Ross, as it was called 
by the Russians, was always called 
by the Spaniards El Fuerte de Los 
Rusos or Fuerte Ruso, and by the 
Americans who afterwards settled 
in California Fort Ross, and as 
this old settlement is a place of 
much interest and is annually vis- 
ited by hundreds of people from 
all parts of the country, it may be 
interesting to give a brief account 
of it as it is at present, 1896. 

The property is now owned by 
G. W. Call, who does what he can 
to preserve the old buildings and 
does carefully keep all old relics 
which are not perishable. The 
chapel stands perfectly erect with 
the original roof, doors and win- 
dows intact. During all these 83 
years the little belfry and dome 

have stood bravely facing the 
heavy winter storms. The stock- 
ade is mostly gone, as the timlters 
were not selected but were evident- 
ly made of young timber with sap 
on. The watch towers are badly 
decayed on the southerly or storm 
side but are sound on the north 
side. The governor's house is in a 
good state of preservation because 
it has had a new roof and has been 
weatherboarded outside. It is now 
used as a hotel. The barracks 
building is in a fair state of preser- 
vation. These old buildings, with 
half-a-dozen new buildings, a 
wharf and a chute at the landing 
and two dairies constitute the pres- 
ent settlement of Fort Ross. One 
millstone made from native stone 
remains intact. Of the original 
apple-trees some 50 are still alive 
and bear apples every year. A 
portion of the original fence still 
stands and does duty just as it did 
wnen described by Duhant Cilley 
in 1828. A painting copied from 
the sketch made by Cilley has also 
been preserved and in the hotel 
may still be seen in service an old 
piano made by Bord in Paris about 
1820. In a little valley where the 
Russians cut away all the trees 
has grown a forest of redwood and 
pine trees, some of them over five 
feet in diameter. The pines have 
evidently grown from seed, but all 
the redwoods are sprouts sprung 
from the stumps of the trees cut 
down. ThiB second-growth forest 
proves conclusively that all the 



Californians have fo do to perpetu- 
ate the redwood forests is to give 
them a chance. The Russian bish- 
op, Vladimir, a few years ago, vis- 
ited Fort Ross and made a propo- 
sition to i)urcha,8e the old chapel, 
with a few acres of ground, includ- 
ing the Russian cemetery, with a 
view of preserving them. But as 
Vladimir was recalled the negotia- 
tion was not consummated. 


We have given in the preceding 
chapters a consecutive and concise 
history of the Russian settlement 
at Ross. Some contemporary ac- 
counts of this interesting event 
which have appeared from time to 
time written by those who describ- 
ed their visits to the settlement 
■will now be given. 

Among the most interesting ac- 
counts of Ross is that of Sir George 
Simpson, governor-in-chief of the 
Hudson Bay Company, who came 
to California in 1841, and after- 
wards published a most interesting 
narrative of his voyage. 

Governor Simpson evidently 
came to California with the view of 
seeing if there was any way of ac- 
quiring possession of the country 
for the English government. He 
visited General Vallejo at Sonoma 
and received no encouragement 
from that true and loyal friend of 
the United States. However, he 
gives a very sprightly account of 
his visit and we reproduce that 
portion which refers to Ross. On 

approaching the coast of California 
the governor says: 

"In the course of the morning, 
we passed Bodega and Ross, respec- 
tively the harbor and the fort of 
the Russian American Company. 
That association, which asssumed 
its present form towards the close 
of the last century, under the pat- 
ronage of the Emperor Paul, could 
not find any native supply of 
bread-stuffs nearer than the central 
steppes of Asia, to be transported 
thence over about a hundred and 
twenty degrees of longitude and 
thirty of latitude, by barges from 
the head of the Sena to Yakutsk, 
on horses from Yakutsk to Ochotsk, 
and in ships from Ochotsk to Sitka. 
So expensive and tedious a route 
operating almost as a prohibition, 
the Company's establishments 
were, of course, very inadequately 
supplied with that which, to a Rus- 
sian, is peculiarly the staff of life, 
so that a design was naturally 
formed of planting an agricultural 
settlement on the adjacent coast of 

"With this view, in March, 1806, 
— the very month, by the by, in 
which Lewis and Clarke left their 
winter's encampment of Clatsop 
Point to retrace their steps across 
the continent — Von llesanoff, who 
was then the Company's principal 
representative, attempted to enter 
the Columbia, but was baffled in 
the attempt by the same circum- 
stances which had so long retarded 
the discovery of the rjver. Eight 



years afterwards, however, the ex- 
tensive and beautiful valley of 
Santa Rosa, which opens into Bo- 
dega Bay, was actually occupied 
— Spain being too busy elsewhere 
with more serious evils to repel the 

As compared with the Columbia, 
California, besides its great fertility 
and its easier access, possessed the 

sea-otters, besides a large supply of 
fur-seals, having thereby so far 
diminished the breeds as to throw 
nearly all the expense of their es- 
tablishments on the agricaltural 
branch of the business — an expense 
far exceeding the mere cost of pro- 
duction, with a reasonable freight. 
The Californian settlement required 
ships exclusively for itself; and, 

Fort Ross In 1*40, looking uortheast from blnff 

additional recommendation of lit- 
erally teeming with sea-otters, thus 
securing to the Company an inci- 
dental advantage, more important, 
perhaps, in a pecuniary sense, than 
the primary object of pursuit. 
Since 1814, the Russians have sent 
to market from California the enor- 
mous number of eighty thousand 

though the Russians had so far 
conciliated the local authorities as 
to be permitted to hunt both on the 
coast and in the interior, they were 
yet obliged, by the undisguised 
jealousy and dislike of their pres- 
ence, constantly to maintain a mil- 
itary attitude, with strong fortifi- 
cations and considerable garrisons. 

-r k ,1* I, < 

:' ■ . -l ■■If}- :■ 

■r. i Tt'i^'t ■'■ 



"That the Russians ever actually 
intended to claim the sovereignty 
of this part of the coast, I do not 
believe. The term Ross was cer- 
tainly suspicious, as being the con- 
stant appellation of the ever- vary- 
ing phases of Russia from the days 
of Ruric, the very name under 
which, nearly ten centuries ago, the 
red-bearded dwellers on the Borys- 
thenes, who have since spread 
themselves with resistless pertinac- 
ity over more than two hundred 
degrees of longitude, carried terror 
and desolation in their crazy boats 
to the gates of Constantinople, a 
city destined alike to be their ear- 
liest quarry and their latest prey. 
So expansive a monosyllable could 
hardly be a welcome neighbor to 
powers so feeble and jealous as 
Spain and Mexico. 

"In justice, however, to Russia, I 
have no hesitation in saying that, 
under the recognized principles of 
colonization, she is fully entitled to 
all that she holds in America. As 
early as 1741, Beering and Tschiri- 
koff had visited the continent res- 
pectively in 59° and 56° , about a 
degree above Sitka, and about a 
degree below it — the former, more- 
over, seeing many islands, and per- 
haps the peninsula of Alaska, on 
his return; and, by the year 1763, 
private adventurers had explored 
the whole width of the ocean, dis- 
covering the intermediate chain of 
islands, from the scene of Beering's 
shipwreck, in the vicinity of Kam- 
Bchatka, to Alaska, then erroneous- 

ly supposed tc be an island, and 
thence still further eastward to 
Kodyak — no other nation having 
previously penetrated, or even pre- 
tended to have penetrated, farther 
north than the parallel of fifty- 
three degrees. 

"But the Russian discoveries 
were distinguished by this favor- 
able peculiarity, that they were, in 
a great measure, achieved inde- 
pendently of the more southerly 
discoveries of Spain, being the re- 
sult of rumors of a neighboring 
continent, which, in the beginning 
of the century, the Russian conq- 
uerors had found to be rife in Kam- 
schatka. Moreover, in the case of 
t>tp Russians, discovery and posses- 
sion had advanced hand in hand. 
The settlement of Kodyak was 
formed four years before Meares 
erected his solitary shed in Noolka 
Sound; and Sitka was established 
fully ten or twelve years earlier 
than Astoria." 

Governor Simpson says on page 
283, vol. 1, of his interesting work: 

"On emerging from the strait, 
which is about three miles long, 
we saw on our left, in a deep bay, 
known as Whalers' Harbor, two 
vessels,— the Government schooner 
California and the Russian brig 
Constantine, now bound to Sitka, 
with the last of the tenants of Bo- 
dega and Ross on board. As we 
observed the Russians getting 
under way, I despatched Mr. Hop- 
kins in one of our boats, in order 
to express my regret at being thus 



deprived of the anticipated pleas- 
ure of paying my respects in per- 

"Mr. Hopkins found about a 
hundred souls, men, women and 
children, all patriotically delighted 
to exchange the lovely climate of 
California for the ungenial skies of 
Sitka, and that too at the expense 
of making a long voyage in an old, 
crazy, clumsy tub, at the stormiest 
season of the year; but to this gen- 
eral rule there had been one excep- 
tion, inasmuch as they had lost 
two days in waiting — but, alas! in 
vain — for a young woman, who 
had abjured alike her country and 
her husband for the sake of one of 
the dons of San Francisco\3 

"Mr. Hopkins farther learned 
that, though it was Thursday with 
us, yet it was Friday with our nor- 
thern friends; a circumstance 
which, besides showing that the 
Russian^ had not the superstition 
of our tars as to days of sailing, 
forcibly reminded us that between 
them the two parties had passed 
round the globe in opposite direc- 
tions to prosecute one and the same 
trade in furs, which the indolent 
inhabitants of the province were 
too lazy to appropriate at their 
very doors." 

Later on he went to Santa Bar- 
bara and in connection with his 
visit there relates the following 
interesting incident in regard to 
Ross. He says: 

"Among the persons we met in 
Santa Barbara, was a lady of some 

historical celebrity. Von Reeanoff, 
having failed, ag elsewhere stated, 
in his attempt to enter the Colum- 
bia in 1806, continued his voyage 
as far as San Francisco, where, be- 
sides purchasing immediate sup- 
plies for Sitka, he endeavored, in 
negotiation with the commandant 
of the district and the governor of 
the province, to lay the foundation 
of a regular intercourse between 
Russian America and the Californ- 
ian settlements. In order to ce- 
ment the national union, he pro- 
posed uniting himself with Donna 
Conception Arguella, one of the 
commandant's daughters, his pat- 
riotism clearly being its own 
reward if half of Langsdorff 's des- 
cription was correct: 'She was 
lively and animated, had spark- 
ling, love-inspiring eyes, beautiful 
teeth, pleasing and expressive fea- 
tures, a fine form, and a thousand 
other charms; yet her manners 
were perfectly simple and artless.' 
"The chancellor, who was him- 
self of the Greek Church, regarded 
the difference of religion with the 
eyes of a lover and a politician; 
but, as his imperial master might 
take a less liberal view of the mat- 
ter, he posted away to St. Peters- 
burgh with the intention, if he 
should there be successful, of subse- 
quently visiting Madrid, for the 
requisite authority to carry his 
schemes into full effect. But the 
Fates, with a voice more powerful 
than that of emperors and kings, 
forbade the bans; and Von Resa- 



noff died, on his road to Europe, at 
Kraysnoyarsk in Siberia of a fall 
from his horse. 

"Thus at once bereaved of her 
lover, and disappointed in her 
hope of becoming a pledge of friend- 
ship between Russia and Spain, 
Donna Conception assumed the 
habit, but not, I believe, the formal 
vows, of a nun, dedicating her life 
to the instruction of the young and 
the consolation of the sick. This 
little romance could not fail to 
interest us; and, notwithstanding 
the ungracefuluess of her convent- 
ual costume and the ravages of an 
interval of time, which had tripled 
her years, we could still discover 
in her face and figure, in her man- 
ners and conversation, the remains 
of those charms which had won for 
the youthful beauty Von Resanoff's 
enthusiastic love and Langsdorff's 
equally enthusiastic admiration. 
Though Donna Conception appar- 
ently loved to dwell on the story of 
her blighted affections, yet, strange 
to say, she knew not, till we men- 
tioned it to her, the immediate 
cause of the chancellor's sudden 
death. This circumstance might, 
in some measure, be explained by 
the fact, that Langsdorff's work 
was not published before 1814; but 
even then, in any other country 
than California, a lady, who was 
still young, would surely have seen 
a book, which, besides detailing the 
grand incident of her life, presented 
so gratifying a portrait of her 

We will close these extracts with 
the conclusion that the astute, if 
not brilliant, governor-general was 
forced to reach after he had fully 
felt the pulse of the situation in 

He says: 

"Now, for fostering and matur- 
ing Brother Jonathan's ambitious 
views. Captain Sutter's establish- 
ment is admirably situated. Be- 
sides lying on the direct route be- 
tween San Francisco, on the one 
hand, and the Missouri and the 
Willamette, on the other, it virtu- 
ally excludes the Californians from 
all the best parts of their own 
country, the valleys of the San 
Joaquin, the Sacramento, and the 
Colorado. Hitherto, the Spaniards 
have confined themselves to the 
comparatively barren strip of land, 
varying from ten to forty miles in 
width, which lies between the ocean 
and the first range of mountains; 
and beyond this slip they will never 
penetrate with their present char- 
acter and their present force, if 
Captain Sutter, or any other ad- 
ventui/er, can gather round him a 
score of such marksmen as won 
Texas on the field of San Jacinto. 
But this is not all; for the Ameri- 
cans, if masters of the interior, will 
soon discover that they have a nat- 
ural right to a maratime outlet; so 
that, whatever may be the fate of 
Monterey and the more southerly 
ports, San Francisco will, to a 
moral certainty, sooner or later, 
fall into the poBsession of Ameri- 



canS' — tlie only poBsible mode of 
preventing euch a result being the 
previous occupation of the port on 
the part of (Jreat Britain." 

Sir George saw very clearly in 
the above forecast, for, six years 
after, the Americans took posBess- 
ion not only of the Fort of San 
Francisco but also of the entire 
j)rovince of California. 


The following account of a jour- 
ney made by the distinguished Otto 
Von Kotzebue in 1824 from San Ra- 
fael to Ross by land cannot fail to 
interest. The journey was made in 
tlie beautiful month of September. 

Captain Von Kotzebue was a 
sailor, a scientist and a man of 
acute sensibility — a splendid type 
of the aggressive Russian. One 
may read in this account between 
the lines a forecast of the ambition 
an<l love of country which since the 
time of the events described has 
so extended the territory, the wealth 
and the power of RussiS. 

It is also an interesting fact that 
Dr. Eschscholtz, for whom our 
Slate poppy flower was named, ac- 
companied his chief on the journey. 
They had both been previously on 
the coast on a former voyage and 
had reached Ross from the sea side 
of the fort. On that voyage was 
Adelbert Von Chamisso, the 
botanist, and he had then given 
the name of his shipmate and 
friend, Dr. Eschscholtz, to this 
most brilliant and conspicuous of 
all the California flowers, which 

prophetically uplifted a cup of gold 
to the future owners of California, 
which the Rusaians then hoped to 

But that very year, though Von 
Kotzebue did not then know it, 
Minister Rush bad concluded a 
treaty in London with RuBsia, un- 
der which Captain Von Kottebue's 
imperial master had agreed to make 
no nettlement on the northwest 
coast of America south of 54:40 
north latitude. This wa« really 
the first step in the acquisition of 
California by the United Statea. 
It shut out all Russian pretensions, 
and Russia was the only country 
befidee the United States which 
could quickly occupy the country 
by actual colonization. 

With a word of encouragement 
from the home government all of 
California north of San Francisco 
would have been Russian long be- 
fore 184G. The word never came. 
The treaty of 1824 had settled the 
question. But this was not known 
to Von Kotzebue, as, with his geni- 
al and brilliant conferee, Dr. Esch- 
scholtz, he followed his guide Mar- 
co along the beautiful shore of the 
bay, speculating upon its value to 
his country, past the Olompali 
(now Burdell's station), up the San 
,\ntonio and through Two Rock 
valley to Bodega. The trail passed 
directly between the two split rocks 
which later on gave its name to the 
Two Rock country. What a splen- 
did waste it was in those warm 
September days ? The fat deer 



moved reluctantly from their path. 
The elk were scattered like cattle 
over the hills. The coyote sere- 
naded them at night, and the 
dreamy landscape, golden and green 
with grass and trees lay before the 
travelers just as it was shaped and 
colored by Nature's all-perfecting 
hand— well might it stii the sensi- 
tive heart and hand of a Von Kot- 
zebue. His account of the land 
journey to Ross is as follows: 

" Indi8{>en8able business now 
summoned me to the establishment 
of the Russian-American Company 
called Ross, which lies about eighty 
miles north of San Francisco. I 
had for some time been desirous of 
performing the journey by land, 
but the difficulties had appeared 
insurmountable. Without the as- 
sistance of the commandant, it cer- 
tainly could not have been accom- 
plished; I was therefore glad to 
avail myself of his friendly dispos- 
ition towards me to make the at- 
tempt. We required a number of 
horses and a military escort; the 
latter to serve us at once as guides, 
and as a protection against the sav- 
ages. Both these requests were 
immediately granted; and Don 
Kstudillo himself offered to com- 
mand the escort. 

" My companions on this journey 
were Dr. Eschscholz, Mr. Hoffman, 
two of my officers, two sailors, Don 
Estudillo, and four dragoons, mak- 
ing altogether a party of twelve. 
On the evening previous to the day 
for our departure, Estudillo came 

to the ship with his four dragoonB, 
the latter well armed, and accoutr- 
ed in a panoply of leather. He 
himself, in the old Spanish cos- 
tume, with a heavy sword, still 
heavier spur8,a dagger and pistole 
in his belt, and a staff in hie hand, 
was a good personification of an 
adventurer of the olden time. He 
assured us that we could not be too 
cautious, since we should pass 
through a part of the country in- 
habited by " los Indianoa bravoa ; " 
we therefore also made a plentiful 
provision of arms, and were ready, 
as soon as the first beams of morn- 
ing glimmered on the tops of the 
mountains, to set forward in our 
barcasse for the mission of St. 
Rafael, lying on the northern shore 
of the bay, whence our land journey 
was to commence. 

"The weather was beautiful, the 
wind perfectly still, and the air 
enchantingly mild. An Indian 
named Marco, whom Estudillo had 
with him, served us as a pilot; 
for the Spaniards here, incapable, 
either through indolence or ignor- 
ance, of discharging that office, 
always employ an experienced In- 
dian at the helm. 

" Don Estudillo, although ad- 
vanced in life, was a very cheerful 
companion, and one of the most 
enlightened Spaniards I have met 
with in California. He piqued him- 
self a little on his literary acquire- 
ments, and mentioned having read 
three books besides Don Quixote 
and Gil Bias, whilst, ae he assured 



rae .in confidence, the rcBt of his 
countrymen here had hardly ever 
seen any other book than the Bible. 
Marco had grown grey in the mis- 
sion; on account of his usefulness, 
he had been in many respects better 
treated than most of the Indians: 
he spoke Spanish with tolerable 
fluency; and when Estudillo en- 
deavored to exercise his wit upon 
him, often embarrassed him not a 
little by his repartees. This Marco 
affords a proof that, under favor- 
able circumstances, the minds even 
of the Indians of California are 
susceptible of improvement; but 
these examples are rare in the mis- 

"I confess I could not help spec- 
ulating upon the benefit this coun- 
try would derive from becoming a 
province of our powerful empire, 
and how useful if would prove to 
Russia. An inexhaustible granary 
for Kamtschatka, Ochotsk, and all 
the settlements of the American 
Company; these regions, so often 
afflicted with a scarcity of corn, 
would derive new life from a close 
connection with California. 

The sun rose in full magnificence 
from behind ^e mountain, at the 
moment when, emerging from be- 
tween the islands which divide the 
northern from the southern half of 
the bay, an extensive mirror of 
water opened upon our view. The 
mission of San Rafael, the first 
stage of our journey, formed a dis- 
tinguished object in the background 
of the prospect, sloping up the sides 

of the hills, the intervening flat 
land lying bo low that it was not 
yet within our horizon. We had 
also a distant view towards the 
northwest of another newly-founded 
mission, that of St. Francisco Sala- 
no (Sonoma), the only one situated 
on the northern shore of the bay 
except San Rafael. 

"The country at this side of the 
bay, chiefly characterised by gently 
swelling hills, the park-like group- 
ing of the trees, and the lively ver- 
dure of the meadows, is as agreeable 
to the eye as that of the southern 
coast. The water is pure and 
wholesome, which that at the Pre- 
sidio is not; we therefore laid in 
our ship's store here. 

"The whole Bay of St. Francisco, 
in which thousands of ships might 
lie at anchor, is formed by nature 
for an excellent harbor; but the 
little creeks about the northwest 
coast, now lying to our left, and 
which I have since frequently visit- 
ed, are especially advantageous for 
repairs, being so deep that the larg- 
est vessels can lie conveniently 
close to the land; and an abun- 
dance of the finest wood for ship- 
building, even for the tallest masts, 
is found in the immediate neigh- 
borhood. The whole of the north- 
ern part of the bay, which does not 
properly belong to California, but 
is assigned by geographers to New 
Albion, has hitherto remained un- 
visited by voyagers, and little 
known even to the Spaniards resid- 
ing in the country. Two large 



navigable rivers, which I afterwards 
surveyed, empty themselves into it, 
one from the north, the other from 
the east. The land is extremely 
fruitful, and the climate is perhaps 
the finest and most healthy in the 
world. It has hitherto been the 
fate of these regions, like that o 
modest merit or humble virtue, to 
remain unnoticed; but posterity 
will do them justice; towns and cit- 
ies will hereafter flourish where all 
is now desert; the waters, over 
which scarcely a solitary boat 
is yet seen to glide, will 
reflect the flags of all nations; and 
a happy, prosperous people receiv- 
ing with thaniifulness what prod- 
igal Nature bestows for their use, 
will disperse her treasures over 
every part of the world. 

*' A fresh and favorable wind 
brought us, without much delay 
from the opposing ebb-tide, to the 
northern shore. We left the 
common embouchure of its two 
principal rivers, distinguished by 
the steepness of their banks to the 
right, and rowing up the narrow 
channel which has formed itself 
through the marsh land, reached 
our landing-place just as the sun's 
disk touched the summits of the 
mountains in the west. 

"We were still distant a good 
riautica! mile from the mission 
of St. Gabriel (Rafael), which 
peeped from amongst the foliage of 
its ancient oaks. Many horses be- 
longing to the mission were grazing 

on a beautiful meadow by the 
waterside, in perfect harmony with 
a herd of small deer, which are very 
numerous in this country. Our 
dragoons, who had no inclination 
for a long walk, took their lassos 
in hand, and soon caught us as 
many horses as we wanted. We 
had brought our saddles with us, 
and a delightful gallop across the 
plain carried us to St. Rafael, 
where we we were received in a very 
hospitable manner by the only 
monk in residence. 

"The locality of this mission, 
founded in 1816, is still better cho- 
sen than that of the celebrated 
Santa Clara. A mountain shelters 
it from the injurious north-wind; 
but the same mountain serves also 
as a hiding-place and bulwark for 
the Indianos bravos, who have al- 
ready once succeeded in burning 
the buildings of the mission, and 
still keep the monks continually 
on the watch against similar depre- 
dations. In fact, St. Rafael has 
quite the appearance of an outpost 
for the defense of the other mis- 

"The garrison, six men strong, is 
always ready for service on the 
slightest alarm. Having been 
driven from my bed at night by 
the vermin, I saw two sentinels, 
fully armed, keeping guard towards 
the mountain, each of them beside 
a large fire; every two minutes they 
rang a bell which was hung be- 
tween two pillars, and were regu- 
larly answered by the howling of 



_^ ^ _\^C 



^1 ■:i2- 


landing at Fort Boea as it la To-day 



the little wolf I have before spoken 
of as often lurking in the vicinity 
of the miBBions. That there is not 
much to fear from other enemies, is 
sufficiently proved by the small 
number of soldiers kept, and the 
total neglect of all regular means 
of defense. The courage of these 
hravoa seems indeed principally to 
consist in unwillingness to be 
caught, in flying with all speed to 
their hiding-places when pursued, 
and in setting fire to any property 
of the missions when they can find 
an opportunity of doing so unob- 
served. We saw here several of 
these heroes working patiently 
enough with irons on their feet, and 
in no way distinguishable in man- 
ners or appearance from their 
brethren of St. Francisco or Santa 

"With the first rays of the sun 
we mounted our horses, and having 
passed the valley of St. Gabriel 
( Rafael), and the hill which bound.s 
it, our guide led us in a north- 
westerly direction further into the 
interior. The fine, light, and fer- 
tile soil we rode upon was thickly 
covered with rich herbage, and the 
luxuriant trees stood in groups as 
picturesque as if they had been dis- 
posed by the hand of taste. We 
met with numerous herds of small 
deer, so fearless, that they suffered 
us to ride fairly into the midst of 
them, but then indeed darted away 
with the swiftness of an arrow. 
We sometimes also, but less fre- 
quently, saw another species of 


stag, (elks) as large as a horfle, 
with branching antlers; these gen- 
erally graze on hills, from whence 
they can see round them on all 
sides, and appear much more cau- 
tious than the small ones. The 
Indians, however, have their con- 
trivances to take them. They fast- 
en a pair of the stag's antlers on 
their heads, and cover their bodies 
with his skin; then «rawling on 
all-fours among the high grass, 
they imitate the movements of the 
creature while grazing; the herd, 
mistaking them for their fellows, 
suffer them to approach without 
suspicion, and are not aware of the 
treachery till the arrows of the dis- 
guised foes h{ 

"Towards noon the heat became 
so oppressive, that we were obliged 
to halt on the summit of a hill: we 
reposed under the shade of some 
thick and spreading oaks, while 
our horses grazed and our meal 
Was preparing. During our rest, 
we caught a glimpse of a troop of 
Indians skulking behind some 
bushes at a distance; our dragoons 
immediately seized their arms, but 
the savages disappeared without at- 
tempting to approach us. In a 
few hours we proceeded on our jour- 
ney, through a country, which pre- 
senting no remarkable object to 
direct our course, excited my aston- 
ishment at the local memory of our 
guide, who had traversed it but 
once before. Two great shaggy 
white wolves, hunting a herd of 



small deer, fled in terror on our 
appearance, and we had the gratifi- 
cation of saving the pretty animals 
for this time. In several places we 
saw little cylindrically-shaped huts 
of underwood, which appeared to 
have been recently quitted by Ind- 
ians, and sometimes we even found 
the still glimmering embers of a 
fire; it is therefore probable that 
the savages were often close to us 
when we were not aware of it; but 
they always took care to conceal 
themselves from the much dreaded 
dragoons and their lassos. 

"In the evening we reached a lit- 
tle mountain brook, which, after 
winding through a ravine, falls into 
the sea at Port Romanzow, or Bod- 
ega. It was already dark, and 
though but ten miles distance from 
Ross, we were obliged to pass the 
chill and foggy night not very 
agreeably on this spot. In the 
morning we forded the shallow 
stream, and as we proceeded, found 
in the bold, wild features of the 
scene a striking difference from the 
smiling valleys through which we 
had travelled on the preceding day- 
The nearer we drew to the coast, 
the more abrupt l)ecame the preci- 
pices and the higher the rocks, 
which were overgrown with larch 
even to their peaked summits. 

"We wound round the bases of 
some hills, and having with much 
fatigue climbed other very steep 
ascents, reached towards noon a 
considerable height, which rewarded 
us with a magnificent prospect. 

Amongst the remarkable objecte 
before us, the ocean stretched to the 
west, with the harbor of Romanzow 
(Bodega), which unfortunately will 
only afford admission to small ves- 
sels; the Russian settlement here, 
can therefore never be as prosperous 
as it might have been, had circum- 
stances permitted its establishment 
on the bay of St. Francisco. To 
the east, extending far inland, lay 
a valley, called by the Indians the 
Valley of the White Men (Santa 
Rosa). There is a tradition among 
them, that a ship was once wrecked 
on this coast; that the white men 
chose this valley for their residence, 
and lived there in great harmony 
with the Indians. What afterwards 
became of them is not recorded. 
On the northeast was a high moun- 
tain thickly covered with fir trees, 
from amongst which rose dark col. 
umns of smoke, giving evidence of 
Indian habitations. Our soldiers 
said that it was the abode of a chief 
and his tribe, whose valor had 
won the respect of the Spaniards; 
that they were of a distinct class 
from the common race of Indians; 
had fixed their dwellings on this 
mountain on account, of its sup- 
posed inaccessibility; were distin- 
guished for their courage, and pre- 
ferred death to the dominion of the 
Missionaries, into whose power no 
one of them has ever yet been en- 
trapped. Is it not possible that 
they may owe their superiority to 
having mingled their race with that 
of the shipwrecked whites? 



"Our road now lay Bometimes 
across hills and meadows, and 
sometimes along the sands so near 
the ocean that we were sprinkled 
by its spray. We passed I'ort Ro- 
manzow, and soon after forded the 
bed of another shallow river to 
which the Kussians have given the 
name of Slavianka (Russian river). 
Farther inland it is said to be 
deeper, and even navigable for ships; 
its banks are extremely fertile, but 
peopled by numerous warlike 
hordes. It flows hither from the 
northeast; and the Russians have 
proceeded up it a distance of a hun- 
dred wersts, or about sixty-seven 
English miles. 

"The region we now passed 
through was of a very romantic 
though wild character; and the lux- 
uriant growth of the grass proved 
that the soil was rich. From the 
summit of a high hill, we at length, 
to our great joy, perceived beneath 
us the fortress of Rods, to which we 
descended by a tolerably convenient 
road. We spurred our tired horses, 
and excited no small astonishment 
as we passed through the gate at a 
gallop. M. Von Schmidt, the gov- 
ernor of the establishment, received 
us in the kindest manner, fired some 
guns to greet our arrival on Rus- 
sian-American ground, and con- 
ducted us into his commodius and 
orderly mansion, built in the Euro- 
pean fashion with thick beams. 

''The settlement of Ross, situated 
on the seashore, in latitude 38° 33', 
and on an insigniticant stream, was 

founded in the year 1812, with the 
free consent of the natives, who 
were very useful in furniehing ma- 
terials for the buildings and even 
in their erection. 

" The intention in forming this 
settlement was to pursue the chase 
of the sea-otter on the coast of Cal- 
ifornia, where the animal was then 
numerous, as it had become ex- 
tremely scarce in the more northern 
establishments. The Spaniards who 
did not hunt them, willingly took a 
small compensation for their ac- 
quiescence in the views of the Rus- 
sians; and the sea-otter, though at 
present scarce even here, is more 
frequently caught along the Cali- 
fornia coast, southward from Robs, 
than in any other quarter. The 
fortress is a quadrangle, palisaded 
with tall, thick beams, and defended 
by two towers which mount fifteen 
cannons. The garrison consisted, 
on my arrival, of a hundred and 
thirty men, of whom a small num- 
l>er only were Russians, the rest 

" The Spaniards lived at first on 
the best terras with the new settlers, 
and provided them with oxen, cows, 
horses and sheep; but when in pro- 
cess of time they began to remark 
that, notwithstanding the infer- 
iority of soil and climate, the 
Russian establishment became more 
flourishing than theirs, envy and 
apprehension of future danger took 
possession of their minds; they 
then required that the settlement 
should be abandoned, — asserted 



that their rights of domination ex- 
tended northward quite to the Icy 
Sea, and threatened to support their 
claim by force of arms. 

The founder and then commander 
of the fortress of Ross, a man of 
penetration, and one not easily 
frightened, gave a very decided an- 
swer. He had, he said, at the com- 
mand of his superiors, settled in 
this region, which had not pre- 
viously been in the possession of 
any other power, and over which, 
consequently, none had a right but 
the natives; that these latter had 
freely consented to his occupation 
of the land, and therefore that he 
would yield to no such unfounded 
pretension as that now advanced 
by the Spaniards, but should be 
always ready to resist force by 

"Perceiving that the Russians 
would not comply with their absurd 
requisitions, and considering that 
they were likely to be worsted in 
an appeal to arms, the Spaniards 
quietly gave up all farther thought 
of hostilities, and entered again 
into friendly communications with 
our people; since which the greatest 
unity has subsisted between the 
two nations. The Spaniards often 
find Ross very serviceable to them. 
For, instance, there is no such thing 
as a smith in all California; conse- 
quently the making and repairing 
of all manner of iron implements 
here is a great accommodation to 
them, and affords lucrative employ- 
ment to the Russians. The dra- 

goons who accompanied us, had 
brought a number of old gunlocks 
to be repaired. 

"In order that the Russians 
might not extend their dominion 
to the northern shore of the Bay of 
St.. Francisco, the Spaniards imme- 
diately founded the missions of St- 
Gabriel (Rafael) and St. Francisco 
Salano (Sonoma). It is a great 
pity that we were not beforehand 
with them. The advantages of 
possessing this beautiful bay are 
incalculable, especially as we have 
no harbor but the bad one of Bodega 
or Port Romanzow. 
-^ " The inhabitants of Ross live in 
the greatest concord with the Indi- 
ans, who repair, in considerable 
numbers, to the fortress, and work 
as day laborers for wages. At night 
they usually remain outside the 
palisades. They willingly give their 
daughters in marriage to Russians, 
and Aleutians; and from these 
uinons ties of relationship have 
arisen which strengthen the good 
understanding between them. The 
inhabitants of Ross have often pen- 
etrated singly far into the interior, 
when engaged in the pursuit of 
deer or other game, and have passed 
whole nights among different In- 
dian tribes, without ever having 
experienced any inconvenience. 
This the Spaniards dare not ven- 
ture upon. The moie striking the 
contrast between the two nations in 
their treatment of the savages, the 
more ardently must every friend to 
humanity rejoice on entering Rus- 
sian territory. 



"The climate at Rossis raild. 
Reaumur's thermometer seldom 
falls to the freezing point, yet gar- 
dens cannot flourish on account of 
the frequent fogs. Some wersts far- 
ther inland, beyond the injurious 
influence of the fog, plants of the 
warmest climates prosper surpris- 
ingly. Cucumbers of fifty pounds, 
weight, gourds of sixty-five, and 
other fruits in proportion, are 
I)roduced in them. Potatoes yield 
a hundred or two hundred fold, and 
as they will produce two crops a 
year, are an effectual security 
against famine. The fortress is 
surrounded by wheat and barley 
fields, which, on account of the 
fogs, are less productive than those 
of Santa Clara, but which still sup- 
ply sufficient corn for the inhabi- 
tants of Ross. The Aleutians find 
their abode here so agreeable, that 
although unwilling to leave their 
islands they are seldom inclined to 
return to them. 

"The Spaniards should take a 
lesson in husbandry from M. Von 
Schmidt, who has brought it to an 
admirable degree of perfection. Im- 
plements, equal to the best we have 
in Europe, are made hereunder his 
direction. Our Spanish compan- 
ions were struck with admiration 
at what he had done; but what as- 
tonished them most was the effect 
of a windmill; they had never be- 
fore seen a machine so ingenious 
and so well adapted to the purpose. 

" Ross is blest with an abundance 
of the finest wood for building. 

The sea provides it with the most 
delicious fish, the land with an in> 
exhaustible quantity of the best 
kinds of game; and, notwithstand- 
ing the want of a good harbor, the 
northern settlements might easily 
find in this a plentiful magazine 
for the supply of all their wants. 

" The Indians of Ross are so 
much like those of the mis- 
sions, that they may well be 
supposed to belong to the same race, 
however different their language. 
They appear indeed by no means 
stupid, and are much more cheerful 
and contented than at the missions, 
where a deep melancholy always 
clouds their faces, and their eyes 
are constantly fixed upon the 
ground; but this difference is only 
the natural result of the different 
treatment they experience. They 
have no permanent residence, but 
wander about naked, and, when 
not employed by the Russians as 
day laborers, follow no occupation 
but the chase. For the winter they 
lay up a provision of acorns and 
wild rye. The latter grows here 
very abundantly. When it is ripe 
they burn the straw away from it, 
and thus roast the corn, which is 
then raked together, mixed with 
acorns and eaten without any far- 
ther preparation. The Indians 
here have invented several games of 
chance. They are passionately 
fond of gaming, and often play 
away everything they possess. 
Should the blessing of civilization 
ever be extended to the rude inhab- 



itantfl of these regions the merit 
will be due to the Russian settle- 
ments, certainly not to the Spanish 

" After a stay of two days we 
took leave of the estimable M. Von 
.Schmidt and returned by the same 
way that we came without meeting 
with any remarkable occurrence. 
Professor Eschschollz remained at 
Koss, in order to prosecute some 
botanical researches, intending to 
rejoin us by means of an Aleutian 
baidar, several of which were short- 
ly to proceed to St. Francisco in 
search of otters. 

" The Californian winter being 
now fairly set in we had much rain 
and frequent storms. On the 9th 
of October the southwest wind blew 
with the violence of the West-Indi- 
an tornado, rooted up the strongest 
trees, tore off the roofs of the 
houses, and occasioned great de- 
vastation in the cultivateil lands. 
One of our thickesU cables broke, 
and if the second had given way 
we would have been driven on 
the rocky shore of the channel 
which unites the bay with the sea, 
where a powerful current strug- 
gling with the tempest produced a 
frightful surf. Fortunately, the 
extreme violence of the storm lasted 
only a few hours, but in that short 
time it caused a destructive inun- 
dation: the water spread so rapidly 
over the low lands that our people 
had scarce time to secure the tent, 
with the astronomical apparatus. 

" The arrival of Dr. Kschscholtz 

and the baidars from Ross was still 
delayed, and I really began to fear 
that some misfortune had befallen 
them in the tempest; my joy there- 
fore was extreme when at last, on 
the 12th of Octol)er, the baidars, 
twenty in number, entered the har- 
bor undamaged, and we received 
our friend again safe and well. The 
little flotilla had indeed left Ross be- 
fore the commencement of the hur- 
ricane, but had fortunately escaped 
any injury from it, by taking refuge 
at a place called Cap de log Regan, 
till its fury was expended: but the 
voyagers had been obliged to biv- 
ouack on the naked rock, without 
shelter from the weather, and with 
very scanty provisions. Dr. Ksch- 
scholtz, however, not in the slight- 
est degree disheartened by the diffi- 
culties he had undergone, was quite 
ready to join the voyage I had me<l- 
itated for the examination of the 
adjacent rivers." 


The greatest difficulty the Rus- 
sians had in maintaining their set- 
tlement in California was the 
absolute lack of interest the home 
government took in it. This was 
natural, as under the British treaty 
of 1824 made in London Russia 
had bound herself to make no set- 
tlement below 54^ 40'. 

The Russian-American Fur com- 
pany, owing to its remoteness from 
the home government, was a sort 
of imporirnn in imporio. Its charter 
gave it governmental powers within 



very limited restrictions. Alex- 
ander Baranoff, who ruled it so long 
with a rod of iron, used to say, 
"Heaven and the Czar are far off." 
The powers exercised by the Rus- 
sian-American Fur Company were 
very despotic and had the force of 
imperial edicts within the juris- 
diction of the company. It was a 
favorite idea with the Russian- 
American Company, originating 
with Baranoff, to get poBsession of 

was an outgrowth of this desire. 
He used as an argument with the 
Californians for a concession of 
territory that the occupation of the 
northwest coast of California by 
the Russians would be a fence 
against the Americans, of whom 
the Californians had much dread, 
even at that early day. The Cal- 
ifornians were, it is true, afraid of 
the Americans; but they were 
equally afraid of the Russians. 

Fiiit Konfc ill 1800, lodklng South from the wharf 

all California north of the bay and 
east of the Sacramento river for the 
purpose of raising and supplying 
grain to the fur hunters and Aleuts 
in the employ of the company on 
northwest coast. 

This wish descended with the 
supreme control of affairs from 
Baranoff to his successors. 

The expedition of baron Wran- 
gel in 1830, heretofore referred to 

They feared the Greek, though he 
came with gifts in his hand. In 
this they were wiser than the Chi- 
nese of the present day, who are 
granting concessions on their coast 
and privileges in their territory of 
Manchuria to the wily red-bearded 
man of the north, which they will 
find it difficult to recover if they 
hereafter wish to do so, for the 
Russian has never yet been dis- 



placed where he once planted his 
aggressive foot and flag. 

It was the intention of Baron 
Wrangel if he succeeded in attaining 
his object in Mexico to return to 
St. Petersburg with a concession of 
territory, which he hoped would 
cause his home government to take 
an interest in his scheme for the 
aggrandizement of his company 
and of his country by obtaining a 
foothold in California. The gov- 
ernment at St. Petersburg only 
authorized him to negotiate a com- 
mercial treaty with Mexico so far 
as it related to its business on the 
Pacific coast, but nothing more. 
This scant authorization greatly 
embarrassed Wrangel on his arrival 
in Mexico. His principal aim was 
to get permission to colonize the 
north-west coast of California, but 
his power was limited to the 
negotiation of a commercial treaty. 

\\'hen the Mexican gt)vernment 
had fully sounded the authority of 
Baron Wrangel it very properly 
declined any further discussion of 
the matter with one who bore such 
limited credentials. Ail he could 
do was to get an assurance that 
Mexico would favor a commercial 
treaty if properly negotiated be- 
tween accredited agents of the two 
governments. And declining fur- 
ther negotiation referred the sub- 
ject to the Mexican minister at 
London, who was instructed to con- 
sider any proposition that might 
be made by his Imperial Majesty, 
the Emperor of all the Russians, 

for the privileges asked by Baron 
Wrangel. No proposition was 
made of course. The St. Peters- 
burg government took no step in 
the matter, well knowing that it 
was bound hand and foot so far as 
the acquisition of country in Cal- 
ifornia went by its treaty stipula- 
tion with the United States. 

One effect of the movement of 
Baron Wrangel was that it called 
the attention of the central 
government in Mexico, and the 
home colonial government in Cal- 
ifornia, to the importance of North 
California, and pending tlie nego- 
tiations between 1831-6, orders were 
issued for the establishment of a 
l>residio in the town of Sonoma, 
which was^one in 1833 under the 
direction of General \'allejo, who 
waji made commandant of the 

The new commander was in- 
structed to i)revent any furtlier en- 
croachments upon Mexican territo- 
ry by the Russians. \\'ith this 
view he established Black Mcintosh 
and Dawson next to tlie Russian 
farm, in Bodega, and Ijetween 1833- 
9 all the best lands in wliat is now 
Sonoma county was granted to 
Mexican citizens. 

By this time fur hunting had l)e- 
come less profitable on the coast of 
California, and the otter was about 
exterminated in the bay of San 

The hojie of acquiring territory 
having failed vvfith the failure of 
Wrangel's mission to Mexico, it 



woB (leterniiDed l)y the HuHHian 
American (.'<»mpany l<» al>and(tn 
R()8B. Thit) conclutsion muBt have 
t)een a relief to the lioine govern- 
ment who had acquiesced in the 
occupation of Roes hut had never 
made any claim of sovereignty, or 
attempt to acquire it, over the land. 

Alexander Rolcheff, the last Rus- 
sian governor, in connection with 
KoHlromitinoff, a 8|)ecial agent of 
the company, under instructions 
friim the directors, commenced ne- 
gotiations in 18.31) for the sale of 
the building, stock and molu'lier of 
Ross. They first tried to sell it to 
the Hudson Hay Comi)any, hut 
this company did not want to buy. 
They next proj>osed to General Val- 
lejo to sell it to the Mexican gov- 
ernment. This proposal General 
Vallejo rejected with scorn, because, 
as he wrote to (Governor Alvarado, 
" these buildings were built on Mex- 
ican soil with material from the 
same land, and l>elonge<l of right 
to the government, and. he adds, 
'yes, most excellent senor; soon 
will the national flag wave glori- 
ously and triumphantly where was 
hoisted a foreign flag during five 
lustres; the imi>erial eagles will 
yield the field to the eagle of Mex- 
ico, which we shall see for the first 
time soaring and spreading his 
protecting wings over this portion 
of our glorious country — lopped off 
from the mother land by the fur- 
hunting Russians' " 

While the hauty Castilian 
General Vallejo was so gaily sj>ort- 

ing the Mexican eagle from the 
flag-Btaff uf R06H in his vivid im- 
agination, the shrewd Hotrcheff wafl 
negotiating with Captain Sutter for 
the purchase of the fort, and it soon 
after passed into his hande, to the 
great indignation of the Comman- 
date del Front«ria, who always 
contended that the Rueeians had 
nothing t/> sell and Hutter bad ac- 
<juired nothing from them. This 
lielief he would have enforced at 
the point of Mexican lances if be 
had had the lances and the lancer« 
to l»ear them. It wa* not from a 
lack of courage that he let flutter 
take possession but because he 
could not help it. 

The Russians were now on the 
eve of their departure for California. 
They had begun their long journey 
toward it in the latter part of the 
c«?ntury when Yermac, the Coi^f^ck 
rol>l)er, crossed the Ural mountains 
with his band of marauders, which 
eniled with conquest of ?«iberia. As 
early as 1730 the Russians had 
rea'^heil the Pacific Ocean, colon- 
izii.g the intervening six thousand 
mile^i of country, and in 1740 they 
crossed over Behring straits to the 
American continent and by the 
close of that century they had 
solidly established themselves on 
the northwest coast of America. 
They did not stop there but pushed 
down the coast, reaping a rich 
harvest of furs as they went, and 
tinally, as ha£ heretofore been told, 
took possession of Bodega Bay in 
1812, which thev held until 1840. 



Strangely enough in IIiIh last year 
Wossnessensky, a naturalist at- 
tached to the zoological museum 
of St. Petersburg, arrived at Rosf. 
He had been sent to the coast of 
eastern Asia and northwest Amer- 
ica by the Academy of Science and 
had been making collections on the 
Asiatic and American seashore. 

From the mountain back of Ross 
which rises to a great height, a 
beautiful view of St. Helena moun- 
tain may be seen to the eastward. 
Its elevation above the sea level is 
4,348 feet, and it is the most con- 
spicuous feature in the landscape 
of the four counties of Sonoma, 
Napa, Marin and Lake. It can be 
seen from far out at sea and also 
from the city of San Francisco. 
Wossnessensky doubtless saw it 
looming up in all its stately gran- 
deur from the Ross Ridge. To so 
adventurous a spirit as his, to see 
was to visit it; to visit it was to 
determine to ascend it. This he 
did on June 12, 1841 He named 
it St. Helena in honor of liis im- 
perial mistress the Empress of 

Russia and. planting a poet on its 
highest point, he nailed to it a 
copper j)late inscribed with the 
name he had given the mountain, 
his own name and that of his com- 
panion (Tschernech) with the date 
of the ascent and the word "Rus- 
sians" twice repeated, once in 
Russian, once in Latin. The moun- 
tain has ever since retained the 
name given to it in this notable 
christening, and will stand forever 
as an enduring monument of the 
most easterly and most southerly 
point touched by the Russians in 
their advance across Siberia and 
the Pacific Ocean to northwest 
America, and thence down the 
coast to California. 

The Russians retired from Cal- 
ifornia, and later on from Alaska 
because, south of Siberia, there was 
a richer and even greater field for 
their aggressive ambStion; and 
today that mighty empire holds 
the destiny not alone of Asia but 
of Europe in the hollow of its po- 
tential hand.