The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Robert Reisner
For The LOG 

Baranov's ships plyed Alaska waters


Grigorri Ivanovich Shelikhov

Part 2 of 2

The Dolphin, the second of three ships built on the shores of Resurrection Bay by Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov, was piloted by Second Lieutenant Thomas Shields in 1795. He surveyed and charted the shores and harbors between L’tna Bay and the Queen Charlotte Islands for the North American Company, which founded under Imperial Russian decree.

On his return, hugging the coast, a storm rose and Shields steered the Dolphin into what is now called the Lynn Canal. He reached Kodiak Island on the afternoon of Aug. 28, 1795. The next day the Severnyi Orel arrived from Okhotsk bearing news of company founder Grigorri Ivanovich Shelikhov’s death.

In 1796 the Dolphin is sent to Yakatat and on to the Alaskan Panhandle. ship’s navigator Bocharov surveys many of the islands’ coastlines within the area. Upon his return in mid-July a storm strikes, damaging the Dolphin. Bocharov makes for shore just west of Yakatat. Just missing the rocks, Bocharov gets the Dolphin anchored. Repairs are made and the Dolphin arrives at Kodiak Island in early August 1796, where she will undergo repairs for another voyage.

In 1797, the refitted Dolphin continues with shipping supplies and provisions from Kodiak Island to various outposts in the North American Company domain. She will continue to serve Baranov in this capacity until Jan. 18, 1800 when she is destroyed by a storm on the Alaska Peninsula. The lives are saved and most of the supplies and provisions are saved by First Lieutenant Shields commanding the Severnyi Orel.

The Olga, the third ship built near present day Seward, sailed into Kenai Bay (Cook Inlet) and onto Yakatat with Baranov aboard. On this initial trip they ran into another storm. Inspecting the damage, it is found to Baranov’s surprise, that the Olga was held together by barbed nails, not bolts. Nevertheless, the Olga served the various sites in the colonies, shipping supplies and provisions from Kodiak Island.

Her life ended in 1805 when she was beached at Yakatat and scrapped. When her remains were set aflame on June 20 it was as a funeral pyre, signaling an end to the three ships, including the Phoenix, that were constructed and launched from Voskresenskaia Gavan’ in Resurrection Bay.

Grigorri Ivanovich Shelikhov, the founder of many of the various fur exporting companies in Alaska and eastern Russia then traveled to see the Czar in St. Petersburg. On the overland travel he became quite ill and died on July 7, 1795.

His widow Madam Shelikhov eventually became a leading force among the principal shareholders of her late husband’s enterprises. After her husband’s death she nominated Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, her brother-in-law to replace the seat of representation in Imperial Russia. Rezanov worked very hard to fulfill his predecessor’s wishes and in 1799 all the various fur companies are brought under a single banner, the Russian American Company.

In 1806 Rezanov then travelled to Alaska to meet with Baranov and work alongside him and returned to Okhotsk on Sept. 24, 1806. Rezanov, driven by his inexhaustible energy, traveled very fast. This had disastrous effects on his health, weakened by years for hard work, while en route to St. Petersburg. He died on March 1, 1807. With his death, the company lost one of its most valuable workers in the field of colonial development.

Aleksander Andreevich Baranov will develop the colonies beyond all expectations, at times seeming to achieve the impossible. Despite constant shortages of supplies, provisions and transportation, he successfully lead the Russian colonies until Jan. 11, 1818 when he was replaced, due to age, by Leontii Andreanovich Hagemeister. Despite his obstacles, Baranov’s years as chief manager is known as the golden years of the Russian America Company

After his removal he sailed west for Russia and while en route he fell ill with fever at Java. On April 28, 1819 Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov, first lord of Alaska died. Voskresenskaia Gavan’ will go on. Although no more ships are constructed at the Resurrection Bay shipyard, it remained as a fort to secure Resurrection Pass.

In 1799 with a monopoly in place the little fort was no longer necessary and Baranov finally ordered the fort closed on Sept. 14, 1799. While packing up the equipment, supplies and provisions a great storm struck the area and the creek that is just north of the fort flooded. Supplies were quickly loaded and Tri Sviatitelia sailed back to Kodiak Island. First Lieutenant Shields, in command of the Tri Sviatitelia reported that one male employee had been reported dead on Dec. 25, 1797. He was buried at Voskresenskaia Gavan’ where the company lost a cannon in the flood waters that could not be retrieved.

After many further decades of the Russian fur trade in Alaska, the United States of American purchased the territory for $7.2 million in 1867. $7 million went to the imperial crown and $200,000 was paid to the shareholders of the shareholders of the Russian American Company. The Alaska Commercial Company then took over the Russian posts and former general Herron became ACC’s first general manager.

Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

In 1914 the City of Seward, while expanding it’s water lines, discovered an old burial site. It was determined to be the Russian employee who died in 1797. He now lies in an unmarked grave in the Woodlawn Cemetery off of Salmon Creek Road.

And the cannon, it is on display in our new Seward Community Library Museum.

Bob Reisner, learned his love of history at the knee of his grandmother, born in 1896, who helped raise him. From uncovering the Reisner family’s history in Alaska, arriving from Wisconsin in 1898 to conduct unsuccessful forays into the Klondike, to his cold-war era correspondence with sources in the former U.S.S.R., Reisner has been gathering the hidden tales and truths of Alaska’s unknown past.


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