Murder of George Holt in Knik, Alaska 1885
Murdered at Knik, Alaska in 1885
His Background – The
Murder Itself – The Aftermath
A True and Documented Account
written by Coleen Mielke 2014
with a special
thank you to Andrei Znamenski and James Kari
for their help and encouragement
You are welcome
to link back to the following article, however, do not re-post
or re-publish it without the written permission of the author, Coleen Mielke
This is the story
of C. G. “George” Holt, an Ohio born Quaker who came to Alaska
in the 1870’s seeking adventure and fortune. During his (roughly)
13 years in Alaska, Holt excelled at adventure, but never quite
found his fortune and eventually was murdered in 1885; this is
It is widely accepted that George Holt was the first white man to safely
cross the Chilkoot Pass in 1875. It was big news at the time, because
this route, which dramatically shortened the travel distance
into the gold rich Yukon region, was heavily guarded by the fierce/territorial
Chilkat Indians. How Holt managed to avoid being killed has been the
subject of many debates, however, in 1897, a Sitka newspaper suggested that
he was successful because he was accompanied by a well known Chilkoot Indian
guide named "Chilkoot Jack" (Jack Benson); Benson later confirmed the story
on his deathbed in 1914, and added that it happened in 1873.
After Holt’s historic ascent,
he spent the winter in Sitka, sharing the details of
his adventure with Lieutenant W. R. Quinan of the Fourth U.
S. Artillery. Quinan published Holt’s story in 1897 and described
him as a "...raw-boned, hard featured, red-headed, horny handed,
son of toil and adventure, but plain and modest withal and every
word he had to say bore the impress of truth, so that no one questioned
his story in the smallest detail.”
From Sitka, Holt sailed to
Kodiak aboard the schooner Nellie Edes. From Kodiak,
he made his way to the Susitna River area and tried his hand at prospecting
with minimal luck. In the spring of 1882, he tempted the fates and
followed a band of Copper River Indians to the confluence of the
Copper and Chitina Rivers and into the village of Taral. Few white
men had ever ventured into this part of the country (and lived to
tell about it) because the Copper River Indians were fiercely territorial.
Once again (just like his “lucky” trek over the Chilkoot Pass) Holt
beat the odds and managed to survive an entire summer at Taral.
However, in doing so, a mutual hatred developed between Holt and the Indians.
These hard feelings would play a large part in his murder in 1885.
Holt was a stern man with little respect and NO tact when
it came to dealing with the Copper River Ahtna. He used every opportunity
to impugn their character by calling them "treacherous and thievish".
This so angered the Ahtna that they were still raging about him when
Lieutenant Henry T. Allen explored the Copper River area three years
By 1885, Holt was an agent
for the Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) at Nuchek in Prince
William Sound; later that same year he was transferred to the Knik
ACC where he worked with a Dena’ina interpreter named Afanasii.
was an opportunist in every sense of the
word. In 1883, he was working as an interpreter for the Knik ACC store
when the trade agent, a Russian named G. Chechenov, caught him stealing.
In an effort to divert attention from his thievery, Afanasii told the
villagers that Chechenov had put a curse on them. Language barriers
prevented the agent from defending himself, so the superstitious villagers
threatened to kill him. Luckily, the Chief of Knik called a halt to
the plan which gave Chechenov time to escape to Tyonek. With Chechenov out
of Knik, Afanasii was free to help himself to store goods.
Afanasii's plan worked so well, that he tried
it again a year later, when the ACC sent a Russian named
Malakhov to replace Chechenov at Knik. When the new agent caught Afanasii stealing from the store, Afanasii
once again diverted attention from his crime by telling the
villagers that Malakhov was a dishonest man; an incendiary
character flaw that the villagers could not tolerate. Once again,
language barriers and the lack of law enforcement forced the ACC
agent to run for his life, and once again Afanasii had full access to a
store full of free merchandise.
A year later, in 1885, George Holt was sent from the ACC store
at Nuchek to replace Agent Malakhov at the ACC store in Knik. Unfortunately
for Holt, the company retained Afanasii to act as Holt's interpreter.
All Afanasii had to do, to repeat his larcenous plan, was to promote
a confrontation between the hot tempered Holt and one of his customers.
That opportunity presented itself just
a few months later, when two Copper River Indians arrived at
Knik to trade. Right away, Holt argued with one of them and kicked him
out of the store. Afanasii saw his chance, and wasted no time in convincing
the banished customer that the only way to "reclaim his honor" was
to kill Holt. On 12/19/1885, four days after the original confrontation,
the Indian returned to the store and did just that.
the murder quickly reached the ACC headquarters at Tyonek.
The agent there, a Russian named Vladimir Vasilii Stafeev
(who had worked for the RAC and ACC since 1864) appointed himself
to investigate the shooting. His journal (written in Russian) includes
notes and testimony from five eye witnesses, as well as two confessions
from the shooter himself. They were translated for me by Andrea
Znamenski in 2008 and are used extensively in this account.
Stafeev instantly suspected that Afanasii was involved in the murder
because he was familiar with his previous double dealings. Stafeev
tried to get someone from Tyonek to go to Knik and gather more information
but everyone was afraid to go.
One week after the murder, Afanasii's brother
(unnamed) went to Tyonek to tell Vladimir Stafeev his
account of the crime. He said that two Copper River Indians were in
the Knik store and one of them argued with Holt about some tobacco. The argument
escalated and Holt ended up shoving the man, hurting his leg as he fell against
a barrel. The Indian immediately wanted to shoot Holt, but the rest
of the people in the store stopped him. Four days later, just before the
Copper River men left Knik, the one that was injured went back to the store
and shot Holt as he was urinating outside. Afanasii's brother (who was inside
of the store), said that after he heard the shot, he rushed outside and saw
the murderer standing over Holt who was lying in a pool of bloody snow.
He begged the shooter not to harm anyone else in the village and the shooter
assured him that he was only after Holt.
The day after Afanasii's brothers testimony
was given in Tyonek, Stafeev asked him to repeat the story. The
second time the story was told, there were far too many inconsistencies
which made Stafeev suspicious that the mans testimony might be an effort
to conceal Afanasii's involvement.
When Stafeev told the people of Tyonek that he was going to go to
Knik to investigate the murder in person, Afanasii's brother tried
to frighten him off by saying the shooter might still be at Knik
and that Stafeev could get killed as well. When the warning did not
dissuade Stafeev from going to Knik, Afanasii's brother asked him
for the exact route he planned to take, which deepened Stafeev's suspicions.
Stafeev was concerned that there could be further
violence with the Copper River Indians if they came back to Knik to trade,
so, in an effort to calm the situation, he told Afanasii's brother to assure
future Copper River customers that no one at Knik was mad at them and
that it was Holt's own fault that he was killed. He also told Afanasii
to give the Copper River traders food treats (to win favor with them)
when they came into the store. Stafeev was hoping that time would defuse
the situation and give him time to travel to Knik to interview people.
was not the only one who was suspicious of Afanasii's involvement in the murder;
Tyonek Chief Nikolai confided in Stafeev that he felt the murder would
not have taken place without Afanasii's goading.
Two weeks after the murder, Afanasii's wife went to Tyonek to
talk to Stafeev. She told him that the Indian who killed Holt was
acting crazy and that Afanasii had to give him $124 dollars worth
of store goods so that he wouldn't go to Tyonek and kill Stafeev. Stafeev
recognized this as yet another of Afanasii's attempts to confuse the investigation.
Three weeks after the murder, a group of men
from Knik brought some pelts and furs to Stafeev in Tyonek because
George Holt had paid for them before he died. When Stafeev checked
the paperwork, he noticed that the original sale was for 78 sable pelts,
however, the men only delivered 58 pelts. He felt certain that Afanasii
had helped himself to the other 20 pelts.
Stafeev eventually went to Knik and interviewed
the following witnesses:
1. He talked to a woman who carried water for George Holt every day.
She said that she saw Holt lying in the bloody snow in front of
the store and turned him over to check his heart; he was dead, so
she went to get Afanasii to help her carry Holt's body back into the store.
2. Another witness (unnamed person) described the Ahtna customer
shaking the lock on the trading post door, as if to signal
Holt to come outside and then he hid out of sight. When Holt
came out to check the lock, the Indian shot him.
3. Another witness (unnamed person) said the Ahtna customer
hung around outside the store pretending to look for something.
Holt watched him for a while then turned to go back into the
store and the Indian shot him.
4. Another witness was a boy (unnamed) who said that after Holt
was killed, Afanasii began to cry. The shooter asked Afanasii why he
was crying since he had hired him to kill Holt. Afanasii then gave the
shooter $124 worth of store goods to keep him quiet.
5. Stafeev’s journal also recorded a confession from the shooter
himself. One of the confessions was made to a Knik medicine man
named Konstantin, in the summer of 1886; Konstantin's niece was the
shooters wife. The murderer said that after Holt threw him out of
the store, Afanasii repeatedly put him to shame
by asking “Why did you let Holt get away with that?” The taunting
so enraged the Indian that he shot George Holt.
6. The villagers at Knik told Stafeev
that if Holt's murderer was arrested, that Afanasii should also
be arrested since all of the evidence was pointing to him. They also
told him that Afanasii's brother lied about the murderer when he said
that the shooter was going to Tyonek to kill Stafeev. The truth was,
that the murderer wanted to go to Tyonek to tell Stafeev about Afanasii
hiring him to kill Holt and that he wanted to go to Kenai so he could
confess to his godfather, Father Nikita Marchenkov.
Stafeev’s journal does not mention
the name of the man who killed Holt; however, in 1917,
a Ketchikan newspaper gave the murderer's name as "Nicolai, the son of a powerful Copper
River medicine man", and described Nicolai as "a
tall strapping man, who would make a match for any good size
In exchange for the right
to resume trade at Knik, Nicolai remained peaceful for
the next year. The Copper River Indians sent
word that they were grateful that Stafeev was not angry with them
because they valued being able to purchase tea, gun powder and
tobacco at Knik. As a show of good faith, the Ahtna were willing to
pay “redemption money” for the murder and as a gesture of penance, Afanasii was forced to return his trading
post keys. In yet another token of peace, the murderer went back to his
camp and told everyone they should not argue with the ACC
store managers, using his own experience as an example of
what could happen to them if they did.
An example of this new civility came when a new Knik ACC
agent named McFord bought a black fox pelt from two Ahtna trappers
in the fall of 1886; he paid them $13. A few months later, the
same men returned with a second pelt but this time, McFord paid
them $15 for it. As the trappers saw it, McFord must have shorted them $2
on that first pelt and they wanted the money. When McFord refused, the
trappers threatened to kill him (Stafeev suspected that Afanasii,
again, had a hand in this tension). However, it was Nicolai (the
man who killed Holt), who came to McFord's defense this time and sent
word that he would kill anyone that harmed him.
When Holt's murderer was
not arrested, three ACC store agents
(Alec Ryan, George Shell and J. B. Ballow) wrote to Alaska Governor
Swineford, offering to apprehend the murderer and turn him over
if the Governor would send an authority (almost 600 miles) to receive
the prisoner at Knik, but the Governor never replied. A scathing
news article (Sitka 1886) titled “Our Crippled Judiciary”, condemned
the authorities in Sitka for ignoring the Knik murder and reported
that the Copper River Indians were bragging about the government
being afraid of them. In turn, the Governors only response was that
he “did not have time” to deal with the case.
Nine months after Holt’s
murder, another ACC agent named J. B. Ballow was stationed
at Knik. By December of 1886, the Ahtna’s, emboldened by the lack
of government action for Holt's death, were issuing death threats
to the people of Knik in earnest; locals were afraid to live anywhere
near Knik and temporarily moved to the safety of Susitna Station
In 1887, a New York Times article
reported that Governor Swineford accused the U.S. Government
of protecting the ACC by allowing them a monopoly on the
fur trade in Alaska. He said the "ACC, by the power of its great
wealth, had driven away all competition and reduced the Native
populations to a condition of helpless dependence, if not absolute
slavery, wherever the ACC was not supervised by government
agents". He felt that an absence of healthy competition had
allowed the ACC to force the Natives to accept “such beggarly prices
for their peltry, that it manages invariably to keep them in its
debt and at its mercy. In order to more effectually monopolize
the trade, the ACC has marked and mutilated the coin of the United States
and refuses to receive any other from the Natives in payment of goods
sold to them.”
I believe this New York
Times article exposes Governor Swineford’s true reason for not responding
to George Holt’s murder; he was angry with the ACC and had
no intention of coming to their aid.
In spite of constant
verbal threats, the Copper River traders avoided Knik for
the next three months. Ballow assumed they were trading
with the “Three Brothers” or at Cape Martin, but in the spring
of 1887, a group of Copper River people, accompanied by their Chief,
returned to Knik to trade. They told Ballow that they had stayed
away because the people of Nuchek told them Ballow was killing many
men and would kill them too if they returned to Knik. Ballow assured
them that he had no intentions of killing anyone and trade resumed.
In 1887, the Knik Indians even built a church with hopes of converting
the Copper River Ahtna while they were in Knik (that church was later moved
In the fall of 1890, George Shell, another
new ACC agent for Knik arrived on the schooner Kodiak.
Also on that schooner were two white men, Al Creason and C. Wise,
who were scheduled to spend the winter at Knik with George Shell.
It only took two weeks for Shell to encounter his first conflict with
the Indian who killed George Holt. Shell wrote in his journal, "I may
have to kill the Indian in self defense".
In January of 1891, word arrived that the Copper
River people were on their way to Knik to kill everyone. In self defense, villagers built
a 25’ watchtower on top of the trading post and manned
it 24 hours a day, hoping it would give them an advantage over
Word reached Knik in February of that year,
that Nicolai and his followers had gathered six
miles away at "Upper Kennick" and were planning an attack.
Alec Ryan, who had a store at Knik, closed his shop and left for
Tyonek. George Shell, the Knik ACC agent closed the trading
post and left for the safety of Kenai. Keep in mind that ACC agents
were totally without backup or legal recourse at that time. The
closest authorities were hundreds of miles away and a Revenue Cutter
had not been seen in Cook Inlet in four years. With that in mind,
it is no wonder that the remaining white men at Knik (Alec Ryan, Charles
Miller and Al Creason), took it upon themselves to act as judge,
jury and executioners on April 22, 1891 when they hung Nicolai for his
constant threats to the people of Knik and for killing George Holt.
man named Chashga was in Knik the day of the execution (Chashga
would later become the father of Nickafor Alexan of Tyonek).
the story of Nicolai's execution to Dena’ina Elder Shem Pete.
In 1985, Shem Pete repeated the story to Dena'ina historian
James Kari who was kind enough to share Pete's unpublished version
with me in 2010.
Shem Pete could not remember the Ahtna
name of the man who killed George Holt, but he did remember
that the shooters fathers name was Benast’a Gga. So, in Shem
Pete’s retelling of Chashga’s account of the murder, he
calls the shooter: “Son of Benast’a Gga” or “Little Benast’a
Gga” which can get confusing.
Below you will find my abridged version of Shem Pete's
story about the capture and execution of George Holt's murderer.
I have not changed his story at all, except that I have used the
murderers Orthodox name [Nicolai] in an effort to make the story
easier to follow.
Below is my My Abridged Version of
Chashga's Story about the
Capture and Execution of Nicolai (George Holt's Murderer) as He Told
It to Shem Pete. Recorded and transcribed by James Kari 1985.
By Coleen Mielke
River Indians came down to Knik to trade, among them was Benast'a
Gga's son [Nicolai]. They were all complaining about the price
of goods at the store. The storekeeper grabbed [Nicolai] from
the back, kicked him in the behind and threw him out of the
store; the Indians gathered their goods and left Knik.
At their camp on the Chickaloon
River, [Nicolai] told his father that he was going back to
Knik. His father, Benast'a Gga, a big medicine man, assumed
that his son was going back to Knik to see a woman, so he said
[Nicolai] left Chickaloon and went directly to his
friends house at Eklutna. He showed his friend a muzzle loader
hand gun and told him he was going to kill the storekeeper at
Knik with it. After a short conversation, his friend decided there
was nothing he could to to deter [Nicolai], so he let him go.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR OF THIS WEB
Shem Pete's story
does not include the actual murder...
from [Nicolai] heading to Knik to kill George Holt
in 1885...to [Nicolai's] execution in 1891.
Shem Pete's story jumps ahead here (to 1891):
The next day, [Nicolai] went to Knik to visit a "woman that he
loved". This woman had children, but no one in Knik would marry
her because of her relationship with [Nicolai].
While he was there, three white men, wearing ankle length navy
blue coats, with revolvers hidden inside, went inside the woman's
house and found [Nicolai] sitting, barefoot, at a table, drinking
tea. The white men overpowered him and drug him out of the house
and down a trail that led toward the Inlet. Along the way, they passed
[Nicolai's] best friend, Chashga, who was taking a steam bath; the
white men told Chashga to "have a good steam bath". He knew what they
said because he was an interpreter and understood Russian and English.
When the white
men got to their house, they took [Nicolai] inside and someone
threw them a rope from upstairs. They tied it around [Nicolai's]
neck and legs so he couldn't move around, then they tied the rope
to a flag pole outside. [Nicolai] was heard saying "Bashidil, take
me up to heaven and help me" just before "they hoisted him up and choked
Chashga had one
short leg and had to walk with a stick, so by the time he got
dressed and reached his best friend (who was also his Uncle), it
was too late; [Nicolai] was dead and the three white men had gone
back inside their house. Chashga followed them in with intentions
of shooting them, but once he got inside, he realized there were
more people upstairs that he was not prepared to kill, so he decided
The people of
Knik were afraid that the Copper River clan would come back
and burn down Knik when they heard about the hanging, so the
three white men sent a man named Paul (the younger brother of Knik's
Chief Nikolai) to talk to Benast'a Gga who was camped at Chickaloon.
They armed Paul with two hand guns, hidden in his clothes, and gave
him a new rifle before sending him off on foot to deliver the message
to [Nicolai's] father.
Just outside of Benast'a Gga's Chickaloon
camp, Paul hid the new rifle under some spruce boughs and entered
the camp. Once inside, he nervously broke small branches as he spoke
to [Nicolai's] father; he knew Benast'a Gga was a tough man. Paul told
him that the white men had warned [Nicolai] not to come back to Knik
many times; they gave him good advise but [Nicolai] kept returning,
so they hung him.
Upon hearing this, the entire
camp started to "cry and holler" in grief. Paul knew his
life was in danger, but he respectfully waited "until the
sun was setting in the down-river direction before leaving camp". As he
walked away, he told [Nicolai's] younger sister "I'm going to go
back now"; "yes," she said, "take care of yourself"; she thought the
Copper River people might kill him.
Paul wore a red wool coat and when he lifted the tail
of the coat, his gun handles stuck out of his pockets. "He began
to run, stopping only to retrieve his rifle from the spruce boughs
outside of Benast'a Gga's camp. "He ran as if he was flying and imagined
hot pain in his back until he ran beyond the distance that Copper River
bullets could travel."
Paul's older sister watched and waited for him to
come back at the place they called "point extends" (Jim Kari says
this is the overflow marsh at Knik); she was worried about him.
She thought the Copper River people might have "killed him and thrown
him in the water", but he "ran like a champion". It was a long distance
from Chickaloon to Knik, so he didn't get back to Knik until early in the morning.
Fear of retribution,
for hanging Benast'a Gga's son, consumed Knik for the
next month. The white men in the village armed the Dena’ina, that
stayed behind, with rifles. They also drilled holes in the walls
of their buildings and hung muskrat skins over the holes, so
they could watch for any approaching attackers if Benast'a Gga's
people declared war on Knik.
When the Copper River people eventually
came back to Knik to trade, the white men watched them very
carefully and they were allowed to go back and forth into the store
only in pairs.
Shem Pete's Story
I've never found record of any retribution by Benast'a
Gga's people for the death of [Nicolai]. According
to the ACC records, George Holt’s body was exhumed from Knik
in 1890 and was re-buried in the Old American Cemetery on Mill
Bay Road in Kodiak. A large headstone is engraved (with the wrong
date of death), it says “C. G. Holt Killed by Indians December
24, 1884 Age 48”.
Holt's estate was valued at
$1,829, in cash, when probate papers were filed in Sitka,
by Major M. P. Berry, on July 24, 1892. With no apparent
heirs, the value of Holt’s estate was quickly consumed, by a
variety of lawyers, over the following year.
Photo taken by Sashinka
& Diana Keplinger, Kodiak,
WHO WAS AFANASII?
found record of at least two different Afanasii's living in the
immediate Knik area the year after Holt's murder. The first one
was mentioned in the ACC journal of J.B. Ballow who took over Holt's
job nine months after the murder. Ballow said a man named Afanasii
worked at a small trading post owned by _____ Bowen (6 miles from Knik);
Ballow called him "Bowen's Afanasii". Ballow also mentions a man named
Afanasii, that was his interpreter at the ACC store at Knik, Ballow called
him "Interpreter Afanasii".
The Man Who Instigated Holt's Murder
To complicate things further,
I found two MORE Afanasii's of the right age and close proximity
to Knik; one living at Hope on the 1900 US Census (age 50), with a wife
named Mary (age 30), son William (age 18), adopted son Stephan (age
28) and an adopted son Pedro (age 19). Another Afanasii was mentioned
in the Herning diaries as owning a sloop at Knik in 1904. I'm not sure
if there were FOUR men named Afanassi in the area, or if the man in Hope
and the man with the sloop, were the SAME men as mentioned in Ballow's 1886
The Shem Pete book says that Afanasii was the
Russian name for Dusgeda Tukda who eventually became a qeshqa
("rich man" or Chief) of Knik village. Qeshqa's were responsible
for the social and economic well being of the village. Besides settling
disputes and allocating hunting and fishing destinations, the qeshqa
was expected to maintain a reputation as a wealthy, influential leader
who was generous with his own good fortune. If a qeshqa was miserly, or
if he did not work for the betterment of the village, the village medicine
man "broke him with bad luck" and all of the qeshqa's power would be
THAT is exactly what happened to Afanasii, the man
who instigated the murder of George Holt. Afanasii became a middle
man between the commercial fur traders and the Native people who
harvested the furs. His wealth was said to be so great that he had eight
caches full of possessions, yet he shared little with his people, which
angered the Dena'ina greatly, causing the village medicine man to wish
Afanasii much bad luck. Over time, Afanasii lost most of his wealth, his
power and the respect of his people. Stories about his final years, described
him as a man so poor that he lived on what other people threw away and
the villagers hated him.
In the end, Shem Pete said that Afanasii (Dusgeda
Tukda) was captured about 2 miles from the mouth of the Little
Susitna River. They forced him into a small bath house, which was on
the east bank of the river, and nailed the door and window shut; he was
left there to die. In the spring, his body was removed from the bath
house and buried at that spot.
If the above legend is
accurate, how does that coincide with the following newspaper obituary?
CHIEF AFFANACY DIES
"Chief Affanacy, the hiyu
big Chief of the Cook Inlet region, has been gathered to
his fathers. His end, unlike his career, was peaceful.
Time was when Chief Affanacy
was a power, a veritable absolute monarch among his people.
All paid tribute to him and he thus amassed considerable
wealth. He was a natural leader, firm and unyielding.
His personality was strong and magnetic and when in his presence
the other natives recognized in him one who must be obeyed.
Affanacy once had his
headquarters at Old Knik. Years ago, when the region
was chiefly inhabited by natives, an agent of the ACC at that
place was murdered. The crime was laid at the door of the
native chief; not the actual commission, but the instigation.
The law's delay and the lack of testimony permitted this foul crime
to go unpunished. But the finger of suspicion pointed incessantly
began to invade the land in a mad gold rush. With their advent,
the chief's power began gradually to wane. When he died a
few days ago, at Kenai, he was living in poverty, shorn of his
power and but a relic of former greatness."
End of Obituary
In conclusion...is Afanasii/Dusgeda Tukda the man who
died on the Little
Susitna River or is he the man who died in Kenai?
There is much more
research to be done, many records to glean and
many historical puzzle pieces yet to fit together.
NOTE: Some maps (circa 1900) commonly
(but incorrectly) referred to the present day Eklutna area
as Old Knik. Chief Afanasii's headquarters was always near Knik
Station on the west side of Knik Arm. It is well established that
George Holt's murder took place at present day Knik (not the Eklutna
NOTE: Since most
records spelled the original Dena'ina names phonetically, you
will find Afanasii spelled a variety of ways: Affanassia, Afinassi,
Affanassa, Affinassi, Affinassia, etc. The correct Russian spelling
is Afanasii (according to Andrei Znamenski).
1. One of the men that hung [Nicolai] was Alec Ryan,
who later became an ACC agent at Kenai. Records show that Ryan
was a tyrant when it came to dealing with the Native population of
Kenai. A petition, written by 23 Kenai Indians (with the help of their
priest), was submitted to District Judge Warren Truitt in 1895. The
Natives asked Judge Truitt to remove Ryan from the Kenai ACC because
he tormented them, beat them, threatened them with guns, made alcohol
in his store, drank constantly and broke into their houses and drug them
out in the middle of the night. They wrote, "neither cries of women
or weeping children stopped this scoundrel." Further evidence that
Alec Ryan was out of control came from a report, written in 1895, by
Father Vladimir Donskoi to the Alaska Ecclesiastical Consistory in Kodiak.
He said the 1895 population of Kenai was 1,022 and yet the government
did not have a single official or representative in Kenai. In addition,
he said the Kodiak Justice of the Peace paid no attention to complaints
about the men named Ryan, Parmer (Palmer) and Krisson (Creason) who were
causing disorder at the Kenai church.
2. As for actual names of the three white men than
hung [Nicolai] for the murder of George Holt:
Alec Ryan, Charles Miller, Al Creason; I found their
names on two different documents. The names Alec Ryan and Al Creason
were found in part two of the previously mentioned 1895 petition.
In part the petition read: and "...five
years ago, he (Alec Ryan) together with Knik storekeeper Krisson, illegally
hanged an Orthodox Copper River Indian at Knik".
The third man, Charles
Miller, was mentioned in a certificate issued by Justice of the
Peace James Wilson of Kenai, which said: "I, Justice of the Peace,
appointed by American Government for the enforcement of law and
order, here, issue this paper to the Russian Orthodox Church to certify
that Mr. A. K. Ryan and Mr. Charles Miller, acted in compliance
with the rules of the American Government when they hanged a Copper
River savage in Knik Village on April 22, 1891."
3. Vladimir Vasilii Stafeev, the man who investigated
the George Holt murder, had been an agent for the Russian Commercial
Company, a small trading post inside of the Russian fort at St.
Nicholas Redoubt (Kenai), since 1864. A year after Alaska
was purchased in 1867, the Russian Commercial Company became the
ACC and Stafeev continued working for them as a trading post agent;
he eventually transferred to Tyonek. His personal journals (translated
from Russian) were used extensively in this report.
Sources - Endnotes
The Alaskan, "Alaska History", October
Alaska Commercial Company,
Knik Station Log Book, 1883-1903. Knik Box 24, folder 305. Alaska
Polar Regions Collections, Elmer Rasmuson
Library, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Hereafter
referred to as ACC Knik Log Books. Note:
ACC log book is labeled "1 year anniversary of Holt
Overland Monthly and Out West W.R. Quinan "The
Discovery of the Yukon Gold Fields", October
1897, pages 340-342.
The Alaskan, "Alaska History", October 2, 1897.
The Alaskan, "From Kodiak's Special Correspondent,
July 17, 1886, page 1.
Henry T. Allen, Report of an Expedition to the
Copper, Tanana and Koyukuk Rivers in the Territory
of Alaska in the year 1885", Washington: GPO, 1887) page
Stafeev Papers, translated by Andrei Znamenski 2007, hereafter
called Stafeev Papers.
Andrei Znamenski correspondence to Coleen Mielke, September
Stafeev Papers, December 31, 1885.
Stafeev Papers, January 4, 1886.
Alaska Commercial Company, Knik Station Log Book, 1883-1903.
Knik Box 24, folder 305, December
Stafeev Papers, December 29, 1885.
Andrei Znamenski, "Through Orthodox Eyes, Russian
Missionary Narratives of Travels to the
Dena'ina and Ahtna", 1850's-1930's", page 112.
Unpublished Shem Pete interview done by James Kari June
Stafeev Papers, December 26, 1885.
Stafeev Papers, January 5, 1886.
Stafeev Papers, December 29, 1885.
Stafeev Papers, January 4, 1886.
Stafeev Papers, January 13, 1886.
Stafeev Papers, July 12, 1886.
Stafeev Papers, January 13, 1886.
Stafeev Papers, January 25, 1886.
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, January 23, 1917, page 2.
ACC Knik Log Books, March 19, 1887.
Andrei Znamenski, "Through Orthodox Eyes", page 12.
Stafeev Papers, February 6, 1887.
The Alaskan, "The Knik Murder", November 6, 1886, page 4.
Andrei Znamenski, "Through Orthodox Eyes", page 12.
ACC Knik Log Books, December 5, 1886.
ACC Knik Log Books, February 9, 1887.
ACC Knik Log Books, February 17, 1887.
ACC Knik Log Books, February 13, 1887.
ACC Knik Log Books, March 17,1887.
ACC Knik Log Books, 12/21/1890.
The Alaskan, "Our Crippled Judiciary", November 6, 1886,
ACC Knik Log Books, February 27, 1891.
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, January 23, 1917, page 2.
ACC Knik Log Books, March 13, 1891.
ACC Knik Log Books, March 24, 1891.
ACC Knik Log Books, April 7, 1891.
The Alaskan, "From Kodiak's Special Correspondent", July
17, 1886, page 1.
Unpublished Shem Pete interview done by James Kari, June
"Shem Pete's Alaska", by James Kari and James Fall,
Seward Weekly Gateway, July 24, 1909.
ACC Knik Log Books, December 7, 1886.
Alaska State Library Archives, Probate Files, Sitka, File
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the author, Coleen Mielke.