Murder of George Holt in Knik, Alaska 1885
Hosted websites will become read-only beginning in early 2024. At that time, all logins will be disabled, but hosted sites will remain on RootsWeb as static content.
Website owners wishing to maintain their sites must migrate to a different hosting provider before 2024 (More info)
Murdered at Knik, Alaska in
The Background – The
Murder Itself – The Aftermath
A True and Documented Account
written by Coleen
Mielke in 2017
a special thank you to:
Andrei Znamenski, James Kari, Jim Fox, Aaron Leggitt,
Sashinka and Diana Keplinger 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
“George” Holt, an Ohio born Quaker, came to Alaska in the
1870’s seeking adventure and fortune. During his (roughly) 13
years in Alaska, he excelled in adventure, but never quite found his
fortune and eventually was murdered in Knik; this is his story:
It is widely accepted that George Holt was the first white man to safely
cross the Chilkoot Pass in about 1875. It was big news at the time,
because this route, which dramatically shortened the
travel distance into the gold rich Yukon region, was guarded by
the territorial Chilkat Indians. How he
managed to avoid being killed during his time
in the pass has been the subject of many debates, however in 1897, a
Sitka newspaper suggested that Holt succeeded because he was accompanied
by a well known Chilkoot Indian named "Chilkoot Jack" (Jack Benson).
In 1914, on Benson's deathbed, in a Juneau Hospital, he confirmed that
he did help George Holt cross the Chilkoot Pass in 1873.
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. Twenty-plus years
later (1897), Quinan wrote an article about Holt for the Alaskan (magazine)
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.”
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 Alaska (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
in Taral, however in doing so, a bitter feud developed with the Ahtna Indians
that would play an large part in Holt's 1885 murder.
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 honor by calling them
"treacherous and thievish". This so enraged the Ahtna that they
were still fuming about him when Lieutenant Henry T. Allen was in Taral
3 years later.
By 1885, Holt was working as an agent for the Alaska Commerical Company
(ACC) at Nuchek Village in Prince William Sound; later that same year, he
was transferred to the Knik Station ACC
he worked with an Athabascan interpreter named Afanasii.
Afanasii was an opportunist in every sense of the word. In 1883, he
was caught stealing from the Knik ACC store by a Russian trade agent named
Chechnov. In an effort to hide his guilt from his fellow villagers, Afanasii
told them that Chechenov had put a curse on them. Language barriers prevented
the agent from defending himself, so he fled to the safety of Tyonek before
the superstitious Indians could kill him. Once Chechenov was out of the village,
Afanasii helped himself to more store merchandise.
Afanasii's routine worked so well, that he tried it again a year
later, when the ACC sent a Russian agent named Malakhov to replace Chechenov
at Knik Station. It wasn't long before Malakhov caught Afanasii stealing.
Once again, Afanasii tried to divert attention from his thievery by telling
the villagers that Malakhov was a dishonest man; an incendiary character
flaw (for a store agent) that the villagers could not tolerate. Once again,
language barriers forced the ACC agent to run for his life, and once again,
Afanasii had full access to store merchandise.
A year later, George Holt was sent from the
ACC store at Nuchek to replace Malakhov at the ACC store in Knik.
Unfortunately for Holt, the company retained Afanasii as Holt's
interpreter. All Afanasii had to do, to repeat his larcenous routine,
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.
Word of 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 5 eye witnesses to the crime, as well as 2 confessions
from the shooter himself.
was translated into Enlish for me by Professor Andrea Znamenski
in 2008 and
I used it extensively in the following account.
week after the murder, Afanasii's brother (unnamed) went to
Tyonek to give Stafeev his account of the crime. He said
that two Copper River Indians were in the Knik store and one of
them argued with George 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 wanted to shoot Holt immediately, but the rest
of the people in the store stopped him. Four days later, just before
the two Copper River men left Knik, the injured man went back to the store
and shot Holt. Afanasii's brother 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.
Stafeev suspected that Afanasii
was involved in Holt's death because of his underhanded treatment of the
previous ACC agents, so he told Afanasii's brother that he was going to
Knik to personally investigate the murder. The brother tried to convince
Stafeev that Knik was not a safe place for him to go because the shooter
might still be there. When his warning did not dissuade Stafeev, Afanasii's
brother asked him for the exact route he planned to take,
which hightened Stafeev's suspicion of a potential ambush.
Stafeev was concerned that the Copper River
Indians might return to Knik with violent intentions if he did not intervene.
So, he told Afanasii's brother to go back to Knik and assure future Copper
River customers that their business was welcome and that no one in Knik
was angry with them. He also sent word to Afanasii that he was supposed
to welcome the "Copper People" with "food treats" when they came into the
store. He hoped that these measures would defuse the situation and give him
time to travel safely to Knik to interview witnesses to the shooting.
Stafeev 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. He recognized this as yet another of Afanasii's attempts
to confuse the investigation.
Three weeks after the murder,
a group of men from Knik took 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 suspected that Afanasii had helped himself to the missing 20 pelts.
Stafeev eventually went to Knik and interviewed the
1. He talked to a woman (unnamed) who
carried water every day for George Holt. 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. She went to Afanasii's house
and asked him for help in carrying Holt's body back into the store. He
told the woman that he and his brother had spent the entire morning in
their house because they were afraid.
2. Another witness (unnamed) described
the Ahtna customer shaking the lock on the ACC door, then hiding
out of sight. When Holt came out to check the lock, the murderer
hid behind the store. When Holt started to go back into the store, the
Indian shot him.
3. Another witness (unnamed) 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 him why he was crying since Afanasii had hired him
to kill Holt. After Holt was dead, Afanasii gave the shooter $124 worth
of store goods to keep him quiet.
5. Stafeev’s journal also mentioned a
confession from the shooter himself. One of his 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 he was going to arrest Holt's murderer,
then he should also arrest Afanasii,because all of the evidence pointed
at 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.
In fact, the murderer wanted to go to Tyonek to tell Stafeev that Afanasii
hired 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 white man”.
for the right to resume trade at Knik, Nicolai remained
peaceful over 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 offered to pay
“redemption money” for the murder and as a gesture of penance, they forced Afanasii to give up his
ACC 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.
A test of this new civility came when the new Knik ACC
agent, a man 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 2 men returned with a second pelt but this
time, McFord paid them $15 for it. As the trappers viewed 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 to the trappers, that he
would kill anyone that harmed McFord.
Three ACC trading agents, Alec Ryan, George Shell and J.B. Ballow,
wrote to Alaska Governor A.P. Swineford in Sitka and offered to apprehend
Holt's killer and turn him over if the Governor would send an authority
(almost 600 miles) to receive the prisoner at Knik, but Swineford never
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, Swineford's 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, and 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 or Tyonek.
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 population 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 become
so powerful, that the Natives were forced to accept “beggarly prices
for their peltry".
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
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 so 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 moved to "New Knik" [Eklutna] in 1897).
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 any approaching attackers.
Word reached Knik in February
of that year, that Nicolai and his followers
had gathered six miles away at "Upper Kennick" and were
planning to attack anyone at Knik Station. Alec Ryan, who had
a store at Knik, closed his shop and left for Tyonek. George
Shell, closed the Knik ACC trading post and left for
the safety of Kenai. Keep in mind that ACC agents were totally
without backup of any kind or legal recourse. 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 captured and hung Nicolai for
killing George Holt and his subsequent threats to the people of Knik.
An Ahtna man named Chashga was in Knik the
day of the execution (Chashga would later become the father of
Nickafor Alexan of Tyonek). Chashga
told the story of Nicolai's execution to Dena’ina Elder
Shem Pete and in 1985, Shem Pete repeated the story to Dena'ina
historian James Kari. Mr. Kari 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 his 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 amended version
of Shem Pete's story about the capture and execution of George
Holt's murderer. I have not changed his wording at all, except
that I have used the murderers Orthodox name [Nicolai]
in an effort to make the story easier to follow.
MY AMENDED VERSION
Copper 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
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 OK.
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
Shem Pete's story
does not include the actual murder...
from [Nicolai] heading to Knik to kill George
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 in the pockets,
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 his throat".
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 against
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 (Knik Chief
Nikolai's younger brother) 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]
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.
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.
End of Shem
I 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 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”.
was valued at $1,829 in cash when probate papers
were filed in Sitka on July 24, 1892 by Major M. P. Berry. With
no apparent heirs, the value of Holt’s estate was quickly consumed,
by a variety of lawyers, over the following year.
by Sashinka & Diana Keplinger
WHO WAS AFANASII and WHAT HAPPENED
I 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 referred to him as "Bowen's
Afanasii". Ballow also called his own interpreter at the Knik ACC store
as "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) on the 1900 U.S. Census; one of them was living at Hope(age
50), with a wife 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 journal.
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 lost.
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
In the end, Shem Pete said that Afanasii
(Dusgeda Tukda) was captured about 2 miles from the mouth
of the Little Susitna River and forced into a small bath house,
which was on the east bank of the river. They nailed the door and
window shut and left him 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 AT KENAI
Weekly Gateway 7/24/1909
"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
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 at Affanacy.
whites 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 a relic of former greatness."
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 bank of the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet.
It is well established that George Holt's murder took place
at present day Knik (not the Eklutna side).
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 Kenai
needed help 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: "...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 by Dr. Andrei
Znamenski) were used extensively in this report.
Sources - Endnotes
The Alaskan, "Alaska History",
October 2, 1897
Alaska Commercial Company,
Knik Station Log Book, 1883-1903. Alaska Polar Regions Collections, Elmer Rasmuson Library,
University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Hereafter referred to as ACC Knik Log Books.
Overland Monthly and Out West W.R. Quinan
"The Discovery of the Yukon Gold Fields", October
The Alaskan, "Alaska History", October
The Alaskan, "From Kodiak's Special
Correspondent, July 17, 1886
Henry T. Allen, Report of an Expedition
to the Copper, Tanana and Koyukuk Rivers in the Territory
of Alaska in the year 1885", Washington:
Stafeev Papers, translated by Andrei Znamenski
2007, hereafter called Stafeev Papers
Andrei Znamenski correspondence to Coleen
Mielke, September 29, 2008
Stafeev Papers, December 31, 1885
Stafeev Papers, January 4, 1886
Alaska Commercial Company, Knik Station Log
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"
Unpublished Shem Pete interview done by James
Kari June 16, 1985
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
ACC Knik Log Books, March 19, 1887
Andrei Znamenski, "Through Orthodox Eyes"
Stafeev Papers, February 6, 1887
The Alaskan, "The Knik Murder", November 6,
Andrei Znamenski, "Through Orthodox Eyes"
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
ACC Knik Log Books, February 27, 1891
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, January 23, 1917
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
Unpublished Shem Pete interview done by James
Kari, June 16, 1985
"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,
You are welcome
to link back to this article, however, do not
or republish it (in any form) without
the written permission of
the author, Coleen