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 in 2014
a special thank you to:
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,
This is a story about 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 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 he 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 route 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. 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.”
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 deeply
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
at Taral, however, in doing so, a bitter feud developed between Holt and
the Ahtna Indians that would play an important part in Holt's murder in
Holt was a stern man with little respect and NO
tact when it came to dealing with the Copper River Ahtna. He used
any opportunity to impugn their honor by calling them "treacherous
and thievish". This so enraged the Ahtna that they were still fuming
about him to Lieutenant Henry T. Allen when he explored the Copper
River area three years later.
By 1885, Holt was working as an agent for the Alaska Commerical Company
(ACC) at Nuchek Village in the Prince William Sound; later that same year,
he was transferred to the Knik Station ACC where he was to work with an
Athabascan interpreter named Afanasii.
Afanasii was an opportunist in every sense of the word. It began in Knik
(as far as I could determine) in 1883, when he was caught stealing from the
ACC store by a Russian trade agent named Chechenov. In an effort to hide his
theft 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 angry and superstitious villagers
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, he tried to divert attention from his thievery by telling the villagers
that Malakhov was a dishonest man; an incendiary character flaw that the
villagers would not tolerate. One again, language barriers forced the ACC
agent to run for his life, and once again, Afanasii had full access to store
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 to act 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
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 five eye witnesses to crime, as well as two
confessions from the shooter himself. The journal was translated
for me by Professor Andrea Znamenski in 2008 and is used extensively
in this account.
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.
The day after
Afanasii's brother gave Stafeev his version of the crime, Stafeev
asked him to repeat it. This time there were several deviations from
the first version which made Stafeev suspect the brothers testimony might
be an effort to conceal Afanasii's involvement.
Stafeev immediately 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 at Knik was angry
with them. He also sent Afanassi word 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.
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
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 suspected 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 (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 shook the lock on the ACC door, then
he hid 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”.
In exchange 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
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 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, 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".
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 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).
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 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
an 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 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
It to Shem Pete. Tape 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
story does not include the actual murder...
from [Nicolai] heading to Knik to kill George Holt
in 1885...to [Nicolai's] execution
Shem Pete's story jumps ahead here
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.
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 it.
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
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 Version
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 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.
Photo taken 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
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 at Affanacy.
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."
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 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).
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 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
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: GPO,
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 Book,
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, 1886
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
Seward Weekly Gateway, July 24, 1909
ACC Knik Log Books, December 7, 1886
Alaska State Library Archives, Probate Files, Sitka
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 Mielke