Murdered at Knik, Alaska in 1885
His Background – The
Murder Itself – The Aftermath
A True and Documented Account
written by Coleen Mielke 2017
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 his
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 later.
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
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 store 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 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 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 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 wanted to shoot Holt immediately,
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 was 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 there 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 about further violence
from 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
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 when they came into the store. He was
hoping that time would defuse the situation and also give him time
to travel to Knik to interview people.
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
saw 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. They
told him that George Holt had paid for them before he died. When he checked
the paperwork, he noticed that the original sale was for 78 sable pelts,
however, the men only delivered 58 pelts. Stafeev was certain that Afanasii
had helped himself to the other 20 pelts.
Stafeev eventually went to Knik to interview
witnesses; 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. She went to get Afanasii, (who had stayed in his house until
noon that day) and they carried Holt's body back into the store.
Another witness (unnamed person) described
the Ahtna customer shaking the lock on the trading post
door, as if to signal Holt to come outside, then he hid out
of sight. When Holt came out to check the lock, the Indian shot
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.
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.
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
and kept asking “why did you let Holt get away with that?” The taunting
so enraged the Indian that he shot George Holt.
The villagers at Knik told Stafeev
that if Holt's murderer was arrested, that Afanasii should also be
arrested since all of the evidence pointed 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 gives the murderer's name as "Nicolai, the son of a powerful Copper
River medicine man". The article 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 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 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 had a hand in this tension).
However, it was Nicolai (the man who killed Holt), that came to McFord's
defense this time and sent word that he would kill anyone that harmed
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. 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 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 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
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 must have been 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.
The agent 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 to Eklutna).
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 man
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 that February, 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
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 OK.
[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 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.
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 remaining Dena’ina
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 trade, the white men watched them carefully and they
were allowed to go back and forth to the store in pairs only.
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 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 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
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
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 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 Aleuts 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 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 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)
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 16,
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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