Murder at Knik 1885
His Background – The Murder
Itself – The Aftermath
A True and Documented Account
written by Coleen Mielke
with a special thank you for
help and encouragement to:
Andrei Znamenski and James Kari
You are welcome to link back to this article,
however, do not repost
or republish it without the written
permission of the author, Coleen
the story of C. G. “George” Holt, an Ohio born Quaker who came to
Alaska in the 1870’s to seek adventure and fortune. During his
(roughly) thirteen years in Alaska, Holt excelled at adventure,
but never quite found his fortune and eventually was murdered at
Knik Station by an Ahtna Indian customer; this is Holt's story.
It is said that in 1875, George Holt was
the first white man to safely cross the Chilkoot Pass. 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 Chilkat Indians. How Holt managed to
avoid being killed is not known for certain, but a Sitka newspaper
article, dated 1897, suggests that Holt was accompanied by an Indian
guide named Chilkoot Jack and two of his Indian slaves. Exactly what
year they crossed the Pass is also up for debate; I have found various
accounts that say Holt crossed as early as 1872 and other accounts
that say it was as late as 1878, but that debate is for another time.
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. Next, he tried his hand at prospecting
in the Cook Inlet and Susitna River areas with minimal luck. In
the spring of 1882, Holt tempted the fates and followed a band of Ahtna
Indians during their seasonal migration 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 Ahtna 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 with the Ahtna, but the
end result was a mutual distrust and hatred that would play a big part in
Holt's 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 Holt) to Lieutenant Henry T. Allen when Allen
explored the Copper River area three years later.
By 1885, Holt was an agent for the Alaska
Commercial Company (ACC) in Nuchek; later that same year he
was transferred to the Knik ACC where he worked with a Dena’ina
(interpreter and assistant manager) named Afanasii. Afanasii is
an important character in the story of George Holt’s murder, so here
is a little background information on him:
Afanasii, (masculine Russian name meaning "immortal"), also went by
the nickname Afon’ka; he was an opportunist in every sense of the word.
In 1883, he was working as an interpreter for the Knik ACC store when
an agent, named G. Chechenov, caught him stealing. Afanasii diverted attention
from his thievery by telling the villagers that Chechenov had put
a curse on them. Language barriers prevented Chechenov from defending
himself and the worried villagers threatened to kill him. The Chief of
Knik stopped the plan and Chechenov fled Knik for Tyonek. With Chechenov
gone, Afanasii was free to help himself to store goods until the ACC sent
Afanasii's plan worked so well, that he tried
it again, a year later, when the ACC sent another agent to Knik,
a Russian named Malakhov. 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 flee for his life which,
and once again, Afanasii had full access to store merchandise.
A year later, in 1885, George Holt was transferred from the ACC
store at Nuchek to the ACC store at Knik to replace Agent Malakhov; the
company retained Afanasii as Holt's interpreter. It didn't take long
for Afanasii to recognize Holt's bad temper and true disdain for his Copper
River customers. All Afanasii had to do was find the right opportunity
to promote a physical confrontation (between Holt and one of his Copper
River customers) that would result in a third ACC agent's demise.
That opportunity presented itself just a few months later,
when two Copper River Indians arrived at Knik to trade. 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. Four days after the original confrontation,
on 12/19/1885, the Indian returned to the store and killed George Holt.
Word of the murder quickly
reached the ACC headquarters at Tyonek. The agent there, a Russian
named Vladimir Vasilii Stafeev (who worked for the RAC and ACC
for 20+ years) appointed himself to investigate the murder. His
journals include investigation notes and testimony from five eye
witnesses as well as two confessions from the shooter himself. Stafeev's
journals, written in Russian, were translated for me by Andrea Znamenski
in 2008 and are used extensively in this treatise.
Upon hearing of the murder, Stafeev instantly suspected Afanasii
since he was familiar with Afanasii's double dealings. He tried to
get someone from Tyonek to travel to Knik for more information but
everyone was afraid to go. A day later, the zakaschik (assistant to
the Chief) of Tyonek said he had talked to someone from Knik (probably
Afanasii) and everything was settled.
One week after the murder, Afanasii's brother (unnamed) went
to Tyonek to tell Vladimir Stafeev his account of the murder. He said
that 2 Copper River Indians came to Knik; one of them argued with Holt
about some tobacco and Holt pushed him, hurting the mans leg as he fell
against a barrel in the store. The Indian wanted to shoot Holt immediately,
but people in the store stopped him. After 4 days, the men were preparing
to leave Knik when one told the other that he forgot to say good-bye to
someone and went back to the store. Holt came out of the store to urinate
and the Indian shot him. Upon hearing the shot, Afanasii's brother rushed
out of the store and saw the murderer standing over Holt who was lying in
a pool of bloody snow. Afanasii's brother ran after the man and begged him
not to harm anyone else in the village to which the murderer assured him
that he was only after Holt. Later, the murderer broke into the store, at
mid-day and took what he wanted.
The day after this testimony was given in Tyonek, Stafeev
had more questions for the witness and asked him to repeat the story.
The second time the story was told, there were far too many inconsistencies
and Stafeev became suspicious that this testimony was a fabricated
version of the murder in an effort to conceal Afanasii's involvement.
Stafeev's suspicions were deepened because everyone knew that Afanasii
had long standing plans to run the Knik ACC store himself in order to
steal goods whenever he wanted to.
When Stafeev made it known that he was going to go to Knik
to investigate the murder in person, Afanasii's brother told him that
the murderer might still be there and that Stafeev could get killed
as well. When Stafeev could not be dissuaded from going to Knik, the
brother asked him
exactly what route he would be using, which deepened Stafeev's
Stafeev was concerned about further violence with the Copper
River traders back at Knik, so he sent Afanasii's brother to tell any
returning customers that no one was mad at them and it was Holt's own
fault that he was killed. He also sent word that Afanasii should greet
the Copper River traders and give them food treats when they came into the
store. Stafeev figured this would allow time to defuse the situation and
also give him time to get to Knik himself.
was not the only one who was suspicious of Afanasii's involvement in the murder;
Tyonek Chief Nikolai believed the murder would not have taken place
without Afanasii's goading. They also received reports
that Afanasii's family was suddenly sporting new clothing when they
went to church; Stafeev suspected the clothes were stolen from the store
after Holt's murder.
Two weeks after the murder, Afanasii's wife went to Tyonek
to talk to Stafeev. She told him that the man that 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 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 (that Holt had purchased before his murder) to Stafeev
at Tyonek. When the paperwork was checked, Stafeev noticed that Holt
had purchased 78 sable pelts, however, there were only 58 pelts delivered
to Tyonek. Stafeev is certain that Afanasii had helped himself to the other
Stafeev eventually made it to Knik to listen to witnesses;
he talked to a woman who carried water for George Holt every day. She
said that she saw Holt lying in 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 and they carried Holt's body back
into the store.
Another witness (unnamed person) describes the Ahtna
customer shaking the lock on the trading post door, as if to signal
Holt to come outside; the man then hid out of sight. When Holt came
out to check the lock, the Indian shot him.
Another witness (unnamed person) said the Ahtna customer
hung around the store pretending to look for something. Holt watched
him for a while then turned to go back into the store and the Indian
Another witness was a boy (unnamed) who said that after Holt
was killed, Afanasii began to cry. The surprised murderer asked Afanasii
why he was crying since Afanasii had hired him to kill Holt. Afanasii
then gave the murderer $124 worth of store goods to keep quiet about the
Stafeev’s journals even recorded a confession
from the murderer himself. One of the confessions was made to a Knik
medicine man, named Konstantin, in the summer of 1886; Konstantin's niece
was the guilty mans wife. The shooter 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.
It was the collective opinion
of the people of Knik, that if Holt's murderer was arrested, that Afanasii
should also be arrested since all of the evidence pointed to him. They
told Stafeev that Afanasii's brother lied about the murderer saying that
he was going to Tyonek to kill Stafeev. The truth was, that the murderer
wanted to go to Tyonek to tell Stafeev that Afanasii had 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 gives the murderers 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 returned 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
An example of the new civility was 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 and McFord paid them $15 for it. The
trappers accused him of cheating them (on the FIRST pelt) and demanded
he pay them the extra two dollars; when McFord refused, the trappers
threatened to kill him (Stafeev suspects that Afanasii had a hand in
this tension). However, it was Holt's murderer, Nicolai, that came to
McFord's defense this time and sent word that he would kill anyone that
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 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.
after Holt’s murder, a new 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. Many 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 to them.”
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
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,
the 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 had killed 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.
In the fall of 1890, George Shell, the new ACC agent for Knik
arrived on the schooner Kodiak. Also on that schooner were two men,
Al Creason and C. Wise, who were scheduled to spend the winter at Knik
with Shell. It only took two weeks for Shell to have his first trouble
with the man who killed George Holt. Shell wrote in his journal that he
"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 to have the advantage over any attackers,
should they approach.
Word reached Knik, again in February, that Nicolai and his followers were gathered six miles
away at Upper Kennick and planning an attack. Alec Ryan,
who had a store at Knik, closed his shop. 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 almost 600 miles away (in
Sitka) 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
Benast'a Gga's son, Nicolai, for killing George Holt and terrorizing 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. In 1985, Shem Pete repeated the story to Dena'ina
historian James Kari who was kind enough to share Shem 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
might be a little 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 except that I have used the murderers
Orthodox name, which was (Nicolai).
My Abridged Version of Shem Pete’s
the Capture and Execution of George Holt’s Murderer
as Told by Shem Pete to James Kari 1985
River Indians came down to Knik to trade, among them was Benast'a Gga's
They were all complaining about the price of goods
at the store. The storekeeper ) grabbed (Nicolaifrom 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
Shem Pete's story does not include the actual murder...
from Nicolai heading to Knik to kill George Holt
in 1885...to his execution in 1891.
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 inside, came 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 him
to "have a good steam bath". Chashga 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".
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 against it.
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
Just outside of Benast'a Gga's
Chickaloon camp, Paul hid the new rifle under some spruce boughs
before entering 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
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.
taken by Sashinka & Diana Keplinger, Kodiak, Alaska
WHO WAS AFANASII
I know of at least
two different Afanasii's living in the immediate Knik area the year
after Holt's murder. The first one was mentioned in the ACC journal of
J.B. Ballow who took over Holt's job, nine months after the murder. Ballow
said a man named Afanasii worked at a small trading post owned by _____
Bowen (6 miles from Knik); Ballow called him "Bowen's Afanasii". Ballow
also mentions a man named Afanasii, who was his interpreter at the ACC store,
Ballow called him "Interpreter Afanasii".
The Man Who Instigated Holt's Murder?
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. So...were there FOUR
men named Afanassi in the area, or was the man in Hope and the man with
the sloop, 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 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 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. He paid his
people only a small fraction of what the white men paid for furs, keeping
the rest of the money himself, making him a very wealthy man. His wealth
was said to be so great that he had eight caches full of possessions, yet
he shared very 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 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 widow shut; he was left there to die. In the spring,
his body was removed from the bath house and buried at that spot.
above legend is accurate, does that mean the following newspaper obituary
CHIEF AFFANACY DIES AT KENAI
Weekly Gateway 7/24/1909
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.
when Chief Affanacy was a power, a veritable absolute monarch among
his people. All paid tribute to him and he thus he 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.
once had his headquarters at Old Knik** (see
below). 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 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
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.
NOTE: Adding yet another variable,
Shem Pete, a Dena'ina Elder, said that Afanasii was the Russian
name of Knik Chief Dusgeda Tukda who died on the Little Susitna River,
but this seems to conflict with the 1910 obituary.
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 Kenai 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
and 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) were used extensively in this report.
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