Fort Ross: Historic Russian Fort in California
By Harvey Schwartz.
The following selection is a complete history of the Russian settlement in northern California. The short-lived history of Fort Ross provides an excellent means of analyzing foreign intruders in Spanish and Mexican-California. Harvey Schwartz of the City College of San Francisco presents a very detailed sketch of a Russian colonization scheme. The significance of Fort Ross is that it encouraged foreign settlers to immigrate into California. The resulting foreign business impulse brought important changes into Alta California life.
Fort Ross was the only substantial, permanent outpost of the Russian Empire ever established in California. It marked the southernmost point of Russian expansion in North America and culmination of two and a half centuries of Russian movement eastward from Europe. Although Englishmen and Spaniards had explored and claimed the Northern California coast during the sixteenth century, when the Russians built Fort Ross in 1812 they founded California's first significant European settlement north of San Francisco. Together with their otter-hunting Aleut servants, the Russians lived close to the area's first inhabitants, the Kashia Pomo Indians. They used Ross as a fur-trading, agricultural, trade, and ship-building base for twenty-nine years before selling their property to John Augustus Sutter in 1841.
From Moscow to California
Russian expansion into North America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the farthest phase of a protracted movement eastward begun by Moscow in the mid-sixteenth century. Between the 1580's and 1630's Russian pioneers seeking furs crossed Siberia and reached the Pacific Ocean near Okhotsk. By 1706 the Russians had taken the Kamchatka Peninsula northeast of Japan. Shortly before Tsar Peter the Great's death in 1725, the Russian ruler sent the Danish explorer Vitus Bering to determine whether America and Asia were connected by land. During 1728 Bering explored the strait named for him. On a second voyage in 1741, Bering discovered the Aleutian Islands and the Alaskan mainland. Although the famous navigator died during the expedition, the trip's survivors returned home with valuable sea otter furs. Because the sea otter population was declining in Russian waters, this treasure in pelts stimulated Russia's movement eastward. Accordingly, the first permanent Russian settlement in North America was established on Alaska's Kodiak Island, where Gregory Shelikhov founded a hunting base in 1784. By 1790 Shelikhov was considering extending Russia's claims as far south as California.
Although Shelikhov died in 1795, his enterprise gave rise to the Russian-American Company, chartered by Tsar Paul I in 1799 and awarded a monopoly over Russian activity in America. Alexander Baranov, the company's first Chief Manager, ably directed the affairs of Russian America until 1818. From Sitka, established as the region's capital in 1804 and known to the Russians as New Archangel, Baranov presided over the expansion of Russian interests in Alaska, California, and even, for a short time, Hawaii. The Russian-American Company, which in fact represented the authority of the Russian government in the New World, was even granted its own flag by Tsar Alexander I in 1806.
When the Alaskan sea otter population declined because of over-hunting, the Russians looked to California's otter-rich waters. In 1803 Baranov contracted with a New England sea captain, Joseph O'Cain, to divide the proceeds of the first joint Russian-American hunting expedition to California. Baranov furnished the Aleut hunters, and the Yankee provided the transportation with his vessel, the O'Cain. The O'Cain's spearmen netted eleven hundred furs, turning half over to the Russians in early 1804. During the next decade, Americans and Russians often joined in hunting ventures, generally splitting the catch of sea otters evenly. In these expeditions, the Yankees provided the supplies essential to a Russian enterprise so far afield. At the same time, the Russians were crucial to the Americans, for the Russian-American Company controlled the Aleuts, the region's only skillful sea-otter hunters. Without the Russians providing the Aleuts, the Americans could not have hunted sea-otters successfully.
Because of the tremendous difficulty in transporting supplies from Siberia and cultivating supplementary crops in Alaska, the Russians began looking to California for agricultural products as well as furs. In 1805, when Nicholas Rezanov arrived at Sitka on a Russian-American Company inspection tour, he found the colony short of food and afflicted by scurvy. With famine threatening Sitka in 1806, Rezanov sailed to San Francisco aboard the schooner Juno to seek emergency provisions. Diplomatically maneuvering around Spanish regulations against trade with foreigners, Rezanov concluded an agreement for grain and, in one of the most famous romances of California history, became engaged to Concepci6n ArgUello, the daughter of the Spanish commander. Re- zanov not only provided relief for Sitka, but also recommended that Russia established an agricultural supply point and hunting base on the Northern California coast, which the English explorer Sir Francis Drake had called "New Albion." After failing from a horse while crossing Siberia en route to St. Petersburg, the Russian inspector died in 1807 before his scheme could be realized.
Determined to implement Rezanov's ideas, Baranov sent his assistant, Ivan A. Kuskov, on a series of exploring and hunting trips to Northern California during 1808-181 1. Kuskov, who eventually became the first commander at Fort Ross, was initially interested in Bodega Bay-he called it Port Rumyantsev-where the first Russian American Company structure was built in 1809. Finally, however, Kuskov picked the present site of the fort for the Russians' principal settlement because of its superior soil, timber, pasture land, water supply, and defensibility, and its greater distance from the Spanish authorities in San Francisco accompanied by twenty-five Russians and eighty Aleuts, Kuskov began construction of the fort in March 1812 on a bluff I 10 feet above the ocean beach. The redwood stronghold, called Slavyansk, or "Ross," by Kuskov ("Ross" is an old form of the word Rossiia, meaning Russia), was dedicated at the end of the summer but was not completed for many more months. By 1817 the stockade wall accommodated a pair of two-story blockhouses, several cannons, a commander's house, some barracks and storage facilities, an office, a well, a bell tower, and a flag pole. Outside the main fort, a windmill, a shipyard, a bathhouse, a smithy, a cemetery, some gardens, and some animal shelters completed the complex. Forming the nucleus of Russian California, "Colony Ross," as the Russians called it, came to extend approximately eight miles inland between Cape Mendocino and Cape Drake, and included Port Rumyantsev and several farms. During the summer months, the Russians also stationed a hunting party on the Farallon Islands some thirty miles beyond the Golden Gate.
The People of Colony Ross
Kuskov selected the site of an old Southwestern (Kashia) Pomo Indian village called Meteni, or Madshui-nui, as the most suitable strategic location for Fort Ross. The Kashia Pomo, masterful basket-makers, occupied the coast and hills from the mouth of the Gualala River to a point below the mouth of the Russian River. With the arrival of Kuskov, the Pomo near the fort, who called themselves Chwachamaju, resettled beyond the stockade area, probably in conical structures made of vertical poles covered with slabs of redwood bark. In 1817 the Russian claim to Fort Ross was formalized by an exchange of gifts and the signing of a deed of cession by several Indian leaders. The Russians not only provided trade items and employment but also, the Indians felt, constituted a buffer against the advance of Spanish colonization. Surprisingly cordial much of the time, Russian-Pomo relations were occasionally troubled. Because Russian discipline was sometimes stern and remuneration for work sometimes meager, by the early 1830's it was difficult for the Russians to secure Indian laborers. Visiting the fort in 1833, Ferdinand Wrangell, the Governor of Russian-America, reported that during his stay the overseers at Colony Ross had rounded up .reluctant Indians, tied their hands, driven them to the Russian settlement, and forced them to work the grain harvest. Nonetheless, Russian-Pomo relations were sufficiently harmonious that Russians often stayed overnight among the Indians. Commander Kuskov's wife, Katherine, learned the Pomo language, acted as an interpreter, and taught Russian to the Indian children. As time passed, the Kashia Pomo incorporated dozens of Russian words into the vocabulary of their own language.
The Russian hunting supervisors were called promyshienniki, which, roughly translated, means frontiersmen or fur trappers; the term is traceable to an old Novgorod word for freelance exploiters of natural resources. Fort Ross's promyshienniki depended upon their Kodiak Eskimo and Koniag Indian hunters-usually identified simply as "Aleuts" in contemporary documents- who had been brought to California from Kodiak Island in Alaska. The Aleuts lived in their own redwood plank houses outside of the fort's stockade walls. Among the world's greatest small-boat hunters, these people pursued sea otter, seal, and sea lion in their baidarkas,or two-man skin- covered kayaks, of which forty were brought from Alaska in 1812. Tireless and sea-hardened, the Aleuts would wait motionless in the kayaks for ten to twelve hours. They would approach a surfaced otter silently and swiftly and would impale it with a pronged, detachable bone-tipped spear. A wounded otter would dive under water for about twenty minutes, its course marked by a bladder-balloon attached to the spear tip by a cord. When the struggling otter surfaced again for air, it would be dispatched. Such sea-otter hunting was at first profitable to the Russians. During his exploring voyages along the California coast, Kuskov took 1,453 pelts in 1808 and 1,238 in 181 1. But between 1812 and IS 1 5 the otter kill declined to only 714 adults and 163 young. In 1820 only 16 prime pelts were taken. By the mid-1820's sea otter hunting had ceased being a profitable venture at Fort Ross. Thereafter, the Aleuts were often used in lumbering and herding.
The population of Russian-California varied over time, but rarely included over one hundred Russians or five hundred people in all. After twenty years of Russian occupation, only fifty Russians, seventy-two adult Pomos, eighty-three Aleuts, and eighty-eight "Creoles" (persons of mixed Russian and Aleut or Pomo blood) resided at the fort. At Port Rumyantsev, the largest population center outside the fort vicinity, about twenty Russians and fifty Aleuts were stationed during the early days. Very few Russian women and children resided at Colony Ross. In 1833 only about four adult Russian-born females and five Russian children lived at the fort. The largest group of adult females consisted of Pomo women, several of whom were married to Russians and Aleuts. The division of labor at Ross was quite clear. While the Aleut men served chiefly as hunters, especially in the early years, the Russians and Creoles acted mainly as guards, overseers, artisans, and cooks. The Pomos-both men and women-performed most of the colony's agri- cultural labor. With expanded cultivation, the number of Pomos in the fort's vicinity increased, the Russians employing one hundred Pomo agricultural workers in 1825, one hundred fifty in 1833, and two hundred in 1835. The constant shortage of labor at the sparsely-populated frontier colony was often aggravated by desertion and disease. The Russian-American Company imported some Russians described in the documents as "riff-raff' and criminals. Desertion among these employees was always a threat. Disease could hamper operations badly, as it did in 1828, when twenty-nine Creoles and Aleuts died of measles. Five years later an epidemic incapacitated most of the fort's personnel and killed many Pomos.
Economic Activities at Fort Ross
Agriculture Ross with the decline of otter hunting. From the beginning of their settlement in California, the Russians hoped grain production at Ross would supply Russian-Alaska with needed food. Unfortunately for the Russians, the amount of grain sent north was neither consistent nor sufficient. With few experienced farmers-the Russian system of serfdom kept most of the nation's peasants tied to the land at home-the colony failed to rotate crops or to fertilize fields. The arable land along this rugged coastal region was not particularly abundant or fertile, and the ocean fog frequently caused stem rust, which could ruin an entire crop. For a long time Ross did not even have an efficient method for threshing. During their first few seasons in California, the Russians had to depend upon the Spanish for grain and seed. Even in later years the residents of Colony Ross were often compelled to trade manufactured goods to the Spanish and Mexicans for supplemental grain to ship to the Russian-American Company's Alaskan outposts. Still, agriculture did expand significantly in the 1820's and early 1830's, yielding good wheat and barley crops in 1828 and 1832. During the latter year Fort Ross was able to send one-quarter of its bumper wheat yield to Sitka. Although from 1826 through 1833 Ross exported 4,000 bushels of grain to Alaska, this still fulfilled only one-twelfth of the Russian-American Company's needs; and in 183 5, 1836, and 1837 Russian California experienced serious crop failures. The commanders of Fort Ross never succeeded in making the post a bread basket for the Russian-American Company.
Russian agriculture at Colony Ross was hardly limited to wheat and barley production. Among the supplemental farming activities undertaken by the Russians, stock raising was probably the most important. As early as 1813 the Spanish brought twenty cattle and three horses to Fort Ross. Over the next three decades the cattle, horse, mule, and sheep population at Ross increased substantially. Although a serious epidemic during 1823-1826 killed many animals, stock numbers doubled after 1833 with the opening of new Russian ranchos inland from the fort. The residents of Colony Ross produced beef, butter, tallow, hides, mutton, and sheep's wool, and even sent moderate shipments of salted beef to Alaska in the late 1830's. An 1841 inventory listed seventeen hundred cattle, nine hundred forty horses and mules, and nine hundred sheep in the Russian settlement on the eve of its closing. Pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese were also raised at Fort Ross. But because of limited pasture land and over-slaughtering, Russian stock raising at Ross remained only marginally successful. The Russians always had far fewer animals than the Spanish and Mexican Californians. In 1838 the Mexican General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, for example, had ten thousand cattle and approximately five thousand horses on his Petaluma rancho alone.
Vegetable gardening and fruit growing, though smaller in scale, succeeded rather better than grain production and stock raising at Colony Ross. While there were substantial vegetable ship- ments to Alaska in good years, most of the Russians' produce was grown in private plots for local consumption. Many vegetables survived the year around and could be double cropped, some species reproducing in great abundance and yielding remarkably large specimens. Commander Kuskov's extensive gardens included potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, radishes, beets, turnips, lettuce, cab- cabbage, peas, beans, muskmelons, watermelons, grapes, pumpkins, and horseradishes. Employing a great variety of harrows, plows, carts, and other equipment-as the 1841 inventory discloses- the Russians also cultivated corn, oats, and tobacco. To supplement the vegetables, the Russians planted a number of fruit trees near the fort, many of which remained productive into the twentieth century. The first specimen, a peach tree imported from San Francisco in 1814, bore fruit after six years. In 1818 new peach trees were introduced from Monterey, and two years later one hundred apple, pear, cherry, peach, and bergamot seedlings were added. These trees produced fruit by 1828. Grapes were being harvested six years after vines from Lima, Peru, were set in 1817. By 1833 Fort Ross had four hundred trees and seven hundred vine stalks, and, shortly before the Russian departure, the Chernykh Rancho located nearby had two thousand vines. The Russian inventory of 1841 listed two hundred seven apple trees, twenty-nine peach trees, ten pear trees, ten quince trees, and eight cherry trees as growing in the fort's orchard. In good years Russian California produced a surplus of fruit.
Shipbuilding assumed central importance at Ross with the decline of otter hunting. The first seaworthy vessels launched in California were constructed by the Russians at Fort Ross Cove. Alexander Baranov, the Russian-American Company's Chief Manager, dispatched shipwright Vasily Grudinin from Alaska to oversee construction. Four two-masted ships were completed during 1818-1824: the 160-ton brig-schooner Rumyantsev, the 200-ton brig Buidakov, the 160- ton brig Volga, and the 200-ton brig Kyakhta. For a short time these vessels ranged from San Pedro in Southern California to Okhotsk in Siberia. Unfortunately, because the ships were made largely of improperly seasoned tanbark oak, which was poorly suited to ocean-going vessels in any case, rot made all four ships unfit for sea duty within six years of construction. This disaster caused the Russians to discontinue building large vessels after 1824. Thereafter, the Fort Ross commanders encouraged agriculture. The Russians also made skiffs, longboats, rowboats, and barges, several of which were traded or sold to the Mexicans at the Bay Area missions in the middle 1820's. Manufacturing for trade with the Spanish and Mexican Californians-as well as for local use and for export to Alaska----carried far beyond ship and boat construction to include a wide range of activities, such as barrel, tar, brick, leather, boot, wool, flour, furniture, candle, soap, and possibly pot making.
Commercial and Diplomatic Relations
Concern about possible Russian expansion was among several considerations moving the Spanish to found the first California missions at San Diego and Monterey in 1769-1770 and the Mexicans to establish the last California missions at San Rafael and Sonoma in 1817 and 1823. Spanish and Mexican officials frequently questioned the Russians' right to maintain a base along the Sonoma coast. Although Russia's diplomats never achieved official recognition of Colony Ross from Madrid or Mexico City, however, the Russians maintained agreeable commercial relations with their Spanish and Mexican neighbors because trade benefited everyone on the Northern California frontier. Even in the early years of Russian settlement in California, when Spanish regulations deemed commerce with foreigners illegal, California's Russians and Spaniards carried on a lively contraband trade. In 1816 Spain lifted its ban on colonial trade with foreigners, although local authorities limited the amount of Spanish-Russian commerce officially allowed in California ports. Trade with the Spanish became so important to the Russians that in 1820 they seriously considered abandoning Fort Ross in exchange for a formal commercial agreement guar- guaranteeing a steady supply of provisions for Alaska, but Spain rejected all Russian overtures for such a pact. Finally in 1821, when Mexico became independent of Spain, Alta California opened its ports to unrestricted foreign trade. At first pleased with this development, the Russians soon faced higher tariffs as well as stiff competition from increasing numbers of American and British trading vessels visiting Mexican California's ports. Also, after the secularization of the California missions in 1833, far less Mexican wheat and beef was available for purchase. Besides trading with the Californios, the Russians concluded a renewable hunting contract with the Mexican authorities in 1823 which enabled them to seek otters as far south as San Diego and to trade pelts
for Mexican grain. After the Mexican governor of California terminated the contract in 1831, however, the Russians could legally hunt only as employees of Mexican entrepreneurs. Although very important to the Russians, commercial relations with the Spanish and Mexicans never completely fulfilled Russian hopes in California.
The Tsar's officials, moreover, never achieved international recognition of Russian California from any other major power. In 1819 Russian hopes for worldwide sanction of Colony Ross were badly damaged by the Adams-Onis treaty, by which Spain and the United States formally acknowledged Spanish possession of all land below the Oregon country border. Although the Russians in Alaska periodically traded for provisions with the British and Americans and some- times entered into joint business ventures with the latter, the Anglo-American powers saw no reason to recognize Colony Ross, especially after 1819, because Russian aims also competed with British and America economic and strategic interests in the Pacific. In September 1821, Tsar Alexander I issued an imperial ukase unilaterally expanding the Russian-American Company's exclusive rights in the northwest into the Oregon country, then jointly claimed by the United States and Britain. American President James Monroe, however, seized upon this appearance of a Russian expansionist threat to rally support for his hemispheric noncolonization principle, embodied in his famous doctrine of 1823. By 1824, no closer than before to achieving international recognition of its California claim, Russia abandoned its expansionist pretentions in North Amer- America by agreeing to a Russo-American Convention withdrawing Russia's claims to the Oregon country. The Russians signed a similar treaty with the British in 1825. These agreements denied the Russians future land access between Alaska and Russian California, and left the legal status of Fort Ross unresolved. A final opportunity for international sanction arose in the mid-1830's when the Mexican government invited Ferdinand P. Wrangell, Chief Manager of the Russian colonies in America, to mediate in establishing diplomatic relations between Mexico and Russia. Wrangell hoped to convince the Mexicans to cede a small amount of arable land east of Colony Ross to the
Russian-American Company, because, with Mexican grain and beef becoming scarce following secularization of the California missions, he favored increased Russian cultivation. Traveling to Mexico, Wrangell found the officials there prepared to confirm Russian claims to Ross, but ultimately nothing came of his efforts because the conservative Tsar Nicholas I refused to recognize the Mexican Republic, which he identified with revolution. The last serious Russian effort to achieve international recognition for Fort Ross was thus defeated by the Russian Tsar himself.
Russian Explorers and Scientists
An impressive number of Russian explorers and scientists visited Northern California during the early nineteenth century. Ivan Kuskov, the first Russian to explore inland from the Sonoma Coast, journeyed fifty miles up the Russian River in 1811 and gave the river its Russian name, Slavyanka. Russians also entered Humboldt Bay and may have traveled up the Sacramento River and overland to Clear Lake. Ferdinand Wrangell surveyed the Santa Rosa plain in 1833 when contemplating the expansion of Russian agriculture. Eight years later a Russian expedition to the same region named and mapped several local tributaries of the Russian River. Russian scientists, too, did much field work in Northern California. They were the first Europeans to conduct serious studies in Sonoma Coast botany, zoology, entomology, and ethnology. The naturalist George H. von Langsdorff accompanied Rezanov to California in 1806, gathering plant and animal specimens which were added to museum collections in St. Petersburg. In 1816, while on his first voyage around the world, Otto von Kotzebue brought the naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso and the entomologist and zoologist Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz to California. During a short stay in San Francisco, Chamisso collected the now-famous California poppy, naming it Eschschol- tzia Californica for his friend and for the new land. Eschscholtz made extensive insect collections at Fort Ross in 1824 while accompanying Kotzebue on a second world tour. Although Wrangell was interested in wildlife, geography, and meteorology, his most important work was probably done in the field of ethnology. In 1833 he conducted the first extensive anthropological study of Indians in the Santa Rosa area. Father loann Veniaminov, a missionary who spent many years studying Alaskan Indians, visited Fort Ross in 1836. Finally, while traveling in Northern California- during 1840-1841, Ilya Gavrilovich Voznesenskii, who was a zoologist, botanist, geologist, and ethnologist,
produced some of the most informative drawings ever done of the inhabitants of Colony Ross. In 1841, a Russian climbin party, including Voznesenskii and Yegor Chernykh, who was a Colony Ross agronomist and rancher, made the first recorded ascent of Mount St, Helen. The climbers left a metal plate at the north summit as proof of their accomplishment. The numerous achievements of Russian explorers and scientists in frontier California deserve our recognition
Fort Ross Commanders, Agricultural Expansion, and the Sale of Fort Ross
The five commanders at Fort Ross during the twenty-nine years of Russian occupation in California had in common one important activity-the encouragement of farming. Although the fort's first commander, Ivan Kuskov, assumed hunting to be the main function of Colony Ross and lacked experience as a farmer, he began agriculture and stock raising at the fort. Kuskov's successor, Karl Schmidt, who became commandant at Ross in 1821, attempted to stimulate agricultural expansion by distributing free seed among the Aleut hunters as well as the Russians and Creoles at the settlement. Although Schmidt, a navigator by training, invested much time in the ambitious shipbuilding program of the early 1820's, Paul Shelikhov made significant contributions- butions to the agricultural development of the colony, such as ordering the planting of the last uncultivated arable land near the fort. Peter Kostromitinov, following Shelikhov as commander at the end of the decade, encourages agriculture even more than his predecessors. Kostromitinov's administration established several new farms (ranchos) in the interior, planted grain along the Russian River in 18 3 1, and may have directed cultivation in the Freestone area eight miles east of Bodega Bay. In 1833 the commander developed another inland farm called Khlebnikov Rancho by the Russians and Three Friends Rancho by the Californios. Kostromitinov also founded Kos- tromitinov Rancho, or Halfway House, which stood midway between Fort Ross and Bodega Bay. Another farm, labeled New Rancho for a short time, but best recalled as the Chernykh or Jorge Rancho, was put under cultivation shortly after Alexander Gavrilovich Rotchev, the last Fort Ross commandant, assumed command in the mid-1830's. Encouraged by each Fort Ross commandant- since 1812, agriculture had become the primary function of the colony by the end of the Russian era in California.
Despite the agricultural activity near Fort Ross, it was clear by the late 1830's that the colony was a financial liability to the Russian-American Company. Fur hunting had declined with the near extinction of the sea otter, shipbuilding had failed outright, stock raising had remained a marginal enterprise, and farming had disappointed Russian expectations. The company found itself operating the colony at a deficit not compensated for by Ross's benefits as a trading outpost. The collapse of Wrangell's diplomatic efforts ended any possibility that agricultural expansion might rejuvenate the colony. To limit Russian growth, the Mexican government induced its citizens to populate the Sonoma region by awarding land grants, and Mexican and naturalized Yankee settlers just a few miles inland from Fort Ross were encircling the Russians. When the Hudson's Bay Company agreed to provision the Russian-American Company's Alaskan bases, the last reason for retaining Colony Ross disappeared. The Russian-American Company opted to withdraw from California, and Tsar Nicholas I formally sanctioned the decision on April 15, 1839. Alexander Rotchev, the last commander of Fort Ross, was made responsible for the ne- gotiations leading to the sale of the company's property in California. This arrangement was ironic, for Rotchev and his wife Helena Gagarin, having come to love Fort Ross, had made it a model of urbane living during the years of their residence. Rotchev had built a new commander's house which included a piano, an impressive library, and imported French wines; and Helena, a princess, according to tradition, who was renowned for her social graces, had cultivated a fine rose garden. After the first potential buyer of the fort, the Hudson's Bay Company, failed to purchase in 1840, the Russian-American Company instructed Rotchev to approach the Mexicans. Early the next year, Peter Kostromitinov, a former Fort Ross commander then serving as the Russian- American Company's San
Francisco agent, assisted Rotchev by negotiating for the sale of the property to the Mexican commandant at Sonoma, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Confident that the Mexican government would acquire the colony at no cost once the Russians left, Vallejo merely offered $9,000 to buy the livestock. Meanwhile, Kostromitinov and Rotchev found a more interested customer in the Swiss-American pioneer, John Augustus Sutter, who agreed to purchase Russian California's buildings, equipment, weapons, and livestock for $30,000 in produce and coin. The formal papers were signed December 13, 1841; two weeks later Rotchev and most of the inhabitants of Colony Ross set sail for Alaska. Although Rotchev himself returned to California- briefly during the Gold Rush, the evacuation of Fort Ross ended the twenty-nine year "Russian period" in California history. Besides a schooner and other property at Bodega Bay, Sutter acquired in the stockade fort itself two blockhouses, the old and new commander's houses, officials' and employees' quarters, storage facilities, a small kitchen, a well, and the famous Fort Ross chapel built in the mid-1820's. Outside the stockade, his inventory included workshops, sheds, kitchens, barns, bathhouses, wooden grain threshing floors, windmills, orchards, gardens, and even a cemetery with wooden grave markers. Sutter used these acquisitions principally for salvage. He had his employee John Bidwell dismantle much of the Ross property and transport it to Sutter's Fort at New Helvetia, or Sacramento. The passing of Fort Ross into Sutter's hands symbolized the end of California's pastoral era, when Russian and Mexican frontier outposts could coexist peacefully, and anticipated the coming of its entrepreneurial period, when aggressive Northern European and Yankee pioneers would compete for gold and profits.
(Copyrighted: This chapter was used with permission from the author Dr. Howard DeWitt. From the book Readings in California Civilization, "Fort Ross: Historic Russian Fort in California", Harvey Schwartz, Kendall/Hunt Publishing company 1989.)