Diary of Fr. Mariano Payeras

Travels of the Canon Fernandez de San Vincente to Ross, Bancroft Manuscript Collection MS C-C18 pages 411-428 –

One league before we arrived, a horse was dispatched for Don Luis, our captain, and a servant announced the departure of our followers. This was done that we might conduct business with the Imperial Governor. Later they returned with the announcement that we might continue and that we would be received with hospitality.

Upon seeing us at a distance at the foot of the hill, Commander Carlos Schmidt left the square in the fort, and a young servant of 23 years erected a white flag of peace some 200 paces west of the fort in a visible place. In front of the commander, he raised the green and blue flag of Russian commerce.

We were received at the foot of the hill by a four cannon salute and with the utmost graciousness possible from the commander, his aides and all the people. After more salutes and compliments we left his three-story house of 8 rooms (which were very well
distributed) accompanied by other men who live there. The fort is situated atop a mesa which is surrounded by ravines which abut the sea. It is constructed of redwood planks (there is no other wood used in any of the structures) and forms a palisade. It is 4 varas high, uniformly, and is surmounted by a beam set with pointed stakes intended to dissuade any assault. It has three gates; one to the northeast, one to the west, and one to the southeast. Within the square are: the commander’s house; two warehouses for cloth, furniture, household goods, and the like; another warehouse filled with provisions for the fort; a barracks and three officials houses; two bastions, one in the northern corner of the square mounting five cannons on two floors, and another bastion in the southern corner mounting four cannons. In the other two corners are two sentry boxes from which the sentinels chime bells each hour. Also within the square are four small cannons (violentos) mounted on carriages. Outside the fort a stream runs within a deep ravine just south of the fort. In this ravine are located a blacksmithy and a shop where they store and work wood used to construct the ships they launch. Three brigantines have already been built, and there is enough wood for another. In the bank of the stream they have a forge and a bathhouse. These are made of wood also. Here nothing is built of stone, adobe, or cement (lime). When I mention the bathhouse, be aware that I believe they are like those used by our Indians. Inside the bathhouse, they have built a rectangular stove of stone, like those in which they bake bread. Above are two high rooms that have iron gates. On
these are set stones like those the Indians use to cook their acorn gruel. These stones are heated until they become red hot. In this state, they sprinkle them with water until the steam rises through the upper openings of the two mentioned rooms. They enter naked and soon begin to sweat oceans. Those that are situated on tiered benches to the side of the oven, amuse themselves with colorful stories. While at Bodega, I wanted to see one in operation. The order was transmitted to stir the fire and sprinkle on the water. My head became so light that I had to soon open a window.

In this same area, along the stream, and in all other places nearby, they have their kitchen gardens; there they grow very fine vegetables. Nearby are their wheat fields. These produce little, and that is of poor quality due to the extraordinary cold and constant fog. To the northeast, at a cannon shot’s range, they have their cemetery which is without an Enclosure.

In the graves are some distinguished persons. For the three honored founders, they place a marker made of three graduated tiers, larger to smaller. Atop this pyramid is a globe surmounted by a cross. The cross is painted white and black and this is located on the side of the hill visible from the fort, the attention of the viewer is immediately called to it. Above other Christians, they build a  box. Above the Kodiaks, they place only a cross. We saw many patriarchal crosses—these appear with a small crossbar above, below that a larger crossbar, and below that a diagonal beam which we believe was like our INRI. To the north of the fort, at a distance or two cannon shots, they operate a fine windmill, of which the foundation is wood. To the north-northwest is located a beautifully constructed long granary. In it we saw all their gathered wheat, still on the stalk. As the climate is so moist, they have built a drying chamber with a stove. The wheat is thoroughly dried before flailing. Directly north is a cairn of natural (rough) marble pieces, and in this they propped the flag previously mentioned. Finally, to the west, at about rifle shot’s distance there is a
long structure of two parts, similar to our houses which we call dobles. This has two openings which look upon the square. In the middle of each part is a door, in front of which is a beautifully built corral enclosed by a stake palisade. To the northwest is another for the sheep, and to the south one for the cattle. I have heard that they have 100 to 200 cattle and 2,000 sheep. When it rains or is cold, they go inside, when it is good weather, they go outside. Although worthless, they save the excrement of the animals. It is also said that they make fine cheeses, and their meat appears to be savory and palatable.

To the south of these corrals are the houses of the Russians, their servants, the Kodiaks, and of the Christian Indians, proportionate to their income. All the houses as well as the mill are built of squared beams set upon one another. The roofs are made of planks joined by fillets. Each roof has a gutter to prevent rain from leaking inside.

As the redwood is so common and accessible, matures quickly, is pliable (soft) and as it is a wood they regard with affection, and is delightful to the sight, it is found all over their establishment. Their houses are almost all extremely comfortable because of the good glass used in their windows.

A companion said the sentry box to the east played the Ava Maria the time that we _____, but I later understood that it was just a call to dismiss the workers.

In the commander’s living room, there was a tryptich. In this were pictures of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint Nicholas. At the base was written “Templum non Visi in Ea.” When in the chapel, we noticed there were no priests. Who administers the sacraments? Now I will tell a story: concerning the delaying of the marriage of a Russian-Indian Creole because of some doubt surrounding his baptism, and for other related spiritual points. An officer second class, Theodor Svinin, related that a; who live in Russian territory are legitimately baptized, as well as confirmed. To assure this, the Creole was placed before me. How commendable for the bishop that he has assistance over Kodiak baptisms in this establishment. While we were there a priest came and took care of that which remained. At other times, these needs are ministered by the commander (Don Carlos confirmed one) and the governor at Sitka.

The treatment given to us by the commander, to the most minor of the many, while we were there was unsurpassable given the nature of the area. The attention, courtesy, respect, attention, and graciousness were of superior degree. The first night that we remained there, we were entertained with fireworks and a full orchestra played in the Russian manner which amused us more for its foreignness than for its agreeableness.

Don Carlos made a generous offer to take us to Bodega in his 15-oared launch. The only problem was to travel in the boat which was made of many sealskins after the fashion of Kodiak kayaks. The skins were stretched over poles of (avetlano?) instead of timbers. Don Carlos assured us repeatedly of its safety and that in 3 hours we would be in Bodega, a distance of 30 miles by sea. We were eager to view the coast from the sea and also the port (of Bodega). On the 24th at about 8:30 in the morning we embarked from the south commissary at the foot of the hill near the blacksmithy, near where the mouth of the creek emptied. With ultimate civility our officers took leave of the Russians who saluted us with a four cannon salvo, and waving their hats, they cheered us three times; “Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!” This was our farewell!

The sea was calm and as there was no wind, we moved along with only oars. Because of the motion of the sea off Bodega, I threw up three times. During that time my pilot remained calm and navigated with extra care. The skin covering of the launch became
translucent in the water, despite its coat of grease and oil. Upon arriving off Bodega, we attempted to enter at a point northeast, but the pilot made us pass this point so that we finally arrived at 3:00 in the afternoon. In a short while we noticed an official and retinue with horses at the opposite point of the port. Later they told us that only small boats may anchor inside the bay. We all ate together in the houses there.