Forge and Falseworks

An Archaeological Investigation of the Russian American Company’s Industrial Complex at Colony Ross by James McGhie Allan III

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley.

The complete 485-page tome is available for research in the Fort Ross Library.


Chapter 1: Introduction and Research Issues

The Russians and Spanish in Alta California

Colony Ross as a Multiethnic Enterprise

Research Framework

Cultural Property Type

Research Issues: Prehistoric

Research Issues: Historic

Implementation of Research


Chapter 2: Historical Background

Formation of the Russian American Company…

Expansion into California…


The Industrial Enterprise at Colony Ross

As mentioned above, very little is known about the location of the industrial complex that the Russians created at Ross, its spatial arrangement, or the technological approaches employed in the colony’s various industrial enterprises. With the outpost being situated on the fringes of the colonial frontier, it is likely that some modifications to contemporary or traditional manufacturing technologies were necessary, but these adaptations have been lost to the historic record. Visitors to the outpost frequently recorded their observations about the colony but much of what was recorded focused on the construction and arrangement of the stockade, and the defensive capabilities of the colony. Like so much of recorded history, the mundane was overlooked and much that was accepted as commonplace was not noted.


In 1822, for example, Father Mariano Payeras, last Franciscan prelate of the Spanish missions in California (Cutter 1995:2), visited the Ross colony. In writing of the visit, Payeras noted in some detail the compound’s configuration and described many of its architectural details. The industrial area, however, was accorded only a brief mention:

… in a deep ravine to the southeast [of the stockade] there is a creek of little water, which gathered together serves them for making lumber; nearby is the arsenal, and a large workshop where they fashion and square their lumber for the vessels that they build here and launch into the sea. … On the arroyo’s bank and at the foot of the wall, they have a forge and a sweathouse, in two houses also of wood… (Payeras 1995 [1822]:332).


In describing his visit to the colony in 1828, the Frenchman Duhaut-Cilly simply stated that the buildings of the compound were made of wood, and gave scant attention to their configuration or location. No mention was made of any structures or facilities in the cove except for a “landing place to the boats belonging to the colony [sic]” (Duhaut-Cilly 1834:325).


On his voyage around the world, the English surveyor Sir Edward Belcher visited the Ross colony in 1839. Although his description of the colony is much more detailed than Duhaut-Cilly’s, it too merely mentions the presence of an industrial complex in the cove. “… in a deep ravine which partly forms the bay, are three large tiled buildings, containing forges, carpenter’s shops, and storehouses for boats and fishing craft” (Belcher 1979:77).


Tikhmenev made only brief mention of the industrial complex at the Ross colony in his history of the Russian American Company: The landing was located in a small bay south of the fort. At the landing were built a dockyard (where in 1818 and 1819 Kuskov built the brigantine Rumiantsov and the brig Buldakov and a large shed for storing baidaras and building ships in bad weather. The smithy was a short distance away (Tikhmenev 1978:134{1861-63]).


Bancroft gives a slightly more detailed representation of the industrial complex in his description of the Russian enterprise in California: Down at the foot of the cliff on the beach, at the mouth of the southern barranca was a small wharf and boat-landing, a shed for the protection of the skin boats, another for storing lumber and for work connected with the building of vessels, a blacksmith’s shop, and finally a bathhouse… (Bancroft 1886b:630).


The most informative description of the industrial complex is found in the inventory and bill of sale that itemized the capital improvements and equipment purchased by John Sutter when the Russians abandoned the Ross colony in 1841. The “Inventory of Structures and Chattels,” drawn up for the sale listed the following structures in a category entitled “outside the fort”:

Outside the fort there are the following structures: A forge and blacksmith shop, built of planks, 5 1/3 sazhens long by 3 2/3 arch. [arshins} wide, with 4 partitions. A tannery, 5 sazhens long by 3 wide. The public bath, 5 sazhens long by 2 ½ wide. A cooperage, 10 sazhens long by 5 wide. A shed for the baidarkas, on beams, 10 sazhens long by 5 wide (Dmytryshyn et al. 1989:432).


The inclusion of the boat shed in this list suggests these structures stood in the cove area. Substantiating this assumption is a separate category of the Inventory entitled “around the fort” which describes other buildings and structures known historically to have been on the bluff top, above the cove.


The 1879 History of Sonoma County confirms the presence in the cove of at least one of the buildings identified above: To the south of the stockade, and in a deep gulch at the debouchure of a small stream into the ocean, there stood a very large building, probably eighty by a hundred feet in size. The rear half of it was used for the purposes of tanning leather… The front half, or that fronting the ocean, was used as a workshop for the construction of ships. Ways were constructed on a sand beach at this point leading into the deep water of the cove, and upon them were built a number of staunch sea-going vessels (Munro-Fraser 1880:367).


In addition to serving as the industrial nexus of the Ross colony, the cove was the location of California’s first shipyard. There, between 1816 and 1827, the Russians built four ships for the Company’s use, and one each for the Spanish missions at San Francisco and San Jose (Bancroft 1886; Bunje 1937; Golovnin 1819; Khlebnikov 1861; Lutke 1989[1818]; Tikhmenev 1888).


Perhaps because of the scale of its operation, the shipbuilding enterprise was more thoroughly documented by the colony’s historians and visitors than was any other. Bancroft (1886b), Khlebnikov (1835; 1976; 1990, and Lutke 1989[1818]), in particular, devote a great deal of attention to the shipbuilding effort. As will be discussed in Chapter 3, the historic record sheds much light on the organization of the enterprise and its output, but little on its physical location or its actual operation.             


Conclusion –

Given the lack of specific information on the Ross industrial enterprise, it fails to the archaeological record to provide some insight into the spatial arrangement, technological sophistication, and social organization of the colony’s industrial complex. Although substantially different in nature from the refuse and detritus of residential spaces that typically comprise the archaeological record, the waste products and byproducts of industry are equally capable of reflecting the broad cultural developments of society (Hudson 1979:4). The study of such material has, in fact, evolved into a specialized sub field of archaeology known as Industrial Archaeology.


In addition to providing a glimpse of how the industrial efforts of the Ross colony were conducted, perhaps the cultural material created through the industrial processes employed there, and left behind as refuse, may also illuminate the ties that linked the multi-ethnic frontier outpost to the larger economics that comprised the first global village.


Chapter 3: Industrial Technology in the 19th Century

Leather Tanning …

The Tannery at Ross

Skins of every description were prepared in the Ross tannery, the first in California (Bauer 1948:2; Hittell 1897:175). Contemporary reports of the spatial arrangement of the industrial complex are scarce, but mention is made that the tanning facility was located in a very large building at the mouth of the creek, “…the rear half of it was used for tanning leather” (Munro-Fraser 1880:366). As will be discussed below, accounts of the building’s size vary, ranging from 100 feet by 80 feet (Munro-Fraser 1880:366) to 37 feet by 21 feet (Dmytryshyn et al. 1989:432).


Andrei Chechul’ka, an Aleut from Kad’iak, learned the art of tanning from the Russians, and in 1820 was chief tanner for the Ross colony. He was skilled in producing leather shoe soles from cattle hides, rawhide for the shoes uppers, and suede from deer, elk, and goat sins that was used in the production of workers’ undergarments. During its period of operation, the tannery was quit prolific, producing enough shoe and boot soles that over 230 wee shipped to Sitka in the three-year period 1827-29. Twenty “uppers” of fine grain leather were also shipped during that period, and a quantity of both the uppers and soles were traded with the Spanish in Yerba Buena (Bauer 1948:2).


The extract produced here from real oak bark is excellent for tanning. Lime is produced from shells, shoe soles are made of cowhide, Russian leather from deer, black leather from young sea lions, and suede from deer. … The promyshlenniks use it [suede] to make their hats and trousers. (Khlebnikov 1990:59; 1976:128).  Chechul’ka was also the colony’s sole cooper, and an apprentice metalsmith who worked occasionally as a coppersmith and a blacksmith (Khlebnikov 1990:64). In 1822 Khlebnikov listed Chechul’ka as the cooper who produced the barrels for the construction of the shipBuldakov, and identified a worker named Tuteg as the colony’s tanner.


As mentioned, the lime necessary in the preparatory stages of leather production was likely obtained from calcining marine shell, since there were no limestone deposits in the immediate vicinity of the colony.

…lime can be obtained from shellfish. Hopefully someone will discover limestone deposits if an attempt is made to do so. There is an abundance of it near by in the missions of San Francisco de Solano and San Rafael (Khlebnikov 1976:128).


Tanbark oak for use in the tannery was plentiful and easily obtained. “Chestnut [sic] oak is abundant in the redwood forests of Sonoma. The bark is rich in tannin, the trees are stripped and large quantities are shipped for tanning purposes” (Munro-Fraser 1880:366). Once harvested, the bark was ground with a stamping machine, located on a hill north of the stockade and powered by the same windmill used to grind the colony’s wheat.

…situated on an eminence was a windmill, which was the motor for driving a single set of burrs, and also for a  stamping machine used for grinding tanbark. …The stamp for crushing tanbark was made of solid iron and was about four inches square. It was hung upon a crank, upon the main shaft of the wind wheel, and the motion was thus given to it. It was a simple and very effective device, but required the constant attention of an operator to turn the bark and stir it up (Munro-Fraser 1880:366).

Major Ernest Rufus, who occupied the Ross property with his partner William Benitz in 1845—after the Russian’s departure—utilized the tannery and the materials the Russians left behind. He described the tannery as having six vats fabricated from heavy redwood slabs, each with a capacity of 50 barrels. “They [also}had all the usual appliances necessary to conduct a tannery, such as scrapers, mullers, etc. but these implements were large and rough in their make.” Nevertheless, Rufus made quantities of leather in the Russian tannery sufficient to conduct a lively trade with customers in Monterey for some years (Munro-Fraser 1880:366).


19th Century Brick Making …

Fundamentals of the Brick Making Process …

As with the tanning industry, little is found in the historic record that pertains specifically to the brick making operation at the Ross colony. The following is typical of the cryptic references to this particular enterprise: “The settlers made …bricks and leather, all of which were sent to Alaska” (Essig 1933:195) and “They [Ross] make a large amount of brick from a very fine clay, and frequently ship these to Sitka. The clay is found in various qualities” (Khlebnikov 1976:122). Several references are made to the brick making industries that operated elsewhere in Russian America, but none shed any light on the particular manufacturing approaches they may have employed. As discussed below, it is apparent from the number of bricks produced annually at the various brickyards, including the one at Ross, that the industry as small and operated only sporadically.


Both Dobson (1893:31) and Davis (1895:92) suggest that a normal three-person work crew, comprising an assistant to prepare the “waulk,” a moulder, and an “offbearer” to carry the moulded brick to the drying yard, could produce 10,000 to 14,000 green bricks per week. Although weather dependent, drying time could be as short as one week but three weeks was considered optimal and, as mentioned above, burning a clamp could take from three to six weeks. It is conceivable then that an entire production run of 14,000 bricks could be completed in as little as five weeks, or could take as long as two and a half months. Using those production rates, a brickyard in steady production and employing only a handful of workers could likely produce 70,000 to 140,000 finished bricks over the course of a year, depending on the weather.


The Russian-American Company operated brickyards on Kad’iak Island, Long Island, Unalaska, Atka, Nushagak, St. Michael, at Kenai Bay, and at Ross (Dilliplane 1981:6; Tikhmenev 1978:416). Given the production levels possible in a fully operational yard, it appears from the output of the Company’s brickyards that all but one were small industries that only operated sporadically. Some indication of the success and productivity of these yards may be found in the following:

Every year from three to six thousand bricks were made on Kad’iak Island, and their production might have been increased to fifteen thousand, if there had been more lime, which had to be burned from shells, and clay suitable for brickmaking … Mr. Teben’kov remarks that “the seawater penetrating the clay probably makes the bricks porous. They crumble easily, and so are used only in extreme need (Tikhmenev 1978:87,411).


By 1841 the principal brick making operation in the northern colonies was apparently located at Kenai Bay. In the brickyard near the Nikolaevsk Redoubt (Dilliplane 1990:138), “about 50,000 bricks of good quality are manufactured with the help of local natives… Most of these are shipped to New Arkhangel, except for a small quantity which are shipped to Kad’iak” (Tikhmenev 1978:416). In comparison, 10,000 bricks were made on Kad’iak Island in the entire year of 1831 Dilliplane (1990:138). In referring to the quality of bricks produced on Kad’iak, Khlebnikov states, “the clay is not very good, and bricks made of it are much lower quality that the Ross ones” (Khlebnikov 1994b:357).


Because of the high quality of the bricks produced there, the Ro9ss yard was called upon to manufacture bricks for use in the north, but it too appears to have been a sporadic industry. In a directive dated June 7, 1824 Khlebnikov wrote:

The Chief Manager has ordered the Ross Office to send finished bricks to Sitkha on the Kiakhta, if such bricks are available. The manager of the Ross Office has reported that they have no finished bricks at the moment but that he hopes to have a large number ready by the time the Kiakhta leaves. I therefore ask you to order that production should begin without delay and that, if possible, three to five thousand bricks should be made. In addition, please load several barrels of good clay onto the ship (Khlebnikov 1990:135).


At the time Kiakhta was still on the building slip, and Khlebnikov was exerting heavy pressure to have it completed and launched. Considering the effort underway to complete the ship, presumably only the minimum number of laborers necessary to manufacture the bricks was taken from the shipbuilding effort.


Khlebnikov, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new ship in Monterey, wrote again five weeks later:

Dear Mr. Schmidt,

…If, God willing, the Kiakhta is safely launched, please load it with as many bricks as are needed for ballast and then send if off without delay (Khlebnikov 1990:158).


Five weeks after that, on August 22nd, the newly launched Kiakhta arrived in Monterey carrying 2000 bricks in ballast (Khlebnikov 1990:175,183). It appears that Khlebnikov’s relatively small order for 3000 to 5000 bricks placed on June 7 was not completely filled, but that 2000 bricks had been manufactured and stowed in the intervening ten-week period.


Although archaeological investigations of the brickyards on Kodiak Island and Long Island (an islet of Kodiak) indicate that permanent kilns were used, no such information about the production techniques employed at the other yards is available. The relatively small production of approximately 10,000 bricks per year from the Ross brick works (Gibson 1976:41), and the lack of any mention of a standing, permanent kiln structure in the historic record, suggests that the bricks fired at Ross were burned in a clamp. While this approach would leave little if any structural evidence in the archaeological record, the heat generated in such a burn would create a significant magnetic anomaly in the area in which the clamp(s) were located, particularly if the location were used repeatedly. Concentrations of brick “wasters” would also provide an indication of the clamp’s location.


The source of the clay used in the Ross brickyard is also unknown. It has been suggested that the clay was mined in the vicinity of the company’s orchard, some 550 yards north of the Ross stockade (John Sperry pers. comm. 2000), but superficial pedestrian surveys of the vicinity were unsuccessful in locating any evidence of either clay deposits or the residual evidence of a clay mining operation. Whatever its source, the clay must have been reasonably plentiful, since the entire brick making operation was moved from Ross to Bodega Bay in 1832 (Gibson 1969:207).

Iron Working at Fort Ross –

As is true with most of the industrial enterprises of the Ross colony, little is known about the nature of the metalworking conducted by the colony’s craftsmen. Passing references are made in the historic literature to the presence of a forge at the colony and the skill of the artisans who operated it, but specific information is sadly lacking.

…down at the foot of the cliff is a small wharf and boat landing. …Nearby is a …blacksmith shop and bathhouse (Von Kotzebue 1824:12).

The landing was located in a small bay south of the fort. At the landing were built a dockyard …and a large shed for storing baidaras and building ships in bad weather. The smithy was a short distance away (Tikhmenev 1978:134).


The inventory of structures compiled when the Company sold the colony’s assets to John Sutter in 1841 describes “a forge and blacksmith shop, built of planks, 5 1/3 sazhens long by 3 2/3 arch. Wide, with 4 partitions” (Dmytryshyn et al. 1989:432). This suggests the forge referred to in the historic literature appears to have been directly associated with the blacksmith shop, as it was at least in the same structure, if not the same partitioned space. As discussed below, there is no direct archaeological evidence of the forge. Consequently, the nature of the metal working conducted by the colony’s craftsmen can only be inferred from evidence developed from the historic literature, and analysis of the rather large quantities of slag that have been recovered in the archaeological investigation of the industrial complex.


Iron ore is not found in the region’s natural environment (Lightfoot et al. 1991:35) and there is no indication in the historic literature that ore was transported to the Ross colony from Company-controlled sources in the north, so presumably the forge was not used in smelting activities. Rather, it appears that the forge was used in bloomery, finery or chafery operations to convert cast iron, in the form of “pigs”, into the more malleable wrought iron, and to fabricate tools and utensils.

…There is no such thing as a smith in all California; consequently the making and repairing of all manner of iron implements here [Ross] is a great accommodation to them [the Spanish], and affords lucrative employment to the Russians (Von Kotzebue 1824:42; Essig et al 1991:8)

There was hardly any article of wood, iron or leather which the mechanics of Ross in the early years could not make of a quality sufficiently good for the California market, and to the very last they received frequent applications from the Spaniards. (Bancroft 1886b;639).


The raw material used in this industry was provided by the Company’s northern colonies that, in turn, appear to have been supplied directly from Russia. In 1817, for example, the Company’s ship Kutuzov under the command of Leonth A. Hagemeister, arrived in the port of Callao on a voyage to New Arkhangel from Russia. Hagemeister was worried about the weight of the vessel and complained that she “was carrying too much iron, which caused her to pitch and roll heavily when we rounded Cape Horn” (Dmytryshyn et al. 1989:249). To lighten the load, Hagemeister arranged to sell or trade a portion of his cargo, including “1200 quintals of bar iron and bolt iron, 50 quintals of iron ingots, and 150 iron nails for shipbuilding” (Dmytryshyn et al. 1989:254). Presumably, this sale of over 70 tons of iron still left a sufficient quantity on board to supply the colonies in Russian America.


Evidence that iron was transshipped to Ross colony may be found in the description of the loss of the Company ship Il’men. In 1820, on a voyage from New Arkhangel to Ross, the Il’men went aground near today’s Point Arena in northern California. The account of this shipwreck and its aftermath were meticulously recorded in a journal kept by Kyrill T. Khlebnikov, an  accountant and administrator for the Russian-American Company. Excerpts from his description of the salvage operations he directed indicate that iron was a major component of the ship’s cargo: First we let down the longboat and two cannon and brought them ashore and then unloaded the remaining cargo, apart from the lead, iron, pitch, anchors, and heavy lines. …Then we unloaded lead, sheet iron, white rosin, and pitch for the brig Buldakov [then on the shipways at Ross]. …In the meantime, Mr. Schmidt cleaned the hold with the remaining men and began unloading the iron onto the shore. … I tried to carry an iron bar weighing two puds [72 pounds] the whole distance and was exhausted. In the afternoon we dragged most of the iron to the place where the boats were moored and loaded it on board. …The following was left behind: three big anchors, two ropes, seven barrels of pitch and bar iron. (Khlebnikov 1990:45-46, 49,50,54).


After finally reaching the Ross colony, Khlebnikov spent the next five months inspecting the colony’s facilities and operations and made trading voyages to Monterey and Santa Cruz and visited Santa Barbara (Khlebnikov 1990:26). In preparation for one of these voyages, Khlebnikov again provides some information about the importance of iron as both a trading commodity and as a raw material essential to the colony’s operations. “Owing to the shortage of iron at Fort Ross for shipbuilding, I kept 150 puds for trading in California and ordered the rest to e left here.” In addition to the raw material, Khlebnikov also loaded “two dozen wool shears, 140 pair of iron hinges; 60 plowshares (made here); 94 koporulia [an iron tool used to clean the dirt from a plowshare] (made here); 150 blades (made here)” (Khlebnikov 1990:61-63).


The items listed in this inventory, and references made to other commodities traded by the Russians to the Spanish, provide some information about the nature of the metalwork that was conducted in the colony’s industrial complex. In his history of the Company, for example, Tikhmenev mentions “…the demands of the missions were confined to purchasing iron and simple tools…” (Tikhmenev 1978:141):

In addition to agriculture and animal husbandry the other industries of the settlement included …various manufactures, such as rowboats, wheels, cooking dishes, etc., ordered by the Californians. Before California was opened to free trade, such objects were manufactured very profitably at Ross settlement … (Tikhmenev 1978:227).


Although comments like these illustrate that metalworking was an important and on-going part of the Russian industrial enterprise at Ross, they are more enticing than they are informative. Understanding what the nature of the metalworking enterprise was and how and where it was practiced, and determining what type of equipment it employed would provide an important insight into the industrial activities conducted at the company’s remote California outpost. Unfortunately, the historic record is vague, if not silent, about this particular activity so, as is true with the other elements of the colony’s industrial enterprise, it falls to the archaeological record to provide a more robust and informative glimpse of this dimension of the colony’s industry.


Evidence of the metalworking industry conducted at Ross might be found in the discards of the blacksmith’s shop, the structural remains of the forge itself, or perhaps in a feature that would reflect specific types of metallurgical processes—casting, for example. Work on a forge creates a great deal of waste product that is typically found in the form of slag or clinker. It is ubiquitous in smithies and concentrations of it encountered in the archaeological record might give some insight into the location and spatial arrangement of the shop, and may also reflect the specific types of operations that were conducted there l(see, for example, Light and Unglick 1987).


Locating the forge would, of course, be extremely valuable in determining how and where the Ross smiths operated. Although it is unlikely that the actual remains of the forge still exist, indications of the area in which it was located may still be evident. These may be found in either magnetic anomalies created through heat-induced alterations of the surrounding sediment, changes in the color and texture of the sediment and soils in the area where the forge once stood, or the identification of an excavation or pit that may have formed part of the forge itself.

Shipbuilding at Ross –

The economic growth and demographic changes that occurred in Europe from the 10th to the 14th centuries led to a remarkable increase in the exchange of goods between the emerging nations.  Increased contact fostered an exchange of ideas about ships and shipbuilding and shipwrights began combining the building practices and traditions of northern Europe with those used since the Roman era in southern Europe (see Kirsch 1990; Unger 1994).  By the 15th century, shipbuilders were producing ships with hulls that were larger and more flexible than those that had been produced in any earlier architectural tradition. The results of these dramatic changes in ship architecture changed all aspects of life, in both Europe and the rest of the world (Unger 1994:10).  From carrack, to caravel, to galleon, shipwrights expanded their technical capability, borrowing from different shipbuilding traditions, and experimenting with different designs and construction techniques until, at the dawn of the 17th century, the ship had become the most successful, expensive, productive, and impressive of human creations (Unger 1994:10).


The demands of commerce and defense, and the transmission of information on ship design and construction that resulted from trade and warfare, led to the steady development of larger and more efficient vessels between the 17th and 19th centuries.  Although not radically different inf orm, ships increased steadily in size: by 1764, ships of 700 tons were being built; by 1780 the 800 ton mark had been reached, and by 1793 ships of 1200 tons were being built. Spanish ship architecture was at the technological forefront during this period, reflecting the Empire’s need to defend the large commercial fleets that were plying the waters between Spain, the Indies, and the Caribbean, and to protect the vast coast and many ports of the Spanish New World.


During the 18th century, Britain had become increasingly dependent on the shipyards of the American colonies for her merchant vessels and at the outbreak of the American Revolution, nearly one-third of all British ships were built in America (MacGregor 1985).  The numerous wars in which Britain became engaged augmented both her navel and commercial fleet in the form of captured prizes, the most valued of which were those ships built by Spain (Harbron 1988).


During his reign, Russia’s czar Peter the Great zealously studied both the Spanish and English shipbuilding traditions and in the first decade of the 18th century, he began developing Russia’s first significant naval fleet and merchant marine (Riasanovsky 1984: 220, 236).  It was from this maritime heritage that the ships used in the Russian voyages of exploration in the Bering Sea and across the north Pacific were produced. Likewise this Russian heritage, derived from those of both Britain and Spain, also provided the means for the Russian-american Company to build and operate the fleet of vessels it required to harvest and trade the furs that formed the substance of its business.


From its very beginning, the Company began building the ships it required to prosecute its trade.  In 1791, Shelikov directed Baranov to begin building ships: Herewith, we send you iron, rigging, and sails for one ship, which you will build with Shield’s [a naval shipwright] help.  Using him to advantage, you should also begin two or three other ships of various sizes, bring them to the point where you can finish them yourselves, without a shipbuilder’s aid.  Everything you need for this will be sent later. Teach the natives to be sailmakers, riggers, and blacksmiths (Tikhmenev 1978:33).


In response, Baranov established a shipyard in Chuygach Bay, calling it Resurrection Harbor.  There he built the Company ship Phoenix, the first ship constructed in Russian America. Thereafter, the Company built numerous ships in the yard at Resurrection Harbor and in shipyards later established at New Arkhangel, Okhotsk, and at Ross (Khlebnikov 1967:76, 98-99; Tikhmenev 1978:33, 95).  In 1806, Baranov hired an American shipwright named Lincoln [sometimes spelled “Linken”] to build ships for the company in the yard at New Arkhangel (Khlebnikov 1976:9 Tikhmenev 1978: 147, 148).


During the following three years, Lincoln built three new ships and re-timbered or repaired two others at the Sitka yard.  After his departure from Sitka in 1809, no new ships were built there, although a promylshennik 13 named Mukin undertook the repair of several older ships (Khlebnikov 1976:9).  During the period when the yard was in operation, Lincoln trained a young promylshennik from the Irkutsk region named Vasilii Grudinin in the art of shipbuilding.  It was Grudinin who volunteered to leave Sitka for the Ross colony in order to build ships there.


The depletion of Alta California’s fur-bearing sea mammal population and the disappointing performance of the Ross colony’s agricultural efforts led to financial losses for the Company, putting Ross in danger of becoming a financial burden.  To develop an economic enterprise sufficiently prosperous to replace these losses, Kuskov ordered the establishment of a shipyard in the cove below the colony’s stockade. There in 1816, the keel was laid for the first sailing vessel to be built in Alta California.


From 1816 to 1827, Grudinin directed the construction of six vessels in the Ross shipyard.  In addition, prior to Grudinin’s arrival and the commencement of shipbuilding activity, Kuskov himself built a small vessel referred to as either a small bark (Khlebnikov 1976: 116) or a rowboat (Kashevaroff n.d.)  The first four of the vessels built by Grudinin were constructed specifically for the company’s use. The last two were built for the missions, one in 1826 and the other in 1827: The Russians…built in 1826 a new boat with sails and rigging for the Mission at San Francisco for 1200 piastres; and in 1827 also built a fully equipped barge [barque?} for the Mission San Jose for 1500 piastres” (Kashevaroff n.d.).


The four company vessels were constructed in the shipyard at Ross, launched, then transferred to the Russian’s port at Bodega, Port Rumiantsev, for fitting-out and loading (Lutke 1818:281).  The keel for the first of these vessels, christened the Rumiantsev, was laid in 1816. The ship was either a schooner (Bancroft 1886:640); Bunje 1970) or a brig (Khlebnikov 1978:116) or a brigantine (Golovnin 1979:166; Tikhmenev 1978:150).  Finished in 1818, Rumiantsev was chiefly built of oak (Bancroft 1886:640; Tikhmenev 1978:228) and was rated at 160 tons displacement by Khlebnikov (1978:116), but was described as being only 80 tons by Fedor P. Lutke during his visit to California in 1818 (Lutke 1989:281).  This may be simply a difference in judgment, albeit a substantial one, or it may be attributable to the different types of tonnage used to describe a ship. Khlebnikov was citing displacement tonnage and Lutke might have been referring to tons burthen. The Rumiantsev was used primarily in Sitka, under the command of a Lieutenant Livoron, until 1823, when it was abandoned (Bunje 1970).  Described in 1818 as “very well built, judging from its outward appearance” and not looking “as if it had been built by a simple promyshlennik” (Lutke 1818:281), Rumiantsev was declared unseaworthy a mere five years after its launching because of the “open rot in all parts” (Khlebnikov 1835).


The Buldakov was the second ship to be built in the Ross shipyard.  Its keel was laid in 1819 and the vessel launched in 1820.  Copper-sheathed, the Buldakov was a 200 tone brig also primarily built of oak (Bancroft 1886:640; Tikhmenev 1978:228).  The ship, whose maiden voyage was made to Santa Barbara, was in active use until 1826, when it was stripped and placed into dry-dock in Sitka to be sued as a storage facility for wheat (Bancroft 1886:640; Khlebnikov 1876:116).  A slight discrepancy exists in the historical record regarding the construction ates of the Buldakov.  During his 1818 visit to California, in addition to his comments on the Rumiantsev, Lutke also remarked on the Buldakov, which he described as “still in the building slip in Ross, but…already in its final stages” (lutke 1818:281).  However, in describing the 1820 shipwreck of the Il’men at Cape Barro de Arena (modern Point Arena), Khlebnikov mentions some of the cargo of the wrecked vessel.  “Then we unloaded lead, sheet iron, white rosin, and pitch for the brig Buldakov”  (Khlebnikov 1990:46), indicating that the Buldakov was still not finished.  In regard to his ability to assess ships, their size, and seaworthiness, perhaps Lutke’s judgment should be called into question.  He is in serious disagreement with Khlebnikov’s evaluation of the size of Rumiantsev, he describes the vessel, out of service in five years, as being “well-built”, and presents the Buldakov as being nearly completed two years before the vessel was actually launched.


Khlebnikov (1976:116) and Bancroft (1886:640) both state that the Buldakov‘s keel was laid in 1819 and that the vessel was finished in 1820.  Furthermore, there are many references in Khlebnikov’s travel notes of 1820 regarding Buldakov‘s fitting out at Bodega.  On July sixth, for example, the crew list for the vessel was made and the men were sent to Bodega.  On the ninth the ship’s boat left Ross for Bodega “carrying copper sheets and craftsmen to finish the planking for the Buldakov” (Khlebnikov 1990:58).  On July sixteenth a small baidara set out for Bodega:

…with the two anchors, the large anchor cable, two small cannon, iron, glassware and hardware, and various products in barrels for the Buldakov.  Mr. Schmidt accompanied them.  Any goods that could not be loaded on the ship immediately were to be placed in the warehouse, and a guard was to be posted” (Khlebnikov 1990-64).


Three days later “Mr. Schmidt returned from Bodega and reported the Buldakov was ready…” (Khlebnikov 1990-65).  This strongly suggests that Lutke erred in reporting his September 1818 observation of the Buldakov.  His diary in which this is recorded appears to be a mixture of contemporary observation intermixed with historic background, so perhaps it was rewritten after the fact and he confused actually seeing the Rumiantsev in the shipways in late 1818, with what he later learned of the Buldakov.


In September 1820, Captain Matvei Ivanovich Murav’ev assumed the position of Chief Manager of the Russian colonies in America (Pierce 1986:7).  In an attempt to improve the durability of the ships built by the company, Murav’ev directed that all future constructions should employ pine for the ship’s frames and laurel for the hull planking (Tikhmenev 1888:228), although Bancroft (1886:640) claims the directive was for pine and “cedar (redwood?)” .


In addition to bringing a new Chief Manager, the year 1820 also saw the retirement of Kuskov from the company.  After three decades of service to the company, he departed California and returned to Russia, where he died in 1823 (bancroft 1886:642).  Karl Schmidt, a merchant seaman of “considerable enterprise and ability” (Bancroft 1886:642; Tikhmenev 1888:224) assumed the responsibilities of manager of the Ross counter and directed the agricultural and industrial enterprises of the colony for the next four years.


On September 15, 1820 the keel was laid for the third company vessel built at the Ross shipyard.  Khlebnikov, who had returned from a visit to Monterey, describes the occasion thusly: Mr. Kuskov wanted to start building a new ship.  H did not want to christen it until a new Chief Manager had been appointed [word of Murav’ev’s appointment had apparently not yet reached Ross].  I suggested naming the ship in honor of RAK Director Kramer…Mr. Kuskov agreed to my idea and at 11 o’clock we went to the shipyard, read a prayer, and set to work.  An hour later, we raised the company flag on the sternpost of the new ship. We congratulated Mr. Kuskov, drank a glass of wine, and gave each of the workers and Aleuts a cup of rum.  The ship is 60 feet long at the keel, and almost all the wood used in its construction was prepared here. (Khlebnikov 1820:86).


Sometime between its christening and its completion in 1822, the vessel was officially named the Volga, despite Khlebnikov’s original suggestion.  It was a brig of 160 tons under the command of Captain Tumanin and was used heavily, frequently traveling between company headquarters at New Arkhangel and the Ross colony.  In 1827 the ship was declared seaworthy and in 1828 was sent to the island of Atkha where it was put into use as a storage vessel for lumber (Khlebnikov 1861:117).