Role play is a big part of the environmental living program experience. To make the most of your program, here is a list of real people who were at Colony Ross, including short biographies of what we know about their lives. All officers and employees in the Gatherer Role Group should choose one of the following people out of the history pages of Colony Ross to role-play while on site. Remember to have fun and ‘role’ with it!
Egor Leontievich Chernykh (Ye-gor’ Le-on’ti-ev-ich Cher-nikh’) – A Creole born in Kamchatka about 1813. He was the son of a Russian priest and a native Kamchadl woman. He was sent to Moscow to enroll in the agricultural school that just opened by the Imperial Moscow Agriculture Society. He graduated in 1827. On August 18, 1835 he arrived on board the brig Sitka and landed in Monterey. From there he traveled overland and in January 1836 arrived at Colony Ross. He developed agriculture at Fort Ross. His salary was 3,500 rubles per year. He built and worked at Rancho Chernykh located somewhere between Occidental and Graton. He wrote several articles for Russian journals while at the colony. When the colony was sold in 1841, Chernykh returned to Sitka and was given a raise to 5,000 rubles a year. His wife, Ekaterina, gave birth to their son, Nikolai, in 1842. In 1843 Chernykh died of “nerve fever.”
Feofilat Druzhinin (Fe-o-fi’lat Druzh-een’in) – A Creole living in Sitka, he became an assistant to Il’ia G. Voznesenskii. Voznesenskii noted that “with his natural talent, was enterprising, stayed with me, and with Etholen’s approval accompanied me on all my journeys through the colonies.” Druzhinin came to Ross with Voznesenskii in 1841. He continued to work in the colonies after Ross was sold, and in 1853 was married to Iroida Kelgren in Kodiak. They had three sons. He died in 1862.
Vasilii Khlebnikov (Vah-seel’ee Khleb’nee-kov) – A Russian nephew of K.T. Khlebnikov. Vasilii was manager of one of the three Company ranchos near the Ross Settlement. This ranch helped to supply the Ross Settlement and Sitka with agricultural products. In 1841 he returned to Sitka along with the other Company personnel.
Alexei Shukshin (A-lex-say’ Shuk’shin) – A Russian who worked at Colony Ross. A falling tree killed him during work in the forest on July 27, 1820.
Vasilii Starkovskii (Vah-seel’ee Star-kov’skee) – A Russian, he died at Ross March 11, 1827. He left no will, so his cash estate of 843 rubles and 56 kopeks was placed in the Company’s charitable fund in Sitka. He was at Ross to keep accounts at the store and to help Schmidt with the paperwork. His signature is on several documents regarding the settlement of Ross. He was also responsible for the sowing of crops on both Company land and his own private land.
Ilia Gavrilovich Voznesenskii (Il-ya’ Gav-ril’o-vich Voz-ne-syen’skee) – A Russian, born June 19, 1816 in St. Petersburg. At the age of five he started as a typesetter. He started studying with the Zoological Museum and the Academy of Sciences. He showed such skill and diligence that they recommended he be given a salary. In 1834 he was made an assistant and paid 400 rubles per year. In 1839 he was appointed to travel to Russian America for a five-year period. Voznesenskii worked in the colonies in Alaska until ordered to go to the Ross Colony in 1840. While in California he made several trips around the San Francisco area, the Russian River area, climbed Mt. St. Helena, and explored clear to Sacramento where John Sutter hosted him. He gathered plant and animal specimens. He continued his work with the Company in Alaska for a total of ten years. Upon his return to St. Petersburg he catalogued and studied his specimens and other collections that arrived at the museum.
Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz – A German born November 1, 1793 in Dorpat, Germany. He showed talent in natural history at a very young age. He received a degree as a doctor of medicine. He sailed on the round-the-world voyage on the ship Rurik, under Otto von Kotzebue. He worked with Adelbert V. Chamisso, a naturalist. Eschscholtz focused on insects and sea animals. He was the first to discover and record prehistoric bones in Alaska. When they were in California, Chamisso named the California Poppy, our state wildflower, after Eschscholtz, which has the Latin binomial Eschscholtzia Californica. In 1819 he became a professor of medicine of the zoological cabinet at the University of Dorpat. In 1823 he accepted an invitation by Kotzebue to sail again on an extensive voyage. In 1829 he died of “nerve fever.”
Ludovick Charles Adelaid Chamisso – A French born in 1781 in Champaign, France, to a noble family. His family moved to Germany during the French Revolution. He became a page to the royal court in Berlin in 1796. In 1801 he entered the Prussian Army, did not like military life and started writing. In 1810 he studied science and languages in Paris. He then went back to Berlin to study medicine, botany, and zoology. He was a poet and naturalist. In 1815 he was invited to serve as a naturalist on the round-the-world voyage on the ship Rurik. He researched languages, ethnography, geology, botany, zoology, and climate on his trip. He ported here at the Ross Colony on this voyage for just a short time. Chamisso named the California Poppy, our state wildflower, after Johann Eschscholtz, his friend and colleague, while on this trip, possibly while here at Fort Ross. He died in 1838.
Paraskov’ia Kulika – A Creole, she was employed as a cowherd for the Company at Ross. She was married to the scribe, Kulilalov, who died in 1820. She died in 1827 leaving no property. She owed the Company 51 rubles and 59 kopeks. The Company wrote this off as a loss.
Kunuchami – A Kashia Pomo. She had a son, Izhuaok Peter, with a Koniag named Tlyualik
Unitma – A Coast Miwok, she married a Chugach man named Sipak Ishkhatskiy. She died in September of 1821 for unknown reasons. They had two daughters, Anusha Maria and Aglal’ya.
Tolilukayu– A Coast Miwok