Fort Stikine

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Fort Stikine was a fur trade post and fortification in what is now the Alaska Panhandle, at the site of the present-day of Wrangell, Alaska, United States. Originally built as the Redoubt San Dionisio or Redoubt Saint Dionysius (Russian: Форт or Редут Святого Дионисия, r Fort or Redut Svyatogo Dionisiya) in 1834, the site was transferred to the British-owned Hudson's Bay Company as part of a lease signed in the region in 1838, and renamed Fort Stikine when turned into a Hudson's Bay Company post in 1839. The post was closed and decommissioned by 1843 but the name remained for the large village of the Stikine people which had grown around it, becoming known as Shakesville in reference to its ruling Chief Shakes by the 1860s. With the Alaska Purchase of 1867, the fortification became occupied by the US Army and was renamed Fort Wrangel, a reference to Baron von Wrangel, who had been Governor of Russian America when the fort was founded. The site today is now part of the city of Wrangell.

By a decree of Emperor Paul I known as the Ukase of 1799, the Russian Empire asserted ownership of the Pacific coast and adjoining lands of North America as far south as the 55th degree of latitude, with Novo-Arkhangelsk (modern Sitka) founded shortly thereafter. In 1821, Emperor Alexander issued another ukase which extended the Russian claim south to 51 degrees north, also forbidding foreign vessels from approaching within 100 Italian miles of any Russian settlement. Other powers protested and the line was withdrawn to "the line of the Emperor Paul", 55 degrees north, with parallel treaties with the United States and Great Britain (in 1824 and 1825 respectively) adjusting that southwards slightly to 54 degrees 40 minutes north so as to include all of Prince of Wales Island within Russian territory.

Under the Russo-British Treaty of 1825 (Treaty of St. Petersburg) establishing that boundary, and also establishing a land boundary northwards following the summit of the mountains, ten marine leagues from the coast, British rights to the Interior were guaranteed by Russia, along with the right of navigation of the Taku and Stikine Rivers, which were (and largely still are) the only access to those regions of what is now northern British Columbia. The HBC governing committee, led by Sir John Pelly and Sir George Simpson, on 28 October 1829 sent instructions to the Columbia Department for a company detachment to occupy the Nass River with a new trade post. Chief Factor John McLoughlin was to send the force of approximately 50 employees under Peter Skene Ogden. However the outbreak of an illness at Fort Vancouver, likely malaria, delayed the plan to establish a station until 1833. Visiting the mouth of the Nass in the summer 1831, Lieutenant Aemilius Simpson mistakenly that it was the entrance to the Babine River. HBC began to consider the location critical to establish a coastal supply chain to send provisions to Fort Babine.

Arvid Etholén and a party of employees of the Russian American Company (RAC) were sent to the Nass on the Chichagof on 3 April 1833 by Chief Manager Baron Wrangel. Arriving back at New Archangel on 28, Etholén reported the alarming news that Stikine people, while receptive to a Russian outpost, were also supportive a British station being established in the area. The second article of the Russo-British Treaty of 1825 specified that employees of either company couldn't land at their respective stations without prior consent. To prevent the HBC traders from accessing the Stikine river, Wrangel conceived of creating a trade post at the river's mouth. In the autumn of 1833, a party of promyshlenniki under the commander of the Chichagof, Lieutenant Dionysius Zarembo, was dispatched south. RAC employees began constructing on the Stikine Strait a fort named the Redoubt Saint Dionysius or the Redoubt San Dionisio, usually thought to have been located on Zarembo Island, to ensure control of the local fur trade, critical to the economic basis of New Archangel.

Ogden went up the Stikine on reconnaissance in 1833, finding the river too shallow for the HBC's sailing vessels. An additional exploration was ordered by in 1834 McLoughlin, with Ogden and several HBC staff, including William Fraser Tolmie, returning to the area on the brig Dryad. The employees were to begin attempts at establishing trade and a fort in the Stikine hinterland. On 20 June 1834 the HBC employees under Ogden reached Redoubt Saint Dionysius. Tolmie described the trading post as having a barricade 6 feet tall, a half completed house for the RAC officer and "a few cedarbark huts..." Discussions between the Russians and British was hampered as none of British could speak the Russian language and none of the Russians were fluent in Latin, English, or French. Zarembo gave Odgen a note in Russian that stated:

In the Year of 1834, the 18th of June. On the brig of the Columbia Company of Mr. Ogan at Stakeen—I prohibit to trade with the inhabitants of the Stakeen which have their settlements here and accordingly refer to the Convention.—To the Colonies of the Russian American Company, no permission is given to trade. I neither allow to enter the river Stakeen in consequence of the instructions received from Chief Director Baron Wrangel.

This page was last edited on 30 January 2018, at 00:38 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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