Project Canterbury

Forty Years in Anvik

By John Wight Chapman

Hartford, Connecticut: Church Missions Publishing, 1931.

THE recollection of the founding of Christ Church Mission, Anvik, Alaska, is inseparably connected with memories of the journey to the country which then was supposed to be the most inhospitable of our territorial possessions. It was because Alaska had been for twenty years a dependency of the United States, and, as I supposed, no steps had been taken by our Board of Missions to establish the Church there that I offered my services. I did not know that the Rev. Octavius Parker was being sent out. Mr. Parker preceded me by a year and I joined him at St. Michael, at the end of the voyage on the ocean which is by no means always pacific, and the choppy waters of Behring's Sea.

No instructions had been given me as to where I should begin work; but when it appeared that Mr. Parker had already made arrangements for a permanent settlement at Anvik, it seemed best that we should join forces.

Mr. Parker never spoke to me of his winter at St. Michael with any enthusiasm. Mrs. Parker and their two boys were with him. Their experience had been a trying one, and they returned to the United States; and did so soon after my arrival, while Mr. Parker fulfilled his intention of going on to Anvik to establish a mission. He was glad to think that my arrival would tend to insure the permanency of that work and give him an opportunity to rejoin his family as soon as he had completed his arrangement with the Board of Missions.

His experience and judgment were of great value. His selection of Anvik as a site for beginning operations was an excellent one. His way of meeting the natives and dealing with them did much to give us a favorable start. Later, his selection of the present site for the permanent location of the mission, which brought us nearer to the native village and gave us a better steamboat landing and easier access to the water supply, was wiser than either of us appreciated at the time; for the old location, on a narrow isthmus of crumbling soil between the Anvik and the Yukon rivers, has long since been washed away by the encroachment of the water during the annual spring freshets.

[4] The site which Mr. Parker preferred was acquired from the Indians for a feast and some sixty dollars worth of merchandise. They agreed also to warn others not to encroach upon our privileges. It is at the mouth of the Anvik River, close to its junction with the Yukon, and opposite to the sandy point upon which the native village then stood, and which is still used as a summer fishing camp. When we began to build, prior to Mr. Parker's return in 1889 to the United States, we were obliged to clear away a thick growth of alder and willow bushes, with a heavy stand of spruce.

Our base of supply was St. Michael, at that time the only port of entry for the whole of the interior of Alaska. It is distant from Anvik only about one hundred miles in a direct line; but nobody ever went in a direct line. Communication is overland by dog team in winter and by water in summer.

The winter route, with its deviations from a straight line, is 120 miles and takes from three to six days, depending upon the condition of the trail. I have been over it three times; once to get flour, once to get a pair of forceps, and once, accompanied by a neighbor, to take Dr. Mary Glenton to visit a patient on the coast.

The summer route, by way of the Yukon and the seacoast, may be described as circuitous. The Yukon passes Anvik flowing towards the south, as though it were seeking an outlet to the Pacific, across the base of the Alaskan Peninsula. Instead of that, it swerves towards the west as though it were aiming to make a great sweep and get into tse1f again somewhere above Anvik; but, finding Norton Sound in the way, some sixty miles before reaching St. Michael, it discharges its muddy water into Behring's Sea. The summer journey to St Michael is, therefore, much longer than the more direct winter route, and is approximately four hundred and fifty miles long.

Since the Alaska Railroad was built we have had but little use for St. Michael; our supplies now come in by the railroad, which runs from the southern coast of the territory, directly north, to the heart of the country. At Nenana they are transferred to a river boat. which brings them down the Tanana and the Yukon Rivers and lands them at our doors before the ice is fairly out of the bay at St. Michael. But in the early days no such route was available. Everything came by way of St. Michael, which was then a most important [4/5] place. Few people ever wished to visit it a second time, unless it were to get mail or provisions, or on account of the toothache, or to get into Alaska or out of it. For some such reason one might be willing to go there more than once; and that explains why I was there several times, both in winter and in what passes for summer in that bleak place.

It was customary for the traders who lived upon the Yukon to drift down the river as soon as it was clear of ice, and to make their way across the sixty miles of seacoast to St. Michael, in the barges in which they expected to return with their supplies. The boat which Mr. Henry Neuman, agent of the Alaska Commercial Company, helped us to procure was a long, shallow, flat-bottomed affair, something like a large dory, but not rising so sharply at the ends. It was the last of a tow of three boats, and the smallest. There was a large main hatch over which we raised a low tent. There were no cabin accommodations on the tug which had us in tow, and meals were not furnished. We followed the example of the traders and did our own cooking. It was the season of abundance in the north. Geese and ducks were to be seen everywhere. There were also swans in considerable numbers. The Company ice house at St. Michael was filled with eggs of these fowls. The geese were especially numerous. They frequented the bars of the Yukon; and when the noisy steamboat approached, they would fly up in a cloud, with a great rumble of flapping wings, like subdued thunder. Everywhere the natives were busy catching salmon.

Occasionally a native would he seen paddling his canoe with all his might in the slack water close to the shore, in the effort to get ahead of the steamboat. When the canoe was far enough ahead, it would dart out into the stream. Still paddling furiously, the owner would bring his craft alongside the steamer. Then a friendly hand would reach out and steady the canoe while the native who had salmon or eggs to sell in exchange for tea or powder made his bargain. At intervals, the boat stopped to take on wood or fuel. If this were near a native village, bargaining began at once.

We suffered a great deal from the mosquitoes and were glad when we reached Anvik. We passed the mouth of the river and went on a mile or more, until we came to the two log houses which [5/6] Mr. Parker had purchased from a trader. Two or three years later, these houses were removed to our new site, but during that first winter we began work as well as we could, thankful for shelter and an opportunity for service.

There were no native houses near us, but our presence attracted many visitors from the village at the mouth of the Anvik River, and we opened school without delay. A few of the children came regularly. In consideration of their long tramp from the village and the scarcity of their food supply, we gave them a lunch of crackers and tea at noon. This and the diversion which school afforded kept up the attendance. As no English whatever was spoken in the native community, I thought that our first obligation was to learn to speak to them in their own language. The school was a great help to us. The children taught us a great many words in their language, and we taught them all the English that we could. Of course, we made mistakes occasionally. I tried to say that I had the toothache, and it turned out that I said that my sister-in-law was sick. One obscure vowel sound made all the difference. Nevertheless, this work had to be done. So we all went to school together. Before the end of the winter considerable progress had been made. The children were beginning to read. I remember telling one of the boys to make a sentence containing the words "see" and "face." He looked all around the room, looked through a door into my room and finally astonished me by saying without a trace of foreign accent, "Do you see the face hanging on the wall?" When he looked into my room. He had seen a wooden mask, such as the Indians use in their feasts. I felt, then, that the barriers of language were giving way.

Our method, at this time, consisted largely in making use of the pictures in the primers and first readers, and especially in the use of Appleton's Reading Chart. The children would cluster around this chart and go over it, lesson after lesson, repeating the text and making the sounds represented by the letters and their combinations. I am a great believer in the phonetic method. Difficult as it is to adjust it to the vagaries of the English language, it does, nevertheless, furnish some training in logical thinking, and in my experience it furnishes a series of puzzles which the children take pleasure in solving. The chart was as useful to us as it was to the children. [6/7] We learned many nouns and verbs by studying the pictures. The first thing that we came to was a large cat. There was no native name for that. So, since we could not explain it, it was necessary for them to swallow the cat whole, so to speak. It was the word cat, which presented the greatest difficulty. They could make the sound for c and the sound for a and the sound for t, but the word cat sounds to them like only one sound, and how three sounds could be only one sound was for a long time beyond their comprehension. This was a most useful exercise in analysis.

When it came to teaching us to say "the cat is on the mat," they had their innings. An Indian does not say "the cat is on the mat," he may say that the cat is sitting on the mat, or that it is lying on the mat, or that it is located on the mat; but we had to look elsewhere for the word is. That was also a useful exercise. Then there were other difficulties. There was a picture of a chicken standing in a pan. He had no business there, of course. In my mind's eye I can still see that long-legged creature standing there with an apprehensive look, as though waiting for someone to shoo him away. Now, there are some words in every language that sound so much like other words in the same language that it is almost impossible for a stranger to tell them apart; and in this instance it happened that there are two other words which sound so much like the word for chicken that I could not always be sure whether I was saying that a chicken was in the pan, or whether it were berries or a cow. Eventually, however, enough of these difficulties were surmounted to enable us to get upon a working basis. A number of the lessons in the primer and the first reader were translated and the children began to write English and to make little compositions.

Writing translations of English into an Indian dialect is a task by itself. There are sounds which cannot be represented by our system of spelling. Fortunately it was not necessary for us to invent an alphabet. Before leaving the United States, I called upon Major Powell in Washington, who very kindly presented me with several valuable books on Indian dialects. From them I learned that an alphabet had been constructed, based upon our English alphabet, by means of which almost any language can be written. It is strictly phonetic. That is, each character represents one sound, and one only. [7/8] The letter q stands for German ch; x for a sound similar to the French r, and so on. The one word which translates "I thank thee" is a good example of Ten'a spelling. It is noxwoqourcrigudastcet. A page of this kind of writing has something unfamiliar about it at first.

In the course of time, translations were made from the Bible and the Prayer Book, and the people were able to hear the message of salvation in their own tongue.

The Indian stories which are handed down from one generation to another are a great source of information regarding the language and the beliefs of the people. Some of these stories were written down in the native dialect and English translations were made of them. The story tellers were extremely patient in helping me to make these records of a vanishing culture. They would work with me by the hour, repeating phrases for my unaccustomed ear; but, of course, the result was never more than a distant approximation to the story as originally told. The skeleton of the story was there, but the vivacity which an Indian story teller puts into it was wanting. Many years passed before I succeeded in getting a transcription of an Indian story with all the intimate forms of expression which a native employs. Finally I secured a dictaphone, and found that it was not difficult to obtain the coveted records.

There was one man in the village who was an excellent story teller. His voice was clear and his enunciation distinct. He was one of the older men of the community and is still living. Without previous rehearsal, and with only a few simple directions as to holding the mouthpiece and controlling his voice, he began a story which it took him nearly two hours to record. At times, in his enthusiasm he forgot the directions about the mouthpiece. At such moments he would wave his free arm and raise and lower his body in rhythm with the dictation. Such passages were somewhat obscure, but they were perfectly intelligible to a native audience. At last, then, the desired record was secured, but the transcription into the written form and the translation into English, which was done with the help of native friends, extended over several weeks. Subsequently other records were made, and some of these were Indian songs. These have been pronounced free from the influence of talking-machine English by [8/9] so competent an authority as Dr. Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution who has met our people several times. To one who is unacquainted with the people and the language, these records would hardly appear to be satisfactory, but to a student who can appreciate them they are of great assistance.

The account of the acquisition of this material is, of course, part of the history of the mission, although it has led me away from tile account of those early years. Beside the two log houses which Mr. Parker purchased, there was a third, near ours, belonging to the Alaska Commercial Company. This was occupied, late in the fall, by a Jesuit priest, Father Robaut, who arrived with a lay brother. Unknown to us they had also determined upon Anvik as a favorable place for beginning work. During the winter, however, they suffered severely from sickness, and the next year, 1888, they went forty miles farther down the Yukon and located at the native village of Kosereffsky, where they founded the mission which has given the name of Holy Cross to that place. It is now a flourishing mission, with a large staff of priests, lay brothers and sisters, and a boarding school of one hundred and fifty or more boys and girls, with cattle and horses, extensive gardens and a sawmill and other accessories, including an infirmary. Father Robaut is still living there although much broken in health of mind and body. During his sickness at Anvik we had opportunities of being of service to him, and later on we had many marks of appreciation.

One of the unexpected features of our first year was the gradual approach of winter. We knew that some of the natives were expecting to make dugouts, and we were surprised to find them indifferent to the increasing cold. It was not until November 20 that a family broke ground near us and began to prepare their winter habitation. It was finished within a few days, and I presume that they passed the winter more comfortably than we did. Certainly, they lived on a more economical scale. Their shack contained only one room, ten feet square and about six feet high in the center. As we looked down upon it from our house, it seemed to be only a heap of earth with smoke arising from the top. It sheltered seven persons, and this was rather less than the average of the similarly housed families of the community.

[10] On December 21 conditions were different. The temperature was forty-eight degrees below zero and the frost on our unprotected window panes was three-fourths of an inch thick. At this season the sun is above the horizon nearly four hours daily. Daylight lasts about six hours. It seemed a pity to lose what light there was on account of the frost on the windows. At night, wooden shutters were put up, or a blanket hung outside the window. Then the heat of the room melted part of the frost. Later, we learned to double glaze the sash; the air space between the outer and the inner panes helping to prevent the accumulation of the frost.

We kept the blessed Christmas feast in peace. Forty-three years have passed; and each year this feast has been joyfully celebrated and each year we have been reminded as though by the voices of angels, that the essence of Christianity is good will.

The record for January and February of 1888 shows what alternations of temperature may be expected during a northern winter. From January 6-16 the thermometer did not register below zero. On the twenty-eighth a call came from the Russian Mission, one hundred and twenty-miles farther down the Yukon, for Mr. Parker to visit a Russian trader who was sick. When he returned he traveled in a temperature of fifty-two degrees below zero. At such temperatures I have been able to get butter from a barrel only with the aid of a hammer and chisel. Sleds arrived from St. Michael at this time, having made the journey in four and a half days. We needed flour; and I made preparations to go to St. Michael in February. In the course of this journey we had more trouble from water than we had from cold or snow. There were days when I worked for hours at a time bareheaded and barehanded, and this is not an uncommon experience.

During the summer of 1888 we began to make preparations to occupy the new site which had been selected for the mission; but operations were suspended while we made a trip to St. Michael in our own boat for supplies. Among these were an organ and two sewing machines, sent by friends of the mission at Mr. Parker's request. After thirty-five years of use the organ was retired from public service, somewhat the worse for the infirmities of age, and its place was taken by another of the same excellent make, an Estey, [10/11] given us as a memorial by a friend. At this time there was with us at St. Michael a Church of England missionary who was working under great difficulties farther up the Yukon. This poor fellow had several people to clothe, and his supplies having been sent by a roundabout overland route, could not reach him until midwinter. He looked upon our two sewing machines with so much appreciation that Mr. Parker suggested to me that we might give him one as we could see no immediate use for more than one at Anvik. Our brother thus went back to his post with an outlook considerably brighter than he had when he opened his mail.

For personal reasons, Mr. Parker was obliged to make a flying visit to the United States. He left me with the expectation of returning before the winter closed in. I went back and finished the first little house which was built upon the new site, and opened school. I was foolish about building this house. I thought that I would make something a little different from the dugouts of the natives, or the log houses of the traders. Or perhaps I thought that I could save lumber by building differently. So I had the workmen split the logs and hew a plank out of each half. Then, in order that this building, which was fifteen feet square and about ten feet high, should have an appearance which would do us credit, these planks must be planed. I had brought a wooden jack plane with me. The first thing that my native assistants did, without consulting me, was to enlarge the throat of the plane, so that the shavings could go through more easily. Then they took off the handle and nailed a bar across each end. Then two men sat down facing each other on the plank that was to be planed and one pushed while the other pulled. And it was not a stylish house after all; and worse than that, it was not comfortable. I have sometimes thought that we might take lessons from the natives and make more use than we do of their way of building. The dugouts are quickly and easily built. They are inexpensive and easily heated. In an emergency they are invaluable; but they have practically disappeared and the natives are living in log cabins.

On November first Mr. Parker returned. He had come overland from the Kuskokwim country and with native guides and a native canoe had made the portage between the Kuskokwim and the Yukon [11/12] rivers. They were overtaken by cold weather before reaching the Yukon, and in crossing a lake on the portage they were obliged to break a way through the ice. He had an Englishman's courage and determination. We passed a good winter, working and studying together. School was kept in the little house already mentioned, and being nearer to the native village, the attendance averaging fifteen was better than the previous year.

In January 1889 I went with Mr. Parker to the Shageluk country, some twenty-five miles to the eastward. Our object was to visit the people and see what the prospect might be for work among them. These people were for a long time less affected by contact with white men than any others in the vicinity. We witnessed the conclusion of a native feast and the incantations of an Indian medicine man. We also saw something of the famous sweat bath for which these northern tribes are celebrated, and even had a share in it which was not altogether anticipated.

These baths were taken in the great kashime, or common house, where all public gatherings are held. It is also a workshop and a dormitory for the young, unmarried men. We called it the city hall. It is partly underground, like the dwelling houses. One descends into it through a kind of tunnel. The sides are made of split sticks, set up on end. There is a high ceiling of logs rising towards the center; around the room, at a height of about three feet from the floor, there is a wide shelf of heavy planks. The whole of the interior is blackened with smoke. In the middle of the plank floor there is a large pit, some three feet deep. When preparations are made for a bath, the planks which cover this pit are removed and piled up at either side. They form quite a barricade, so that one lying on the floor behind them is in a measure protected from the heat.

Those who wish to take the bath strip themselves and lie down on the wide shelf. They have wooden bowls of snow near them to cool their heads and bunches of fine shavings, like excelsior, in their mouths to strain out the smoke. A bonfire is kindled in the pit. The cold air rushes down through the tunnel, strikes the fire in the pit and is carried upward, a roaring column of flame, through a hole in the apex of the ceiling. The bathers stand it as long as they can and [12/13] then rush out, reeking with sweat, to cool themselves off in the snow.

There are other forms of the sweat bath, but this is the kind that we saw. I had previously been near enough to one to know what it was like; but this was Mr. Parker's first experience. Consequently, when our valises were taken and put behind the barrier of planks in order that they might be protected from the heat, he thought that it would be better to lie down there also, so that he might keep an eye upon them. I took my place near the entrance tunnel, where the cool air came in, expecting that when the fire began to get hot he would he roasted out. It grew hotter and hotter and still he did not come. I could not see him where he lay behind the planks, and finally I became anxious and started to see what might be the matter. There were cries from the Indians, "Go back," "Take off your parka," and so on, in the native tongue. When I caught sight of Mr. Parker he was lying on the floor, stripped to his underclothing and calling for snow. It was too late to go back and I dived down beside him. Friendly hands stripped off my outer garments. The heat and the smoke seemed insupportable. I found a crack in the floor and stuck my nose into it. This afforded a little relief. At length, when it seemed as though I could endure nothing more, the fire went down. The cold air poured in, and we were relieved but neither of us ever took another kashime sweat bath.

In February, Mr. Parker began to urge the necessity of Christian marriage upon the people. I think now that it was best, although it did not then appear to me to be so. We had made sufficient progress with the language to be able to translate the marriage service. It has been an agreeable experience to me to find that these early translations have stood the test of time.

Many marriages were solemnized before the snow of this winter of 1888-1889 had disappeared. I do not know how this appeared to the natives. Some of the marriages were of couples who had been living together for years. They were, of course, instructed beforehand. Conjugal relations were extremely loose among them and the significance of the vow of fidelity was impressed upon them. This was something that they had to think about. There was one old fellow who always had a twinkle in the corner of his eye. "I don't [13/14] know," he said, "most of our children are grown up, but she doesn't take very good care of the younger ones. I might think that I had better get someone else." However, they were married and there was no domestic trouble that we ever heard of. As a matter of fact, Christian marriage has proved to be a most effectual means of keeping families together.

Again we went to St. Michael. Our neighbor, Mr. Fredericks, was summoned to take charge of that post by the Alaska Commercial Company. He put his two boys in our charge and made arrangements for their support. Part of the arrangement was, that a good sailboat, of greater capacity than ours, should become the property of the mission. Now we had a better boat; and the idea began to take shape in my mind, that it might be possible to sail from Anvik to St. Michael and return, with the sailboat, instead of having to depend upon the steamboat for bringing up our supplies. Later on I did this, with a crew of native boys from Anvik; but it took us twenty-five days, and nothing was gained but experience.

In July 1889, Mr. Parker having completed his agreement with the Board of Missions, returned to the United States for good. In this year, trade on the Yukon began to increase somewhat, and a river steamboat, The Arctic, of two hundred tons capacity, with accommodations for passengers, was put into commission by the Alaska Commercial Company. She was 154 feet long. St. Michael was a busy place that summer. There was a party of government surveyors accompanied by a group of scientists to be taken more than a thousand miles up the Yukon to help to establish the line between Alaska and Canada.

I did not have the pleasure of traveling to Anvik with this party on the new steamboat, but went up as usual, in a tow behind a smaller boat. During our stay at St. Michael, Mr. Parker and I had the great pleasure of meeting Commander Stockton of the Thetis, whose representations had great weight in inducing the Board of Missions to undertake work in Alaska.

As it happened, it was no great misfortune that I had been unable to take passage on The Arctic. I reached Anvik before she did, and a few days later had word that she was coming, with a sawmill for the mission. Some time during the year previous, I had written to [14/15] my father that I would rather have a sawmill than a gold mine, thinking of the squalid way in which the people were living and of the task that faced us, in providing the mission with suitable buildings. I had not thought that the remark would be taken seriously, and I was amazed and somewhat dismayed to hear that one was being sent to us. I knew how to use a jacknife but I had never had anything to do with a sawmill or a steam engine. It has been a valuable adjunct of the mission and the credit for making it work has been given to me, but it belongs to another man. I have often thought of the faith of my father, who had hard work enough to make a living for his family, and of the generosity of the Church people who made it possible for him to send us that costly gift.

The reason why I was fortunate in not having taken passage on The Arctic is, that while crossing from St. Michael to the mouth of the Yukon, she encountered a storm and sank in the shallow water of Behring's Sea. I did not know of this when I was informed that she was coming with our sawmill, so it was no surprise to me when she arrived at Anvik a little later. It appeared that when the tide went down she was able to use our boiler in pumping the water out of her hull.

I had great enjoyment of the two Fredericks boys at this time. The older boy was interested in history. Once he looked up from his book and exclaimed, "I think the United States is the freest country in the world." His younger brother was alive to everything that was going on. He gave me admirable accounts of the hunting adventures which he heard about from the Indians. Also he had deeper thoughts. Once he came and stood squarely in front of me and said,

"Mr. Chapman, whose is this world--all?"

"Is it yours, Georgie?"


"Is it mine?"


"Whose do you think it is?"

"Belongs to God?"


"I thought so."

These boys had been well taught at home, and responded to [15/16] training. Later on, their father sent them to the United States, to give them additional advantages, such as could not then be had in Alaska. No one then dreamed that within a generation there would be an excellently equipped college in the heart of the territory, available to the ambitious youth of both sexes. The Church should take courage from this achievement of President Charles Bunnell.

The work of the mission went steadily on during the three years between the winter of 1889-90 and the summer of 1893, when I first returned to the United States.

In the spring of 1890 occurred one of those infrequent floods which occasionally accompany the breaking of the ice in the Yukon. These floods appear to be local, and to be caused by the ice jamming at some contracted point in the channel. At this time of my first experience with them it had seemed incredible to me that the water should rise forty feet higher than the low water level, although the natives had told me that it might do so. It has occurred three times during the forty-three years of my residence in Anvik. The water remains at the high stage only a day or two and then goes down, leaving everything covered with a layer of mud. The loss to the mission from this source has been comparatively slight; but the annoyance has been great; and on this account we have found it expedient to raise the ground on which the mission stands, by washing down earth from the hills which stand directly in the rear. The strip of land between the hills and the river is so narrow that it is necessary to do this in order to secure room for building.

On this occasion, when the water went down, the machinery of our new sawmill was covered with slimy mud. Two prospectors who had wintered near us offered their help, and before the summer was over, the mill was running and turning out lumber. This was due to Mr. Marcus O. Cherry, a layman who came out during the summer. Mr. Cherry had considerable ability as a mechanic, but he remained only two or three years and his work was continued by Mr. Maurice Johnson, who was a seasoned Alaskan. In 1893 he built the church, the first one built in Alaska under the auspices of the Episcopal Church. It was twenty-five feet square, made of spruce logs, squared at the sawmill. The men of the village helped to put [16/17] them in place, making that their contribution to the building. The weight of the church was supported upon sections of large spruce logs, set upright in holes sunk into the perpetual frost. These foundations lasted for over thirty years, when decay set in and in 1926 the building was taken down and removed to a better site, a few yards distant, and rebuilt upon concrete foundations. The old site is marked by a cross. The original logs are retained in the new building, although they are covered with shingles. The remodelled church, as well as all our buildings, was done under the direction of a good neighbor and skillful mechanic, Mr. William C. Chase, whose patience and kindness are inexhaustible.

The church, as originally built, cost twelve hundred dollars, one-half of the first United Thank Offering of the Woman's Auxiliary.

Six years of pioneering passed, with its lights and shadows. At the end of that period, one might be forgiven for being uncertain whether or not he would be fit to present himself in civilized society. The "perils of the wilderness" are not solely or even chiefly physical, and they are intensified by solitude. As I look back, I can see and be thankful for two great sustaining factors of that period. One was the day's work, with its human contacts, especially the care and training of the boys. I usually had half a dozen or more living in the house with me. The other was the constancy of the Church and of those at home with whom my relations were closest.

When I recall David's warning to "put not your trust in any child of man," and his estimate of the love of woman, it has often seemed to me that the contrast between the effect wrought upon society by the institution of polygamy and the effect upon character resulting from the institution of Christian marriage was something which was beyond the scope of his vision. Those cautions may have been well enough for the conditions which produced Saul and Joab and Absalom, but they are no kind of watchword for the Christian missionary who hopes to associate others with him in the work of advancing the cause of Christ. If there is one thing which has been conspicuous in the life of the mission at Anvik, it is the fidelity of a group of Christian women.

There never has been a time when it has not been possible to [17/18] regard the work of the Church, either at home or abroad, either as a hazardous experiment or as a glorious opportunity. This is especially true of the work of the Church in the Alaskan field as late as 1893. There was at that time prevalent in the United States, an impression that life in Alaska was attended with extraordinary risks. As late as 1900 I was unable to get life insurance on ordinary terms. Prior to 1890 a letter reached a member of our family from one who had been associated with missionary effort in the territory, containing the expression that "Alaska was no place for a woman to live." My mother's comment upon this was, that it did not show a right spirit on the part of the writer.

These conditions were well known to Mrs. Chapman, Miss Bertha Sabine and Dr. Mary Glenton when they returned with me in 1894, after my first visit home on furlough. I wish that it were in my power to give adequate expression to my appreciation of the resolute spirit and cheerful devotion with which they and many others with whom I have been associated at Anvik, both men and women, have adapted themselves to the conditions of a life which has made great demands upon them.

Deaconess Sabine served at Anvik and elsewhere in Alaska twenty years and retired at the age of seventy. Later, Mrs. McConnell served fourteen years. Miss Farthing, after her service at Anvik, went to Nenana, where she died, as Bishop Crimot of the Roman Catholic Mission said in speaking to me, "Truly a martyr to duty." Two others who are still in Alaska after serving not less than ten years in Anvik and elsewhere are Deaconess Anna C. Sterne and Miss Margaret Bartberger. Not less devoted are others whose terms are shorter, with whom I have recently been associated. Alaska is, like all other countries, a good or a bad place for a woman, depending upon the woman.

Deaconess Sabine, "Sister Bertha," was the only woman who has served at Anvik to make any considerable headway in learning to speak the native language. She was an indefatigable visitor in the native homes and acquired quite an extensive vocabulary, to which she constantly made additions. She delighted in telling the scripture stories and made great use of pictures for that purpose. This was one means by which she learned many native words and expressions.

[19] Both she and Mrs. Chapman came to look upon Anvik as home. Dr. Glenton helped us at Anvik, was godmother to our son, helped Mrs. Prevost at Tanana, helped a trader on the coast who sent for her in time of critical need. This made it necessary for her to camp out on the trail in midwinter. For making this trip she was decorated with an elaborate set of fur garments, made as only the expert Eskimo women of the coast know how to make them. Afterwards she went to China and was decorated by the Chinese government for humanitarian services and for her courage.

With the coming of these ladies began the development of a girls' boarding school. A house was provided for Sister Bertha and several girls were put under her charge. This work has continued until the present time, when we are caring for thirty pupils, twenty-four of whom are girls. Two of the former pupils of the school are in Florida, one is in New York and two are in the State of Washington. Others are living in various places in Alaska. These pupils, almost without exception, have a good report from those among whom they are living. Sixteen of the children whom we now have are children of former inmates of the mission.

Housing these children has been one of our major problems. Generally speaking, the houseroom has been inadequate, and it is so at present. Twice we have built, only to lose the buildings by fire. Another fire deprived us of our dwelling house. In every case we have been able to rebuild but it has been a real struggle to keep ahead of our requirements.

Other problems of the first importance are providing food, fuel, and water. Our children are clothed, mainly by the devotion of the Woman's Auxiliary. Most of our provisions are purchased in Seattle; but we are able to help out materially by fishing and by cultivating gardens. Several of our ladies have been enthusiastic gardeners. For a few years past, until last year, our energies have been taken up with building, and gardening has not received the attention that it should have had, and that it previously received; but under Miss Hazel Chandler's direction it was successfully revived. The fishing under her direction has also given good returns.

Plowing is done by means of a tractor. Potatoes are an [19/20] uncertain and a rather unsatisfactory crop, but turnips, rutabagas, carrots, beets and cabbages can be depended upon, as well as the vegetables grown more especially for summer use. Fishing is profitable. Salmon are taken in nets and are salted and canned, or dried for the use of the dogs. Berry picking is also profitable. Blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries are usually abundant and are preserved by the usual methods.

Since 1918 we have been able to supply ourselves with reindeer meat, for which we now pay at the rate of twenty cents per pound for whole carcases. If I mention reindeer someone is sure to take it for granted that we own our own herd. This is not the case. I have steadily declined to have anything to do with the industry, on the ground that we cannot give a herd the attention that it requires. The herd which supplies us with meat is located in the Shageluk country, thirty miles to the east of us, and has been of great benefit to this section. It is owned in part by the government, but mostly by a trader and several Indians. During the twelve years since its introduction it has been a source of considerable profit to the owners and has increased from three hundred, the original number in 1918, to more than one thousand at present, in 1930.

An experiment in keeping cattle several years ago warned me of the danger of keeping stock without sufficient help. We acquired two or three cows and a bull and for a few years we enjoyed the milk and the meat from them and their increase; but the difficulties were so great that the venture was not worth while. Native grass grows in abundance, but the rains of July and August make it extremely uncertain whether it can be cured. Native help cannot be depended upon for the milking or for intelligent care and feeding, unless under the most constant supervision. Grain cannot be raised here and it is expensive to import it, but it is necessary if satisfactory results are to be secured. If these conditions can be met, as they are at the Roman Catholic Mission at Holy Cross, a herd may be made a valuable asset to the school.

The problem of a water supply is an important one, and as yet we have found no satisfactory solution. The experiment of sinking wells has been made, but without success. One well was sunk to a depth of forty feet through solidly frozen ground, when [20/21] bedrock was struck without reaching a layer of gravel which might have contained water. Another attempt was made nearer to the river bank. At a depth of forty feet water was encountered and for a short time we hoped that we had been successful, but a little later the water proved to be not only hard, hut of such offensive quality that we were unable to use it. At present we are hauling water from the river and melting snow and ice in the winter. During the summer season the problem is less acute.

During the past few years the spruce growing along the banks of the Yukon has been cut for the steamboats plying on the river, to an extent which has seriously reduced the supply available for fuel. Prices were rising and it was becoming uncertain whether we should be able to get a sufficient supply at any price which we were able to pay. The prospect was rather alarming, for I have not yet heard of any satisfactory way of living in the Yukon Valley without fuel. At this juncture, coal began to be produced in the neighborhood of Fairbanks. For the past two years we have burned Alaskan coal and we have found it not only better fuel than any other except the limited quantity of birch, but cheaper and easier to handle than birch at the present price of eight dollars per cord. It was to me a matter of profound relief to find that the price of coal was not prohibitive.

On July 26, 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondyke district of Canada. The Klondyke river empties into the Yukon at Dawson. Dawson, the door to the Klondyke, was therefore the magnet which in 1897 and 1898 drew adventurers from all parts of the world in quest of gold. Part of these went over the difficult mountain passes near Skagway and made their way to the upper reaches of the Yukon, where they constructed boats or rafts and floated down the river to Dawson but great numbers preferred the less laborious route from Seattle to St. Michael and thence up the Yukon upon the large river steamboats which were rapidly built and put in commission by the commercial companies, or by means of a weird assortment of steam driven craft which individuals or small groups of gold seekers contrived by some means to get into the mouth of the Yukon, hoping to make the sixteen hundred miles which still faced them, up the swift current of an unknown river. [21/22] Some even embarked in poling boats, with which they ascended the river a distance of a few hundred miles. Many were compelled to winter at various places along the river. In 1898 four parties wintered at Anvik or in the vicinity.

Disappointment and homesickness made this a gloomy winter for great numbers of men on the Yukon. At Anvik, after our new neighbors had "dug themselves in," we organized regular social meetings, beside the usual religious services. These meetings proved to be of great interest. One member of the little group had been a sailor upon the Great Lakes. Another had been a guide in the Yellowstone Park. A third was an artist trained in Paris who has since attained distinction. Another had been a grocer in New York, and still another had been a Pullman car conductor.

It was arranged that one feature of each weekly meeting should be an account of personal experiences by some member of the group. These informal lectures were of great interest. A neighboring trader whose delightful violin music was to us a great treat of an unusual character sometimes attended these meetings which helped to create so sympathetic and friendly feeling during that winter.

There was also a darker side to our experience during those years. Scurvy attacked some of our neighbors. One patient who was brought to the mission died of this disorder. Another, who was seriously sick, recovered. Three members of a party of five who had wintered some distance up the Anvik fell sick with scurvy, but they all recovered. I was able to visit them but once and their gratitude was altogether disproportionate to the slight service. One member of this party was a well qualified physician.

Occasionally a man would be brought to us in serious need of help. One man had been accidentally tossed into the air and had landed head first on a rock. Another had his arm crushed in the machinery of a steamboat and was past help, but the other recovered. Twice patients were brought with severe gunshot wounds, which might easily have resulted fatally except for a little timely help which we were able to give. One extremely cold night a man was brought in whose foot was frozen, white and stiff, to the ankle. We had him keep it in a pan of cold water, throwing in a handful of snow occasionally to keep down the temperature. After two or [22/23] three hours the color returned to the foot, and he had no trouble with it afterward.

During the winter of 1898 several groups of gold seekers wintered on the Yukon some eighty or one hundred miles above Anvik. We received word that one of them was desperately sick and wished to be brought to the mission. There was an unconfirmed rumor that he had been the victim of foul play. Three of us went to see him and brought him down. The physician who was wintering on the Anvik came down and extracted a bullet from his neck. He lived only a few days. Before his death he told us of the assault which had been made upon him and of the wanton murder of another member of the party. The murderer was arrested and he and his party were brought to Anvik. Word was sent to the military authorities on the coast and a detachment was sent over to take the party in charge. The case was tried at Sitka and the guilty man was executed.

We have especial reason to remember with gratitude the services of several of our white neighbors of this period. Mr. Wallace Blain accompanied Mr. Black and myself when we brought down the wounded man referred to above. Later, Mr. Blain sent for his family and for some time they lived near us. Mrs. Blain and two of her children were baptized at the mission. We regretted losing them as neighbors when it became necessary for them to move.

Three others with whom our relations were unusually cordial were Messrs. Pickarts, Hendricks, and Van Note. Messrs. Pickarts and Hendricks were among the early arrivals of genuine prospectors. In the fall of 1906 they came out of the hills on the Innoko River, where they had been searching unsuccessfully in a region which has since become a gold producing district. There were two others in the party. They were in need of us and we were in need of them. Their provisions and clothes were reduced to the lowest terms; but their courage was unabated and they were hard as nails. On our side, the sawmill foundations had settled and the track was so badly out of line that we could not operate the mill. The usual verbal contract was made and the way that the mill was dismantled and set up again on secure foundations made us proud of our race. Two of the party went on in search of fresh gold fields [23/24] to explore; but Messrs. Pickarts and Hendricks remained and we had the comfort of their helpful presence for several years. They made the altar which we value as a memorial of their good will. Mr. Hendricks was confirmed at the mission and became a communicant.

Mr. Edwin Van Note joined our little community in the fall of 1897. He was a young Churchman who had had some training as a choir boy in a New York parish. He had come to Alaska with the approval of his family to look for a business opening, rather than as a prospector. His sympathies were naturally with us; and finding it necessary to remain at Anvik during the winter he became interested in the work that we were doing and asked if he might have a share in it. He had a remarkably good ear for the difficult sounds of the native language and learned to read the commandments in Ten'a. With this equipment and with Isaac Fisher as a companion he spent three weeks on the Shageluk, going from village to village and teaching the people to memorize the commandments. He found many glad to learn and was very successful. By teaching one commandment to one individual and another to another, he was able to leave the whole body of the commandments in each of three villages. He and Mr. Hendricks became partners in a business venture which took them to what is now Fairbanks. They engaged several men to help them, promising to bring them down to Anvik in time to catch a late steamboat for St. Michael. Mr. Van Note kept the promise, which involved long hours in an unheated pilothouse. When he reached Anvik he was suffering from pneumonia, from which he died in December, 1899. The prayer desk and lectern in the church are a memorial given by his parents. His happy disposition and fine character made him many friends. Towards the end he realized the seriousness of his condition and spoke freely of himself. Christian ministrations to such a man are a privilege such as anyone might covet.

Isaac Fisher's death, three years ago, deprived me of a companionship which had lasted more than thirty-five years. He grew up in the mission from childhood and was a loyal adherent. He was extremely patient and helpful in making translations. His perfect familiarity with the native language and his skill in interpreting the [24/25] meaning of the native idioms made his help invaluable in making the many revisions upon which we worked together. His genuine good sense and good nature expressed itself in many ways. He was an excellent hunter and trapper and it was characteristic of him that the attractions of the native feasts were not sufficient to keep him from attending to his trap lines. He took great pride in having a good dog team and in having his harness and sled in good condition. His dogs were well trained. He accompanied me on more journeys than anyone else. Once, while on a trip with him, I saw him unhitch his team of seven or eight clogs from the sled and direct them by his voice which way to go, to lie down at command and to get up and come to him when he was ready for them.

He was an excellent provider for his large family and was devoted to his children. He had the fault, common to most of the natives of being willing to go into debt for unnecessary articles. I have sometimes thought that this is not so much the fault of the natives as of the competition among the traders, most of whom think it necessary to give credit on an extensive scale in order to secure as many customers as possible and especially to attach the best trappers to their interests. But out of kindheartedness they sometimes extend generous help in times of emergency, which the natives do not sufficiently appreciate.

Isaac was preparing to go out upon the usual spring hunt in 1927, when an epidemic of influenza reached us, and soon the survivors were hardly able to bury the dead. He put aside his own plans in order to help in marked contrast to several individuals who left the neighborhood, and within a few days he fell sick and died. Towards the end he imagined himself on the trail, hauling provisions to his camp in the wilderness, and in that imagined effort to provide for his own, and with an expression of the cheerful courage which formed so great an element in his character, he passed away. 1day he, who had learned how to forgive those who had injured him, find mercy of God in that day.

As the events of more than a generation pass in review through my mind, I realize how great a part sickness has played among the vicissitudes of the mission.

Major accidents among the natives have been surprisingly few, [25/26] considering that our people depend so largely upon their guns for a living. It is true that I have had to set broken bones and to deal with a few serious gunshot wounds. There have also been several drowning accidents, but the mortality from these causes is trifling compared with the ravages caused by tuberculosis, with its ever present drain upon vitality, and various epidemics of various types.

Infection from tuberculosis meets us daily and in whatever direction we turn. It is so general throughout the region that it would probably be within the bounds of truth to say that there is no native who has not been or who is not almost certainly destined to be affected by it in some form. It is, doubtless, owing to this fact that epidemics have been so fatal. Twice, during my recollection, we have had destructive epidemics of influenza and once of diphtheria; beside less fatal visitations of scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps and measles. On two occasions we have vaccinated the entire population of this vicinity, native and white.

The story of our recent experience with smallpox is of interest, as illustrating the methods of dealing with emergencies now available to isolated missions. At the close of the year 1928, rumors reached us of smallpox having appeared in the vicinity of St. Michael. Some time previous to this we had established an amateur radio station at the mission and I was in almost daily communication with one or another of several Alaskan amateurs in various parts of the territory, through whom I was able to keep check upon the progress of the epidemic. One of these, Mr. Oliver, was a government teacher on St. George Island, one of the seal islands in Behring's Sea; another was Mr. Robinson, at Nenana, and a third was Mr. Pence, in Iditarod, one hundred miles east of Anvik. All these gentlemen were competent operators. Through Mr. Robinson I was in touch with Fairbanks, where the health officer for this section had his headquarters. From him I learned that the supply of vaccine had been exhausted, but that a fresh supply was on the way and that some would be sent to us by mail as soon as it should be received. As soon as it became evident that the disease had gained a foothold on the Yukon. and was gradually coming nearer to us, Mr. Oliver gave me a daily schedule and secured special privileges for my messages from the authorities of the Naval Telegraph [26/27] System in Alaska. Thus I was enabled to keep in touch with the health officer at Juneau who was responsible for the entire territory. Mails reach us in winter only twice a month, but on one occasion at least, one of my radio messages was in Juneau within two or three hours after it left Anvik.

At length smallpox appeared in an Indian camp two miles below Anvik. The vaccine which was expected by mail had not arrived and I had learned that it was less than would be required for our needs. I made a positive identification of the disease and a message was sent to Governor Parks, at Juneau, and in less than forty-eight hours a plane arrived from Fairbanks with a supply of vaccine, in compliance with orders from him. A radio message from him in reply to my message reached me through Mr. Oliver twenty minutes before the mail carrier arrived with a copy of the same message which had been sent through the regular channels of wireless and mail communication.

On the arrival of the vaccine, Miss Amelia Hill set to work, and within a few days, with the help of our neighboring traders furnishing transportation and helping with the vaccinations, our entire section was covered, with the fine result that no new cases appeared. This was in marked contrast with the other communities between Anvik and the coast, none of which escaped without a severe attack of the epidemic. On this occasion, the native population cooperated in all quarantine measures and welcomed our assistance, a striking contrast to their conduct in 1904, during the diphtheria epidemic when they attempted to evade restrictions and gave their cooperation only when they were thoroughly alarmed by the number of deaths.

The havoc which has been wrought among our people by the various epidemics which have visited us since the summer of 1000 may be estimated from a brief account of the vital statistics of the communities for which we have a more direct responsibility. In January, 1900, I made an enumeration of the natives living on the Innoko River and the Shageluk slough, and of those living in Anvik and Bonasila on the Yukon. In January, 1914. another enumeration was made, and in April, 1930, still another. Some few individuals have moved to other localities, and on this account in a few instances full statistics are not available, but the following summary [27/28] may be depended upon as approximately correct. Only those in the original list and their lineal descendants are included in the estimate.

Living--January 20, 1900 565
January 20, 1914 432
April 30, 1930 440

It will be noted that there was a decrease of 113, or twenty per cent, between 1900 and 1914. This was caused by a great influenza epidemic in the summer of 1900, followed by diphtheria in 1904 and by whooping cough and measles in a violent form. During the period from 1914 to 1930 the decrease has been less than three per cent, notwithstanding a severe epidemic of influenza in 1927. This would appear to indicate that the population is likely to recover from its losses.

Other statistics are suggestive. Of the 440 now living, eighty-nine, or twenty per cent of the whole number, are children of white fathers and Indian mothers. Most of these children are members of large families and are better cared for than the average of the children of pure native stock.

A comparison of the births and deaths in the families of pure Indian stock and in those of mixed blood may be made as follows:

Pure stock, born since January 20, 1900 391
Died, same period 163 or 41.3%

Mixed blood, born since January 20, 1900 102
Died, same period 13 or 12.7%

Apparently, a child of mixed blood has three times as good a chance of surviving as one of pure Indian stock.

From this our appeals for a nurse may be understood and our joy when the appeal was answered. This means an intelligent effort by the Church, to help the native people to recover from the losses inflicted by the epidemics, especially by reducing the mortality among the young children. I am happy to give my testimony to the faithful work that has been done by our nurses, albeit with great handicaps.

What the future of our little communities may be it is impossible to say. To many, perhaps to most of those who have passed their lives in a more temperate climate, Alaska still seems a forbidding region. To the Frenchman or the Englishman of three hundred years ago, Canada and even New England must have been regarded [28/29] in much the same light. Those who are familiar with Parkman's graphic account of the Jesuit missions in Canada must often have pondered upon the contrast between the harried remnants of the northern tribes which survived the savage raids of the Iroquois, and the results which are apparent today to anyone who is aware of the extent to which New England has become a French Canadian settlement.

The popular impression of Alaska today is not unlike that regarding the Canada of that earlier period. To regard it as a land of homes seems visionary. But it is already a land of homes to many who have found compensations in the stern discipline which it demands of those who are capable of loving it. Strangely enough, the rigorous climate, which has been reckoned as one of its most forbidding features, is now being spoken of in respectful terms as one of its great assets. The paradox has recently been presented to us and has been sponsored by the editor of The Scientific American, that the colder it is, the easier it is to obtain heat and power by taking advantage of the difference in temperature between the unfrozen waters of the rivers and the seas of the north and the low temperatures which exist in the free air above the ice. The thought that there is a sound scientific basis for anticipating that the Yukon may in future become a source of power beside which Niagara will seem insignificant has something about it which is impressive.

The resources of the region lying close to the Arctic circle are poorly understood by the majority of our people; and should such a development as has been indicated take place, the invasion of the north, which is already taking place, would be greatly accelerated.

As I leave the country to which I owe some of the greatest satisfactions which I feel that life can afford, I cannot help believing that there is good reason for the hope that what has already been attained is but a promise of what is yet to come. Of late years, especially. my associations with those who have been sent out by the Church to work with us at Anvik have been such as to give me great confidence that the spirit of adventure for Christ is a living force among us, disposing us to accommodate ourselves to one another and to go forward together to make it possible for others to share in the blessings with which He has sustained us.

[30] A great sustaining force during the long period of my service in Alaska has been the spirit of Christian fellowship which has been constantly manifested by individuals and organizations throughout the Church. Some whom I have met for the first time have told me that they had remembered me daily in their prayers. Others, whom I have never seen, I know have done the same. The faithful support of my Bishop and of the personnel at the Church Missions House and the magnificent benefactions and blessed ministrations of many church groups and the Church Periodical Club have been inexpressibly comforting. The greatest consolation of all, perhaps, is the knowledge that others are ready to take up the work in my place. I could ask for them nothing better than the spirit of unity among themselves and the support of the Church which has been so unstintedly given to me.

Project Canterbury