California Used To Be A Russian Colony

Samuel Reason - October 21st, 2019

Located about a hundred miles north of San Francisco, Fort Ross was a Russian colony that was meant to become permanent. Just perched along California’s lushly scenic route of Highway 1 just under 60 miles north of the massive city of San Francisco there is a dark wooden structure that might have been taken straight out of a Russian fairy tale.

This is the rustic village of a domed church that was part of the Russian Orthodox Churches, Fort Ross. Now it is just a small chapel that has become a national historic landmark because between 1812 and 1841 there was a whole colony of Russians. They hoped they would claim the land that they thought was fertile and rich with animal life.

In 1799 Tsar Paul I was able to set up a joint initiative to encourage trade between the two nations and also expand Russia’s colonization efforts. Before sailing to California, Russia had settled in Alaska where they had hunted otters and sold their pelts. However, as we know, the Alaskan climate is harsh and not very forgiving. The settlements struggled to keep their people fed, with their population dwindling, they decided to look south for better conditions.

In 1803, 40 Russians and over 150 Alaskan natives sailed far south with an American captain Joseph O’Cain at the helm. The leader of the expedition, Ivan Kuskov, found an area in California that was rich with pelts and skins and also where the soil was fertile. He planted a plaque to claim the land for Russia. And then in 1812, they returned to establish an outpost.

However, when they arrived and built their Fortress Ross, they found that the land was already occupied by the Native Kashaya Pomo people. The Russians had to buy the land which apparently they did for just 3 blankets, 3 breeches, two axes, three hoes, and some beads. Still, the natives outnumbered the Russians by estimates at least five to one, luckily, relationships were good and there was even an amount of intermarriage between natives and Russians.

Unfortunately, the climate had been misread and growing crops in this damp part of California, proved near impossible. Furthermore, they could not expand as Mexican and Spanish colonies were in the South and much more hostile than the natives. After about a decade which sent the otter population in the region too near extinction, and an outbreak of smallpox which devastated the native population – the Russians called it quits and decided to leave. They sold their holdings back to the U.S. office in 1867.

Next Article
  • Scientist Breaks Bank With Data Roaming Charges While Tracking Eagles

    Local scientists in Russia were busy researching the migrating patterns and habits of the Russian eagles. Unfortunately for them they did not expect the eagles to decide on some of the birds deciding they wanted a vacation in Iran and Pakistan. The SMS transmitters they had attached to the birds suddenly incurred huge data roaming...

    Read More
  • The Female Doctor That Had To Live Her Whole Life As A Man

    During the 1800s, certain professions were nearly impossible for a woman to break into, unfortunately, it was a time of great inequality between men and women. One of the professions was the medical domain, where being a doctor was primarily a male role. One bright Irishwoman set out to follow her dreams and in the...

    Read More
  • Over 230 Years Ago Trenton Was The Capital Of America

    Nearly 235 years ago there was a great victory during the American Revolution. Victory in the battle of Trenton pretty much turned the tide of the revolution. And as a result, this famous victory meant that Trenton became the seat of America’s government. However, Trenton’s claim to fame as the capital of the United States...

    Read More
  • When Reading The Fine Print Pays Off

    When signing a contract everyone always reminds you politely and even devilishly: always read the fine print. Of course, not many of us can hold our hands up and say that we did read the fine print. Everyone has heard the saying, but does anyone do it? Insurance contracts can be pages after pages of...

    Read More
  • Hiding Inside Dead Horses On The World War I Battlefield

    During World War I, fighting was ferocious on the battle lines between France and Germany. Both armies had dug themselves into trenches so much so that there was nearly no movement either way. They sat in the trenches for years on end and simply blasted each other as much as they could. The whole landscape...

    Read More
  • The Dangers Of The Dust Bowl Can Be Electrocution By Hug

    During the perils of the Dust Bowl, people that lived in the Northern parts of Texas or Oklahoma had to contend with huge dust storms that could last for days. These were storms of fine flour-like dust particles that would blast through everything: the cracks on the window frames, under the doors and would even...

    Read More
  • Bodega Cats Of New York

    All across the boroughs of New York City, there are over 10,000 little Bodegas stores, it is a term that comes from Latin American Spanish which means a small neighborhood store. Across New York’s five boroughs there are many of these stores. They sell food and goods, an important part of each community, and also...

    Read More