Facts about Fort Ross
Russian American Company was the second European power (after Spain)
to establish a permanent settlement in California, the company was
responsible for many things that were done for the first time. Listed
below are many of the interesting firsts for which the company was
must have a love story. The love story between Court Chamberlain N.P.
Rezanov and Dona Conception Arquello took place before the Russians
had established Fort Ross. The year was 1806 when the Company first
came into California to open trade relations with the Spanish
Californians. The company badly needed the food for their settlements
in Alaska, which the Spanish were growing in California. The Spanish
colonists needed the manufactured goods which the Russian American
Company could offer in trade. Company envoy Rezanov sailed south to
seek trade relations with the Spanish. He ported in San Francisco and
became friends with the family of the commandante of Presidio San
Francisco. He soon became such good friends, that after a wonderful
three month stay, asked for the hand of one of the commandante’s
daughters, Dona Conception. Unfortunately, the marriage could not take
place right away: Rezanov needed permission of the Czar, and Dona
Conception needed the permission of the Pope. Sadly, Count Rezanov
died on his way to St. Petersburg while crossing Siberia. Dona
Conception found out of his death four years later, as the Company
returned to Alta California. Conception died as the first nun of
California. Today there is a Rock Opera performed in Russia and at
times here in California. Could it be that this is the first
star crossed love story between a Russian and a Spaniard in
California? The bookstore carries a title related to this
called ‘Concha, My Dancing Saint’ and
‘The Romance of Nikolai Rezanov and Conception Arquello’.
The RAC and
Settlement Ross was the first to establish a widely used commercial
trade port in California. By Spanish law, California ports were
closed to trade with any foreigners. The Russians, on the other hand,
were willing to trade with any ship. Therefore Port Rumianstev, the
RAC’s shipping and trading port at Bodega Bay, was the first port for
foreign trade in California.
Russians were first to build ships on the west coast of North America.
Four ships were constructed at the Ross colony in Fort Ross Cove. The
first was the brig Rumianstev, launched in 1818. This ship lasted only
until 1823. The second was copper-hulled brig Buldakov. It was
launched in 1820 and was in use until 1826. The third was the brig
Volga, launched in 1822 and in use until 1827. The last brig, Kiakhta
was built in 1824 and it is unknown how long this brig was in use.
The Fort Ross
Chapel, built between 1823 and 1826, was the first Russian Orthodox
church built in the mainland United States. The chapel is a
National Historic Landmark.
Settlement Ross was
the first to have a full-time blacksmith, at times two of them,
in California. The Spanish were soon to learn of this and in fact
employed this blacksmith for use in the missions on occasion.
Also, they were
first to ship glass into California. The glass came from Russia,
which impressed the Spanish and others.
had a vineyard established at one of their local ranches with over
2000 vines. This was the first vineyard north
of San Francisco.
Wildflower, the California Poppy, is tied to Fort Ross.
In 1816, two well known naturalists Johann Friedrich
Eschscholtz and Ludovick de Chamissio, traveling on the ship Riurik,
paid a visit to Colony Ross. Chamissio decided to name the plant after
his good friend and colleague calling it Eschholtzia Californica.
Some of the
first weather statistics in Northern California come from Fort
Ross due to the efforts of the trained agronomist, Igor Chernyhk. In
1836 to help the colony with its agricultural efforts.
surviving building in the original location today north of San
Francisco is at Fort Ross. The Rotchev house
is about 170 years old. It is in the original location with most of
the original timbers. It is thought to be the oldest building between
San Francisco and Alaska.
Fort Ross today is
one of the premier sites for archaeology in California due to
the multi-cultural groups who lived and worked at Fort Ross.
The RAC flag
the second European flag to fly over what is called California
The Russians had
more cannon (and never had to use them in anger) than any other
settlement in the North Pacific. The RAC, in fact, sold to the Spanish
several cannon and black powder.
Islands were inhabited by the RAC as a hunting ground.
During the Gold
Rush, eight years after Fort Ross was abandoned, The Russian
American Company supplied San Francisco with ice towed behind the