Report on the state of the Aleutian Diocese in 1880

 

 

I. Review of the Diocese

 

On the very first day of the Bright Feast of Holy Pascha, 20 April, almost at noon, the steamship Dora, on which I departed from San Francisco, entered a small inlet of Unga Island. Our sail from San Francisco to this island lasted thirteen and a half days. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon I landed and visited the chapel dedicated to the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. The warden of this chapel, Arkhimandritov by name, is of Creole descent; he spoke Russian rather clearly, and, since he could read Slavonic, upon him was bestowed the sacred duty of celebrating Vigil on the eves of Sundays and Feast Days. Vigil consists of several sung stikhiri, the reading of the Hexapsalmion and one Kathisma. On feast days he reads Hours for the natives. The warden explained to me that there were sick people, four women, who desired to receive the Holy Sacrament of Christ, which I immediately gave them. I visited them in their wretched dwellings (barabori), crowded, stuffy and messy — an inalterable condition of their laborious life. Above the sole small window in each barabora is placed a little shelf with holy icons of different sizes. In front of these icons is affixed a small wax candle-end.

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Wishing to take advantage of the clear and dry weather, I ordered an increase in the number of carpenters to finish the gutters on the roof and some other construction work. These new carpenters did not show up at work because some did not want to miss fishing season, while others were occupied with urgent household business. One carpenter was clearly busy about nothing and out of laziness simply lying on a bench in his home. When a messenger came to summon him to work for the church, he asked: "And how much do they pay for a day?" When he was told, "One half dollar," he waved his hand and announced: "I’d rather myself pay half a dollar to somebody who would go to work in my stead."

I lived on the island of Kodiak until September 2, when I went back to Unalaska on the steamship Dora. Along the way, the steamship stopped at the islands of Semenovsky, Peregrebnoy, Voznesensky, Sanak and Akutan. Since the layovers were short, I did not go on shore with the exception of Voznesensky Island, where I met the priest of the Belkofsky parish, Moisei Salamatov, who had come there to conduct services of need. On 30 September, I arrived back in San Francisco.

 

II. CHURCHES

 

The Aleutian Diocese has nine parishes with nine temples. In all there are twelve churches, counting non-parochial temples. All the churches are wooden.

1) In San Francisco — the church of the Holy Orthodox Great Prince Alexander Nevsky. There was no permanent temple there, only a temporary one, which used to occupy a rented church, formerly Lutheran. When the stone house at 1713 Powell Street was purchased, the church was relocated there and consecrated on March 28, 1881.

2) In Sitka the Cathedral church with three altars in the name of the Holy Archangel Michael, built in 1850. To the Sitka cathedral is assigned a house chapel dedicated to the Annunciation of the Most-holy Theotokos. It was built in 1843 in one of the rooms in the former Bishop’s house in Sitka.

3) In Kodiak, dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, with three altars. One of the side altars was dedicated to the Righteous Theodore and Elizabeth, on October 10, 1875. The other, central or main, altar was dedicated during my stay in Kodiak to the Resurrection of Christ, 13/25 August 1880. There is no present need to consecrate the third altar, and therefore the vestry is now located there.

4) In Unalaska dedicated to the Ascension of Our Lord, built in 1858. To the Unalaska church is assigned the unstaffed church on Atka Island.

5) In Kwithakh, dedicated to the Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, built in 1851. To the Kwikhakh church is assigned the unstaffed church dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord in Kalmakoff Redoubt, built by the efforts of this redoubt’s dwellers in 1848.

6) In Nushagak dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, built in 1866.

7) In Kenai, dedicated to the Dormition of the Most-holy Theotokos, built in 1841.

8) In Belkofsky settlement, dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, build in 1880. And —

9) On St. Paul’s Island, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, built with the blessing of the Right Reverend John [Mitropolsky], Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. It exists since the day of its consecration on May 8, 1877.

The temples in Kwikhakh, Nugashak and Kenai are dilapidated and require significant repair. Besides those churches already mentioned, in the Aleutian Diocese there are 35 chapels and houses of prayer, specifically: in the Kodiak parish — 13 chapels; Unalaska — 10; Kwikhakh — 1; Nugashak — 6 houses of prayer; Belkofsky settlement — 5 chapels. Some of the chapels and houses of prayer are very dilapidated, but all these chapels and houses of prayer were established by the means of the local citizens and, therefore, they will be repaired also by their means.

 

III. Clergy and Mission

 

In education the clergy of the Aleutian Diocese are not outstanding, with the exception of the Archpriest in the San Francisco church, Vladimir Vechtomov, who graduated from the Kazan Theological Academy with a candidate’s degree. The Archimandrite of that same church, Herman [Tseleritsky]; the Priest of the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Sitka, Nicholas Mitropolsky; the Priest of the Kodiak Church of the Resurrection, Alexander Demchensky, are all graduates of theological [seminaries]. Besides all these aforementioned priests assigned to parishes, I also ordained two supernumerary priests — at the request of the citizens of St. George and Atka islands. At St. George’s Island — Nicholas Lestenkof, a Creole, who occupied a minor clerical position at the Church of the Ascension of Christ on Unalaska Island. [For Atka] — Peter Dobrovolsky, also a Creole. Both these priests will be paid their salaries by the inhabitants of the islands.

Communications between all parishes are very difficult: in summer by baidara and in winter — in Nugashak and Kwikhakh missions — by dogs.

 

IV. Schools

 

Studies at the Orthodox church school in San Francisco are the same as reported in the annual report for 1879. The only difference is in the number of students which increased to eight. In the morning they attend an American school for learning the English language; in the evening, they study at home learning the Catechism, Sacred History, the Russian and Slavonic languages, and choral singing. In other places where I happened to visit, there are schools for children, organized through local means. But as there were no classes because it was summertime, I received no information about the number of students in 1880.

 

V. Flock

 

By their various nationalities the Orthodox of the Aleutian Diocese are Slavs of the Serbian and Montenegran tribes, Greeks, Creoles, and various local nations of the Aleut and Indian tribes. <. . .>

From documents presented by the clergy (mostly parish records) it can be observed that on January 1 1880 there are in the Aleut Diocese:

In San Francisco — 272 persons of both sexes

In Sitka — 255 -"-

In Kodiak — 2264 -"-

Unalaska — 1376 -"-

Kwikhpakh — 3106 -"-

Nushagak — 2552

Kenai — 837 -"-

Belkofsky — 643 -"-

St. Paul’s Island — 268 -"-

St. George Island — 359 -"-

Total: 11,932 persons

 

Bishop Nestor

17 February/2 March 1881

No. 610