Here are three photographs from the Pratt Museum’s collection connected to John Herbert and Passage Island. I have mentioned him in a post a few years ago, when I was working with the Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) collection in at the Archives in Fairbanks. According to documents in the ACC collection, John Herbert purchased buildings from the ACC in Seldovia. He also helped people in Nanwalek purchase the ACC building that had become a part of the old Church. Many Elders in Nanwalek have confirmed that the building was bought for two sea otter pelts. Apparently, there were a few men in Nanwalek who worked for Herbert. These men told him that they wanted to buy the buildings that the ACC left behind, as by 1899, the ACC had closed down the store in Nanwalek for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, Herbert sent the following letter to the ACC offices on Kodiak. Please keep in mind, as with all historical documents, I kept the original spelling, grammar and capitalization of letters.
“Homer Nov. 3th 1901
To A.C. Gross –
I have received your letter about the A.C.C. Buildings at Seldovia try to let me know if they are sold or not as soon as possible because if I dont buy them I can buy from the North American Co. There building is for sale. There is two Natif [sic] from Inglish [sic] Bay who are working for me, they told me that they would like to buy the old Buildings that the Co. has in English Bay, if you want get rid of those old building let me know your prices, those party may buy them –
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Polar Regions Archives
Alaska Commercial Company Records 1868-1913
Box 116. Folder 1022 – Kodiak, Letters, Incoming: Homer Station: 1900-07
From a letter dated 1902 December, we know that Herbert had purchased the Seldovia Buildings, but he did not mention the ones in Nanwalek. Therefore, it was interesting to see photos of this man, John Herbert, who had, perhaps unknowingly, secured a part of the old Church building that became a cornerstone of Nanwalek’s and the region’s history. Today this building, the old Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam Churach, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Apparently, he also purchased or rented the area on Passage Island and used it for farming foxes.
This is a photo of some of the fox pens and Herbert’s house in the background. The inscription on the back of the photo says: “John Herbert’s fox pens on Passage Island.”
A view of Passage Island with a large ship in the right side of the frame. Perhaps this photo of the island was taken from Port Graham. “John Herbert’s fur farm on island at Port Graham.”
A photo of John Herbert with two blue foxes on Passage Island.
I was also going through the newspaper collection and found two small articles in the Cook Inlet Courier – one pertains to Nanwalek and one to Port Graham and Seldovia.
English Bay Raises $40 for March of Dimes – 1963. Cook Inlet Courier – February 15, 1963 – Vol. 4, No. 27.
Seldovia-Port Graham Consolidated Cannery -1964. Cook Inlet Courier – May 15, 1964 – page 14