RELICS OF RUSSIANS.
Fort Ross, Its Watch Tower and Church.
A Proposition to Have Them Reproduced at the Fair.
An Apple Tree Over Eighty Year Old Interest Taken by the Russians in Old Structures.
The suggestion made in the Bulletin the other day regarding the exhibition in fac simile at the Mid-winter Fair of buildings and relics of historic interest at Fort Ross is likely to bear good fruit. G. W. Call of this city is owner of the land on which the old fort stands and is much interested in the idea. He says he would assist in every way he could to have the suggestion carried out.
The illustrations accompanying this article are of the old church and one of the watch-towers. They have been made for the Bulletin from photographs in the possession of Mr. Call. He has also a large oil painting of the fort, showing its situation on a plateau overlooking the harbor. It is located on a commanding spot eleven miles north of the terminus of the South Pacific Coast Railroad, in Sonoma county.
The buildings were constructed by the Russians in 1812. There were, originally, forty or fifty of them, but many have fallen into decay. There are ten still standing in addition to two of the watch-towers. At one time there were as many as 500 people in the little settlement. The original group of buildings were all embraced in a stockade, within which were about two acres of ground. Most of the stockade is down. All of the structures were of wood obtained from the neighboring forest.
The Fort Ross property was sold by the Russians to General John A. Sutter in 1841, and has been owned by Mr. Call for the past twenty years.
Bishop Vladimir, who until a late date had ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Greek Church on this coast, took great interest in the old buildings at Fort Ross and spent days at that spot in making careful observations of the decaying structures and other historical objects there. He wrote to the Czar about the matter suggesting that the property be bought by the Russian Government, and that the buildings be as far as possible preserved or restored, because of their historical interest. Soon after the Bishop was recalled and it is not known what answer, if any, was made to his communication to the Czar.
Mr. Call declares that neither Sutters Fort nor any of the old Spanish missions is an object of more historical interest or importance than Fort Ross. He would not permit the destruction of any of the buildings, nor is he disposed to consent even to the temporary removal of any of them from the original site for exhibition purposes. But he thinks it would be an excellent plan to have the old church and one or both the watch-towers reproduced in fac simile at the Fair grounds.
The watch-towers are of squared logs, dovetailed at the corners. Originally they were upright, but one is toppling over in consequence of decay. The towers are thirty-two feet in diameter and about thirty-five feet high. The church is about 24x36 feet on the ground.
The house of the Russian Governor is still standing. One of its most interesting features is a massive chimney of cut stone.
Mr. Call says there is an apple tree, probably eighty years old, still flourishing at Fort Ross. This year it is bearing a heavy crop of fruit. He thinks a picture of this old tree, and also some of its fruit should be shown at the Fair, along with other things that could be gathered at the fort. There are relics of various kinds, such as wooden utensils, that would be viewed with interest. Among these are huge wooden candle-sticks that were used in the old church. Over one of the graves in the churchyard is a tall column of wood, in lien of a tombstone. This might easily be reproduced for the Fair.
It is hoped that Sonoma county will take steps to secure a representation at the Mid-winter Fair of the buildings above described, and of other objects at Fort Rots. But Mr. Call thinks there is not much prospect of such action by the county, and that the desired exhibit will not be had from that source. He is willing to assist the Fair management to the best of his means and ability, should it undertake to carry out the plan of setting up fac similes of the Fort Ross buildings as suggested.
It might suffice to reproduce the buildings on a reduced scale.
The [San Francisco] Evening Bulletin, Friday, November 3, 1893.
Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 6, No. 11, July 1999