First Pilgrimage to Fort Ross

1520 Green Street
San Francisco, Calif.

Mrs. M. L. Call
Fort Ross,

July 17th 1925

Dear Madam,
Permit me to express to you my earnest and sincere gratitude for the splendid reception given by you to my parishioners and other Russians, who visited and attended the service at Fort Ross on the 4th of July.

Your kindness created a deep and lasting impression in the hearts of one and all.

Please pardon my inability to express myself in terms fitting to the occasion but be assured, Madam, we appreciated your action very much indeed.

Very sincerely yours
Rev. V. Sakovich


On reading the recent publication in the "Independent Cost Observer" that included a story about the time the Russian-Americans first traveled to Fort Ross in a group, I noted that what was printed was not exactly as I have been told over the years by various members of the Call family. So I approached George Kaye to find out from him what he remembered about the 'event' -- George, a grandson of George and Mercedes Call, is the oldest living Call descendant (a distinction he finds a bit disturbing), and he was peripherally involved in what happened.

In early July 1925, just before the Cost Highway was reopened in October by the State of California (it was originally built by Chinese laborers hired by George Washington Call in about 1874/75 but was not kept open after portions of the road slid in/out some time in the early-to mid-1880s), Russian-Americans from the Eastern Orthodox Church Society of San Francisco (located on Green Street) decided to take their first group pilgrimage to Fort Ross. To make the trip, they apparently called a number taxicabs to come and pick them up, and off they went -- totally unprepared for the occasion.

The taxicab drivers apparently misunderstood what was going on, believing that they were taking the group to "Ross", the town in Marin County, for a picnic. I'm sure that it didn't take them too long to determine that something was wrong, however, and that they were in for a long and arduous journey. First, they would have had to have crossed from San Francisco to Marin County by ferry. Then they probably drove to Santa Rosa, and from there it is known that they went to Cazadero. Finally, they took the 13 mile trip to Fort Ross over what then a very narrow, winding road, no doubt arriving quite tired.

Carlos Pearce (a grandson of George and Mercedes Call) was visiting Fort Ross and was on the spot when the group arrived. He later related to George Kaye that, upon arrival, the taxicab's engines were so hot they were boiling, and one driver was so mad at what was happening that he got out of the cab, took his hat off, threw it on the ground, and jumped up and down on it -- and he had a few choice words to go along with his actions.

The Russian-American group not only didn't have food, they were totally unprepared for the fact that there was no place to stay. Mercedes Call, as usual, rose to the occasion. She provided them with food and blankets and got them established on The Sandy Beach, where they built fires to cook and to keep warm overnight. The priest, The Reverend V. Sakovich, visited with Mercedes in her home well into the evening, and it was guessed that he was hopping to get an invitation to stay the night; but no such luck, and he finally joined the others for a night on the beach. The next day, July 4th, Reverend Sakovich held services at the chapel, and then the group departed on their return adventure to San Francisco.

Several months later, Carlos and George were walking in San Francisco near the intersection of Golden Gate Avenue and Market Street when Carlos spotted a taxicab with one of the drivers who had been on the trip to Fort Ross. He and George walked over to the cab and Carlos jokingly said to the driver, "Let's go to Fort Ross." The cab driver turned to them and replied disgustedly, "Were you part of THAT mess?" -- at which point he shut the door on his 'customers' and drove off.

F. Kaye Tomlin
August 1989

Published in The Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 3, No. 11, July 1996.

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Modified: 7/3/97 -