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The History of St. Michael, Alaska


    St. Michael is located on the east coast of St. Michael Island in Norton Sound. It lies 125 miles southeast of Nome and 48 miles southwest of Unalakleet. It lies at approximately 63 29' N Latitude, 162 02' W Longitude (Sec. 24, T023S, R018W, Kateel River Meridian). The community is located in the Cape Nome Recording District. The area encompasses 21 sq. miles of land and 6 sq. miles of water.

    A fortified trading post called "Redoubt St. Michael" was built by the Russian-American Company at this location in 1833; it was the northernmost Russian settlement in Alaska. The Native village of "Tachik" stood to the northeast. When the Russians left Alaska in 1867, several of the post's traders remained.

    Fort St. Michael, a U.S. military post, was established in 1897. During the gold rush of 1897, it was a major gateway to the interior via the Yukon River. The photograph to the right was probably taken in 1897 (click on it to enlarge it). As many as 10,000 persons were said to live in St. Michael during the gold rush. St. Michael was also a popular trading post for Eskimos to trade their goods for Western supplies. Centralization of many Yup'iks from the surrounding villages intensified after the measles epidemic of 1900 and the influenza epidemic of 1918.

    The village remained an important trans-shipment point for goods going into the interior of Alaska until the Alaska Railroad was built from Seward to Fairbanks.

St. Michael, Alaska, in the 1890s. Click to enlarge it. St. Michael, Alaska, in the 1890s. Click to enlarge it.
St. Michael, Alaska, in the 1890s. Click to enlarge it. St. Michael, Alaska, in the 1890s. Click to enlarge it.

 


To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online


History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development