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General Jefferson C. Davis


General Jefferson C. Davis
General Jefferson C. Davis

General Jefferson C. Davis, the U.S. Army commander in Alaska, became the virtual ruler of the new acquisition. Congress extended the laws governing commerce and navigation to Alaska and prohibited the importation, manufacture, and sale of liquor. Nothing was done to establish a civil government, and for 17 years, until 1884, Alaska remained under military rule.

Sitka experienced a short land boom as American adventurers and entrepreneurs arrived, looking for the opportunities to be found in a new land. The town’s residents drew up a charter, elected a governing council, and named a mayor. Thomas Murphy started a newspaper, the Alaska Times, and the council hired a schoolteacher at $75 per month. But Sitka’s prosperity soon ended. The port’s commerce declined, residents moved away, and in the summer of 1873 the Sitka city council held its last meeting.

Many of those who left blamed the federal government for Sitka’s decline and Alaska’s misfortunes. Congress had failed to provide needed services such as mail delivery, construction of lighthouses, and surveying of land. People left, in part, because without a survey they could not get title to land. The army was not fond of its Alaskan assignment. Both enlisted men and officers disliked their northern tour of duty, suffering from boredom. Army officials, in their annual reports, invariably recommended withdrawal of the troops since the army had neither the authority nor the training to administer a civil government. Most of the duties of the troops consisted of controlling the importation and manufacture of liquor.

Finally, in 1877, the War Department recalled its troops from Alaska. After they left, U.S. collector of customs Mottrom D. Ball was the only government official in Alaska.

When fighting occurred between Natives and whites in February 1879, some Sitka residents feared an impending massacre and called on the U.S. Navy to send a vessel for their protection.

When they did not get a timely reply, they appealed to the British, who in March sent the warship H.M.S. Osprey from Victoria, British Columbia. With the arrival of the U.S.S. Jamestown in June 1879, the U.S. Navy began to rule Alaska.

Alaska Commercial Company


In the meantime, the Alaska Commercial Company acquired much influence in Alaskan affairs. It had been organized in San Francisco by the recipients of an 1870 government grant of a 20-year lease of exclusive rights to harvest fur seals in the Pribilof Islands. Before long the company extended its commercial empire to the Aleutians, Kodiak Island, and the Yukon River valley. It took over the Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort Yukon after the United States ordered the British to leave. As the company’s economic power grew, so did its role in political and social affairs. It provided schools and medical services in some communities, and even maintained law and order. In 1880 the company paid a 100 percent dividend to its stockholders, demonstrating that the fur trade was still profitable. But the Alaska economy was beginning to change: Salmon fishing entered its commercial era when the first canneries were built at Klawock and Sitka in 1878. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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