By One Spirit
Karl A. Olsson
COVENANT PRESS · CHICAGO, ILL.
|By One Spirit, Karl A. Olsson; Chapter III of Part III, "The Structure Unfolds," pp. 373-378 and Chapter V , Part III, "Adventure in Missions," pp. 414-432, used with permission of the publisher. This book is available from Covenant Press (800-621-1290) for $12.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling.|
[Excerpted from Chapter Three of Part III, entitled "The Structure Unfold" pp. 373-378]
This was, as we have indicated, in 1898. The same year a former North Park student named P. H. Anderson, having arrived at Cheenik on Golovin Bay August 12, 1897, to serve on the Alaska mission field, became infected with gold fever. The specific source of infection was Nels 0. Hultberg, a senior missionary at Cheenik who had begun prospecting in 1895. In April, 1898, Hultberg and Anderson, having forgot momentarily that they ought to be laying up another sort of treasure, staked claims at City.29
The Council City claim seems not to have paid off. But, later the same year, the intrepid Hultberg took a group of Swedish American prospectors, among them John Brynteson and John Hagelin, to Snake River and Nome. Not far from Nome they stumbled on Anvil Creek, and by this rather obscure rivulet in the northern wilds hangs a marvelous tale.
A while after the original sortie, although Nels Hultberg had returned to the States on furlough, Brynteson and some others went back to Anvil Creek to stake claims. One of theseNumber Nine Abovewas staked for an Eskimo named Gabriel who had been converted at the mission. These first claims unfortunately proved illegal, and, on October 15, 1898, the entire area was restaked by the original group augmented by three other miners, including Gabriel W. Price. This time Number Nine Above was staked for R. L. Price, the brother of Gabriel Price. The trip was made from Cheenik in the two-masted schooner belonging to the mission station, but Anderson seems not to have been along. Upon the return of the group to Cheenik, he nevertheless evinced considerable interest in Anvil Creek and persuaded G. W. Price to transfer Number Nine Above to him for the sum of $20.00. The transfer itself was legal enough, fulfilling the simple requirements of sale and purchase. But, as will appear later, the question of the actual purchaser was much more murky. Was P. H. Anderson buying the claim for himself personally or was he acting as trustee, for the Eskimos, the Covenant, or the mission station at Cheenik? Had Number Nine Above proved just one more fiasco among thousands in Alaska, this would have been an academic question. But, miracle of miracles, Number Nine Above paid off.
Despite a claim jump by the pugilist and adventurer Paddy Ryan, Number Nine Above netted $50,000 in 1899, and $175,000 in 1900. News of the strike spread rapidly, and in this instance the word of the cynic might well apply that nothing fails like success. Anderson became the immediate victim of a concerted and protracted campaign of innuendo. It was said and it was implied by Brynteson, by Hultberg, and by Missionary A. E. Karlson that the mine belonged not to Anderson but to the Covenant.
Anderson came to Chicago in December of 1899 and offered the Covenant $10,000. A few months earlier this gift would have been received with jubilation, but gold engenders greed, and Anderson's gift was called a mere trifle. There followed a series of meetings with the executive board in which charges and counter-charges flew freely. When 1900 proved an even better year than 1899, the Covenant decided to bring suit against Anderson, an action which prompted the latter to offer the Covenant $54,000 if the matter were settled out of court. The Covenant turned down the proffered sum and instead asked for $100,000 plus one-half of all future earnings. Andersons reply was that he would give nothing until completely released from obligation.
What ensues is almost unbelievable. Faced with the situation of the dog in the fable who, in striving for more, lost everything, the Covenant came to terms in April of 1901. The board decided that Anderson had the right to dispose of the gold find as he chose and released him. But no written release was given. This led to a further hassle, with both sides standing firm until August, 1901. On the sixteenth of that month a formal release was finally sent to Anderson and the $54,000 was conveyed to the denomination as promised.30
Of this sum North Park College, in which Anderson had special interest, received $29,000. This permitted a modest expansion of the campus. A much-needed dormitory for men and a residence for the president were constructed at a total cost of $16,747.47. Some of the money was also used to defray current indebtedness.
The Anderson gift, helpful as it was, did not make matters any easier for David Nyvall, who, in addition to being president of the school, also served as secretary of the Covenant. From the beginning of the gold case, Nyvall took the part of P. H. Anderson as far as the latters legal rights were concerned. The relationship between the Covenant and its missionaries, in fact, all its functionaries, was extremely loose. We have indicated that Björk, while serving as president of the Covenant, also headed a private publishing company from which he derived profit. In this matter Björk was no different from his Swedish colleagues. Both Ekman and Waldenström, poorly salaried by the denomination they served, supplemented their income by profits from religious publications which, according to present thinking, should have accrued to the organization. And if Björk, Waldenström, and Ekman, while serving the church, were profiting from extra-denominational activity, what was to prevent a missionary from doing the same? At least, in the absence of directives to the contrary, he had a legal right to do this.
Andersons moral obligation was, according to Nyvall, an entirely different question. In correspondence with his father be expressed the opinion that Anderson had a moral responsibility to be more generous toward the Covenant than he actually was.31 This statement was later used against Anderson. But no matter. On the legal aspects of the case Nyvall was clear and consistent. The mine belonged to Anderson. Anderson could give what be chose to the Covenant. If he gave too little, this was a matter between Anderson and his Divine judge and not between Anderson and the Arbitration Commission or the Superior Court of Cook County.
Unfortunately, not many took Nyvall's position in this matter. Overwhelmed by the fantastic sums involved (Anderson had taken out $335,000 by 1903), one after the other of the Covenant leaders began to dream of making Number Nine Above a Covenant bonanza.
In the meantime, other developments served to complicate the situation further. The original Number Nine Above had been stated for the Eskimo Gabriel Adams. It was, as we have indicated, an illegal claim. But, when the second and valid Number Nine Above panned out, suit was brought against Anderson by the Eskimo interests. Constantine Uparazuck and Gabriel Adams were named as plaintiffs. On the advice of counsel, the matter was eventually settled out of court, costing Anderson $57,000. Even though the suit did not have any validity, Anderson's chances in a jury trial would have been slim, and he bowed to the inevitable.
More serious was Anderson's involvement with an Eskimo girl named Dora. Although this affair had nothing to do with Number Nine Above and although Anderson settled $15,000 on the girl and thus took care of the legal aspects of the matter, the case weakened Andersons position among the Mission Friends immeasurably. It also made Anderson's defenders in the mine case seem to favor sexual misconduct. And, as if this were not enough, Anderson was also accused by Nels 0. Hultberg of having made improper advances to the latters wife. Later developments seem to indicate that Hultberg suffered from paranoid tendencies, but Andersons relationship to Mrs. Hultberg was sufficiently ambiguous to create reasonable doubt. In any event, by a concatenation of circumstances, Anderson now found himself in a very unhappy situation.
We must not expect much sophistication in this affair. Hultberg was understandably wroth with Anderson. So were undeviating moralists like Axel Mellander who, in a jumble of arguments, let his disapprobation of Andersons conduct affect his judgment about the legal ownership of Number Nine Above. To make confusion worse confounded, Mellander also permitted his feelings toward David Nyvall to play a part. Envy, resentment, honest difference of opinion on Nyvalls way to run a schoolthese things combined to make not only Anderson but Nyvall a bete noire. In the March, 1903, issue of Missionären, of which Nyvall and Mellander were joint editors, the latter launched a vicious attack against Anderson.32
In the meantime, Anderson, sickened by controversy and litigation, sold the White Star Mining Company and Number Nine Above to Dr. Claes W. Johnson, surgeon of the Swedish Covenant Hospital. This was in January, 1903. The following month, Hultberg, who had already brought his moral accusations against Anderson, continued his pressure on his former colleague by asking that the Covenant deed Number Nine Above to Hultberg. Why Hultberg should have Number Nine Above is difficult to determine, but from now on this seems to be a fact accepted by several of the Covenant leaders.33
And now comes the most puzzling and, in a sense, the most shameful stroke of all. We recall that August 16, 1901, the board of the Covenant had given P. H. Anderson a formal release from all claims to Number Nine Above. The release had been executed by David Nyvall, then secretary of the Covenant, and properly signed by Björk and Nyvall. Now, two years later, on the grounds that Nyvall and Björk had acted without requisite authority in this matter, the board decided to alter its own minutes by crossing out the reference to the release.34 This action was ratified at the annual meeting of 1903 in which Mellander made an impassioned speech along the lines of his earlier article. He argued that Anderson, by his nefarious conduct, had forfeited all rights to Number Nine Above. The effect was a virtual stampede. The Covenant conveyed Number Nine Above to Nels 0. Hultgren [sic] by indenture, with the understanding that the denomination would get one-third of all profit.
What follows is an arabesque of litigation. The first step was the investigation of the case by an Arbitration Commission whose task it was to take testimony and unearth evidence. The commission sat for four weeks and compiled 2667 pages of testimony, including statements by Constantine Uparazuck, who was brought in all the way from Alaska. (Gabriel Adams, the other plaintiff, had died.) The findings of the Commission were 2 to I in favor of Hultberg.
The end was not yet. Anderson appealed the case to the Superior Court of Cook County, the Circuit Court of the County, and finally to the Supreme Court of Illinois. All the courts upheld Hultberg. The case then went to the Supreme Court of the United States for a decision on the constitutionality of the procedures of the lower courts. The case was heard by the Supreme Court in 1906-7 and again 1912-14, and in each instance the findings of the lower courts were upheld.
So far all the court decisions had been predicated on the assumption that the findings in fact of the Arbitration Commission were sound. But, in 1918, after a thorough re-examination of all the facts, Judge Walter H. Sanborn of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the decisions of the lower court and upheld Anderson. The case was finally dismissed on February 20, 1920, and by a magnanimous gesture, P. H. Anderson paid all the court costs which had accrued during sixteen years of litigation.
The gold case did the work of the Covenant incalculable harm, but the financial assistance it provided during the first years of the new century undoubtedly saved North Park College as well as the missionary enterprise from that critical indigence which would have made an association with the Congregationalists tempting indeed.
[Excerpted from Chapter Five of Part III, entitled "Adventure in Missions," pp 414-432]
If, as David Nyvall claims, the Swedish missionaries chose Alaska because they considered it a base of operations for an evangelical assault upon Russia, they were poorly counseled. First of all, the Siberian natives across Bering Sea did not provide any shining missionary opportunity; secondly, there was no reason to believe that missionary progress from Siberia to Russia would .be easier than from Finland to Russia, The same police system was operative in Siberia as in European Russia.
It seems much more plausible to believe that Karlsson and Lydell went to Alaska in 1887 because of the newly-awakened interest in Arctic peoples, because the United States, after unhappy neglect of the territory since its acquisition from Russia in 1867, was now manifesting some solid interest both in the government and in the education of the natives; and because so little missionary work had yet been done, particularly in northern Alaska.
It is possible that the Rev. Sheldon Jackson's moving account of pioneer missionary ventures in Alaska had fallen into the hands of the Swedish men. This work, entitled Alaska, had been published in 1880 and had made a deep impression on friends of missions, as well as on those with more secular interests, in the great land to the north. Because the name of Sheldon Jackson is so intimately associated with the Covenant mission in Alaska, it may be well to give a few facts about him and his monumental achievement in the Arctic.
The storm of public protest which was aroused by Sewards negotiations for Alaska in the 1860s had the unfortunate effect of making the territory intensely unpopular for many years and effectively blocked the development of its considerable resources.3 For the first seventeen years Congress did nothing to improve the lot of the 40,0000 Eskimos and Indians entrusted to its charge. An appropriation of $50,000 was voted in the Congress of 1870-71, but the money was never made available. Ironically, although the United States Government insisted that commercial companies operating in Alaska educate the native children living in areas leased to them, it did nothing about those on unleased lands. The result was not only continued neglect but the most shameful exploitation of the natives by a rising population of white trappers and traders.
Sheldon Jackson, the man responsible for a change in the situation, had been for many years a Presbyterian missionary-at-large in the Rockies. In 1875 be became interested in the plight of the native Alaskans, and two years later, together with an intrepid woman missionary, Mrs. A. R. McFarland, he landed at Ft. Wrangell. Here the two Presbyterian missionaries found the beginnings of a Christian mission. Evangelized natives from British Columbia had come to Wrangell in search of work and had started a humble mission. Mrs. McFarland found an outlet for her spiritual energy among these Christian natives; very soon she was teaching school, protecting her Christian foster daughters from the vicious exploitation of the community, and serving in countless ways to lift the level of native life through the instrumentality of the Gospel.
Meanwhile, Congress was stirred to new interest in the territory through the tireless speaking and writing of Sheldon Jackson. In six years, from 1878 to 1884, Jackson gave no less than nine hundred talks on Alaska, emphasizing its great potentiality as well as Americas gross neglect of its people. On May 14, 1884, Congress finally provided for the civil government of the new territory and appropriated $25,000 for education. And, on April 11, 1885, Grover Cleveland appointed Jackson as the first General Agent of Education in Alaska and charged him with the responsibility of disbursing the appropriated funds in the salarying of teachers and the support of schools.
In 1885 there were only missionary schools and a few company schools in the territory. Since most of the missionary schools were sponsored by the Presbyterians, Jackson found himself in the awkward position of administering funds, most of which would accrue to his own mission schools. There were related problems. The first government officials sent to administer Alaskan affairs were wastrels and neer-do-wells who had a deep-rooted hatred of all religious work. Since it was to their advantage to keep the natives both ignorant and unevangelized, they fought Jacksons efforts by fair means and foul. As an example of their obstructionism may be cited the high-handed removal of 47 of the 103 children in the Presbyterian Industrial School at Sitka and their attempts to bring Jackson to justice for fabricated offenses. Only direct intervention by President Cleveland put an end to the difficulties.
Under these circumstances the transfer of all Presbyterian schools to the government is understandable. In many instances missionaries who were qualified to teach were continued on government contract, and in some cases mission properties were used for school buildings. But the initiative for instruction became more and more the responsibility of the government rather than of the mission. This had consequences for Covenant work, as we shall see directly.
Jacksons contribution to Alaska was not limited to religious and educational work. In 1890, on a trip to Cape Prince of Wales, Jackson noticed that the Alaskan natives were suffering from desperate hunger. Dependent upon hunting and fishing for their subsistence, they were now the victims of the coastal extermination of the whale, walrus, and seal by white commercial companies. Jackson had noted that on the other side of Bering Strait Siberian natives were able to live much more stably because of their considerable reindeer herds. He computed that the Alaskan tundra should be able to sustain up to nine million reindeer, and he immediately approached Congress with a request for an appropriation which would start the purchase and transfer of reindeer from Siberia to Alaska. Unable to secure immediate Congressional action (despite a bill for $15,000 in the 51st Congress), Jackson collected some $2,000 in voluntary contributions. A small herd of sixteen deer was brought to Unalaska in September of 1891, and the following year 171 were imported. Congress gave Jackson $6,000 for the reindeer project in 1893, and by 1894 the herds numbered 663 head. To begin with, Siberian herders were used, but later Lapp herders from Norway and Finland were engaged to supervise the herds and to train apprentices.
Rather soon the government determined that the best locations for the reindeer herds were the mission stations, where the natives could be assisted in a responsible manner in their training. In order to encourage the placement of the herds in these stations, the government offered the loan of 100 reindeer for a five-year period at no cost except for the expense of caring for the native apprentices. The natural increase in the herd accrued to the station, the instructors, and, in some instances, to the apprentices. By 1906, despite a serious restriction in the program by a Russian embargo on all export of the animals, there were 12,828 reindeer in Alaska. Of these, 30 per cent belonged to the government, 21 per cent to the mission stations, 11 per cent to the instructors, and 38 per cent to the natives. Despite some difficulties in administering the program, it proved of lasting benefit to the natives and, in a limited way, helped them to change from hunters to herders.
It was hence a most primitive world to which Axel E. Karlsson and Adolph Lydell came in 1887. It had no structured and stable government; it had no effective-means of transport or communication; it had no social or educational work among its natives except for the scattered efforts of a handful of American denominations.
Geographically, the Alaska of the eighties was divided into four major areas: south Alaska, with the capital Sitka as its center; the Aleutians; north Alaska, stretching roughly from St. Michael to Point Barrow; and the interior, from the narrow coastal belt to the Yukon.
It is difficult to determine any strategic reason why the first Covenant missionaries decided to locate both in north and south Alaska. Axel E. Karlsson went to the Eskimos at Unalaklik (Unalakleet), north of St. Michael, and Lydell to the Thlinket Indians at Yakutat. These choices were to prove most impracticable and costly for the future of the Alaska mission. But, in those days, personal preference rather than missions strategy seems to have determined the course.
On their way north, Karlsson and Lydell visited the annual meeting of the Covenant in Rockford, and were allowed to tell the story of their venture. This was in September, 1886, and no effort was made to reach the field until the following summer. But, in 1887, the first modest beginnings were made. Karlsson landed in St. Michael on June 25, 1887, and during that summer staked out his prospective mission on the other side of Norton Bay.
He was assisted in his selection of a site by the Episcopalian pioneer, John W. Chapman, who accompanied him to St. Michael, and by Nashalook, a chief at Unalakleet who met Karlsson at St. Michael and invited him to Unalakleet. He journeyed to the States in 1888 for essential equipment and returned to his mission in 1889. On his return to Unalakleet be had with him a recruit sent to him by the Covenant of Sweden. He was August Anderson, an energetic and somewhat eccentric personality who eschewed ecclesiastical machinery but made an effective contribution to the evangelization of the north.
Lydell, meanwhile, had made a rapid reconnaissance of the Yakutat area and had returned to the States. In the summer of 1888 he came back to Yakutat and brought with him a second missionary, Karl Johan Henrikson. But, during the ensuing winter and spring, Lydell was stricken with a serious bronchial ailment which made it impossible for him to continue in that latitude. He returned to the States in 1889, and the Covenant of Sweden sent Albin Johnson to Yakutat as his replacement.
Until this time the mission had been under the complete control of the Covenant of Sweden. But there were serious disabilities. Communications with Sweden were difficult and costly; furthermore, an :American mission was in a better position than an alien one to deal with the territorial government.
On the positive side of the ledger there was the strong missionary interest just then developing in the newly organized Mission Covenant of America. Foreign missions had been a concern of the Lutheran Mission Friends from the very beginning. There are frequent missionary allusions, accounts, and anecdotes in both Zions Banér and Missions-Wännen. The former sought to stimulate interest in American Lutheran missions; the latter allied itself with the missionary interests of the Mission Friends in Sweden. But neither synod attempted to engage in serious missionary activity. The appearance of Israel Marcus, a converted Jew, at some of the meetings of the Mission Synod stirred up enthusiasm for the Christianizing of the Jews and small sums were collected annually; they did not lead to anything significant however. The main obstacle seems to have been the lack of funds.
With the organization of the Covenant, the mood began to change. The united group was larger than either synod and hence had more financial strength, but other factors also contributed. The strong missionary impulses of the Covenant of Sweden were rapidly communicated to the young church; so was the passion for world evangelization of young Fredrik Franson. Missionary enthusiasm and a sense of urgency were also stimulated by the prophetic and apocalyptic movements of the eighties. At the Annual Meeting in Princeton, Illinois, in 1885, when the Covenant was only a few months old, it was announced that $284.19 had been collected for foreign missions and $22.00 for the Jewish mission. The money was sent to the Covenant of Sweden for use in its projects in the Congo and among Jews. During the following year $995.32 was contributed for foreign work and $74.05 for the Jews. These funds were also sent to Sweden, but the executive committee was instructed to explore the possibility of a missionary project for which the American Covenant would have sole responsibility. It may be assumed that some impetus was given to this action by the presence of Karlsson and Lydell.
When the Alaska mission of the Covenant of Sweden materialized in 1887, the American Covenant began thinking of this as a possible project. The closest liaison, with a great deal of mutual helpfulness, was being maintained between the two churches in missionary matters, and this development seemed quite natural.4 Although a decision on Alaska would have been premature in 1887, the Annual Meeting that year decided to launch a missionary program after consulting the Covenant of Sweden. The following year the secretary of the Covenant reported that be had corresponded with the president of the Swedish body, Dr. E. J. Ekman, about missions, and also that funds were now flowing into the Covenant missions treasury for which there was no specific use. As a consequence, the Annual Meeting of 1888 decided to negotiate with the Covenant of Sweden for a transfer of A. E. Karlsson to the American missions, as well as to send $150 in mission funds to Adolph Lydell. With the growing interest in the Alaska mission, the denomination also voiced the hope that its young work among the Indians in Minnesota might be transferred to the Northwest Missionary Association.
For reasons difficult to determine, the letter to the Covenant of Sweden with the request for Karlssons transfer was not written until February 9, 1889. Even so, it was in good time for the annual meeting of the Covenant of Sweden, June 29-30, 1889. That body decided to grant the transfer of Karlsson on the condition that the American church would take over the entire Alaskan project, including the missionaries Karlsson, Lydell, Henriksson, Anderson, and Johnson. Properties belonging to the mission would also be transferred without cost.
News of this decision was communicated to the American Covenant in a letter from Ekman dated July 29, 1889, this also in ample time for the Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, September 5-10. At this meeting P. P. Waldenström was an honored guest and he, in an unofficial way, seconded the offer of Ekman. The result was an enthusiastic adoption of the missionary project.
Missionary interest at this meeting was not limited to Alaska. It was also decided that as soon as feasible the Covenant should send a missionary to China to work together with Erik Folke, the founder of the Swedish mission in China. The story of this work will be told later. Here it is important to note that in this instance at least enthusiasm outstripped sound fiscal judgment. To be sure, the missionary offerings for Alaska increased dramatically after the decision to begin Covenant work there. In 1889 the Alaska offering was $612.36; in 1890 it reached $4,620,23. But the following year it leveled off and remained virtually stationary until 1893, when it topped $8,000. Meanwhile the China offerings increased, but not significantly. In round figures they were $1,600 for 1890, $2,600 for 1891, $1,450 for 1892, $1,300 for 1893, $2,000 for 1894, $1,100 for 1895. 1896 was a bumper year, with over $5,000 contributed for the China mission, but the next four years the offerings teetered between two and three thousand dollars.
What this seems to indicate is that the Covenant either reached its giving potential for missions very soon or that money was being diverted elsewhere. There may be some reason for believing that the slim showing of China missions during its first decade can be related to the establishment of the Scandinavian Alliance Mission in 1890 under Fransons dynamic leadership. But whatever the interior obstructions, the young denomination very soon found itself out beyond its financial depths. And when the depression began in 1893, the church was so fiscally overextended that money worries became a central concern and money raising an all-too-engrossing activity. The relation of this state of affairs to the Alaska gold strike need hardly be labored.
But in 1890-91 the wolf was still far from the door, and the Alaska mission was everybodys darling. Among the northern Eskimos and the southern Indians there was not only interest but revival, and in this period, after glowing reports by Karlsson and Lydell, the Covenant sent five new missionaries to the field.5 It also authorized the purchase of a boat and a small sawmill for the mission, the construction of a childrens home at Unalakleet, the establishment of a station at Ulukuk (near Unalakleet), and the exploration of a new station site near Yakutat. Schools for the native children were being established at Yakutat and Unalakleet.6
The two years which followed saw no abatement of interest in the Alaska project. Karlsson appeared at the Annual Meeting in Rockford in 1892 and aroused "a holy zeal for missions" in the hearts of his hearers. He told of the rapid advance of the Gospel in the hearts of both Eskimos and Indians and stirred his audience to tears. The result was a spontaneous offering for the mission which amounted to $1,671.
Karlssons earnestness rather than any noticeable increase in giving for the year past led the meeting to authorize the opening of two new stations, one at Chinik, Golovin Bay, the other at Shaktolik, as well as the sending of three new workers into this area. The year 1892-93 became a high point for the mission. Fired by the experience of the Annual Meeting and by the obvious successes on the new field, the Covenanters during the next year gave $8,128.99 for that work.
August Anderson established the Covenant beachhead at Chinik in the spring of that year, traveling north in the company of some interested natives. Here, at the farthest outpost of the mission in Alaska, he built a sod hut to the glory of God and began his simple missionary work. Later that summer he was joined by N. 0. Hultberg, and the two men worked together for a year. Hultbergs fiancee, Hanna Holm, came to Alaska in 1894.
Hultberg and she were married at Unalakleet and then continued north into the isolation of Golovin Bay. Here they remained for the next five years. It was a period marked both by the joy of triumph and by bitter personal experiences. Two infant children born to the Hultbergs died at Golovin, but even more distressing were the implications of the gold strike. As we shall see later, Hultberg became personally involved in that dreary sequence and left Alaska and Covenant missions a defeated and disillusioned man,
But the Alaska bonanza was not to last. The 1893 depression seriously dented missionary giving for the next three years. With the exception of Hanna Holm, who went to Alaska in 1894, no missionary was sent to the stations 1893-96. There were other problems. The Russian Orthodox Church still maintained its hold on the people and complicated the question of baptism for the Covenant missionaries. Then there was polygamy. Many an Eskimo counted himself fortunate in having several wives. Since the Eskimo woman was little more than a beast of burden, polygamy assured a strong labor force. The question of baptism was left to the missionaries, but on polygamy the church ruled that a Christian native must separate himself from all except his first wife.
The native church in Alaska presented both problems and opportunities. Already in 1892 the church was ready to designate Stephan Ivanoff (a Russian) and Andrew Kakorian, of Unalakleet, colporteurs, and in 1895 Ojeark Rock became the first native evangelist. Missionary enthusiasm also prompted the bringing of native Christians to the States. In 1892 Alice Omekejook (Omegitjoak) was permitted to come to the States. She spent some time in the home of the Rev. C. B. Johnson in Lost Grove, Iowa, and was subsequently dedicated as a deaconess and native missionary for service in Alaska.
The problem with the Christian natives was the ironic outcome of the work of the mission. Girls brought to the childrens homes were taught cleanliness and courtesy. (Even as early as the 1870s Mrs. McFarland had lamented that Christian native girls were much more attractive both to the whites and to native men than those who had not been brought under the influence of the mission.) The result was that these girls were not only seduced by white adventurers, who began to stray into northern Alaska in increasing numbers, but were also courted as prospective wives by both whites and natives.7
But, though there were many problems, there were some solutions. The fuller secretarial reports which began to appear after 1895 permit us to see the work being done by Covenant missionaries as well as by the government for the people of the north. During the year 1895-96 the Covenant station at Golovin was offered a herd of 100 reindeer, accompanied by Lapp herders, by the United States government.8 The same year the land around the Golovin station was deeded to the Covenant mission by the government.9 Further support was given the mission in Alaska by the employment of August Anderson, David Johnson (Elliot), and Albin Johnson as teachers in the government schools. This work was remunerated at a rate of $500 annually and helped to lift the financial burden of the mission. It also helped to staff the remote government schools to which few teachers from the States could be lured.10
During the same year support was given Sheldon Jacksons effort to raise the annual appropriation for the education of Alaskan children. It was not an easy task in 1896. Congress still looked with disfavor on the Arctic experiment and acted accordingly. It is easy to understand Nyvalls noble anger when be wrote in 1898 that the United States government was grossly negligent in Alaska. It is a governments responsibility to educate and civilize, wrote Nyvall, as it is the responsibility of the church to evangelize and civilize. So far he concluded, the American government is favoring only the exploitative trading companies in Alaska and the pathetic annual appropriation of $30,000 is helping to educate only 2,000 of Alaskas 10,000 children.
The Annual Meeting of 1898 asked the secretary to write to a selection of senators and representatives on the matter of educational appropriations for Alaska. Courteous replies were received from Senators Gear, Hanna, and Spooner and Representatives Stark, Boutell, and Curtiss, but no immediate miracles occurred. The lament of Nyvall in 1899, that whereas the nation was expending millions in the Spanish-American War, it was unwilling to give more than a pittance to Alaska, was hence amply justified. He writes:
It must be considered melancholy shortsightedness to neglect ones sacred obligation to civilize within ones own boundaries while one seeks to accomplish the same thing with unlimited liberality and unlimited sacrifice even of the nations noblest blood across the seas of the world. We believe that God has given this nation a mission both in Cuba and in the Philippines. . . . But . . . no work of civilizing outside our own boundaries . . . can free us from the responsibility first to educate and civilize the wild tribes which now live under our flag and which thus by the force of our constitution are our fellow citizens. . . .11
Nyvall was more sanguine about other developments in Alaska. He hailed the discovery of gold and the resultant gold rush as a peoples movement, destined, in the providence of God, to break the back of exploitative monopolies in Alaska. Speaking with the anti-monopolistic fervor of those years, Nyvall declared that "God is the enemy of monopoly. Sooner or later he returns the wealth of the privileged to the pockets of the people."
But whatever the democratic benefits of the gold rush, it could hardly have been said to benefit either the natives or the mission. Years later, with the benefit of bitter hindsight, Nyvall was to entitle the chapter dealing with Covenant mining interests in Alaska "Gold and Grief." The evils of the earlier monopolies had been grave indeed; but the evils which descended on Alaska with the gold rush were more pervasive and lasting than anything yet brought to the arctic wilderness. The pathetic prayer of the native Christian at Unalakleet that God would hide the gold from the white man before the latter could destroy the native church speaks volumes.12
The Covenants gold affairs began with the prospecting trips of N. 0. Hultberg into the tundra and the cheerless creeks of Seward Peninsula. Hultberg, as we have noted, came to Chinik on Golovin Bay in 1893. In 1894 he was joined by his wife, and together they ministered to a handful of natives whose life depended on their success in fishing and hunting and who for that reason were plagued by hunger, malnutrition, and attendant diseases. The plight of the Eskimos led to the establishment of a childrens home at Chinik and in 1893-95 to negotiations for a herd of reindeer which might serve to alleviate the acute economic distress of the people. In these activities Hultberg was the aggressive and often impulsive extrovert. He liked to move rapidly and without opposition; he was often disappointed in the speed of things, and his sensitivity and impatience did not help the negotiations with the government. Nor were they to prove useful in Hultberg's subsequent mining projects.
In 1897 P. H. Anderson, a North Park student with some rudimentary medical training at Swedish Covenant Hospital, arrived at Golovin. It was his primary intention to help with the missionary work, but he found all the missionaries in northern Alaska agog with excitement about the gold prospects on Seward Peninsula, and before long Anderson, like the other Gospel emissaries, became deeply involved in the search for gold. It is a pathetic story. Much of it has been told elsewhere and shall not engross us here. It is enough to point out that the first motives of the missionaries were undoubtedly altruistic.13 The mission was passing through a financial crisis; the natives were dismally poor; the home churches were not in a position to do what was needed; the federal government was slow and bumbling. Now in a trice it was possible to change the stones of the barren Arctic not only into bread but into glistering gold. The future seemed bright for missionaries and natives alike.
Two years after P. H. Andersons arrival at Golovin, he was in possession of a mining claim on Anvil Creek, the famous Number Nine Above, and was in the process of striking it rich. Implicated with him to a greater or lesser degree were all the male missionaries in northern Alaska, with the possible exception of the eccentric August Anderson, who seems more and more to have followed his own paths. In the fall of that year (1899) six missionaries left Alaska, four of them permanently. They were P. H. Anderson, Malvina Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Karlsson, and Mr. and Mrs. N. 0. Hultberg. Anderson seems to have suffered from a nasal catarrh which precluded his staying in the arctic climate, but more than his nose was catapulting him out of the mission. Malvina Johnson was deathly ill and died within a few weeks of her return to the States. The Hultbergs had lost interest in the Golovin mission, and the A. E. Karlssons seem not to have intended to return. All were weary, ill, and discouraged after the brutal life of the North and the turmoil of the gold rush. With the white missionaries came Ojeark Rock, an Eskimo evangelist, and Dora Adams, a native girl, both concrete evidence of the effective missionary endeavor in Alaska.
The juridical fireworks which followed the return of the Alaska missionaries did not completely obscure the need of continuing missionary work in the North. In 1899 the Covenant sent the resolute Amanda Johnson, later the wife of 0. P. Anderson, and the veteran K. J. Henrikson to Golovin.14 To Unalakleet went Selma Peterson, also a veteran, and F. Julius Quist. The Yakutat mission, which had been largely the province of the Albin Johnsons, was staffed by Hilda Anderson, August Berggren, and Jennie Olson.
But, in effect, the back of the Alaska mission was broken. Heroic work continued at Golovin, Unalakleet, and Yakutat for many years, but the early spiritual victories were not repeated, and the natives seem to have lost their interest in the white mans faith as their interest in his gold, his whisky, and his vices increased. From the time of the gold rush there is an unending complaint from missionaries and native Christians alike that the white man is ruining Alaska. This had, of course, been true from the very beginning.15 Russian and American traders had used the people at will. These expeditions were nevertheless relatively infrequent and were limited to coastal areas. With the gold rush all this changed, and white men swarmed over the entire area in search of easy wealth. In the wake of the miners came the canners. In the south, especially, American salmon canneries mushroomed. To begin with, Chinese workmen were imported to do the canning, but gradually the natives also were drawn into the industry. Destitute Indians of the Thlinket tribe who formerly had never seen money were suddenly being paid in American currency. Despite federal laws which made it a criminal offense to sell, barter, or give whisky to the natives, their new affluence encouraged bootlegging. Hard on the heels of liquor came prostitution, gambling, and a gradual decline into old barbarisms.
Albin Johnson, who gave seventeen years of his life to Alaska, found the going increasingly difficult. He tried heroically but unsuccessfully to get the liquor traffic stopped. The government service cooperated but was too thinly staffed to give more than token resistance to the flood of illegal alcohol. He also visited the canneries and tried to interest the Chinese workers in religious services, but had no success. Even the work among the children deteriorated, and in 1903 there were no children for the home.
E. A. Rasmusson, who came to Yakutat in 1904 as a replacement for Albin Johnson, did not find the going any easier. He complains of the unreliability of the Indians and of their increasing susceptibility to the white mans diseases. In 1907-8 eleven per cent of the population of Yakutat died of tuberculosis, syphilis, and other sickness, and Rasmusson relates the mortality to the accessibility of liquor and the increased income. The following year there were thirteen deaths at the outpost and only eight births. Alarmed, the government sent a doctor to the colony, made the sale or gift of liquor to the Indians a penitentiary offense, and constituted Government school teachers district peace officers.
By 1913 there had been some slight improvement in Yakutat through the work of the legislature at Juneau and through the gradual process of civilization if not of Cbristianization. Rasmusson reports the demolition of old houses formerly used for totemic rites and dances. But in spite of some small change for the better, the natives continued unsteady in their religious devotion and easily unbalanced both by their moneyed income and by the provocations of white society. Until the relinquishment of the mission in 1958 the picture in Yakutat did not present much livelier colors.16
What was true among the Indians at Yakutat was no less true in the Eskimo country a thousand miles to the north. In 1901, after an absence of two years, the Karlssons returned to Unalakleet. Here they labored against heavy odds for the next nine years. Karlsson erected a church in Unalakleet at his own expense and was generous in his employment and remuneration of the natives. A monument erected over his grave reads:
When he came to this village, there was here no Christian. At his death, there was no pagan.
With some allowance for the rhetoric of epitaphs, the statement is no doubt true. But it says little about the difficulty in bringing primitive peoples the blessings of civilization without its more serious moral hazards.
The situation at Unalakleet was complicated by the fact that the natives in that area grew to depend upon the patriarchal benevolence of Karlsson. When the latter died in 1910 and his work was taken over by the Henning Gustafsons, the mission had to depend upon the rather meager appropriation made available by Covenant mission funds.17 The result was disgruntlement among the natives, which went so far as to eventuate in a petition directed against Gustafson. The petition was the work of natives unhappy about the economies which Gustafson had been forced to institute, and led to nothing. Gustafson was completely vindicated and the matter dropped, but it does serve to illustrate the basis of some of the prestige enjoyed by the mission at Unalakleet.
Farther north at Golovin the gold rush complicated matters even more. The first station had been built at Chinik on Golovin Bay in 1893. As we have seen, it became the jumping-off place for prospectors looking for gold, 1897-1901, and was hence a hospice not only for the natives but for miners moving up to or away from the rich gold fields in the Nome area. When the population of Nome soared from 250 to 2,500 in 1899, poor sanitation led to a serious epidemic of typhoid, which was particularly virulent among the natives. The whites also brought with them measles, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and syphilis. The result was a terrible year of suffering for natives and whites alike. The natives were particularly vulnerable because they depended entirely upon summer hunting and fishing for their winter meat supply. Because of the ravages of illness, few natives could do their summers work in 1899, and winter came with most of them destitute. During these months the little mission station at Chinik, staffed only by Amanda Johnson and K. J. Henrikson, became a refuge for orphaned Eskimo children and the only source of hope for the entire region.
In the spring of 1900 the staff at Chinik was joined by Eivor Eklund (later Mrs. Victor Lydell). Together the missionaries determined that a new and larger childrens home must be built. 0. P. Anderson, who came to Golovin in the late summer, 1900, tells the story:
In selecting a site for the new home a place was chosen about twelve miles from the old Chinik home. There were a number of reasons for this change. Water and wood were more easily obtained in the new place. There was plenty of driftwood here on the beach and a large creek flowed nearby. Probably the most important reason for moving was to escape the unwholesome influence of the white people at Chinik (Golovin). [Italics mine.]18 The old station at Chinik was not closed immediately butcontinued to function until 1903. But even with its terminationthe problem of the white man did not cease. We are fortunate inhaving a day-to-day record of the Golovin station from 1901 to1904 in the diaries of Amanda Johnson and her husband, 0. P.Anderson. (They were married March 7, 1903.) It is a heroicrecord of battles with a capricious and cruel Nature as well aswith her Arctic concomitants: loneliness, depression, andanxiety. But the greatest battle even at the new Golovin stationwas with and for human souls. The scope of the drama is indicatedby the baptismal statistics for the station in 1904. That year269 natives received Christian baptism.
But, as we have indicated earlier, the yeastiness of life atthe station and even the superb work which was being done by themissionaries in evangelizing and civilizing were not an unmixedblessing. The Anderson diaries reflect an unending struggleagainst unscrupulous white men bent upon the seduction of Eskimogirls and against stupid white men who wanted to rush intomarriage with Eskimo women without understanding the implicationsof their acts. Anderson, like the rest of his Alaskan colleagues,was caught in a dilemma. To refuse to honor the unions betweenwhites and Eskimos was to assist the white men in theirexploitation of the natives by suggesting that the Eskimo girlswere beneath the status of marriage to whites. Consequently,Anderson, in spite of a feeling of repugnance, routinely marriedwhites and Eskimos where there was no good reason to dootherwise. In January, 1904, he records no less than sixmarriages between white men and Eskimo women as well as twoserious conversations with whites living with Eskimos withoutbenefit of clergy. 19
For whatever reason, the old mission areas, with the exception of Unalakleet, were gradually depopulated and the Alaskan mission sank into a long period of relative neglect. The easy money of the first years of the century made large mission appropriations seem unnecessary, and when the gold failed, no serious effort was made to recoup the losses. David Nyvall had visited the field on behalf of the Covenant in 1903; ten years later a staff visit was made by E. G. Hjerpe, then president of the Covenant. On the basis of information gained on this visit, the Covenant took several important steps in Alaska.20 It decided to sell off its holdings in reindeer, to move the Golovin station to a more populous area on Norton Bay (Elim), and to reduce the Yakutat staff to one man who could share his time between missionary work and teaching in the government school.
From this time until the 1930s the work in Alaska made no important strides. The removal of the station from Golovin to Elim on Norton Bay took place in 1914 under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Ost, who had replaced the 0. P. Andersons in 1910. It had been hoped that the station would have better physical protection at Elim than at Golovin and that the natives would gradually move down into this area, but the latter of these hopes proved sanguine and Elim never flourished as a station.
The Henning Gustafsons worked at Unalakleet 1910-16. The station was served by August Anderson on an interim basis until 1918, when the L. A. Almquists took over. During the Almquists time at Unalakleet an infirmary was started at the station, work was begun by Wilson Gonongnan and his wife at Mountain Village along the Yukon, and the first district conference of Alaskan Christians was held. Almquist returned to the States permanently in 1922 and was replaced by E. B. Larsson, who remained at Unalakleet until he retired.
At Yakutat the Rasmussons remained until 1914, when they were replaced by the E. M. Axelsons. Axelson had come to Yakutat as a teacher in 1911; in 1914 he took over both the school and the mission. With only one short break in 1923, the Axelsons remained at Yakutat until replaced by the Stanley Bensons in 1941.
With this cadre of missionaries, the first phase of the Alaska mission comes to a close. It had begun with the missionaries of the Covenant of Sweden in 1887 and had become the mission of the American Covenant two years later. There are two periods of surging interest. The former of these coincides with the earliest period, when the missionaries were the first permanent white settlers at the stations and reaped a harvest of good will and interest among Eskimos and Indians alike. This era ended in 1894 with the severe economic depression in the States. The latter peak of enthusiasm was prompted by the gold discoveries and the accession of new means to the stations. During this time both the material and spiritual interests of the natives were cared for as never before. New homes, churches, and schools were built; large herds of reindeer were assembled at Unalakleet and Golovin for the benefit of the Eskimos; funds were available to remunerate the natives for their services; and the Covenant even maintained a doctor for the benefit of the natives.21 This period ended with the death of A. E. Karlsson in 1910 and with the return of the 0. P. Andersons to the States. From 1910 to 1930 the Alaskan mission was largely a holding action.* (Although it is no doubt true, as Dr. Arden Almquist points out in Covenant Missions in Alaska, that the period witnessed an encouraging growth of native missionary work.)
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