Connie Hedrick


Port Graham is a fishing village with a population of approximately 160 people. It is 50 air miles southwest from Homer and is two miles inside Port Graham Bay from Passage Island. Port Graham’s native name is Paluwik. Port Graham natives are more closely related to Prince William Sound’s native, as evidence by their native dialect.


Port Graham has been in existence for many years. The people before us are called cuuliyallret, stone age people. They were here before the Russians came.


The people here in Port Graham take pride in their ancestry back ground and their “ roots. “( As exemplified by the many colorful articles. )


The Russians built Fort Alex and Rovskyin English Bay in 1785. After that the coal mine was opened up. Then the Russians Priest used o visit all the villages from the Aleutian Islands, north to Kodiak, English bay ,and Prince William Sound. The Russian Bishop thought it would be easier for all the people to move to one village. Also, English Bay was an untouched area as far as natural resources is concerned. Everything was plentiful; fish and sea otters.


Therefore, the Russian Priest asked the people to move from Tatitlik, Seward, Yahlik Bay, Ayalik, Nuka Bay, Port Dick, and Windy Bay, to English Bay. There must have been between 500 to 600people in English Bay at that time. Port Graham people are originally from Prince William Sound.


Port Graham became a village around that same time, probably. There were 13 barabaras where the Whitney Fidalgo Cannery is now. There were also 14 barabaras up the bay where the creek is. That was a fishing camp.


The earliest recorded sighting of Port Graham occurred in July of1786. When British Captains Nathaniel Portlock and George Dixon sailed into Cook inlet’s eastside. They noted extensive coal seams near a lagoon at the entrance to a small bay. He named the bay Graham bay, although that has also been attributed to the British sailor George Vancouver. The lagoon they named Coal bay, which today is the area inside Dangerous Cape. We refer to it as Coal Mine.


It is possible that Port Graham was visited several times during the next half – century. One instance could have been during a resource scouting mission around 1795 under the direction of Alexander Baranov. All the time coal was being experimented with as am aid to smelting iron. Despite the mention in traveler’s journals of the coal seams near Graham Bay it was not until the 1850’s and the arrival of Peter Doroshin, that coal became a factor in development if the Graham Bay area.


In 1850 Peter Doroshin looked for gold in the Kenai Peninsula, but only finding traces along the Kaknuor Kenai River. He was instructed by the Russian – American Company to examined the seams at Coal Bay near Port Graham’s entrance in 1851 and two years later returned to Russia to urge the company to develop the coal beds just north of the entrance to port Graham. The Russian – American Company in search of new revenue, hired Enoch Hjalmer Furuhjelm, a finish mining engineer to manage the enterprise. Furuhjelm arrived Kenai in the spring of 1855 and assembled a crew of workers. The nearly 50 labors, army personnel, and mining engineers arrived at Coal Bay in July of that year determined to build a settlement. Winter overtook their project by October and the building was help up again in May of 1856 when the first cargo vessel from California arrived, and the man were forced to work the mine and load the ship.The800 tons of coal was fairly easy to recover and in the subsequent four years the mine yield 5,000 tons. By the spring of 1862, when Fuuhjelm left Coal Bay colony it was the biggest in the Russian – American Company holding with the exception of Sitka and Kodiak. But the company was failing miserably despite the success of Furuhjelm’s Coal Bay venture and the project was abandoned. At it’s end nearly 100 people were said to have lived at the site. The coal was used locally, into the late 1860’s by the small village of Alexandrovsk, known as English Bay, and few straggling homesteaders and trappers in the area. By 1867, though, with the sale of Alaska to the United States, Coal Bay had become just another late started Russian – American Company venture forgotten until the fishing industry near the turn of the century changed Port Graham’s Fortunes.




Alaska Commercial Company had a warehouse down at what is now called A.C. Point. They bought the land after America bought Alaska from Russia.  They used to bring supplies in and store them in the warehouse. Then they would distribute them to English Bay and Kenai and other places from the warehouse at A.C. Point.


In 1883 St. Augustine erupted. The eruption of St. Augustine caused a tidal wave, which came upon Port Graham and carried off all the fishing boats inundating the village. St. Augustine is still active today. ( An ash eruption in March 1976 is evidence of St. Augustine’s activity. )


Then A.C. Company bought the present cannery property from Paul Ofvko for about five dollars. In 1912 Fidalgo Island Packing Company bought A.C. Point out and started the cannery.


English Bay became an almost ghost town. There was a severe sickness and many people died. The first coal mine was started at Claim point in Port Chatham, before English Bay moved down to Claim Point to work. Later, the sawmill, then the coal storage opened up and down in port Chatham.


The fox farm on Passage Island in Port Graham Bay was first established around 1920.It changed ownership three times, and was lastly run by Mr. Bob Smith. In 1931


Mr. Smith discovered and ancient burial there while cultivating a garden. His wife, Elizabeth was a teacher in Port Graham at that time.


That’s the beginning of the established village of Port Graham. People moved from English Bay to port Graham to work in the cannery.


Today Port Graham is thriving fishing village with many modern – day advancements.





Copyright 1981,  Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  All rights reserved

Volume 2