Farming on Passage Island

As Remembered by Mickey Moonin



     Around 1910 and into the 1920’s, a fox farm was established out in Passage Island. The owner was John Herbert.

     “The foxes were raised for pelts which were sold for forty-four to forty-five dollars each,” reported Mickey Moonin, our source for this articled.

     “Some of the people who helped Herbert were Demetri Moonin, Gabriel Kanaback, Peter Moonin, Gorman Agenia and sometimes Mike Moonin.”


     All those who worked for him were taken out to the island, rowing out early in the mourning and back late that evening. Help came from both English Bay and Port Graham.

     “I guess he had a pretty good dock out there,” remembered Mickey. Trading boats used to come in there three times a week and pick up furs. They shipped the furs out to Seattle, Washington, to get a better price.

     “I believe he paid the people who helped him after he sold the pelts. John Herbert just made a living selling the pelts. That was lower hard times, very low times,” related Mickey.




     The foxes ate mostly fish and porcupine which were sold to the owner.

     Someone had to cook the fox food. A fifty gallon oil drum was cut in half and used as a pot to cook the fish trash.

     The foxes ran loose around the island until the females were ready to have pups. Then Herbert would pen them up in little houses they built. If allowed to run loose, the mothers would dig holes for dens to have pups in.

     It was dangerous to go near the foxes, but they knew the owner because he fed them. If a stranger came along, the mother fox would eat her pups.

     When it was time to kill the foxes the men couldn’t shoot them if they wanted to sell the fur.

     “The way they killed them was with a pronged stick,” said Mickey. “They pushed there necks down to the ground to keep them from moving. Then they could pick them up by the back of the head. Experienced men could squeeze there hearts out of place.”

     The foxes were skinned with a knife and the men made sure that they didn’t get any blood on the fur. If they got blood on the fur it wouldn’t sell very well. The fur of the foxes was made into coats that were very expensive.


     After John Herbert retired, a man bought some live mink and started a mink ranch out on the island. He had the same helpers to work with him skinning the mink.

     In November and December the mink were skinned and readied to sell. In those years the mink pelts were worth about eight dollars for a poor one and twelve dollars for a pretty good one. The pelts were graded like Grade A and such.

     The mink ate fish and seafood like clams, cockles and bidarkies.

     Pens about four feet long and two feel square, were built of wire mesh. There was a little cubbyhole so the mink could get inside the pen.

     Mr. and Mrs. Bob Smith were owners of the mink ranch at one time. Mrs. Smith also taught school in Port Graham and Mr. Smith worked as Janitor.

     When the Smiths left, they killed all the mink and sold all the stuff.


The farm site with remains of dock.

One of the pens as it looks today.

Pelts like this were skinned out on the island.










Copyright 1983,  Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  All rights reserved