Fort Ross

Sonoma Cnty Fort RossImperial Spain, who had long feared a Russian advance into their largely unguarded province of California, was in no position to resist when Czarist Russia decided to build an outpost above Bodega Bay. Trade was vital to existing Russian settlements in Alaska, where long winters exhausted supplies and the inhabitants couldn’t grow enough food to support themselves. They established Fort Ross about 90 miles north of San Francisco Bay in 1812, both as a food source for Alaska and to expand the profitable sea otter trade.  It is the site of California’s first windmill. At its peak Fort Ross contained 260 people: 120 Russians, 51 Creoles, 50 Kodiak Aleuts, and 39 local Indians. Only high-ranking officials lived inside the fort; most lived in the villages that extended south to Bodega Bay. Dwellings were constructed of local redwood and had glazed windows.  Princess Elena, a woman of education and refinement who was the wife of the fort’s last manager Alexander Rotchev, had a piano. The Russians abandoned this enterprise in 1841, selling their buildings and livestock to John Sutter in the Sacramento Valley. The name Fort Ross was derived from Rossiia, an archaic word for Russia.

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