donated to two of the California missions he had visited (San Jose and Santa Clara)— “a rare gesture of ecumenical goodwill for the time.”

In 1841—the same year the Russians abandoned Fort Ross—Father Veniaminov was made Bishop of Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands of Russia and the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. As is the custom in the Russian Orthodox Church, he was given the monastic name of Innocent. In 1850 he was elevated to Archbishop and in 1869 was appointed Metropolitan of Moscow, the highest rank in the Russian Orthodox Church. He died in 1879 at the age of 82. He was canonized a saint in 1977.

Blessed Dabovich (Page 4)

Jovan Dabovich was born in San Francisco in 1863 to Serbian immigrant parents. He was ordained an Orthodox priest in 1892. He was the first American to be ordained an Orthodox priest. Upon monastic tonsure he took the name Sebastian. In 1897 the young priest accompanied his Bishop Nicholas Ziorov on a trip from San Francisco to Fort Ross. The trip included a ferry boat ride from San Francisco to Sausalito. There the clerics boarded a train which took them over the coastal range along Tomalas Bay and inland to Cazadero. From Cazadero they took a stagecoach up Fort Ross Road. The entire trek from San Francisco took about fifteen hours.

Bishop Ziorov has left us an accurate account of the trip and his impressions. They only spent a day and a night at the Fort. Like St. Innocent, he enjoyed the trip and surroundings; “Such air, such nature, an enchantment!” he wrote. He gasped when he caught his first sight of the fort: “It stands on a hillock as if in the (palm) of God’s hand above the ocean.”

Ziorov and Dabovich were disappointed with the condition of the chapel and cemetery, both of which had degraded significantly in the nearly fifty years since the colony was abandoned by the Russians. The chapel,
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St. Innocent (Page 4)

Ioann Veniaminov, a 39 years old Russian Orthodox priest, departed Sitka, Alaska onboard a Russian schooner on July 1, 1836. Alaska was then a Russian colony. On the second day at sea, Veniaminov related in his journal, “we received a tailwind and the weather was good. The weather stayed with us all the way and was so favorable that we raced across a distance of 150 to 200 miles per day.” Fifteen days later he disembarked at Bodega Bay and spent the next five hours on horseback riding at “a moderate gait.” When he arrived at Fort Ross at 8 PM that July night, he had traveled 1,100 miles.

Veniaminov, who spent five weeks at the fort, was only the second Orthodox prelate to visit the colony since its founding in 1812. While there he celebrated liturgies and gave communion, performed and blessed marriages, heard confessions, baptized and taught religion prepatory to the various mysteries. He blessed the stream and the fort. He liked Fort Ross, admitting “the healthful air, the pure blue sky, the geographical position and native vegetation struck and captivated” him. Although he was disappointed with the chapel which he found “rather plain.”

He was an inquisitive man “full of scientific curiosity, observant, tireless and exact in collecting data.” He was also a gifted linguist. He left Fort Ross by horse, traveling to San Francisco. He spent another two weeks in the Bay Area, visiting and befriending Catholic padres at five Franciscan missions (San Rafael, San Francisco’s Mission Dolores, San Jose and Santa Clara.). It took 30 days to sail back to Sitka.

Back in Alaska he took the time to use his mechanical skills, building two small pipe organs which he
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The Saints of Fort Ross
By Daniel J. Demers
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