This photo was taken around 1930 at Hardys, now known as Old Kasilof Landing, on the Kasilof River. From left to right are Tom Odale, Pete Jensen, Archie McLane, Al Hardy, John Sandwick, James Stryker, Alice Hardy, Bertha Stryker, Enid McLane, Jettie Petersen and Jennie Sandwick. The children include Stan, Jettie and Joan McLane, and Shirley and John Sandwick Jr. All were Kasilof fur farmers at the time, except for the Strykers and Jettie Petersen, who were visiting from Seldovia.
Photo from the McLane Collection
Alaska was included in the U.S. census for the first time in 1880. That year the census listed Kassilof (an early spelling) with 31 persons of Athabaskan descent. But it is not clear who was counted since there wasn't a distinct village of Kasilof at that time.
The first cannery wasn't built until 1882. There were two nearby Dena'ina villages, K'echan Dalkizt at Humpy Point and Unhghenesditnu at Kalifonsky Creek. One or both of them were probably called Kassilof by the census-taker
Every decade saw changes to the information collected. In 1880 Alaska residents were categorized as white, creole, Eskimo, Athabaskan or Thlinket. In 1890, the categories changed to white, mixed, Indian, Mongolian and all others.
Cannery workers showed up in the 1890 census in Kassilof (sic). The total number of persons was 117. Fifty were male Chinese cannery workers. There were only 17 females counted, 14 categorized as Indian and three as mixed.
In 1900 Unhghenesditnu was counted separately and called "Califonsky" by the census taker. Kussiloff (sic) had 159 people counted in April 1900. Sixteen made up the crew of the steamship Centennial. The cannery had 92 male Chinese workers and 42 other male workers, the superintendent and his wife. In addition, there were seven people listed as residents of the community but none of them were there 10 years later.
In 1910 the census worker counted 35 people in Califonski (sic) and 200 in Kasilof. Everyone on the Kasilof census was listed as a "lodger" and employee of the cannery. The census taker did not determine who was actually living in Kasilof. Ninety-nine were "white" men. Another 100 men were Chinese, Filipino, Mexican or Siamese. Only one person was female, the Native wife of a Norway-born fisherman.
In 1920, no cannery workers were listed for Kasilof (or Kenai) when the count was taken in June. Five unmarried men were listed by the census taker in Kasilof: Frank Standifer, Tony Martin, Daniel Morris, Charles West and Otto Ness.
In 1930 the cannery had closed but the community had been populated by fur farmers. Forty-five residents were living in Kasilof, including 13 children. This is the most recent census for which the detail about individuals is available. The government waits 72 years before releasing more than general numbers.
From 1940 through 1970 Kasilof's population didn't go over 100; then it started creeping up. By 2000 it had reached 471. Now that roads have been built and the population has boomed, that number is deceptive.
The Kasilof census area only includes a small geographic area north of the river and close to the intersection of Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Sterling Highway. Cohoe is a separate census area starting on the south side of the river and going all the way to Clam Gulch. Cohoe's count was 508 in 1990 and 1,168 in 2000. The Kalifornsky census area covers most of K-Beach. It increased from 285 in 1990 to 5,846 in 2000.
The Kasilof Post Office has nearly all of its 1,200 boxes rented. Feeling a little crowded?
This column was written by Catherine Cassidy with the Kasilof Historical Society.
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