Fure's Cabin
Historic Structure Report
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Statement of Significance

Fure's Cabin is significant in that it reflects excellent craftsmanship and gives evidence of the lifestyle of many early 20th-century non-native Alaskans. While the cabin itself best demonstrates the craftsmanship and architectural aspects of the site's significance, all the structures and historic paraphernalia at the site are important in demonstrating the lifestyle of Roy Fure, a trapper-prospector.

The level of craftsmanship achieved on the cabin is exceptional. Overall dimensions of the structure vary little more than one-half inch at opposing wall elevations—remarkable considering the age of the building. All the logs used in the building were hewn by hand to a rectangular shape; they also are dimensionally consistent. Joints between wall logs and at dovetailed corners were carefully crafted to fit tightly and are still tight today; little chinking was required or used. The cabin's fine and careful construction is evidenced by its excellent state of preservation despite its being uninhabited for twenty years in a harsh environment.

Certain aspects of the cabin, mainly the dovetailed corners and handhewn roof and floor slabs, appear to show Russian or Scandinavian influence in Alaskan architecture. This detailing is similar to construction techniques used in a Russian Orthodox Church in the Lake Clark region of Alaska (the Kejik Church), and the Russian Bishop's House, a National Historic Landmark in Sitka, Alaska. Mr. Fure was a Lithuanian-Russian and must have learned methods of construction in his homeland, as these methods are rare in Alaska. This is the only cabin in the Katmai area constructed in this fashion (with the possible exception of another cabin constructed by Mr. Fure, which has not been examined as yet).

Fure's Cabin exemplifies the early 20th-century trapper-prospector lifestyle and gives evidence of the activities and lifestyle of Roy Fure. The site has the number and kinds of outbuildings characteristic of trapper-prospector sites built in many regions of Alaska during this time period: a one-room log cabin, elevated cache, wood shed, and outhouse. The construction materials, log and split-logs, rather than milled lumber, are also typical of the era in which the cabin was built.

The historic paraphernalia and furnishings, including traps, axes, tools, built-in wood shelves, cardboard boxes flattened to cover interior walls, and a wood cookstove are characteristic of a trapper-prospector residence, though the quality and number of items show touches of a more permanent nature than most. A number of artifacts are inventions or modifications made by a person with little cash income, far from commercial outlets, and whose subsistence was largely from nature. These include a lamp shade made of tree bark, gas-cans flattened for use as roofing, and a shower nozzle made from a bacon can.

Fure lived in San Francisco before moving to Alaska.1 The Alaska Packer's Association recruited and transported workers from San Francisco each summer season and Fure was probably one of the thousands lured to Alaska to fish commercially or work in fish canneries or salteries. 2

There are conflicting reports about the year Fure moved to the Bay of Islands. In 1954 archeologists conducting research in the area interviewed Fure. According to their report Fure lived below Chignik, Alaska, in 1912, but moved to the present Katmai National Park and Preserve shortly thereafter. He described several villages in the area to them, from first-hand experience beginning in 1914, and from hearsay knowledge for the years prior to that—which leads one to believe he moved to the region in 1914.3

In 1938, however, the National Park Service investigated Fure's right to land within the then monument, and the investigator cited a later date for Fure's arrival. A.C. Kinsley, Special Agent, Mount McKinley National Monument, reported that Fure moved into the Katmai region about 1926, and that his wife, Fannie, lived there only two years, 1926-1927, before moving to Kodiak.4 Other National Park Service records indicate he moved to the Katmai area in 1916.5

At any rate, Fure and his wife Fannie Olson, an Aleut from Naknek, settled at the Bay of Islands and had two children, a son Alexander and a daughter Nola, born in the 1920s.6 About 1941 Alexander Fure helped his father build another cabin at American Creek, where Roy Fure was reportedly doing some occasional prospecting.7

Pay receipts, oral interviews, and the artifacts at the site indicate Fure worked at several occupations on a temporary or seasonal basis—as a trapper, prospector, carpenter, cannery-worker, laborer, and fisherman. He was described as a person handy with wood and machinery, and a good carpenter. He had a wind generator, a windmill, a radio, and a plethora of tools at the cabin. To obtain supplies, he used a dory in summer and skis in winter to travel 55 miles to Naknek and the nearest commercial establishments. In Naknek and South Naknet area he had several friends with whom he'd stay when in town.9

Writing from a hospital on September 4, 1962, Fure authorized his daughter Nola and his son-in-law Bobby Hoffman to use and live in his three cabins, including the one at the Bay of Islands, the cabin at American Creek, and another one located outside the monument boundaries.10 Because he was a citizen of Russia and had never obtained United States citizenship, however, ownership of the cabins at American Creek and the Bay of Islands reverted to National Park Service upon his death in October, 1962.11

Fure's cabin remains in good condition with a great many artifacts still at the site. The relative isolation of the site, far from any major population centers and accessible only by float plane or boat, has preserved the integrity of the site. At least one bear over the years, however, and a few people have entered the cabin and disturbed then rearranged historic objects.12 Park rangers use the cabin while on patrols.

The National Park Service has developed a stabilization plan for the building. Stabilization work is scheduled to begin in the summer of 1985.

1. Mike Shapsnikoff, Victor Monsen, interviews with Joaqlin Estus, Brooks Camp and Naknek, Alaska, June, 1982.

2. Monsen to Estus, June, 1982. For more information on the history of the Katmai area, see: John A. Hussey, Embattled Katmai: A History of Katmai National Monument, (San Francisco: National Park Service, 1971). An overview of the fishing industry in particular is given in James E. Hawkins, Elizabeth A. Daugherty, "The Silver Fleece: An Economic Study of the Bristol Bay Region," (Alaska Rural Development Board, Juneau: 1958) pp 3-4. The records of the Alaska Packer's Association, Alaska Historical Library, Juneau, Alaska, provide more specific information on the industry.

3. Wilbur A. Davis, with assistance of James W. Leach, "Archeological Investigations of Inland and Coastal Sites of the Katmai National Monument, Alaska," (Unpublished manuscript, National Park Service, Alaska Regional Office, Anchorage, Alaska, March 4, 1954) p. 69.

4. A.C. Kinsley, Special Agent, Division of Investigations, Mount McKinley National Park, to Commissioner, General Land Office, Jan. 18, 1940, Park files, Katmai National Park and Preserve, King Salmon, AK.

5. Merrill J. Mattes, Chief, Office of History and Historic Architecture, Western Service Center, National Park Service, to General Superintendent, Alaska Cluster Office, National Park Service, Feb. 11, 1970; Superintendent, Mount McKinley National Park, to Regional Director, Western Region, Jan. 6, 1964 (National Park Service files, Katmai National Park and Preserve, King Salmon, Alaska).

6. Kinsley, p. 3.

7. Monsen to Estus, June, 1982.

8. Bob Hatfield, Victor Monsen, Mike Shapsnikoff, interviews with Joaqlin Estus, Brooks Camp and Naknek, Alaska, June, 1982.

9. Roy Fure, letter "To Whom it May Concern," Sept. 4, 1962, (Park files, Katmai National Park and Preserve, King Salmon, AK).

10. Thomas F. Flynn, Jr., Director, Western Region, National Park Service, to U.S. Senator E.C. Bartlett, Park files, Katmai National Park and Preserve, King Salmon, AK, Kinsley.

11. David E. Bogart, Park Ranger, Mount McKinley National Park, to Nola L. Hoffman, Park files, Katmai National Park and Preserve, King Salmon, AK, January 27, 1964.

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Last Updated: 26-Mar-2008