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The History of Petersburg, Alaska

A Guide to Petersburg, Alaska

    Petersburg is located on the north end of Mitkof Island, where the Wrangell Narrows meet Frederick Sound. It lies midway between Juneau and Ketchikan, about 120 miles from either community. It lies at approximately 56 48' N Latitude, 132 58' W Longitude (Sec. 27, T058S, R079E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Petersburg Recording District. The area encompasses 43 sq. miles of land and 5 sq. miles of water.

    Tlingit Indians from Kake utilized the north end of Mitkof Island as a summer fish camp. Some reportedly began living year-round at the site, including John Lot. Petersburg was named after Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian immigrant and a pioneer in the cannery business, who arrived in the late 1890s. He built the Icy Strait Packing Company cannery, a sawmill, and a dock by 1900. His family's homesteads grew into this community, populated largely by people of Scandinavian origin. By 1920, 600 people lived in Petersburg year-round. During this time, fresh salmon and halibut were packed in glacier ice for shipment. Alaska's first shrimp processor, Alaska Glacier Seafoods, was founded in 1916. A cold storage plant was built in 1926. The cannery has operated continuously, and is now known as Petersburg Fisheries, a subsidiary of Icicle Seafoods, Inc. Across the narrows is the town of Kupreanof, which was once busy with fur farms, a boat repair yard and a sawmill. Petersburg has developed into one of Alaska's major fishing communities.

Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development