Passengers: San Francisco 1800s


Molokan is a Russian term for "milk-drinkers" and is a Slavonic exonym for members of different Spiritual Christian sects that evolved from Eastern Christians in the lands "of all Rus'." Their traditions (especially dairy consumption during Christian fasts) did not conform to those of the Russian Orthodox Church. Molokans in America. John K. Berokoff.Regarded as outside the traditional Eastern Orthodoxy, they tend to identify as "Spiritual Christians". Unlike the Protestant "reformists" of Western Europe, Molokans rejected conformity. There are almost as many different ways among Molokans as there are Molokans. Some built chapels for worship, kept sacraments, and revered saints and icons, while others (like Ikonobortsi) discarded these practices in the pursuit of individual approaches to Scripture. In general, they rejected the institutionalized formalism of Orthodoxy and denominations with similar doctrines in favor of more emphasis on "Original Christianity," as they understood it.

Molokans had some practices similar to the European Quakers and Mennonites, such as pacifism, communal organization, spiritual meetings, and sub-groupings. But they arose in Russia together with the Doukhobors and Sabbatarians (also known as Subbotniks) and similar Spiritual Christian movements of Duhovnye Kristyanye and Ikonobortsy (icon-wrestlers).

January 16, 1906, Sacramento Union, Sacramento, California, U.S..A.

Arrangements Projected for Securing Russian Colony.

...Land Commissioner J. W. Pratt is the other Hawaiian representative. He is en route to Los Angeles to settle finally the terms on which a colony of Russians or Molokans will come to settle in the Island of Kauai as homesteaders. There are about 200 families. in the colony, it is stated, including about 1200 persons, and they are ready to migrate if the agreement which Pratt is to submit to them is satisfactory. The land on which they are to settle is near the plantation of the Makee Sugar Company, and the agreement which Pratt is to submit is for the purchase of the cane they raise.

March 31, 1906, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Come to Place Large Order for Agricultural Machinery

Four Molokan farmers from Eastern Siberia, who arrived here yesterday on the liner Siberia, will purchase in this country, perhaps in this city, $150,000 worth of agricultural machinery. They represent an association of Russian farmers who, by pursuing modern methods, have made themselves wealthy. They know little of the late war, and are not worrying about revolutions.

Molokan Farmers From Czar's Domains, Passengers on Siberia, May Spend $150,000 in This City.

Four Russian Farmers And An Interpreter From Eastern Siberia, Who Arrived Here Yesterday On The Pacific Mail Liner Siberia, Their Mission Being To Purchase $150,000 Worth Of Modern Agricultural Machinery Of American Manufacture.

There arrived here yesterday on the liner Siberia four Russian farmers from Eastern Siberia, who have come to this country with about $150,000 in real money with which to purchase up-to-date American farming machinery. If they can get what they want in this city they will go no farther, but if the agencies here of the big manufacturers cannot supply their needs they will go East and do their marketing at the factories.

Russia has just emerged from an expensive and disastrous, war. She is now in the throes of domestic collywobbles. But the Czar's empire is large, and no better evidence of its vastness exists than the simple story of these prosperous Siberian agriculturists. They are Molokans. They know Russia has been through a war, but only by hearsay. They took no share in it and apparently little interest. They know of the revolutions and unrest in the empire, but in their peaceful Siberian homes the internal disorders of their land had no disturbing effect.

While Russia was making history and giving Japan a chance to win laurels in the world's power class these farmers plowed and sowed and reaped. Their crops were good and were wisely marketed, and out of their surplus they are going to provide themselves with the best implements the world affords.

Wherever else he may exist, the "man with the hoe" is not one of the features of rural life in Eastern Siberia. These men who arrived here yesterday from "darkest" Russia, have been pursuing agriculture for years along intelltgent lines and with the aid of modern machinery. They are bright-looking men and each is said to be an expert in the application of machinery to farming operations. They are members of a farmers' association, and were selected by their brother agriculturists to make this trip.

They speak no English, but are accompanied by Constantine Krasilnikoff, a shrewd young Russian, who lived for ten years in this city and talks United States like a native son. Krasilnikoff left here three years ago and took up his residence in Eastern Siberia. He can tell the quartet nothing about agricultural machinery, but he will act as interpreter and business agent for the four Molokans.

Krasilnikoff says the farmers of Eastern Siberia are very prosperous. Through their association they are able to operate on a large scale and to handle their produce to the best advantage. They have used American machines and implements for years and keep in constant touch with all improvements.

Alexander Primoganolli, Andre Gridneff, Michel Leshtaeff and Vvlas Oskin, the four Russian farmers who crossed the Pacific on the Siberia, are strong-limbed, intelligent men of independent bearing. Their clothes might cause some backward glances on Broadway, but as men they typify the prosperous middle class, which in Eastern Siberia, according to the quartet's interpreter, is large and growing.

Alameda Arrives from Honolulu

August 8, 1906, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Oceanic Steamship Company's liner Alameda, Captain Dowdell, arrived yesterday from Honolulu. She brought a large cargo and, 357 passengers. Among the steerage passengers were forty  Molokans,  the Russian peasants who were expected to solve the labor problem on the sugar plantations.

The Molokans,  however, are said to have failed to make good. They lack ambition. Like the fat Scotsman, they "eat weel, sleep weel, but fair tremmel at the sight o' wark." The sexes were about evenly divided among these Molokan passengers, and every woman carried in her arms a fat, healthy, happy looking baby. For look of contentment, however, the babies had no advantage over their elders, who apparently are as well satisfied to come back to the United States as they were, a few months ago, to leave for the islands of fair promise. Among the cabin passengers was Mrs. William M. Langdon, associate editor of the Paradise of the Pacific. She is on her way to Los Angeles, where she will meet about sixty editors from all over the country and pilot them to Honolulu. The three score editors and their fair guide will Rail from here September 1 on the Alameda.

The Alameda's passengers included: A. J. Block, Miss Caywood. W. H. Duff, Dr. F. L. Ferguson, Mrs. Ferguson, J. S. Frost and daughter. J. E. Higgins, Dr. James, H. Johnson, S. Kahiku. E. H. Keidel, C. Keidel Jr.. Mrs. Langdon, Mrs. F. D. McKernan, Captain Morong, Mrs. Morong. R. McB. Purvis, Philip Rice, Miss Rice, Mrs. Wieland, Mrs. J. Sweig. 

San Francisco Bay Map in Russian.

Antoine Cherbok

May 30, 1909, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Planning a Russian Revolution in a California Orange Grove

The Thrilling Life Story Of Antoine Cherbok, Exile

By Ethel Mowbray Dolsen

WHEN the history of the Russian revolution comes to be written the name of Antoine Cherbok will not be missing from its pages. Mr. Cherbok, now an exile, lives in Los Angeles in the Bethlehem institute, a settlement house in the center of the Russian colony. Thirty years of his life were fruitfully spent In organizing the peasant revolt in Russia, and though he was twice forced to flee to this country to save his life, his work goes on. Others have taken up the dangerous task he had to leave and they are patiently laboring to liberate the minds of the peasants of Russia from their unhappy bondage to ignorance and superstition. And though he is far removed from the fantastic scenes of his youth and early manhood. Mr. Cherbok has not abandoned his dreams of a free Russia, but still tolls passionately toward its realization.

His mornings are spent in writing and his afternoons are given to teaching classes of Russian children. In the evenings he lectures to his countrymen in one of the halls of the settlement house. Whatever his subject. whether geography, social science or hygiene, he never falls to turn it into a lesson on democracy. That is his great object — to Inspire some of his hearers with the revolutionary zeal that will urge them back to Russia to join In the work of overthrowing the despotism. He calls the school his university."

Of decidedly cheerful aspect, with clear brown eyes and a healthy skin, laughing heartily when amused — a thoroughly wholesome personality one would, say — there is nothing about this man's outer self to suggest the brooding gloom of a spirit at war with society. Mr. Cherbok is a man of compelling force, as is shown by the great influence he wields in the Russian community of Los Angeles, The majority of these people are Molakans [ethnic Molokans],  a [group of] Protestant sect[s], persecuted and driven out of Russia for refusing to give military service, which is a violation of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," literally enjoined in their creed. They are a strong, intelligent but illiterate people, living in patriarchal state, the 12 elders of the community ruling the rest absolutely. They are — or were — nonpolitical, until Mr. Cherbok came among them.

Three months ago, when he was giving the first lesson in geography to a class of 50 men, one of the bearded pupils interrupted him to inquire if the statement that the earth was round could be proved by the bible. A short time ago this same Russian was one of several hundred who, led by Mr. Cherbok, marched through the main streets of Los Angeles and participated in a meeting, addressed by several speakers, commemorating the fourth anniversary of "Red Sunday," when 2,000 peasants were shot down by the czar's soldiers in front of the winter palace. The meeting was also to protest against the extradition of Rudowittz and Pourin.

Mr. Cherbok's life history makes the most thrilling melodrama read like an expurgated Sunday school story. He was but a youth of 17 when he was first punished for his devotion to his ideals by being arrested and expelled from his university and exiled from his country for having organized a reading club among the boy and girl students.

He was a man of 42 the last time he was arrested in 1905, this time for something that made his name famous in South Russia — for having organized nine provinces into a republic that set up its own government convening a parliament and successfully defying the central government for eight months. Many times between those widely separated events he has been awakened in the middle of the night to face the drawn revolvers of the police many times he has been driven through the snow at the point of Cossack bayonets; many times he has shivered in his stone cell while death waited for him just outside the door; many times he has felt the awful certainty that his life was as surely going as the leaf fluttering downward is surely gone and yet, each time, a miraculous something intervened and saved him.

Once it was through the protests of Tolstoy, Gorky and a score of other literary men. aided, by the clergyman, Petroff, a deputy in the second duma, now confined in Ladoga, Russia's monastery prison, a place of unexplored horrors. Another time the strategy of a woman was instrumental in unlocking his cell door — but how is a secret Cherbok refuses to tell. Once he was saved from exile to Siberia by the duma interceding with Minister Stolypin. This was in 1905, and Cherbok came to the United States shortly afterward on the advice of friends who knew that his life was no longer safe in Russia.

As his sole, tangible asset resulting from those-years of teaching, agitating, plotting and organizing, Cherbok exhibits one album containing a remarkable collection of photographs of noted Russian revolutionists, taken in jail. and presented to him by an admirer. "All I have left from the revolution," he says gayly. It is his most prized possession.

Another relic of his days of struggle that he treasures almost as much is a torn and worn copy of a revolutionary newspaper he owned and edited in Sumy, his birthplace, which contains an article entitled "The Commandment of God," a poetical rendering of our own declaration of independence. For writing and publishing this he was arrested and sentenced to eight months imprisonment. In addition to this punishment his printing plant was confiscated and he had to pay a heavy fine.

"I can not remember the time when I was not a revolutionist," said. Cherbok in reply to a question. "No, it was not from any hardships in my own life, because my father, though a farmer, was a very rich man and I did not know what it was to want for anything. When I was a boy of 16 I had in my home in Sumy, state of Kharkov, a fine library of 4,000 volumes, and it was for loaning my books to my friends in a reading club we had formed that I first came in conflict with the authorities. In Russia, astounding as it may seem, the people are forbidden to read the classics, study statistics, sociology or political questions. I had many books belonging, to the prohibited class and loaned them freely. For this I was arrested, expelled from the university and exiled from my country , and I was told I had forfeited all right to continue my education. I was saved from a term in prison at this time by an order from Czar Alexander II, with whom some friends had interceded for me. In his imperial command to the chief of police of my town the czar wrote: 'From one cow never take two horns.'

"I was anxious to continue my education, so on the advice of friends I traveled to Nemrof, a little town 3,000 miles from Sumy, where I was entirely unknown. Here I lived secretly for a few months, studying for the examinations that would admit me to the university in that place, providing the police did not discover my identity. I was permitted to take the examinations and had finished 15 of the 24 subjects in which I had to qualify, when I received a telegram from a friend in Sumy, which said: 'Your presence in Nemrof is known to officials here.'

"I was alarmed because I knew, there was danger of my plans failing if I did not rush through those examinations. So l went to the president of the university and requested him to allow me to finish my papers as quickly as possible to permit me to go to the bedside of a relative who was very ill. My request .was granted and I finished the examinations in three days.

"Armed with the certificates from this institution I returned, to Kharkoff, the capital city of my state, and was admitted to one of the universities there without difficulty. I attended this institution for two years, when I was again arrested for revolutionary propaganda among the students. This time I was sentenced to imprisonment in Sumy.

"After a confinement of several months I was forced into the army and sent to join a battalion in barracks a long distance from my home. At the end of 10 months I was allowed to take an examination for the rank of:lieutenant, and winning this promotion gave me the right to choose between the army and private life. I chose the latter.

In 1900 Cherbok came to America with his wife and children, he having found time to marry and make a fair start toward the ideal family group according to the ideas of Napoleon, Frederick the Great and Theodore Roosevelt. He has eight children. He brought with him $10,000, all that was left of a fortune of $100,000 that was sacrificed to the cause. With this he bought an orange ranch in San Bernardino county, where he lived with his family until 1905, when. he returned to Russia to help carry out plans formulated by the revolutionary leaders for overthrowing the government of the czar.

In Moscow, in the spring, he called a convention of peasants and 280.000 came from the surrounding provinces. A petition to the czar was drawn up and Cherbok was chosen to present it to the ruler. In it the signers asked that the powers of government be taken out of the hands of the bureaucrats upon whom the blame for the Russo-Japanese war was placed, and a reorganization of the government, giving the people a constitution, was asked. "If you want another Russia you must have other laws," said the peasants in their address to the czar.

In a speech Cherbok told the convention that nothing would result from presenting the petition but his hanging. "No! no !" cried the peasants. "Give it to the little father; he does not understand. Tell him what his children need and he will grant our prayers."

Cherbok carried the petition to Witte, who accepted it for the czar. Two days afterward Cherbok was arrested. Thousands of peasant stormed the prison where he was confined demanding his release, but it was not until four months later that he was given his freedom, and in two months he was again in jail, having been arrested with the 300 peasants who assembled in Moscow to enact laws for the republic set up by the 35 Russian provinces from which they were delegates. The convention had been in session from November 6 to November 11, 1905 before the little republic was overthrown. It was this time that Cherbok's release was obtained by the intercession of the duma and he came to the United States immediately afterward: Of his sensations during a short confinement in a prison dungeon Cherbok wrote the following description which is a study of great psychological interest.

Two Hours

"The prison is astir. Through the grated windows the life of the street can be heard. All is quiet. lnside it is as if the seal of death had been put on everything. The warden counts the time like a pendulum.

"There are cells on either side of the corridor, in which are locked human beings, men and women, many in solitary confinement. To and fro, like a beast in a cage, one paces his cell, six feet long, four feet wide. "All trace of time has been lost the night takes the place of the day, the day of the night. This is all—- complete apathy.

"Everything in the cell is minutely known; some straw on the floor, a pillow—-this is the inventory. In comparison with the fate I shall meet, this humble hole now looks a paradise. I had to find out for myself, by experience, how one feels when incarcerated in the prison of Sumy..

"I am pushed into the carcer [prison]— three minutes have passed; we first go out of the prison, turn around: and thence to the basement, four stories down.

"We arrive at the second iron door, the keys sound in the lock, the fetid, damp air makes me dizzy — a grave like darkness.

" 'Search him, take away his belt, suspenders, lest he hang himself,' is the command.

"To the right of the dungeon there is a third door; the whole mass of the three story prison is high, gloomy, impossible to conceive, impossible to describe; a coffin is for a corpse, but this is a grave for a living man.

" ' We will knock him down.' shouts the chief

"There are five of us in the dungeon — three strong wardens, the chief and I. The wardens are ready to attack — yes— they have more than enough physical strength to beat me —even to kill me. It is useless to resist. It is easy for them to get help should the case require it; I understand this is the place where people are crippled.

" 'There will come a time when I shall go free, and as a writer narrate the story to the world and let it know what is going on here in the twentieth century.

" 'Lock up' —

" 'Is the parasha in?'

" 'Yes. sir.'

" 'Lock up.' "The mysterious third door is ajar, I am into the darkness of the dungeon.

"The door is promptly locked, the bar sounds, the keys grate in the lock, footsteps. The second door, again the bar, the lock, the keys— the steps can hardly be heard now.

"The third door is shut.. No sound is to be heard. Complete silence.

"A dark brick vault, in a damp basement, without any ventilation, hermetically shut— this is a carceral, the bottom of life; nothing under it.

"Daniel was thrown into a den with lions. The danger was evident there; here it is hidden. There was light; here is darkness. Where am l? What is around me? Who are my neighbors? The darkness has a frightful effect on my mind. l wish to gnaw the door with my teeth to entreat the wardens, to crawl before them; no, they are men.

"The waves of- fright overtake the fright itself, picturing horror upon horrors. The mind is beyond my control; the brain paralyzed, my heart in a vise; my whole body is being conquered by a dread.

"Other men have suffered here, in this very cell; here they have left their proud spirit; from here they went out lifeless, and their spirits, their proud spirits, the ornaments of men, were left here forever. The spirit is broken, the body is dead. Gather the power of your will and sustain your feeble spirit.

"If my unsubdued spirit be broken, I do not care to live. The wall is strong, l can dash my head on it. The whole solution lies with me. Courage!

"My thoughts must be directed into another channel. What is most pleasing in my life? The extent of thought is boundless; let the thought with its power and beauty, quench the pains of the spirit, of the body.

"My dear little Lena, my dear child! how glad she will be to see me free. Embraces, kisses, tears of joy, so soothing, so calming. Yes, yes; I feel it;. what is it that warms near my hand? I see, it is my neighbors.

"Each atmosphere has its inhabitants. It is so here. It is cold, dark, darker than the night itself. What is it? Frogs, snakes, spiders, rats and all things to which human life has the greatest aversion. Oh, yes; I can feel them dreadful. It seems my very hair turns gray. A chill seizes me; the will is being subdued; it. does not seem to help me. If I do turn gray, and let the chill get a hold on me, my spirit will be lost, but not yet.

"Frogs, b-r-r-r-r! . . . I hate them. A rattlesnake can not be here— it likes the sun, where it is warm, but a garter snake is on my neck, slimy, horrible; rats, there are many of them. It is almost 50 years since the prison has been built— yes, quite 50 years. In this three story building, for 50 years, they have multiplied. If I hit one, the rest will attack me. Did they not consume a soldier here? Yes, yes. My reason, where art thou? Reason can accomplish anything; it is a true servant—save me! save. me!

"To drive away the rats from me will be worse yet, it is better to take and pet one. Every creature likes to be petted. Love is the essence of all;: love is all and everything. I will pour, out my love on the rats, but if so, they will all creep over me, my back, face, in my shirt. B-r-r-r! . . . My mind is dim; rats, rats— they are squeaking— py!-py! They are approaching nearer, nearer— on my leg! Oh, this is worse than death!

Russians in Alaska.

"Where am I? I bend on one knee — a wooden floor, cold, slimy. Oh yes, yes. This is a carceral. I remember now. I can knock at: the door, the wardens will open and I will say, I surrender.' Do l not have the right to speak? I know a man should not supplicate, but can stand it no longer.

"To speak does not mean to degrade one's self. My spirit leaves behind it the rights of a man, for my body is weak. No one could stand this. Yes, it is true. I will speak and be safe.: Never fight with a beast; calm it. Mine is a quiet, subdued supplication. I am weak; my spirit is feeble. All— mind, reason, love— unable to help me.

"I hear a noise. The first door is unlocked. It is quiet again. The wardens are listening. It means they have had I such cases before. Men can not stand it; they creep on the floor, eat the dirt. Shall I knock, or bear it? They can hear me only after the first door has been opened. Even now my retreat is being cut off. Either now or bear it to the bitter end.

"The door sounds. They have gone. All is quiet again. l hear a fly buzz in my grave. Where is it? A big fly, coming directly toward me. Can it see? l will try to open my eyes. I can see nothing. My eyes are sore; they are better closed.

"All is quiet again. A grave-like stillness. My life is in my own hands. I can kill myself before my strength fails me completely. But above everything is the spirit; this great, proud spirit that alone enables one to carry the burden and hardships of life. The spirit, the creation of which required so much skill from mother nature, that created and destroyed, finding in destruction new power of creation.

"The quiet but powerful work, went on for scores of centuries, even thousands of years, and at last mother nature created its beloved child— the proud spirit, before which humanity stands in mute rapture, calling it 'God' and erecting altars to it all over the world.

"Every race, whether Titans or Pygmies, is carrying to this altar its joys and sorrows, bending their knees before the majesty of the joys and sorrows, without exception. This religion has no atheists. All humanity unanimously repeats: 'Liberty of conscience; liberty of spirit.'

"But again the same rats are creeping and creeping. Shall I move? No. Yes.. It is bad. either way. Spasms contract my throat, a cold perspiration covers my body. My mind is dim again.

"I will try to stand up. No, it Is bad; I will try to stretch myself on the floor; the air may be better there. No, even worse yet. What shall I do? First of all I must, not "despair, bat ascertain definitely the situation. Men have been before this incarcerated here and have not died, but came out feeble, weak— yes— but —

"Spasms in my throat again; so little air. My eyes will soon get used to the darkness and l will be able to see. Meanwhile l will try to find the way with my hands. Six feet long, four feet wide. I will pace it.

Three Governors' Wives in Russian America. 1829-1864. Susanna Rabow-Edling.

"It is too painful to open my eyes. But where Is the door? Not here? I have lost my directions, only space. Be calm, not frightened I can not be lost; there are only four walls.

"I tremble more and more, a chilly fog envelops my brain. What a coward a man is at times. One could not go astray here if one wished to; only the door, that fixed point, is hard to find. I am. frightened — trembling again.

"I shall try once more; here is on wall, now. to, the right; no, to the left. I will find it. Ah! here is the door. How much easier I feel. Now; I shall continue my promenade. How unsteady l am on my feet; with closed eyes it seems like walking in a horrible dream, like a beast in a dark cage.

"My head grows dizzy; I am weary. I will sit on the floor, which is so slimy cold and damp, with crawling things.

"I hear a noise. The door sounds. Some one is coming. The second door is unlocked. A moment more and I will face them. Are they going to set me free?

" 'Mr. Cherbok, how are you feeling?' I will not answer. Perhaps they will open the door and the fresh air will rush in.

" 'Mr: Cherbok, are you alive? My door is open. 'How are you?'

" 'Alright.' " 'I am very glad. Good-bye,' the sergeant is going, the door closing.

" 'How long have I been in this cell?*

" 'Two hours.'

" 'Just two hours!' The thought flashes through my mind— 'just two hours.' "

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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