Perryville is an Alutiiq Sugpiaq community established on the south coast of the Alaska Peninsula between Three Star Point to the west and Coal Cape to the east, about 66 miles (106 km) northeast of Sand Point and 41 miles (66 km) southwest of Chignik, Alaska. The settlement was established for people who were driven away from villages on the Katmai coast by the eruption of Novarupta in 1912 and was originally named Perry, after Captain Kirtland W. Perry of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Manning. Perryville is situated behind beach dunes on the alluvial fan of the Kametolook River that starts from an icefield at an elevation of about 6,000 feet (1,829 m) on the southern flank of Mount Veniaminof and flows generally south-southeast for 16 miles (26 km), draining a watershed of 115,432 acres (46,714 ha). The Alaska Peninsula is composed of late Paleozoic to Quaternary sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks that record the history of a number of magmatic arcs. The headlands on each side of Perryville represent Meshik Volcanics, rocks that developed in a magmatic arc between the late Eocene and early Oligocene, or from 42 million to 25 million years ago. Multiple active volcanoes and volcanic peaks dominate the peninsula and represent the continuation of magmatic activity that continues to form the present-day Aleutian arc. The alluvial fan of the Kametolook River consists of rock fragments ranging from coarse to fine sand and silt, and locally includes considerable amounts of pumice and volcanic ash. The aeolian dunes are 33 to 66 feet (10-20 m) high and composed largely of sand and pumice.
Archaeological excavations have recovered tools indicating that humans have inhabited the Alaska Peninsula for at least 9,000 years, and since about 5,000 years ago, artifacts such as notched net sinkers indicate a heavy reliance upon fishing. The earliest recorded visit by western explorers to the Pacific Coast of the Alaska Peninsula occurred in 1741 with Vitus Bering’s expedition. Subsequent expeditions brought an influx of Russian fur traders to the Alaska Peninsula who succeeded in gaining control over indigenous inhabitants. At the time of Russian contact, there were two distinct cultural groups residing on the Alaska Peninsula, Unangan speakers from the west and southwest and Yup’ik speakers who are the ancestors to the Alutiiq Sugpiaq people from the central and eastern Alaska Peninsula. The Alutiiq people were maritime hunters and the sea, as well as inland streams and tundra, provided them with food, oil, and raw materials to manufacture clothing, shelters, and boats. They were extremely skilled at hunting and adept at using seal skin kayaks or bidarkas, and larger open boats called umiaks or baidar. Russian exploitation of sea otters and the Alutiiq people continued until the Alaska Purchase of 1867 when the United States government assumed control of Alaska. American interests concentrated on whaling, the maritime fur trade, mining, and the development of commercial fishing.
The catastrophic eruption of Mount Katmai on June 6, 1912, permanently displaced several communities on the Alaska Peninsula. The eruption happened at a vent about 6 miles (10 km) to the west of Mount Katmai, now called the Novarupta. Over about 60 hours, the volcano erupted an estimated 6.7 cubic miles (28 cu km) of ash flows and tephra representing 3.1 cubic miles (13 cu km) of magma volume. The eruption produced a cloud of suffocating gas and ash that blackened the sky and forced the evacuation of villages at Katmai Bay, Kukak Bay, and Kaguyak or Douglas in present-day Katmai National Park and Preserve. No one perished in the volcanic eruption because all of residents were working at a commercial saltery in Kaflia Bay at the time. When the ash started falling most inhabitants were evacuated by boat, but the eruption rendered the area uninhabitable. One month after the eruption, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Manning returned to the Alaska Peninsula with 78 of the Katmai refugees to establish a new village. After a failed first village site selection, the natives were relocated again to a location 200 miles (322 km) south of Mount Katmai. The new village was named ‘Perry’ after Captain Perry who had relocated them. The community has maintained a steady population and strong ties to the Alutiiq culture and a subsistence way of life. Perryville residents have close connections with residents of Chignik Lake and lvanof Bay, and to a lesser extent, Chignik Bay. Read more here and here. Explore more of Perryville and the Alaska Peninsula here: