The Cape Fox Packing Company operated a cannery from 1883 to 1886 on the north shore of Boca de Quadra, a fjord on the Portland Peninsula in present-day Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness, about 59 miles (95 km) north-northwest of Prince Rupert and 36 miles (58 km) southeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. Boca de Quadra has depths to 1,200 feet (366 m) and extends generally northeast for 34 miles (55 km) from Revillagigedo Channel to the mouth of the Keta River. It was named for Captain Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, for his expeditions and surveys in the region in 1775-79. The name was adopted by Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy who explored this estuary in 1793. Misty Fjords National Monument is a wilderness area administered by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Tongass National Forest. The dramatic landscape is a result of granitic rocks that formed about 70 to 50 million years old during the Eocene to Cretaceous period and was glacially sculpted during the Pleistocene creating deep troughs with near-vertical walls that rise 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 m) above sea level and extend to depths of 1,000 feet (300 m). The remains of the historical cannery are located at the mouth of an unnamed creek on the eastern shore of a short north-south section of Boca de Quadra. The creek descends from an elevation of about 2,100 feet (640 m) and flows generally south-southwest for 2.5 miles (4 km) to the fjord. This section of Boca de Quadra is underlain by the Tracy Arm terrane that consists largely of amphibolite and forms a discontinuous belt that has been traced for at least the length of Southeast Alaska. The amphibolite locally is spectacularly streaked with strongly contrasting dikes, veins, and lenses of white pegmatite and other intrusive rocks. The Cordilleran ice sheet formed over present-day Southeast Alaska during several Pleistocene glaciations. The principal source area for the ice sheet covering the Portland Peninsula was the high mountain ranges of British Columbia. In western British Columbia, ice streamed down fjords and valleys in the coastal mountains and covered much of the continental shelf. In places, ice lobes extended to the shelf edge where they calved into the sea. At its maximum, about 14,000 years ago, the ice sheet covered all of southern Alaska to depths of up to 1.2 miles (2 km). Deglaciation lasted about 4,000 years and the coastal areas were largely ice-free by 10,000 years ago.
The oldest human habitation in Southeast Alaska has been dated to about 9,980 years ago. The earliest inhabitants were more than likely a maritime people who traveled, hunted, and fished offshore using small wood or skin covered boats or canoes and traveled along the coast. The Tlingit oral history contains stories and legends describing how the people came to the coast. Several of these accounts tell how they came down rivers from the interior, passed under a glacier, and then reached tidewater. It may be that the first coastal Tlingit met the earlier inhabitants and either intermarried and assimilated the ancient culture or drove them out. Eventually, different Tlingit clans spread out to new locations until all of Southeast Alaska became Tlingit territory. The Tlingit homeland can be divided into large territories known as ‘kwaans’ which means ‘people of that place’. In more recent times, the smaller kwaans have been absorbed into the larger ones, or are no longer distinguished as separate groups. Today, most people speak of twelve kwaans. From north to south, they are called Yakutat, Chilkat, Sitka, Hoonah, Auke, Taku, Stikine, Kake, Angoon, Henya, Saanya, and Tongass. The Portland Peninsula was the territory of the Saanyaa Kwaan or the Cape Fox people. Cape Fox is a headland at the southern end of the Portland Peninsula, about 24 miles (39 km) south of Boca de Quadra. After Alaska was purchased from Russia by the United States in 1867, the American government established a military base near Cape Fox on Tongass Island. In 1880, the village of Gaash at Cape Fox was reported to have 100 Tlingit residents. In 1894, Samuel Saxman, a Presbyterian missionary, encouraged Gaash residents at Cape Fox to relocate for education, Christianization, and unification with their neighbors, but not all the people moved at that time. In 1899, the Harriman Expedition visited the village, and thinking that it was abandoned, took objects like totem poles, house posts, and ceremonial items and later distributed them among several museums across the continent. The Peabody Museum in Boston acquired the Teikweidi totem pole that tells the story of a man named Kaats’ who was hunting in the woods and fell into a bear den. The totem pole depicts the brown bear, an emblematic crest that is owned by the Teikweidi Clan from Gaash. Crests like this one are among the most important possessions of Tlingit clans and are central to clan identity because they are frequently associated with clan origin stories. In 1999, one hundred years after the expedition, the totem was repatriated to the Cape Fox people and a replica pole was commissioned and installed at the museum.
In 1898, when the U.S. Fish Commission vessel Albatross visited under the command of Jefferson F. Moser, Boca de Quadra had no villages or permanent settlements except for a few shacks used during the hunting season. About 2 miles (3.2 km) south of the fjord entrance there was a small Tlingit village on a sheltered cove named after the Cape Fox chief, Kah-Shakes, who lived there. The shores of the fjord are rugged and mountainous and a few streams, all of which had salmon at that time, discharged into the main arm and into the heads of five main branches called Martin Arm, Mink Bay, Vixen Bay, Badger Bay and Weasel Cove. Only Mink Bay and Kah Shakes Cove supported sockeye salmon. In 1883, the Cape Fox Packing Company owned by Marshall J. Kinney of Astoria, Oregon, built one of the first canneries in Alaska. In the winter of 1886, Kinney sold the operation to fellow Astorian Captain A.W. Berry who owned the Tongass Packing Company and decided to relocate the operation to Tongass Narrows near a large stream, aptly named Fish Creek near present-day Ketchikan. The structure at Boca de Quadra burned in 1889 after having packed about 13,000 cases, with each case consisting of 48 one-pound cans. It was replaced by another cannery built on the western shore of Mink Bay near the entrance and operated by the Quadra Packing Company in the spring of 1896 with fish supplied by purse seiners. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Fox Cannery and Boca de Quadra here: