Lindenberger Cannery, Craig Island

Lindenberger Cannery, Craig Island

by | Jul 7, 2022

The Lindenberger Packing Company is a historical salmon cannery on Craig Island in the present-day community of Craig at the south end of Klawock Inlet adjacent to Fish Egg Island and now connected to Prince of Wales Island by a causeway, about 58 miles (93 km) west-northwest of Ketchikan and 6 miles (10 km) south-southwest of Klawock, Alaska. Fish Egg Island was named in 1897 by Commander Jefferson F. Moser on the U.S. Fish Commission Albatross presumably for the abundance of herring eggs.  The north end of the island was the site of a historical Tlingit village. In 1907, Craig Millar established a saltery called Fish Egg on a neighboring island situated between Crab Bay to the north and Port Bagial to the south. The site was historically used as a Tlingit fish camp known as Shaan Seet after the name of the adjacent narrow strait, only 0.25 miles (0.4 km) wide separating it from the south end of Fish Egg Island. In 1912, the name of the community was changed to Craig in honor of the founder and subsequently, the island was named after the community. Craig Island and most of Prince of Wales Island are part of the Alexander terrane, one of the major accretionary terranes that forms much of the western margin of North America. Alexander terrane rocks extend from Southeast Alaska northward into northwestern British Columbia and Yukon Territory. The bedrock of Craig Island is part of the Peratrovich Formation, a stratum over 800 feet (244 m) thick that consists of limestone, dolomite, and chert that formed during the Mississippian age, or 359 to 323 million years ago based on fossil dating of corals and foraminifera. During the late Wisconsin glaciation, about 26,000 to 13,000 years ago, the western margin of the Cordilleran ice sheet formed vast ice fields and large glaciers along the crest of the Coast Mountains. The ice sheet extended more than 1,200 miles (2,000 km) from Washington state to the southern Yukon Territory and was about 560 miles (900 km) wide covering most of Southeast Alaska.  As these glaciers flowed west to the Pacific Ocean, they were joined by local glaciers originating at the higher elevations of the Alexander Archipelago, including Admiralty, Baranof, Chichagof, and Prince of Wales islands. This extensive volume of ice was channeled into deep troughs creating the present-day fjords and much of the landscape visible today.

The Tlingit people on Prince of Wales Island lived in permanent villages during the winter from November to May at Shakan, Tuxekan, and Klawock, and moved to seasonal sites from May or June to October. Klawock Inlet was used extensively for summer fish camps, specifically at Fish Egg Island which was historically an important place for herring spawn that occurred annually during the last 10 days of March. Spawning herring lay adhesive eggs directly on aquatic vegetation, rocks, or along sandy beaches. Females deposit eggs more often on solid surfaces rather than broadcasting them loosely in the water. Generally, the surfaces used for spawning are living plants such as eelgrass and giant kelp. Historically, herring spawn on kelp added variety to the Tlingit diet and was a prized food especially since the fish arrived at a time when stored food supplies were low. It was eaten fresh or reconstituted from dried or salted. Harvesting herring spawn on kelp was a group activity, usually conducted by members of a family, and usually involving large numbers of people. Harvesting of herring spawn on kelp was done by hand from canoes when the kelp was accessible at very low tide. Gaff hooks or rakes were also used to grasp the stem of the kelp below the water surface. When retrieving the plants covered by herring eggs, harvesters were careful to avoid breaking the fronds and damaging the spawn. Harvesters first selected the whitest kelp in the water, which was kelp covered by many layers of eggs. Then they pulled it to the surface with a rake and started to carefully separate each leaf from the stem, starting from the top of the plant. Each leaf was placed flat on the benches or floorboards of the canoe, to let the water drain. In order to protect the kelp from damage, careful harvesters used their hands, instead of knives, to separate the leaves from the stems. Before contact with Europeans, drying was the most common preservation method to prepare herring spawn for storage. The spawn-covered kelp fronds or spruce branches were dried over outdoor racks and then placed in bentwood boxes for storage. Salting was introduced by Russian fur traders in the early 19th century.

In 1909, Bernard, Hermann, and Robert Lindenberger were sent to Alaska from Germany by their father Isaac to expand his business into the lucrative salmon fishery. The Lindenberger brothers hired Craig Millar to build a salmon cannery that included a massive dock, a refrigeration house, a fish processing plant, a canning workshop, worker’s residential buildings, and fuel tanks. In 1912, a post office, a school, and a sawmill were constructed. Production at the cannery and sawmill peaked during World War I. Sea Coast Packing Company purchased the Lindenberger cannery in 1917. In 1929, the cannery was sold to Libby McNeil and Libby. The town’s population grew through the 1930s as pink salmon runs hit records. Operations came to an abrupt end in 1957 when the cannery burned down, which was the fate of nearly half of the 135 canneries built between 1878 and 1949 in Southeast Alaska. By 1949, Southeast Alaska had just 37 operating canneries due to fires and the consolidation of the industry. The fires were caused by a number of factors, including crude construction of all wooden buildings, use of flammable heating oil and improper storage of oily waste, boilers that operated at high temperatures and pressures, and inadequate fire suppression equipment. Industry consolidation resulted from declining production due to depleted salmon stocks. In 1998, Ward Cove Packing Company acquired the site for use as a seasonal maintenance facility. In 2007, the City of Craig purchased the property which includes 5 acres (2 ha) of uplands and 5 acres (2 ha) of submerged and intertidal lands. Some of the cannery buildings, such as the web loft and administration building, are still in use today. The city has plans to renovate some of the buildings and redevelop the cannery site for commercial and public use. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Craig Cannery and Klawock Inlet here:

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About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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