Mary's is located on the north bank of the Andreafsky River, 5 miles
from its confluence with the Yukon River. It lies 450 air miles
west-northwest of Anchorage. The City of St. Mary's encompasses the
Yup'ik villages of St. Mary's and Andreafsky. It lies at approximately
62░ 03' N Latitude, 163░ 10' W Longitude (Sec. 26, T023N, R076W, Seward
Meridian). The community is located in the Bethel Recording District.
The area encompasses 42 sq. miles of land and 6 sq. miles of water.
In 1899, Andreafsky was established as
a supply depot and winter headquarters for the Northern Commercial
Company's riverboat fleet. The village took its name from the Andrea
family which settled on the River and built a Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1903, Jesuit missionaries set up a mission 90 miles downriver at "Akulurak"
to educate and care for the children orphaned by a flu epidemic in
1900-01. Akulurak means "in between place," aptly describing the
village, which was on an island in a slough connecting two arms of the
Yukon River. The mission school flourished, and by 1915, there were 70
Over the years, the slough surrounding
Akulurak silted in severely. In 1948, the villagers decided to move to
higher ground. Materials from an abandoned hotel built during the gold
rush were used to construct the new mission and several village homes at
the present site. In 1949, an unused 15' by 30' building and other
building materials from Galena Air Force Station were barged to Saint
Mary's by Father Spils, a Jesuit priest. These materials, along with a
tractor borrowed from Holy Cross, were used to construct a school. In
1967, St. Mary's incorporated as a city, although the residents of
Andreafsky chose to remain a separate community. In 1980, the
communities combined. A student suicide in 1987 forced the Catholic
Church to close the school.