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St. Mary's


St. 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 full-time students.

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.




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