Petersburg, Alaska - History


The north end of Mitkof Island was a summer fish camp utilized by Kake Tlingits from Kupreanof Island. Remnants of fish traps and some petroglyphs have been carbon-dated back some 2,000 years. Petersburg was named after Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian immigrant. He built a cannery, sawmill, docks and early structures. Petersburg flourished as a fishing port. (thanks in part to the plentiful number of icebergs from the nearby LeConte Glacier which would provide a source for cooling fish). His colony grew into Petersburg which, by 1910 was incorporated and populated largely by people of Scandinavian origin thus giving Petersburg the nickname "Little Norway". May 17 (Norwegian Constitution Day) is celebrated annually in Petersburg on the third weekend in May. The cannery, along with three others have operated continuously since their completion. With the establishment of the cannery, Alaskan Natives, including Chief John Lott, began living year-round at the site.

A major year in Petersburg history was 1965 and the founding of Icicle Seafoods. Petersburg fishermen Gordon Jensen and Magnus Martens teamed up with managers Tom Thompson and Bob Thorstenson, Sr. to spearhead a group of fishermen to purchase the Pacific American Fisheries(PAF) plant in a then-declining seafood industry. PAF was traded on the NYSE and had been one of the largest processors in Alaska for a half century. The same, original Bushmann cannery was now in good hands. The shareholders, including Board members Fred File, Fred Haltiner, Jr., Robin Leekley, Jeff Pfundt, Aril Mathisen, Bud Samuelson and many others ( Hofstads, Otness, Petersons to name a few) set out for a journey to create, improve and institute fisheries that sustain Petersburg and many other coastal communities in Alaska today. The company was originally known as PFI but was officially changed to Icicle Seafoods in 1977.

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