Peratrovich Island


By Adam S. Eterovich


PERATROVICH-PARETOVICH, JOHN: John-Giovanni Peratrovich, Petovich, Petricevich, Paretovich, Patovich, Petrovich came to California in the 1860’s from Dalmatia. He married an Indian Princess in Alaska and became wealthy fishing. Added, at a later date, to his Death Certificate is “Sein” Austria. This could be Sinj, Senj or Lesina (Hvar). Being an expert net maker and fisherman, he would have been from an island or the coast of Dalmatia, not inland. On the Island of Hvar, the name of Paretovich is found. He was associated with Barhanovich, Markovich, Petrovich and Valensolo (a Clan name?) These names can be found on the Island of Brac. He has over 525 direct descendants. It is believed he had 29 children and three wives. He was born December 26, 1851 or 1861. December 13, 1915 is given as his date of death. He is buried in Klawock cemetery on Peratrovich Island. John Peratrovich was born in Dalmatia, Croatia along the shores of the Adriatic Sea.  There is a record in early San Francisco annals that indicates many fishermen came  to the San Francisco Bay area; indeed there was a Croatian Society listed in the 1857 City Directory. With consideration of this background, it is not surprising that John Peratrovich ended up in the United States. In the "Urban News" August 1, 1972 (a publication in Anchorage Alaska) written in recognition of his son, Robert J. Peratrovich, Sr. notes the following: John Peratrovich, as a 16 year old Croatian, ran away to sea and eventually landed in San Francisco at a time when there was a great demand for crews for whaling and sealing ships. He  was shipwrecked off the Seal Islands, rescued by Eskimos, spent 4 months there, then came by Russian Revenue Cutter south to Sitka, Alaska. Then a canoe trip to Victoria, Canada, stopping at native village of Klawock. There he decided to stay and make it his home, working as a skilled net maker in the only salmon cannery operating. He married a very beautiful Tlingit Indian Princess. John was married to a native woman much older than he was, but that was a typical custom amongst the Tlingit tribe. She had been married previously and had one son and two daughters that must have been teenagers. She bore him 4 sons. It is said that he was the principal person in the first salmon cannery in Klawock and a picture of him and his wife and two children appears on the label of "Family Brands" salmon; it must be noted, however, that this is during the  early 1900's when his second family is started. He trained his sons in fishing and net making. He was affiliated with North Pacific Packing and Trading Co. although in records at San Francisco Public Library, his name is not listed with the corporate officers. We are not sure of the birthplace. Since John Peratrovich married a native Alaskan (Tlingit), I doubt any people really understood his  language. The common belief is that he was from the Dalmatian coast. His death certificate lists Austria as his original country and this also appears on the 1900 and 1910 census records which I have for southeastern Alaska. Handwriting presents problems as usual. The birthplace given on the death certificate is "Sein, Austria". The name has been spelled a number of different ways. The early census has "Paratovich", the death certificate has "Peratovich"; one grandson tells me it should be "Giovani Pietrovich" meaning John, son of Peter. One son had "Petovich", tatooed on his arm. (This was common practice among Tlingit Indians ... along with the family totem crest). I have made inquiry for immigration records to no avail ... under any spelling and into California. As far as I have been able to determine, he never became a citizen, either. Since Alaska was a territory, and he died before efforts were made to get natives to take an oath, this, is not surprising. In due time, he constructed a large house in which everyone lived until their own houses were built after marriage. And the houses were all close together.  He became a charter member of the Order of Moose in Craig, Alaska. His name appears on their charter roll, spelled differently. In fact, the name spelling appears in many different forms in various records: Petovich, Paratovich, Peratovich, and ultimately Peratrovich. John was a short man, with swarthy complexion and generally wore a mustache. His earliest picture still intact is that of him with his first two daughters and their mother which appeared on the "Family Brands Salmon" around 1900. When one of these girls died in 1901, the label was retired. We are grateful for the wonderful picture of John and most of his family taken before his untimely death in the winter of 1915. His boat had capsized going between the cannery and Klawock village, and although he was rescued succumbed to kidney disease as a result of exposure (Urban News 1974)