One Hundred Days in the San Juan Islands – Seattle News

Back on August 10th, 1946, the Seattle Post Intelligencer published an article by June Burn, called “One Hundred Days in the San Juan Islands.

This sweet, simply written article describes the San Juan Islands as they were in early days of settlement here.. “The First White Man” and when she refers to

‘they came in the 60s”

she’s referring to the 1860s..

Thanks to Irene, Sam and others interested in local books and articles, I’ve become even more aware of those and appreciative of their unique and lovely views of a heavenly place – the San Juan Islands.

“Water was drawn from the well by a long rope. … Land was very productive. Our nearest neighbor was a half mile away and there were a few others further away. They always welcomed newcomers and helped each other whenever needed.” ..

She describes a time where there were no automobiles driving past her road, and rarely observed a ‘team’ pass. 🙂

“We did not live on the main road through the island and seldom saw a team pass. Once a week we went to the landing to get the mail and hear the general news.

If it was stormy, the boat could not get through so it meant another trip down through the woods. But gradually conditions improved, more seaworthy ships were put upon the route and ran oftener.”

Stop by at Darvil’s the Island’s local book store and see their offerings of local books.. Very much worth a read.

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NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: Seattle Post Intelligencer August 10, 1946


Still on Fisherman Bay there is a small shipbuilder works where Chris Sebelin lives alone now, his partner brother lately gone where all men eventually go. There is an unfinished boat here which the two brothers had started together and which is for sale now.

This shop (Sebelins’) is so full of machines that no fat man could work here. They are arranged expertly so that the piece of timber or metal can be taken from one machine to the other with hardly more than the movement of an arm. The oar-making machine is a Sebelin invention.

(She visited the Cousins and this is what was told…)

Hiram F. Hutchinson was the first white man on Lopez Island — at least the first one who stayed and settled here. He had the first store where the Lopez store is now located. He came in the 1850s, sometime. Mr. Hutchinsons’ sister, Mrs. Weeks, was the first postmistress.

Mrs. Davis was the first white woman on the island. She came in 1869, her son Ernest, the first all-white child born on the island, in 1871. This was an aunt of the Mrs. Davis still living on San Juan Island.

The Charles Browns and the James Nelsons came in the 60s, the Nelsons in 1862, the Browns in ’69. Mrs. Mary Eaton, now 79, has lived on Lopez for 77 years. She is the oldest pioneer still living on the island. The Browns and Nelsons took claims together, seem to have farmed together. It is their farm which servicemen just back from the war are now running. Of them later.

“I remember hearing that Joe Merrill came here after the Mexican War, hunting. That was in 1857. He hunted deer. He’d sell them to the soldier garrison in San Juan and in B. C. it was heaven here, then…”

The minute one Cousins remembers a date, the other remembers another.

“I remember hearing that Arthur Barlow came here in 1858. Barlow Bay is named after him. You knew Sam Barlow, the ferry captain? You used to write about him, I remember.”

I did remember quiet, friendly Sam Barlow who is now dead. I miss him from the ferries.

“I remember hearing that Red Charlie came in the early 1860s…” “Red Charlie had the reddest face I ever saw. He homesteaded the place where Mrs. Erisman lives now… on Fisherman Bay it was.” “ I remember when your C(u?)ther came, Ray… it was in ’86. I was 12 years old, then. We came in ’83 from Iowa. There were 150 people here then. The Chadwicks came in ’75.”

The older brother will say, “When we first came we lived on the hill but we couldn’t get water so we moved down here…”

“I remember hearing that the Swifts came in 1862. Swifts Bay is named for him. He came up from the California gold rush. Jack Ballam, an Englishman, was here in 1870 but he later moved away.” (He moved to Stuart Island and Dad Chevalier now lives on his old place.) “Humphrey came in 1877. Humphrey Head is named for him.”

“I remember hearing that Sam Barlow was born here in 1871.”

(That was the year when Ernest Davis was born. The fact that Sam Barlow had an Indian mother does not make him any less a child of a settler. Isn’t it equally important to know who was the very first child of any permanent settler? Especially one who himself became a settler? Might that have been the Hutchinson boy?)

The first school was held about the year 1872, taught by a Mrs. Thompson, an English lady whose pupils were: Mary Brown (Mrs. Eaton), and hers sisters, Maggie and Maria. Later other schools were taught by women of the neighborhoods and still later a schoolhouse was built by donations.

Before 1900 there were other stores on the island, notably the one at Richardson begun by R. C. Kinleyside and now run by the Lundys. There was a Richardson Hotel, also, in 1890, boom days on Lopez and from all the island. Fish canneries were later built, still later burned or abandoned. Indians used to come in great numbers to Lopez, now hardly come at all…and so the old order changeth…but the Cousins still remember the days when.

Last winter when I sent out appeals for help with the story of the islands, I had an interesting letter from Annie Warner Eaves, now living in Seattle. Poet, woman with a good memory, these recollections are highlighted with bits that will take you back.

“My parents, Wesley and Mary Warner, were among the first settlers at Lopez.

My early recollections of it date from 1879, when as a child of some years, my mother, older sister Mary and myself landed at Lopez from New York State. Father and two brothers had preceded us by some time.

It was a long, hard journey by rail to San Francisco, then by small steamship to Port Townsend where we waited several days for a boat to Lopez, which came once a week. At the small landing we were met by father and brothers, Joe and Dell.

We rode about three miles on a home-made sled drawn by a horse through a deep forest which had been blackened by many fires, as land must be cleared. Our home was a log cabin for a number of years. Work was done in the hardest way as there were no conveniences.

Water was drawn from the well by a long rope. … Land was very productive. Our nearest neighbor was a half mile away and there were a few others further away. They always welcomed newcomers and helped each other whenever needed.

At first there were only three months of school during the year, but conditions gradually improved. They held dances to raise more money for school funds. We were not scolded if late as we walked about three miles, sometimes in the rain, boating low(?) the wet ferns along the way; and when we arrived at the small schoolhouse, sat around the stove and dried our shoes. In summer at the noon hour we picked wild strawberries and crabapples — and enjoyed them, too.

Within the first few years, two more sisters were born, namely: Minnie Rutledge and Frances Johnson, now of Seattle.

A Presbyterian minister, Mr. Weeks, held services in the schoolhouse once in two weeks and at other times my father conducted Sunday school and officiated at funerals and as justice of the peace, performed marriage ceremonies.

We did not live on the main road through the island and seldom saw a team pass. Once a week we went to the landing to get the mail and hear the general news.

If it was stormy, the boat could not get through so it meant another trip down through the woods. But gradually conditions improved, more seaworthy ships were put upon the route and ran oftener.

We looked forward to Sundays as it brought the neighbors together and the 4th of July was always a pleasant occasion as the neighbors all met together for a celebration and picnic.

There was no doctor nearer than Port Townsend in those years, though at times medical aid was badly needed.

Soil was productive and we raised lots of berries and vegetables and planted an apple orchard that later bore fine fruit. Wild geese and duck were plentiful, also deer.

Of the latter, we had several around as pets at different times. One, especially, was very tame and upon one occasion came in the open door unnoticed and curried up on the bed, which startled mother to see a full-grown deer making himself so much at home.

It was rather dreary in winter for women and children as the mud was deep and we did not get out much.

Although I have been in Seattle for many years, I enjoy going back to renew old acquaintances.”

There was a man named Spencer who came to Lopez Island in 1886. He homestead 160 acres on the eastern side of the island, including a long sand spit that all but stretched across to Frost Island. On all the charts, that spit now bears his name.

There was also an island. A wild, big, heavily wooded island where the trees grew tall, where the bluffs were steep, where two big lakes hung high up between the hills where a cranberry bog yielded fruit and one single solitary shallow harbor made a safe anchorage for a dock and boats. It was Blakely (or Blakeley) Island, named by Wilkes in 1841 for Johnston Blakely who once commanded the Wasp.

In the 90’s this first Spencer took his family over to Blakely. William Viereck started the first sawmill there and Mr. Spencer later took it over, settled on what is now Thatcher.

That sawmill grew. The trees were all but inexhaustible and many of them were so flawless that fine boat lumber was sawn from them. The Spencers went into boat building.

The first Spencers lived and died. Two of the sons stayed on Blakely, one of them, became a doctor in Tacoma, I think it was. Of the two who stayed on Blakely, Ross ran the sawmill end of things, and Ray ran the business end meeting the people.

Ray Spencer married Kate Hipkoe, sister of the University’s purchasing agent, sister of Bellingham’s Hipkoe, a regally tall, beautiful girl who still looks that way. Ray and Kate have become a sort of legend, what with their endless hospitality to people form all over the world. I don’t know the people I have met whose first question would be: “Do you know the Spencers of Blakely Island?”

Kate and Ray adopted Kate’s sister’s two children when they were babies, brought them up on Blakely. Ross Spencer’s son, Jim, was like a brother to these two. And Dr. Spencer’s two sons spent all their summers on Blakely. So the third generation of Spencers is made up of four boys and one girl (there may be more).

Ross Spencer’s son, Jim, and Dr. Spencer’s son, John, are the boys who have bought the farm. Ray and Kate’s adopted son, Paul, also plans to settle on Lopez and go into business with a school and war chum who also spent most of his summers on Blakely and is as much an island fan as if he had been born here. The other nephew, Ted Spencer, is building on Shoal Bay, planning a small resort there. Shirley Plummer, the adopted Spencer daughter, now living with Ray and Kate, says her husband came to Blakely one summer, fell in love with it, married her and plans that they will live in the islands.

International Camp for Boys and Girls began 10 years ago because a doctor’s son had sort of come to himself under the campfire tutelage of Frank Henderson. “If you can do that for my son, I want you to have the chance to do it for other boys,” the doctor said and subscribed $1,000 as a loan to get a boys’ camp under way in the Islands.

Addie Chadwick was born here in the 80s of a man from one of the fine families of England and Canada and a half-Indian woman, daughter of Judge Bradshaw of Port Townsend.

Pretty, gentle Louella says they never married probably because they loved this place so much.

“We went away to school over on Mud Bay, two and a half miles away, and we couldn’t come home until Friday night. We were so glad to get home every week we couldn’t bear to leave on Monday – oh yes, our mother was with us. She was homesick too…then we went up to Lopez school, still further, and then to Friday Harbor High School. I guess we were always so glad to get back home we were afraid to marry for fear we’d have to go away.”

The village of Richardson is made up of the Lundy store, dock, oil tanks for passing boats, the Lundy House, whose walls are windows, and a few other houses. The store is well stocked with fresh things, including meat and staples. There is a post office. Mrs. Lundy gave the paper which her students had prepared during the school session and we returned along the dramatic country road to Watmough Head again.

Lopez has an area of nearly 19,000 acres covering 29 ½ square miles. Much more level than Orcas, there is more rich land here forged of deep glacial drift. The highest hill I see on the chart is only 480 feet. The body of the island is around 100 feet high, a rolling plateau of meadowy farms.

Lopez is one of the San Juans which drew Spanish name. It was mapped in 1791 by the Spaniards, but the name of Lopez is said by many to have been given it in 1847 by Kellet of the British navy. Lopez was one of the names of Lopez Gonzales de Haro, who is said to have been the first discoverer of the San Juans.

There are 147 families living here now — a population of around 500.

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