Fidalgo Island Before the "Boom" by Carrie White, 1898
Mr. President and Members of the Historical Club--Your committee requested me to give some reminiscences of this island before “boom days.” As mine date back only to 1873, I felt that some of the most interesting would be of earlier days and therefore, in preparation of this paper I am indebted to “Old Settlers” who have given me material for it, and to Mrs. Munks who kindly allowed me to take notes from papers of her deceased husband. He who sees Fidalgo Bay as it is now will look upon a very different scene from that which greeted the first white men to locate here forty-five years ago this fall. At that time all along the western shore where now our roads wind gracefully in and out, with here a full sweep of water, fields, hills, woods, mountains, and there a charming glimpse under overhanging boughs, the unbroken forest extended to the water’s edge. At the head of the Bay lay a salt marsh covered by the highest tides and joining it on the eastern side a fern prairie stretched up the slope from the water and near to what is now Fidalgo Depot. In this vicinity there was a fine grove of alder and maple. North of this grove the prairie stretched on again as far as to, or over, a part of the Parker place, with a fringe of trees along the beach from near where Mr. Barkhousen’s store is, to the south line of the Parker place. This fern prairie is said to have been a favorite camping spot with the Indians, for how many generations no one can tell. The character of the soil tends to prove this. On the Munks farm the clamshells were several feet deep, while they were found scattered all along to the head of the Bay.
In a country so heavily timbered as the Sound, so much open ground as was found in this prairie must have looked tempting to the man who wanted to make his living from the soil. Probably to this is due the fact that Fidalgo Bay was the second place settled by white men in Whatcom County--Skagit County was a part of Whatcom County until 1883.
In the fall of 1853 Messrs. Enoch Compton and Jack Carr located on what is now the Munks farm, building in the grove previously mentioned, a cabin which they both occupied, one claiming the land lying to the south of it, the other that on the north. Mr. Compton tells me that he raised a crop of potatoes--not large enough to support him a year though, for he and Mr. Carr soon went to Whatcom to work and the latter died there.
On account of trouble with the Indians, which resulted in the Indian War of ‘55 and ‘56, it was unsafe for white men on Fidalgo Island, so Mr. Compton remained near Whatcom until he entered the volunteer service during the Indian War. After the war he “took up” the Bennett place--just west of the Eldridge place near Whatcom--but having a chance to go upon the Boundary Survey he spent 19 months in that work, returning to Semiahmoo in probably January ‘61. From there he went to Whatcom, then to San Juan, and among the islands, settling upon the place where he now lives about March ‘61.
Mr. William Munks dates his arrival on the Island as December ‘59, when he located the land upon which his family lives; but like Mr. Compton, he went away to work and was also on the Boundary Survey with him, returning to Fidalgo about two weeks before the latter in ‘61, to find William Bonner living on his claim. According to his contemporaries Mr. Munks bought Mr. Bonner’s right to the claim for a silver watch and $60 in money. This was twenty years before the land was surveyed, so “squatters’” rights was the land law.
Mr. Charles Beale states that he came first to Fidalgo in March ‘59, on a hunting expedition in company with his cousin, Robert K. Beale, Lieutenant Robert H. Davis a nephew of Jefferson Davis, John Hughes, Charles Pearson and ----- Brown.
The next month he located on the Cagey place comprising the land now owned by Messrs. Burdon and Van Valkenburg; but, like the others he went away to hunt gold and when he returned to Victoria from this trip in probably November ‘61, he joined the Americans rushing to San Juan to help Captain Pickett save that island in case the English tried to take it. During his absence, his cousin, the aforesaid Robert K. Beale, whom he had left on his claim, being “hard up” sold it for $75 to Messrs. George Cagey and John Fravel--the latter now resides at Samish. Mr. Cagey lived on the place until his death, ‘78.
Mr. C. W. Beale settled on the place where he now lives in November or December ‘68. His cousin R. K. Beale bought what is now the Parker farm, for three dressed deer skins, of an Englishman, Joseph Little. There was growing a few years ago on that farm, and perhaps it is still there, a peach tree from a seed planted by this Mr. Beale. This seedling proved so well adapted to our climate, which is not favorable for growing peaches, that it was named Beale’s peach and was the variety most planted by the settlers in this vicinity. Mr. Beale sold this place to Mr. Robert Becker who proved up on it. Probably in ‘63 or ‘64, Mr. H. A. March arrived at Fidalgo. In February ‘65, Mr. H. C. Barkhousen came, and, probably about the same time, Messrs. James Cavanaugh and Richard and Shadrach Wooten. Messrs. Wooten were brothers and settled on adjoining claims within the present city limits--Shadrach on the Nelson farm and Richard on the claim north of it, where he died.
In ‘66 Mr. and Mrs. John Griffin settled upon the land near the head of the bay, where the husband and son now live. Mrs. Almina Richards Griffin was a bright, enterprising woman of marked character and was born and educated in New England. Leaving all her relatives, she started from Boston for California during the gold excitement in that state. On the ship in which she “rounded the Horn,” she met in its first mate her future husband, Mr. John Griffin. After life on the California gold fields, Mr. Griffin came in ‘64 to Whatcom, where his wife followed him in about two months, to take charge of the district school that had been presided over by Mr. Edward Eldridge. Mrs. Griffin was the first woman to teach in Whatcom County, and had charge of this school for about two years. When she came to Fidalgo, the men already here welcomed her as the first white woman on this island by making a “bee” and clearing some land for her and hers.
If I am rightly informed Messrs. Henry L. Seebert, William Allard, ------ ----- ----Walker, William Gray, Thomas Lamb, James Leathrow, Samuel McCarty, E. Sibley, Orlando Graham, William Deutsch and William R. Griffin arrived in or near the early seventies, settling on places which became their homes, or which they disposed of afterwards. Mr. Walker located on the claim of which Cap Sante is a part, known then as The Portage, but left it to go onto Guemes Island. Mr. William R. Griffin and a man known as Dr. Deere then located on it, and the former made final proof upon it and sold it, through Capt. Hill, to General Stephens for $1,000. Probably about ‘69 or ‘70, Mr. Oliver Lynch and family settled on what is now the Miller place on Similk Bay--Gibraltar, in “Boom Days,” going later to the home where he now lives, near Dewey. Mrs. Griffin, who was still the only white woman on the island, must have rejoiced when Mrs. Lynch and daughter arrived.
In March ‘72, Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Crandall located on the island. In ‘68, or ‘69, the exact date I have not learned, School District No. 2, Whatcom County, was formed, including within its boundary Fidalgo and Guemes Islands. Mrs. Griffin was the first teacher, as was her sister, Mrs. Jennie Howard, who arrived with her son Ernest on the island in January 1872, in this now Anacortes District. Mrs. Howard gathered her pupils in a little cabin near where Mr. Marsh’s boarding house now stands, but Mrs. Griffin began in a schoolhouse near the site of the present  Fidalgo School. The first schoolhouse on the island was standing a few years ago. It was, I judge, about 12 by 14 feet, built of sawed lumber, with two windows on the east side and two on the opposite and a door in the south end. The furniture consisted of six homemade desks, one or two long benches, a small table, a box stove in the center of the room and a blackboard on the north end. The latter was so diminutive that it would not hold my problems when I went to school there during the term taught by Miss Eldridge (now Mrs. John Edens), who succeeded Mrs. Griffin. It was ventilated by its cracks--altogether too freely by those in the floor, during the winter term.
In April ‘73, Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Best and Mr. C. Best arrived at Fidalgo and the same year Mr. Mark Christiansen was living on his place on Similk Bay.
In this sketch I have not attempted to give a census of the island, but have named the settlers as I recall them, living here when we arrived in November ‘73. I remember that we found only eight white women: Mesdames H. A. March, G. N. Crandall, ----- ----- ----- Becker, S. B. Best, A. R. Griffin, Jennie Howard, Oliver Lynch and Ada Lynch Church.
The advance of civilization is marked by the following events: April 3rd, 1863, William Munks qualified as justice of the peace, giving bonds as same August 7, 1863. One wonders where he found enough men for a jury case. May 28, 1865, Hon. E. Eldridge made a campaign speech at Fidalgo. Election then was held in June instead of November, and it seems Fidalgo was of sufficient importance to receive a visit. June 28, 1866, William Munks was appointed coroner. January 24, 1871, William Munks was appointed postmaster. February 8, 1871, he gave $1,000 bonds, receiving the mail key on the 5th of the following April. July 24, 1872, he was appointed notary public.
In ‘71, the island was surveyed. All claims along the shoreline from Mr. Barkhousen’s to Mr. Kavanaugh’s were under joint entry, as were many of those on the western shore.
The first mail was carried by the steamer Woodruff. Fidalgo post office supplied the islands in this vicinity until the Anacortes office was established, and I have heard it said that the largest mailsack along the route was left at Fidalgo. Standard magazines and papers were taken, but very little literature of the Police Gazette grade.
One must admire the intrepidity and hardihood of these first settlers. On the veriest edge of civilization they worked away, enduring many privations, but steadily building homes for themselves. For years their nearest post office was Whatcom, which in ‘58 was, due to mining excitement, quite a city. There they got their provisions, unless they preferred going to Victoria, where they could buy cheaper, besides having a better market and higher prices for produce.
Mr. Compton tells me that eggs often sold for a dollar a dozen, and that one trip he sold 60 dozen for 36 dollars. And yet this does not seem high, when we remember that in ‘72, eggs sold for 70 cents a dozen, and butter for 70 cents a pound, in Seattle.
The journey to Victoria or to Whatcom, as to most other points was made in a sailboat; for there were few steamboats running on the Sound in those days.
Considering the remoteness of their location, and the mode of travel, one wonders how they brought their stock here. To Mr. Compton I am indebted for the following account of how they got their first cattle: Immediately after leaving his claim in 1861, Mr. Compton started for Olympia, going on the Eliza Anderson via Port Townsend. At Olympia he met Mr. Munks on the same errand. They each bought a yoke of oxen and several other head of cattle, and started home with them on a schooner owned by Captain Ed Barrington, father of Captain Barrington who has been in command of a steamer on the Sound for several years past. Captain Barrington was taking a load of lumber to Victoria and took the cattle on top of the lumber. Between Port Townsend and Deception Pass, a gale sprang up in the night, and a rope staying the main sail breaking, the schooner “went on her beam ends.” The cattle were tied to either side of a timber lashed to the masts, and this timber breaking, one-half of them went overboard. They hauled one of them on board, but he seemed dead, so they left his carcass on deck and cut the others loose. The next morning this dead steer got up and walked and afterward made a fine ox.
They generally plowed with three yoke of oxen, all wild steers but the leaders, thus breaking their young cattle to work; for horses were not brought here before ‘67 or ‘68. When I see the bands of horses pasturing in our streets, I often think of the number on the island in ‘73. I can recall but five, Mr. Compton’s span, one (old Charley) owned by Mr. Best, and Mr. Munks’ span. One of the latter was rumored to be a veteran of the Mexican War, and it was even said that he carried the first man onto the walls of Chapultepec. But this was probably the tale of some facetious neighbor boy.
At that date there was no need of horses for riding or driving, as there was no road opened; and a trail that men could travel over, often obstructed by logs or overhanging branches, would not accommodate a horse. The first road, regularly reviewed, was laid out in the fall or winter of ‘73. It started at March’s Point followed the shore to the head of the bay, and then westerly across the island. The present road follows much the same course. This road was opened in ‘79, so that I rode over it to the west side of the island. It remained almost the only road for years. You will see that most of our travel must necessarily have been on foot or by boat. When the tide was in we always had an avenue connecting us with the rest of the world. Sometimes our journeys by water were very pleasant, sometimes amusing and sometimes annoying. Perhaps we sailed gaily away to have the wind die out and be compelled to drive our craft by what the boys called “ash breeze,” or to find the tide ebbing so that we stuck in trying to go through some slough. There we must wait for the tide or get ashore as best we could. It was fortunate if we were near enough to the shore so that the men could get out and drag the boat ashore or, leaving the boat, carry the women. Even then we did not always reach the shore safely. Perhaps the mud would stick so tight that a long-legged rubber boot would be left fast in it, or the owner, stumbling would fall with his burden. I recall landing at low tide on March’s Spit when a little girl in short dresses. My brother took me in his arms and started for shore, but, slipping on a rock, he knew that he would drop me, so he very carefully set me down in the water in front of him. I was not jarred the least but ‘tis needless to say that I arose very suddenly, waded ashore and made my way to the house where Mrs. March helped me dry my clothing.
I am reminded of an amusing incident told me by one of the participants, a woman well known in ----------, her neighborhood. Hers was a very hospitable home and many young ladies were entertained there, especially at holiday season. Naturally, the young men of the neighborhood were on hand to act as escorts to any party there might be. One day a number of them hired some Indians with a large canoe well provided with mats, etc., and started with these young women to a ball. They had water enough at the beginning, but on nearing their destination found that the canoe must stop far out from the shore. So each young man, with the exception of one so small that, though he offered his services to every woman, none dared trust herself with him, took his lady in his arms and started ashore. About halfway to the beach lay an old stump or log, drifted in by the tide, and on this each man set his burden down and rested until the one following him arrived, when he lifted his charge and moved on. The person telling me of it said she was carried by one of the Indians and that she laughed so at the procession ahead of her, that he bade her stop or he would certainly drop her. So common was it to stick in the mud somewhere when we went out in a small boat, that we usually prepared for it by taking plenty of blankets and a lunch so that we might be comfortable if not content.
The steamers stranded too, in or near Swinomish Slough, and had to wait for a high tide to take them off. If the trip was through Deception Pass we expected to go through, but if the slough was the route chosen, we never knew what would happen until we were through or fast in the mud. The steamer J. D. Libby made a weekly trip leaving Seattle every Monday at 7 a.m. This gave her time to lie on the mud both ways, and get back to Seattle in time for her next week’s trip. If all went well, she was back in Seattle on Thursday--but frequently all did not go well. I remember one trip in March, when three brothers and I were returning from school. We left Monday on schedule time on the Libby. About noon that day when near Coupeville the steamer blew out a crosshead, and as the only machine shop on the route was at Seattle, Captain Brannon headed for that city, where we arrived about 1 a.m. the next day. They at once transferred the passengers, mail, baggage and a quarter of beef to a tug appropriately named The Teaser. She had just returned from a trip down the Straits, where she had been to assist a disabled steamer, and looked as if a woman and her chief weapon in battle with dirt, a “broom,” were unknown quantities on board her. Having no accommodations for passengers we made ourselves comfortable as best we could.
About noon we were a little outside the “Hole in the Wall” and following the slough carefully when one blade of the propeller caught on the bank, and though they reversed the engines and churned the water up vigorously, we were fast. The tide was ebbing rapidly and soon she was careened over until her deck was at an angle of about 45 degrees. A part of the crew at dinner in the little cabin had hard work to keep their stools from slipping away from under them. As the dishes began slipping downward they stuck some forks in the bare table, laid a stick of wood across and thus held all above it. When a person at the lower end of the table asked for the pepper, sauce or something similar they set it over the stick of wood and it was caught as it shot downward. A number of the passengers, some of my brothers among them, went to La Conner in the small boat that took the mail there. I happened to be the only woman on board and when the boat seemed deserted, being tired of sitting in a cramped position, I made my way to the upper deck--that is, that portion of the deck highest in the air, and walked along to the unoccupied pilot house, where I tried to be comfortable, seated on a high stool at a most uncomfortable angle.
Late in the afternoon, the men and boys returned from La Conner and played games on the bare sand until the flooding tide drove them on board, while an interested audience of one watched them from the pilothouse. As the water rose, I noticed signs of commotion. They piled cordwood all along the side highest up, and then fastened a hawser high up on the mast and taking the anchor attached to the other end out in a small boat dropped it overboard, and tried to pull her up to a floating position. But she lay still and filled. Two men were passing the pilothouse on their way to the fire room when one of them uttered an exclamation of alarm but the other hushed with, “Sh! She’s in there.” Perhaps they thought that I would be frightened and scream, but I heard enough to learn that the water was drowning the fires, and soon a voice out of the darkness at the door said something like this: “Miss White, we’ll have to send you to La Conner in a small boat. If you’ll come here I will help you.” I stumbled and slid up hill to the door, and they passed me along over the cordwood from man to man until I was at the tug’s side where a man sat holding a ladder that went straight down into the rocking boat below. I made my way down this ladder as best I could and soon we were in La Conner and at the hotel where we spent the night. I wish to record the fact that the men on the steamer could not have been kinder to me had I been their sister, nor treated me with more deference had I been a queen. The next day we went in a rowboat to Mr. March’s where I waited until the boys could go home and send father with the wagon for me. I reached home late Wednesday afternoon, but it required two steamers, a small boat and a farm wagon for the journey.
If the Libby was slow she was staunch, and many preferred her to the stern wheel craft that came later in competition with her. The slough was always dreaded, even though its bends had been staked. One of the old settlers told me this tale of the first staking of this channel. A man known as Humbolt Jack had the contract for carrying the first mail from Seattle to Whatcom, calling at Whidbey Island, La Conner and Fidalgo. He applied to the government to have the Swinomish Slough staked and got the contract for doing it, getting about $1,500 for the job. He sent out a crew with one of the steamer’s boats and a small scow and they cut some young fir trees, trimmed off all of the leaves, put a tassel on the top and stuck these poles into the mud at dangerous points. When high tide carried the sea grass over them and they were dragged from place he threw a new supply across the steamer’s bow, ran her head up close and stuck in his new danger signals.
Often, on account of low tides, the steamer could not reach the dock, and then mail and passengers must be sent ashore in a small boat. For years there were no stairs at the Fidalgo docks--only a ladder made by nailing pieces of wood on two of the front piles. If a woman landed she must either climb this ladder or be packed by the sailor taking the boat ashore.
The first religious service on the island was held, I think, in ‘73. I remember going to church in the little schoolhouse shortly after our arrival. The vividness of this recollection is not due to the text, the sermon, nor the vigorous delivery of the Methodist preacher, but to the manner of our going home. It was before the dike was built, and we went in a boat up the slough until about half across the marsh where our landing was. From this landing father had made a temporary boardwalk raised above the marsh, but that day the tide was so high that the boards went under water, and Mother and I would have wet feet had we walked. Father’s lameness made it very difficult for him to carry us, so two of my brothers, too small to take us in their arms, stooped down and mother put her arms around the neck of one, while I did the same with the other. They arose, and we hung suspended by hands clasped tight around their throats. I wonder the boys did not choke, but they went bravely on until the exertion of bearing our own weight in this manner, and laughing at our ridiculous position, made us loosen our hold and risk the wintry foot bath, which did not harm me but made Mother sick for three months.
When illness came we usually depended on nature and domestic remedies, for the nearest physician was Dr. Kellogg, living back of Coupeville, and we could reach one in Seattle almost as easily. Still, we did not have many deaths in the community.
There was no preaching after this for nearly four years, when a Presbyterian minister held services one Sunday. We tried to have Sunday school in summer. In winter it was too stormy to go so far. In November ‘87, Reverend E. O. Tade and family, and Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Hagadorn and family, settled in what is now Anacortes. Before leaving California they formed themselves into what was known as the Pilgrim Congregational Church. So the first religious society on the island was organized in California. The Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society of this church, organized July 4, 1879, was one of the social functions. The meetings were held by invitation at the residences in different parts and as the journey to and from the place of meeting and the business required the greater part of the day, we took a lunch (basket), unless the hostess insisted on providing the refreshments. The men who had to go to take the women usually remained out of doors during the business session and visited, and so were sometimes facetiously called “the heathen.” After the organization of the W. C. T. U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) in July 1883, these two societies generally held their meeting the same day: One before lunch (basket), and the other afterwards. Mr. Tade held regular services on this side of the Bay and at the Fidalgo Schoolhouse until he removed from the place in 1885. Shortly after his arrival he opened an academy in the building in which Mrs. Whitney now resides. This school was at one time in a flourishing condition and attended by pupils from different parts of the Sound.
Mr. and Mrs. Amos Bowman settled at Ship Harbor about the time that the Tade and Hagadorn families came, and when, through efforts of Mr. Bowman, a post office was established here, it was named “Anacortes” in honor of his wife (Anne Curtis). Mr. Bowman also established the first newspaper, the Northwest Enterprise.
Perhaps you will wonder what the social side of our life was? It was a small part. Occasionally there was a neighborhood picnic to some point. The first time I was on Cap Sante--then know as Rocky Point--was on one Sunday when a couple of boat loads of us--the fathers, mothers and children--came over here for our lunch. We came over the bare rocks on the southern side, ate our dinner, chatted a while, viewed the surrounding country and then went home. No one will, I think, consider me an advocate of the Sunday outing, but in those days when we had no Sunday service, and had to depend on the men to take us everywhere, and they were busy all the week clearing land and making farms, it sometimes seemed a helpful thing to go occasionally on a picnic, sail or visit to a remote neighbor on a Sunday. Another social function was the neighborhood dance--when they could get enough women together. In these small country places, it often seems easier to get people together for these physical exercises than for mental culture, but if my memory is correct, the first social event I attended on the island--in the winter of ‘73 and ‘74 --was a spelling school--where Mrs. Griffin pronounced the words and the men and women stood up and “spelled down” with us children. The dance came in later years.
An old settler said there were two days marking the year for us--Christmas and Fourth of July. At Christmas there was generally a party somewhere, and Fourth of July a celebration. To the latter we always elected to go to hear the music and oration, and to meet neighbors from various parts of the county. La Conner usually furnished the celebration, but in ‘79, Anacortes had one that will be remembered as long as an old settler remains. It began raining hard about 4 o’clock that morning and continued the greater part of the day, all night and for nearly ten days afterward, until the roads were in much the same condition as in winter, and the potato crop was injured. There were said to have been 400 or 500 people at this celebration, while to shelter them there were a few tents, brought by those who canoed, on the beach the preceding day, and five buildings--Captain Hill’s cottage; the Bowman cottage--afterward used as a hotel and now standing on P avenue; that building built for a store and post office--not quite finished but which served very well as a hall for dancing; a log cabin near the site of the one where Mr. Sibley died, and a little cottage occupied by Mr. and Mrs. G. M. Johnson, parents of Meade Johnson, postal clerk. In this last named cottage the babies who attended the celebration were gathered until, according to one who had some of them in her care, there were sixteen of them enjoying themselves.
Under a long booth covered with evergreens, placed near the beach, and between the Hill and Bowman cottages, the lunch was spread, and the bread and cake were soon soaked. A campfire was not enjoyable, and there was no stove in the hall, so dancing seemed a necessity to keep warm that chilly night. The white dresses, in which the young women loved to celebrate, looked rather limp and draggled, and the floor was covered with dark rings made by the wet and sweeping skirts of the dancers. We were not in the time for the oration and music, but shared in the discomfort of the rain, though we returned home at evening.
One amusement belonged especially to the men and boys--hunting. There were deer, ducks, geese and brant for the men, and ‘coons, skunks and ducks for the small boy and dog. Pheasant and quail were not so abundant in that day. A box of mountain quail--perhaps the first imported--came down on the Libby when we moved here. I recall a hunting expedition of two brothers, young lads who went over to the lakes with Will Robe, a boy who made his home with Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Best. The boys talked largely about living on the game they killed and I wondered at the floursack of food--bread, meat, and even jars of canned fruit, that Mrs. Best provided for Will. Evidently she knew the country--and the boys. Mother added a generous portion for her two. I do not remember the game the hunters brought back with them a day or two later, but very little of the food returned.
If everything else failed us, we could entertain ourselves with the resources, present and prospective, for the old settlers always had faith in the island’s future. Had not Ship Harbor risen above the horizon in ‘72 as a possible terminus of the North Pacific Rail Road? Had not Jay Gould failed, you might none of you have been here in time for the “boom.” Perhaps this terminal prospect was an inducement to father to settle on Fidalgo Island, but in the early days mother used to think we had come about 100 years too soon. Then, in ‘83, we had an incipient “boom.”
The following newspaper clipping may be of interest as indicating the size of Anacortes. The heading is “Big Blaze at Anacortes”:
Anacortes, June 11, 1884. Nearly one-fourth of Anacortes is in ruins. About nine o’clock a.m. flames were seen issuing from the residence of ex-Judge Sibley, on the corner of 127th St. and Villard Avenue, and before the fire department could get the fire under control, the whole of that portion of the city presented a scene of desolation and ruin, leaving the inhabitants homeless and without shelter. So far as can be learned there was no insurance on any of the property destroyed. Total loss not ascertained at present writing, but will be very heavy. U. Know.
This relates to the burning of Mr. Sibley’s cabin, near the site of his late residence.
In ‘84, the first year that women took part in the campaign as voters, women attended the primary at Fidalgo; were represented at the county convention; and voted on Election Day. As my pony cantered home after I had cast my ballot that day, I saw a group coming across the fields on their way to the polls. In the party were three generations. The grandfather and the grandmother were leading with several little grandchildren, and following on horseback was a mother with a baby in her arms. These women were accustomed to all the duties of mother and housekeeper, and to work with their husbands outside in the fields.
Ours was a peaceful life and the people, as a class, were quiet, honest, industrious and intelligent. Papers and magazines kept us in touch with events, and we thought ourselves a little part of the world. But, alas, we do not always see ourselves as others see us. In Olympia, one year I met ex-Governor Newell, an enthusiast regarding New Jersey, and the government life-saving stations. Learning that my home was on Fidalgo, he asked if we had a steamer there. I answered that we had a daily boat. He then said that it was a “nice place but so out of the world.” I remarked that we did not think it out of the world. He replied, “Oh, well, that makes no difference, it is.”
While the S. & N. R. R. was getting its land subsidy, there came to our home some men to get father’s bond for a deed. I was called to sign the paper as a witness, and when I had written my name, the notary astonished me by saying, “Why, you write from way back,” and asked if I was the school teacher here. I said, “No,” and wondered if he thought I was the teacher because I could write my name.
Everything depends on the point of view. In this slight sketch I have sought to give you the point of view of the old settler, who loves his island and believes in it.
(Anacortes American, Nov. 24, 1898)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carrie M. White was born in Littleton, Iowa, April 21, 1860, and came with her parents to Seattle, Wash., in August of 1872. The following year, 1873, the family moved to Fidalgo Island where her father had bought a farm at the head of Fidalgo Bay. The family resided on this farm until 1885 when they left the farm because of their mother’s failing health and moved to their home on the west shore of Fidalgo Bay, at the foot of 29th St. in Anacortes.
Later, in 1891 a new home was built a little farther back from the bay and it was in this home that Carrie White lived the remainder of her life.
Miss White was far ahead of her time as far as women in public life were concerned. She was a graduate of the University of Washington while the state was still Washington Territory. She was very active in political and civic projects and served as an officer in the county W.C.T.U. and president of the Fidalgo Island Union, later the Anacortes Union, for many years until ill health and the care of an invalid mother prevented active work. She died at Anacortes, Wash., Sept. 30, 1904.
In 1898 Miss White read a paper that she had written, entitled “Fidalgo Island before the ‘Boom’,” to a meeting of the Historical Society of Anacortes. This paper became the most important historical account of the first settlers on Fidalgo Island. It is enriched with descriptions of her personal experiences.
The water fountain located on the east lawn of the Anacortes Museum was presented to the city of Anacortes in the 1890s in memory of Miss White. It was given in honor of her work with the W.C.T.U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union). This interesting water fountain includes drinking bowls located at three heights and of three sizes. The highest is for people, the largest is for horses, and the smallest and lowest is for dogs. Reportedly some people refused to drink from the fountain because Carrie White and the W.C.T.U. were opposed to the drinking of alcoholic beverages.
(White, Carrie File, Anacortes Museum)