About opticalreflex

My father worked for the US Army civil service and we traveled quite a bit as a result. When I was six, we left Colorado and went to live in France for two years; traveled the North Atlantic in mid-winter aboard the U.S.S. Buckner. We flew back across the Atlantic on board a DC 7 aircraft; propeller driven, it was noisy and slow and 12 hours on board was tough for an eight year old. The crew kept me distracted by taking me to the cockpit to watch the radar scope. Today it takes seven hours and, by comparison, is silent as the Vatican Library. We left Colorado for Virginia when I was nine and returned three years later. It may be that three years that solidified my interest in the history of places; we visited Yorktown, Williamsburg, Jamestown, civil war battle sites, traveled to Washington D.C. and many other historical places. I loved it. We arrived in Washington State in 1965, three years after the World’s Fair but before today’s major north-south route, I-5, was open. We took a brief jaunt to Hawaii, living in Honolulu for about a year before returning to Washington. I learned a lot about the beauty of the Islands, and a lot about racism. When I returned thirty-odd years later, some things had changed a bit. We returned to Washington and I made it to junior college where I decided I wanted a career in performing arts and met the first love of my live. We planned to marry and have successful lives in the performing arts. That dream lasted through the two years living in South Korea. Exposed to a completely different culture. I turned twenty-one in Korea. I met a woman who became a significant addition to my life in Korea. I got into retail in Korea. I learned about life some there too. I came home a year before my family; it was the first time I had been completely separated from them, I was on my own. I never lived on the street but I slept on a beanbag chair in a friend’s Capitol Hill apt., learned to live off of Oriental noodles and the occasional toast, eggs, mushrooms and oat meal and looked for work. A few months later, the woman I met in Korea came to live with me. We got our own apartment, a yo, (basically an upholstered camper pad), two cups, two plates two bowls and two sets of flatware. Eventually we moved uptown by acquiring a platform rocking chair from Goodwill. I got hired by a large retailer as a security officer and so ended the dream of a life in the theater. I spent 20 years in Loss Prevention, working my way from the bottom to mid- management. I learned about the law, I learned about people, I developed my second career choice – to become a police officer. I became a reserve deputy in Snohomish County. I worked my day job eight hours, then went out on the road all night for eight hours, got some sleep and did it all again. Years ago I picked up a map of Washington and wrote down the name of all the locations on it, from the smallest point of interest to the largest of cities, with the intent of drawing them at random, going there and, hopefully, being fascinated. It was a great plan, but I only used it once or twice. Typical me. In later years I have developed an interest in photography and the idea resurfaced. What I decided I didn’t want to do was a dry, travel log, here-are-the-facts, kind of project, yet, I wanted to present stories that entertain, tell some history and show them some what’s-there-now. I wanted to present photos of bits of places that drew my attention, whether it be the town hall, some abstract bit of junk will that caught my eye, or people who live every day in the place I just discovered. Since my wife of 16 years and I live and work in the great Pacific Northwest, expect my subject matter to be weighted toward this geographical area. That said, I intend to include locations from all over the country in time; who knows where I might show up? And, everyplace is eligible for revisits, in an arbitrary fashion. Next challenge? Can an old guy master the art of blogging and actually develop a following of sorts. You, gentle reader, will be the judge of that.

University Place…a Place–with no University

Perhaps it seems too obvious, but when I hear of a city named, “University Place,” I jump to the conclusion that there must be a university in that place.  Ahhh, but in this case, I’d be dead wrong.

In 1888, a year before Washington became a state, Charles Henry Fowler, a Canadian-American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church and President of Northwestern University in Chicago, attended a Methodist conference in Tacoma, out of which came the commitment to build, “an institution of learning which shall by its ample facilities…command the respect and patronage of Methodist people within the bounds of the territory…and so by united and prayerful efforts advance to the establishment of a school of learning which shall be a praise in all the land.”

Apparently, there was some back and forth over whether the facility should be built in Port Townsend or Tacoma.  Tacoma won and the doors were opened in 1890 with a student body of eighty-eight.

It was a difficult and drawn out birth with location changes, funding problems, name changes….  It started out as The Puget Sound University, became The College of Puget Sound and eventually University of Puget Sound .  After several moves, it finally became a permanent fixture on North Warner St., in Tacoma.

But I said there is no University in University Place, so why does all this matter? Because, in the early 1890’s the University purchased 420 acres with plans to build a 60 acre campus, selling off the rest of the land to finance it. The area became known as University Place.  Unfortunately, the depression of 1893 quashed those plans and no University was ever built, however the University Place moniker stuck, so, when the City of nearly 5500 acres finally became incorporated in 1995, University Place it was.

Before white men “discovered” it, the area was home to the Steilacoom Indians who used the area south of what is now Chambers Creek but only ventured north of it on hunting and and camping trips.  That area remained mostly empty.

There were white men in the area; mostly employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but they were mostly transient and while they did raise some sheep in the  area they were not actually settling there.  There was, however, at least one settler as early as 1840.  Anthony Roberts Williamson, according to Marcia Willoughby Tucker; Day Island: A Glimpse of the Past, Williamson “staked a claim that included Day Island and acreage across the lagoon on the mainland.”

Day Island today from the mainland

Day Island today from the mainland

She noted that he built two wooden buildings on the mainland including a small house about 24’x16′.  He built a fence and plowed an acre and a half which put him in position to buy the property from the Federal Government in 1841 when the pre-emption act went into effect.  He stayed there for thirty more years, then sold the land in 1871 for $1000 to August and Fannie (Markbreit), Kautz.

General August Kautz, photographer, Mathew Brady.  Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

General August Kautz, photographer, Mathew Brady. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Kautz was in the 2nd Ohio volunteer cavalry during the civil war and reached the rank of brevet general and finally brigadier general before mustering out of the volunteers in January of 1866, then was made a lieutenant-colonel in the U. S. 34th infantry in July of that year.  He was promoted to full colonel in 1874, which means that at the time he bought Day Island he was one of those two ranks.

August was stationed in the Northwest from 1852 to 1858 as a lieutenant and during that time he married Tenas Puss, a Nisqually, (I believe), Indian woman, in an Indian ceremony.  Rather than call her by her Indian name, she was referred to as Kitty Etta.

Tenas Puss AKA Kitty Ella Kautz.  Photo courtesy of Linda Allen

Tenas Puss AKA Kitty Etta Kautz. Photo courtesy of Laurie Allen

August had two sons with Kitty, Nugen and Augustus, originally called Doctin.  After 1858 Lieutenant Kautz left the Northwest and went to Europe, leaving his Indian family behind.

Nugen Kautz, son of August and Kitty.  Photo courtesy of Linda Allen

Nugen Kautz, son of August and Kitty. Photo courtesy of Laurie Allen

My thanks to Laurie Allen for the information about, and photos of’ her Great Great Grandmother and her Great Grandfather.

He did, however, leave them in the care of of a friend, Edward Huggins, who’s name I have come across often during my research.  He also supported them financially until they were about 14 and had at least some level of ongoing relationship with them.

Kitty remarried after the divorce from August and became a successful landowner and horsewoman.  Both sons became instructors at their school before becoming successful farmers.

Unfortunately, colonel Kautz spent very little time at Day Island after purchasing it. His promotion in 1874 made him the commander of the dept. of Arizona, 8th infantry. He was then stationed at Angel Island, California and Niobrara Nevada before winding up in Seattle as a brigadier general where he retired in 1892 and died in 1895, leaving the disposition of Day Island up to Mrs. Fannie Kautz, his second wife, 22 years younger than he.

General Kautz is considered one of the hero’s of the Civil War.  In April of 1865, he led a division of African American troops in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee.

I noted earlier that the University bought 420 acres to build on, but who owned it first?  A salty former British sailor named William Bolton owned at least part of it. William arrived aboard the British ship, Albion which arrived at the spit, (Dungeness? Fox Island?), in 1849, (About the same time the U.S. Army was moving a detachment into a farm near Steilacoom), then moved into the Straits of Juan de Fuca along the Olympic Peninsula.

The Vincennes, similar in style and purpose to the Albion.

The Vincennes, similar in style and purpose to the Albion.

Had the Albion arrived three years earlier she would have been in territory jointly held by the Americans and the British but in 1846 the Oregon treaty was signed setting the US/British boundary at the 49th parallel–they got Canada, we got the Oregon territory.

Captain Richard Hinderwell had been sent by the crown to harvest timber at the suggestion of William Brotchie, former captain of the first steamship in the Northwest, the Beaver.  He had seen the forests earlier in the 1840’s and accompanied Hinderwell on his venture in the position of supercargo, (a representative of a ship’s owner on board a merchant ship, responsible for overseeing the cargo and its sale).  They were either unaware they were then in exclusively US territory or merely decided it didn’t matter.  They proceeded to load the Albion with high quality timber, estimated value $50,000, for use as spars by the British Royal Navy.

Since the good Captain and Mr. Brotchie had employed Native American workers to assist in the harvest, word spread among their communities and inevitably to Americans settled in Steilacoom and Newmarket, (later known as Olympia,) raising their ire and spurring complaints to the newly formed U. S. Revenue and Customs agency which was obliged to seize Albion in the name of the United States.  On April 22nd, 1850, Eban May Dorr, newly appointed customs inspector, with a contingent of six American soldiers, boarded and took possession of the Albion in the name of the United States.

I found two accounts showing differing reasons for the seizure; first, the fact that she was taking on timber from US property.  The other account indicated that Hinderwell was paying his Native American help in furs, which, as stated in Report of the commission of claims under the convention of February 8, 1853 between the United States and Great Britain, transmitted to the senate by the President of the United States August 11, 1856 was prohibited.  The index to Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives, Fifty-third Congress, Second Session, gave this account:  “Ship Albion, John Lidgett owner, for seizure of the vessel by United States officers of revenue for nonpayment of customs duties, for cutting timber in Oregon, and for trading with the natives in violation of acts of Congress. Presented January 20, 1854; heard April 3 and May 13 and submitted. October 2nd the commissioners disagreed as to the allowance of the claim. December 1 the umpire awarded $20,000.” It would appear that both reasons for the action were used.

Captain Hinderwell had apparently not exactly endeared himself to his crew.  In fact, there had been talk of a mutiny, possibly organized by Mr. Bolton.  The crew, it seems, felt it wise to take the opportunity to disperse as quickly as possible.  As Inspector Dorr, Captain Hinderwell and Supercargo Brotchie argued about the seizure,  Mr. Bolton apparently facilitated the crew’s departure by offering their services to Charles Kinney, skipper of an assisting American ship.  All but one of the crew seized the opportunity and Capt. Kinney significantly increased the number of his employees as Capt. Hinderwell’s crew diminished correspondingly.

After the seizure was a fait accompli, most of the crew went to the California gold rush but Mr. Bolton, apprentice carpenter Will Ellis and seaman Frederic Rabjohns remained in the area north of Chambers Creek, which became known as Bolton’s Plain or Bolton’s Prairie.  It wasn’t long before William obtained his American citizenship and a 640 acre land claim in that area.

University Place now with Bolton’s first claim in red below his second claim in darker orange. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

In about 1850 William was able to obtain his 640 acres, in part, by claiming that he had sent his wife, still in England, money to come to America but that she died before leaving the country. He said he had received this information from his sister.  Years later, he was, for reasons I have yet to discover, sued for part of that property by Issac and Seraphina Pincus and Adolph and Sarah Packscher.  In that suit Bolton’s brothers, Richard and Samuel, in England, provided affidavits testifying to the fact that his wife, the former Sarah Ann Nichols, was seen to be alive as late as 1885.

William Bolton lived on his plain from 1850 until he died, according to the City of Tacoma Register of Death, on 12/2/1903, and had made his living for most of fifty years as a shipbuilder.  Unfortunately, the exact location of his shipbuilding business seems to be a mystery.  What little information I have seems to indicate that he was buried in the Tacoma Cemetery.

These two maps seem to show the original area which was known as University Place and the smaller area that was to be kept as University land.  Since it was purchased around 1893 Mr. Bolton had been gone for some time.

William married Mary Ann Taylor in 1862.   Mary, also from England, had arrived in the area in 1859 aboard the ship, Norman Morrison.  She lived until 1914 so undoubtedly the handling of the land sales to the University fell to her.

Map showing what I believe to be the  original "University Place," that purchased by Puget Sound University in the early 1890's

Map showing what I believe to be the original “University Place,” that purchased by Puget Sound University in the early 1890’s

Map which I believe shows the land maintained by Puget Sound University for construction of their campus

Map which I believe shows the land maintained by Puget Sound University for construction of their campus

All of this and we have not really touched on what went on before the University’s purchase gave this town its name.  Forty years needs to be covered before we even get to that point. Perhaps the next step is to cover the Impact of Thomas Chambers on the city.  Although he arrived in Steilacoom in 1847, the creek named for him forms the southern boundary of University Place and the businesses he owned contributed to its development. Even at that, his death in 1876 still precluded the use of the title, “University Place.”

I leave you with a gallery of photos taken in and around University Place–enjoy; and remember, you can always view my photographic work at Flickr.

George Washington France: Episode Two – the Effie Years


Portrait of a young George France

Effie Cammack in her youth - Courtesy of Patti Morris Craze

Effie Cammack in her youth – Courtesy of Patti Morris Craze

By 1870, George had decided that it was time to settle down.  He had found what he believed to be an excellent location to build a home, a farm, a family and, perhaps, a community.

I have read the description of his search for the piece of land on which he eventually settled.  In his book he says, “Following the Nez-Percé trails, (as did Lewis and Clarke [sic] the same in 1804), down across the Pataha gorge and creek, where it forks; then on a ridge, between the Pataha and breaks of the head of the Alpowa, for four miles, and here lay the spot I was looking for.”  He later notes that “In one of the gulches, where the trail crossed it, there flowed, for a quarter of a mile or more, the principal spring, or springs of water for several miles around and fertile prairie land lay more adjacent to this spring, than to any other…” He lay claim to the spring and noted that he had selected land with “water, wood and grass,” on which he could build a farm and home.

Section of county map showing the George France property - Courtesy of Patti Morris Craze

Section of county map showing the George France property – Courtesy of Patti Morris Craze

I have used Google Earth extensively to try to locate the France land and I think I have a fairly good idea where it is because Peola is at the very south-east corner.  I was hoping to find something–anything–that looked like it might have been part of the France settlement 140 years ago, but to no avail.  Perhaps, someday, I’ll get the chance to walk the area and look in earnest.

In 1870, George must have been in Walla Walla.  In his book he talks about horses being quite cheap there and that he had decided to take the opportunity to build a small herd for himself with a view toward renting, or selling them, to the railroad folks when they came into the area.  As fate would have it, Effie Cammack was also in Walla Walla, living with her mother, Albina, and stepfather, Walter Parks, who had married there in 1864.  Sixteen-year-old Effie was a student at the Whitman Seminary–later to become Whitman College.

Whitman Seminary was very much an on-again-off-again affair at that time. Founded by Cushing Ells in 1859, the Seminary was floundering by 1869 .  Cushing Ells was called upon to serve as principal, which he did until 1869.  After Ells’ resignation in 1869, the school struggled—and often failed—to attract students, pay teachers, and stay open for each term.  Family documents say that Effie, “ran away,” from the school in 1870 and it’s an easy stretch to belive that in light of the inconsistency of the school and having met George France, nine years her senior, Effie fell in love. Their marriage license is dated Sept. 13, 1871, and according to census records the marriage took place on Sept. 18.

Apparently Walter and Albina approved of the union; Walter signed the marriage license affirming the age of Effie as did H. W. Chase, County Auditor.

George and Effies marriage license - coutrtesy of Patti Morris Craze

George and Effies marriage license – coutrtesy of Patti Morris Craze

Grand Hotel Logo

Grand Hotel Logo

At first glance, it appears that all of this probably took place at the Grand Hotel in Walla Walla; “The place where the traveling man feels at home,” but as I read the hotel letterhead on which the license was hand written,  I noticed that under the hotel logo in the upper left is the note that there is, “local and Long Distance Phone in every room.”   This presents a paradox–Alexander Bell didn’t transmit his first call to Watson until 1876 and there certainly was no phone system in place in 1871. Hmmmm.  My cursory research into the Grand Hotel found only one in Walla Walla, converted from the Ransom building to the Grand Hotel in 1911.  Perhaps what we have is a photo of a hand written copy of the original?  At any rate, the wedding definitely did not take place at the Grand Hotel.  Perhaps the young lovers married at the home of Effies’ step-father and mother.

The France’s moved to George’s claim and into, “…a log cabin, neither spacious nor elegant, but being the best we had ever owned, it seemed to us to be both…” He noted that “the furniture would not have sold for $2.50 in a town.”

In October of 1871 George lay legal claim to the spring he had found and a quarter section of land around it.  He set about breaking and planting the land, cutting timber and splitting rails for fencing, knowing that “not one in fifty” were successful in such an endeavor.

At eighteen, Effie gave birth to Clarence Gordon France on Sept. 29th, 1872.  The situation into which he was born was not one of comfort and security.  His Dad was still working on the land and in the spring of 1873 he planted his first crop and lost most of it to a plague of black crickets which decimated everything but potatoes and peas.  The cricket plague was to continue for several years.  Fortunately, he had “a good start of expensive stock-hogs,” for whom the crickets provided a feast all summer long.   He had 8000 rails in fencing and started a 200 tree orchard.  He hung on while most of his neighbors moved on.

In 1875 Effie Mae was born; the same year the cricket scourge ended.  George had managed to hold on and, in fact, prosper a bit.  “Besides farming, in 1875, I worked with my four-horse team in hauling for others, including freight from Walla Walla to the Lewiston stores.”  Traveling that much left Effie, now 21, home alone with two children and a farm to watch over.

It was also in 1875 that George raised the $200 necessary to get his land patent and add it to the vacant section below what land he already had.  He now had 320 acres of land and had built a 16×22 log house, a corral, sheds, and hen-house “on the best building place, at the lower spring in the spring gulch”.  They moved to this hard-won spot in Sept. of 1875.  While he had to go six or seven miles to get timber for fence rails, by now “I had good teams…and a wagon, was practically free of debt, had means to employee help…and there being no more insect pest…we just loped right along and ahead of the country.”

Believed t be a photo taken in 1905 of the France homestead

Believed t be a photo taken in 1905 of the France homestead

In November, Columbia County was formed from Walla Walla County, taking the France settlement with it.


This is believed to be the same piece of land; photo taken in 1997

1876 was a bountiful year; George threshed 1,000 bushels of wheat and Effie gave birth to their third child, Clyde LeRoy France.  Beyond farming, George and Effie continued to improve their home, adding a cellar and stable, planted a garden and potato field and fenced in a pasture on the homestead claim, all of which was completed by the fall of 1878.  On June 16th of that year, Effie gave birth to the last of their four children, Inez M.  By now she was undoubtedly beginning to get some help from four-year-old Clarence as she went about her tasks and cared for the other three little ones.

The France’s now possessed fenced-in crops of wheat, “with plenty of grain, hay and straw to sell at good prices…barley and oats…eggs…butter…and having good herds of cattle, horses and hogs; virtually out of debt…I was ready to enlarge my home and business.”

As part of that enlargement, he broke sod on land adjoining his, which was set aside for the school.  He later leased this land from the government; an action he might not have taken if he could have seen the pain and despair it would cause him in the future.  The area was beginning to prosper and, since those with the grit and determination to do the hard work had done it, it became an attraction to those who wished to have what had been so hard-won without actually doing any of the difficult part themselves.

In his book, The Struggles for LIfe and Home in the Northwest, George notes that in the spring of 1878 a “Mr. E–…located a steam saw-mill a mile from my place, knowing there would be no accessible water…except be it at my place.” Somewhere in my research I came across the reference to the Ellis saw-mill and I believe it to be the mill George wrote about.

George thoroughly believed that the Masons and the Odd Fellows held the county, in fact, the whole Territory, in a strong grip and that, for the most part, the law and courts were controlled with a strong bias toward those who belonged to that organization.  He believed Ellis to be a member and that he built his mill despite the fact that he “…was fully informed as to this matter before he located the mill, but turned a deaf ear; evidently having conspired at the outset to intrigue, tramp or shoot me down, and jump my place”.

True to the warning he had been given, Ellis’s mill hit the dry season and there was no water to run the steam machinery.  According to George, Ellis never approached him about the use of his water, however, another man, a neighbor, requested to divert water from George’s spring and sell it to the mill.  George agreed–the man quit after a couple of months and George allowed a couple of others to try it but apparently with little success.

In May of 1878 Archie Haven approached George and asked of he could put up a cabin on a corner of the school-land-tract on a temporary basis.  George agreed, That was a mistake.  After he had built the cabin, Haven said he had been advised by a lawyer that the law which allowed George to lease the land was invalid, therefore, he had no need to leave it or acknowledge George’s claim to it.

The France’s had spent seven years together, survived hard times, done the backbreaking work necessary and built a successful home and business.  They loved, made love and created four healthy children and now trouble began that would, for all intents and purposes, put an end to all of that.  Clarence was now nearly six-years-old; old enough to remember at least some of the events happening around him.

According to George, when unable to obtain a reliable water source, Ellis and “his force of men and hell [came] and stealthily put up a big tank,” took down his fence and built a pipe to the tank effectively usurping all the water for the whole settlement and posted signs claiming it as his own and threatening anyone who meddled with it.  Concurrently, Haven, who frequented the Ellis mill, began again to claim the land George had allowed him to build on, claimed it to be. “an outrage for one man to own all the land in the country and the water too,” tore down fences, threatened to take the entire homestead and “settle me with an ounce of lead”. Apparently he was believed because a friend loaned George a gun with which to defend himself.

This “friend,” later told George that Ellis was a Masonic Worthy Grand Master and as such, he was bound by him to testify against George in his later trial.

When the lack of water became critical, France, who had been unable to get any help from Government representatives of any kind, busted up the pipes which were illegally hauling away his water and rebuilt his fence.  When George approached a “peace officer,” (sheriff?, constable? marshal?), for assistance he received advice to ” be prepared to defend myself against him, and thus work the land.”  Threats continued; life for the France’s was getting less pleasant rapidly.

On August 22nd, 1878, just over two months since the birth of Inez, George and friends/hired hands, Vasco De Lay and Bartlett Brooks set about planting wheat, part of it being on the leased school property which was in front of Archie Haven’s house.  Around 11 am, Jay Lynch approached George to discuss the water for the mill issue, this discussion having the effect of slightly separating George from the other two men.  It was shortly after George had refused the request for water that Lynch exclaimed, “There comes [Haven] now with a gun!”

A carbine of the type Archie Haven might have used in the assault

A carbine of the type Archie Haven might have used in the assault

George noted that Haven was approaching rapidly with a carbine and commented to Lynch, “…let us go and see what he is going to do with it.”  Lynch replied, “I don’t give a damn what he does with it!” and hightailed it to a safe distance.

According to Roswell Fairman, who was at the Haven house at the time, Archie saw the group sowing wheat at about noon.  He said as they were eating dinner Archie got up and went out, then returned, got and loaded his gun and told his wife, “there is trouble,” then left the house.

Archie Haven knew both Vasco Lay and Bartlett Brooks.  He first approached Brooks and told him to take off while he could because there was going to be trouble.  Brooks declined the offer.  He then approached Lay and, during their conversation either pointed his rifle at him, or behind him toward George France. Lay grabbed the barrel and shoved it aside as Haven fired his first shot.  Was he planning to shoot Lay, or did Lay deflect a shot meant for France?  That debate was never resolved.  France was not hit, but Lay’s horse was mortally wounded.

France’s first shot coincided with Haven’s second;   France noted that “I emptied my pistol into him in about five seconds.”  He refers to his “four” bullets–Mrs. Haven’s later testimony referred to Mr. France’s “derringer” which could quite possibly have been a four shot revolver or four barrel derringer.

This incident having taken place near the Haven home, Archie’s wife, Julia, was a witness.  She ran out to help her husband and later testified that as she ran toward her husband, still struggling with Mr. Lay, she saw George shoot him as Lay held him, then saw France receiving fresh ammunition from Bartlett Brooks, who was still on horseback.  France argued with Mrs. Haven and at some point Brooks apparently got off of his horse and took control Haven’s rifle.  Haven had had enough, he left for home, apparently believing that he had shot France.  According to George’s account, “…[Haven] went to his house, boasted that ‘he had shot my companion as well as me.'”  In fact, the only person shot, if we don’t include the horse, was Archie Haven and from his actions in the field and on the way home it did not appear that he was seriously wounded.

In all of this we have no references to what Effie and the four children were doing. How far away was their house?  Did they hear the ruckus?  Was Effie protecting the children or trying to keep them from seeing the activity?  Clarence was a month shy of his sixth birthday, he must have understood some of what happened and certainly was old enough to remember some of it.  Effie Mae was three–old enough to know that something unusual was happening.

George returned home unaware that Archie was mortally wounded.  Jay Lynch, who went to Haven’s house, described the wound as one which appeared to have been made by a .32 caliber ball. Dr. T. C. Frary was called and found four wounds, one in the left side; “I found upon examination one gunshot wound in the left side about 3 or 4 inches above the crest of the ileum (hipbone) from the appearance of the external wound I concluded that the ball pursued a course in the direction of the fundus of the bladder.”  It was this wound, Dr. Frary concluded, that caused Haven’s death, which occurred about twenty minutes after midnight.  Dr. Frary had called for assistance from Dr. D. C. Davidson, who concurred.

Unaware that Haven was dying, George decided not to file charges against him. The following day he was surprised when an official of the law arrived at his home to arrest him; Jay Lynch had filed charges for murder against George France. France was taken into custody even as he was assured that he had done nothing wrong and was sure to be freed when tried.  As far as we know, this was the last time George Washington France saw Effie, Clarence, Effie Mae, Clyde and Inez.

I can only imagine the great apprehension George felt as he was parted from the woman with whom he had shared the last seven years of his life, yet, knowing he had acted in self-defense, feeling that they would soon be reunited.  Then imagine how that grief must have grown as he was held for ten months without trial and it eventually became apparent that he would not see her for many years, if at all. Effie, probably with help from her mother and step father,  was left to care for the four children, take care of the land and business and deal with her grief, discouragement and despair and, as it turned out, some very ill-health.

The France trial was a long time coming, may have been rigged, witnesses may have been tampered with…but that is a story for another episode.

NOTE:  Much of this information was provided by Effie (France) Morris’ great granddaughter, Patricia Morris Craze and I will take this opportunity to thank her for her kind assistance which has allowed a more complete telling of this tale than could have been done without the insights she provided.



Ashford, Gateway to Mt. Rainier

Walter Ashford and family-for blog

Walter and Cora Ashford, Mildred (in front), Zina, Emma, John and Walter. Photo courtesy of The Ashford Mansion

Just outside the Nisqually entrance at the south-west corner of Mount Rainier national Park lies the little town of Ashford.  Well, not really a town, but officially designated by the census folks as a CDP,  or census-designated place.  Not much is visible as you travel highway 706, but there is some history there. The area was named for Walter A. Ashford and his wife, Cora J. (Hershey) Ashford.  Walter immigrated to the U. S. in 1871, from Ipswich, England. I found one source that said Cora was born in England, another, the 1900 census says she was born in Michigan.  Either way, found her in Nebraska.  In about 1880 he homesteaded in the place he would plat as the town of Ashford in 1904; he had filed for a town site in 1891.  He and Cora were married 1886 and had four children; daughters Zina B., Emma G. and Mildred M. and son Fred L.

Ashford was planned as a terminus for the Tacoma Eastern Railroad line and there was some speculation that with his close association with major Tacoma promoters, Walter was actually sent to the area to plat the town and get things ready for the railroad’s arrival.  The railroad was intended for use in logging and mining but let’s face it, the chance to share the mighty mountain made tourism a mainstay.

Perhaps one of the wagons used to transport tourists to the mountain.  courtesly of The Ashford Mansion

Perhaps one of the wagons used to transport tourists to the mountain. courtesy of The Ashford Mansion

In 1883 James Longmire built a trail and cabins 13 miles from Succotash Valley,where Ashford was located.  Walter drove wagon loads of people up to Longmire to see the sights. One of the type of wagon used was a, “Four horse Tally-ho,”  I have no idea if Mr. Ashford drove one of these, but I love the name.  Tourism had begun.

In 1894, Walter built the first Ashford Post Office and Cora became the Postmistress. According to “The Big Fact Book About Mount Rainier” she held that position until 1938. According to Washington State Death Certificates, however, she passed away November 3rd, 1933.  As to who ran the post office for the remaining five years, that remains a mystery to me.

The Ashford Post Office with the Postmistress in attendance

The Ashford Post Office with the Postmistress in attendance

The same book tells us that at one time 11 year-old Jess McCrea carried the mail, on foot, the twenty miles from the post office to Paradise on Mt. Rainier.  The salary for that trip?  One dollar per day and a free lunch. The story goes that he would do his best to deliver the mail, then make it back to the kitchen at Longmire by lunchtime.  Times were lean for he and his mother; that free meal meant a lot to both of them.

I searched for information about Jess and found quite a bit about Jesse McCray, born in Texas about 1891 or ’92 in but living in Ashford.  I surmise this is the Jess in question.  If so he stayed in Ashford and married a woman named Jetty, or Jennie; I haven’t been able to find a maiden name, but they had a son named George McCray who would have been born around 1917, and a daughter-in-law named Jean McCray.

Suver's General Store

Suver’s General Store

Today, as one drives through Ashford, which never actually was incorporated as a town, it’s obvious that most of the business there is directed toward tourists.  An exception is Suver’s General Store, probably the most prominent business in town located right next to the post office.  Suver’s serves the local population as only a general store can, by providing a little of everything they need…generally.

Ashford Manson Today

Ashford Manson Today

A look at the Ashford Mansion makes if fairly obvious that the Ashford’s were financially successful.  The home was designed by Cora based on a Georgian home she had seen while visiting England and built in 1903.  To get a real feel for the size and grandeur of the home I encourage you to go to Ashford Mansion’s web site and check out their photos.  Cora had fine taste.

When Walter passed away, youngest daughter, Mildred Ashford, Harmon, Raymond, Beech, inherited the mansion and upon her passing in 1967 it was sold to Ed Mudge.  There were two other owners between Ed and Han Green and his wife and it is currently owned by Willard Jones.  During those years it was both a private residence and a Bed and Breakfast. Currently it remains the former.

During her lifetime, Mildred was married to Leslie Harmon, Samuel Raymond and respected WWII pilot, James C. Beech.

Just down the road from the wonderful and majestic Ashford Mansion I found what was left of someone else’s little castle.  Built on a foundation of logs, time, weather and gravity had taken their toll.  Still, at one end sat a chair with a coffee cup on the arm as if someone would return on a warm summer morning and sit in the woods and relax with a cup.

Waiting for CoffeeDown the Road

Over the years I’ve been to Ashford many times, either passing through to the Mountain, exploring and photographing, or patronizing one of the tourist attractions.  Some of my best memories from my early days in Washington are of the Copper Creek Inn.  Not only did my family and I usually stop there to eat en route–copper topper cinnamon rolls and blackberry pie–but in the mid to late ’60’s I stayed in their cabins.  Once, my family and I rented one of the small cabins which, at that time, were operated by the main Inn.  I recall that one night there was a horrific electrical storm; the next day we went to a power pole that had been near a lightning strike and found chunks of the ground which had been melted into dark glass.

Copper Creek Inn with Frenchie's alphabet on the side

Copper Creek Inn with Frenchie’s alphabet on the side

Later, as a member of a youth group, we rented the big lodge, which had been used, I believe, by loggers or miners originally.  We loved it.  In later years the cabins and lodge were not rented out — they were either permanently leased or sold by the lodge.  Today they are once again part of the Copper Creek experience and have been renovated and added on to.  Additionally, the rooms above the original Inn have once again been opened for lodging; we stayed in Roselea’s suite, the one former owner Roselea Triggs used to occupy.  It’s also where Eva Crisman Blum lived in 1935.

Eva slept here

Eva slept here

Copper Creek is a perfect place to stop going to, or, especially coming from, Mt. Rainier.  The food is excellent and the physical restaurant hasn’t changed much over the years, right down to the Fred Oldfield mural on the wall and the alphabet made of naturally formed roots and branches collected by Hank, “Frenchie.” Canty, Roselea’s partner, gracing the outside wall of the building.  One of the perks is access to the hot tub in the woods.  A fun place for even old folks to get naked in the dark and cold.

Another business I’ve had personal experience with is Wellspring Spa, located on Kernahan Rd.  My wife and I have stayed at several of the facilities.  Wellspring is unique in that, unless you want to, you never see an employee.  Your reservation having been made, you arrive to find your key and directions posted on an outdoor

Wellspring Winter Hot  Tub

Wellspring Winter Hot

bulletin board.  Pick it up, go to your lodging and relax.  From a small tree house to a multi-family lodge and canvas yurts, they have the bases covered.  Once again, there’s those outdoor hot tubs.  Hot tubbing in the snow is a wonderful experience.

The owner of Wesllspring is Sunny Thompson who, as well as being a wonderful landlord, is a world-class masseuse.  Trust me, been there, done that, have the memories.

Ashford Creek Pottery is located at 30510

Signed: Jana and Rick

Signed: Jana and Rick

State Route 706 E.  My wife and I visited there, well, before she was my wife.  We still use the vase we bought nineteen or so years ago.  Operated by Rick Johnson and Jana Gardiner they produce locally themed top quality pottery.

There are so many more–enough to justify at least one more post on Ashford: There’s the Highlander Restaurant, built from what was the basement of the school before it burned down around 1959; there’s Jasmer’s Lodging at Mt. Rainier–I’ve never stayed there, but it’s on my list; Painter’s Art Gallery; Alexander’s Country Inn and a multitude of cabins, chalets, hotels and B&B’s, and they’re almost all hidden in the surrounding forest.

One business that is not there is “The Logs Resort Motel and Restaurant.”  I have no idea if the building still exists, but the business has passed on.  Owned by “Red” Jones who, in the early ’60’s, apparently abandoned the place abruptly leaving his personal belongings and his employees, unpaid.  It boasted a swimming pool, trout pond, shuffle board and a gift shop, fine foods and comfortable accommodations. In 1961 a fire destroyed the kitchen, as well as the employee’s lodgings which were right above it.  Rumor has it that Red wound up in California.

Still to come is the story of Zina Ashford and her marriage to Hollywood mogul, Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke II and her sister, Mildred Ashford, Harmon, Raymond, Beech.  Who Knows what I might uncover about the rest of the family?

George Washington France: Episode One

Portrait of George France 2 for blog

A young George France

In 1865 a 19-year-old man, George France, made the decision that he needed to see the big, wide, world for himself.  Despite discouragement from his father, Elting J. France, and mother, Catherine (DuBois) France, he and a friend struck off on what would be new life for George.  It was the last time he would see his parents, or any of his siblings, Oliver, Henry and Jonathan.  Nor, apparently, would he ever meet his half-sister, Jannette Elizabeth France, who was born in 1871.

First Commercial Oil Well

Pennsylvania Oil Fields

Pennsylvania oil fields for blog

Oil was a dirty business

Their first destination?  The oil fields of Pennsylvania and on March 3rd, 1865, he and the friend arrived in oil town.  He never mentions his friend’s name, but the companionship lasted only a day or two after arriving in Pennsylvania, in the rain, where they jumped off the train into “the mud and oil a foot or two deep, and waded through it to the hotel in the dark.  First impressions were enough to convince his traveling companion that home sounded much better than adventure.

George worked in the mud and the muck for a year.  He learned from the legendary Coal Oil Johnny that,  as with gold rushes, very few make a lot, a few more made a little and the vast majority came away poorer, and dirtier, than they came in.

Johnny lived with his aunt, dirt poor, until oil was found under their farm. Apparently it was customary, in the oil regions, to keep a bucket of coal oil in the house for making fires.  In this case such a bucket was responsible for a bigger fire than wanted; it took the life of Johnny’s aunt and for the next year or so Johnny lived the life of a son of fortune; his pockets were stuffed with money which flew out as fast as it was stuffed in.  He ended up destitute.  Not so Mr. France.  He rolled barrels on a dock for 60₵ an hour, then got a job as a chain carrier for a surveyor at $3 per day.  Next he ran an engine pump for $4 a day. He became familiar with drilling techniques, bit sharpening and running a sand pump, used for pumping the drillings out of a well-being drilled.  The oil “boom” was dying. George, unlike so many others, could see it coming so on February 11th, 1868, he took the $1000 he had saved and moved on to a new adventure.

As a young man of 20, with $1000, he took some time to travel the county, experiencing trains, stages and boats, visiting relatives and friends who had moved out west and in general having a good time.

June of 1868 found him in Nebraska City in charge of a four mule team and wagon hauling “improved rifles” bound for Salt Lake City, having hooked up with a New York businessman who financed a supply and mercantile wagon train.  He drove his team for $20 per month.

four mule team blog

The type of team Mr. France might have driven.

George had never handled a four animal team before and he got hold of two of the best mules.  The wagon master matched those with two brand new, unbroken, mules.  He first tried the new mules in the back of the team but they kicked the end of the wagon to splinters.  To avoid that, he moved them to the front.  Apparently they liked the rear position; they broke the tongue off of the wagon trying to get back where they had been.  His plan was to take a place back in the train so he could follow the more experienced teamsters, “but, they started me out in the lead, just as if I knew something about leading a heavily loaded wagon train.”  Eventually, he mastered his mules and the wagon train, crossed the west to Utah.

Having reached Salt Lake, George continued to haul freight for a living.  He learned a great deal about the Mormons, their politics, the Mountain-Meadows massacre, their views on the US Government and their day-to-day lives.  While hauling freight, he managed to gather for himself a load of salt, “much of it so clear, one can read print through it some inches thick.”  He also met up with other wanderers, many of whom were headed for the mines in California.  He returned to St. George in January of 1869, sold his load of salt, then headed for Los Angeles.

lincoln county Nevada mine blog

Abandoned mine, Lincoln County, NV – Photo courtesy of QKC on Panaramio

In Los Angeles Mr. France made the acquaintance of a mining company agent who convinced him that he would do well by accompanying him to the “rich, extensive mines ‘at Pah Ranagat in South-Eastern Nevada,'”  offering him a job running the engine mill for $8 a day.  His group traveled adjacent to Death Valley, eventually finding camps in Lincoln County, Nevada.  He traveled, worked and learned.  He developed an extensive understanding of the geological activities that had deposited the quartz, gold, silver and lead in the mountains.  He witnessed the nature of man in an area where State and County law was forsaken for “the government of the plain.” He gives examples:

“An Indian having killed a white man, was, with others, captured, tried without lawbooks or lawyers, and hung; the others being acquitted.

“A white man, of considerable eminence in the states, murdered another for his money; he was likewise given a fair, open trial and hung.

“An employer undertakes to trick his men out of their money; knowing that he has it, one of them presents a pistol at his head, with the proposition to pay or die–he pays.

“A boisterous desperado undertakes to ‘run the town,’ runs against some quiet little man, who kills him in his disgust at the cowardice of the famed bullies and toughs of the camp.

“The people were not afraid of, or prejudiced against the professional gambler and sharp, but they had no use for the mysterious midnight trickster or confidence men.”

George worked in the area for about a year and a half.  He contracted with another man, sawing 300 feet per day,  “to furnish timber and joice [sic] for $100 per thousand feet in the woods”  He contracted with another man to haul the timber. He worked two or three months in the mines for $6 per day, as a night watchman at the mill for $7 per day and experienced the conditions as the promised riches melted away and the biggest money-making business was selling shares to the unsuspecting speculators back east, then “going bust” and keeping all the invested money.  The work of the tricksters and confidence men, most of whom he believed to be Masons, was what the people despised.

Companies were in debt., agents skipped out and George found himself being owed about a thousand dollars.  Despite attempts for several years, he never collected and in 1870 “…I concluded to now make an extensive, general prospecting tour through the wild mountain ranges to the north…[and] would terminate my travels at Puget Sound…”.

For the next seven months France’s travels took him to mining districts in Nevada, Idaho and Montana; to the Owyhee, Upper Snake and Salmon river regions, through mountains covered with snow and July heat in the valleys.  He hunted and fished the area around, “two great falls of Snake River, 175 and 260 feet fall [sic]…”, Shoshone Falls. Shoshone falls idaho blogOften meeting other adventurers, miners, travelers and the like, he heard that times were good in Washington Territory and “…horses were cheap in Walla Walla”.  He decided to go there, earn some money and buy as many horses as he could, and build up a herd to work with when construction of the Northern Pacific railroad began.

Leaving Fort Owens, in the Bitter-Root valley of Montana he and a companion struck out along the Lo Lo Indian trail for Lewiston, where he arrived in mid September, 1870, then crossed the river into Washington Territory, eventually building a home at the head of Alpowa Creek in Columbia County.  He was in Dayton WA, on the Tou Chet, (Too she), stream and near there he hired on with a farmer at $35 per month noting this to be the only good farming country he had seen since leaving Eastern Nebraska.  He worked a threshing machine for a couple of weeks, then filled the rest of his tenure hauling timber and rails from the mountain to the farm.

After his two months with the farmer, he found a demand for rails and clap boards, or shingles.  Although men already engaged in that endeavor told him there was little money to be made, he bought himself an outfit and went to work, trading his products for stock–mostly horses.  He spent the following ten months at this job. He notes, “…though not very rugged, and unable to do as much hard work as other men, I made 8000 rails and 55,000 clap boards, which was more than was done by any other man about me or whom I knew of”. making clap boards blogThis display of industry brought him to the end of his ten months owning $800 worth of horses and other property.  In addition to his work, he bought a land claim on the prairie fourteen miles away and built  a twelve by fourteen lumber cabin on it. This he sold for a hundred-dollar mule and $50.

Liberty Cabin blog

A cabin of the type France might have built.

In 1871 George learned that his father’s manufacturing business had burned down and his mother had died.  He decided he had reached a point in his life when he would settle down, “and finding here apparently as favorable an opportunity to settle down and prosper…I concluded to remain, get married, make as good a home as I was able…and grow up with the country”.

George Washington France married Effie Mariah Cammack Sept. 18, 1871 and set about doing just that.

I have yet to learn how he and Effie met.  If anyone reads this who has information to fill in the gaps I would ask you to please tell me what you can about the France’s. I know a little about Effie–her mother was married to John Cammack from March to August of 1853, Effie being born December 27, 1853, in Bloomfield, Davis, Iowa. Her mother married her step father, Walter Parks,on January 10th, 1864, in Walla Walla Washington.  Again, I would love to connect some dots here and would appreciate any help I can get.

Episode Two will deal with the establishment of the France homestead and settlement and the series of events which resulted in this hardworking, honest and industrious man spending seven years in Seatco Prison.  Stay with me.

The Search for the Story of George France

You know how you sometimes start a project and with each step you take you discover three more steps you need to take?  Such is the description of my quest for the story of George Washington France.  My search for information about Seatco prison has turned into a search for the story of Mr. France, his life, his family, his accomplishments and his survival, creating a mushroom cloud of needed information.

Bucoda for blog

I was able to obtain copies of the documents of his trial with the assistance of Colombia County Deputy Clerk, Jessica Attwood.  These added names to the verbal picture Mr. France created in his book and gave insight into the actual homicide for which he was tried, and ultimately convicted.  The year was 1879–everything was hand written–leaving me at the mercy of official penmanship.  One thing I noticed about the documents; all the witness statements were written in the same hand, so obviously dictated.  I found it perhaps telling that the statements of the witnesses for the prosecution seemed to be much more legible than those of the witness for the defence,

France Document1 for blog

Statement of main prosecution witness, Jay Lynch

and especially Mr. France’s.  Was the clerk just tired from taking all those statements, or was he just not particularly interested in what Mr. France had to say?

France Document 2 for blog

George France’s statement

I am now working with the Garfield County Historical Society.  I want to know where the France “settlement” was, who lived there, besides Archie Haven, (the man France killed), and the witnesses in the case.  I know George was Married to Effie Mariah Cammack in 1871 and that they had four children, Clarence, Eva, Clyde and Ines, but I don’t know what became of them.  I know that Effie divorced George,  but I don’t know why and the date on the court documents is unreadable.  How long did she stand by him?  Was she able to keep the  property?  Where did the kids go?

I’ve learned that France leased property belonging to the Peola school from the government under a program that seems to have been on-again off-again and that this land led, in part, to his conflict with Archie Haven.  Also that George’s land had the only water supply in the area and that someone named Ellis built a sawmill nearby, even though there was no water to run it.  Comments made by George in a letter to Territorial Governor Eugene Semple seem to indicate that the owner of the mill and his henchmen purloined that water source, but the details are still out of my reach.

Another puzzle to be solved; the case started out with George France, Vasco De Lay and Bartlett Brooks as defendants but a short way into the court documents Mr. Brooks vanishes from that list, leaving only France and De Lay.  None of the documents indicate what action was taken with Mr. Brooks or why he became reus non grata–the unwanted defendant.

This started out as a search for information about conditions in Seatco Prison in Bucoda.  Despite his lengthy incarceration there, Mr. France is rather less prone to describing the day to day problems than I had hoped; yet there is enough there to tell a story.

So, no, I am  not neglecting my blog, I’ve just been slowed down by the amount of information I need and the time it takes to get it and build the story.  There is more to come on Bucoda and Seatco, on George ane Effie France and hopefully their children.  And when I’m through with the France’s, there is the story of inmate Sarah Seibert, convicted of adultery and bigamy.  So don’t go away, there’s some interesting stuff coming down the pike.

And don’t forget, you can see more of my photography at my Flickr acct.

George W. France and Seatco Prison at Bucoda: Preface

George W. FranceMr. France, who lived from 1865 to 1889, left us a record of his life in his book, The Struggles for Life and Home in the North-West: By a Pioneer Homebuilder.  Unfortunately, for him, he was compelled to spend numerous years of his life in “Hell on Earth” – the Seatco Prison.  His misfortune was to some degree our good fortune because it gives us a detailed view of what life was like in that institution.

Mr. France was arrested for murder.  He contended all his life that the arrest was part of a conspiracy by members of the secret Masonic society, which either included or controlled the government and judicial officials for their personal profit.  If his version of the story is true he was undoubtedly convicted unjustly and incarcerated for years.

On Nov. 25th, 1889, Congressman Thomas H., Brents wrote, “To Whom It May Concern:–”  a personal recommendation of Mr. France stating that he had been convicted of second degree murder but, “it is now generally believed that he committed the homicide in necessary self-defence and, is innocent of any crime whatever.”

An interesting aside here is that prison records list Mr. France as prisoner 53, convicted in Dayton, WA, and incarcerated in 1879 for the crime of Grand Larceny.

Born in New York, George left home during the last winter of the Civil War; 1984-65, and headed west.  I assume that he was too young to have fought in that war; he makes no mention of any military service.  He was bored, and wanted to, “…see and know more of the living, bustling, wild and wide world.”  He clarified that it was, “…not exactly to hunt buffalo and kill Indians on the plains, for killing was never sport to me…”.  His travels took him to the oil fields of Pennsylvania, across the country to Utah and California.  He drilled for oil, drove wagons, hauled freight, cut timber, farmed, and worked in mines.  In 1870 he arrived in the Washington Territory making his way through Lewiston, the Walla Walla area and finally to Dayton, where he spent some time working and building up a nest egg with which he bought a piece of property and built a cabin on it.  He sold the improved land and with his savings was finally able to obtain land for himself and his new wife somewhere between the Pataha and Alowa creeks in what is now Garfield County.

It was this land, which France worked and built upon until 1879, that led to his incarceration at Seatco.  He became the target of a claim jumper who he had allowed to build a cabin on a small part of his land.  The guest soon began a campaign to wrest France’s land from him.  In 1878 the situation escalated until the claim jumper came after France with a rifle, threatened to kill him and, in fact, shot at him.  A gun battle ensued during which France managed to place four chunks of lead in his assailant.  Wounds not withstanding, it took two men to wrestle the man’s rifle away from him, after which, “[Mr.] Jumper,” (not his name, merely referring to him as a claim jumper), “went to his house, boasted that ‘he had shot my companion as well as me,’ and in 12 hours died….”

In fact, although he had fired several shots, neither France or his friend were hit.

The GunfightMr. France dedicates much of his book to his belief that the courts, the government, and the judicial system were controlled by the secret brotherhood of the Masons. Unfortunately for him, his claim jumping neighbor was either one of the brotherhood or was used as a convenient tool in a protracted attempt to gain possession of the land he had put so much sweat into.

Now, while this appears to be a clear-cut case of self-defence, Mr. France was subsequently arrested, witnesses for his defense intimidated and a conviction for murder rendered. Thus began his years in Seatco prison, during which he was often told that his case would be reviewed and that he would undoubtedly be found innocent, but it would help of he would just sign over his land to the right people.

According to Mr. France, his trial was a mockery, he was prevented from subpoenaing witnesses–two of which were thrown in jail and threatened until they refused to testify–was denied knowledge or review of the jurors and “defended” by lawyers aligned with the corrupt judicial system.  Despite preparing his own motion for a new trial, his counsel advised the court that, “it would not be in their client’s interest to have a new trial.”

Convicted he was, and convicted he stayed, and the next years of his life were spent in Seatco Prison — Hell on Earth.

A Swimming Hole and a Watering Hole at Titlow Beach

The swimming hole is gone, but the watering hole thrives.

Bessie and Irene Grace the Lagoon

Before the Olympic sized swimming pool opened at Titlow beach, in 1955, there was a swimming lagoon.  In a previous post I noted that in the 1920’s it was pristine.  According to the 9/2/31 issue of the Tacoma Ledger, the plan was to make the place, “the most popular swimming resort of Tacoma.”  Bessie Ewing and Irene Tollefson  stood beside the control pipe that the Northern Pacific Railway installed to control the tidal flow in and out of the lagoon.

As I noted in a previous post, by 1938 it was not so pristine. and in July of 1949 Mrs. E. S. Wright wrote a letter to the Tacoma News Tribune in which she commented on the, “disgraceful condition of Titlow Beach,” noting that, “just outside the lagoon a foul sewer, complete with seagulls, empties out and washes in every time they open the gates. Fine thing for a beautiful, modern, city like ours to have especially with polio getting prevalent.” By 1958 the historic, but now deteriorated, Titlow swimming lagoon had become a salmon farm.  How long that lasted I have been unable to determine.

Titlow Lagoon Today at High Tide

Enter the pool.  In 1955 the Titlow Beach pool was opened;  the first of its kind in the Tacoma area and state-of-the-art. The 165 x 75 foot pool began as a salt water pool but in 1956 it was decided to try filling it with fresh water.  A public vote later that year favored fresh water nearly three to one, so fresh water it remained.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Styer. Visit her Flickr photostream and website.

It was opened to great fanfare. Dick Hannula was the director of the new pool and Ray Daughters and Clay Huntington were masters of ceremonies.

Dick Hannula and Ray Daughters were two of the biggest names in competitive swimming.  Mr. Hannula trained potential Olympic athletes, founded the Tacoma Swim club and was inducted into the swimming hall of fame in 1987.

David Eskenazi and Steve Rudman, noted that Ray Daughters, “Friends used to insist that, while swimming existed long before Ray Daughters came along, he was the one who perfected it.”  His career spanned the years 1916-1964.  “Daughters coached his swimmers to 301 American records and eight Olympic medals, including four gold.”   He also became a member of the swimming hall of fame.

Entertainment was provided by the Lincoln Aqua Maids ballet team, featuring: Mrs. Vivian Sterline, advisor; Phyliss Chapin, Pat Lautenmilch, Deanna Tullis, Nancy Bashey, Jerry Lee Irwin, Eileen Fallon, Joann Irwin, Mary Welsh, Christine Hager, Linda Myhre, Carolyn Bartell, Verna Munro, Kay Manful, Debie Dean, Coleen Bates, Marjorie McCaskie.

They were accompanied by the Stadium, (High School?), ballet swim team with Hazel Minton and Helen Simmons as advisers and Maureen McGowan, Janet Broussard, Janet Elrond, Sally Arthur, Jo Marie Fleming, Arrol Dammeier, Kay Blankenship, Sharon Viafore, Margie Moni, Consi Evans, Marian Williams, Geraldine Van Eechout, Eloise Engerbretson, Carol Berry, Janet Leonard, Ruth White, Joan Weller, Sharie Holmes, Fran Williams, Sally Gord doing the swimming.

And finally, the YWCA Ballet troupe, advised by Miss Revajlan Porter, featuring Susan Badbaw, Carmen Carmichael, Janet Devish, Wyn Gourley, Karen Ronstadm, Kay Turner, Mary Welsh, Joyce Barden, Charlene Marshall, Pat Frayne, Judy Erdahl, Ann Causato, Adele Ulvan, Darlene Simmons, Carol Benham.

June 1-5  part of the celebration included a “Griddle-Go-Round,” predicted to be, “the largest pancake feed show in Pacific Coast History.”  Featured was Aunt Jemima as performed by actress, dancer and singer, Palmere Jackson.

I looked for additional information about Ms. Jackson, who vowed, in the California Eagle, 9/23/1954. that, The”‘Aunt Jemima’ role for Pillsbury Flour is way far off from the ‘handkerchief head’ sort of thing that lots of folks suspected it would be.”

I found a piece in the Baltimore, Afro-American, 12/27/1930, which said, “Palmere Jackson whose pretty face is seen in the fast dancing chorus of the Apex nightly, is the daughter of the Rev. C. H. Anderson, now deceased, who founded New Hope Baptist Church years ago.  ‘Pal has great ambitious [sic] in the poetic field.’  She was schooled at Prescott, Arizona, High School.”  I also learned that she performed with the Sunkist Maids in a 7/13/29 article from the same publication which noted, “A chance to sail the seven seas came to a group of Sunkist maids when they sailed Tuesday for Australia to play a long engagement, with a company from the States.  Those billed to go were: Flora Washington, Dorothy Johnson, Ellen Stevens, Isabel Hodge, Palmere Jackson, Georgia Prestley, Gladys Jackson, Dorothy West and Dorothy Williams.

In 1957 the pool was the location of Tacoma’s first “Aquarama,” loaded with singing, water performances and I’m sure plenty of food and drink.  The free public performance was given on Friday, August 23rd, but there was a special performance the night before for Tacoma Country Club and Golf Club members only.  How the Day Island Yacht Club got excluded from this spectacle I can’t imagine.

Featured were the chorus and orchestra of Lincoln High School; songs of the south and west were performed featuring David Ellingson and Vern F. Anderson with 8-year-old Martha Happy doing a solo performance in a cowboy horse and rider water ballet sequence.  Linda Fix was the accordionist, Brainerd Lee, guitarist. The Swimming Waterettes appeared, Members of the University of Washington diving team performed as did the young swimmers from the Country Club and YWCA.  The Aquarama, directed by Richard Gray.

For over 50 years the Titlow Beach pool did yeoman’s service for the community.  But Tacoma was growing and the pool was showing its age.  Cracks formed in the bottom allowing fresh, heated, water to seep out and salt water for seep in, although not everyone believed the extent of damage was accurately publicized.  In 2005 a $6 million bond measure was passed to replace the pool, but in typical fashion for these things, it was eventually decided that another location would better serve the community.  In 2011 the pool was shut down and in 2013 it was removed.  According to the Metro Parks Capital Improvement Committee notes, from May 29, 2013, the completion of demolition was to end the following week; “the fuel tank had been removed and contaminated soil dealt with.”

When I started my research on Titlow Beach had no idea a pool had ever been there. Today, It’s a large lawn next to the former swimming lagoon, which is signed, “No Swimming.”

Where the Pool Was

And then there’s the watering hole. The Beach Tavern has been a thriving fixture at Titlow Beach since six months after the end of prohibition, in 1934.

Titlow’s Beach Tavern

As an aside, Washington got a jump on the whole prohibition thing. “On November 3, 1914, after prodigious Anti-Saloon League lobbying efforts statewide, Washington voters approved Initiative Measure Number Three, prohibiting the manufacture and sale (although not the consumption) of liquor statewide,” according to an article at Historylink.org.  The US 18th amendment to the constitution, making prohibition the law of the land, wasn’t ratified until 1919.  Sort of Ironic that Washington was one of the first to outlaw booze and one of the first to legalize happy smoke.  My, how times change.

On the wall in the Beach is posted a list of the owners, starting with Charles Porter from 1934-1939.  Harry Muir had if from 1939-1942 giving it up in the middle of World War II to Thad McCarthy, who kept it until 1951.  That year the reins went to Tom and Lena Hankinson until they turned them over in 1954 to Phil and Louise Jacobs.  The Jacob’s kept it until 1965, then it became the responsibility of Gene Hansen.  Gene didn’t stay long because he is only listed as the owner for ’65, in 1966 Dick Grenier took over and ran it until 1972 when Phil and Louise took over again briefly. Later that year Art and Mavis LeGault, (sp?), took command until 1981 when current owner, David Lean became the boss.

I have no idea if any of these people were related, other than the married couples of course.

Linda at the Tap

On Oct. 29th, after getting David’s permission to photograph the inside of the tavern, I went and spent some time doing that and chatting with Linda Sweigart, who was running the place at the time.  Linda consider’s herself sort of the matriarch of the establishment; she’s been there since 1986.  I guess someone who’s been there a quarter of a century should have a pretty good feel for the place.

Originally beverages, well, except soft drinks, were limited to beer and wine.  In the last few years a full bar was added.  Their most popular dishes are still burgers and fish and chips although I had the prime rib dip and was quite pleased with it.  At the time a wedding party had the place hopping.

I’ve worked in retail for 30+ years and I have lots of stories about odd occurences I’ve seen during that time, so I assumed Linda would have stories to tell.  Unfortunately, apparently, the crowd at The Beach is a pretty mellow group.  It used to be mostly locals, but given the time the tavern has been around, many of them have passed the tavern frequenting time of their lives.  Now they have a more diverse crowd and serve lots of visitors and local students. She did remember one incident from some time back when a regular was there, drinking his Friday night away.  She and another employee were watching the sports ticker when they heard a strange noise.  Her co-worker went around the bar to check it out and found that the patron, well…had it out…and had just urinated under the bar.  Linda grabbed a bucket and mop made the dude perform janitorial duties and then booted him.

Narrows Brewing Tap

I noticed a beer tap sort of off to the side of the others with an “NB” handle.  Linda told me that it’s a special tap for offering brews from the nearby Narrows Brewing Co., run by Dan Turner. I made a mental note to run over to 19th street, in Tacoma, and check out his work.

Their weekly specials run like this:  Monday– 50₵ wings after 5 pm.; Tuesday – Malibu Spiced rum, $4; Wednesday – Prime rib, 10 oz, baked potato, veggies and green salad, $14.95 after 5 pm.; Thursday – Taco Thursday, 5-8 pm 3 tacos $2.50; Friday– Tacoma’s best clam chowder – “Try the fish and chips too.”; Saturday – Fun night; and Sunday – Happy hour all day, $2 hot dogs, $3 chili dogs and 1/2 price bottles of  wine.

A brass diving helmet hangs above the bar, there’s a pool table.  The bar and the floor are comfortably worn, photos with bits of history hang around the walls and there’s plenty of neon.  All in all, a comfortable and friendly place to have a brew – or something stronger – and a solid meal in a place that has stood the test of time.

I leave you with a gallery of photos from The Beach Tavern, and other sights around the park and neighborhood.  Hope you enjoy.

You can check out more of my photography at my Flickr photostream.

History Burns, Orting Transfigures

Burning Engfer House

Burning of the Engfer Farm House © by Lydiafairy. See her Flickr acct. at Lydiafairy’s flickr photostream

The Engfer farm ended in fire.  I missed the actual demolition day, but my friend Lydia was there to document the funeral pyre.  Beautiful photo, sad ending.

As of today, building of new structures, laying of asphalt, construction of roads or businesses or apartments, has not begun.  The land sits empty, looking like it expects to be ploughed for next season’s crops, bit it waits in vain.  In the words of Mayor Cheryl Temple, “With the development of the Gratzer and Engfer properties, more jobs and shopping opportunities will be offered in addition to some condominiums. I see a growing mix of great restaurants, unique shops, historic buildings and homes.”

Where the historic buildings and homes will come from baffles me since all the historic buildings and homes have been removed from the property.  Of course they could be planning to move some others there, but that seems unlikely.

The Front Door

The Front Door

This was the home of people who were Orting.  Karl Engfer purchased 50 acres, a portion of the original Whitesell donation claim, in 1912 and had the home built in 1913 by Fred Mueller.  

Karl’s son, John, worked for Fred for two years, then for James Evans for seven more learning the carpentry trade.  For many years the farm was run by family, then leased out until John took it over in 1932.  That land grew a little of everything over the years; in 1980 it became the Engfer family vineyard.

John was 93 in 1983.  At age three he and his family traveled from Germany to Hawaii, around Cape Horn aboard the F. H. Glade.  At age nine, he sailed to Victoria B.C., on to Seattle, down to Tacoma and on by train to his Uncle Albert Arndt’s home in McMillin.  In 1904 his family rented a place on South Hill, Puyallup, and he attended the one-room Firgrove school with seventeen other students.  Firgrove school is still on South Hill, but it has many more rooms and students.

Orting grew; the Engfers, the Deatry’s, the Knaack’s, the Whitesell’s — they all did the hard work of building a community.  That community still sits in the shadow of Mr. Rainier, but the life they knew has gone, only to be found it the history books, newspapers and keepsakes of descendants.

Yes, I missed the actual demolition, but I explored what was left after the fire. The silverware I had photographed on the counter in the kitchen rested in a bed of ashes.

In Case of Dinner

In Case of Dinner

Dinner Never Came

The bathtub, about the tallest thing left from the structure, was full of burned remnants of the old red house and I found the springs from the chair which had sat stoically it the upper room. The wheel chair sat off to the side as if it had been moved to spare it from the blaze. There was no trace of the Ouija board I had seen in the hall, but singed doorknobs and hardware, the fire-hardened nests of Mud Dauber Wasps, crazed and melted Ball jars, iron window weights all attested to the lives once lead there.

I found one corner of what may have been a porch that was not completely burned.  In it, I noticed charred, but readable, pieces of newspaper from the 1924.  They spoke of Willebelle Hoage and Mildred Field; Lewis B. Scliwellenbach and Preston M. Troy being on the verge of announcing their candidacy for Governor; Star automobiles and their state-of-the-art brakes; the robbery and kidnapping of Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Darling, of Vancouver; house dresses for sale, $1.79.  There was a cartoon by W. A. Carlson, the title block of a serial by Mabel Cleland and a piece of art by Frank Godwin.  Tiny bits of history that the fire couldn’t erase.

Check out more of my photos at my Flickr photostream.

Some more about Aaron Titlow

A. R. Titlow signatureAs I covered in a previous post, Aaron R. Titlow  is responsible for the area in Tacoma that bears his name–Titlow Beach.  Among other things Mr. Titlow was the Pierce County Prosecutor in 1897 and 1898 and I wanted a better picture of what he did, which led me on a search for some cases he handled while in that office.  Ahhh, what fun.

If you have never gone on such a search, let me tell you a bit about it.  I started with the misconception that records of that vintage would no longer be stored at the Pierce County Courthouse, my experiences with another county years ago being that most of the cases that old had been forwarded to the State Archives.  Should you decided to do research of this type, be advised, Pierce County has theirs in their own house.

When entering a courthouse in America in 2013 one must expect to pass through security and I planned for this.  On my first visit I carried a camera on a tripod, the gradoo in my pockets, a small briefcase with my netbook and a tablet and pens.  The security officer was quite efficient, everything went well and I headed to records.

Once there I stated my mission and asked for records from 1878 1879.  The clerk was baffled…young and baffled.  He talked to a more experienced clerk…who was also baffled. They only knew of records going back to 1890.  I assured them I had called the day before to make sure they were there, they agreed to look into it.  I went home, pulled out my notes and discovered that I had asked for the wrong dates.  As I indicated above, I was looking for 1897 1898, not 1878 1879.

The following day I returned, with the same equipment, and arrived at the same security checkpoint.  The officer (not the one from the previous day), looked at my camera and said, “What’s that?”

“A camera,” I replied.

“What do you need that for?”

Resisting the urge to just say, “to take pictures,” I explained my project and that I was headed for the records dept.

“What’s that attached to it?”

“A tripod,” I replied

“What do you need that for.”

Not wanting to go into deep photographic technical stuff I said, “Well, there’s not a lot of light in there and this helps keep the camera steady so I can get clear pictures”

Meanwhile, everything else had passed through the appropriate scanners and all my pocket contents, belt, watch, etc. had passed muster.

“You can take the camera in, but I’m keeping the tripod here,” he said.  And he did.

Pierce County Case Books 4

Tome and Tomes and more Tomes

Pierce County Case Books 1

The big book of case files

Page 1051

Page 1051

There is a system to the huge tomes stored in records.  As near as I can figure, when the project to archive court records was conceived, each case was issued a number and they are listed in those big books numerically by that numbering system.  Unfortunately, the numbers have no logical system attached to them and the book I needed covered from 1890 to 1912.  Each case is listed, apparently, in order by date although the dates do not appear in the book.  Each case is listed alphabetically by the name of the plaintiff followed by the name of the defendant or defendants.  They do not indicate what kind of case–civil, criminal, what kind of crime was involved–but list only the names of the parties involved, leaving the records clerk to guess which numbers applied to the years and criminal cases I wanted.

After some trial and error, we got ourselves to the microfilm for the relevant years, but I was looking for criminal cases and the big books didn’t give us that information.  Finally an older, more experienced, clerk took pity on us and told us to look for cases listing the State of Washington as the plaintiff.  Done and done.  The clerk got the right microfilm reels and I spent the next five hours reading through them.  As I did so two things became obvious; the chairs at the microfilm viewers and my butt were not meant to be together that long and people were doing the same stupid and dishonest things a hundred years ago that they do today…it just took longer for the news to get out and it didn’t go nearly as far as it does today. 

There was the case of William Londerville who was accused, on the 28th of December, 1896, of, “with intent, attempting to kill and murder” a miner named Brotten.  Worse yet he did it in a “rude, insolent and angry manner.”  In fact, he was accused of, “striking, beating, shooting and wounding the said miner Brotten with a revolver loaded with lead bullets and powder.”

Revolver and ammoRevolver with lead bullets and powder.

Not any of those non-lethal bullets we have today, these were real lead bullets propelled by real [gun, we assume] powder.  And let us  keep in mind that he wasn’t out to kill or murder Brotten, he was dead set on doing both.

Now this was not just a he-said-he-said, William had a list of witnesses for his defense. According to his attorney, J. O’Brien, he needed W. S. Josh, L. P. Ferguson, Lewis Evans, John Warner, Julius Nelson, Warren Miller, Charles Pollard, Chas Shaw, Chas Stevenson and S. C. Chase, all of Anacortes, for his defense.  For some unexplained reason none of these gentlemen could make it to court so Mr. O’Brien  moved for a dismissal, and got it.

A. R. Titlow, the prosecutor, and Hugh Farley, the deputy prosecutor, dismissed the case on March 11, 1987 and Mr. Londerville apparently went on his merry way, undoubtedly avoiding a long stint in an anger management class.

Then there was Henry Flannigan, who, on April 15th, 1897,  committed an act that might be right out of today’s headlines.  Henry was just walking along the road between Wilkison and South Prairie when James Shaw and John Carpenter, riding their bikes toward Wilkison, spotted him.  Nothing unusual there, right?  Except that they noticed he had an upset seven-year old girl with him and he took her across the road and into the woods. Now that they thought that was unusual.

Shaw and Carpenter were suspicious and followed the pair.  When they found them Flannigan had the little girl sitting on a log and they decided some surveillance was in order.  As they watched, they noticed the girl crying and trying to leave while Flannigan “fetched her back,” telling her he would go home with her.  Shaw said Flannigan “had his hand under the girl’s clothing fooling around with her.”  He said she was crying, saying she’d get spanked if she didn’t go home and she got up and headed for the road again.

Mr. Carpenter made the same observations from his and Shaw’s place of concealment. After the girl and Flannigan made it back to the road, Carpenter confronted the creep and asked what he was doing.  Flannigan apparently replied, “it would not hurt any to play with her little ‘c**t’ a little.”

Mr. Flannigan had no technicalities to fall back on.  He was charged with Assault with intent to commit rape, made a plea bargain wherein he pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to six months in the county jail.

My guess is Mr. Flannigan appeared in court for similar reasons at some time in the future.

So while Mr. Titlow was a prosecutor, a businessman, and even the receiver of the failing United States National Bank in 1915, his cases tell us that life in 1897 was in many ways not so different from 2013.  He made money, built and ran a luxury hotel and raised a family and the world proceeded much as it does today…just at a slower pace.

You can see more of my photography by visiting my Flickr acct.

What’s that in Graham?

Rainier from West Graham

First of all, let me say that when you drive into Graham, you are at a four-way stop with a strip mall on the NE corner, a small grocery and the post office on the SE corner, a closed gas station on the SW corner and a Rite-aid on the NW corner. There are a few other buildings but for the most part, this rather inauspicious intersection is the center of Graham.  A few blocks to the west, however and you can find views like the one above.

Since at least the mid ’70’s I have been driving by the property at the intersection of 252nd and Meridian looking at what appeared to be a small western town and wondering what the story was behind it. A couple of years ago I stopped and took some photos of the buildings, the small train and, from a distance, a large barn in the back of the property, but still had no idea what it was.

Rainier from West Graham (7)

Could be the Old West

I Think I can Hear Spurs

I Think I can Hear Spurs

The impetus for further investigation was noticing that the train had been moved, much of the track was gone and those wild-west-cow-town buildings, like the Cartwright’s used to walk by when they went into town, were gone.  I looked at the spot where the old west buildings used to be and wished I had paid more attention to them four years ago.  I had to get some answers before everything was gone.

I finally spoke to someone who directed me to Karl “Bean” Thun. Unable to find a phone number, I eventually came up with a couple of addresses and sent actual real letters, on paper and stuff. One of them found its way to Bean and he was nice enough to get in touch and gave me the scoop (which, by the way, is about the only scoop I’ve been able to get about Graham).

The property was purchased by Bean’s dad, John Thun, back in the ’60’s.

If you are a local, you may remember John Thun for the airfield named after him. Now it’s officially known as the Pierce County Airport, but it’s still often referred to as Thun field.

Anyway, John’s dream was to build an amusement park on the property. According to his son, he built all the buildings himself, by hand, rock-work and all–Apparently building things was a passion and a gift for him–but the project never came to fruition, time and taxes got in the way, so it sat, arousing curiosity, for years.

Examining the locomotive I noticed the power plant was marked, “MM”, and the side of the frame bore the name, “Plymouth.” Neither provided me much information at the time but I now know that the engine is from a Minneapolis Moline tractor and that Plymouth was the brand name under which the J.D. Fate Company of Plymouth, OH began building gas locomotives in about 1909. Most Plymouth locomotives were small (built for use in mines and similar operations), and were built for track gauges from 18″ to 66″. Today they are built by the W. W. Williams Co. in Columbus, OH.

Minneapolis Moline came to be in 1929 when Minneapolis Steel and Machinery merged with Moline Plow and was based in Hopkins, Minnesota.  In 1963 the company was taken over by White Motor Co. and the Minneapolis Moline name was dropped.


Lil’ M and M

Despite much searching, I cannot determine what model this locomotive might have been.

Today I went back to spend a little more time with my camera while what remains, remains. I shoot with a Canon Rebel XTI and most often with the standard 18-55 mm lens, but I have amassed a group of old glass form non-digital days that works beautifully with an adapter. I used a Takumar 17mm fisheye, a J. C. Penney 80-200mm zoom, and a Takumar 85 mm lens for this shoot.

The barn is listing heavily to the east and after looking inside I decided to follow Mr. Thun’s advise and stay on the outside of the building…but I did get a couple of shots from the outside  through the windows.  I was sorely tempted to go in and see what was upstairs…until I spotted the hole in the upstairs floor…the kind a foot leaves when breaking through rotten wood.

Rainier from West Graham (10)

Gravity Will Win in the End

I took the opportunity to get several more shots of the barn, the train as it sits on what’s left of the track at the back of the property, and the water tower built to enhance the looks of the whole set up. and, finally, I left. I think my curiosity has been satisfied.

As my previous readers will note, I like to dig up and present more information about my subject places.  Graham has proven a tough nut to crack; libraries have not even provided information as to how it got its name or when it was established. Nor have I been able to find any genealogical info as a starting point.  I did find the origin of the name, however.  It seems that mail delivered for the loggers and miners in the area were dropped off at the home of Mr. Graham.  It became common practice, when something had to be delivered to the area, to just, “take this to Graham”. Repeat it enough and it sticks, thus the unincorporated area of Washington State called…Graham.

If anyone reading this post can point me in the direction of more information please leave me a comment and get me on the trail.

I leave you with this gallery of shots for my two days, four years apart, photographing John Thun’s dream.  And, check out my other photos at my Flickr photostream.