Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday October 9, 1889

Rainy and blustery.  Came to town and in doing so broke another ???, then sent it to shops and with the other engine took scow to sandpit for wood and returned leaving it.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Floyd Elias Brewer (1899-1984) Margreth Victoria Brewer (1899-1994)

Floyd Elias Brewer (1899-1984)
Margreth Victoria Brewer (1899-1994)

Art is like an octopus, It has many arms reaching in all directions, and every arm is important and necessary for the cultural development of any community.”

That statement started an article entitled “Fine Art and Architecture” written by Floyd and Margreth Brewer in 1972.

But who were they?  If you lived in Gig Harbor in 1960 you probably were aware of them.  Or if you were an elementary school or middle school student, although your memory may be foggy you definitely knew them.  But for those of us who didn’t live here then, or were in school here either, let’s get to know them now.

Floyd was born in Coin, Iowa to Elias “Life” Brewer and Goldie L. Showers Brewer.  His father died in 1902 when he was 3, and he and his mother moved to Lincoln, Iowa to live with her brother.  At age 15, he moved to Northboro where he lived alone according to the Iowa State Census 1915.  His mother also lived in Northboro and worked as a clerk.  Three years later, in August 1918 he enlisted for WWI in the US Army as a Corporal and served until May 1919. 

For the next ten years he sold magazines, worked in groceries but always playing around with art.  He decided to become serious about art in 1930 and moved to Minneapolis where he attended the Minneapolis School Art, St. Paul School Art, where he studied with Cameron Booth (1892-1980).  He later traveled to Europe and studied with Hans Hoffmann (1880-1966), Fernand Leger (1881-1955) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and also to Mexico studying with Diego Rivera (1886-1957).
iPhone picture of one of Floyd's painting recognizing the name cultures in the USA
Despite a long, active career as a painter, he also became interested in tapestry.  He was able to see many possibilities of design and color reproduced in a contemporary vein through tapestry.  

He and Margreth met while living in Minneapolis.  They had both attended an art show, and Margreth at first thought Floyd was a guard at the show.  Margreth was not at that time involved in the art world, but instead was a serious musician, specializing on the piano.  They continued to live in Minneapolis throughout the ‘50s until moving to Gig Harbor, Washington.

At the suggestion of Byron Knapp while the couple were visiting in Seattle they came to see Gig Harbor.  Like some many people they fell in love with the area.  They purchased property on the south side of Pioneer Street (7512 Pioneer Street) where they built their house designed by Floyd.  You would recognize the house easily when driving west towards SR16.  It is a two story, very rectangular structure set back from the street with a second story studio balcony extending over a first floor porch.  On the lower portion of the balcony is a very large peace symbol which is wired so that, should the homeowner wish, it can be turned on.

An article in The Peninsula Gateway written I believe in 1983 gives us an idea of their life in Gig Harbor.  This article was written before his death in July 1984.  It addressed the Children’s Art Exhibit held annually in their home from 1966 until 1974 when his health started to fail.  In fact, this entire blog is the result of one of those students who participated in one of the annual exhibits, and suggested a blog.  This former student recalled “He reminded me of a beatnik, with a goatee and a beret.”  Sounds like a perfect description of a 1960s artist, don’t you think?

The children’s art work was selected at five elementary schools by about 50 teachers hung by two Peninsula High School students and in 1975 one Goodman student in Brewer’s studio and open for viewing May, June and July during those years.  Harold Best, a Peninsula School District superintendent wrote a letter of appreciation citing the Brewers active part in fostering creative art and art appreciation among the young people in the community.

Clover Park Vocational Technical Institute’s educational television station came to visit the studio, known as Floymar Studio, and filmed Floyd discussing his paintings and tapestries.  The television station used the resulting film in teaching art throughout the state to some 25,000 students in 200 elementary schools.  (Floymar is made up from both Floyd and Margreth’s names because they were in all respects, a team.)

Floyd and Margreth also wrote an illustrated book “Art is for You”; I only found one copy in my search and it is an “in library” use only at Tacoma Public Library Main Branch, Northwest Room.  I would have loved to be able to share it with you.
iPhone picture of photocopied Picture of book
But he also wrote a column every two weeks or so in the Tacoma News Tribune Sunday papers for more than five years.  Before coming to Gig Harbor when he was still living in St. Paul he also wrot occasional articles for publications there.  One such article was his “Sketches from Mexico” in the Globe Magazine.

Many, though not all, of his tapestries were liturgical: some for a church in Minneapolis, Augustana Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado and closer to home, Peninsula Lutheran Church in Gig Harbor.  In 1962 some were shown during liturgical week art exhibit at the Century 21 World’s Fair in Seattle, 1962.  Another, “All People Asking God for Peace” hung in Gig Harbor City Hall.  Brewer’s “Seamount” tapestry hung in Dr. Bill and Gretchen Wilbert’s Gig Harbor Vision Center on Uddenberg Lane.  
iPhone picture of Seamount (believe that is Margreth Brewer)
In the collection of materials on the Brewers at the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room there is a very moving letter from a woman in Ethiopia.  She was working with with local weavers making hand loomed fabric and ornamental borders.  The women did not have looms but instead set up a few poles to hold the 2-harness rigging and bamboo reed and the weaving falls into their lap.  As a result they are restricted to doing only 10-12 inches at a time to avoid tightness in the weave itself.  Her husband, a builder, was supervising the construction of a Youth Hostel for the Lutheran World Federation.  It is only natural that she was asking the Brewers for help in obtaining more harnesses for the weavers, as well perhaps of markets for their finished fabrics.

Brewer has been referred to as a cosmic artist.  As he himself stated “I don’t believe you should just go out and copy something—like the liberal arts colleges teach you.”  His philosophy is that the artist’s work must be a part of the soul. This philosophy is evident in his study of Jeremiah; a piece of dark brown driftwood approximately 65 inches long, 8 inches wide and 3 inches thick.  The piece of driftwood was found one rainy day when the Brewers were driving south from Long Beach along the Washington coast to Canby Beach where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.  They stopped the car and were walking along the shore looking for driftwood or rocks.  That’s when Floyd spotted this particular piece.  Severely weather beaten but having the characteristics of the human body.  “Immediately it reminded me of Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, and how it could be used in a collage-painting.”

The project took him a year to complete and the end result is a work about 70 inches high and 24 inches wide with the driftwood figure a little to the left and above center — putting an important object exactly in the center makes the design to static.

Lest you are thinking Floyd was just an average artist perhaps I should include a few of the museums where his work has been exhibited:  Mexico City; New York; Chicago; Kansas City, MO; Topeka, KS; Minneapolis; St. Paul, MN; Davenport, IA; and elsewhere.  He is listed in the Who’s Who of American Art and in Iowa Artists of the First Hundred Years.  


  • Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room
  • The Peninsula Gateway
  • Tacoma News Tribune
  • Harbor History Museum
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday, October 2, 1889

Pretty good day.  Towed a small boom of piles across the bay for Geiger and got my accounts into the office - no more.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday, September 25, 1889

Same as yesterday.  Slept in A.M. and in P.M. got wood and water for McNeils and towed a scow of bricks to Tacoma.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

George William Theis (10/26/1859-7/17/1937) George Austin Theis I2/1/1891-7/17/1961)

George William Theis (10/26/1859-7/17/1937)
George Austin Theis I2/1/1891-7/17/1961)

When reading old newspapers you will frequently see Theis mentioned as he appears to be active in the founding of various community based organization and affairs of the new community of Gig Harbor.  But when you ask about him no one seems to know who he was.  So, in an attempt to discover a solution, I did a little searching on the internet and the following is what I discovered.

The experts say that when you are interested in someone’s life you should start with their death.  Fortunately for our search, we do have a copy of the newspaper obituary.


GIG HARBOR, July 19 — George W. Theis, 77, died in a Tacoma hospital Saturday.  He was a well-known figure in the early pioneer days of Washington, coming from Platsburgh, PA. to the state in 1880.  He served in the United States troops as Indian scout from 1880 to 1885 and took part in the service when Fort Spokane was broken.  He is survived by eight sons, Roy of Clarksmine, Ore., George of Tauhua, Alvie of Jacksonville, Ore., Albert, Fred and Theodore of Bremerton, Edward and William of the U.S. Navy and five daughters, Mrs. Violet Elliot of Sunnyvale, Mrs. Ester Polly or Eugene, Ore., Mrs. Genevieve Gibson of Spartan, Ill., Marie Theis and Mrs. Lettie Zurbrugg of Bremerton, with whom he had made his home since leaving Gig Harbor last year.  Sixteen grandchildren survive.  The family home had been made in Midway district for the past 10 years and he had been a resident of Colville.  Funeral services will be held from the Perkins Funeral Home Wednesday at 3 p.m. with Rev. L. N. Hoagland officiating, with burial in Artondale cemetery under direction of F. M. Perkins. 

This obituary was published July 19, 1937.  So now let’s turn to what I did discover and some which I could not find.  We’ll start with information I found on one of the family trees on his life.

Theis’ grandfather Henry and grandmother, Annie Elizabeth Rollings Theis were born in Darmstadt, Germany.  They immigrated to the United States in 1852, and settled in Philadelphia.  At first, Henry was a baker, but within 18 years he was running an inn or hotel.  By 1910 he had retired and was a landlord.  I assume he rented out his hotel to others to operate.   Henry and Annie had 13 or 14 children.

One of those children was their son, George William. who was born October 26, 1859 in Allegheny, PA.  George William married Rachel Armira “Nellie” Prouty February 1884 in Colville, Stevens County, Washington and their first child, Georganna was born in Colville that November. Nellie had eleven children by 1910.  Her death followed in December 1913.  He then married Nellie B. Thomas and had three more children.  Nellie B. died August 1932.

I have been unable to find any information during the 1880-1885 period showing his service as an Indian Scout or his service at Fort Spokane other than the fact that He, Nellie and the children lived in Fort Colville with one year in Fort Spokane in 1904 until they moved to Old Dominium in 1920.  I have contacted the Stevens County Historical Society to see what they might have on either Theis or the incident referred to in George’s obituary of “Fort Spokane being broken.”   However, I do know one of our readers will probably be able to locate the information if it exists.

As George William’s obituary states, he arrived in Washington state in 1880.  Fort Colville was built in 1859, and closed in 1882.  Fort Spokane was was established in 1880,   According to Wikipedia’s entry on Fort Colville, “Cavalry often stayed at Fort Colville due to scarcity of hay and grain around Fort Spokane until the summer of 1885.” 

George William, being an Indian scout would have also been a member of the US Army and I believe I have the correct George Theis who enlisted at age 21 in Company 2, US Infantry, discharged at Fort Spokane October 22, 1885.  I also found his pension application filed February 14, 1908.  But that is extent of military history.  Also, I found that he actually filed for homestead of 160 acres in Stevens County November 23, 1891.

I am going out on a limb until I hear back from Stevens County Historical Society and interpret “”took part in the service when Fort Spokane was broken” as meaning perhaps during its construction.  Fort Spokane was “founded in fall of 1880 and by 1884 there were about 25 buildings, including six barracks, a schoolroom, an ice house and a two-story administration building topped with a glass-sided cupola. ….The post served to consolidate older forts like Fort Colville closer to the population areas, and as a buffer to calm tensions between Natives and Settlers in the area.” according to wikipedia’s Fort Spokane history.

 And then sometime between 1920 and 1930 another move brought the family to Artondale.    

Part of the difficulty in research George William is the fact that one of his sons, George Austin’s (1891-1961), information is frequently confused with his father, George William.  Also the name George W. Theis appears quite popular as you search on

Now a little about the son, George Austin.  While living in Colville he married Ida M. Snider in November 1914.  He received a draft notice for WWI in 1917.  The next item I find is he and Ida are living in Bremerton where Ida gives birth to their daughter, Rachel Ellen in July of that same year.

The 1920 US Census report tells us that George Austin is employed as a caulker at  the Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.  In 1925 a picture appeared in The Peninsula Gateway newspaper showing the crew at C. O. Austin sawmill resting while the saw is being sharpened.  There, second from left is a gentlemen identified as “Theis”.  I shall assume that it is George Austin based upon the fact that he does have a history in the logging and lumber industry.

By 1930, again according to the 1930 US Census, George Austin is living in Gig Harbor; perhaps to be closer to his parents, and he tries working as a salesman in a general store.  But by 1935 he, Ida and Rachel move to Hoodsport and George Austin gets a job as a feller for one of the logging companies there.  

1942 George Austin receives a draft notice for WWII, he’s 51 years old and is working for Pacific Mercury Company in Morton, Lewis County, Washington.

Now, I’ve lost track of him until I find that he dies in July 1961, and is buried in the family plot in Artondale Cemetery in Gig Harbor.  Ida moves to Port Orchard where she’s lived, I assume, until her death in February 1970.  She too is married at the Artondale Cemetery in the Theis Family Plot.

If you can fill in any of the blanks in the Theis Family history, please leave a comment.  And, as always, thank you for reading the Harbor History Museum blogs.

  • wikipedia - Fort Spokane; Fort Colville

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry - September 18, 1889

Calm & nice some fog in morn.  Got our wheel off and find our stern bearing badly torn up -- get all disconnected but not in time to get our shaft out.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry - September 11, 1889

Very fine day.  Pull out from LaConnor at early morn and steamed steadily till 1:10 in the night where we tie up at Tacoma again.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.