Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Captain William J. Duley

As you discovered in last week’s entry, a little behind People’s Wharf was 10 acres for picnicking and dancing in 1895.

Let’s explore a little history about who was responsible for these grounds and why.

In 1893 the Gig Harbor land around the bay consisted of 578 acres on the south side and 638 acres on the north side.  This land belonged to the Federal Government and was under the supervision of Captain W. J. Duley.  On March 7, 1893 the people living in Gig Harbor petitioned Congress to sell the land to the settlers already here in parcels of 10 acres at a price of $2.50 per acre.  This petition was signed by 134 people; 102 of those took up claims on the land. What resulted was House Bill No. 342 was introduced to Congress providing Gig Harbor and Millville Military Reserves open for settlement.  As required, the Bill was read twice and on December 8, 1895 referred to the Committee on Military Affairs and ordered to be printed signifying passage.

Back to the 10 acres picnic grounds and dancing platform beneath a canopy of giant old trees.  A mineral spring was located in one corner.  Rustic picnic tables were scattered around a 40 foot dancing platform.  To one side was the Grand Army Hall; a 24 ft. by 70 ft. building which included a kitchen addition where 50 people could sit and eat.

All this was under the direct supervision of Captain W. J. Duley.  He charged 5 cents a piece from the picnickers for the use of the grounds. The local settlers looked upon Captain Duley as the patriarch of Gig Harbor.  They came to him with their advice and asking for his.  They were determined to follow his words of wisdom and hopefully to prosper as a result.

Captain Duley was a distinguished soldier. In August 1862 the settlement at Lake Shetek, Murray County, Minnesota, was attack by Dakota chiefs Lean Bear and White Lodge and about 100 warriors. He was badly wounded during the attack. It was during this attack that 10-year-old Willie and 4-year-old Isabella were massacred and his pregnant wife with three other children, Jefferson, Emma, and baby Francis was taken prisoner by the Dakotas.  

Captain Duley and his wife, Laura, are buried in the Artondale Cemetery.  He was with Company B, 7th Minnesota Infantry, Born March 30, 1819, Ripley County, Indiana, Died March 6, 1898.  A GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) plaque was found at the base of original headstone which read: Grand Army of the Republic, 1861 - Veteran - 1866.  A replacement headstone provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs was installed September 5, 2011. 

GAR Hall  Gig Harbor
Harbor History Museum Photo Collection

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  1. Do you actually have the source of this information. I would like to read the bill that was passed in congress.

  2. Our researcher took this information about the Bill passed in Congress regarding the Military Reserve in Gig Harbor from a photocopy of the article from "The Review, Mankota, Minn, August 1896." Our researcher has asked the US Congress Library how to access the document. Washington was still part of the Oregon Territory at that time. Hopefully we will receive a response in the coming weeks.