Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Rain.  Clear at night and some frost.  Went Gig Harbor and helped ... boat around home.  A fearful job." 

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Fortnightly Club: the Oldest Club in Gig Harbor

The women's Fortnightly Club is the oldest club that is still active in Gig Harbor and on the peninsula.

Gladys Para wrote in May, 1984, that the Fortnightly Club was still active in the community at that time. In June, 2012, the women of the club continued their long tradition of  community service and gave two scholarships to Peninsula School District graduating seniors. 

This woman’s club has had a continuous history here since its founding in 1907. The club originally formed to provide the women in Gig Harbor with means to fulfill social and educational needs. But with the advent of World War I, it expanded to include patriotic and philanthropic service to the community. The services that they established 100 years ago, have over the years that followed, we see with the scholarships awarded to our students.

Fortnightly Club

On December 9,  1907 the nine women that formed the Fortnightly Club included Lenna Patrick, Mary Magoon, Dora McKee, Bessie Green, Lucy Goodman, Littie Secor, Amanda Carlson, Elsie Jacobson and Angela Uddenberg.

Lettie (Mrs. Franklin) Secor gave herself the task of historian of the club and kept a record of their activities for 35 years. Unfortunately Mrs. Secor’s carefully crafted entries were misplaced sometime in the late 1960/70s. So, there is no recorded history of that time despite the fact that the club never even temporarily disbanded during their community activities.   
Club members in the early years of the organization
In 1908 about a year after forming, the members started a library which was first housed in the basement of the Uddenberg residence, with several members taking turns on Saturday afternoons to act as librarian. The books had been donated by interested friends, and members. The collection then moved to the home of Dr. Tymms. When the Tymms moved away the library was transferred to the Kendall store. In 1919, Mrs. J. D. Fuller, who then owned the telephone system, consented to house the library at the telephone office where it remained for twelve years.  Afterwards, it was moved to the Sweeney store at the head of the bay. Eventually it was disbanded due to the school libraries growing, the Tacoma libraries easier reached by ferry, and the difficulty of restocking and housing the books.

 In October 1909 they joined the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Club members having a swim at the sandspit
In the beginning, they met twice-monthly in the afternoon from September to May in members’ homes. For many years, the women walked or rode a buggy to the home where the meeting was to be held. The self-produced literary and musical entertainments and their enthusiastic patriotism during World War I exhibited their willingness to get things done. Not everything they did received public notice.

The club helped families with food, clothing, and sometimes their labor when necessary. They established the practice of encouraging college bound Gig Harbor students by giving them cash loans. The names of those students were lost with the loss of Lettie Secor’s records. However, it is known that a young woman graduating from Stadium High School in 1919 was provided with a loan of $100 to help her begin a lifelong teaching career.

In 1937, the Fortnightly Club received the Gig Harbor Improvement Club building for the payment of the outstanding mortgage. They installed the building's first electricity. In 1962 the Gig Harbor Yacht Club, then six years old, purchased the building. The club members then reestablished the practice of meeting in the members’ homes and could then turn what was used for the building’s expenses to better advantage of the community. “Probably the most photographed check in local history” was then presented to Ruth Bogue, president of the Gig Harbor Library Board. The check was for $3,000. 

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Still it rains.  Put in the day doing nothing.  Wrote a few letters in PM and study some in evening."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shipwright's Term of the Week:

Tumble Home: The inboard slant or curve of a boat's side above the waterline.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nate's Shipwright word of the week...


The inboard slant or curve of a boat's side above the waterline.

(Source: Bates Technical College, Wooden Boat Building Program)
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Mosquito Fleet of Puget Sound

The Gateway featured a new business on October 2, 2012, the Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair.  Their grapes are from Walla Walla but their winery is on Hood Canal. Jacy Griffin, one of the owners, is also a history buff and she is the one responsible for the particular boat featured as well as the story that is available when the QR (quick-response) code is scanned by a smart phone app.

Then today while I was shopping for greens at none other than Harbor Greens, I happened to see the bottles on the wine shelf. A woman passing me said that her relatives were part of the Mosquito Fleet and they, the Browns, operated the Otter, what she said was the first grocery store on water in 1909.  Well, in reviewing the book Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound by Jean Cammon Findlay and Robin Paterson it states: “The 87-foot, Portland-built Otter first towed barges for Renton Coal Company in 1875 and then ran competition with Zephyr and Messenger. Though badly damaged in a collision with the Hasalo off Des Moines in 1890, she was rebuilt and in 1892 became a Tacoma based floating store, making weekly rounds on the upper Sound. She was moored and abandoned on the Puyallup River in 1897.” So it appears that the boat used by the Browns was a second boat named Otter.

But that is neither here nor there. I will see if I can do more research on that in the future. But, let’s talk a little bit about how the small steamboats became known as Mosquito Fleet. As Findlay & Paterson put it in their book “…a fellow officer overlooking Elliot Bay and remarking as he observed all the boat activity that it looked like ‘a swarm of mosquitoes.’ The name stuck.

Passengers on the way to Arletta

Size, routes, propulsion, fuel, cargo, and jobs did not determine whether or not the boat qualified to be a member. In the beginning, the early steamboats were built with a flat deck, flat bottom, a wooden hull with a sharp bow, and a fine stern. The lower deck contained the engine and space for fuel (cord wood and later for fuel tanks), cargo, and passengers. As the engines gained more power and freight, the construction became more bulky.
Steamboat of the Mosquito Fleet landing at the Head of the Bay
Basically, a Mosquito Fleet boat was a boat of any size which could perform any job required on the Puget Sound. It was this fleet that was responsible for the communities and commerce which grew in the Pacific Northwest.

The Mosquito Fleet era ended when cars and paved highways became more available for the former customers of the steamboats. To survive, the fleet adapted with the larger boats becoming ferries and the smaller ones as tugboats, freighters, or excursion boats. Some didn’t survive; others were abandoned, burned, or scrapped and stripped of any and all salvageable materials.
The "Atalanta" - a Hunt steamboat

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Mended my shoes, read a little and spent the rest of of my time doing O.".

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nate's shipwright word of the week...


The vertical distance from the waterline to the lowest point of the vessel while afloat.

(Source: Bates Technical College, Wooden Boat Building Program)
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The History of Raft Island

Did you happen to notice the little news article in The Gateway about Phase II Bridge Replacement Project for Raft Island?

Well, I did and so I thought I would check out a little history of Raft Island and refresh our memories of this small island. Andy Buffington wrote a delightful little pamphlet on its history and I will use the information contained therein. Those of you who live on the island, or have in the past lived there, can perhaps add your comments to this as well.

Early view of Raft Island

Lieutenant Peter Puget of the Vancouver Expedition [led by Captain George Vancouver, arriving here in 1792] was the first recorded person that we know of to have landed on what we call today Raft Island. Murray Morgan wrote in his book Puget Sound, University of Washington Press 1979, that Puget noted in his journal that a large number of crows on the island “voiced objection.”

Later, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, commander of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, named the island Allshouse Island after one of his crewmembers on the “U.S.S. Vincennes.” Allshouse Island was renamed Raft Island on the maps because people thought the island resembled a raft. However others say that the name comes from the shipment of log ‘rafts’ to the mainland. Logging though, didn’t start until long after Raft Island was so named.

In 1889, the Stevens brothers claimed the entire island and they are recorded as its first settlers. F. Stevens held 27 acres on the western end of the island and his brother Jacob claimed the remaining 133 acres. Ownership, however, was recorded under Jacob Steven’s name and held by the brothers until 1900.

It was in the first part of 1900 that the Rosedale settlers started logging operations on the island. And by 1915 the island was divided into 14 lots each with a different owner. None lived permanently on the island. By the early 1920s some farmers came, cleared land, and planted apples and strawberries. 

The farmers left behind what became known as Raft Island’s haunted house. It stood directly to the left of where the bridge is now. Children from Rosedale would walk across the beach at low tide to visit and inspect the haunted house.

It was also during the 1920s and prohibition that bootleggers used Raft Island for their operations. A Mexican mining company had purchased Raft Island trees to shore up their mines. When the boats returned to the Puget Sound for more logs, there were bottles of illegal whiskey stored in their oil tanks. 

McMaster family and friends at their "Camp Gaylie" on Raft Island, circa 1915

By 1928 George O. Noble, a wealthy mining engineer from California bought the island. He used it strictly as a recreational estate. He built a house and hired a caretaker on site which later became the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) camp, the forerunner of All Saints Center. Noble was also responsible for bringing electricity to the island. The camp site and electricity were his major contributions and by 1932 he left the island for good, although he continued to own it until Jess Kuhns purchased it in 1942.

Jess Kuhns paid $30,000 for Raft Island. He renamed the island Kuhns’ Raft Island and in 1946 created his own restrictions for all future residents. Those same restrictions were still in effect in 1998 with the exception of residency based upon race. 

In the mid 1950s, Kuhns decide to have an auction and sell the lots on the island. Norman and Eva Anderson bought one lot and the CYO bought 17 lots. Because the lots were selling for such low amounts, Kuhns decided to stop the auction and find a single buyer for all the remaining lots. The person who purchased those lots was Robert L. Healy of Tacoma and a group of associates. Healy applied for a permit to build the bridge in 1956.  By March 1957, Healy sold his rights to the island and the bridge to Archie L. Matthew from Tacoma. 

Exactly two years after he had purchased the island, Matthews sold the island to Graham & Blodwyn McDonald and Merritt and Alta Parish for $348,000. They are responsible for the development of the water system and the roads. Eventually, Raft Island Water Company was owned by Walt Powlowski and Mary Morrison. Ownership has changed since then.

The McDonald and Parish families founded Raft Island Improvement Association with the purpose to “foster and promote recreational and cultural activities among the residents of Raft Island, Pierce County; to provide for the improvement and beautification of said Raft Island; to own and operate for the use and benefit of the residents of said Raft Island, a playground, recreational areas, and private beaches, and to maintain the private, dedicated roads of Raft Island, access roads, and bridge,” (Blodwyn McDonald, History of the Raft Island Improvement Association).

So, one can look back from the Stevens brothers through today and understand that everyone who has lived on Raft Island has had a part in shaping its independent character.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Lazy and lame.  Annetta White came today and made herself rather agreeable."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New "Blog-ette" from the Harbor History Museum's Shenandoah Restoration Project!

Beginning today, our resident shipwright will be giving us a word-for-the-week relating to wooden boat building. Here's the first one...

"Apron" -- A strong piece of timber fitted to the inner side of the stem and the keel to which it is bolted.

(Source: Bates Technical College, Wooden Boat Building Program)

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Childhood Memories of Lillian Vernhardson Fries

When I ran across a notebook containing history of Richard (Dick) E. Johnson, Jr.’s family I was immediately captivated. We are so familiar with the early settlers but somehow they all seem to fall into a specific ethic background: Croatians, Scandinavians, English, Germans, and Italians. But how often do we think about Icelanders? Not very often. Yes, we all know where Vernhardson Street is but most likely just thought it was a Scandinavian family name. I know I did.

Scandinavian normally refers to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland are somewhat differentiated into western Nordic counties. Icelandic and Farose have Germanic roots, and both were under the rule of both Norway and Denmark at one time in their history. So perhaps we can be excused for our lack of geographic and cultural knowledge. (see note 1 below)

Now, let’s get back Dick Johnson’s story. Jón Vernharðsson and Jón Haflidason were friends back in Iceland. Jón H. eventually followed his friend to America and on to Gig Harbor.

John Vernhardson
Jón Vernhasson arrived first in Canada in 1893 with nine other family members. He was 24 years old. His future wife, Jonina Sigurdardottir arrived with her father, first husband, and two children in 1900. Jón met Jonina in Markerville, Alberta where he was the postmaster and storekeeper. They first resided in Canada before moving to Castle Rock in 1903. Shortly after, friend Jón Haflidason joined them in Castle Rock. Upon their settling in the U.S., as was common, both men altered their names. Jón Vernharðsson became John Vernhardson. Jó Haflidason drastically altered his to John Hall. In Castle Rock, both men worked for the railroad. When they heard better wages were paid at sawmills, they changed jobs and moved to Hoquiam.

Jonina Sigurdardottir Vernhardson

They wanted to live in the country. They wanted to be independent. They were saving their money. Many a night was spent at the table drawing up plans for the dream house. Ironically, when the house was finally built by a farmer living near them, he made a smaller version of his own home rather than the home the immigrants dreamed about for so long.

The Vernhardsons knew an Icelandic woman in Aberdeen who had a brother-in-law living in Gig Harbor. His name was Pearson and he described his farm in glowing terms. So, the two Johns took a trip to Gig Harbor to see the land. Each paid $500 for a fourth of a section amounting to 40 acres, which they split.

Jonina and children Sam, Sadie, Lillian, and Sarah followed on a boat to Tacoma and arrived in Gig Harbor  March 9, 1910. Lillian’s father made an effort to speak English and encouraged her mother to speak English to the children. John Hall had stayed behind in Gig Harbor after they bought the land and built a small home for the Vernhardson family to live in while they cleared the land, planted the crops, and built a larger home. Mr. and Mrs. Pearson brought the family a big pot of soup that night.

The two Johns cut down fir trees, dug out and burned the stumps, and used the lumber to build a barn. John V. got a job at the sawmill at the Head of the Bay, which was a good thing. He had cleared all his land and made a farm of loganberries, alfalfa, and pie cherries but it never was a real farm. The soil was just too poor. They did have a couple of cows and once butchered, they used the entire animal, nose-to-tail as the term goes. They were able to grow potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga in the garden. They also ate a lot of salmon which daughter Lillian described as “I liked to go with my father in our rowboat across the whole bay where the handsome, black-haired Yugoslavs had their boats full of salmon.” And, they raised chickens for the eggs as well as eating the chickens when they stopped laying. Jonina was into saving and reusing things so she figured the salt water the fish were boiled in had to have food value. As a result she gave it to the chickens for water. This turned out to be a fatal mistake. Soon the yard was filled with dead chickens.

Then there were the mink they thought they would raise. The mink managed to continually get into the chicken coop, again dead chickens.

Papa Vernhardson was always experimenting, first the alfalfa crop, then his berries, then his cannery. The berries, however, were the most successful.

Sarah Vernhardson (left) and sister Sadie Vernhardson Fechter, 1925
in a costume contest. They won.

Not all was trying, though. They still managed to have good times and celebrations, especially Christmas and the Fourth of July. And, of course, there were always the visits with other families either at the Vernhardson home or at the other family homes. Their best friends were probably the Sauness family. Both their farmhouses were very similar two-story homes. In 1997, both homes still had occupants.

Mr. Vernhardson was always interested in politics. When he first learned English, he read Eugene Debs’ “Socialist Worker.”  Although he was a Republican, he along with the majority of Gig Harbor, did vote for Teddy Roosevelt.

But along with John Hall, Mrs. Vernhardson, and Grandpa, he also read Icelandic papers printed in Winnipeg. John V. also read “The Weekly Ledger” printed in Tacoma. None of the others could read English.

Mr. Vernhardson was a charter member of the local Masonic Lodge and Peninsula Light Company, President of the Peninsula Berry Growers Association and the Gig Harbor Guernsey Cattle Club.

We need to thank Richard Johnson, Jr., for providing the Gig Harbor History Museum with a notebook filled with pictures not only of Gig Harbor but also Iceland. His father married Sarah Louise (Sigrun) Vernhardson in 1930. Johnson Sr. eventually purchased the Vernhardson home and farm. He worked for Washington Highway Department, U.S. Bureau of Public Roads and the Bureau of Reclamation as well as on the first Narrows bridge. When his family tired of frequent moves, he went to work for Peninsula Light Company where he worked 25 years, retiring in 1967. He set up Peninsula Light Company’s engineering department. However, after retiring he decided retirement wasn’t for him. He took the state license exam and became a licensed surveyor and practiced for several more years. In 1995, he and Sarah celebrated 65 years of marriage (he was 88 at the time).

Note (1) Geographically speaking, Scandinavia only refers to Norway and Sweden as it is the name of the peninsula on which those two countries are located, although part of northern Finland is also located on the Scandinavian Peninsula.
However, politically and economically speaking, Denmark is also classified as a Scandinavian country; Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, for example.
Culturally speaking, the matter gets a little more complicated. Finland has close cultural ties with the Scandinavian countries, Sweden in particular, but Finnish is not a Germanic language like the Scandinavian languages.
However, Icelandic and Faroese also have Germanic roots like the Scandinavian languages, which makes these countries closely connected with Scandinavian cultures.
In addition, Iceland used to be under Danish rule (Norwegian rule before that) and the Faroe Islands are still under Danish rule, so there are close political connections as well.  
This information was from Larissa Kyzer per “Ask Eyglo”  In Iceland Review Iceland Q&A, FAQ,

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 3, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Loafed most of the day.  I went out in PM and chased around the forest and returned very tired."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.