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
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. Raft Island
|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,
1979, that Puget noted in his journal that a large number of crows on the island “voiced objection.” University of Washington Press
Later, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, commander of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, named the island
after one of his crewmembers on the “U.S.S. Vincennes.” Allshouse Island Allshouse Island was renamed 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. Raft Island
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
’s haunted house. It stood directly to the left of where the bridge is now. Children from Raft Island 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
for their operations. A Mexican mining company had purchased Raft Island trees to shore up their mines. When the boats returned to the Raft Island Puget Sound for more logs, there were bottles of illegal whiskey stored in their oil tanks.
By 1928 George O. Noble, a wealthy mining engineer from
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. California
Jess Kuhns paid $30,000 for
. 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. Raft Island
Jess Kuhns paid $30,000 for
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
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 . 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
has had a part in shaping its independent character. Raft Island
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