Thursday, February 28, 2013

John and Edward Finholm

As a young boy Johnny used to love playing store.  He would set up a sawhorse table on the street in Olalla where he would sell fruits, vegetables, berries, bottles, etc. to the infrequent passersby.  Then as a teenager, Johnny worked for the Olalla Trading Company at age 17 and found that he did in fact have a natural affinity for mercantile marketing and dealing with the general public.

When Johnny and Eddie were young and still living in Olalla (Eddie was in high school) they used to go to Horseshoe Lake to the dances held there with their friends.  One night in 1932 a young lady, Frances Larson, was dancing with Eddie.  Frances was a classmate of his in school.  He introduced Frances to Johnny and Ted.  As Frances said in her oral history "I guess the sparks kind of started flying because Johnny asked for the next dance and the next dance and the next dance."  So from then on, Frances and Johnny went steady, got engaged in 1933 and married in 1934.

His uncle Leander Finholm and his cousin Hugo had moved to Gig Harbor from Olalla when Leander purchased 80% of the stock in the Inland Island Telephone & Telegraph Company in 1926. 

In 1933 Johnny bought the J. C. McKee Meat Market.  It was housed in a building owned by the Stanich brothers near the Shorline Restaurant and he rented the building for $17 a month.  The building included a gas pump and an ice machine.  Rents have certainly risen in that district over the years haven't they?

Axel Uddenberg had a grocery store nearby but he was also building a new store.  So he asked Johnny if he would be interested in buying the existing grocery store.  The year was 1935, the country still suffering from the Depression, but Johnny said yes.  He bought the grocery store for $3,000 and renamed it Finholm's Market.  The store only sold groceries so Johnny moved his meat market into the adjacent building and combined the two buildings into one store.  

His brother Eddie (Edward) was driving a truck for Pioneer Sausage in Tacoma.  Because Johnny needed another meat cutter, he hired Eddie to join him in the new store. and they became partners  The butcher shop handled not only the usual meat needs of the homemakers but also the custom cutting and wrapping meat for the farmers and hunters.  Due to the increase in business, and the fact that very few people owned freezers, Johnny and Eddie added a cold storage building and 700 lockers to the store.  They rented the lockers so that people had somewhere to keep and freeze their meats, vegetables and fruits.  Their father, Alfred, built all individual 700 lockers in 'cabinet' style.   Finholm's offered credit to all those in need; many paid their bills when they were able but many more did not.  Johnny refused to go after them for payment; he collected the bills and after selling the store and moving up to Franklin Street he threw all the old bills away.

Johnny and Eddie's mother died in 1941, and father, Alfred, sold the farm in Olalla and moved to a new house in Gig Harbor which he built just a few blocks from the Finholm Market.  Johnny and Eddie's brother, Ted, also moved to Gig Harbor when their father did.  Only their uncle Johannes remained in Olalla.  

In 1935 Johnny and Frances purchased the property at 8815 North Harborview Street.  They lived on the water and Frances opened a dress store on the street front.  In 1945 Johnny and his wife, Frances, built a three story structure, Finholm Building.  Johnny and Frances lived in the upper level, the street front was leased to various merchants over the years, and the basement apartment was lived in by relatives and also leased to many school teachers over the years.

And then, in 1946, the waterfront area became incorporated into a class four town.  With the incorporation into the Town of Gig Harbor, Johnny took on more and more leadership activities within the community.  He was one of the first elected council members and served for eight years.  That was followed by twenty years in the Planning Department.  He and Eddie started the first fire department following incorporation using volunteer firefighters.

In 1949 Johnny purchased the parking lot across from Shorline Restaurant where the original community bandstand once stood.  

In 1970 the brothers sold the market portion of Finholm's Market to Johnny Warsick but Eddie took it back in 1973 until 1979 when the market section was sold to Terry Groshong and the slaughtering business to Don Pack.  After Johnny retired he went commercial fishing with George Ancich in Alaska.  Johnny cooked for the crew while they were out.  Johnny and the Slavonian community had a great relationship through the years.  He supplied many of their boats with provisions when they left for fishing.  In fact, the Slavonians made him an honorary Slovenian and nicknamed him an "ich" on the end of his name.

At the time of Johnny's death in 1998 he had also been a 65-year member of the Gig Harbor Lions as well as an active member of the Peninsula Lutheran Church.  Eddie was also a long-term member of the Lions, Elks, Eagles, St. Nicholas Catholic Church and one of the founders of the Gig Harbor Golf Club.  All this including working with his brother on various community improvement activities.  Eddie died in 1996. 

The Finholm Stair Climb was once just a path up the hill.  The children used it to go to and from school as well as visiting with their friends and family living above North Harborview.  Eddie even used it to get to and from his home and the store.  Johnny used to take a bucket and clean it up every evening and keep the weeds and brush from overtaking the path.  The Gig Harbor Lions built the stair climb to honor the Finholm family for their long service on behalf of the Lions organization.  

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

The Sandins of Artondale

In 1900 when H. L. Fleming conducted the Federal Census, Erik and Marta Sandin's names were listed along with the other 122 people living in the Rosedale Precinct.

Both Erik and Marta had come from Sweden, though at different times. Erik had come in 1882; Marta Bjork followed after Erik conducted a courtship with her by mail [that's a story for another time].

They settled in Artondale on a 160-acre homestead following their marriage in Seattle that same year. Eventually they had two sons, Arthur, the older one, and George born in 1900. (Note: From the picture accompanying a short piece about the family in An Excellent Little Bay by J. A. Eckrom it appears Arthur was approximately 4 years older than George - see image below).  Most of the following information of their life was provided by George after he became an adult, and on visits back to Gig Harbor.
The Sandin Family
In a newspaper article published by The Peninsula Gateway in October, 1977, George is quoted as saying "Homestead life was starvation living with plenty to eat. We had a few cows and pigs and apples, cherries, prunes and plums from the orchard."  His mother Marta had a substantial vegetable and flower garden. Marta was very protective of her garden especially with all the wild life still wandering around the homestead property. One time, it is said, she found a bear eating her vegetables and flowers so she did what anyone would do - grabbed a rifle and shot the bear.  She canned the bear meat, used the lard for baking and cooking (it made very flaky pastry), and with the help of an Indian friend, made a blanket from the bear skin.

The family also had a pond on the property where the boys fished and swam. The fish were mostly trout. George went on to say "We were a hard working, church going family. Dad was a hard working farmer with a blacksmith shop on the farm."

As a young boy, George used to fire up the burner on the steamer for the runs between Point Defiance and Gig Harbor.  He also had to polish all the brass fittings. His brother Arthur helped their father build the first bridge on Hunt Road around 1908.
Erik Sandin, left, and son, Arthur, work on the first bridge on Hunt Road, circa 1908.
Marta Bjork Sandin stands in the middle of the bridge.

Before leaving Sweden, Erik had been a blacksmith apprentice. He taught both his sons the skills as they grew older.  As you shall see later on, George used those skills throughout his entire life.  

I haven't found much information on Arthur yet, but both The Peninsula Gateway and The Humboldt Times (Eureka, Calif.) have articles on George. There is also a brief paper written by Lewis A. Pryor in 1977 entitled "George H. Sandin, Humboldt's Pipe Organ Builder." George moved to Eureka area in 1938 after several years working in southern California.  But that is getting a little ahead of our story.

In 1919/1920 George left Gig Harbor, counseled by his church friends, to enter the Methodist sponsored Chicago Training School, a college preparatory institution designed to prepare young people so that they could enter the seminary.  (This school later was incorporated into Northwestern University.)

After two years at Chicago Training School, George was appointed to a church in Exland, Minnesota. He served there from 1923 to 1925. George's service was met with much success, but he decided that the ministry was not his calling.  During his time at the school, George had fallen in love with a fellow student, Mary McCurdy. They married in 1925, and in 1927 moved to Fillmore in Ventura County, California. There, George worked as a fruit ranch hand and general mechanic on the farm equipment.

Ten years later the family moved to Sebastopol in Sonoma County and George opened his own farm equipment repair shop.  But since the economy was almost entirely based upon apple farming, the economy for small businesses was very spotty.

In 1938, George moved the family for the last time to Humboldt County near Fortuna and Eureka. Humboldt County had a much more vibrant economy based upon mills, logging, and farm industries which allowed George's skills to earn a much better livelihood. They bought 5 acres of land for $600 and George built a repair shop with attached living quarters.

To build his shop and home, he purchased an old church for the lumber. The cost of the building and its removal was a mere $75. To avoid wasting or cutting any of the boards, George built their house with almost the same dimensions (32' X 34').  The church had been built in 1878 but the lumber was as good as the day it was cut for the church construction.

During the 1930s George's interest in pipe organs grew to the point that he wanted to build a pipe organ himself. In 1935, he bought plans and instructions from a popular do-it-yourself magazine on how to build a 2-rank, 2-manual pedal organ. He eventually decided it was cheaper to buy and adapt used parts than to build or buy new.  But then, his organ building hobby was interrupted by WWII.

George taught welding classes at Fortuna High School which helped supply skilled craftsmen to the shipyards. He also worked at the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. Shipyard in Eureka. After VJ Day, George went to work for Carter Bros. Sawmill as a millwright, and then a little later for Fortuna Veneer Company.

In 1965 he retired but continued his hobby of organ building. For a much more comprehensive reading on George and Mary's life in Humboldt County ask the Harbor History Museum Research Committee to show you the article from The Humboldt Times.  The Resource Room is open on Thursdays from 10 am to noon, and by appointment. [Please call ahead to confirm that the room is open - sometimes we have school groups come in for the Pioneer School Experience and we need the Resource Room!]

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

March 1, 1882 Emmett Hunt Diary

On March 1, 1882, Emmett Hunt wrote:  A little improvement on yesterday but still high wind & frequent showers.  Started out after finding ... some lumber but could not get it home for wind.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Early Settlers on the Gig Harbor Peninsula

I would like to apologize for the missing recent blogs; my computer crashed due to failure in the security system and the sudden infection of viruses.  However with the investment in a new system I'm hoping we can continue as we were.  And now to the early settlers….

When Midshipman Joseph Sanford discovered Gig Harbor bay on May 15, 1841 he noted in his records "a pretty little bay that is concealed from the Sound"  and when on to say "the passage is about 10 or 15 yards wide and it gradually widenings (sic) until it forms a circular basin"  and continued "saw no natives today."

Lieutenant George Sinclair heard about Sanford's discovery and he set out in the captain's gig [ed.: a light rowboat often used as a fast launch for the captain; the gig was designed for speed, and not used as a working boat.] to see for himself if the bay was as pretty as Sanford had describe it.  His description upon seeing it was "an excellent little bay" adding however that "a number of canoes came off from which we procured an abundance of salmon."    

As you walk down the corridor of the museum's Native American exhibit towards the main gallery you have the opportunity to see and learn  for yourself about the people who owned those canoes.
Native American canoes loaded for travel around Puget Sound
The little harbor was known by several different names, including Twa-wal-kut, used by the native peoples living here in 1841 when Lt. Charles Wilkes came through with the U.S. Exploring Expedition. As hunter-gatherers, these people most likely paid little attention to the white men's government.  The individuals knew little about the treaties, such as the treaty signed in 1846 making this part of the Pacific Northwest American territory rather than British territory like Canada, despite the Hudson Bay Company operating in this part of the country. (The Hudson Bay Company had been incorporated by England in 1670 and functioned as the de facto government in parts of North America before European states, and later the United States, laid claim to those territories.)  In 1853 the little harbor area which Wilkes named Gig Harbor became part of Pierce County, Washington Territory.

The majority of the population around Gig Harbor and Wollochet Bay were Native Americans and most identified themselves as members of the Puyallup, Nisqually, or Squaxin Island Tribes.

The site where Donkey Creek empties into the harbor was a spawning ground of salmon (reseeded in the 1970s by the Gig Harbor Fishermen's Club as a hatchery) and was the main Twa-wal-kut village. This village was founded many generations before the 1800s by a band from the Puyallup Tribe based in the area of Commencement Bay, The tribal members returned regularly to Gig Harbor during the year for salmon fishing, hunting, and gathering. Cedar structures were built near Donkey Creek that remained long into the communities pioneer years.
View of Native Ameircan cabins at Donkey Creek, looking from east side of harbor
(cabins are visible above the steamboat bow).
Other villages, as mentioned in Marian Smith's 1940 book The Puyallup-Nisqually, were located at the head of Wollochet Bay, and were described as overflow from Gig Harbor with the closest contact between the two groups being maintained:
  • Carr Inlet: above Minter; Glencove, originally populated by people from Minter and maintained close alliance with Minter; head of Burley Lagoon, eventually uniting with the Minter group,
  • Allyn: at the mouth of Mason Creek,
  • Fox Island villages: which joined the villages at Carr Inlet and Steilacoom,
  • Anderson Island villages:  two Nisqually or Squallismish; Dupont Creek or Sequalitcu; and Budd's Inlet and South Bay,
  • Gig Harbor and Wollochet villages: had close contact with the village at Quartermaster Harbor which eventually joined Gig Harbor.
In addition to what seemed as permanent village sites, there were numerous temporary camps in which Native Americans lived during their travels around the Sound. Some camps were used regularly and frequently; there is little indication that the various bands were anything but friendly with each other.

A young Annie Squally, who resided in the Wollochet area of the Gig Harbor Peninsula.
Annie was well known for her talents as a basket weaver.

Note: Marian W. Smith was an anthropologist and graduate of Columbia University. She credited the work of Gibbs: S'Homamish; Eells: S'ho-ma-mish; and Curtis: Sqababsh in her book The Puyallup-Nisqually, published in 1940.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 22, 1882 Emmett Hunt Diary

On February 22, 1882, Emmett Hunt wrote:  Rainy most all day, so read Lippincibb (sic), fiddle, write, etc.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Finholms

The Finholm District in the waterfront is well known by just about everyone including our visitors.  Some of us find ourselves there to climb the Finholm Stairs both for exercise and for the beautiful view.  Other times we are there to eat some great food, Anthony's, Devoted Kiss and the other eateries or enjoy music (and food) at Morso's, all located in this district.  You might even be shopping in what used to be Axel Uddenberg's store until John, Alfred's son, purchased it in 1930.

But how much more do you know about the Finholm family?  I'm going to try to condense a long rich history into a short blog to whet your curiosity.

The Finholm family lived in a village named Larsmo in Finland.  It was a large family consisting of Anders and Lisa Finholm and their 10 children.  They lived off fishing and farming in a joint household with Anders two brothers and their families.  Four of the children came to America:  Maria, Leander, Alfred and Johannes.  The other children all remained in Finland.

Alfred was the first to come to America in 1892 at age 18.  He found himself on the West Coast near Olympia working in the woods.  Leander came a year later and he and Alfred found themselves working in the same crew.  

Maria had received a marriage proposal from a friend she had attended church school with and had already moved to Tacoma.  She came to Tacoma 1898 and was married in 1899; she and her new husband moved to Ollala and they had a daughter.  Unfortunately though, Maria died in 1900 at age 32.

Johannes was the last of the four siblings to come to America.  He was a construction worker in Helsinki before Leander inspired him to join them in Washington. 

When brothers tired of the hard work in the forests they decided it was time to find other ways of earning a living.  In 1899, Alfred and Leander had visited their sister, Maria and her husband who were then living in Olalla.  There they had the opportunity to also meet other emigrants from Larsmo, most of whom were strawberry farmers.  The attraction was so great that both brothers bought land in Olalla and started farming themselves including raising poultry and, of course, the strawberries.  Johannes bought his land in Olalla and started working it in 1904.  All three brothers met and married women who had emigrated from Munsala.

Alfred and his first wife, Hanna, had four boys, George, Theodore, John and Edward and one girl, Alma. Leander and Katarina had one son, Hugo  and two daughters, Ida and Elsie.  Johannes and Ida had one son, Walter.

Alfred continued farming although he made most of the farm's profit from his poultry.  One of his sons, George, was active in fishing in Alaska.  We'll learn more about his sons John and Edward later.  Alfred died in 1957 at age 83 from heart troubles from which he had suffered for years.

Leander had a great interest in human society and actively followed what was going on in his homeland of Finland, its wars with Russia, Europe, his new emigrant community in America and its surrounding areas.  World affairs and education were a great draw for him.  He was widely read and was an early subscriber to many magazines, and all though written in Swedish they were sent home to his family back in Finland when he had finished reading them.

Leander was also quite enterprising.  As early as 1903 he had become part owner of a steamship company.  He was among the people who built the first school in Olalla.  He was secretary of the Olalla Berry Growers Association which sold berries throughout all the states as well as Canada.  Then in 1925 he and his son, Hugo, invested in a telephone service which was the beginning of the telephone and telegraph system on the peninsula and in 1930 located at 3417 Harborview Drive; Leander moved to Gig Harbor to manage the company.  Leander also became one of the active leaders if the Gig Harbor Community.

When Leander turned 90 in August 1967 his children, Hugo, Elsie and Ida, arranged a celebration party.  The Peninsula Gateway honored him by writing:  "If we had to arrange a competition in nominating the most eminent citizen in our town, Leander Finholm would be the one to bet on as a winner.  This pioneer represents the hardworking generation that we, and all Americans are proud.  Today, at an age when you normally start taking it easy, this gentleman koins not just in the process of building a community, but continues to challenge his own path with endurance and strength."  

Leander passed away three years later in September 1964 at age 93.  His brother Johannes passed away in June 1965 at age 85.

Next week we will continue our story on the Finholm by talking about Alfred's sons John and Edward and their contribution to Gig Harbor.      


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 15, 1882 Emmett Hunt Diary

On February 15, 1882, Emmett Hunt wrote:  Wind still blowing.  Started out with intention of crossing to Pt. Evans but having to pull the White boys & raft too I failed to get there hence was carried out into the sea which was very rough, the raft broke to pieces, the boys ran off & left me & I had to stay with it alone.  When the tide turned managed to get the most of it ashore, then with anerupting stomach ache I struggled home against a desperate tide where I arrived at 9:30 nearly dead.  Decidedly the hardest day of my life..

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 8, 1882 Emmett Hunt Diary

On February 8, 1882, Emmett Hunt wrote:

Stormy again.  The same mixture continued tho not as bad as yesterday.  Did a little & began a violin case.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.