Thursday, February 28, 2013

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!]

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