Thursday, May 30, 2013



"The schoolhouse was a one-room unpainted building just the right height for the pupils to play "Anti-i-over" at noon and recess. It was built by the beach on an old Indian camp ground. The children would often find beads and agate arrow heads. The number of pupils ranged from twenty to twenty-five, in grades from one to eight. It must have been a real challenge to the young teachers who were sent to the country schools for their first year of teaching.

Arletta Schoolhouse
 "Our drinking water came from a flowing creek on what later became known as the Warren place. It was an honor to be allowed to go for water. It took two to carry the big wooden bucket. We all drank from a long handled tin dipper which didn't worry us as germs had not been introduced to the innocent public.

"Most of the pupils walked from one to three miles. I walked about a mile and a half. I walked along the beach when the tide was low and along a cow trail when the tide was high. Two families lived on Fox Island. The older children could row across the channel, but when it was stormy their fathers brought and came for them.

"It must have been a poor school district because at first school was held only four or six months. Later it lengthened to nine months. We had to buy our own books and we carried our lunch in lard buckets - no wax paper.

"There wasn't a church at Arletta. One was built at Sylvan across on Fox Island and on Sunday morning the church bells sounded beautiful across the three miles of water to where I lived.  There was a church at Rosedale. No doubt, perhaps there are those who know the dates of building.

"Orchards produced an abundance of fruit and there were various kinds of berries that were picked and sent to Tacoma for sale. Pickers received 25 cents for a 24-box crate of strawberries or raspberries.

Orchards and farming provided income
"Mother Powell ran the Arletta post office for many years, also a small store. Salesmen or anyone passing through that area could always get meals and a night's lodging at the Powell home. About twice a year two Syrian peddlers with huge packs would come that way. They were most interesting and the opening of their packs was a never forgotten thrill. To my young eyes everything was beautiful, I was usually give a new hair ribbon. Small things were greatly appreciated by children when I was young.

"In the early part of the new century an unusual character appeared on the scene. A man from Missouri arrived one evening from Tacoma. His name was Ide Neff, bachelor about forty, tall, slender, with dark hair and eyes and a small dark bread. He was a soft voiced, quiet type of person and had written a small book wherein he referred to himself as "Nobody's darling." How or why he came to Arletta, I can't remember. The Powells let him stay at our house until he could get a small shack like home for himself on the far side of Horsehead Bay. For years he was the only inhabitant of that beautiful little bay. There was a log cabin on the opposite side from him where a family had lived before his arrival. It had fallen into disuse and bears would sometimes hole up there. Billy Singleton was the name of the man who built it.

"The name Horsehead Bay brings memories of Fourth of July picnics held at the head of the Bay. The first excitement of the Fourth was getting a new dress to wear to the picnic. The men would get together - clear out underbrush and build a long table. The women would really bake up a big feed. There would be games and a ball game - if the tide was out, fireworks in the evening. Later years we went to Tacoma to the big celebrations.

Arletta baseball team
"Christmas would be another big excitement. Often it was a community affair. There was a large building in the cove of what became the Shaw property.  A huge tree was set up in this building and candy and small gifts were given out to the children by a regular fat Santa Claus. There were small candles all over the tree. One Christmas Santa Claus caught on fire. It was so long ago I can't remember if he was badly burned.

"The first owners of what is now the Shaw home, were people named McCoy, then a poor family lived there for a while named Dow, then a couple named Warren bought it. No relation to the other Warrens, this man's name was Ed, he worked on the Panama Canal for a year or so when it was building. On one of his trips home, he brought marshmallows, the first we had seen.  He paid one dollar a pound for them which to us was exorbitant.

"In the early 1900's a colony of people considered "radical" settled near Lake Bay. They named their place "Home Colony."  It was rumored that they practiced "free love" and they were ostracized by the established local residents. We young people were warned against becoming acquainted with them. As time went on they became infiltrated with the I.W.W's - International Workers of the World.  The colony only lasted a few years then gradually dwindled away.

"On cold, stormy nights when I was fifteen or sixteen, a group of people consisting of about five families, arrived from Tacoma. They were from Colorado. I believe they were miners and had gone through financial difficulties there. They had few belongings and the men were in their shirt sleeves. The Powells took them in and kept them a few days until they made a start for themselves on Horsehead Bay. Ide Neff's shack was there and the old log cabin. They fixed up these two places for the families with the most children and started other houses. They were hard working honest people, anxious to better their lot. Alva McKinley was one of them and has, perhaps, told in his writings how and why they came to that particular location.

"The Ramsdales were another family of the early Hales Passage days. There were numerous children. They lived in a decrepit house next to the little schoolhouse.  Eventually, Mr. Lotz bought the house and property and lived there until his demise. The house has undergone much renovation and modernization and is now the attractive and comfortable home of Mrs. Grace Woodruff, his eldest daughter.
Arletta residents
"Honesty was the accepted way of life. Regardless of the financial status of anyone - money was scarce for everyone, theft just wasn't heard of.  Doors were never locked.  In times of trouble neighbors helped one another.  "Public Welfare" was never heard of.  There was independence and pride of achievement.

"The present generation is scornful of the expression, "The good old days," but there were many "good" things about the old days that will never come again.  I wouldn't want to go back to kerosene lamps, washboards and hauling water from a well with a pail, but I have many pleasant memories of childhood and growing up days at Arletta. I married and left there in 1912.

"I haven't traveled extensively, but have seen quite a bit of the United States - both East and West coasts. I am sure there is not a more beautiful region anywhere than the Bay Island country of Puget Sound."

This excellent remembrance was written by Aura May Mitchell. Unfortunately she did not date the document.  Even so, I believe if you close your eyes you will be able to see Arletta as it was at the turn of the 20th century.

NOTE: There was a footnote added to this document stating that the little schoolhouse next to the Ramsdale's home became Mrs. Woodruff's garage in 1905 when a new school was built near the Arletta crossroads across from the Arletta store. 

© 2013 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday May 31, 1882 Emmett Hunt's Diary

A little too warm & I did perspire most obviously.  Finished my gunwales, put in some more timbers & did some finishing work.

© 2013 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Early Days of Arletta - on Hales Passage

Sometimes when you are doing research on a subject you think might renew interest in the history of our community, you come across a document written several years ago by someone who explains it better than you ever could. That was my feeling when I ran across Aura May Mitchell's paper recounting the history of the early days in Arletta. Mrs. Mitchell was raised by the Powell family, early residents of Arletta.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Due to the length, this "written memory" will be publish in two parts. Sort of like the old time radio programs.


"The Powell family came from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada. They crossed the United States living in various states until they reached Tacoma, Washington.  After living there for a while, they homesteaded a beautiful piece of waterfront property at the head of Hales Passage and directly across the mile and a half channel from the northern end of Fox Island.  I do not know they year.

Powell Farm

"In the year 1893 when I, a small child, came to live with them, many acres were under cultivation in pasture, orchard and garden tract and they had built a large home. The family consisted of Mother and Father Powell, four grown sons and one daughter named Arla.  They named the area Arletta.  It was combined from the name Arla and Lucetta. Lucetta Castle lived with her parents in what was later known as the Perkins place. Mr. Samuel Perkins was a newspaper publisher in Tacoma.  The next owner, as I remember, was Mr. Dobson and thus it was known as the Dobson place as long as I lived at Arletta.

"Logging, fishing, and trapping were among the occupations from which many derived their living. The forests teemed with wild life, deer, bear, rabbits and skunks. Several varieties of clams were plentiful. Wild huckleberries were picked in the fall and sold commercially.

Digging for geoducks at Arletta
"Mother Powell had been a singing teacher and she formed an excellent quartet with her four sons. Entertainment was home made in those days. Sometimes during the winter the Powell family would put on a show of short plays, musical numbers and recitations. Neighbors would come from miles distant. It was a break in the monotony of the long winter evenings. Often the young people would gather at Powell's on Sunday evening (mostly boys - few girls in the neighborhood). We would make Welsh rarebit (I had a chafing dish) candy, have popcorn and apples and play games. 
The first post office in Arletta was in the Powell house.
Arla Powell is in the foreground, holding a parrot.

"Neighborhood dances were held in homes and attended by young and old. Later, community halls were built. Going to a dance was a family affair. The older people would bring food, set up a long table and at midnight a hearty supper was served in what we now call "smorgasbord" style. When we had box lunch dances to raise money for some project, girls often told boys what her box was like so she could get a laugh out of watching them bid against each other. It was quite usual to dance until day break - cows had to be milked. Our music consisted of one, sometimes two fiddles or one fiddle and a wheezy organ. I am sure we had as much fun as present day youth have with their high priced orchestras.

"In my late teenage years, the older people began to stay home except a few kind workers who came to provide supper.  The young folks began to pair off and often a group would rent a launch and go to a dance at Lake Bay, Glen Cove, Purdy, Minter or some other nearby small community. We always went as a crowd, never a couple alone, for a couple to leave the hall during the dance was frowned upon and was food for gossip. During the summer evenings, when weather and tide would permit, beach bonfires were a source of much enjoyment. Driftwood was plentiful, no one had thought of using it for decorative purposes. A huge bonfire was a beacon neighbors could see and would gather around. We would sit and sing for hours such old songs as: Juanita, Annie Laurie, My Old Kentucky Home, Carry Me Back to Old Virginia, Row, Row the Boat, and on and on. Bonfires could be seen for miles along the beaches as different groups gathered.

"Transportation: Mail, freight and passengers were brought to and from Tacoma (the nearest town) by steamboat owned and manned by the Lorenzo brothers whose home and headquarters were at Lake Bay. The boat made daily round trip runs through the week to Tacoma then on Sunday reversed the run so visitors from the city could come to the country in the morning and return at night. The fare was twenty-five cents one way and many rode free. The trip took about two and one-half hours each way as the boat went back and forth from landings on Fox Island to landings on the mainland.

Arletta dock and early steamboat
"In the early days, passengers were taken by rowboat to a float anchored out far beyond low tide. It took a very efficient captain to maneuver his boat alongside a bobbing, tossing float not more than twelve or fifteen feet square, especially in stormy weather. It also took an intrepid passenger to clamber out of a tippy, wallowing row boat onto the slippery, moving float and from there up to the steamboat."The float would often swing away just as one made to step aboard. Watchful, quick moving deck hands saved many a one from a ducking.  Later, community docks were built, usually at the terminals of county needs.
The steamboat Arcadia at the Arletta dock
"One of the interesting boat stops was at Wollochet Bay. There a small Indian village spread out. The head man was Dave Squally. He and his sons and neighbors obtained a precarious living by fishing. I have watched them "pull seine" in front of the Powell place. They would often bring in a ton of smelt, herring or a couple of hundred gorgeous, huge salmon. Sharks and dog fish were also plentiful and were used for fertilizer. A big catch like that would be worth a great deal in the year 1906, but meant little then. Salmon was smoked and a large keg was salted down for winter.

Sunday outing; possibly old steamboat landing
in background
"One time a huge sperm whale was harpooned off Fox Island. Evidently, the men didn't know how to kill it for it swam around for days towing rowboats. People would row out and catch hold of the fishing boat. It was a cruel thing to do. I didn't realize it at the time. It eventually died and a horrible stench as it decayed. I don't remember how it was gotten rid of."


© 2013 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday May 24, 1882 Emmett Hunt's Diary

Hot day.  Went to New Tacoma with GW to make final proof on his land which we finally did.  Had a headache all day & got back at 11:30 P.M.

© 2013 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ruth Bogue Baker

Ruth Bogue Baker (right)

Seeing the obituary for Ruth Bogue Baker in Wednesday, May 16, 2013, "Peninsula Gateway" reminded me of how quickly people and their contributions to the history of a community fade.  Other than stooping to read the City of Gig Harbor's historical marker about Ruth Bogue at the head of the harbor, what do today's residents remember about her? 

Perhaps a short recap of some of the highlights in Ruth's history is in order.

Ruth Magnuson was born in Wenatchee on January 20, 1925 and was raised by her parents in Seattle.  She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1942.  She started her higher education at the University of Washington in pre-law but following her marriage to Dr. Charles Bogue in 1946 dropped out of school.  

Ruth and her husband moved to Gig Harbor in 1952 when their first child was born.  As a newcomer to a new town, Ruth became involved in community activities -- when time allowed. One such activity was with the Peninsula Orthopedic Guild.  When her youngest child entered school, Ruth, too ,decided to go to school and enrolled at Puget Sound University. She studied history and German.  

Ruth said in an interview with "The Peninsula Gateway" that "My real involvement with anything civic began when I read in the paper that the city was going to build a new city hall…and they were going to allocate a 14 foot by 14 foot square area for a library.  I called (city hall) and said surely we could do better than that.  Jake Bujacich (then mayor) called me up later and said 'I agree - and furthermore I appoint you chairman of the library board.' "

Ruth's efforts culminated in a new library built on Judson Street, the building which now houses the Chamber of Commerce (next to West Marine. The "new" city hall was located in the building that is now Timberland Bank on Judson.)

Six months passed and a vacancy came up on the City Council; Jake again called Ruth and asked her to fill the vacancy.  She accepted and retained the council seat through three elections.  In 1978, Jake ran for a position on the Pierce County Council and when he was elected, the city council appointed Ruth to fill the remainder of Jake's  unexpired  term.

Ruth's desire to be the best and most effective mayor she could be caused her to contact some of her friends at Evergreen State College in Olympia for help.  And help they did.  They created a course called "Transition to Mayor" and Ruth spent one day every two weeks in Olympia.  Evergreen State College assigned two student consultants to come to Gig Harbor to help her identify and solve city problems.  Ruth graduated in 1978 with a degree in Urban Planning from Evergreen.

The first thing Ruth and her consultants did was to reorganize the workings of city hall -- department by department.  The Evergreen consultants performed independent analyses and provided suggestions for correcting potential problems.  As with most change, those dealing with personnel were the most difficult for those involved.  But the result of all the hard work made the mayor's position a managerial position of people and systems and no longer a full-time job.  Time during Ruth's tenure was then spent on staff meetings, public relations, trouble-shooting, presiding over council meetings, and interpreting council's intent on various items.

After 17 years serving the needs of the City of Gig Harbor, Ruth retired at age 60.  She had a long list of personal goals she wished to accomplish - travel and live in Sweden, her ancestral home  (she had studied Swedish for nine years), visit southeast England, hiking, bird-watching, reading, photography, ...and the list went on.

Be sure to stop by the Ruth M. Bogue Harbor Viewing Platform at the head of the bay. The city built this viewpoint to honor Gig Harbor's first woman mayor for her service to the city from 1978 to 1985.

Note:  Ruth and Charles Bogue's marriage ended in divorce and both remarried.  Ruth's marriage to Gus Baker ended with his death in 1992.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday May 17, 1882 Emmett Hunt's Diary

Considerably breezy again otherwise fine day.  Did some calling & began dressing the surface of the yacht.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Theresa Catherine Cambridge Sweeney

Theresa Sweeney

The next time you go to Anthony's Homeport on North Harborview take a moment to walk just a few steps further and spend a couple of minutes reading the historical marker devoted to Theresa Sweeney and the Sweeney Building. Theresa, along with many other women who immigrated to the Gig Harbor peninsula, made a lasting contribution to the history and growth of our community.

Theresa was born in Antrim County, Ireland in 1873 into a large Catholic family. She attended public schools and completed her education at Sister's College in Blackburn, England.  At age 19 she decided to visit an uncle living in Chicago and to visit the World's Fair to be held in October 1893.  While visiting she met James Sweeney, and they were married the following June.

James and Theresa had six children, though a baby girl was stillborn and Daniel, born 1907, lived only two days. The other children were James J., born 1897, Patrick F., born 1900, John E., born 1903, and Henry Leo, born 1904.

In 1908, Theresa, James, and their children moved to Washington, and liking the Gig Harbor peninsula, bought forty acres of land in Rosedale near the Sandin family farm. The Sweeney's cleared the land, built a large house, and operated a general farm and dairy until 1915, They later sold 10 acres, following a fire which destroyed the house. Although the barn was transformed into living quarters, Theresa moved into Gig Harbor and her husband, James, remained at the farm. Theresa bought property at the head of the harbor where she built a new home.  She operated a small store and real estate office out of the house and when she was appointed postmistress added the post office as well. Theresa served as postmistress for eight years.

Sweeney's Gig Harbor house on today's North Harborview Drive
(current site of Anthony's Restaurant parking lot)

Finding her business improving and wishing to expand, in 1922 Theresa built the Sweeney Building across the street to house her mercantile business, which grew into a well-stocked department store -- according to the publicity at the time.  However, she did not occupy the entire building. Always the best business person, she rented part of the building to the new post office, a restaurant, to the first dentist (and first mayor) Dr. Harold Ryan, and a pharmacy.

Sweeney Building
(current site: empty lot beside Anthony's Restaurant)

Theresa had a keen interest in the development of the community and as well as buying and selling a good deal of property, she was actively engaged in community affairs. Unfortunately, the Sweeney Building was destroyed by fire in the late 1920s; replaced and then in the late 1940s the second building was demolished. Nothing replaced Sweeney's buildings. Even today, it is an empty lot.

In 1923, Theresa was appointed the first woman Justice of the Peace for Gig Harbor and she served for four years in this new position. Other activities included trustee of the Gig Harbor Fair Association, trustee of St. Nicholas Church where she was actively engaged in fundraising for the building of the new church. She also belonged to the Brotherhood of American Yeomen, the Women's Voters' League, Parent-Teacher Association and a member of the Pierce County Democratic Club.  In fact, in 1926 Theresa was a candidate for legislature and despite running a good race, she lost...understandable since Pierce County was a Republican stronghold.

By 1927 her son, James, had married and was living in Tacoma with his wife and two sons. Patrick Francis and John E. were living at home. Henry Leo was attending theological college
 in eastern Washington, where he was ordained as a Jesuit priest in June 1936.

Theresa Sweeney died unexpectedly, at age 68, in St. Joseph's Hospital. She was survived by her husband, James, her four sons, a brother and sister in Ireland, and ten grandchildren. Her son, Rev. Leo Sweeney, SJ, was the celebrant of the funeral Mass held at St.Leo's Catholic Church in Tacoma, and the Rev. Fr. Hoen of St.  Nicholas Catholic Church in Gig Harbor delivered the sermon.

NOTE:  I was advised yesterday that the following information appeared in The Peninsula Gateway on November 2, 1967:

Nov 2, 1967:  Merle Crum objected to the Rock Shop “Building” [Sweeney] plans to remodel.  He objected to the permit because all toilets drained directly onto the beach.  County Health Dept. said to tear down the building.  Erosion has caused damage to the docks.  Permit was given, but no action.  

There was only one fire at the head of the bay and that was January 4, 1945 when the gasoline station burned down and burned George Keeney's Cabinet shop, as far as the cement block building today holding the Harbor Homes, etc.  The high school boys were let go from Union HS to help save Dr. Darling's offices in one of the buildings now known as Marketplace Grill.  The fireboat from Tacoma wouldn't come.  The Sweeney Block was to the left of that, where the sign is.  

She died in 1942 from the effects of a broken hip after several months in the hospital, but yes, it was unexpected as she was such a strong woman, and definitely a great lady.  

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday May 10, 1882 Emmett Hunt's Diary

Stormy day.  Arthur's scow "Gen Arthur" - cut loose on Monday night still gone.  Put on the last 2 strips of the boat, made a steam box, removed the model (& molds) & several other small jobs.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Savage Ancient Sea Monsters in Gig Harbor!

Don't miss this new exhibit at the Harbor History Museum...

Savage Ancient Seas...through July 14

As the tag line says...when dinosaurs ruled the land, sea monsters ruled the sea.  And we're showing some of the biggest prehistoric sea monsters of all time.

Travel back 65 to 145 million years ago to the dark waters of the Western Interior Seaway. Experience a world of huge carnivorous marine reptiles with double-hinged jaws and teeth in the middle of their palates, gigantic flesh-eating fish big enough to swallow an adult human whole, flying reptiles with three-foot skulls, and the biggest sea turtles to have ever lived. Unrivaled for their amazing varieties, voracious appetites, incredible teeth, and gaping jaws, the creatures in this exhibition are unlike anything known in today's world.

This exhibition, developed and created by Triebold Paleontology, brings prehistoric marine skeletons "up close and personal" -- as well as providing engaging informational kiosks, graphic panels, and touch specimens. Together, they provide visitors with a greater understanding and appreciation for these magnificent sea creatures.

And, special programming from Harbor WildWatch helps bring today's sea creatures into the museum! Be sure to stop by for...

Touch Tanks: Invertebrate Investigations...May 11, June 15, July 6; 11 am to 2 pm (museum lobby; free; does not include museum admission to exhibits)

Ocean Crafts: May 18 and June 29; 11 am to 2 pm; no charge (does not include museum exhibit admissions)

Special Lectures:

May 9: Jeff Christensen from the Seattle Aquarium presents the lecture "Sixgill Shark Research"
6:30 pm (no charge)

June 20: Joanne Moore presents "From Gig Harbor to the Arctic" 6:30 pm (no charge)

All programming takes place at the Harbor History Museum...see you there!

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday May 3, 1882 Emmett Hunt's Diary

Stormy by spells with some sunshine.  Put on 8 whole strips today & 4 pieces.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.