Thursday, January 15, 2015

“History of Purdy”

I came across this wonderful history of Purdy that was presented by Mrs. Jessie K. May for the Peninsula District Federation of Women’s Clubs, Horseshoe Lake, September 28, 1929, and Mrs. Josephine Knapp.    The history was published in the Peninsula Gateway here in Gig Harbor.  

I think it is very important to share the document with you, and I believe we will all come away with a new understanding of the Purdy area.  Maybe even check out what happened to Purdy after 1929!

“ In the early  “eighties” a jolly party of four Tacomans were fishing and hunting around Henderson Bay; the party consisted of Wm. Rowland and J. W. Purdy, grocers of Tacoma; Newman Kline, then sec’s. for J. M. Buckley, Gen. Mgr. of Nor. Pac, R. R. and James M. Ashton then Att’y. for the Villard interests; these gentlemen fished and hunted around the present location of Purdy for some years, and fancied Purdy Point for a town-site, and especially for a mill town as, the state in 1889 disclaimed all right, or title, to the tide and overflow lands, thus making it suitable for mill operations.

Mr. Purdy, having customers there and having agreed to supply lumber for a school house, the town-site idea was further considered.  Mr. Horace Knapp deeded the land on which the school house was subsequently built; said school house still occupies the same site and is now known as “The Purdy Womens’ Club House”.

On one of the mentioned hunting trips, after much discussion, pro and con, these gentlemen unanimously agreed to call the town “Purdy”.

Mr. Wm. Rowland, Gen. Ashton and Newman Kline are still living.  Mr. Purdy died many years ago.  They all boosted for the town, as was customary in those days, claiming it was sure to grow, as it was equidistant from Port Orchard, Hoods Canal and Tacoma.  Mr. SeuartRice was Tacoma’s mayor at that time; he and their associates dubbed Mr. Ashton the “Mayor” of Purdy” to which he would retort, “Never mind, you fellows will all be pulling for purdy before you die.”

About 1888 a mill was built and operated for some time.  Later on it was deemed advisable to discontinue operations and sell the mill.  At that time, my father was in the mill machinery business, and was given the sale of this mill machinery, the consideration for sale was to be the mill site, which, I believe, consisted of some thirty lots.  As children, our family and friends spent our summers at Purdy, and in 1910, I built my present home there, and am still “boosting” for Purdy, as Purdy comes for its share of summer holiday makers and vacationists, as my cottages are rented, likewise my neighbors’, and there are calls for many more.

I take great pleasure in introducing Mrs. Knapp whom, to many, needs no introduction as she was the first white woman in Purdy.

(Mrs. Jessie K. May)


As i whirled up here today, comfortably seated in Mrs. Johnson’s sedan, I thought back forty-five years ago when a board seat on an ox cart, behind a yoke of steers, was the best to be had.  As I noted the uniform grades and smooth roadbeds, I thought back of the days of Indian paths and deer trails and recalled the time and effort it required to get through the uncut timber to Horseshoe Lake.  A few incidents in my life since I came West will give you an idea why the changes that appeal to me most are in transportation and communication.

My father, Thomas Fuller, came here in 1883 and took up a piece of land on the waterfront north of Wauna.  The homes of Mrs. Amos and Mrs. Dow are situated on the homestead.  My oldest brother, Theodore, and I decided to leave the old place in Michigan and surprise father by dropping in on him.  There were many surprises as you may imagine, but they didn’t all fall on father.

We stepped off an emigrant train in Tacoma February 22, 1884.  In place of the open roads and balmy climate we found ourselves barricaded with from four to six feet of snow and the patter of a cold rain to add to the chill.  This was surprise number one.  We planned to get out to father’s cabin on Henderson Bay immediately, in spite of unfavorable conditions.  We casually inquired the way to Henderson Bay or Carr’s Inlet as it is officially called.  Our first inquiries were fruitless so we intensified our search for someone who could tell us how to get there, but few had ever heard of the bay and those few could not give us satisfactory information.  So this was surprise number two.  We then decided to write father and lay over a few days until he could come, but surprise number three was in watching our few days grow into three weeks.

We learned during this lay-over that Tacoma boasted of but two hotels, the Willard and the Halstead House, both of course on the American plan.  

Father found us and we were loaded into his big row boat.  We rowed and rowed, got tired and rowed some more until we landed ten o’clock at night on the flats near Wauna; for of course the tide was out.  We couldn’t continue our trip until 3 a.m.  We enjoyed the interval, however, for Mr. House, who owned Dr. Pratt’s place, and George McCormick had a little shack on the beach and invited us in for rest and refreshments.  The refreshments consisted of a big pot of beans, bread and black coffee.  We each took turns at fishing the beans out of the big black kettle.  While the novelty of it amused us, we found the beans well worth the fishing, for they certainly did taste good after our long row.

Passing around the sand-spit and drifting with the tide we finally landed on the homestead in front of father’s cabin.  In place of green lawns and beautiful flowers we find there now, the little cabin was nestled in, the midst of tall firs and cedars with spreading maples on the beach.  Yet as I think back, the natural beauty and fragrance compared favorably with the setting of today.

Game and fish, of course, were plentiful.  With a shake one could get a bucket of clams in a few minutes.  I loitered for a while getting my fill of deer and clams and then returned to Tacoma where I stayed for some time.

On coming back to Henderson Bay I settled at Purdy in a little house near the end of the present bridge.  Many times people from Wauna and beyond came to the end of the sand-spit and hailed us that we might get them with our boat.

The Bob Irving, a flat-bottomed stern wheeled boat started weekly runs up Henderson Bay.  They dumped the freight and mail on the beach and we all helped ourselves.  We had a large hovel or cattle shed near the water which was free to all to put freight in until they could get it.

The mail was the biggest drawing card and everyone was on hand, if possible, to sort his letters from the pile.  But of course the mail was dreadfully slow.  I received in one mail two letters, one telling me my sister in Puyallup was sick and the other telling me she was dead.  Mr. Knapp prevailed on the captain to wait until we could get ready.  We arrived in Tacoma at Midnight and in Puyallup the following night only to find the funeral was over.

I remember once about forty-three years ago I was taken seriously ill.  Mr. W. E. White and Mr. Ed. Ferris went to Tacoma to get a doctor.  They followed a trail to Gig Harbor, got a boat and rowed to Tacoma.  It took a day to go and a day to return.  The doctor refused to come, but never-the-less I am here to tell the story.

Yes, transportation and communication in those days were surely slow.  Who is it that will mourn for the days that are gone, even though they were good old days never to be forgotten?

(Mrs. Josephine Knapp)

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

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