Thursday, June 30, 2016

Alexander "Alex" Wroten (May 1844 - Oct 1916)

Alexander "Alex" Wroten (May 1844 - Oct 1916) 
You might wonder how the subjects for the blogs are decided. I wonder the same thing at times. 
But this blog originated when the Research Team received a request for information on their property wanting to know if we had any idea or background knowledge of the original owners. The only clue we had was that the property is located on Goodman Drive, but originally was named Wroten Road.  I was able to find an early map of the US Military Reservation on the eastside of Gig Harbor Bay which showed Wroten Road starting where Crescent Valley Drive curves southwest and continues in front of the Old Masonic Building.  Whereas Crescent Valley Drive joins North Harborview, Wroten Road connects with Crescent Valley Drive at the curve and continues east toward Puget Sound, eventually ending in a deadend curving down towards Gig Harbor Bay’s mouth and the sand spit.
Unfortunately we were unable to find any information in our files regarding the property, but the idea of knowing something about the family whose name the road first carried sounded intriguing. So the search was on, and what follows is the little information I was able to find via the Internet,, and an old newspaper article. 
In the days prior to the Harbor History Museum decision to start a history blog on the Greater Gig Harbor community, during the 1980s, they issued calendars representing various historic facts and Gladys Para, Director and also a Peninsula Gateway report, wrote articles on people, places, industries, business and the like of the early days of Gig Harbor. 
On November 6, 1985 she happened to write about "A benefit was held for the burned out Wroten family in 1908". In the article Gladys states "It is the waterfront land located where today's extended Crescent Valley Drive curves to the southeast and becomes the deadens Goodman Drive that punches through to the sandpit. When most local traffic moved about by boat, wagon roads were often scraped out by the individuals needing them. In local use they were known by the names of their creators. At the time the "grid system" was established for county addresses, the short Wroten Road was absorbed at the end of Crescent Valley Drive and the Goodman family name replaces the memory of the Wrotens on the road extending to the spit." 
But let's go back further in history before the fire. Alex was born in Boone County, Indiana to Robert and Nancy Wroten. His father was born in Germany in 1804; his mother in Ohio in 1812. By age 16, the family had moved to Buchanan County, Iowa. He married Maria Caroline Kingsbury in Iowa in 1867 following his discharge from the military at thee d of the Civil War. Their first daughter Dora was born in 1868, their daughter Cora in 1872, their son Irvin in 1879, born while living in Iowa. By the time their next son Oscar was born in 1883 the family was living in Michigan and two years later in 1885 the family had moved to Minnesota where Loraine (Archie) was born. It is an assumption that the moves from Iowa to Michigan and Minnesota were caused by Alex's parents deaths in 1867 and 1868 six months apart. Of course, if he had been keeping in touch with fellow soldiers, many of them were from those states. 
By 1900 the US Census tells us that the family has relocated to Gig Harbor. But during the 1880-1900 time frame the Greater Gig Harbor grew as several former soldiers followed Horace Greeley's advise "Go West,young man; Go West". We have to remember that the country had been suffering from reoccurring recessions from 1860 with a long depression thrown in in 1873 until the time of WWI. Of, the weather also played a part with lack of rain in 1870-1896 and major swarm of locusts and droughts. 
The 1900 US Census shows Alex was farmer, but by 1910 US Census he was assistant postmaster while Carrie, his wife, was the postmaster. Both Alex and Carrie were active with the GAR (The Grand Army of the Republic); he with the veterans and she with the Women's Relief Corps.  The Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service Together with a List of Vessels Belonging to the United States, Volume 1states that A. Wroten, born Indiana, Residence Date:  1 Jul 1905, Station or Residence Place:  Gig Harbor, Washington, USA.
Some members of the Women's Relief Corps of the GAR.   Second from left, first row is Minnie Wroten and her daughter Goldie.  Next to Goldie is Mrs. and Mr. Shyleen
GAR Organizations meeting in Everson, WA in early 19003

So now, perhaps we should pick up Gladys Para’s story which started with:  “Mr. and Mrs. Wroten have lost their home and furniture, which have cost them years of hard labor; and they have been among us for many years, and have never been known to fail when called upon to assist a fellow man or woman in the hour of need.”  
The biggest story in the March 7, 1908 its of Gig Harbor’s Weekly newspaper, “The Country Home,” was the basket social planned to benefit the Wroten family whose house had burned.  It happened in a period of strong feelings of community and “an era of unusual progress and development,” when 25 new residences were being built or planned “within a radius of two miles from the two wharves” in North Gig Harbor.  (I believe that perhaps the two wharves mention were Young’s Landing wharf and their own dock as Irv (Irvin), Bert (Herbert) and Archie owned several boats which we will mention a bit later.)
“To raise funds for assisting a neighbor, musical and elocutionary entertainment was planned for a Saturday night dance in the GAR hall for 10 cents admission.  All the ladies in the vicinity were expected to bring lavishly filled and decorated baskets of food for auction.  The reader’s anticipation was aroused for the coming pleasant social event to which he was invited, “without regard to lodge or church affiliations.”
Four pages later he (the reader) found, in a shorter article describing the fire, that it had started in clothing hung behind the stove to dry.  It nearly gutted the house, the article reported, giving equal mention to the loss of their mustaches by Mr. Wroten and Mr. Kingsbury.  (I believe Allen Kingsbury was Carrie’s nephew).  “All of the family happened to be out at the time, and the fire had made such headway before discovery, that not much could be done towards saving the contents.  Fortunately, water was close at hand …”
The water came from the harbor in front of their house.
Minnie and Archie Wroten May 1905
Back to the small fleet of boats owned by the three Wroten brothers.  The boats were named Condor, Corinne, Sea Lion and Violet.  One of the freight contracts required them to haul riprap from the Austin Mill to form a bulkhead for the railroad tracks through the Point Defiance tunnel; the bank on the bay side of the tunnel is Salmon Beach. Tacoma provides a brief history of Salmon Beach:  The district at Salmon Beach is listed on the Washington Heritage Register, and represents a rare glimpse of the waterfront lifestyle from the first part of the 20th century. The original community was a collection of approximately 100 cabins built on stilts at the base of a steep bluff bordering the Tacoma Narrows. Several cabins, including Cabin #97 (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) are in close to original condition, representing the small, intimate and independent character of the historic Salmon Beach community. But not all their boats were freighters.  They also had a passenger launch which they used to carry passengers to Point Defiance for events at the Point Defiance pavilion circa 1912. 
Most of Gladys’ article goes on to discuss Archie’s daughter Goldie Wroten, a very popular young lady in Gig Harbor but let us continue with the elder Wrotens.
Most of the information found in the local papers are regarding social events similar to these two published in The Seattle Sunday Times:  July 12, 1903 … T. M. Baldwin of Egerton, Pipestone County, Minn. has been the guest of his brother, M. A. Baldwin, and the family of Alexander Wroten since July 3.  The brothers had not met for almost fourteen years.  And then this one The Seattle Sunday Times GIG HARBOR—-Saturday, Sept 17 —- A dance was given by Bert Wroten at Robinson’s Hall last Saturday.  Music was furnished by Irvin Wroten and Miss Florence Hill of this place.  A birthday surprise party was tendered Herbert Filmore  of this place last Tues evening.  He was the recipient of many beautiful and useful presents.  He is 7 years old.  A dance was given at Robinson’s Hall Friday evening by Dick Robinson.  Music was furnished by the Wroten orchestra. …
A far more interesting article was published on Monday June 23,  I believe 1913 as that year the 23rd fell on a Monday according to the internet.  I unfortunately am unsure as to the newspaper publishing this article.  “  TACOMA, Monday, June 23 —-Fifteen violations of government regulations were found yesterday on steamboats and launches that ply out of Tacoma harbor by the government cutter Corinne, with Capt. Mart Gismervig and Customs Officer Ned C. Adams on board.  The government has chartered the fast launch Corinne to end the flagrant and open violations of the marine code by small boats and the first real day’s work yesterday brought in a harvest.  (Remember, Archie and Bert purchased the Corinne, a small passenger launch, in 1912.One captain of an excursion launch with a large party on board was found drunk at the wheel.  He was ordered below and the vessel turned over to the mate.  A large fine awaits this master when the case is put up to the higher officials.  The Corinne was busy holding up launches and small steamboats all day yesterday.  Everyone sighted within a reasonable distance was hailed and boarded and the entire equipment carefully gone over.The government has a scale of requirements for boats of different lengths.  The regulations call for life belts, fire extinguishers, proper lights and other details that are deemed necessary for the safety of both passengers and the boats themselves.  In many instances the marine code was found to be compiled with but in many others conditions we found to be lav.   One launch with fifteen passengers was found to have but two life preservers.  Another had no fire extinguisher; others did not have the required number of cork preservers or extinguishers and on still other boats the name was not properly painted.  Many warnings were given but in cases which appeared to be the most fragrant, the captains were ordered to appear before the custom officers on a day set for this week.  “Wee are not trying to discover any technical violations of the law,” said Customs Officer Adams, “but the government wants to protect the passengers who ride on launches and small boats out of Tacoma.  The regulations are strict regarding equipment for life saving purposes.”  It was found that more than a dozen skippers in charge of small craft did not know what the three sharp whistles from a government cutter meant.  The signal means that  for the boat ahead to stop and a heavy fine is given any captain who willfully violates the order.  No fine for failing to notice the cutter yesterday was recommended because most of the lack of attention seemed due to ignorance.”
I also found on Page 56, Images of America Mosquito Fleet of the Sound Puget Sound by Jean Cammon Findlay and Robin Paterson a picture with a note “…Violet, a 35 foot launch built in Seattle in 1887 had as one of the owners Gunnard Johnson of Anderson Island and used as a shrimper.”  I am unsure whether before or after it was owned by the Wroten brothers.  I also found a picture with the Citation:  Tacoma Public Library, which said that the little gas tug Violet was abandoned in Seattle in 1936 where she was built as a 12-ton propeller steamer, 34.9 x 12.5 x 4.2.
I was unable to find anything on the other two boats in their fleet.
Irving managed to get in a bit of trouble when acting as an enumerator for the 1910 Federal Census for adding fake names to the census rolls.  He was arrested and fined for his actions as did Ernest C. Tanner.  After his first marriage to Millie I. Adams ended he married Florence “Flossy” Hill.  They moved to Oregon and strangely, on the 1920 Federal Census he is shown under two names:  Irvin A. Wroten and Gavin A. Marten.  But still a musician.  

Note:  Unfortunately I cannot attach the map of Wroten Road.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry for July 22, 1885

Pretty warm again.  In AM cut brush.  In PM wooded and watered & burned a reap or two of my chopping.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Charles and Mary Nelson, Olalla Pioneers

Charles and Mary Nelson, Olalla Pioneers

Olalla has had throughout history as very close relationship with Gig Harbor and I want people to know Olalla for more than just Starvation Heights.  Or the Polar Bear Plunge on New Years morning which is very popular.  Or the Bluegrass & Beyond Festival in August.   Besides Olalla and Gig Harbor are only separated by 10 miles via Crescent Valley Road.  Doesn’t that suggest both communities were linked in more than one way?

I noticed in his biography, Charles Nelson had the only telephone in Olalla when the telephone line was strung between Gig Harbor and Burley in 1906.

The connection in this sense is the fact Leander Finholm and his cousin Hugo had moved to Gig Harbor from Olalla when Leander purchased 80% of the stock in the Inland EmpireTelephone & Telegraph Company in 1926.  

The Kitsap County Historical Society, 280 Fourth Street, Bremerton, WA 98337, has given me permission to reprint Charles and Mary Nelson’s biography as published in their Kitsap County:  A History.   

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any mechanical or electronic means, including photocopying, scanning, digitizing, or any other means, without written permission from the publisher, except for purposes of critical review.  ISBN 978-0-615-19687-0.  QuarkXPress.  Prepared by: AlphaGraphics, 3131 Elliot Ave., Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98121

Charles and Mary Nelson
Janet Nelson

Charles Frederick Nelson was born in Goteborg, Sweden, in 1868.  In June 1869, his family came to the United States and settled in Watauga, Ill., already a fairly settled farming community outside Galesburg.  After his father’s death, his mother remarried, and there were more children added to the already large family.

At age 11, he went to stay with an older brother, John, in Macpherson, Kansas, where he stayed three years, then returned to Illinois to work on farms during the summer and attend school in the winters.

In July, 1889, Charles Nelson came to Olalla at the suggestion of his brother, Gust, who had come in 1883.  He bought 40 acres and started life on his own.  According to a brief self-written memoir on his life, he said he ran for sheriff in 1892 and was defeated by 17 votes.

From 1892 to 1897, he was a “steamboat,” working on the Fairhaven where he was fireman.  He also worked on the Clara Brown, Monte Cristo, Wanderer, and was purser on the Blanche, a boat owned by the Olalla Improvement Company.  Later he owned the Erling, that he used for towing scows of freight.  The boat was also used for pleasure trips such as excursions to Point Defiance for picnics.

On March 25, 1897, he left Seattle for Alaska.  His well-worn, pencilled notebook records some of his expenditures: “Ticket, $14; tent and stove, $7.35; medicine, $2.25; gun, $7; clothing, $42.60; hardware, $8; and one shovel, $1, plus other miscellaneous.”

He traveled north on the steamer Mexico the Yukon where he had claims on Sulphur and Bonanza Creeks.  In 1898, he came home but went back for another four years and owned a store in Dawson, Yukon Territory.

In 1904, he bought the Olalla store from John and Kate Martin and was appointed postmaster.  The building had been built a few years before in front of Lind’s store, which then had the only good access by water, and finally closed.  This second business was destined to survive.
iPhone picture of store 6/15/16

iPhone picture of store6/15/16

As a manager of a general store, his work days were long.  In 1906, a telephone line was strung from Gig Harbor to Burley and then to Olalla.  The only instrument was in the store.

This meant that all messages had to be delivered by somebody, and it is easy to imagine how neighbors who dropped in at the store would be asked to help.  If there was no one else, Charley would do it himself.  As late as the 1940s, he was still delivering messages to people without phones.

Charles Nelson was known as a shrewd businessman, but also a compassionate one.  His pocket notebook records many loans to early people, and he became a dealer in real estate, partly because many of the loans were paid off with deeds to property.

Pioneers testified to his impact nearly Olalla.  Rose Willock described him as “a gay young blade who had a spirit of camaraderie.  It was boosting the whole neighborhood, I think.”  In 1907, Nelson went back to Illinois to see his family and met a young school teacher, Mary Isaacson.  Her letters to Charles during the following school year show the change from friendship to an actual commitment.  Still, there must have been many doubts as to the kind of life she might lead if she went to Olalla to be Mrs. Nelson, and the date of a wedding was postponed to the end of the school year, the end of summer, and finally, with much urging from Charles, an October date was set.  He arrived in Watauga, and they were married Oct. 8, 1907.    He was 39 and Mary, 26.

The store in Olalla had living quarters, and Mary Nelson was soon more than a housewife as she helped with the storekeeping and opened a boarding house for drummers, mill workers, and others without a place to stay.  Her small record book recorded meals at 25 cents each and overnight charges at 50 cents per night.  She often had a hired girl to help.

Charles and Mary Nelson were musicians.  Charles had played his violin for programs and dances from the time he arrived in Olalla, and with his wife as pianist, they continued, joining Emennuel Lind, zither player, making a long-remembered threesome.  The three had a weekly Thursday night practice for many years.  Before he married, Charles allowed the upstairs of the store to be used for dances.  To steady the building and be sure the weight of dancing feet would not be too much for the floor, heavy beams were brought into the store to brace the upstairs each time.  After Mary arrived, the dances had to be held elsewhere.

In 1913, two important things happened.  Their son was born Aug. 29, and their big new house was finished.  Charles had acquired the property known as Nelson’s Home Tracts, which was located above the Olalla dock and facing the water.  He and his wife planned their new home to be called “Buena Vista.”  They employed Wesley P. Bradshaw, local carpenter, to help them.
iPhone picture of house facing view 6/15/16

iPhone picture of east side of house 6/15/16

He drew up plans for the house, and with the help of local laborers, he saw that it was built.  When asked why he built such a big house, Charley used to say it was one way of people working out their bills to the store.  When it was done, it was a tribute to the craftsmanship of the time.

In 1963 when the home was restored by Carl Nelson, son of Mary and Charles, the workers, carpenters and painters were amazed by the excellent way it had been built.  The new house had a Delco electric lighting plant and a wood-fired hot water heating plant.  The original plans, along with many of the construction bills, were found in the house.  In 1973, Charles Nelson’s house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles and Mary Nelson were involved in community activities all their lives.  Charles, besides his musical contribution, was active in the Baseball Club and was ready to help with any project for the good of all, if not with his labor, then with his money.  He is said to have given the money to finish the inside of the church about 1912.  Mary was pianist for many funerals and church activities.  She gave piano lessons to many young people and promoted musical activities generally.

Their big house contained every variety of musical instrument and many small instruments that didn’t require much musical knowledge to play.  One can easily imagine that a young person attending one of their musicals on Friday nights was asked to participate by holding a tambourine, cymbal, or other noise maker and told to “just keep time to the music.”

Charles Nelson was a voter registrar for over 40 years and for many of those, a notary public.  Mary became postmaster in 1915, and the two of them alternated at the job with other assistants until they retired from the store in 1946.  Through two World Wars they managed rationing and selling war bonds, in addition to their usual post office and general store duties.

Just the bookkeeping staggers one’s imagination when one considers that the store hours were never set at 8 to 5 or 6, but more apt to be until 7 or whenever the last customer would leave.  Often they were down at the store on Sunday morning.  They still had to go home and keep the books, write letters and keep up on the problems of their real estate.  Charles had built some houses in Bremerton and Tacoma between 1900 and 1910, and these they rented for the rest of their lives with the accompanying problems.

For a few years after retirement, the Nelsons had time to enjoy their family, which included two grandchildren, Robert C. and Marianne R. Nelson.  In August 1952, Charles suffered a heart attack and died.

Mary continued to live in the big house until 1960 when she had to be hospitalized.  She died in January 1961.

When their son Carl and his wife went through the many collections of papers in the house, they found evidence that Charles and Mary Nelson had been compassionate people, dear to the hearts of many in the Olalla community.  Countless letters testified to this and many were “thank you” letters for favors extended.

Janet Nelson

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry for July 8, 1885

A few clouds mixed with the sunshine.  A little addition to the chopping was the principal event of the day.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry for July 1, 1885

Weather ditto.  Fixed up the clerk's report wrote a big letter and then made a visit - closed by wooding and watering "Gipsy"

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Luther Gerald Jerstad (1936-1998) & The First American Team to Climb Mount Everest

Luther Gerald Jerstad (1936-1998) & The First American Team to Climb Mount Everest

Many of you hopefully had the opportunity to attend the May “Our Town” presentation on Norway.  Especially when Douglas McDonnell spoke about Luther (Lute) Jerstad’s epic Mt. Everest climb in 1963 when he, Lute, and his climbing partner Barry Bishop became the second and third American climbers to reach the summit.  Jim Whittaker was the first American to reach the 29,028 foot summit with Sherpa guide, Nawang Gombu on May 1, 1963 only to be followed three weeks later when on May 22, 1963 Lute and Barry also reached the summit; all three American men, Whittaker, Jerstad and Bishop climbed the South Col.  The other two climbers on the team, Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbeam climbed the West Ridge arriving a few hours later than Bishop and Jerstad on that May 1, 1963 day.  (The South Col was also climbed by the British team in May, 1953 and the Swiss team in May 1956.)

The climb was remarkable for many reasons besides this being the first successful American attempt to reach the summit.  The group of mountaineers were lead by Norman Dyhrenfurth, a Swiss-American, mountaineer and film maker (his father was also a famous mountaineer and both his parents won a gold medal for alpinists in the 1936 Olympics).  

The entire climbing team that Dyhrenfurth assembled included Jake Breitenbach (who was crushed in an icefall at the head of Khumbu glacier just above Base Camp on March 23, 1963); Jim Whittaker; Willi Unsoeld; Lute; Barry; Tom Hornbeam; and Dave DIngman.  William Siri was the deputy team leader; Al Alden, radio operator, and Gil Roberts, team doctor with Nawang Gombu, experienced Nepalese Sherpa guide and climber.

Jerstad, Bishop, Hornbeam and Unsoeld were at Camp 5 at the South Col, the penultimate stop before the summit on April 30.  Whittaker and Gombu were higher up at Camp 6 and ready to make the final ascent.  The next day, May 1st, Whittaker and Gombu reached the top, planted an American flag, and took some pictures before running out of oxygen and forced due to strong winds and temperatures minus 30 degrees to start their return down the mountain.  When they finally arrived at Camp 5 Jerstad wrote “The physical nightmare they had been through was written on their faces.  Jim resembled an old man, 30 years older.  His face was heavily lined, his eyes were bloodshot, and his skin was blue.  I’ve never seen a man age so much in so few hours in my life.” 

But Whittaker’s success was damped by the news that there was no oxygen for the others to finish their ascent.  All six climbers had to return to Base Camp and restock their supplies as well as reconsider whether to terminate the climb, use a different route, or what.  Lute and some others simply wanted to reach the top of Mt. Everest.  Everyone had an opportunity to weigh in on a decision, to speak, to state their individual opinion, and then Dyhrenfurth made his decision based upon the ‘commitment to consensus’ and so it was decided that four climbers would try one last time to make it all the way to the top.

Lute and Barry would take the South Col and Hornbeam and Unsoeld would attempt to be the first climbers of any nationality to reach the top of Mt Everest using the passage from the West Ridge.  Today it also is known as West Ridge/Hornbein Couloir; it is a gap in the ut,out part of the north wall.)  

Finally on May 22nd, Jerstad and Bishop awoke at Camp 6 exhausted and physically beat but ready nonetheless to make the final attempt to reach the top.  It was slow, almost a crawl, one step at a time, but by 3:15 pm they were finally there.  At the top of Mt. Everest!  Unsold and Hornbeam were no where to be seen along the West Ridge.  Jerstad and Bishop had no idea what went wrong but they were running out of oxygen, totally exhausted and physically spent.  They had to start their descent.  They could wait no longer.

Fortunately though three hours late, Unsoeld and Hornbeam reached the summit.  With night rapidly approaching they too had to leave without being able to enjoy their accomplishment or the view.  They descended using Jerstad and Bishop’s tracks.  By 12:30 am all four met men were reunited at an unsheltered camp on an outcropping 28,200 feet up the mountain side.  No one had ever camped at that high altitude and with no protection and his relentless winds, it is amazing they didn’t die.  None had oxygen.  Finally for the first time during their time on the mountain the wind died down and the temperature rose.  They huddled together trying to keep warm and trying to sleep and build up their strength — five miles above sea level.  A miracle for sure!

All four suffered frostbite, Bishop and Unsoeld the most severe, losing toes, finger tips, and so forth.  But they had made history - along with Whittaker and Gombu, the first American team to reach the summit of Mt Everest!

Before we discuss Lute’s time in the Gig Harbor community let’s share a little bit of personal information on the team leader and the five major climbers in this first American ascent to the top of Mt Everest.

A few highlights of the leader and climbers:

Norman Gunter Dyhrenfurth (1918 -  Present)
Emigrated to US 1937.  Founder of Motion Picture Division of Department of Theatre Arts, UCLA.  Fulbright scholar in Italy.  Chief technical advisor to Clint Eastwood’s 1975 “The Eiger Sanction.  Second unit director 1982 “Five Days One Summer” starring Sean Connery.  1963 the entire team received the Hubbard Award presented by President John F. Kennedy. 1988 received Tenzing Norway Award from The Explorers Club.

James W. Whittaker (1929 - Present)
1999 issued his autobiography A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond.  First full time employee of REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.).  CEO in 1960.  Chairperson of Board of Magellan Navigation makers of hand-held GPS units.  Owner of mountaineering company.  1965 guided Sen. Robert Kennedy up an unconquered Mount Kennedy in Canada named after his brother JFK.  1978 first American to reach peak of K2, highest point of Karakoram range on border of China-Pakistan, 2nd only to Mt. Everest.  1990 led the Mt. Everest International Peace Climb.

Nawang Gombe (1935 - 2011)
Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer.  Jim Whittaker’s team partner on Everest.  Was trained to be a monk at Rongbuk Monastery, but fled after a year of service with a friend to Khumbu where the first western visitors were beginning to explore the southern approaches to Everest.  He was the first man to climb Everest twice, once with the Americans 1963 and once with the Indian Expedition.  Awarded the Tenzing Norway Lifetime Achievement Award in the field of Indian mountaineering by President APJ Adul Kalam.  Devoted later life to Sherpa community, raising funds and as President of Sherpa Buddhist Association.

Barry Chapman Bishop (1932-1994)
Mountaineer, scientist, photographer, scholar.  Worked for National Geographic Society 1959-1994.  Fascinated with climbing from very early age, going CO Mountaineer Club age 9 or 10.  Guiding expeditions in Rockies & Tetons by age 12.  Climber McKinley 1951; in 1952 climbed 7 classic mountains in Europe.  At Sir Edmund Hillary’s invitation he joined Himalayan Scientific & Mountaineering Expedition 1960-61 as official glaciologist & climatologist. In 1980 finished 460 page PhD dissertation Karnali Under Stress published 1990 by University of Chicago Committee on Geographical Studies.

Thomas Frederic Hornbein (1930 - Present) 
1998 published Everest:  The West Ridge.  His papers are housed in UC San Diego Library - Special Collections & Archives.  Professor and Chairman of Department of of Anesthesiology at University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle WA 1878-1993; still actively teaching in 2002; moving to Estes Park, CO in 2006 where he presently resides.  He and his wife regularly climb in the CO Rockies.

Willi Unsoeld (1926-1979)
Alma Mater: OSU, UC Berkeley, UW, Seattle.  Known as Father of Experiential Education.  Served in Peace Corps; Outward Bound; one of the founding faculty at Evergreen State College, Olympia WA where he first conceived Outdoor Education Program.  Member of Nepal Studies Group, Yale University

And now we come to the final climber, Luther (Lute) Gerald Jerstad (1936-1998), the main subject of today’s blog.

Lute was born in Broken, Sterns County, Minnesota and at age 12 or 13 (depending on what you read) moved to Gig Harbor, Washington with his school teacher parents.  His father, Alf, taught bookkeeping and typing as well as being an assistant coach in 1949 and Freshman Class advisor in 1953 at Peninsula High School.  His mother, Frida, also taught at Peninsula High School and was a mathematics teacher as well as the advisor to the school newspaper “Outlook” in 1949; in 1953 Director of the Junior Class play.  I wasn’t able to find the other year books.  

While attending Pacific Lutheran University, Lute played basketball all four years.  During this time, he and the team made two trips to Kansas City for the NAIA tournament.  And, in his senior year 1958, was voted the Inspirational Award.

But I did discover that Lute was very athletic and lettered in baseball, football and basketball while attending Peninsula High School.  It was while still in high school that he developed a love for climbing.  During his high school and college years, he climbed almost every major peak in the Cascades Range.  During this time, he also started guide climbers on Mt. Rainier during the summers; a great summer job!  During this period he made over 40 ascents of the 14,416 feet high mountain.  His love of climbing took him to Alaska where he scaled Mt. McKinley at 20,310 feet.

When Norman Dyhrenfurth started raising funds for an expedition to Mt. Everest, and putting a team together he became familiar with Lute’s climbing history.  Norman interviewed him, liked his resume, and asked the then 26 year old young man to join the team.  Jim Whittaker has said that he and Lute were considered the ice climbing experts on the team.  

After the team successful climb as the first American team to reach the summit, Lute is recorded as saying “Everest doesn’t interest  me any more.  I’ve already been there.  It’s done.  But there are other mountains and other challenges - I’ll be there.”

After the successful finish of the Mt. Everest climb, Lute returned to school earning his master’s degree at Washington State University, and in 1966 his doctorate from the University of Oregon in Asian culture, arts and anthropology.  I was hoping to include some information from the book he wrote, published by University of Washington in 1969 taken from his PhD dissertation.  Unfortunately the book is somewhere between New York and Gig Harbor.  However I was able to find this quotation  "The colorful and ancient Cham, a traditional Tibetan Buddhist dance-drama, has been noted by travelers in Tibet since the eighteenth century." "...Jerstad describes Mani-rimdu, the Nepalese form of Cham, as he observed it among the Sherpas of northeastern Nepal.".  Once Lute’s book arrives, it will be placed in the Resource Room at the Gig Harbor Harbor History Museum for those interested in learning more about Tibetan Sherpas (not all Sherpas are Tibetan), and their country as well as the festival of Mani-rimbu.    

He taught school at Franklin Pierce High School, Tacoma, Washington, was a professor for three years at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon where one of his classes was drama and theatre arts  and at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon where he also taught drama.

Perhaps some of the more telling things about Lute is how others saw him:

“Lute was a life artist.  He lived life right.  He gambled a lot and made some mistakes, but he was always on the go,” said Norman Dyhrenfurth, 80, of Salzburg, Austria, leader of the expedition that put five Americans on the summit of the world’s tallest mountain.”  ((

“Lute and I were considered the ice-climbing experts on the 20-man team.”   Whittaker said from is home in Port Townsend, Wash.  “He was scheduled for an assault on the summit right after I came down but had to give up because of lack of bottled oxygen.  He had to climb all the way back up again three weeks later.  He was a tough climber.  He wasn’t big at 5 feet 8, but it doesn’t matter how big you are in  climbing.  It matters how tight you’re wound, and Lute was wound pretty tight.”  (

“I remember Lute for his ebullience — his outgoing energy and joy.  We didn’t have a lot of contact after Everest, but whenever we met it was like we picked up right from where we left off.  He was a guy who lived life where adventure was part of his diet.”  (Hornbein -

Again Dyhrenfurth speaking “There is no question that it was the greatest accomplishment in Himalayan mountaineering.  The things they accomplished were absolutely incredible — traversing the highest mountain in the world and surviving a night in the open.  They spent the night higher than where eight climbers died in 1996.  Their accomplishment was something the American public never understood.  America made Whittaker the hero for being first, even though the others achieved a far greater feat.”  (

And Hornbeam again “All we could do was lie there and shiver.  We were in it together, but each had his own struggle and couldn’t ask for help from another.”  (

5 Audio recordings material in the Luther G. Jerstad papers are available from University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC) #02352.  The collection includes field notes, news clippings, tape recordings of the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition.  Also included are manuscripts and printed materials about Jerstad’s climbing career in Alaska and Canada; Mount Everest and Tibetan drama.


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Emmett Hunt's Diary Entry for June 24, 1885

Bad day for work being too warm & we had too little sleep last night.  however we do chop a trifle and "gab" somewhat with our neighbor Whitmore.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.