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.

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  1. The June 23, 1913 article on the Corinne being chartered to the US Customs Service appeared in the Seattle Daily Times. That information is in the title of the file I sent you, as is the complete date and page number.

  2. Hello, my real name is Alexander Wroten, would this man in any way be related to myself? i have found many graves with this name and i feel as if i am someone else.

  3. Perhaps your best resource to determine your ancestry would be on Must libraries include access to on their in-house computers as do several museums. It is recommend when doing a search to start with the oldest relative, living or deceased, using their dates of birth and death and search backwards. If you contact the museum with the pertinent information to gather the information.