The following history of Longbranch was written by Louise S. Ernst, who first visited the area in 1890. The article appeared in the Peninsula Gateway and although I do not have the actual date I believe it was sometime in 1950.
When we learn history it is not always from books but many times, people’s recollections, their pictures, their letters, and, like this, newspapers.
“To quote Mrs. Roosevelt, “This I Remember”, and what I remember is about the Longbranch that started as a summer resort and was named for Long Branch, New Jersey, then in its heyday. Some time in those early days they changed the spelling to one word to save confusion with Long Beach, Washington.
In 1890, the first summer we spent at Longbranch, there were only a few people on the waterfront around the bay, The William Sipples, Henry Mahnike, who homesteaded in ’86, the Yeazells. Mr. Yeazell owned all of the west side of the bay and it was he who planned to make it a summer resort. I have stationary which he had printed stating it was “The Popular Summer Resort of Puget Sound” and adding “Fine Saltwater Bathing, A Good Restaurant, Shady Groves, Beautiful Views, Excellent Drinking Water.” This was his dream. But sixty years have passed and no restaurant. Drinking water, yes, if you dig for it. But we do have the view and though a good many of the original owners hurriedly sold and left the Northwest after 1893, we have a few families of that generation here. So it is quite an old settlement for this part of the world.
The geographic name for the bay was Filucy, but in those days it was called Shetlerow Bay, taking its name from an old man who had lived at the head of the bay since the ‘70s. I don’t remember where he came from but he was supposed to be a regular Bluebeard. At last he went to California and a popular writer of that day, “Bill Nye”, wrote a story about him.
Transportation in those days was by boat twice a week, Tacoma to North Bay, returning the next day. It took practically all day to get here as the boat made many stops even at times putting people and goods off in rowboats. I remember the Monte Cristo, The Susie, the Blue Star and the Messenger. Then once a month the old side-wheeler Otter came in and anchored for the day. This was a store boat and it was great fun to go aboard. It carried everything: hardware, groceries, dry goods, and had a most delicious smell.
Mr. Yeazell organized picnics and had what he called a Rhode Island Clambake ready for the picnickers. On one such occasion I remember my mother telling us there were twenty-five parcels of land sold and many of these people put up houses of a sort, so it soon became a very lively place in the summer.
There weren’t any roads. Everything was water travel and on Saturdays when the fathers came from town they came via the Olympia boat, getting off at Johnson’s Point on Anderson Island where they were met by Mr. Yeazell, who owned the “first naphtha launch on the Puget Sound”; a thing as fearful and wonderful as a seaplane now. It was called “Ripple”. Saturday was the big day and every camp had visitors, usually a party at one or the other that evening and everyone gathered about a bonfire and as I remember, the entertainment was usually a “taffy pull”. Then home, the rowboats taking off over the dark water and everyone singing “Good Night Ladies” or “Merrily We Roll Along.” Once my mother had a colored quartet come out to serenade the bay.
A dance hall was built on Mr. Yeazell’s point. It was gaily decorated with Japanese lanterns and we children shaved candles on the floor and wore ourselves out skating around on it to make a good dance floor. Mr. George Myers called the square dances. Mr. Sipple provided the music and later Mr. Doolittle.
In those early days the Puyallup Indians came each Fall to dig clams and have what we called “Pow Wows”. They stayed several weeks and we had canoes and paddles sold by them. Gradually, the waterfront being all taken up, paths became roads and small farms were cleared in the wilderness. Longbranch wasn’t just a summer resort anymore. Mr. Shellgren established he first store and post office, this in ’91 or ’92. Then for about twenty years we had our very best transportation. Captain Elder with his sturdy launch Eagle, made the trip from Longbranch to Steilacoom twice a day and all we had to do was stand on our floats and his eagle eye spotted us and he stopped for us. I never knew him to pass up anyone. When the Ferry was put in service from Steilacoom to Longbranch there weren’t too many cars so we weren’t to excited about it—but how times have changed. And how wonderful it would to be to have a new bridge though we have loved the Ferries too.
A book could be written about the various characters who have lived at Longbranch. Some mighty interesting: Big Mose and Little Mose, old man Olson and Whiskey Smith, old man Taylor for who Taylor Bay was named. He absconded from a British ship in the ‘70s and settled at what is now Taylor’s Bay, building his house and furniture of driftwood. I knew him as an old man, almost blind. He gave my mother one of his chairs which I still have.
There was much rivalry between Delano and Longbranch in those days, as between Tacoma and Seattle, but they were entirely different, Mrs. Delano owning the hotel and most of the cottages, while at Longbranch all were home owners. The distance between seemed great, either you walked or rowed, and there wasn’t too much visiting for that reason. It was an event to make the trip to Delano. I have never known a child who spent any time at Longbranch who hasn’t longed to come back, and that goes for grownups too. It is just one of those heavenly spots on Puget Sound on which there are so many.
Editor’s note: Longbranch has a nonsectarian Community church, Rev. John Smircich, pastor. The editor of the Gateway has known John since he was a small boy and we consider it a privilege to hold his friendship.
Lovers of the dance are proud of their dance floor, 55 feet x 80 feet, located in their gymnasium, which also has dining accommodations.
Adjacent to the Gym is a 10-acre tract used as baseball grounds, with a grand stand.
To discover a little bit about the individuals, Mrs. Ernst mentions in her article, a quick glance in Colleen A. Slater’s wonderful book, “Peninsula Pioneers” reveals more information. I definitely recommend Ms. Slater’s book for people on the Key Peninsula.
Our first comment should naturally tell us a little bit about the author of this news article, Louie Sloan Ernst. Mrs. Ernst’s father was Matthew Sloan, one of the founders of the Tacoma Grocery Store. Charles E. Hale, President; Matthew M. Sloan, Vice-President; John G. Campbell, Secretary and John S. Baker, Treasurer. Hale, Sloan and Campbell had all been associated with the Hale-Sloan Grocery Company in Peoria, Ill. When the Sloan family arrived in Longbranch, their house was built by William Sipple. The property was referred to as Cedar Grove, and the house Madrona Lodge. After Mrs. Ernst father died, her mother purchased a French film company and named it Searchlight Moving Pictures, opening a theatre at 744 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, Washington. Mrs. Ernst was hired by William Sipple prior to her marriage to type his recollections of Princess Filucy. She retained ownership of the family home during her lifetime, and in the 1940s operated a gift and antique shop in Longbranch with one room devoted to the local library. Mrs. Ernst wrote columns, as we see in this blog, for the Peninsula Gateway. As of 1998 her family descendants, along with Yeazell family, still owned property on the waterfront or shoreline of Filucy Bay.
William Sipple was active in many capacities in the Longbranch community, helping the area to grow. He owned large land holdings which he also sold. He was a contractor for homes as well as a boat builder. He built the original lighthouse for Filucy Bay. He was also a member of the Board for the Longbranch Cemetery Association. Simple died in 2015 at age 106 ears old.
Speaking of Sipple’s recollections of Princess Filucy, Pierre Legard, a French Canadian interpreter for Nisqually Company and a trapper for Hudson Bay Company married Princess Filucy. He had built a cabin on the east side of the bay which later became Sipple’s homestead. Legard was a highly educated man, but gave it to live in the wild, to hunt and to trap in new lands. He married the young daughter of a Haida chief and a white woman. Her name was Filucy: she was beautiful, kind, smart and it is said that a priest convinced her mother to send Filucy to be educated in a school in San Francisco. Legard had met Shelterow in 1859 and they formed a partnership for the first logging operation in Longbranch. But Shelterow proved to be a questionable business person and Legrand terminated the partnership.
The editor’s note mentions the gymnasium, and Peninsula Pioneers tells us that the gym for the grade school was built by the WPA in 1939. It is now owned by the Longbranch Improvement Club and is still used for community events throughout the year.
Franz and Henry Mahncke immigrated with their families from Germany and owned considerable land in the Longbranch area. He was a jeweler, owning his own store along with his sons, William G., and Louis A. Mahncke; Pioneer Jewelers, 914 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma.
Mose Boudry (I assume Big was the father and Little was a son) was a Canadian logger on floating camps operated by Winchester & Peterson Joint Venture. I only found one Mose Boudry on ancestry.com and he was naturalized in Washington in 1891.
Rev. John B. Smircich (1918-1991) was born in Gig Harbor to a commercial fishing family. He worked as an electrician in the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and during WWII. He also served as a pastor for the community churches in Lakebay and Longbranch. After leaving the shipyard he continued his work as a pastor while he attended Seattle Pacific College and Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. He returned to the Pacific Northwest serving in Tacoma, eastern Washington and finally at Chapel Hill Presbyterian in Gig Harbor.
Bill Nye (when you hear that name it is hard not to immediately think of Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and his children’s science show). But the Bill Nye Simple mentions is a different person: Edgar Wilson Nye (1850-1896), an American Humorist as well as the founder and editor of the Laramie Boomerang. There was an article about him by Lewis O. Saum in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly entitled Bill Nye in the Pacific Northwest. He wrote several books including “A guest at the Ludlow and other Stories” but I was unable to obtain copies. Of the list of titles, it is hard to figure out which one would be the one about Shelterow. The majority of what I found was concentrating on his Laramie days.
- Tacoma Illustrated Her History, Growth & Resources, A Comprehensive Review of the City of Destiny, Chapter 14
- Early Days of the Key Peninsula by R. T. Arledge (1998)
- WyoHistory.org - Bill Nye, Frontier Humorist
- Bill Nye in the Pacific Northwest
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