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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are over 200, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you. The photo in this profile features a handcrafted windvane of the 1902 WA-built lumber schooner CAMANO. The metal vane was designed, fabricated, and given to the maritime community by John M. Campbell. The schooner was linked to the life of one of the early, well-known, residents, Captain Lyle E. Fowler, born in 1901 on Shaw Island. Following a long passage on the CAMANO, he spent his entire career working on the inland waters of the PNW. The CAMANO windvane is installed on the roof of the Shaw Island community building, near Blind Bay, where she is easily viewed by passersby.

15 April, 2014


Shellback papers for "Pappy" Beachum
Captain Walter Clarence Beachum

grew up on Whidbey Is. where he learned
his trade from Captain Bartlett Lovejoy,
of the Black Ball LIne.
Pappy was master of ferry IROQUOIS on the
Seattle-Victoria route before becoming
 Chief Pilot for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
 for 23 years––retiring 1968.

From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

"The sailor's commendatory term for the landsman's old salt. Some authorities say that it comes from his back being bent like a shell; but it seems more probable that the implication is that the shellback is growing barnacles from having been at sea so long.
      The term is fairly well known to landspeople. The degree of "able shellback," signed by Rex Neptune, is currently [1945] being conferred upon men crossing the Line for the first time aboard troopships."
Sea Language Comes Ashore, Joanna Carver Colcord. Cornell Maritime Press, N.Y. 1945.

12 April, 2014

Steamboat MOHAI

Steamer MOHAI, 1961.
L-R, Murrey Amon, Mark Freeman, "Capt." Jim Vallentyne,

A touch of the past as they chugged through the 
Montlake Cut in the rebuilt steamboat MOHAI

also known as AFRICAN QUEEN.
Photo by Johnny Closs for The Seattle Times.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
"This little boat had been one of two sister work boats carried by the Bureau of Indian Affairs supply ship NORTH STAR to carry goods ashore in Alaska at places without docks. When they came up for bid, Dad (Doc Freeman) bought one and Lloyd Frank bought the other. Lloyd built her into a small tug and installed a 165-HP gas engine. Today she is known as TWOBITTS and I think Elwood Avery still owns her as a pleasure boat. 
      They were both open boats; ours had a 115-HP Chrysler Crown and we used her just the way she came for shifting all the big boats Dad had at Northlake Boat Sales. 
      Our friend and employee, Jim Vallentyne ran her for me as an assisst boat. Jim and Dad got to talking about making her into a steam boat. Frank Prothero donated a Model K Navy engine c. 1900 and Jim rebuilt it. They found a real Scotch Marine Boiler that would burn coal or wood. They installed the engine and boiler and fitted a rebuilt 24-inch diameter propeller and had the wheel repitched to 40" and it was just the right combination. We still used her as a tug but you had to build up steam before you could shift––we all had a lot of fun with her. We even took her to opening day in 1961 disguised as the AFRICAN QUEEN with empty cases of Gilbey's gin stacked on the aft deck just like Humphrey Bogart would have done.
      Dad died in December of 1963; mother and I gave the steamboat to Jim Vallentyne and his wife Loretta. Jim and our old engineer, Edmund Anderson, built a house on her and renamed her the DAVID T. DENNY. 
      Jim drowned on the Columbia River Bar tying to deliver a 50-ft Chris Craft [NUNY II] from San Diego to Seattle when a huge Pacific storm caught him [in October 1967.]
      The steamboat was sold and ended up in our moorage at Fremont Boat; I understand it was shipped to Europe to do the canals and now is somewhere in the Eastern US."
Text written by Mark Freeman of Freemont Tugboat Co.

07 April, 2014

Bones and Stones on San Juan Island, WA.

Bone implements and stone tools 
Excavated at Cattle Pass, San Juan Island,
 by the U of WA researchers, 1946.
 Arden R. King (L) & Richard Dougherty,
the latter a University senior signed on to assist
King the following summer.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.

Segments of the report are far outdated for the knowledge scientists have gained since 1946; this is an abridged portion, published by historian Lucile McDonald when she interviewed Arden King.

In the summer of 1946, the University of Washington archaeology department sent an expedition to excavate an ancient native campsite near Cattle Point, San Juan Island, WA. Arden R. King of the anthropology department faculty, who supervised the work of 18 student diggers, told of how it may be possible to offer more information about the earliest island Indians when the 500 or more artifacts gathered in the field are studied.
      "We found two cultures, with a clear cut division between the earlier and later groups," he explained. They may represent either different peoples of the same people after they had become adapted to life on the shore. Those of the first culture appear to have eaten mainly deer and elk––yes, in historical times there are reports of elk swimming to the island. People of the later period ate shellfish.
Bone and stone tools found at Cattle Point, SJ Is. site, 1946.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
Click to enlarge.
King learned that children of white settlers in the neighborhood used to find skeletons at Cattle Point, set them on fence posts as targets for rocks, and thus demolish a large number which would have materially helped the archaeologists.
      The Cattle Point site was also a backstop for military target practice, soldiers in the pioneer period coming down to the beach from American Camp and shooting toward the slope. We found a hand-molded bullet with a rim-fire type shell in our diggings, King added.
      The students dug a series of trenches and kept a record of depths at which their finds were made, describing positions and the accompanying material King said.

01 April, 2014

Eastside of Orcas Island with Author/Historian June Burn

"A Chapter Out of the Old Days"
Day #30 from 100 Days in the San Juans
Series first published in The Seattle Times, 1946
Text by June Burn, former resident of the San Juan Islands.
Viereck family, early mariners
in the San Juan Archipelago.

Top left, Bill Viereck.
Bottom image inscribed "John Viereck's boat, 1898."
click to enlarge.
Copies courtesy of the Viereck family descendents.

"It's getting along towards evening again. All day I've been sitting out in the boat writing, catching up. Farrar has been up to see the Carlsons again and returned with boxes of strawberries and a bottle of cream. We hate to leave this place! But if we are to get away tomorrow we must go up to see Mrs. Willis this afternoon. Everyone says she knows a lot about the old days on Orcas.
      "That's mother's house up on the hill," Mr. Culver Willis says. He lives with his little family in a cottage on the waterfront. We traipse on up––and enter a house so full of old, old, things, beautiful things, utile things, that we could have stayed there a week without seeing them all. Things "Father Willis" brought around the Horn from England in the 1880s, when he came the second time with his family and homesteaded right here. Pictures, books, candlesticks, chairs, spectacles, a square piano, some of items dating from the 17th C. One handsome painting that might be a modern "primitive" done by Mrs. Willis' mother in Vermont 75-yrs ago, or nearly.
      From Mrs. Willis and from others with whom we have talked we have learned that this eastern arm of Orcas was a rather self-contained unit in the old days. The Vierecks, Moores, and Grays were the first settlers here. They all came sometime in the 1860s. 
      In 1873, when San Juan County was cut off from Whatcom and began to keep its own school records, there was a school election in which 43 people seem to have cast ballots. Shattuck, Viereck, and Shotter were elected to the school board on that day and it was decided that school should henceforth be held in the church at Eastsound instead of in the school house which had theretofore been used.
      Family names listed in that 1873 school record are Lyons, Dixon, Trueworthy, Gerard, Wright, Iotte, Laplant, Underwood, Kion, Dawsy, Shotter, Badine, Moore, Viereck, Kettles. Other families who had no children of school age were the Legbandts and Grays.
      All of which means that Orcas Island was a going concern years earlier than history has recorded it. There were roads and school houses, churches, cleared farms, stores. Population before 1870, perhaps before 1860, some before 1850, no doubt.
      Indeed, it becomes more and more clear that there were settlers here perhaps as early as the 1840s or even earlier. Hunters from the Astoria settlement, in 1812, may have come this far. Hudson's Bay men were both north and south of the islands in he early 1800s, why not here? In a history of British Columbia I ran across a casual mention of a San Juan Island settler who did something or other in 1843. If they were on San Juan, they are likely to have been on other islands as well. It is most unlikely that sailors, hunters, adventurers, deserters from cruel ship usages in those days would have passed the islands by. 
      We finally leave this interesting Willis house. Outside, in the yard, we come upon the Olga volunteer meteorological station where temperatures and rainfall have been observed by Willises since 1890. We see the first record book and the last one. The story is missing for just one week in those 56 years.
Vintage postcard photos,
Archives of the S. P. H. S.

      And so off again, not on around Orcas to the north, as we had planned, but back down around Deer Point and up into Eastsound if wind and tide are right, for we have heard of so many people there whom we should see "for the recording of the old." But the wind and tide are far from right! It is blowing whitecaps out of Eastsound. We'll camp then, in Obstruction Pass on one of those sweet beaches between long rocky points––we find John Shephard and John Gray––of the pioneer family of Grays, on the longest, loveliest, of those beaches, mending boats for the purse seine season. They show us a fine spring in a deep, secret bay. How good it smells in the close, dark woods where the cold water lies in a shade pool!
See you tomorrow, June"

30 March, 2014

Mr. Bull of Bainbridge Island

John Bull Yoskadum, Bainbridge Island.
(c. 1825-1885)

Photo of a tintype from the archives of the S.P.H.S.

A few paces from the spot where Chief Seattle rests in the old native graveyard of Suquamish, Kitsap County, there is buried a huge Indian who was called John Bull. Reputed to have been the strongest, toughest, native man who ever drove a canoe across Puget Sound, his name was a familiar one in pioneer households on Bainbridge Island. His life, an insolent swagger through early-day scenes, was terminated by a blast of gunfire at Port Madison in the 1880s. It is of some historical significance that, in his case, white authorities apparently allowed to prevail the ancient tribal code which decreed that any member who got too big for his breech clout was killed by fellow tribesmen. John Bull's Indian name was Yoskadum; he was a full-blood Suquamish, born c. 1825 in a village on Agate Pass. Suquamish lore is full of stories about his athletic prowess, his feats of underwater swimming, his skill at wrestling, his tremendous prowess, his strength at weight lifting. Matched on one occasion in a wrestling bout with a giant Snohomish brave called "Moosmoos," meaning "the ox," in Chinook jargon. Yoskadum threw Moosmoos so violently that the big Snohomish lay as though dead. As a bull is stronger than an ox, Yoskadum emerged from that match with a new name, John Bull.
      Murder for fancied wrong was common enough among Puget Sound Indians in [pre-European] days, and Suquamish lore relates that the first man John Bull killed was an evil shaman who had done many persons to death by sorcery. When settlers came to the Sound, it was not long before they began to suspect that this big Indian would kill if it suited his fancy. Some Indians say this tendency has been exaggerated, others say not.
      But after his death, John Bull's size and weight grew to fantastic proportions. An aged informant still living who knew John Bull well says he stood just a shade under six feet, and on an occasion when he took off his coat and stepped on to a Port Madison scale, he tipped the bar at an even 199 pounds.
      In the 1850s, when George A. Meigs got his sawmill going in Port Madison Bay, John Bull and other Suquamish Indians built houses on the west side of the bay, where they lived with their families and worked for wages in the sawmill. Meigs was always a friend to the indians and among his favorites was big, impetuous John Bull, mighty man of muscle. John Bull carried alone one end of 12 x 12 timbers, while two workers carried the other. When there was flour to be moved into warehouse, John Bull insisted that four 100-pound sacks be laid across his broad back, though others were content to toe one.
There is more to this story; click read more below.