Built on Waldron Island by A.J. Hinckley
for the Thomas Brothers of Waldron Island, WA.
38' x 12' x 3.6' wood sloop
11 May 1894.
Source: Master Carpenter Certificate from the National Archives, Seattle, WA.
Around the first part of April 1894, one beautiful afternoon a new boat came sailing around Carter Point with brand new sails and fresh paint. This was the little vessel the Thomas boys had built. It wasn't long until she sailed up close to the dock, then it was necessary to get their oars to assist them in getting to the dock. There were no gas or steam engines in those days for smaller boats.
She landed at Sweeney's Dock and it wasn't long before Thomas was aboard and talking to his two brothers regarding their trip down. For the next two days Sheriff Thomas was very busy taking his friends aboard the new sloop named after my sister, Katy Thomas. After taking some of his friends for a number of short sailing trips into San Juan Channel on a Sunday afternoon, Thomas and his two brothers and three other men left Friday Harbor for a trip to Pt. Townsend to get her measured for register. They went on down through San Juan Channel and through San Juan Pass and then off into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and across, arriving in Pt. Townsend about 5:30 AM Monday.
At Argyle they were fortunate enough to find Alfred Douglas with a new buggy and a team of horses who volunteered to drive the four men to Friday Harbor, about one and a quarter miles. A hurried meeting of the merchants and business men of Friday Harbor was called while Thomas stated the conditions that the men were looking for. Called to order–– everybody came to terms almost immediately.
The men at the meeting were: banker J.A. Gould; Joe Sweeney, merchant: Churchill & Nofsgar, of the San Juan Trading Co; L.B. Carter, merchant; C.L. (Kergy) Carter, former county commissioner; S.E. Hackett, county attorney; C.L. Tucker, county treasurer; Wm Shultz, superintendent of Roche Harbor Lime Co; Mr. E.H. Nash, county clerk; Mr. Louis Hix* and his step-son, Del Hoffman from Shaw Island; the latter two being very important men because they owned the only pile-driver in SJC at that time, and they knew where piling could be obtained.
The meeting was such a success that those three men from Astoria decided right then and there they would build a cannery in the Harbor, provided Devlin could get the Chinamen to do that kind of work. It was late in the year, for this is what they had to do; they had to build a cannery, get the material to make the cans, install machinery, and have this work done before the 25th of July because that is the time the fish commence to run. The little steamer, SUCCESS, was chartered to take Mr. Devlin and Mr. Keen to Anacortes where Devlin would go to Astoria and Keen would stop at Seattle to arrange conditions there, while Phillip Cook was left in Friday Harbor to open an office to handle the business of a new cannery.
Four days later the little steamer MICHIGAN came steaming into Friday Harbor with Captain Howard Buline as master, and Mr. Keen on board as well. Mr. Devlin had succeeded in hiring the Chinese; he stayed in Portland to take care of the business. Two weeks later the steam schooner SIGNAL came steaming into Friday Harbor with lumber, tin plate and all kinds of cannery machinery that was required for the cannery and word went out to all parts of the county for men who didn't have a job, and it was high speed to get the China house built so the Chinese could land and start work.
It was a bolt of thunder into a silent little community and before twenty days had passed, there wasn't a man, woman or child who wanted to work that didn't have a job.
The San Juan Trading Co had volunteered to let the newly formed company use their dock at no cost in order to get everything going. Mr. Gould also gave a 30-year lease for enough property on which to build the cannery and China house. From that time on, men would arrive from the OR canning industry and Jimmy Burke, well-known son of homesteader, Alfred Burke of Shaw Island, had charge of placing the machinery in the completed cannery. The Friday Harbor cannery was built and when the fish started to run on 1 August of that year, they were all ready for work. At the close of the season they had canned 18,000 cases of salmon. In those days all they canned were sockeyes. The humpbacks, silvers, and others were thrown back into the sea.
This was the start of the bust of the depression, and after the fish business got going, there were two more canneries started in Anacortes, two more in Blaine, and one in Bellingham." [Later there were canneries on other nearby islands.]
Above words by Captain William P. Thornton, June 1958.
Fish and Ships. Andrews, Ralph W. and A.K. Larssen.
Do you know of a photo of the pile-driver belonging to L.D. Hix? We'd be interested for adding to San Juan County maritime archives.