"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

About Us

My photo
San Juan Archipelago, 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 circa 650, 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.

19 March 2017


"I am going to take you back 60 years when I was a boy in Friday Harbor. My brother-in-law, Ashton Thomas, was the sheriff of San Juan County. He was also proprietor of the Bay View Hotel, now the San Juan Hotel, and I was helping there. Sheriff Thomas and his two brothers had a little track of land on Waldron Island where they were [having a boat built.] At that time San Juan County and the entire USA were in the grip of a great depression. There was no employment for anybody. The wages for young men at that time were about $20 a month, and a girl could get $2 a week, if she could find a job. However, SJC was rich with fertile lands and large herds of stock, but there was no call to raise much of anything for there was no sale. The people of that day, couldn't buy a new suit of clothes or a new dress every time there was a dance. However, they made the best of it.
ON 161054
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.
S.S. LYDIA THOMPSON (on right)
Location: Port of Friday Harbor, San Juan Archipelago.
ON 141266
92' x 28'
b. 1893 by Enos Raymond, Pt. Angeles 
for Thompson Steamboat Co. 
She ran Seattle/Bellingham via the Islands 3 times/week. 
Capt. W. B. Thompson (author of this letter) was master when 
she went on rocks near Orcas Is., 1898.
A post of LYDIA's event that day can be viewed here.
 No lives lost; the crew camped ashore before the LYDIA 
was floated free and towed to Seattle for repairs.
She went back in service for many years of 
uneventful sailing on local runs.
Original undated photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      About that time, the steamer LYDIA THOMPSON, was just arriving from a trip through the Islands at six o'clock. The LYDIA landed a little ahead of the new KATY THOMAS, and as Thomas' boat was coming alongside, three men came running over and were not long in getting into a conversation with the Sheriff. Those three men were looking for a fishing place to start a cannery or something of that sort. In mentioning that to Thomas they couldn't have found a better known man, and after only a few words, Thomas decided to leave his boat and return with those men who were from Astoria, Or. These men were Johnny Devlin, Fred Keen, and Phillip Cook. During the trip from Pt. T. to Argyle in SJC, it gave Thomas plenty of time to line up the different places for fishing and the conditions, pertaining to that business.
      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. 

*What was formerly called HIcks Bay on the south shore of Shaw Island underwent an official spelling correction with the Washington State Board of Geographic Names in 2016. Government charts will adopt the correct spelling of "Hix" for Louis D. Hix and his wife Cynthia Bish Hoffman HIx. 


  1. Replies
    1. KP,
      Good to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by to read our salty history. Best regards.

  2. Wonderful post. I will forward a link the the Writing Our History Members!

    1. Sandy,
      Thanks for reading the Log. This is a pretty early chunk of SJC history from a reliable source.
      Best, cc


Archived Log Entries