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

About Us

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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 750, 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.

28 August 2017


Boats are available for free viewing on the marina docks of Deer Harbor, San Juan Archipelago, WA. Not only viewing but there is the usual informal potluck on the dock on Monday c. 6:30 and a paddle/rowing race at noon on Tuesday 5 September 2017 and a dinner served from 5:30-8:30 on Tuesday, provided by Island Pie.
For more information please go to this link:  http://woodenboatsocietyofthesanjuans.org

This announcement kindly submitted by the D.H.W.B.S.

24 August 2017

❖ A STOP at the GUS GRATZER DOCK ❖ 1958 ❖

Washington State ferry, Harney Channel,
on approach to Shaw Landing,
San Juan Archipelago, Washington.
Mount Baker shines in the background, dated 21 May 1991.
Click image to enlarge.
photo by Ted Bronstein, A.S.M.P.
for the Washington State Dept of Commerce, Olympia, Washington.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

The above photo shows the route that the well-known author, historian Lucile McDonald would have taken from Anacortes on the mainland to Shaw Island to visit and interview the residents in 1958. Her personal archives were donated to the UW. 
      "Shaw Island in the San Juan Archipelago was one of the few places remaining in the State where a person can answer her own telephone while visiting a neighbor.
      Mrs. Mabel Crawford, the postmistress on the island, said Shaw's crank-type phones, all on one line, are regarded by strangers as curiosities.
      There are approximately 223 phones in service on our cooperative line," Mabel said. 'You crank the right number of short and long rings to call someone. We also have a line to Lopez Island, where the long-distance operator is.'
      The community hall has fallen into disrepair and the schoolhouse serves for important meetings. Yansen's store near the ferry landing at the entrance to Blind Bay is the island gathering place. With armchairs around the stove, it has a sociable air. 
      To date, no resorts have been opened on Shaw. Neck Point Coves, on the west end, is a new summer home development with its own wharf and swimming pool. Miles Tippery of Orcas and Richard Exton of Deer Harbor, the sponsors, moved one of Shaw Island's oldest cabins stick by stick to Orcas Island and set it up near the ferry landing as an office. 
      Some of the ferry runs in the San Juans do not include Shaw unless a flag is hoisted or a red light is lit at the slip.
      Mabel recalled that ferry service to Shaw began in 1930 and that her father, Gene Fowler, was instrumental in having the slip built. Islanders tried to get along with a float as a substitute until a heavy truck turned over on it.  [Lyle KIng's truck]
      The post office formerly was at Griswold, half a mile from the present site. Mail arrived three times weekly and the postmaster rowed out to get it. Passengers also had to be taken by rowboat into the channel, where they hailed the boat.
      Shaw Island's newest enterprise is the San Juan Marina, under construction by A. F. 'Gus' Gratzer, formerly of Tacoma. Two years ago he bought the Fred Hudson farm on Hudson Bay, a short distance east of the ferry landing. 
A. F. 'Gus' Gratzer dock
Harney Channel, San Juan Archipelago, Washington,
dated 29 September 1958. 
The fish tender on the right is the HAZEL ROBB,
commanded by Islander Capt. Clayton Shaw of Broken Point,
heading to Seattle for winter storage after working in AK.
Gratzer and McDonald are standing next to the auto.
An aerial view of the Gratzer dock is included in the
top photo of the State ferry approaching the Shaw landing.
Click to enlarge.
Original photo by Parker McAllister from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Gratzer likes the sheltered bay and clam beds. Steamboats used to stop at Hudson's to load fruit from their large orchard. Gratzer bull-dozed out some of the fruit trees to make space for a marine way and shops that he expects to have in operation by next summer.
      The Ellis house is one of the best-preserved log homes on Shaw. It was erected in 1887 by two single brothers, Thomas and Theodore Tharald, Norwegian sailors. They peeled the timbers and did a ship-shape carpenter job. 
      Hudson, Tift, Oscar Fowler, George Griswold, Sam Gordon, and L.D. Hix were heads of the first permanent families on the island.
      Another early resident was Delbert E. Hoffman, a boat builder, Mabel's maternal grandfather. 
      These settlers really stayed, their descendants intermarried and most of today's [1958] residents can trace their ancestry to Shaw Island's hardy pioneers."
Lucile McDonald. The Seattle Times, 23 November 1958 

20 August 2017


McNeil Island Penitentiary
Uncle Sam's New Rehabilitation Colony, 1939.
The civilian families on the island
were removed and the 4,000 acres was for use of the 
penal colony. A new cell block was being erected for the 
prisoners who work the dairy and truck farms that supplied
food for inmates and officers.

Click image to enlarge.
Photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
McNEIL ISLAND Federal Prison
47°12' 27" N
122° 40' 56" W 

Puget Sound, WA. 
McNeil Island when it was named McNeil Island Federal Prison (1904-1981.) It was a corrections center open in 1875, before Washington statehood. 
      The island was named in 1841 by Charles Wilkes during the US Exploring Expedition in honor of Capt. William Henry McNeill of the Hudson Bay Co. McNeill was at Fort Nisqually in 1841 and greeted Wilkes upon arrival in Puget Sound. (The spelling error of the Captain's name was never corrected for the spelling of the Island.)

Fugitive Buel H. Barclay
Back to McNeil Island Federal Prison
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.©

1933-1935: Buel H. Barclay, one of the few men ever to have escaped from McNeil Island Federal Prison by swimming the cold waters of Puget Sound, in 1933. He was recaptured in Seattle in 1935 when he purchased a truck for use in his small crushed rock business. He had been living in Seattle under another name. 


An inmate of McNeil Island Prison takes a squint at the menu
for supper.
 After a hard day's work on one of the projects,
the inmates file into the cafeteria style dining room and take
any seat they choose. They can get "seconds," but they
must eat all the food they take.
Photo dated Nov. 1938.
They've got his number.
But at McNeil Island Prison, Puget Sound, WA,
it was made as inconspicuous as possible, and men
remained men, despite their status as prisoners.
They were always called by their names in workshops,
not by their numbers, to simulate normal working
conditions in a program designed to put them back
into the world ready to go straight and with a job or
craft learned so they can support themselves.
Photo dated 29 Nov. 1938
1942, November: 

Prisoners built and launched a small warcraft.
The Q-86 was the first United States warcraft to be built
by inmates of a penal institution. It was made and launched
by the inmates at McNeil Island Pen, WA.
The 65' craft will be used by the Army. 
Mrs. Paul J. Squier, wife of the warden swung the christening 
bottle of champagne on the bow of the new ship.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Civilian and Army dignitaries participate in the ceremonies,
McNeil Island Penitentiary, Puget Sound, WA.
Click image to enlarge.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Prisoners and guards at McNeil Island Pen.
The Q-86, the new 65' army tug launch was complete,
this day of 14 Nov. 1942.
Preparations were being made to lay the keel for another vessel.
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.©
And then it is back to the cell at night,
where men were locked up. 
There were 14,000 inmates at the
prison when this photo was taken 
in 1963.
Click image to enlarge.
Original from the archives of the
1981: The State of Washington began to lease the facility. 

1984: The island was deeded to the State government.

2011, 1 April: The last remaining island prison in the country accessible only by air and sea was closed.
      Around the time of the closing of the prison, the McNeil Island Historical Society was chartered for the purpose of educating the public about, and preserving the history of McNeil Island.

18 August 2017


Built in Portland, OR., in 1911
116.5' x 25.7' x 7.8'
310 G.t. / 226 N.t. 

Click image to enlarge.
Photo purchased from the Puget Sound Maritime, Seattle, WA.
Negative 955-5.
The twin-screw, gas powered freight barge WAKENA owned by Clatskanie Transportation Co and formerly operated in connection with the sternwheeler BEAVER between Portland & Clatskanie was transferred to Puget Sound in Sept 1914 by Capt. Bernt Olsen. Soon after she was sold to Border Line Transport Co. 

1915: Walter Allenby of Seattle, first mate, and August Krotz, quartermaster, were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning aboard the vessel early Nov. 1915. The WAKENA left Tacoma on the morning of 4 Nov, bound for Seattle and towing a large barge alongside. A head wind was encountered all the way to Seattle, with the result that an air pocket was apparently formed between the towing vessel and the barge at the point where the barge rested against the vessel, the gasoline engines of the freighter pumping a steady flow of lethal fumes, which were not dispelled as would normally have been the case. Allenby and Krontz were asleep in their staterooms, which were found to be full of fumes, and it was impossible to revive them upon the WAKENA's arrival in Seattle.

This standard size dated postcard is one of only a few
business documents found to represent the cannery
that operated on Harney Channel, Shaw Island, WA.
It was found in an antique rolltop desk that was once used in
the Shaw Store by proprietor 'Gene' Fowler. The desk was
being cleaned and glued together for a donation to the
Shaw Island Historical Museum. From this document, we
learn of one of the vessels that transported canned fish
and fruit produced by the Shaw Island Canning Co. 

Cannery building at the Shaw Island Landing.
The plant operated between 1911 and 1922.
This photo is dated between 1930 and 1951.
Click to enlarge. 
1925: WAKENA was sold by Border Line transportation to the LaTouche Packing Co for use as a floating cannery in the Alaska herring fishery.

          While bound for Alaska in the service of LaTouche Packing Co the motor freighter WAKENA caught fire off Nanaimo on 27 May 1925 and was completely destroyed, the officers and crew were rescued and taken to Nanaimo by tug BELLE.
Gordon Newell, editor. The H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the PNW. Superior Publishing. 1965.

15 August 2017


21 January 1942
Japanese owned fishing boats kept in a harbor at
Annieville, on the Fraser River, BC.

Click to enlarge.
AP Wirephoto from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
This photo shows the Japanese fishing boats seized by the government and corralled at Anniesville Dyke on the Fraser River.
      Japanese fishermen were evacuated first in response to rumors that they might be operating as spies, gathering information on coastal waters during WW II. They were subsequently displaced to work camps without any warning.
      In spite of Canadian military assurances to the contrary, the public believed fishermen were mapping the coastline for the Japanese Navy.
      Japanese fishing boats were first confined to port and eventually, the Canadian seized 1,200 vessels.
The Vancouver Maritime Museum is offering tours of a temporary feature exhibit "The Lost Fleet." It will look at the significant contribution made by the Japanese Canadians to B.C.'s fishing industry. It explores how racism played a major role in the WW II seizure and sale of property and the internment of these people on the West Coast. It explores the lessons learned and how Canadian Society has changed because of this experience. Dates and times can be seen on this link

06 August 2017


Capt. Bill Kasch,
Anacortes, WA.

Photo courtesy of maritime historian J. Robin Paterson.
Perhaps the most idyllic physical features in Washington are concentrated in the San Juan Islands. Here is a natural topography encompassing more than 150 islands, considered by many persons to be unsurpassed for natural beauty and interest.
      Early-day commercial transportation among the islands, with its colorful sidelights, is recalled by Mary Kasch Nollan. Mary's father, Capt. William Kasch, or Captain Bill, as he was called, pioneered commercial-shipping, passenger and mail service in the San Juan Islands, around the turn of the century.
      "Because my father was a man of the sea, I always was conscious of wind, rain, and fog, as a child growing up in Anacortes," said Mrs. Nollan, who retains many vivid memories of the era of transportation by small vessels.
      The Kasch family came west from Iowa Falls, in 1889, and one year later settled in Anacortes. Mary's grandfather, Ernest Kasch, opened the Kasch Merchantile Co, one of the first stores in the community. Elected city treasurer of Anacortes in 1902, he served until his death in 1907.
      William Kasch, was 16 years old when his parents made the move west. The young man delved into various pursuits before finding his field of greatest interest. In 1900 he bought a 40-ft gasoline-engine launch, which named the Molly Kasch after his mother. This boat, one of the first gasoline craft operating on the Sound, was used to carry freight and passengers among the islands in a jobbing venture.
      From this humble beginning, Kasch expanded rapidly. With a partner, F.H. King, he formed the Kasch Navigation Co., In 1911, with his brother, Capt. Frank Kasch (later living in Edmonds), and A.L. Marsh of Cottonwood Island, he organized the Inter-Island Navigation Co., of which he was president and manager.
      "As a historical note, my father had the distinction of operating the first passenger boat with regularly scheduled service among the San Juan Islands, running from Bellingham and Anacortes," said Mary. "A new boat, the Anglo-Saxon, was purchased to begin the run in 1905. Although I was too young to remember the event without an assist from the family album and my parent's description, christening this boat was one of the highlights of my childhood.
      "According to newspaper clippings from the Bellingham paper of that day, the Anglo-Saxon was a gasoline launch capable of traveling ten miles an hour and carrying 50 passengers, and not a prettier model then floated on the waters of Puget Sound.
      "A short time after the run was in operation, meeting train and boat schedules to Seattle, my father received the first franchise to carry the daily mail to the San Juan Islands."
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

       Names of later boats owned by Kasch and his companies were the Yale, the Yankee Doodle, the Yankee II, the Concordia, the Georgia, the City of Anacortes, the Bainbridge, the steamer Kingston, and the Alvrene.
      Scheduled stops of the steamboat Yankee II, according to a timetable of 1915, now in the Nollan scrapbook, were at Urban, Doe Bay, Olga, Eastsound, Shaw Island, Orcas, West Sound, Deer Harbor, Friday Harbor, Lopez, Port Stanley, Anacortes, and Bellingham. 
      The early years of Captain Bill's nautical career are described by his daughter as happy-go-lucky days. Some of the farmer's made an annual ride to the city and paid their fare with a bucket of vegetables, or a bucket of clams.
      "If a passenger was short of cash, he always could work his passage by helping to carry freight on and off the boat. I remember one bill that was paid with half a beef! since homes in those days were without refrigeration, most of the meat went to our neighbors."
      To ask a favor of the captain was not at all unusual. There were errand requests, such a picking up dentures and taking them to Bellingham to have a broken tooth replaced. There were shopping lists to fill for Islanders unable to leave their homes––maybe five yards of gingham, assorted groceries, a new frying pan or kettle, Sometimes the skipper would take a note to a Bellingham doctor saying that a baby's formula was causing distress, and shouldn't it be changed."
      There were sick calls when the captain would go miles out of his way to some little island, where there wasn't even a landing. A red flag fastened to a rock or tied to a tree meant as an emergency.
      In those cases, the captain would row ashore in the Doodle, as the dinghy was called, and find out the trouble. Many times he picked up a sick man, gave him as smooth a ride as was possible in the wave-tossed dinghy, transferred him to the big boat and took him to a doctor or hospital.
      "Capt Bill's clients were first and foremost his friends, and he was devoted to those beyond the call of duty. Long hours were accepted as all in a day's work. For years he was up before daybreak and left Anacortes with his boat at 6 a.m. In stormy weather, 8 or 9 o'clock at night was not an unusual hour for his return."
      As the years went by, there was, of course, competition for the pioneer captain. At one time he found himself engaged in what he called a "merry jitney war," when he carried passengers for 10 cents a trip to save his business.
      While keeping abreast of the times, Kasch progressively replaced his little boats with bigger and faster craft. Meanwhile, trails and wagon roads on the larger islands became highways suitable for auto travel. With the advent of the modern auto ferry, a new pattern of island travel was ushered in. But this was near the end of Capt Bill's day.
      Except for a period in WW I, Kasch served the San Juan Islands for the first quarter of the century. In 1917 he enlisted in the merchant marine and shipped out on the Westley, bound for Norfolk, VA. There he was assigned to the Omsk, a Russian ship with a motley international crew, which was commissioned by the Shipping board as part of General John J. Pershing's 'Bridge of Ships.' * During the war, he was shipwrecked, which contributed to later ill health and his death in 1927.
      Adelaide Davis Kasch, who became the captain's bride in 1898, carried on her husband's business for several years after his death, with the help of her sons, Bill, Jr, and Joe. Eventually, the company was sold to the Puget Sound Navigation Co.
      Of the four children, son Joseph became a captain for the Washington State Ferries, and Norine Kasch Fulmar became the wife to Capt. Alan Fulmer, fleet captain and superintendent of the Marine Reserve Fleet at Astoria, OR.
Text by Charlotte Widrig. Published by the Seattle Times.

*After crossing the U-Boat-infested Atlantic, Kasch returned to Seattle to catch the ill-fated Blackford which had just been completed.
      The Blackford went down in a hurricane off the coast to Mexico, leaving its battered crew stranded with little but fish and turtles to eat for nearly two weeks when they were finally picked up.
Source: Anacortes American. March 1981. Courtesy of the Anacortes Historical Museum 

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