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

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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.

1910 ❖ NORTON'S INN ❖ DEER HARBOR, Orcas Island, WA.

with the hand-sewn canvas tents for let, overlooking
Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA. 

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Now upgrading from tents to cabins, close to the shore  

 of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
In 1891 Pat and Mary Norton came West from South Dakota with two children, Bill and Gerties, to Fairhaven, which is now South Bellingham. Mary Norton, aside from caring for her two babies, worked as a chambermaid in the old Laube Hotel. Pat Norton laid brick to pave what was then Elk St, now State St in Bellingham.
      In 1892 they ventured to Deer Harbor to join friends, the J.T. Stroud family, who had preceded them from the East and who now owned the Deer Harbor store. Upon arriving at Deer Harbor, the Nortons landed at a small boat float owned by Henry Cayou, who welcomed them and provided them with comfortable lodging.
      The Nortons first lived in a cabin owned by Mr. Bratton and later owned by Mr. Haines. On this place was a fine fruit orchard which played an important part in providing the Nortons with a modest living. Pat Norton worked at LaConner, and during his absence, his wife sacked and sold apples.
      One bright moonlight night a smuggler beached his boat and proceeded to help himself to some of those sacks of apples. But Mary Norton with her keen ear heard him. She dressed in men's clothing and grabbed a shotgun that Pat had left for her protection. She had never fired a gun before in her life, but in her best disguised masculine voice she yelled profanity and fired the shotgun into the air. The intruder left quickly, abandoning the apples, and in his haste to get away he lost his coat which Mary Norton retrieved. She hung the coat in the Deer Harbor Store where it was later identified, but the owner never claimed it.
      About two years later the Nortons acquired property from the Loos family on the hill homestead. Pat Norton built a small house, most of which were logs. The lumber for the rest of the building was sailed over on rafts from Fairhaven. Three more children (Felix, Harry, and Alice) were born to this couple. As the family grew, more rooms were added to the existing house.
      In 1910, they began boarding a small group of school teachers and a librarian from Seattle. Mary Norton had a cheerful, hospitable disposition that won the friendship of all who passed her way. She owned a sewing machine, probably the first one in the community. Women came to visit her and received help with their sewing. She was also a very good cook. Soon her home began to be the central place for both young and old to meet.
      One day she sat down at her sewing machine and canvas ordered from Sears & Roebuck catalog, sewed up some tents which she set up out on the rocks where her boarders could enjoy the beautiful view of Deer Harbor. This blossomed into a profitable summer resort and was later known as NORTON INN, one of the oldest and at one time the largest "Inn" in the islands. For several years Alice, the youngest of the Norton family, was her only help, and she inherited her mother's hospitality. Alice married Ted Lind of West Sound and settled in Bellingham. Harry, the youngest of the boys, worked on the Foss tugboats and lived in Bellingham. 
      Pat Norton passed away in 1923, and Mary Norton in 1937, two hard-working pioneers who created a chapter in the history of Deer Harbor that will never be forgotten.
      Felix Norton married Esther Wilson in 1925, and six years later took over where his parents had left off by continuing to successfully manage Norton Inn and carry on the reputation of Norton's famous chicken dinners. They built a new dining room in 1931 and stayed in the business until 1961 when the property was sold to the present [1972] owner, Norton Clapp.
      Bill Norton was responsible for two fish canneries that were built in Deer Harbor. The Western Fisheries plant was located where the Four Winds Lodge is now. The other was built in Deer Harbor Bay and was later used as a fruit cannery. Bill was successful in encouraging men to come and operate the Red Cannery at Deer Harbor, and in 1931 he brought a floating cannery there. He was also instrumental in getting the sawmill started in Deer Harbor. Probably he is best remembered, though, for the dance hall that furnished merriment every Saturday night for the whole county. On the opening night of the dance hall, 193 tickets were sold with ladies being admitted free. The Saturday night dances were enjoyed by young and old alike for nearly twenty-five years.
Above from: They Named It Deer Harbor. McLachlan, Edith. 1972.
1917, June:
The new road around the south end of Deer Harbor has been opened for travel. The road was well built and is one of the greatest improvements around Deer Harbor, as it cuts off one of the bad hills. The road is worth many more times the cost to build and Deer Harbor appreciates the efforts of the commissioners and the good work of the road crew.
       The social event of the season will be the second annual ball at Norton's hall, 16 June 1917. Preparations are being made to make this an event long to be remembered. A wide summer porch has been built on the west side of the building and will be attractively decorated and used as a dining room. The Friday Harbor Orchestra will furnish music, that cannot be beaten by any orchestra.
      Work is progressing nicely on the new dock and cannery of the Northern Pacific Fisheries at Deer Hbr. The FREDDIE has brought several loads of lumber from Bellingham and the driver was in and drove piles for the dock. A large bunch of carpenters from the Islands and Bellingham are getting the buildings up in a hurry. The company expects to be ready to start canning as soon as the salmon run commences. Deer  Harbor welcomes all these new enterprises in our community. There is plenty of room for the new people they bring in and best of all it gives our own girls, boys and men work at home.
      Deer Harbor bids fair to be a lively place this summer. The tourist business has started on a larger scale than ever before. The Nortons have built a number of additions to the hotel this spring and will be able to handle a much larger crowd than ever before. Already there are about 20 people at the hotel and many more are booked for the early summer. The three salmon canneries will bring several hundred people here for the season. Teller Packing Co has added several new buildings to their plant and will be ready for the "big run." The Western Fisheries Co will be ready for business in ten days. Their cannery and other buildings make the point look like a small city. 
From: The Orcas Islander. June 1917. 


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