"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.

1949 and BACK. THE SAN JUANS with Gladys Howard.

                               GLADYS HOWARD’S SAN JUANS
                                  Written by Gladys M. Kimple, 1949.

 For thirty-three years I have waited for some contemporary Washington Irving to come along and give the San Juan Islands to the world of letters. No literary genius has appeared. In the meantime the area is becoming more and more a part of the outside world and losing much of its unique quality, by way of radio and modern transportation. So it is, like the “little red hen” of the fairy tales, I will do it myself. I am not even remotely qualified to do so. It is with a humble desire merely to preserve some of its old time lore––its glamorous romance, that I presume to write of those pioneers and their little world, so far removed from the hue and cry even of that earlier day.
Gladys Marie Howard, 
author of this essay, and her sister Alice.

 We were hardly pioneers, at least in the light of many of the old settlers still living, when we came to Orcas Island thirty-three years ago. It was the “winter of the big snow” 23 March 1916, to be exact, when my mother, my sister, and myself, boarded the old steamer KINGSTON at the Colman Dock, Seattle––headed for the great adventure. We were moving to the Islands––bag and baggage. My uncle, with whom we had lived from my earliest memory, had stayed in Seattle to further augment the financial status of the family, preparatory to his own return to the soil and farming, which was his first love. My grandmother Bailey was visiting in California that winter with certain aunts and uncles, her other children, and was to return as soon as the weather broke and we were well settled. So it was that we three fared forth that March day. I was fourteen and thrilled to the core.
      For many months before our actual departure, we, like so many city people, had dreamed of moving to the country. Periodically we seemed to get the fever and take off to look over some prospective “Shangri La”
only to be disappointed. 
      When the MacDonalds––Mrs. MacDonald, a very kind-hearted lady who chewed snuff, and hailed from the hills of Georgia––moved next door to us where we lived in West Seattle, our mind was turned to the beautiful San Juan Islands, an area of which, up to that time we were blissfully ignorant.
      Mrs. MacDonald came into the kitchen one day, where, over a cup of coffee she waxed enthusiastic over this area. “Don’t make up your mind about the country and moving, until you’ve seen the San Juans”, she told us. Mr. MacDonald’s sister and her family live up at Deer Harbor, and its just the “purtiest place you ever laid eyes on.” 
      She must have been persuasive, for in less than a month, my mother had gone prospecting for a home in the Islands, and come home so full of enthusiasm that my uncle agreed to buy a little twenty acre farm from the very brother-in-law that our neighbor had told us about, sight unseen, so far as he was concerned.

Deer Harbor from steamer, c. 1900.

 The little place was “out of this world” beautiful.  It was situated on West Sound Bay, in a neat little cove on the shoreline, with two small islands known locally as Double Island. They are Little Double and Big Double.  These islands helped form an almost land locked harbor. We paid, or rather my uncle paid, thirteen hundred dollars for the twenty acres, much to the consternation of the Island populace, who laughed at how we had been taken in. Just for the book, Mr. Kaiser of shipbuilding fame recently purchased the same property for forty thousand dollars, according to report. Of course, by that time it had had a fine home built, but since the same source reports that Mr. Kaiser intends to tear that building down and rebuild, one can get some idea of what has taken part in these parts, during the last thirty years.
      The house we found on our island farm that long ago was a barn of an affair. You could throw a cat out most anywhere, and one had to go outside to get upstairs up a rickety old staircase. The floors were rough and splintery. Every window rattled with a wind, and the whole house rocked dangerously in a gale. Yet somehow with all its faults, I still love the memory of that old house.
      There were two tall poplar trees in the old front yard, and several old-fashioned rose bushes among the weeds.  A small path wound to the little beach just a few feet from our door. The drinking water had to be carried in pails from a well several hundred feet from the house, under a big willow tree.
      There was no sink or modern fixtures at all in the big two storied old house. Water heated in a boiler made a spartan affair of bathing, by way of the wash tub in the drafty kitchen. Anyone who has ever lived in the country under similar conditions can readily understand all this. Yet, there was a difference in our life on the farm that came not so much from the hardships as it did from the very real aura of the strangeness that was in those days peculiar to this little group of islands.
      The only access to the outside world was by way of a long tedious trip by small steamships. The people who made the Islands their home were, for the most part, settlers of long standing. Their lives took on a quality born of their very remoteness from the world. They were concerned mainly with their own problems, their problems as members of the small community, as well as their own more personal affairs. They were kindly people if strange––good neighbors––and honest as the day is long.
      I’ll never forget the first time we ever saw “Old Man Scott.” My sister, Alice and I had gone to the store for groceries, a good mile and a half from the farm. We were starting toward home. As one left the Deer Harbor Store, one climbed a steep hill to the main road. This road dipped on into the distance, in the opposite direction from our way home. Perhaps we had paused to rest after the climb, I do not remember. At any rate we both looked down the road. We saw him simultaneously. I must just have read, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for I found myself quoting from that literature, “he looked like famine descending upon a community.” We both burst out laughing hilariously, as the description was so apt. As Mr. Scott topped that hill our first impression was of something long and lean and carrying a cane which he flourished high over his head with every long step. As he came closer we saw a hawk-faced man with a long handlebar mustache. His arms, like “Ichabod’s”, hung far out of his sleeves and his hair hung long on the back of his neck. He was an old bachelor, and precious as it may seem, he had been named for an earlier man of fame, for he too was called Winfield Scott. The old man was at least six feet two and gaunt of frame. His eyes were twinkling blue and he suffered from a foot ailment that made his cane forever a part of the necessary equipment.
      He adored Theodore Roosevelt and telling people how to conduct their own business affairs, although he was notoriously a victim of his own mismanagement. Yet withal, he was well loved and respected by his neighbors. “I told Johnson not to plant them their peas”, he would say, “but you know how folks are, they won’t take no advice seems like.” Tall and skinny as he was, he would say with a sly chuckle, I’ll never forget, “I had a brother once who was a leetle taller’n me but he wa’nt quite so heavy set.”
      Mr. Scott liked to play solo with the old man Pearmain. It was a weekly ritual. Many a tall tale they told of the early days when the cards had been put away for the night. Henry Pearmain had come to the Islands with his family early in the nineties.  His boys used to say, “Dad came catacorner across the United States, across the very best land in the whole country, from Florida to Washington, and settled on the very worst rock pile on Orcas Island.” There was more truth than poetry in this, although the Pearmain place was a beautiful waterfront property in the days when waterfront properties were a dime a dozen. He, like the old man Scott, could tell a story with a natural ability to hold listener to a point of art.
      Mrs. Pearmain died just recently, well over ninety years old. She had had fourteen children, several of whom died in infancy. Their lives together had been full of hardship, yet she never lost her ability to be a good neighbor and to see the funny side of life. The old man was a real character. The young folks of the day used to call him “Daddy Rip” when he wasn’t there to hear it, because, I suppose, of his long grey beard. He loved to go over to the local store and entertain the summer boarders with his tales, and cut quite a figure with those city girls. “Most of the stuff you read in the papers is just friction” he told my uncle once. He was an ardent admirer of the silver-tongued orator, “Bryan” and you can imagine the hot political arguments that sometimes ensued those solo games with his pal Mr. Scott. Old man Pearmain was very well informed politically, and was able in the field of debate, although those debates were not carried on in the best King’s English. They were, however, at least, interesting and full of color.
      He and his boys had the mail route many years before we came to the Islands. They carried that mail by rowboat, sometimes with the aid of a small sail over to Waldron Island and back. That was a prodigious undertaking in any man’s language, for the weather is often rugged indeed.
      Another interesting old couple who lived not far from the Deer Harbor Store in those days were Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. Robinson had come from jolly old England several years before and still wore the same outmoded garments that were finery in the “Nineties.” She was quite fat and a little pompous and dropped her “H” consistently. She affected large droopy hats, and long, tight-fitting coats with many buttons.  I remember one time when she had gone to Bellingham for a mad shopping trip. It seemed she stopped at the Bellingham Creamery to pick up the cream check due her on produce shipped to that port.
      “I am awfully sorry, Mrs. Robinson”, the clerk told her, “but that check was mailed to Deer Harbor today.”
“Oh dear”, the distressed lady lamented, “I had counted on that money to flutter on.” The picture of Mrs. Robinson, wide hat, long-skirted, and puffy sleeved, fat as she was, fluttering, was something to conjure up.  She told us the clerk had been so very nice too––he had smiled so graciously.
      One of the most interesting places to visit, for me at least, was old man Craft’s. He had a well-stocked library, shelves and shelves of dog-eared old books that were the pride of his life. He used to loan them out to everyone who cared to borrow and kept track of his books and borrowers religiously. Mr. Craft was a Civil War veteran.  He lived quite comfortably on his pension.
      His cabin was located along the Orcas shoreline about half way to Deer Harbor from where we lived.  The main room of that cabin was dominated by a rather large fireplace over which he had inscribed in huge metal letters a quotation from Shakespeare, “What fools these mortals be.” He was a man of education, his hobby being the accumulation of notes toward a history of the world, which he always intended to write, but never quite got around to the actual writing. His language, while correct as to form, was well sprinkled with profanity and he loved his liquor. “Hell—my back teeth floated in alcohol for forty years.” he used to say. Aside from the salty nature of his mannerisms, he was also an atheist.
      Not many years after we came to the Islands, one of his old bachelor cronies died. Mr. Craft really shocked the neighbors who were really trying to give the elderly man a good sendoff, with a proper sort of funeral. There was no minister available at the time so Mr. Loos officiated with prayers and a few words, as well as a text from the Bible. Old man Crafts exploded. “Look here my friend Mr. Hall didn’t believe all that tripe when he was living. I’ll not let you foist your superstitions off on him now that he is dead.” But much to his disgust his objections were overruled so that the dead friend of this fiery old atheist found himself ushered into Glory with all the trimmings, in spite of Crafts’ efforts to the contrary.
      Later, a wealthy man from Seattle, Mr. Cowan, of Cowan Park fame, bought the property surrounding the Craft place, except for the frontage of Craft’s place which was a very desirable piece of waterfront. Exceptionally desirable to Mr. Cowan, since the ramshackle old Craft cabin nestled squarely in front of the very ostentatious dwelling of that rich man. Carpenters were busy for months on that great house. No amount of inducement, either by high finance or by threat, moved the stubborn old man an inch. Not until he died was Mr. Cowan able to acquire that property and tear down that eyesore. It was a point of great pride and not little satisfaction to Mr. Crafts to maintain his position of vantage. He had little use for pomp of any kind, and none at all for the wealth of Mr. Cowan. He went his stiff necked way. When Mr. Cowan tried to discourage the old man by closing off the pathway along the front of the Cowan property that led to the old man’s cabin, that worthy old revolutionary, weighed down with wisdom, and careless disregard of the consequences, due to the weight of his years, continued to make free use of that path, and with high disdain dared anyone to say him nay.
      In those days one often saw Indians in their dugout canoes paddling through the channels.Indeed, even now, they are not unusual. But in those days they often camped for weeks in some little inlet. Many of the old settlers have traces of Indian blood, and are rightly proud of that heritage.
      Mr. Lawson was what was known as a squaw man. He was a Swede, quite well read, I am told. Mrs. Lawson was a fine woman, a full blooded Indian. If you asked her age, she always said, “I’ll be fifty Klistmas.” But aside from this little idiosyncrasy—and no doubt she had no way of knowing her real age--she was a lady of much grace and dignity.  Once, one of the fellows in the spirit of raillery asked Mr. Lawson, “If he had to do it over again would he marry a white woman?” Mr. Lawson, they say, fixed the fellow with a steady look. “Yes”, he said softly, “I think I might, if I couldn’t get another Indian.”
      There were the Greens. He had one house and she had another in which they lived quite happily, still maintaining the status of man and wife. He was a funny old man, much given to seeing ghosts and scaring us children half to death with tales of pale creatures that slipped softly around his bed at night time, slapping mischievously on the feet if he unwittingly got his feet out from under the covers.
      Mrs. Green wore her hair parted precisely in the center, the back hair pulled high in a knot on the top of her head, and, at the front, directly before her rather large ears, two corkscrew curls hanging shoulder length, so exactly perfect as to look false. They were a peculiar pair. She was not often home. She must have had relatives somewhere off the Island. The poor old man died later in the asylum for the insane. So the ghosts were just a part of his hallucinations. But they were quite real to us when he told about them.
      I must tell you about the Womacks. As I write, it comes to me that all these people are queer with some form of strangeness peculiar to themselves, and yet they were there in 1916. There were other people, commonplace people I suppose, but as I think back, it is people like the Womacks that I feel disposed to write about.
      The old man had an impediment in his throat that made his voice husky like a stage whisper. He was given to much bragging, which he did in the vernacular of the hill country of the South. Just how often he was serious in his remarks one never quite knew. “Old woman”, he would say, “Hev I had my second sup?” “No.” she would answer and pour him a second cup of coffee. He got in a quarrel with a neighbor, in fact, the very people from whom we had bought our farm. Someone told old man Womack that Mr. Scruggs had said, “so and so,” about him. Womack flew into a great rage. “Did he say that?” He wheezed. He doubled up his fists and made a small pretense of leaving the house to fight it out with the culprit. His wife grabbed him firmly by the elbows. “Hold me, Sally.” He rasped. “Hold me. Don’t let me go.”
      My mother used to tell about her own experiences with hypnotism, and I think she often embellished the stories a little for the better amusement of her audiences. At any rate, when it got around, Mr. Womack was reported to have said, “Why if I was to meet that there woman in the road I’d go right over the fence, no matter if the place was posted.” He was a small man, almost puny, but he would tell amazing stories of his prowess as a fighter.
      One of his favorites was of a time when he caught three of his enemies in one hotel room together. They were three great big men, but he was undaunted. He slipped into the room when they were not looking and before they knew what was happening, he had shut the door, turned the lock, and slipped the key in his pocket. Then he faced them, rolling up his sleeves. “Come on,” he wheezed, “I’ve got you just where I want you.”
      When my grandmother died, the Womacks hastened right over. They did so out of the kindness of their hearts, I am sure, but at the time we were hardly appreciative. “We come jest as soon as ever we heerd, the old man and Me. I told the old man I’m going to be the next to go. I can feel it in my bones,” she wailed lugubriously, and constantly throughout the rest of the day.                                                                                                          
      The most important social activity of the neighborhood was a monthly gathering of the people in the local schoolhouse, at what was known as “Literary.” We had a lot of fun there. There were songs and debates and what have you, from basket socials to gatherings to discuss neighborhood needs, as well as world affairs.
      The meeting I remember most ended suddenly and dramatically. In fact I think it broke up the whole enterprise, if I remember right. The World War had not yet begun for the United States. Indeed the recent sinking of the LUSITANIA by the Germans was on everyone’s tongues. Mr. Murray, an Englishman, who was also the local storekeeper was righteously indignant over the insult to our country. I remember he was holding forth before his audience in an outraged voice. “Today,” he said “I ashamed for being an American if we can take this gross indignity, this infamous action without recourse to war.” Even as he talked, Mr. Lehman, who had little use for the English, and was distinctly a pacifist in viewpoint, rose and started to give his views speaking steadily and bidding fair to drown out the incensed Mr. Murray who tried desperately to maintain the floor. “I’ve got the floor Mr. Lehman,” he stormed, “wait a minute, I’ve got the floor.” Mr. Lehman talked on, oblivious to the rising temper of the irate Dan Murray. “I’ve got the floor,” he insisted. “Wait a moment. I want to ask you one question.” The Lehman voice went on. “I want to ask you one question, Lehman,” Murray shouted, pounding the desk for attention. Then, Mr. Lehman, as though for the first time realizing the presence of the other man, said, “Alright, Mr. Murray, what is it.” “Mr. Lehman, can you tell me what caused the war of 1812?” “Why, yes Murray,” Lehman answered, with an eye to Murray’s ancestry, and not quite accurate in his memory of history.“Yes, Murray, “he repeated, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “A BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN BOSTON WOULDN’T DRINK TEA.” With that, Mr. Murray let out a roar and made for Mr. Lehman. Some thoughtful person doused the coal oil lamp quickly, which put the hall in darkness and broke up the meeting.


      “Visit the San Juans, the vacation land complete, the Mecca of every nature lover.”  So says the travel folder advertising these parts.  What better place to get easily, that information that will give such necessary geographical background as to depict the setting in which we found ourselves, on moving to this county so long ago.  Many things have changed since that day in the social life of their inhabitants, yet man has left little imprint on the terrain itself, except in the form of more modern housing and the myriad of summer homes that now dot the numerous beaches that once were lonely, lovely little places completely untouched.
      According to this travel folder, put out by an overzealous chamber of commerce—oh yes, we have them here too now—there are 172 islands in the San Juan group, situated in Puget Sound in Northwest Washington.  You’ll love this line—“It’s a sea girt arcadia, encircled by azure waters. Basking in the sunshine belt of the Washington coast line, lying between Vancouver Island and the continent, it is an all year round paradise, with the most fascinatingly beautiful and picturesque scenery on the western hemisphere. With thousands of miles of fantastically rugged coastline, separated by a maze of intricate waterways, these islands offer an ever-changing panorama of wooded slopes, hidden bays, narrow inlets and distant peaks,” still quoting. “San Juan, on which is located Friday Harbor: Orcas Island and Lopez Island are the three largest of the group and have several thriving communities...” etc. and etc.
      In the dope on Orcas much is made of the highest peak of elevation in all the area, which is Mt. Constitution. It is lovely from that high spot. I’ve seen the view from there in many stages of weather and atmospheric conditions. I shall never forget that sight by moonlight. Then the dark masses of shadowy island shapes resemble nothing quite so much as prehistoric beast crawling from the watery depths. The metaphor may not seem beautiful, yet it is decidedly lovely and very effective, to say the least. The island of Orcas in outline has the shape of an enormous saddle, being almost cut in two by long narrow Eastsound Bay.
      Lopez forms the southern pendant of the archipelago and is the least abrupt of all the surrounding islands. It is, therefore, more suitable to farming than the others.
      San Juan Island is the most famous historically, and the most developed as to industries, other than the now important industry of tourist trade. Orcas leads there admittedly. San Juan was occupied jointly by the British and American troops from 1859 to 1872, and parts of both camps still tell this dispute was settled by the Kaiser of Germany who defined the national borderline between Canada and the United States. Most everyone is familiar with that dispute known locally as the “Pig War” because it was a quarrel between resident settlers and British officers whose pig consistently got out and rooted up a neighbor’s garden. When that worthy old fire-eater killed the British pig he was arrested and taken under protest to Victoria, Canada, for trial. He declared he was a United States citizen and made so much noise about it that this local dispute brought an international situation to a head.
      San Juan Island differs from the other two main islands in that it has only two villages or towns: Friday Harbor, the County Seat of San Juan County, boasting of about six hundred population and regulation city blocks with a shop-lined main street; at the North end of the island is the village of Roche Harbor, being unique in that it is a village privately owned by Roche Harbor Lime Kiln interests. Orcas and Lopez Islands have many small villages, little wide places in the road, or adjacent to a sandy beach or docking place, that consist of a store and post office as in the case of Eastsound, a church, a store and a garage. It is this difference that, to me at least, constitutes their unique charm.
      With this background of information, perhaps the terrain is more understandable. Deer Harbor, to which we came in 1916, was one of these tiny villages. It boasted, at that time, of two village stores situated about one-half mile apart. One was at the local dock, the other on up the road from the wharf under the Norton Dance Hall. That hall was known for miles around, and was the scene of many an all-night dance dear to the heart in the memory of the majority of the middle-aged citizens of today. At least among the citizenry still resident here, who at that time constituted the younger generation.
      Many people have moved to the islands since that time, people who consider themselves dyed in the wool Islanders of long standing. Don’t ever fool yourselves, my friends. You are outlanders from the point of view of the native sons, to borrow a phrase from sunny California.
      I am told that a comparatively recent newcomer to Orcas asked one of these native sons whether or not my family were Islanders.
      “Oh my goodness no,” he was reported to have answered. “They came here from Seattle in 1916.”
      Of course, I do rate a little more than some, for I married one of these native sons, and so am, at least, a semi-Islander.


      Where were we. Oh yes, at the Literary that broke up in a heated discussion over the “peace at any price” issue of WWI.  I remember one other meeting that almost ended in disaster. It was over a much different issue. I think there had been a debate that night, though for the life of me I cannot remember the subject under discussion, except that it involved American womanhood.
      A Mr. Giglio, whose Italian ancestry made English difficult on his tongue, all unwittingly, I think, expressed himself inadequately much to the insult of some of the ladies present. His remarks went something like this:
“The woman, she is—Bah—all the time a she is in front of the face, the sweet and honey and the dear, but hind a the door she pull a the hair—you can buy her for a dime a the doz.” There was quite a stir that time too.
      Yet, for the most part these meeting were orderly, educational, and a great deal of fun. Although, I confess, that the rare excitement of those few exceptions appealed to my youthful fancy.
      In his behalf I might add that this Mr. Giglio had had, previously to his arrival on the Island, an unhappy marriage. Undoubtedly his ideas were colored by that unhappy relationship. He used to drive a two-wheeled cart that I thought was the last thing in fancy equipage. Which has nothing at all to do with the subject at hand, except that this cart, with him wheeling merrily down the road, driving a rather spirited horse, is very much part of my memory of him.
      One of the first neighbors with whom we got acquainted, for he lived near and crossed through our yard to get to the road to the village, was Mr. Carnahan. Mr. Carnahan was a socialist. He would hasten to add, not just a plain, everyday socialist, he belonged to the socialist labor party. In this day of communistic propaganda and red scares, Mr. Carnahan would not be so unexpected or nearly so articulate, if he wished to retain his freedom.  But then, no one took him seriously, however right or wrong he may have been. His greatest claim to fame, in those days, was not his politics, it was the way in which he lived.  Every remote area worth its salt has its hermit.  Mr. Carnahan was ours. To add to his glamour we heard he had been run out of Bellingham for his soap box oratory and his revolutionary ideas. His house—if the place he lived in could be dignified by such a title—had been made of driftwood. He occupied the place at the kindness of the rightful owners, by squatter’s rights. The floor of this cabin was deep with many feet of white shell and sand taken from the nearby beach. His door was made of plank and locked shut in his absence with an iron band and a huge chain fastened with a lock of such dimensions as to discourage any forceful entry. To further discourage trespassers I am sure that he fed fuel to the gossip that gave him credit for having a loaded rifle so placed as to discharge in the face of any marauder that did manage to break through the maze of that barricade. Mr. Carnahan was tall and slim and middle aged. He wore a close cropped grey mustache and a brown derby hat. His pants were always shagged off just below the knees and he always got them two or three sizes too big for freedom of action. Consequently, by the time they were cut off, the belt struck him somewhere just short of his armpits and the seat of his pants dragged kneeward. He used to cook up the most amazing messes of berries and bran which he claimed were medicinally valuable in the counteraction of his main tribulation, physically speaking, constipation. Though his trouble of a physical nature were easily diagnosed, and as readily treated by this home remedy, his turmoil of soul, politically speaking, was of an entirely more complex nature. He talked to himself, as all good hermits do. He also talked to anyone else who would listen. “Why, if I had my way, I’d hang ‘em all, every dang one of ‘em, crooks.  Crooks, every one of ‘em from the president on down.”
      We used to have a long, narrow lane to go through before we reached the county road. One day, the man who rented the farm that skirted this lane was digging a ditch very close to the lane fence. He heard Carnahan coming down the lane, sounding off as usual, and in his usual bloody vein. “They hanged three, and stabbed six, the dirty––etc.” Mr. Erdell rose from his ditch as Carnahan approached, and in his slow lazy drawl rather startled that gentleman, who had not seen him there. “Did they ever find the bodies?” he asked softly. Mr. Carnahan straightened up and stalked on his way without benefit of answer, but he never liked Mr. Erdell after that.
      We bought our first skiff from Mr. Carnahan. The SADIE E named for his sister in Pennsylvania. Mr. Carnahan showed us how to rig it up to float at anchor out in front of the house, in the little cove. If fact he was very kind to us indeed.
      One time, before we bought the skiff––very soon after we arrived––my sister and I borrowed his boat and rowed to Deer Harbor after groceries. That was a very long row, especially for greenhorns who knew little about handling a boat. One had to row clear around through a very narrow water way know as Pole Pass, to get to Deer Harbor. The Pass is so very narrow that the tide boils through there at a great rate.  ne could easily throw a stone from shore to shore at its narrowest part. Coupled with this natural obstruction to easy passage, and our ignorance in the art of rowing in any circumstance, we had stowed the heaviest groceries––a big hundred pound sack of feed and so forth––in the prow of the boat. We started homeward in plenty of time, heavy at the front and making poor headway. We rowed and rowed. Aside from this we managed to hit that tide head on. We rowed and rowed some more, and to top it off were blissfully ignorant of the fact that we made no headway at all through Pole Pass.  I suppose we would have been rowing yet, if, luckily, after about two hours the tide hadn’t changed and scooted us through of its own accord. 
      In the meantime darkness had fallen, and mamma was worried. Surely, she thought something dreadful must have happened. So she made her way along the trail to Mr. Carnahan’s den. “Yes,” she thought, “They are here alright––I wonder why they didn’t come right on home, they might have known I’d worry.” She could hear Mr. Carnahan raking Alice and I over the coals.
      “Now girls,” he was saying. “You are just as welcome as the flower in May to borrow my boat––any time, see.  BUT I DO WANT IT HOME BEFORE DARK.” Now my mother fully agreed with those sentiments and was all prepared to add her voice to his, as soon as he had opened the door to admit her. To her amazement we hadn’t arrived. It was fully a half an hour before that Pole Pass tide had released us and pushed us around the point to our worried mother and the equally worried Mr. Carnahan.
      Quite a few years later, Mr. Carnahan fixed another boat that had been leaking badly, for my mother. He unfortunately didn’t do a very good job, or else the windstorm that came up the night the boat was launched had undone all the work, anyway the boat swamped that night.
      Another neighbor, Mr. Walsh, who has quite a keen sense of humor true to his Irish extraction, on meeting Mr. Carnahan next day said kiddingly, “Carnahan, you made a mistake on that boat you fixed for the Bailey’s––you fixed it so the water would leak in––you should have made it so the water would leak out.”  Mr. Carnahan came over in a great rage and got so mad, either at Mr. Walsh’s humor or our ignorance in allowing the boat to swamp after he had just fixed it, he didn’t get over his mad spell for ever so long. He wouldn’t stop at the house anymore, or even speak.
      Shortly after this, Mr. Chandler stepped in. “Well,” he said to my mother.  “How is your concubine, Mr. Carnahan, these days.” “My WHAT,” mother gasped. Your concubine, Mr. Carnahan.” “Why, Mr. Chandler,” my shocked mother gasped, “What do you mean, concubine?” Mr. Chandler stammered, “Doesn’t that mean, enemy?”
“Well no, Mr. Chandler,” my mother shrieked with laughter.  “But it’s a good way to make enemies, I guess.”
Mr. Chandler was a fine person. Nor do I mean to paint him as being ignorant. That particular word happened to be out of his ken. He played the old time fiddle for square dances, and did much toward the spirit of community solidarity in so doing. With all Mr. Carnahan’s peculiarities he also was a fine neighbor and I remember him with a keen sense of regret: that he is long since gone. No more can I see him stalking down the road, or hear him sporting at capitalistic skullduggery. I wonder if, wherever he is––beyond the Pearly Gates––he is satisfied with the social set up there. Perhaps he is giving the angels themselves a bad time. It would be in character.
      One of the dearest friends I ever had was Mr. Maurice Johnson. A whole book could be written about Mr. Johnson.  He and Mr. Craft were very good friends. They had much in common. Both were well educated, well read, and both had an atheistic turn of mind.  Strangely enough Mrs. Johnson was as religious and as sincere in her faith as he was in reverse. It was a source of much worry to her that her husband was “unsaved”.
      Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were Swedish born, both were strong characters, with color enough in their lives to inspire a best seller. She had met him in Alaska where she had gone in the early days, when people were trouping northward in the lure of gold.  The picture of that great staunch lady going north—at a time, at least, many women also Alaska bound were of the looser virtue than that prim old maid—is strange to consider.
      Maurice Johnson had gone to sea at a very early age, having signed on old time Whaler, in the days when life aboard a whaling vessel was rugged indeed, little more than slavery. In fact, the captain had never allowed them ashore in any semi-civilized port lest they skip ship. The story of how he deserted ship at Point Barrow—a place so deserted as to be nothing but a watering place for whaling vessels, with no residents at all, and so far north as to be the last point of contact—is a story in itself. At least, Point Barrow was so void of people way back in the “eighties” when this took place. He was about 19 years of age at the time.  Even then, he was a man of black moods and stubborn determination. He found his way across the tundra, at last, to an Indian village.  As he stumbled in, the Indians were just hauling in a salmon to the beach. Half starved Maurice fell upon that raw fish and ate it, as it was. Mrs. Johnson told me years later, “If he hadn’t been a tough Swede it would have killed him.”
      After staying at the Indian village awhile to recuperate, Johnson made his way to a Catholic mission where he hoped to get work in the construction of a church that was under way. The Priest told him he could not hire him since he, Maurice Johnson, was unmarried. The priest felt that such work as was available should be given to the married men of his parish.
      Maurice needed that work desperately. Shortly afterward, in a local saloon, a fellow told him that if that was all that stopped him from getting work that should be easily remedied. “There is an old Indian woman with two daughters down the trailway, who will be glad to let you have one of ‘em for a wife.” Johnson got the job. The marriage didn’t take very well though. He found himself within a few years with a young son, and no wife. Later he married another Eskimo lady. She also gave him a son. She died shortly after the child’s birth, and this second son was for many years cared for at Mr. Johnson’s expense by the maternal grandmother. He still had the first son with him
      When the gold rush came to Alaska, Mr. Johnson was one of the lucky ones.  He struck it rich. Mrs. Johnson, the staunch Swedish lady, came to his mining camp as cook. She married the boss. That was later, and after much persuasion, after they had both returned to the south and Seattle.
      Unsatisfied with city life they had found their way to the Islands, where they eventually built a home further up West Sound Bay from where we lived. All this happened much before we had arrived in the Islands. I have told all this, laying the ground for an anecdote.
      Mrs. Johnson had not known about Louis Johnson, the second child. She admired Maurice for the care he gave to the little son she knew about.  Imagine her surprise, along about 1909 to receive a letter from the far north saying the old grandmother had died—now, what should they do with the boy?
      Mr. Johnson was pretty active in politics of the Islands at that time, and was unable to go after the boy. So Mrs. Johnson made the long trip up to get him. Her experiences were legion. They consisted of a trip across the ice, when their small boat capsized—a dangerous fear-ridden trip you can imagine––. She was a long woman among rough, whiskey drinking, hardy characters. Mrs. Johnson was still a very prim old maid—for all that she had been married for years—she was near panic before the trip was over, and she was more afraid of the men and their alcoholic irresponsibility than she was of the elements. The latter were enough to scare anyone.
      She was given the choice of returning by this small mail boat to the point where she was able to take the steamer south. This was the last boat south for that year too, so she had to make it or stay until spring thawed the ice, or making the trip to the boat landing which was of several hours duration, with some Eskimos in a native skin boat. Without a second thought she chose the latter, so the boy and she started.
      As they neared the place where she was to board the steamer, she saw the boat pulling out, or getting ready to, sending a native ahead with a note to the Captain, to hold the steamer until the larger canoe could reach them, she was amazed to see it pull out without her. She found on questioning the native messenger that he had given the note to a passenger and it had never reached the Captain.
      There was a boat later, quite unexpectedly, and they were able to get south after all. The trip was stormy and she was seasick most of the way. The little nine year old Louis didn’t add to her peace of mind much. For, while she was the sickest, he sat contentedly in the upper berth chewing on a piece of raw fat meat. 
      To add insult to injury, Maurice Johnson, thinking to do her a favor, met her in Seattle with their own small boat, to take her the rest of the way home. She was pretty disgusted and very tired of boats by that time.  Well, I’m still leading up to the anecdote.
      About five years later, news came down from Alaska, of another child who claimed Mr. Johnson for her father. At first he denied it. But when this girl married very well—a very well respected citizen of Alaska—he wasn’t sure but that she was his.
      Mrs. Johnson telling me about it, for we had become friends by the time of this last news, shook her head. “I can’t understand Maurice,” she complained. “He got so mad at me, and I didn’t say a thing. All I said was, “Maurice Johnson, if you have any more children roaming around up there in that great north country, for goodness sake go on up there and round them up, and do something for them.”

1Born, Gladys Marie Howard, George Pearmain was her first husband, in 1917. Dillon Kimple was her second husband.
 Retyped from my grandmother’s original manuscript.  The sketch of the Deer Harbor School was on a note Sue Foulk from the Deer Harbor Historical Society sent me several years ago.

Some editing by :
Roy Steven Pearmain, 2013.
On the date of this post there are private libraries with sets of books inscribed with the name of Mr. Craft.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Archived Log Entries