WA Secretary of State Blogs

The Philanthropic Ghost of Centralia Washington

December 16th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The random news for this installment was discovered in The Daily Hub (Centralia, Wash.), February 26, 1916. The following ghost story was top of the fold front page news:

hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CENTRALIA HAS VERY GENUINE HA’NTED HOUSE

Ghostly Manifestations Defy Solution In Spite of Family’s Best Efforts– Spirit Is Apparently Friendly

 Centralia has a haunted house.

 This piece of news may be a bit startling to those who always connect haunted houses with old, old mansions with a past of bloody deeds to cover, and they naturally inquire where in Centralia can be found a house that answers this description.

 The answer is that there is no such house.

 Centralia’s haunted house is modern in every respect and is inhabited by as peaceable, sociable and jolly a family as you could ask to meet. Neither are they a family given to becoming frightened at the noise of a mouse scuttling across the pantry floor or a board squeaking as the house sways to the spring winds.

No, the Kaestners are wholesome, sociable, unafraid folks and when they finally, after many manifestations admitted to close friends that certain things were transpiring about their home on Waunch Prairie that could not be accounted for under ordinary rules governing human agency and action, the admission had considerable weight that it held up under searching investigation. 

 But the strangest part of the “hant” that has taken up abode at the Kaestner residence is that it is a sociable and also liberal ghost. Unlike the ghost of fiction, it does not believe in needlessly scaring people, neither does it believe in taking away– in fact the Kaestner ghost’s actions bear more resemblance to the gyrations indulged in by Santa Claus than to the work of a soul-terrifying spirit.

 Now to get to the real story:

 About a week ago Mrs. Kaestner went home after a shopping trip down town, unlocked the door and went in. The cheerful singing of a tea kettle attracted her to the kitchen where she found a merry fire burning in the range– and not a soul on the place. Later, when the family assembled for supper she mentioned the occurrence, but each member of the family stoutly denied having started the range fire. This passed without comment, but next day Fred Kaestner took a heavy room rug out on the lawn to clean for his mother. He left it out to air while he did some chores and when he later folded it up to take in, there underneath the rug was a bright new one dollar currency note. This was talked over and it was finally decided that the bill had been dropped by some passer and not noticed when the rug was thrown out on the lawn for cleaning.

 The next visitation of this philanthropic ghost came the next evening. Mrs. Kaestner had gathered the eggs and left them on the screened back porch. Going out shortly after to get some eggs for supper she found, lying on top of the egg basket a nicely folded absolutely new and unwrinkled necktie that had every appearance of having come direct from some good store.

 Things began to look decidedly queer by this time and when the next afternoon the phonograph in the front room started to play with all of the family either out or in another part of the house, Mrs. Kaestner was forced to admit that she was becoming nervous to say the least. This action of the phonograph, however, seemed to have appeared to the friendly ghost as a bit out of its line, for the very next day while Mrs. Kaestner was sweeping the back walk she spied in the grass close to the walk a new $2 currency note.

 As has been intimated and as everyone knows who has the pleasure of their acquaintance, the Kaestners are not people to become stampeded into accepting any ghost stories or fooled by some easily explained prank, but, in spite of a careful investigation, watching and search they have been unable to explain the series of happenings related.

 In the meantime Mr. Kaestner has taken the bills to the bank and found that they are absolutely good, so he is patiently and hopefully awaiting the next visitation.

 Max (1851-1909) and Anna Kaestner (1862-1948) with their young son Frederick Frank “Fritz” Kaestner (1881-1947) came to the United States from their native Germany in 1887. Max had been a lieutenant of artillery in the German army. Initially they moved to Colorado but in 1889 set up home in Centralia, Washington. In a short time the Kaestner family had a reputation as running one of the most sanitary and progressive dairies in the area.

When Max died at age 58, several years before the above story took place, he had become very well known in Centralia. One obituary stated, “Mr. Kaestner was a man of sterling character, a man who held strong opinions, and was probably one of the most highly educated men in the county having received the best instruction obtainable in Germany.”

Fritz Kaestner continued to run the dairy for a few decades. If there was a follow-up story about who was jerking this family’s chain in 1916, I’d love to see it.

 

 

 

 

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Tramp Printers or Passing of the Old Time Print

December 11th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Oroville weekly GazetteThe January 2, 1920 issue of The Oroville Weekly Gazette introduces us to an occupation that even in the 1920s had become antiquated by technological advances– the tramp printer, also known as the tourist printer or hobo antimony jerker:

PASSING OF THE OLD TIME PRINTPassing of the old time print

One day during the week this office had a call from that extreme rarity nowadays, a tourist printer. He was not of the class of the old time tramp print. He was a clean faced American, neatly if not extravagantly dressed, and his breath did not announce his approach before he hove in sight. What a contrast to the drifting antimony jerker of 35 years ago, in the days when “The Pilgrim” and “California Dick” floated from place to place around eastern Washington, clothed in raiment that would put a scare crow to the blush and assisting very materially in the revenue of receipts by consumption of spirituous decoctions. They never wanted a steady job. A few days at the case, and their feet would commence itching for the road, and snatching a free lunch while squandering what they had made in joy water until lit up like the northern lights they would shake the dust of the town in which they had briefly sojourned from their feet and hike out for other pastures. Queer lads were the two old typos mentioned, considered somewhat off the clutch, differing disposition though partners in the way of the life they led. “The Pilgrim” quiet and taciturn in his cups, “California Dick” noisy, truculent, boastful, when loaded, and that was their normal condition. And yet for all that, in the days of the “stick and rule” these old stagers could set up a creditable “string” and they knew every mystery of the print shop. Gone to their last reward, those old boys, and we trust the recording angel dropped a silent tear of absolution when registering their arrival, blotting out those short comings which were really mild indiscretions, for which they were more to be pitied than blamed.

In his book News For an Empire (1952), covering the history of the Spokesman-Review, Ralph E. Dyar mentions “… the tramp printers, a characteristic feature of Western newspaper offices during the eighties and nineties. Their very names were individual, perhaps invented, as: Pilgrim the Printer, California Dick, Seneca G. Ketchum, Major Henby, and J. Peck MacSwain. Most of the itinerants never wanted a steady job. A few days at the case and their feet commenced itching for the road. They would either climb into a boxcar or hit the road on foot for other pastures.”

“California Dick” turns up in various newspapers in the Pacific Northwest as a defendant in court. This bit in the Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) from August 28, 1890 is typical: “A party who answers to the honorable name of California Dick, and another of the same class, were brought before Justice Randall yesterday morning to answer to a charge of drunk and disorderly. They were fined $6 and costs; in default they went up for three days.”

Supposedly California Dick did some hard time in Oklahoma for holding up a stage. He died in Grangeville, Idaho, September 26, 1899. The Spokane Daily Chronicle gave notice of his passing in their September 29th issue:

California Dick is Dead CALIFORNIA DICK IS DEAD

 Type of Tramp Printer of the Ancient Days.

 WAS HIS OWN ENEMY.

 For Years He Has Wandered Through the Changing Northwest.

 ONCE HE WAS IN THE ARMY

 Passed Away at Grangeville Last Tuesday — Richard Richards Was His Real Name.

 “California Dick” is dead. The famous tramp printer whose face and appetite have been familiar to every town in the northwest for nearly 20 years, will never count railway ties again. “Poor Dick,” says everybody– that’s all; if he hadn’t a real friend he hadn’t an enemy.

 Just who Dick was, where he came from or when or why he came to the northwest, nobody knows. It is doubtful if anybody ever took the trouble to find out. For a couple of decades the printers of the Pacific slope have simply accepted him as an established fact– a harmless and thirsty fact, to be humored, not questioned or argued down. Perhaps half the printers west of the Rockies have “loaned two bits” to Dick. Maybe he will repay it somehow in another world.

 It must be nearly two years since Dick’s last visit to Spokane. From this city he drifted to Grangeville, Ida. The report came a few weeks ago that he was sick in that town; and now comes the Grangeville Press of last Tuesday with this little obituary:

 Dick’s Obituary

 “California Dick” died about 1 o’clock this afternoon at the Moser house.

 His real name was Richard Richards, and he was a native of Pennsylvania. An uncle of his was at one time governor of that state, but in all the long years we have known him he never confided any of his past history with us. He is supposed to have been drawing a pension, and therefore it is to be presumed that he served in the federal army during the war.

 Our personal knowledge of him extends back to 1881, when “Dick” put in an appearance at the office of our Nez Perce News, at Lewiston, and from that day to this he has been in our employ from time to time, and helped us get out the first issue of the Free Press in 1886. Of late years, probably owing to the receipt of pension money, he has not cared much for work, and has not done anything for the past year, except a few days in this office.

 He was a typical tramp printer of a type common enough in the northwest in ante-railroad days, and their sole occupation in life was to roam from place to place, working for a few days, getting on a tear every Saturday night and finally departing as silently as they came. We have known “Dick” to walk into Lewiston in the middle of winter, when towns were more of a rarity and much farther apart than they are today, work for a few days and depart for new pastures as mysteriously as he came.

 In those days it was a point of honor with newspaper men to make employment for these tramps, but with the advent of eastern men who “knew not Joseph ” and keener competition in the business, the old-timers have had to watch their dollars more closely, and the tramps have consequently fared harder with the lapse of time. This, we believe, is the reason why “California Dick” has kept so closely around Grangeville for the past two years– to be out of the way of the railroads, where living is supposed to be easier than in civilization. Poor Dick was nobody’s enemy but his own, and now that he has departed hence we can throw the mantle of charity over his failings and believe that death came as a blessing and happy release.

 Pilgrim the Printer shows up in the Northwest around the late 1870s. His range appeared to be much broader than California Dick. The Pilgrim was born Samuel P. Haslett, December, 1838 in Butler, Pennsylvania. His Irish-born father, William Haslett (1816-1872), ran a newspaper in Butler and also held offices in the state legislature as a Whig and Republican.

An undated clipping from the San Francisco Morning Ledger, which was reprinted in a collection of newspaper stories in 1890, included this description of Haslett:

THE PILGRIM PRINTER

 Last night Hazlett, known everywhere as the “Pilgrim Print,” came up the Ledger stairs and walked into the composing-room just as naturally as if he had never worked anywhere else in all his life. As soon as he crossed the threshold he was welcomed from all sides, for everybody knew him by sight or reputation. Without taking the slightest notice of the chaff thrown at him from the cases, he shuffled up toward the centre of the room, and leaned against a composing-stone, looking about him like Marius inspecting the ruins of Carthage.

 To him a well-regulated printing office, where men work systematically for wages, is an abomination and a disgrace. He would scorn to be subservient to a master. He never took orders from anybody. When he strikes a place that suits him, he tackles a column of type and begins to distribute it. When he doesn’t like his work or his company, he throws on his coat and walks off, scorning to ask for pay. An old, dingy printing office, with worn and blackened cases, battered type and cracked composing stones, suits him best; where the galleys are all shrunk out of shape, the chases all indented, the quoins all mashed and the foreman’s mallet beaten down almost to the handle. Cobwebs on the wall give him genuine delight, and big breaks in the ceiling, denoting the long absence of plaster, are well-springs of pleasurable emotion. An expression of intense disgust shadowed his features as he saw that it was not over a month old. The newness of the racks made him shudder; the air of cleanliness paralyzed him. When he saw the printers around him taking orders from one man, he cast a sad look over the place, such as Napoleon might have thrown on the galley slaves of Toulon. He concealed his contempt as best he could, not desiring to wound their feelings, and when he sneered he did it so softly that few noticed it.

 By the late 1890s Haslett returned to the East, where he continued his occupation as a tramp printer. The US Census of 1900 actually caught him in Genesee, Pennsylvania. Haslett, who by this time was described as looking like Santa Claus, died January 9th, 1906 while walking down a street in Easton, Maryland, seeking work. He is buried in Butler, Pennsylvania.

As a WSL bit of trivia, our colleague Shawn Schollmeyer has pointed out that James P. Ferry, who served as Territorial Librarian from 1880-1881, and a son of Washington’s first governor, was not exactly a tramp printer, but was known to perform printing and type work of an itinerant nature.

 

 

 

 

 

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UNUSUAL BIRD IS MADE A PRISONER

November 20th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, Uncategorized No Comments »

The jumblies and other nonsense verses" (1910) http://bit.ly/1pNxtrZ

The jumblies and other nonsense verses” (1910)
http://bit.ly/1pNxtrZ

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Edward Lear’s classic nonsense poem The Owl and Pussycat has such a charming conclusion:

 And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

 Well, er, that’s not exactly how this piece of Random News ends. It is an article that will mortify birders and make us cat lovers shake our heads sadly but knowingly. Our precious purring little pointy eared felines

dance at the thrill of the kill,

the kill,

the kill,

They dance at the thrill of the kill.

 But I am giving away the ending. owl newspaper

This installment of Random News comes from The Yakima Daily Republic, Jan. 15, 1910:

 UNUSUAL BIRD IS MADE A PRISONER

 What Is believed to Be an Elf Owl Has Wandered Far from its Native Haunts.

 Fowl Found Only in the Far South Is Taken on Nob Hill by J.B. Dougherty.

 What is believed to be an elf owl which naturalists say is seldom found further north than the border line of the United States, it rarely coming into California, has been captured in the Yakima valley. It was taken by J.B. Dougherty of Nob Hill Wednesday. The little bird offered no resistance, it appeared stunned by the cold weather.

 The little owl sat on the fence in front of Mr. Dougherty’s residence. As he approached the small fowl it showed no signs of fright and allowed its captor to put his hand around it without apparently the least alarm.

 Killed by the Cat.

 Mr. Dougherty released the little bird in the hope that it would fly away. It fell, however, a prey to the ever watchful eye of the house cat and was brought onto the porch of the house dead. The unusual appearance of the little bird aroused Mr. Dougherty’s curiosity and he took it to Taxidermist Harmer that he might ascertain the species.

 The body of the bird is scarcely larger than that of a canary, although its feathers, projecting almost at right angles from its body, gives it the appearance of being much larger. On the scales it tips the beam at less than two ounces.

 Mr. Harmer searched Dawson & Bowles’ Birds of Washington and was unable to find a description answering to this fowl. He went to the Color Key to North American Birds, a book known to the taxidermist as the bird dictionary. It is published by Frank M. Chapman and Chester A. Reed. There he found the elf owl, the description of which in every way answers to this unusual species.

 The book says that the range of the bird is on the tablelands of Mexico, from Pueblo north to the Mexican border of the United States and in lower California, rarely in California.

The birds of Washington : a complete, scientific and popular account of the 372 species of birds found in the state" (1909)  http://bit.ly/1uYfqGp

The birds of Washington : a complete, scientific and popular account of the 372 species of birds found in the state” (1909) http://bit.ly/1uYfqGp

 

 Its Colorings.

Its appearance is like that of any other owl except that it is very small. On the back it is a grayish brown, the head is spotted and the back is barred with rust. The under parts are irregularly spotted with an ashy gray.

The bird dictionary says the elf owl utters a tremulous “cha-cha” in different keys, sometimes low and distinct. There is no other description given than that already referred to.

 How this little species should have wandered so far from its native haunts is a wonder to all those who have seen it. Naturalists who have seen the little owl are even at a loss to give a theory as to how it ever became so far separated from its habitat.

 The bird will be mounted on the profile of a half moon.

 A modern work in the WSL collection, Elf owl : Micrathene whitneyi / Susanna G. Henry and Frederick R. Gehlbach (1999) confirms that the 1910 Yakima Elf Owl was indeed about 1000 miles outside its range. It is possible what Dougherty captured was in fact a Northern Pygmy Owl, which would be totally in range. However, the Pygmy Owl is included in Dawson and Bowles’ work and Harmer didn’t think his specimen in hand matched the description.

A viewing of that stuffed and mounted little owl would settle the issue, but the artifact has slipped away. Alfred Sterling Harmer, the taxidermist, had a variety of occupations. He was born in Ontario in 1879, became a United States citizen in 1901, and served overseas in the US Army during World War I. Harmer moved to Western Washington where he worked as an employee for Puget Power for 20 years. He died in Seattle, Nov. 12, 1951.

As for the fate of the feline, I guess the whole episode left a fowl taste in its mouth.elf owl

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The Koreshans, a World Turned Outside In

October 27th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

There’s a great independent filmmaker in Utah I used to correspond with and even met once named Trent Harris. In his movie Plan 10 From Outer Space (1995) a character utters one of my all time favorite lines in cinema history: “Just because it’s made up doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” For some reason this little soundbite seems appropriate for the following story.

The random news article found in this round opened a door into the strange and bizarre world of a group with some Washington State connections, including one that turned out to be quite close to home.

The following news piece was found in The Tacoma Daily News (an ancestor to today’s News Tribune), Feb. 5, 1915:tacoma

HUNDRED TACOMANS SAID TO BE BELIEVERS IN CELIBACY CULT

Alleging James W. Gepford, 1521 South 57th street, assaulted him Wednesday night Dr. W.A. Bailey, an optometrist, swore to a complaint for Gepford’s arrest yesterday. Deputy Prosecutor Cramer is investigating. It is said Dr. Bailey is a leader of the Koreshans cult, the teachings of which, it is said, advocate celibacy and that the world is turned inside out so that humans are now living on the inside.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Cramer, Gepford complains that his wife took up the doctrine because of the teachings of Dr. Bailey and that through the advocacy of celibacy by the Koreshans his wife had grown cold toward him. The cult is said to have about a hundred followers in Tacoma.

At the time of this altercation, Dr. Wilson A. Bailey was 60 years old and Gepford was a logger about 15 years his junior. It was probably not a pretty sight.

But let’s back up a bit. Who were the Koreshans? Here’s a nutshell history:

The belief system was formed by Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed (1839-1908). Teed was, in the parlance of the time, an “eclectic” physician based in Utica, New York. He relied mainly on botanical cures and dabbled in alchemy. In 1869 he was rendered unconscious by an experiment when he employed the use of electricity– apparently a little too enthusiastically. During his blackout he had a vision where a Divine being told him he was the new Christian-based Messiah.

Being an industrious fellow, Dr. Teed set off to work, renaming himself “Koresh,” which is “Cyrus” in Hebrew. The religious/scientific movement he founded was soon known as “Koreshanity” or “Koreshan Unity.” The doctrine include a belief in reincarnation, immortality, communal living, alchemy and an acceptance of Teed’s role as the current Messiah. Oh, and there were two other little details in their theology: followers were expected to adhere to a strict code of celibacy, and according to Dr. Teed, Copernicus had it all wrong. The world was hollow and we existed on the inside concave shell. This was called “Cellular Cosmogony.”

After some not so successful attempts at establishing lasting communal settlements in Chicago and San Francisco, the Koreshans began to really get serious down in Estero, Florida, starting in the mid-1890s. By the early 20th century they had an incorporated town with 250 residents and appeared to be thriving. But then something bad happened that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Dr. Teed died.

It was Dec. 22, 1908. His followers held vigil over his body which had been placed in a bathtub, expecting him to rise again on Christmas. Two weeks later the County Coroner told them they had better get this corpse in the ground real fast. Dr. Teed was laid to rest in a mausoleum on the premises, but his coffin was washed out to sea in a hurricane in 1921 and was never recovered. So who knows? Maybe he did come back but hasn’t announced it yet.

Anyway, after the death of the founder, the sect and the settlement began to dwindle. The whole Leader-Is-Not-Immortal thing, coupled with the belief in celibacy, tends to put a crimp on future expansion. In 1961 the last of Dr. Teed’s followers gave the commune to the public and today the place is known as Koreshan State Park. Some of the original buildings are still there.
It is impressive that several years after Dr. Teed’s death, the Koreshans could claim 100 followers in Tacoma alone. Dr. Bailey survived his assault, and died in 1921. The Gepfords apparently remained together and moved on. But that wasn’t the case for Thomas Bellingham (1858-1920), who owned a plumbing company and served as a Pierce County Commissioner. His wife Martha (1860-1919) had been an active member of the group. Her name appears on a Koreshan broadside. She left her family and became a resident of the Florida commune about 1917, the same time Thomas assumed his political office. She died within two years.

Tacoma was not the only place in Washington where you could find Koreshans. A letter to the editor of the Morning Olympian, Aug. 15, 1914, began with the preface, “There are in Olympia a considerable number of persons who believe the war in Europe is the beginning of the end of the world.” This was soon followed with, “We are not making any predictions, but simply desire to call the attention of your readers to the warning given out and published in Koreshan literature during the past forty-five years.” Then a long and difficult to follow screed is presented.

 

Although he did not appear to join the group, there is some evidence from published correspondence in the Koreshan newspaper, The Flaming Sword, that Washington State Representative William Lowrey Freeman (1856-1936) was intrigued by and studied the theology of Koreshanity in 1897. Freeman had been elected as a representative for the 22nd District as a Populist during that party’s sweep in 1896. He was a a physician who had been educated at a medical college in St. Louis but also had “eclectic” medical interests, leading him to further studies at places like the Buchanan College of Therapeutic Sarcognomy, the Herring Medical College of Homeopathy, the Bing Swanger School of Electricity, and the Weltmer School of Suggestive Therapeutics.

Mildred Fischer Barager, who died in Seattle at the age 94 in 1995, provided a very detailed oral history in 1982 to the Florida Park Service concerning her childhood in the Koreshan commune. She was probably the last living person to give an eyewitness account of Dr. Teed himself.

And speaking of Dr. Teed, I am saving the best Washington State connection for last. Yes, it is confirmed, Dr. Cyrus Teed is a distant relation to our own Bill Teed, IT Guru here at the Office of the Secretary of State.

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The Killing Season

October 7th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

“One of the lusty, colorful eras in the history of the Pacific Northwest,” writes Jim Gibbs, “centered around the pelagic sealing industry. It gained great proportions by the 1890′s when every year more than 100 small schooners, propelled only by canvas, set sail from Victoria, B.C. and Puget Sound ports fanning throughout the North Pacific, in the harsh open seas of the Bering Sea, and often into Siberian and Japanese waters.” Supposed dead sailor

Pelagic sealing was a brutal, dangerous and cruel method of hunting seals for their fur. After decades of hunting by Russian, Japanese, Canadian, and American sealers, the Northern Fur Seal population had declined at an alarming rate. The American government had begun the process of regulating the industry as far as it could in the mid-1890s, so to get around these laws many U.S. sealers worked on Japanese schooners with an international crew, frequently breaking various laws in order to score a large harvest.

The following is a tale of what happened to a group of sealers who gambled and lost when they attempted to harvest seals in a war zone, when men were engaged in killing each other rather than seals. In this case the international battle was the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the first real industrialized conflict in the northern hemisphere in the 20th century.

By coincidence, this seal-hunting episode took place at the same time Jack London’s Sea-Wolf was published, a novel partially based on the life of contemporary sealer Alex MacLean.

The article found at random that led to this tale turned out to be rife with major factual errors, but it did lead to other sources, and they in turn were rife with major conflicting facts. This is an incident that could keep professional historians busy for a long time as they attempt to confirm the data. A little lesson on accuracy and rumors. What follows should be considered a best guess of what happened.

Anyway, here’s the brief news piece that got me started, from the Dec. 6, 1905 Morning Olympian:

SUPPOSED DEAD SAILOR OF ABERDEEN IN RUSSIAN PRISON

Aberdeen. Dec. 5–The sealing schooner Chas. Grant, recently returned to Victoria, B.C. after escaping from Russia through the intervention of the British government, reports that the officers and crew of the schooner Diana, mourned as dead since the summer of 1904, are still alive, immured in a Russian prison on the Amoor.

 It transpires that the Danana [sic] did not go down in a storm as was supposed, but was sunk by the Russian cruiser Lena last August, after the removal of the crew. That the Diana was lost and its crew drowned has been so generally accepted that the life insurance of several of them has been paid, and it is said that the wife of one of the crew has married again and lives in Aberdeen.

OK, where do we start? For openers, the Victoria Daily Colonist had reported the lost crew was alive and in a Russian prison about six months before this Dec. 1905 “breaking news” appeared.

Chas. Grant was not a schooner, he was a human being working as a sealer. Along with a fellow Victoria resident named Robert Finlay, they had been part of the crew of the Hokusei Maru, a Japanese sealing ship that had been seized and sunk by the Russian cruisers Gromoboi and Rossia.

Grant and Finlay told reporters they had been kept in a POW camp with 1500 Japanese, including some sealers who had been aboard the Diana. The Japanese prisoners reported to Grant and Finlay that the Diana crew had not perished at sea, and the North American prisoners had been taken to another facility. “Rather odd, isn’t it?,” Finlay told the Bellingham Herald  (Dec. 7, 1905), “to be delighted to learn that your friends are in prison?”

The prisoners Finlay was making reference to were identified as Capt. T.R. Thompson, Edward McNeill, George McCamish, Joseph Knapp, and a mysterious character we’ll call Joseph Vollo for now.

Next, the Diana was not really the Diana. The schooner had left the Victoria fleet and was registered in Japan. It was now called the Kyoichi Maru. The schooner flew under different flags, including Norway, Britain, and Denmark, as a blind.

In early August 1904 the Kyoichi Maru crew had somehow gotten into a quarrel with four other schooners as they descended upon Robben Island to slaughter seals at a rookery there. This small patch of land is now called Tyuleniy Island. At the time it was in Russian territory, but from 1905-1945 belonged to Japan. Somehow the four schooners conspired to block the Kyoichi Maru from participating in the carnage, so the ship waited until the others departed and then returned to start clubbing whatever seals were left. On Aug. 16, 1904, after killing over 200 seals (the previous four ships had killed almost 2000 seals each), they were discovered by the Russian auxiliary cruiser Lena (one version says it was the cruiser Gromoboi).

The Kyoichi Maru was then stripped and, depending on what account you believe, was sunk on the spot or scuttled at the mouth of the Amur River. The Japanese crew members were hustled off to a POW camp, but the five remaining crew members were given what could be called in charitable terms, “special treatment.”

These five were held in detention until Jan. 1905, when they were tried in Russian court and found guilty– of poaching, one would guess. They were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. By the time they were released, Robben Island had become part of Japan.

T.R. Thompson was the main focus of the Russian’s ire. Based in San Francisco, Thompson was well known to his keepers. As the Nov. 29, 1905 Victoria Daily Colonist explained: “The Russians were greatly interested in Capt. Thompson, who was formerly in the employ of the Russian fur company, which leased the rookery on Robben Island, he was mate on the guard steamer Kotick, which was captured by the Japanese lying in Yokohama, when the war began, and while in the employ of the Russian company, he had learned of the customs of the fur company, of how it placed its guards, etc. information, which came useful when he took charge of a Japanese sealing schooner.”

Thompson was given the harshest sentence of the crew. His manacles were welded on and he was kept in chains for months– to the point where he was unable to walk under his own power for a spell. A cartoon he had sketched had somehow made the Russians suspect he was a spy.

Edward McNeill of Victoria had alerted the press that the Kyoichi Maru was not lost at sea when he wrote to his parents in Victoria in early 1905.

Joe Knapp had lived in Seattle and Bellingham prior to this adventure. Possibly born in 1877 in Nova Scotia, Knapp apparently had a second job as a waiter on an Alaska passenger ship during the gold rush. He appears in the Seattle 1897 city directory employed in the occupation of sealer.

“Joseph Vollo” has been described as being from Guam, Spain, or Mexico. His name changes in each news account, but all versions agree he was quite young.

George McCamish, although described as a Canadian by most news articles, was actually an American. He was born in San Rafael, California in 1865. His lineage traces back to early American Scot-Irish heritage and later to possible Mormon pioneers.

McCamish was no stranger to being arrested by the Russians. In 1903 he had been part of a trio convicted and sentenced for poaching seals in Russian territory.

The North American prisoners from the Hyoichi Maru were released in mid-1906, destitute and in broken health. Through the charity of English and German travelers, the crew were able to secure passage from Vladivostok to Kobe.

At this point the fate of “Vollo” vanishes into the haze of history. McNeill, Knapp, and McCamish, after arriving in Japan, joined the crew of the sealing ship Seifu Maru, commanded by Capt. Ritchie. Thompson took command of a new sealing ship, the Aitoku Maru. Later he became the skipper of the Matsu Maru.

Two years later McCamish was aboard the Kinsei Maru, again with Capt. Ritchie (aka Richardson) when the schooner was seized by the US cutter Bear while illegally raiding seals and trading liquor for pelts in the Pribilof Island area. The Kinsei Maru was infamous as a ship filled with desperate characters, almost like pirates, and was nicknamed “The Terror” by Alaska locals. It was even adorned with a paper mache funnel and painted to disguise itself to resemble a revenue cutter. I cannot verify if Knapp was also part of the crew of 30+ sailors.

Ritchie and McCamish were imprisoned in Valdez for a number of months. Ritchie withdrew from sealing after this episode and lived in retirement in Japan.

George McCamish died June 10, 1911 in the Philippines from meningitis.

Ed McNeill joined the crew of the Toyoi Maru, under the command of Harry Jacobson.

As far as the “widow” in Aberdeen, Washington is concerned, I am unable to ascertain the identity of either spouse. If this story is true, then we have the side love interest gone awry to complete a great historical novel.

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LIKE AS “TWO DROMIOS”: COMPLICATIONS FROM A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY.

September 18th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

[The following piece of found-at-random news comes from The Tacoma Daily Ledger, although the story took place in New Whatcom (a town which later became part of the City of Bellingham).

The tale reads like a screwball comedy. Published on November 9, 1897, the headline writer very appropriately made a reference to characters from Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors]:tacoma ledger

Mrs. Woods of Whatcom Secures a Divorce From Her Absent Spouse and Claims the Husband of Mrs. Lewis as Her Own — Row in the Lewis Family — Lewis Disappears — Woods Returns; Then Lewis, and Mystery Is Solved.

 NEW WHATCOM, Nov. 8.–(Special)–A most remarkable romance has been sequelized by the recent return to this city of James A. Woods, laden with treasure from Alaska. Mrs. James A. Woods has been residing in this city for the past five years while her husband was hunting gold in Alaska. She kept furnished rooms for rent.

One day last summer a Mr. Lewis and wife arrived in the city from Montana and proceeded to hunt furnished rooms. Mrs. Lewis finally rented one of Mrs. Woods’ rooms and the Lewis’ moved in. Like as Two

When Mrs. Woods was introduced to Mr. Lewis she at once convinced herself that he was Mr. Woods, her husband. She applied for and secured a divorce from Mr. Woods. Being fully convinced of Mr. Lewis’ real identity, Mrs. Woods imparted the information to Mrs. Lewis. Then there was a storm, a terrible upheaval of family quietude, and finally about three weeks ago Mr. Lewis disappeared and no trace of him could be discovered.

Last Friday James A. Woods arrived in the city, stating that he had landed at Victoria from Alaska October 28. The city police spotted him and placed him under surveillance; they had little doubt that the smooth-shaven Woods was none other than the bearded Lewis; besides, a peculiar scar upon Woods’ left thumb tallied with a similar mark on Lewis’ thumb. What was still more remarkable was the fact that Mrs. Lewis believed the new comer to be Mr. Lewis, while Mrs. Woods knew him as the real Woods.

Another search was made for Lewis and that gentleman reappeared upon the scene Saturday. Now it is all settled that Woods is really Woods of Alaska and Lewis is the real Lewis of Montana, though the remarkable resemblance of the two men to each other in all prominent features except whiskers fully explains and warrants the confusion.

[This newspapers and many others are available on microfilm and can be circulated to your local library on request]

 

 

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TENDERLOIN CELEBRITIES IN THE TOILS

June 5th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Found at random in the Sept. 12, 1905 issue of the always entertaining Seattle Star:tenderloin

TENDERLOIN CELEBRITIES IN THE TOILS

Seattle’s three municipal problems, Annie Rooney, “Prof.” Price and “Yankee Frank,” are again guests at the taxpayers’ expense.

 Officers Brafford and Mayou gathered in the notorious trio Monday evening while patrolling their tenderloin beat. As usual, Annie Rooney went along with sprightly step. Annie expected to be sent up to headquarters in the hurry-up wagon, as she had been out of jail for at least two weeks. “Yankee Frank,” however, did not take things so phlegmatically. He protested in terms both emphatic and lurid. Frank is a well-known tenderloin character. At one time he owned a very profitable second-hand business and was held in respect by both the police and his many acquaintances. His business failed and he rapidly developed into a shiftless n’er-do-well.

 But–

 When the redoubtable “Prof.” Price, the “Cockney Kid,” self-appointed champion pugilist of the tenderloin, artistic poser, terpsichorean star and vaudeville headliner felt the brawney hand of Officer Brafford on his shoulder, he scorned armitices and peace treaties, and–

 Showed fight!

 Then it was that the spectators were treated to a pretty set-to between the “professor” and Patrolman Brafford. The latter did not resort to his club, but met the reknowned “professor” at his own game. There was no sparring for wind, no breaks to cover. Brafford sent a right to the head and planted a hard one on the point of Price’s jaw. Inasmuch as there was no rope to hold on to, Price grabbed the edge of the bar in the saloon where the arrest was made, and all the efforts of the policeman to dislodge him were in vain. Finally Brafford “swat” him another mighty one, and the “professor” hurled himself into the fray, only to be the receiving station of a third hearty jolt.

 Finally, with Annie on one arm and Price on another, Brafford started for the patrol box, where he met Officer Mayou with “Yankee Frank” in tow.

 The arrests created much talk in the tenderloin, many of the folk there claiming that the trio were harmless and should have been left alone. Annie, Price and Frank are tenderloin charges. They live through the charity of the men and women who make the underworld either their home or business address.

Annie Rooney was no stranger to Seattle headline writers. Born around 1868-1870 in New York, she was raised in Michigan as the second daughter of a wealthy doctor. She was said to have attended the Boston Conservatory of Music and was regarded as something of a musical prodigy. In the early 1880s she toured the Massachusetts entertainment circuit as one of the feature acts for the Bennett & Moulton’s Juvenile Opera Company under her birth name, Florence Story.

When Florence was about 16 she fell in love with a fire-eater and variety theater entertainer named Del Bartino. The two married, much to the disapproval of her parents, and headed to Seattle in 1886. They opened in box house theaters, which is to say they were saloons with a space dedicated for shows and other activities, to put it politely. The Bartinos worked with the legendary theater man John Cort, as well as Tacoma’s “Boss Sport,” Harry Morgan.

In Eugene Clinton Elliott’s A History of Variety-Vaudeville in Seattle from the Beginning to 1914, a playbill for Morgan’s Theater is reproduced, dated October 1, 1887. Florence is now called Flora Story, “a dashing little artist” and “the queen of the African harp.”

Everything came apart for Florence in 1889. Seattle’s business district burned down, wiping out every theater in town. And her marriage to Bartino crumbled. According to legend, she dressed as a boy and ran away to sea for a time. When she returned to Seattle she had become Annie Rooney, notorious drunk.

She might have borrowed the name from the title of a popular song of the era. She became such a celebrity problem in Seattle’s tenderloin district that at one point in March, 1903, the local police put her on a steamer with a one-way ticket to Whatcom.

But she came back.

In November, 1903, while in an extended stay at Western State Hospital, Annie had the experience of reading her obituary in several newspapers. “Nobody,” said WSH Superintendent C.M. Parks, “enjoyed those stories of her death more than did Annie Rooney herself.”

By 1905, when the above article was published, Seattle’s Tenderloin district was being pushed south as the downtown real estate became more valuable with the expansion of the city. The “Golden Age of Vice,” and the reign of characters like Annie Rooney, were coming to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Veritable Hermit Discovered Living in the Heart of the Olympics”

May 7th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library.

The following article was found at random in the Sept. 1, 1903 issue of the Seattle Daily Times and contains a description of one of the more unusual libraries in Washington State history:

headlineThe Times Special Service.

EVERETT, Tuesdays, Sept. 1.–A hermit, such as fiction deals in, has been discovered in the heart of the Olympic mountains, by Attorney Robert A. Hulbert, of this city, who has returned from a fishing trip through that rugged region.

 The hermit, who, years ago, was known in New York City by the name of Le Barr, lives in a commodious cabin, high up in the foothills and fourteen miles from others of his race. The account of his brief visit with the recluse is told as follows by Attorney Hulbert.

“Hermit Le Barr is 60 years of age. Fourteen years ago, after domestic troubles, he left his family in New York City and turned to the West, a wanderer on the face of the earth, with no place he could call his home.

 “Thinking to find gold he went into the Olympic mountains prospecting. Almost before he knew it his supply of provisions became exhausted. Starvation stared him in the face and he turned his tottering steps toward civilization.

 “His hunger became intense, and at the time he had about resigned himself to his fate he managed to shoot a large trout. This he baked upon the rocks and consumed ravenously.

 “As he completed his meal an elk strayed across the trail and a shot from his rifle brought the magnificent animal to earth. The following morning he killed a large bear.

 Had Found Paradise.

 “Le Barr told me he immediately made up his mind that he had reached paradise, and straightaway built a roomy cabin, hewing the logs and riving the planks with his own hands.

 “The hermits next step was to take up a claim of 160 acres. This valuable timber land is now in the very heart of a government reservation. The United States recognizes Le Barr’s ownership, and the old man looks forward to a time when Uncle Sam shall pay him a handsome sum of money to relinquish his claim.

 “The cabin in the wilderness is composed of a single room 20 by 40 feet. Trophies of his skill with the rifle adorn the rought-hewn walls. He has learned taxidermy and has many fine heads of deer, bear, elk and smaller denizens of the forest scattered about in decorative disorder. Deep and soft are the skins of wild animals covering the floor– a collection of years.

 The Hermit’s Library.

“An incongruity striking my attention was the presence of many late books and magazines carefully placed in rough bookcases.

 “Frequently Hermit Le Barr walks sixteen miles to replenish his library. He is well read and remarkably well posted on current events.

 “When bleak winter makes his approach, the hermit lays in a great supply of wood and goes on long hunting excursions to stock his larder. And then the snow comes, sometimes ten feet, frequently thirty-five feet covers his cabin, and he and his books and dogs are prisoners for three long months.

 “The hermit is a picture. His frame is tall, his hair falls long on his shoulders and his great beard drops nearly to his waist. He is clad in buckskin from head to foot.

 “Le Barr says he frequently sees great herds of elk roaming the hills and valleys. Before government rangers were placed in the timber Le Barr told me that whites and Indians killed entire herds as the animals wallowed in deep snow.” 

Rufus Lebar (sometimes called Labaie, or Le Barr) was born ca. 1836 in Pennsylvania to French immigrant parents and was raised in Connecticut. He served in the Union Army for most of the Civil War as a soldier in an artillery unit. Rufus appears to have built his cabin about 1890. It sat deep in the woods, 15 miles west of Hoodsport, at an elevation of 850 ft.

In History of Hoodsport / by Jean L. Bearden, the story continues: “Rufus LeBarr had taken a homestead claim on the South Fork of the Skokomish which he had filed in 1890. In 1905, he was still waiting for the government to give him title to the land. The surveys were still disputed and finally, after he was ready to give up, he was given the title in 1906, sixteen years after he had applied.”

Rufus promptly sold the land in 1907. Today his homestead is now part of a trail along the lower south fork of the Skokomish River in Olympic National Forest. Rufus died Oct. 25, 1909 at the home of his daughter in Seattle.

Robert HulbertRobert Ansel Hulbert, the attorney who told the tale, was born in Seattle on Mar. 10, 1864. After obtaining a law degree from the University of Washington in the 1880s he served as Snohomish County Clerk in the 1890s and then worked in private practice in Everett until 1907, when he moved to Seattle. Hulbert died in Seattle Dec. 30, 1943.

And the fate of Lebar’s library has escaped the pages of history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Uncle of the Father of Earth Day: Washington’s sort of Connection…

April 22nd, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Several years ago I discovered an unusual Washington State connection to Earth Day while compiling biographical information about unsuccessful candidates for Governor. The election was 1936 and the subject was Union Party nominee Ove Malling Nelson.

Nelson1930s Although a bit distant, the connection is this: Ove Nelson was the uncle of the Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the Father of Earth Day. OK, so its convoluted, but I love trivia.

Attorney and author O.M. “Ovie” or “Ovey” Nelson was a political gadfly and fixture in Grays Harbor County elections for thirty years, 1916-1946. Most of his energy was spent running for either County Prosecuting Attorney or the 3rd District U.S. Congress seat. One reference mentioned he also tried for the State Senate at some time. He ran under the banner of four different parties in the course of his campaign career: Republican, Democrat, La Follette Progressive, and Union. This last party was the strangest of them all, and he was identified with it during a curious detour from his pattern of trying to obtain the above mentioned offices. Nelson was the Union Party’s candidate for Governor in 1936.

Ove Malling Nelson was born Mar. 9, 1880 in Thorp, Clark County, Wis. His parents were immigrants from Norway. He came from a large farming family where politics was apparently in the genetic fiber.

In a May 27, 1999 “countdown to the millennium” piece, the Montesano Vidette included this background on Nelson:

Raised in the mighty Wisconsin forest, his father carved a log home from the forest and would travel 40 miles for food, which he packed on his back. Young Ovey also attended school in a log school house in Thorp, receiving his diploma when he was 14 years old.

“Dissatisfied with the next three years of his life working on a farm, Ovey decided to take a high school course. He had to walk four miles to attend class and once there he was the only boy in a class of four students. Ovey then turned to teaching, but dissatisfied with the Wisconsin frontier, he decided to travel west, arriving in Everett in 1900.

Young Nelson stayed in Washington until 1906, when he decided to move back to Wisconsin. There he worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper. It was also during this time he met the future Mrs. Nelson, Melinda Opperman. The couple later married in Seattle in 1915 and they had three sons.

 Nelson’s stay in Wisconsin only lasted a short time though. He moved back to Seattle in 1907 and it was two newspaper advertisements that played an important part in his life.

 The first ad he answered was for a company seeking a man to work out of town. Thus he came to Cosmopolis in January 1907 with C.F. White to work for Neil Cooney and the Grays Harbor Commercial Co.

Nelson1970sNelson worked for Cooney for eight months when he answered a second ad by W.H. Abel of Montesano for a stenographer. Nelson was hired. During this time, Nelson became interested in the law. He found time to read law in the evenings.

 Nelson worked for Abel for one year, one month and 16 days, before heading to Olympia to take the bar examination, which he passed. In 1909 he set up an independent practice for himself.

 Somewhere in that narrative, according to his obituary, Nelson attended business college in Oshkosh, Wis., probably in 1906.

Nelson’s political runs appeared to have started in 1916. Between 1916-1946 he ran for County Prosecuting Attorney at least four times, and made no less than eight attempts for U.S. Congress. Apparently he sat out the elections of 1932, 1940, and 1944. In the other years I have identified 13 attempts by Nelson to gain elective office. In eight of those he ran as a Republican but never gained enough votes to win a primary. The only way he was able to get his name on the general election ballot was to run as Democrat, Progressive, or Union party member. In most of these elections, he usually won the majority of votes in his home town, which says a lot about his standing in the community and the perseverance of Monte in supporting their own favorite son against the much more populated Aberdeen-Hoquiam or Olympia political base.

In 1922 Nelson made his first bid for U.S. Congress. Nelson’s Big Issue in the 1920s appears to be that he was a “wet,” arguing that Prohibition was a mistake.

In 1924 Nelson ran for Congress as a member of La Follete’s Progressive Party. The Democrats apparently didn’t have a real candidate so Ovie became the main opposition by default. Nelson pretty much mouthed the party line on national issues. In local affairs, he promoted the idea of public ownership of utilities. The Grays Harbor Public Utility District was still 14 years away. Ovie was ahead of his time on this issue.

Prohibition was a major story issue in the region. The Grays Harbor County Sheriff and a host of other law enforcement types had been stung in booze running conspiracies. Alcohol was brought down from British Columbia, dumped overboard in crates into Grays Harbor, where local distributors picked them up under the watchful and approving eye of the local law. Meanwhile, out in McCleary, a thriving cottage industry of producing quality homemade booze helped supplement the local economy. “McCleary Moonshine” even had a special label.

In 1930 he tried again to unseat incumbent Albert Johnson in the primary. According to the Montesano Vidette, Sept. 4, 1930:

 NELSON WANTS NEW DRY LAW

 O.M. Nelson, Montesano attorney, is waging a vigorous campaign for representative in congress. He will speak over KMO, Tacoma, Thursday night and Saturday night. His campaign is based chiefly on his proposal to rectify prohibition condition by adoption of another amendment to permit government sale of liquor under proper regulation. He would leave the present amendment intact to prevent the return of the saloon. He has cited the Lyle-Whitney case in Seattle as an example of what he terms the failure of the national prohibition law. He lays the crime wave and much of business depression to prohibition. Nelson is city attorney of Montesano, having been reelected several times.

And although he placed first in Montesano, he finished 3rd in the primary in 1930. Interesting to note his position as City Attorney was an elective office, so he was successful in municipal elections.

The repeal of Prohibition had taken away the topic that had been Ovie’s main campaign issue for years. It was replaced by his interest in monetary reform. In 1934 he authored On the Wane: Democracy Or Communism (Montesano Publishing Co.), a 192 page book the Montesano Vidette said “attacks our banking system and which declares our present money system, based on huge debts, is destroying democracy and opening the door to communism.” Copies of this monograph are difficult to find today.

Now for a little background on the Union Party. It was a brief blip on the political radar, initially causing panic among Democrats but as it turned out was of little consequence in the election. The Party’s foundation was built from three groups who felt FDR was not doing enough to meet the financial crisis of the 1930s: The Townsendites, the Coughlin listeners, and the Share Our Wealth followers.

The historian William Manchester gives his take on the Union Party: “… Father Coughlin and his colleagues preempted the lunatic fringe, presenting for the voters’ consideration their new Union Party. The Union candidate for President was Congressman William Lemke of North Dakota, a strange individual with a pocked face, a glass eye, and a shrill voice; to the radio priest’s dismay he insisted upon wearing a gray cloth cap and an outsize suit. Coughlin baptized him ‘Liberty Bill,’ and Gerald L.K. Smith drew up plans to guard the November polls with a hundred thousand Townsendite youths. The radio priest promised to quit the air forever if he didn’t deliver nine million votes for the Union ticket. That seemed extravagant, but in June both major parties were taking Lemke seriously … The sobriquet ‘Liberty Bill’ was catching on. Father Coughlin rather liked the alliterative resemblance to ‘Liberty Bell.’ Then, too late, he remembered something: the Liberty Bell was cracked.”

The Washington State Union Party met at the Frye Hotel in Seattle and nominated Nelson for Governor. National organizer H.F. Swett predicted to the Seattle Daily Times the Union Partywould carry Wyoming and Idaho and that the ticket would make a creditable showing in Washington.”

Nelson clearly saw himself as coming from the Left in his Union Party run. Incumbent Gov. Martin was a moderate Democrat. The Washington Commonwealth Federation, a liberal political action group which included Townsendites in their ranks, had failed to displace Martin in the primary. Part of this was due to the fact 1936 was the first blanket primary in Washington, and many Republicans crossed over to choose the least objectionable Democrat. Meanwhile, former Governor and extreme conservative Roland Hartley, who was defeated in 1932 by Martin, won the Republican primary. Nelson tried to capitalize on the fact the Left had nowhere to go. Here’s part of an article from the Sept. 17, 1936 Montesano Vidette:

 NELSON SAYS LIBERALS TO ELECT HIM GOVERNOR. MONEY IS THE ISSUE, SAYS CANDIDATE

Following the lead of the union party’s presidential candidate, William Lempke, who insists he will be elected president in November, O.M. Nelson, Montesano’s first gubernatorial candidate, declares he will be the next governor of Washington …

 Despite the fact that his is frankly a minority group, Nelson forsees a coalition of liberal political voters in the state who won’t vote for ‘those two reactionaries, Martin and Hartley.’ This coalition will vote for the union party candidates, Nelson declares.

 “Money is the issue,” Nelson says. “All other issues are subordinate to the issue of honest money. Most of our economic problems are the direct result of our present dishonest money system. As soon as people wake up, they will realize they have been robbed for years and will put an end to dishonest money.”

 Martin, meanwhile, was no slouch when it came to political fence mending. Two other third party gubernatorial challenges, both of them with Townsendites in their ranks, were quelled before they had chance to file for the ballot.

Nelson did campaign throughout the state. He is on record as speaking to large groups in Walla Walla, Colfax, Spokane, Ellensburg, Davenport, Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia.

It didn’t do any good. Gov. Martin was re-elected with almost 70% of the vote. Nelson placed third out of the eight candidates with 6,349 votes (0.94%). He seemed to have a bump in votes in Clallam, Clark, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, Thurston, Walla Walla and Yakima counties, but even then he was never close to finishing at second place. The six third party candidates combined total only accounted for 2.52% of the vote.

Nationally and locally the Democrats enjoyed a huge landslide. The Republicans would be down to 5 senators and 6 representatives in the 145-member Washington State Legislature in the 1937 Session. The Argus ran this bit: “The day after election four years ago Jay Thomas, who was then public printer, stepped down to the lobby of the Olympian Hotel and let out a yell, ‘Look at me, the last living Republican.’ Recalling this incident, an old timer remarked here this morning after this election, ‘and now Jay is dead.’”

The Union Party evaporated after the 1936 election, but Nelson didn’t give up trying to get elected to public office. He made at least three more attempts to win the Republican primary for U.S. Congress. As usual, if it had been up to Montesano voters alone he would’ve been elected, but he couldn’t get the district-wide support.

In 1946 he ran one last time for Congress as a Republican under the catchy slogan: “We can produce abundance every day and we should be able to live abundantly every day without ruining the nation and ourselves with debts.” Although he seldom ran political newspaper ads in his early years, he came around at the end.

Ovie apparently retired from his quest for public elected office after 1946, but he remained very active in civic affairs. In the post-War years, he donated a chunk of land to Montesano for use as “Nelson Field,” a Little League Baseball park. In 1960, at the age of 80, he wrote his best known work: Our Legalized Monetary Swindles (New York : Vantage Press).

Ovie was still an active and a sought after speaker into his 90s. He died suddenly during the Grays Harbor Bar Association Christmas party at the Nordic Inn in Aberdeen, Dec. 19, 1975. His front page obituary stated, “At the time of his death he is believed to have been the oldest practicing attorney in the state.”

John C. Hughes, the Chief Historian of our own Legacy Project here at the Office of Secretary of State, shares this memory of Ove Nelson:

When I covered the Courthouse for The Aberdeen Daily World in the late 1960s, I visited O.M. Nelson several times at his office in Montesano. It was like having an audience with Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan or H.L. Mencken. Today we seem to have few genuine, iconoclastic, larger than life characters who aren’t dogmatic windbags. Nelson was all over the political map during his long career, but never motivated by opportunism. He waved his arms passionately when he warmed to a subject. Considering that all around him—on the desk, the floor and bookcases—papers were stacked two or more feet high, some leaning precariously like the tower at Pisa, I always worried that one false move could trigger a catastrophe. Nelson claimed he could quickly locate anything he needed in all the clutter. I never tested him. His grandson, Greg Nelson, Aberdeen’s city attorney, says grandpa’s secretary once heard a loud thump inside his office and feared he had fallen. It was just a mound collapsing onto the floor.

My, my, this post sure strayed a bit from Earth Day. Such is the interdisciplinary nature of history.

 

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Love in Bucoda

December 17th, 2013 steve.willis Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

Willie Keil marker with Grave on top of hill

Willie Keil marker with Grave on top of hill

Territorial Era Love Story, Bucoda 1889

This one is a nice spin on an old story, but the backstory is even more unusual. This was found at random in the Centralia Daily News, August 6, 1889:

THE BOY WON 

In Spite of the Difficulties Placed in His Pathway 

He Saw, He Loved, He Conquered, and is Rewarded, by Securing the Prize He Most Coveted. 

“For a few years past there existed a feeling of warm attachment between Eli Bannse and Nettie Coats, daughter of G.W. Coats, of Bucoda. For some reason best known to himself, the paternal heart did not seem to yearn to any great extent for a son-in-law, in the person of the applicant, and the loving pair found ‘Jordan a hard road to travel.’ But there is that in love which will take possession of a person’s very being, shape their resolves, and cause them to cling to the object of their affections, though death itself should threaten. Parents are very apt not to rightly estimate the strength of attachment thus formed.”

“A few weeks since, Mr. Bannse informed the parents that he had come to marry their daughter, but she was persuaded against taking the step. Bannse was not to be thwarted in that manner, and he arranged with some friends to help him out by a scheme. Last Saturday night there was a dance at Bucoda. Bannse was to play, but excused himself on the ground of sickness in the family, and providing a horse and carriage, waited outside for developments. How his heart must have beat with expectancy. Those few moments he was obliged to remain in suspense, must have seemed hours, for he knew not but what the parents who were present at the dance, would put a quietus on his scheme.”

“He was not doomed to disappointment. Success crowned his efforts. He carried off the prize, and while search was being made to them at every conceivable point, they drove quietly to Mrs. and Mr. Bannse, Sr.’s, farm house, and put up for the Sabbath. Monday morning Lon Ogle went to Chehalis and procured a license, and armed with the license, and accompanied by Justice John A. Taylor of this city, he returned to the waiting couple. By this time it was an afternoon long to be remembered by the participants and witnesses.”

“Justice Taylor says that this was the most romantic marriage that has come under his judicial career.”

“When the judge drove to the house of Mr. Herman Bannse, he found that it was out of his jurisdiction, but found the bride and groom hale and hearty and ‘Barkis is willin’.”

“So they all came back into Lewis county, and selected a nice grove by the way side, on top of a high hill, overlooking the River (Skookumchuck) and the beautiful valley through which it runs, and under a canopy of heaven and in the presence of witnesses, he joined this happy couple in wedlock. Judge says that he has seen marriages performed under marriage bells, arches of flowers, horse shoes, and many other places and implements of torture, especially prepared for the occasion, where, by the expression of the bride and groom not much happiness seem to exist, but on this occasion under the tall fir trees, cedars and maples, while nature in all its glory seemed to smile upon all present, while the birds of the forest did not forget to give their songs of praise, and indeed happiness (Eureka) was plainly stamped upon the faces of this young couple, as they took the midnight train for Portland. Happiness and success is the expression of all their friends and acquaintances.”

“The couple have a host of friends at Bucoda, who are glad to see the consummation of the marriage.”

“It must not be understood that we wish to cast any reflections upon Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Coats, who as far as we can learn, are worthy and respectable people, but the general opinion seems to be that they were mistaken in this matter.”

Eli Bannse and Nettie Coates were indeed married by Justice Taylor in Lewis County, August 5, 1889. Herman Bannse and A.E. Ogle were the official witnesses. The marriage certificate is available for viewing courtesy of the Washington State Digital Archives. At the time they were married, Elias Bannse was 27, Nettie was 18. They moved to Everett, then to Huntington Beach, Calif. by 1910, and landed in Centralia by 1914. Eli, who as we could see in the above article was a musician, was active in the town band. Nettie died in 1924, and Eli moved to Yakima to be close to their daughter, Madeline. Eli died in Yakima in 1935.

Herman Bannse, Eli’s father, turns up in C.B. Mann’s project, Thurston County Pioneers Before 1870. Herman had been part of the Keil party. The sect, called Bethelites and led by a charismatic German named Dr. William Keil left Bethel, Missouri for the Pacific Northwest in 1855. Just a few days before departure, Willie Keil, the Doctor’s 19 year old son, died as a result of malaria. Honoring Willie’s wishes to accompany the family out West, he was transported the entire distance in a lead-lined coffin filled with 100 proof Golden Rule whisky.

 

Tombstone Willey's

Tombstone Willey’s

 

The Keil party settled in Pacific County for a brief time. And it was here, near present day Menlo, Washington, that Willie Keil was laid to rest. A marker on the road near the grave is there today to tell the story. Across the road, last time I went through there, was a tavern called TombStone Willey’s.

Not finding the Willapa area to their liking, the group moved south to the Aurora Colony in Oregon, leaving Willie behind. Herman Bannse and Willie Keil, who were the same age, were first cousins. Herman’s mother was Dr. Keil’s sister. While in Oregon, Herman married fellow Keil Party member Margaret Bergman in 1860. Four years later they moved to Bucoda.

And the rest, they say, is history.

 

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