WA Secretary of State Blogs

Random news – Meteors, or UFOs?

February 13th, 2015 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, former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Through pure randomness I ran across a couple mysterious events experienced by Washingtonians in the north central part of the state in late December, 1921.

Ball of Fire in Sky seen hereOne of the benefits of working in a library with the largest collection of Washington State newspapers in the world is that I can focus on singular events from a multitude of views. Such is the case with the twin meteors during the 1921 holiday season, over 90 years ago.

In the December 29th and 31st, 1921 issues of The Wenatchee Daily World, witnesses from Soap Lake were quoted as having seen a meteor light up the sky at 12:30 AM on December 27. One man, R.J. Cartmill was certain the object had fallen to Earth and crashed in a ball of fire.

Two days later, a more dramatic event took place around the 7 AM hour. Jim Ellis, a prospector, was quoted in the January 6, 1922 issue of The Oroville Weekly Gazette:

 “When I got outside my cabin there was no fire but the glare caused me to look up and there was a big ball of flame, bigger than the First National bank, heading right for Oroville. Sparks from the thing were dropping on the roof of my cabin and on the snow around. It made a big sound, like a heavy wind as it traveled, and it was going fast, I thought the world was coming to an end. I watched it until it went out of sight in the clouds and fog and little later I heard a big explosion. I thought Oroville had been wiped out and I started for town to see the wreck.”

 The explosive sound could very have been a sonic boom. In conjecturing the cause of this unusual event, the Gazette added, “So many persons in this part of the country saw manifestations of the phenomenon or felt the effects of the explosion that it is accepted as altogether probable that some stray wanderer from interplanetary space visited this locality and either buried itself in the hills hereabouts or exploded nearby, consumed by friction with the earth’s atmosphere.”

Brilliant MeteorThe Methow Valley News in Twisp reported in their December 30th issue that the meteor had “a flash of light equal in brilliancy to a near flash of lightning. A report as of thunder followed, but not so loud, only being heard by those out in the open. It is reported the meteor was seen to strike on the Crevling place above Winthrop, on Eight Mile.”

The January 3, 1921 issue of the Okanogan Independent of Okanogan, Wash. reported: “J.E. Crofoot, living on the reservation 16 miles east of here, was out near his granary at the time of the fall, and was thrown against a steel feed roller and stunned for several minutes. Crofoot’s neighbor reports a similar experience. The phenomenon was thought by them to be lightning. Crofoot, with whom we had a telephone conversation, says that the flash was quick rising, quick dying and all-embracing, and seemed to have with it no sound whatever. Crofoot’s sense left him, he says, so that he had neither eye to discover wherefrom it came, ear to catch any rumbling or booming; and was for several passing moments, totally without speculative faculty, so that, to this hour, he remains in a state of mere gloom and fog as to the exact nature of the phenomenon: saying, however, that it looked like lightning. ‘For a minute, I seemed to be in a ball of fire,’ says Crofoot. Mrs. Crofoot, who was within doors, detected a booming.”

The Tonasket Times and the Okanogan Record issue for December 30th reported on a good number of witnesses from the area. The descriptions were consistent with the other newspaper reports, with the addition of the object flying over with a hissing sound. Supposed Meteorite caused big sensation

So what were these things? The Ursid meteor shower usually takes place every year around December 22nd. This annual astronomical event was not named until the early 20th century. Could these two meteors be connected somehow with the Ursids? Or, as the Gazette suggested, did we have extraterrestrial visitors? If a crash site exists for whatever these flying things were, I have found no record of the discovery.

 

 

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The fugitive vanished into history…..

January 15th, 2015 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, Former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The dry humor of this reporter is fun to read in the January 18, 1895 issue of The Wilbur Register. The random article found this week relates a drama that took place in northwest Lincoln County:

 wilber

THE LAWYERS MADE HIM TIRED

 So Prisoner Dawson Left the Court Room to Escape Them.

 A young man named Tom Dawson has given our neighboring town of Almira her fill of sensations this week. It appears that on Tuesday Mr. Dawson assaulted William Twitchell, the village blacksmith, without due provocation, and pounded his face up considerably. Upon mature reflection Mr. Twitchell decided to get angry at this rough usage, and swore out a warrant praying that his assailant might be apprehended and dealt with according to law. This was exactly the turn Mr. Dawson had expected the matter to take, so he made tracks toward Wilbur. Along in the night he peered through the window of one of the saloons, and satisfying himself the coast was clear, entered and ordered refreshments. But he had counted without his host. He was unaware that any officer but ex-Deputy Sheriff Mike Flohr guarded the peace and dignity of western Lincoln’s metropolis, and as Mike was not in sight the fugitive walked directly into the arms of Chief of Police Keables, who, armed with the wired warrant and description, was awaiting the arrival. Constable McPheron of Almira arrived on Wednesday morning and took his prisoner back on the train. Attorney Lacey was retained to defend the prisoner, and accompanied the party to Almira, where the case was put on trial before Judge Otto. During one of the discussions between the counsel the prisoner got rattled over the flights of oratory and stepped outside to cool his fevered brow, and while his counsel was making an impassioned plea for his liberty was calmly taking a constitutional neath the stars which were just beginning to shed their chaste twinkles on the Big Bend plain. As it was reported that he had agreed to requite his lawyer’s services with $10 worth of stovewood, it is suggested that Mr. Dawson may be in Rocky canyon exercising with an axe and saw.

 Dawson was about a decade younger than Twitchell, who was a 40 year old Civil War veteran and a native of Maine. The fugitive vanished into history but Twitchell lived on Almira until he died in 1904.

This story reminds me of a tale concerning one of my Willis uncles. In the 1920s he was running some of his excellent moonshine through Centralia when he was caught by law enforcement. They took his car and gave him jail time at night and road crew work during the day. My uncle said it wasn’t so bad. He had a place to sleep and three meals a day. Then, as he put it, “I took up a notion to go home. So I sold the road crew wheelbarrow and shovel to a passerby and left.”

The Wilbur Register is still with us today. It has existed since early 1889, and catalog librarians will love this, without any title changes!

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Never let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.

December 29th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection 2 Comments »

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

My father was a master storyteller who had a saying, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.” I think some reporters must have that motto as well, or at least they did in 1890.

The following article was found at random in the Columbia Chronicle, September 20, 1890. This was the newspaper for Dayton, Washington:ghastly find

A GASTLY FIND

In the mountains near Spokane Falls, Monday, the decomposed remains of a man supposed to be Baron Von Strauss, an Austrian nobleman, were found by some hunters. The history of the baron is a sad one. For some mysterious reason he left his home two years ago and came to this country. After wandering about until his funds were exhausted he wrote home for more, but learned that his brother had made away with his property. He came to Spokane Falls and tried to find employment, but was repeatedly refused. His misfortune made him despondent and he wandered out into the country. For two or three weeks he was seen about the vicinity of Gentle’s ranch, six miles east of Spokane.

 He would apply to farm houses for a “morsel of food and shelter.” He was so courtly in bearing, so intelligent in his speech that the country folks thought that he was some poet whose strange moods had led him to seek the solitude of the mountains. To no one, notwithstanding that he spent several evenings socially with those who entertained him, would he reveal the deep secret of his wanderings in the fields.

 One day– the last day he was seen alive– he called at Gentle’s ranch and left an elegant but empty purse, saying that he was going into the mountains to starve. Little attention was paid to what he said. They thought that his utterance was merely the expression of a morbid nature seeking seclusion.

 He walked off toward Moran mountain and Sunday the horrible find of his body with bones protruding from the decomposing flesh, mutilated by wild animals, reveals the story of an Austrian count who literally starved himself to death in a strange country.

The story was national news for a couple weeks. Many of accounts were far more graphic in relating the gruesome details.

According to various news sources, Baron Von Strauss had departed Budapest ca. 1888 and made his way across the United States, from New York to Chicago, to San Francisco, spending freely until he ran out of funds. When he wrote back home for more money, the Baron discovered his brother had helped himself to the entire family treasury and fled to India. Left high and dry, the Baron made his way to Portland, Tacoma and finally Spokane, where he cut the figure of an elegant tramp.

The two pheasant hunters who found the Baron’s remains on September 8, 1890 were said to have buried the body on the spot.

The notion of a wayward member of European nobility, a stranger in a strange land stranded with no financial resources or skills, buried in the wilderness has sort of a melancholy romance to it.

But, The Spokane Falls Daily Chronicle ran a story on this incident on September 9 and 10, 1890 with a different set of facts, including that the Sheriff brought the body into Spokane. Somehow the other newspapers didn’t choose to run this more mundane version. Here’s the article from the 10th:

HE WAS A SHOEMAKERshoemaker

 The Identity of the Man Found on Moran Mountain Established.

An examination of the papers found on the body of the man who was found dead on Moran mountain revealed the fact that he was a shoemaker and thirty years of age. He had taken out his first naturalization papers, which were issued in the state of Wisconsin, county of Sheboygan. His name was Carl Krishner, and he was a native of Germany. He had served his three years apprenticeship in the shoemaker’s trade a certificate to that effect was one of the papers found on him. A copy of a Sunday school paper, “The Young Reaper,” and a prayer book was found in his pocket.

 

 

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

 

 

 

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

 

 

 

 

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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]

 

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button