WA Secretary of State Blogs

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:


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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The Galoot is Here

November 21st, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

galoot 2From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Stories about confidence tricksters were a staple of the early Washington newspapers. This particular con artist, a Mr. Taylor, was more literary than most. The following scam alert was published in the May 5, 1892 issue of The Kitsap County Pioneer, Sidney, Washington, and I believe I detect a bit of gloating over the misfortune of their rival local paper:

The “Galoot” is Here

“The following pedigree of a man who is a partner in a ‘write up’ of Sidney may interest those of our citizens who deem it proper to pay outsiders big prices to do what they could get at reasonable rates at home.”

“The following articles, clippings, &c., appeared in the Sidney Independent, under date of November 21, 1891:”

PASS HIM ON.– The papers in Washington and elsewhere will do well to always keep a cold shoulder ready to turn on a long, lank, dark haired man by the name of Taylor, who follows the avocation of writing up towns and their industries and having the same published in local papers. He is a fluent writer and a smooth talker, and were it not for his proclivity for drunkenness, lying and jumping hotel bills, he would be a useful man in the literary world. The Herald and Sumner had a severe dose of Taylor last week, and we deem it but fraternal to warn others to have nothing to do with him.–Sumner Herald.”

“The same galoot took nearly two hundred dollars out of Slaughter last spring. The fellow was finally galoot 1
escorted out of town to the tune of about fifty tin cans in the hands of boys. Pass him along.–Slaughter Sun.”

“The Oracle bit, too, last spring, and we have been ashamed of ourselves ever since. Owing to his foul and drunken abuse of that unoffending young man, our devil was compelled to drag his lankness out of the office into the snow at midnight prior to his leaving town.–Orting Oracle.”

“While this gentleman referred to has not yet arrived in Sidney, others of the same stripe have been here and pulled the legs of our citizens to the extent of a few hundred.–Sidney Independent, Nov. 21, 1891.”


Sidney, i.e. Port Orchard, Washington, taken by Plummer in the 1890s. This panorama shot is housed in the Washington State Library “Pizza Oven” mapcase

“Comment on the above clippings is hardly necessary, but suffice it to say that the ‘galoot’ is here and the work of ‘pulling the legs’ of our citizens is being done with neatness and dispatch, and the Independent has sold its columns to the proposition.”

Shortly after this piece was published The Kitsap County Pioneer was absorbed by the Sidney Independent. Sidney later changed its name to Port Orchard. Also the town of Slaughter changed its name to Auburn. And perhaps, for professional reasons, Mr. Taylor changed his name as well.


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Protection Island

November 14th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections 2 Comments »


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

Some people just don’t know their boundaries. This Seattle Daily Times article from April 9, 1908 actually describes two problematic boundary issues in the Strait of Juan de Fuca:


Judge Albertson of Seattle Hears Rival Claims of Jefferson and Clallam Counties at Port Townsend.

Will Require Some Time to Decide Puzzling Question–Bit of Water in Straits Said to Belong to No One.

The Times Special Service.

PORT TOWNSEND, Thursday, April 9.–The hearing of the case involving which of the two counties, Jefferson or Clallam, is entitled to collect the taxes from the owners of Protection Island, which has been occupying the attention of the superior court here for the past week, with Superior Judge Albertson, of King County, sitting instead of Judge Still, came to a close yesterday afternoon after the introduction of an endless amount of testimony, ranging in scope and description from a single sheet of certified tax receipts to the professional opinions of civil engineers, as well as master mariners long operating in the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”port townsend

“According to prevailing opinion, the whole discussion hinges on the construction Judge Albertson will be called upon to place on the legislative enactment defining the boundaries between Jefferson and Clallam Counties, as to whether the use of the term ‘north’ in the paragraph means true or magnetic north. There is a material difference between the two.”

Case Under Advisement.

“Before terminating the hearing, Judge Albertson announced that he would take the matter under advisement owing to the fact that so many cited authorities had been introduced into the taking of the evidence and that it might be some time before he was prepared to announce his findings.”

“The precipitation of the present litigation recalls the fact that county boundaries are not the only ones over which some question might be raised in Washington. By a coincidence there is a point in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, not too distant from the little speck of dry land now in dispute, that neither Uncle Sam nor John Bull have any jurisdiction over.”

“This fact was brought out some years ago when the steamship Rosalie, with Capt. Charles W. Ames in command, was operating on the Sound-Victoria route. Coming over from Victoria one day, Capt. Ames had occasion to reprove one of the men aboard the boat for his actions, and the fellow, who was a much smaller man than the herculean master, believing that he was about to suffer bodily injury, drew a revolver and shot Capt. Ames through the shoulder. Fortunately, the bullet was only a flesh wound.”

“The man was arrested here on a charge of murderous assault, but was later discharged upon hearing for lack of jurisdiction. His attorney, after demonstrating the speed of the vessel, the time she had run and the distance covered, showed conclusively that the offense had not been committed in American waters. A similar complaint was accordingly filed in Victoria, and at the hearing the same procedure was followed in the investigation.”

No Punishment for Crime.

“At this hearing the exact designated international boundary line between the two countries was brought out from the government charts, and then the attorney for the defense sprang a great surprise by claiming that the offense, as alleged in the complaint, had not been committed within the jurisdiction of the British courts. Expert testimony, which was taken at length, finally proved beyond question that this contention was well founded, and the prisoner was discharged.”

“The only deduction to be drawn is that at some points in the Strait of Juan de Fuca there is a narrow strip of water, but in ‘no man’s land,’ and where almost any crime, even up to a capital offense, can be committed without fear of retribution at the hands of the court.”

“It is a very fortunate thing, be it said, that this strip of no country’s high seas is very narrow in width and short in length and could be located by no one but a man versed in the art of navigation. Few of these, in fact, know anything about the boundaries of the unusual strip of salt water, and it is said that Puget Sound mariners who know exactly where it is located, always ease her off half a point while crossing the Strait to avoid the place in which it has been legally proven is entirely without the pale of the law of any country.”

Protection Island was eventually award to Jefferson County. The problem might have started back in 1854, when Clallam County was carved out of Jefferson. There was an odd border arrangement just south of Protection Island. James G. McCurdy in By Juan de Fuca’s Strait (1937) explains:



“Living in that district was a family with a very sinister reputation. Even murder had been laid at its door. The people of Jefferson said very emphatically: ‘We don’t want that family of killers in our county– let Clallam have them.’ So the lines were run to eliminate the undesirables from the county in which they had so long been residents. At the time of the division, the population of Jefferson County was but 189 persons.”

The shooting of the Captain known as “Big Ames” aboard the Rosalie must have taken place between 1894-1897, when he was the skipper of that steamer. A couple months after the above 1908 article the International Boundary Commission was formed to finalize some of the irregularities of the Canada-U.S. border. Presumably if such a no-man’s strip of water really existed in Juan de Fuca as described in the Rosalie case, this Commission would have addressed that.

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A Mephitis Mephitica in Vancouver

November 7th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »


Major Enoch Adams

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

Although I suspect what we are reading here is a private and cryptic joke, it still makes for entertaining copy. The following was found in the March 28, 1871 Port Townsend Weekly Message:


“–We commend the following extract from Donn Piatt to the prayerful and serious consideration of our old and very particular friend Major Adams, of the Vancouver Register. Donn says: ‘To get hold of a name and distort it– to shake and worry it as a pup would an old boot, is an indication of a mean and poverty stricken intellect.’”

“Do you remember, minor Adams– for you are no Major– the evening in Olympia when, in the presence of a respectable family circle, you asked the host for his private key, to the confusion of the ladies and disgust of the gentlemen? You disreputable old bird! Don’t you bandy words with us, else you will find the ‘Julius Caesar’ will relate an episode of your boyish life which will account for your vulgar obscenity and profane scurrility. Do you know the meaning of Mephitis Mephitica? It is your prototype. Look in the natural history of your native State and see from which you sprung. Like it, no one can approach you, even in friendship, without the whole community being overpowered by the disgusting effluvia and suffocating stench which you emit at all times and without any provocation. When you ring any more changes like an old poll parrot on ‘Julius Caesar’ you only prove your poverty stricken intellect.”

To save you the trouble of looking it up, a Mephitis Mephitica is better known as the skunk.

Major Adams was Enoch George Adams born in 1829 to “Reformation” John and Sarah Adams in Bow, N.H. He graduated from Yale and developed an interest in poetry, writing work for publication for the rest of his life.

During the Civil War Adams fought in the Union Army and was wounded at Williamsburg in 1862. After recovering he returned to the field and was sent in command of Rebel POWs at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory in an unusual arrangement. If the Confederates served in the Union Army in the hostilities against the local Native Americans, the prisoners could earn their freedom.

During this time period Adams also published a newspaper, The Frontier Scout, which included, of course, his poetry. He was discharged with the rank of Major.

Major Adams made his way West and by the early 1870s was editing the Vancouver Register. He had enoch_adamsalso been appointed to the Land Office. During the time the above article was published, a petition had been circulating to remove Adams from the government position on grounds of incompetency. Adams’ response in print was to ask why anyone would “wish to deprive an old bullet-pierced soldier of the small pittance doled out to him after long years of hardship and danger …”

Adams later moved to St. Helens, Oregon to edit the Columbian. He moved to Berwick, Maine in 1887 and concentrated on farming and poetry. Upon Adams’ death in 1900, Washington Standard editor John Miller Murphy, who had made fun of the poet’s creations whenever he had the chance, commented that the deceased was “an eccentric character, but a man of good record nevertheless.”

The Vancouver Register from 1865-1869 is available in digital form, courtesy of our Digital and Historical Collections Unit!

[Attached: Adams during the Civil War; Adams later in life]

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The Brief Life of Stanley, Washington

November 1st, 2013 steve.willis Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

Ever hear of the town of Stanley, Washington? No? Well, don’t feel bad. It had a lifespan of only six years but in that brief time was the springboard for ambitious plans. The following article was found at random in The Chehalis Nugget, June 4, 1897:


City of Boom Days to be Converted Into a Chicken Ranch

“Captain John Riddell has sold to C.C. Rosenburg the townsite of Stanley, Pacific county, in which a number of Chehalis men once owned lots, and it will be converted into a cattle and chicken ranch. The purchase price is $2500. Capt. Riddell acquired the land under a mortgage given him by Chas. Holm, the original owner, who sold it to the Stanley Land and Improvement Company. O.B. Gentry and T.D. Yerrington, the latter a prominent railroad man of Nevada, were the prime movers in the scheme, and Senator Stewart of Nevada was a stockholder. A wharf was built, four or five buildings erected, including a hotel, and considerable clearing done.”

“It was proposed to make Stanley the terminus of a railroad which should run up the Cowlitz river valley to its headwaters, where anthracite coal beds are known to exist, but not a spadeful of dirt was ever turned in the construction of said road. Lots were sold for as high as $500, and the townsite at one time was considered worth at least $500,000. Over $7,000 was taken in by the company on sales of lots under contract, but by the time the final payments were made the company was unable to give a clear title to the lots, as the original mortgage had never been taken up. Suits were instituted by the purchasers of lots for their money, but the company escaped judgment, as it never had been legally incorporated.”

“J.J. Caffee, a neighboring rancher who had invested his all in Stanley lots, went insane over the failure of his castles in the air to materialize, and bitter disappointment affected the mind of Holm, who today, with his family, keeps lonely vigil over what was once his homestead, and refuses to believe that he has lost his title to it.”

“As a ranch Stanley townsite has few superiors in the county. Its 54 acres of tide land were diked in by the original owner, and the boomers cleared and grubbed a considerable portion of the upland.”

Naselle River

Stanley was located on the Stanley Peninsula, on the mainland just east of Long Island, home of the current Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The townsite was about five miles northwest of Naselle and very close to where present day US 101 crosses the Naselle River [pictured].

Charles H. Holm left his native Finland in 1863 and worked as a sailor for eight years before settling in the Naselle area. He died in 1921. More information on the town of Stanley can be found in Nasel 1878–Naselle 1978 : the Naselle Centennial Book:


“Charles M. Holm [elsewhere he's Charles H. Holm] visualized a great seaport city at the mouth of the Nasel on Shoalwater Bay. He had sounded the depth of the Bay when he explored there in 1871, and he had determined the feasibility of deep sea ships crossing the bar to the Pacific Ocean. Holm then filed a claim on the adjacent 160 acres of government land as a site for his seaport city, Stanley.”

“The 1893 writers noted that Holm’s estimates were: ‘fully verified (by government surveys) … The harbor is an almost perfect one … The town of Stanley possesses all the natural requirements of a great seaport city and gives promise of a brilliant future. Its location is one of the finest on the coast.’”

“Stanley was to be the terminus of the Stanley, Cascade and Eastern Railroad, incorporated Nov. 1890. The company consisted of Holm, three U.S. Senators, a railroad president, a railroad supervisor-engineer, and a Lewis County banker. Holm gave two-thirds of his land tract for a townside. A hotel, wharf and several homes were erected and streets laid out.”

“The town was highly promoted as ‘The Seattle of Shoalwater bay,’ and in other equally glowing terms. But Stanley’s life span was brief. Shrewd promoters bilked stockholders, and Holm lost the suit and his investment. But he moved up river, established a farm and a home with a growing family.”

“Stanley, also known as Chetlo Harbor, was eventually put on the auction block. Some lots were sold for delinquent taxes, others were held by their Eastern owners for several years. The marketable timber was auctioned off in 1952 by Pacific County.”

The same site was later eyed for another scheme, a town named Napoleon. According to Larry J. Weathers in Place Names of Pacific County:

NAPOLEON: Early real estate promotion on Stanley Point at the mouth of the Naselle River. Napoleon “The City of Destiny” was platted in 1910 by the Willapa Trust Company, F.A. Lucas, president. Portland promoters, with Spokane money, planned a city of 100,000 inhabitants to populate the barren townsite in 10 years. The Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that the promoters intended to outdo Denver’s ‘built in a night’ fame.  Plans called for the construction of a paper mill, two sawmills, a box factory, and furniture factories to provide jobs. The name was chosen by the Willapa Trust Company. Some sources say the name was bestowed in honor of architect Napoleon de Grace Dion who had platted the downtown district of Raymond in 1904. It is also possible the name was suggested by Spokane investors who made a great deal of money at the Napoleon Mine on Kettle River (Colville Indian Reservation) in the 1890s. Stanley Point was the site of several real estate sales schemes. The earliest land sales were for lots in the Town of Stanley in 1890.”

The neighbor who “went insane” seems like an interesting character. Joseph J. Caffee, would have been around 60 in 1897, was a Union Army Civil War veteran who also used the name John Gaines. I found a curious reference to him in the Christmas 1891 issue of The Dalles Weekly Chronicle:

“J.J. Caffee, of Stanley, Pacific county, publishes a singular letter in the Pacific Journal, in which he informs his friends that should he be found dead, or disappear in some mysterious manner, they will find a letter in his safe that will tell them the cause. He states that his life has been threatened, and if anything happens to him he hopes his friends will bring the guilty party to justice.”

Now that is a story worth digging into! WSL does hold some issues of the Pacific Journal, Oysterville’s newspaper, but none in 1891.




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The One Minute Jail Sentence

October 11th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections 2 Comments »


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

The following news article describes what was most probably the shortest jail sentence in Washington State history. This is from the Seattle Daily Times, January 20, 1906:





“Joe Munch yesterday received from Judge Frater what was probably the lightest sentence ever given a prisoner, that of one minute in the county jail. Those who heard the decision were inclined to take it as a joke of the judge’s, until Munch was hustled off to jail and kept there until the second hand of the jailer’s watch had completed the circle of sixty seconds. Munch was so surprised that he hardly knew what was going on and when released decided that the best thing for him to do was to get away for fear the sight of him should cause the judge to inflict a heavier penalty.”

“Munch is a soldier, on leave of absence. On the thirteenth day of August he found garrison life dull and proceeded to get drunk. A policeman found him in this condition and he was hustled off to the police station. In Judge Gordon’s court he was sentenced to thirty days for being drunk and disorderly, but his case was taken to the higher court.”


Judge Archibald Frater

“Judge Frater decided that while the soldier’s crime was not enough to merit punishment, for the looks of things he ought to be sent to jail, and have a lesson taught him. Consequently Munch was sentenced to an imprisonment of one minute, something which the clerk who makes out the sentence documents never heard of before and which caused much merriment in court house circles.”

Judge Archibald Wanless Frater was hardly a flippant character. He was born in Belmont County, Ohio in 1856 and attended college with Warren G. Harding, who became his lifelong friend. Frater migrated to Tacoma in 1888 and after a short time moved to Snohomish. While there he was elected to the House in 1890 and served as a Republican representing the 44th District for one term.

Frater moved to Seattle in 1898 and was elected King County Superior Court Judge in 1904. The Judge was instrumental in organizing the county’s juvenile justice system. He served in office up to his death on Christmas, 1925.

And what of Munch? He didn’t get to enjoy his freedom for too long. In August 1906 after leaving Fort Lawton he was aboard the transport ship Buford and was shot by a sergeant in self-defense when Munch became unruly and assaulted him. Maybe he needed to have been incarcerated for a few minutes more.


The Buford, AKA The Soviet Ark

A bit of Buford trivia: This ship later became known as the “Soviet Ark” during the post-World War I Red Scare as the United States deported “undesirables” such as Emma Goldman out of the country. Later Buster Keaton used the ship as the main set for his 1924 film, The Navigator.

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The Devil Fish and Octopus Wrestling

September 26th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

Octopus 2From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library

What was a life and death struggle in 1913 became a weird form of recreation in Puget Sound in the 1950s-1960s and then an environmentally taboo practice by the 1970s. I am talking, of course, about octopus wrestling.

Although the story is set near Anacortes, the article was found at random in the Camas Post, August 15, 1913. A note before we start, the term “Devil Fish” was once used to describe the octopus:


Diver is Seized By Octopus in 85 Feet of Water.

Only After Desperate Struggle of 45 Minutes Is Marine Monster Conquered.

“Seattle, Wash.–To fight 45 minutes against a giant octopus 85 feet below the surface of the water, striving desperately to break the relentless grasp of the slimy arms which held him, and at the same time talking over a telephone to his attendants in a scow on the face of the water, telling them of the battle as it progressed, and finally to escape uninjured was the experience of Walter McRay, deep-sea diver, at Alden Banks, near Anacortes.”

“James E. Hill, was in charge of the assistants to McRay, and tells the story of the Octopus 3fight.”

“During the battle with the devil fish Hill stood with the telephone receiver to his ear, listening to the graphic bulletins as they came to the surface from the man ‘on the firing line’”

“The telephones used by divers allow the men underneath to talk to the man on the surface, but the latter cannot reply, and the only encouragement Hill could offer to the diver was an occasional tug on the signal line.”

“McRay was engaged by the Apex Fishing company to examine one of its fish traps on Alden Banks. At the trap the water was about 75 feet deep. He had followed the lead for some distance and was in water about 85 feet deep, when his foot was seized in the vise-like grasp of a giant octopus. At the same time the big, slimy fish emitted a large amount of ink, turning the water in the vicinity absolutely black and making it impossible for the diver to see his assailant.”

“Hill, who was on the surface with the telephone receiver at his ear, heard a slight exclamation from the man below, followed by a violent pull on the line as the diver was thrown off his feet. A few seconds later McRay said over the telephone: ‘Now, keep cool. Don’t get excited. A devil fish has got me.’”

“‘When I heard those words, spoken by McRay as calmly as though he were greeting a friend on the street, my hair stood on end,’ said Hill.”

“‘The octopus, immediately after tripping McRay, had thrown two more tentacles about the diver, one around his body, binding his left arm tightly to his side, and the other between his legs, reaching up his back. The head of the fish was on McRay’s chest.’”

Octopus 4“‘Almost helpless, yet with his right arm free, he was able to draw his knife from his belt and defend himself. Fighting at the great depth of water and under heavy pressure, the strain soon told on the diver, and several times he was on the brink of collapse. Finally the monster fish weakened. It had exhausted its ink supply and was severely wounded. McRay gave the signal and we hauled man and octopus into the boat.’”

“‘When examined by the crew of the scow the octopus was found to have 11 wounds in his body made by McRay’s knife. He measured nine feet in diameter.’”

Now let us fast forward to the post-WW II era. The authors James A. Cosgrove and Neil McDaniel describe an athletic activity even more bizarre than golf in their book, Super Suckers : the Giant Pacific Octopus and Other Cephalopods of the Pacific Coast (2009):

“The rather strange sport of octopus wrestling had its beginnings in Washington state. Using only snorkelling gear, teams of divers had to repeatedly dive, locate octopuses and try to bring the most animals to the surface, where they were weighed. The activity became quite popular and was even televised with up to 5,000 spectators on hand. Afterward the octopuses were eaten, given to a local aquarium or returned to the sea. In April 1963, more than 100 divers took part and captured a total of 25 giant Pacific octopuses, the largest weighing 26 kg. (57 lb).”

“Bill High, a long-time Washington diver and scuba instructor, recalls the early days. ‘The Puget Sound Mudsharks began the World Octopus Wrestling Championship in either 1955 or 1956. When I joined the club in 1957, the competition was well established. I think the last event was held around 1968. My three-man team took first place in 1961, third place in 1965 and fourth place in 1964. Information about octopuses appeared in Skin Diver magazines from the late 1950s and into the 1960s. My research on the giant Pacific octopus was featured in the December 1971 issue of National Geographic magazine. In the first years the competition was breath-hold only, but by 1960 there was a scuba component. Most of the annual competitions were held at Titlow Beach in Tacoma, Washington.’”

In 1972 the Washington State Dept. of Fisheries released a publication entitled Diving for Octopus in Puget Sound, which begings with: “SCUBA diving for the large octopus (Octopus appolyon or hongkongensis) can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Although the octopus is timid, it does posses the capability to harm a diver, and techniques used in capturing the caphalopod should be known to the prospective ‘octopus wrestler.’”

octopus 1

But by the time the 1970s were over, the recreation of octopus wrestling had died out as Washingtonians became more ecologically aware.

Although Ringo Starr supposedly thought up the song Octopus’s Garden while in Sardinia in 1968, I’m betting the real story is that it first entered his brain in 1964, when the Beatles visited Seattle during the heyday of octopus wrestling. Ringo probably first got the idea when the Fabs were fishing in Puget Sound from their window at the Edgewater Hotel.

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The Jean Valjean of Raymond, Washington

September 20th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

Harvey_B_Giffin ~ army photo

Harvey B Giffin army photo

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

Fans of Les Misérables might enjoy the following story, found at random from The Raymond Review, Sept. 3, 1913:



 Is Well Known in Pacific County. Returns Saturday as Harvey Giffin.

 “Victor Hugo’s hero of ‘Les Miserables,’ Jean Valjean, has been exemplified in real life and by a resident of Pacific County, who has during the past five years worked in different logging camps throughout the county as a blacksmith and known to his fellow laborers as J.B. Smith.”

“The scene of Smith’s romance, or Giffin’s, as he is now known and which is real name, was laid in Ohio, from which state he has just returned to again take up his residence in Pacific county, arriving in Raymond last Saturday night bearing with him clippings of his old home papers to substantiate his remarkable recital. His story is most unusual and appears in a Ravenna, Ohio, paper as follows:”harvey 1

I was living in Belmont county, and in 1904 I was helping the Methodist church raise enough money for a bell. One day when I was soliciting names I went down to the depot to see the boys come in from Bellaire, as I knew they would all contribute to the fund.

 A man by the name of Charles Brandon came up to me and began calling me names. He was drinking, and I paid no attention to him. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him. Then he said he would put the cleaner on me. He came at me with his fist, and I pushed him away. He went away, but in a little time came back, and, doubling up his fist, he began to call me names again.

 Kills the Man

 Then I hit him again, and he fell. I thought he was pretending to be hurt, but went over to him and shook him. He didn’t move, so I ran for a doctor, and after an examination, he told me the man was dead. Everybody around there knew I didn’t intend to kill him, but when I asked the doctor what I had better do, he advised me to go and give myself up.

 harvey 3I went to St. Clairsville, the county seat, and told the authorities what I had done. I was put in jail, and after four months I was tried and convicted of manslaughter. They gave me a sentence of six years.

 When I had served 12 months, I was paroled by the old board of managers, who said I should never have been sent there. Then I went back to Belmont county to my father’s home. The family of Brandon never blamed me for killing him, nor did they ever put a straw in my way. They knew it was accidental, and done because Charlie was drinking and tried to fight me.

 But there were some fellows there who claimed to have a spite against me because I had killed Brandon, and they peddled tales about me, and laid traps to try to get me into trouble again. My father died suddenly of heart trouble, and after that those fellows worried me more than ever.

 I didn’t want to get in bad again, so rather than run any risks I decided to break my parole and leave the country. I went to Washington, where I followed my trade of blacksmith. I also lived some time in Oregon. I was out there nearly 7 years.

 Becomes Converted

 I was leading a straight, clean life, and became converted to religion. I read my Bible constantly and have read it through six times. After my conversion I thought it wrong to evade the law, and while I was in Idaho I made up my mind to return to Ohio and give myself up to the authorities. I went to the sheriff of the county and told him my story. Then I sent a telegram to Governor Harmon, telling him that I wanted to come back, and have my case settled, one way or another.

 I waited several days, and getting no answer, I telegraphed again. Still I did not hear anything, and the sheriff told me that evidently the Governor did not want to get out requisition papers for me, and that I might go about my business.

 Returns to Ohio

 I went back to Raymond, Washington, where I had been living until last May. Then I felt unhappy and wanted to see my mother and sisters, and after that to come to Columbus and serve out my sentence, if necessary.

 My mother was living in Ravenna, and two sisters and a brother in Akron. When I had been there a day, a fellow saw me and told the police I had broken my parole, so they arrested me and brought me to Columbus. But you know I had intended coming any way in a few days.

 I was brought to Columbus the 23rd of last June, and immediately wrote a statement of my case and sent it to the board of administration and asked to be set free.

 I am going back to mother. She wants me, and I can make her more comfortable. I will follow the trade of a blacksmith or carpenter and can make good wages.

“The Wheeling, O., Register of the same date had the following account:”

“That will take some figuring, won’t it? But I’ll get it some way, even if I have to make a full and complete statement of all the facts.”

 This from Harvey Giffin, a former well-known local man, who, back in 1904, killed Charles Brandon, at Neffs, O., and for which he was sent to the penitentiary for a six year term. That was in December of the same year. In December of the following year he was paroled and returned to Neffs, where friends of the man he had killed made it so unpleasant for him that he decided to remove himself from this section of the country and went to the west, thereby violating his parole.

 Never at any time a bad man, Giffin had little trouble in making friends. He is a blacksmith by trade and soon landed a job in Washington state. Being sober and industrious, he worked his way to a foremanship. Then he joined the church as well as two fraternal orders, the Knights of Pythias and the Eagles, all under a name which he assumed when he went west.

 Giffin spent a full seven and one half years in the west before coming back. Immediately after joining his church, however, he determined to give himself up to the Ohio authorities for the violation of his parole, and wired Governor Harmon, then chief executive of the Buckeye state, that he was willing to return if wanted. The Ohio authorities didn’t seem to want him, and after a few months more he returned to Akron to visit his aged mother. An officer there took him into custody and returned him the penitentiary. This was in the later part of June last. A month later his parole was put back in force and yesterday he was handed an unconditional pardon, duly signed by Governor Cox.

 Once again a free man, Giffin came direct to this city where he formerly lived, and after spending a day or two with some old friends at Neffs, he will return to Washington. He hopes to take on his right name when he returns to the people who helped him along there and that is what he means, at the outset, when he states that ‘it will take some figuring.

 The crime for which Giffin was sent up will be recalled by many readers of the Register. Charles Brandon, although getting up in years, was a powerfully built man [line apparently missing] … on the other hand, weighs less than 160. Brandon, the testimony went to show, had been at Bellaire, and upon alighting from the train at Neffs, picked a quarrel with Giffin, who, at the time was making collections from the miners for a bell for a church which had just been built. Giffin, it is stated, tried to avoid a fight, but when Brandon closed in on him he struck him with his fist, Brandon went down unconscious and died a short time afterward.

 To a Register man yesterday Giffin made a statement to the effect that while he had been sorry a thousand times that he was even the indirect cause of Brandon’s death yet he always has felt that Brandon died of heart failure brought on by the frenzy into which he had worked himself, rather than from the effects of the blow. He attributes his pardon to the fact that he was able, in seven years test, to prove that he can ‘make good’ notwithstanding t

harvey 4

he general belief that few men sent to the penal institutions of the country ever rise again.

 That Mr. Giffin had the sympathy of the authorities familiar with the case is proven by the following letter written to his mother by President T.E. Davey, of the Ohio Board of Administration, under date of Aug. 16th, 1913, and which is now in Mr. Giffin’s possession:

 “‘Mrs. Sarah C. Giffin,

161 Spruce St.,

Ravena, Ohio.,

Dear Madam:—

I take great pleasure in informing you that your son will be released today; and will also say that we have never had a case come before us that gave us more satisfaction than his. We are only sorry that he did not confer with us long ago, either by mail or in person. However, ‘all’s well that ends well,’ and will close by congratulating you upon having such a clean-minded son.

Very truly yours,

T.E. Davey,


Charles Brandon, the victim of the punch, was a 61 year old Union veteran who had survived two POW experiences during the Civil War. According to his pension papers, he was classified as an invalid.


Photo of Harvey’s headstone, Orting, Washington

Giffin, who was in his late 30s during the incident, was not a large man, but he had considerable military experience as well. He had been in the Army in the 1890s and had served in battles in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. But as we saw, once he returned to civilian life events became even more exciting than any military exploit.

Harvey did not stay a civilian for long. He rejoined the Army in 1916, and first served on the Mexican border during the Villa raids and was later sent to Europe during the Great War. He died August 27, 1939 in the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting, Washington.

The short-lived Raymond Review is one of several newspapers from Raymond, Washington available for viewing or via interlibrary loan from the Washington State Library.

[Photo of postcard sent by Harvey to his uncle, James Giffin. The reverse side reads: "Oct. 3 Dear Uncle i ritte you a fine liner i am OK On top of a Mountain on the Borders of Mexico gurding a pass thrue the Mountains with a Machine Gun. i and 2 more felows we got our guns be hind a stone fort we Bilt if Villey trys to come thru a gin we will get some of them. he has come thru be fore we got Machine Guns in different places Harvey Giffin Eight Ohio Inf Machine Gun bo" then "El Paso Texas."]

[Photos supplied by Harvey's great-nephew, Terry Magyar]

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Col. Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations

September 13th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »

Captain Patrick Henry Winston

Colonel Patrick Henry Winston

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

The newspaper on microfilm reel grabbed at random this week holds a tale of “Colonel” Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations. Yes, I meant to use the word “Statue” rather than “Statute.” You’ll see why.

“Colonel” Patrick Henry Winston, Jr. was born Aug. 22, 1847 in Windsor, North Carolina, the product of a family line that had also raised Patrick Henry, one of the great orators of the Revolution. Winston’s military rank was not bestowed by the Southern Army, nor was it an honorary title given by Kentucky. In any case he was indeed very briefly a soldier in the Confederacy during the last month of the Civil War. As it turned out, he was the sort of man who enjoyed embracing lost causes and relished the fight.

After being licensed to practice law in 1868, Winston seemed to have trouble finding a star to follow. Although he married and began a family that would eventually  number ten children, it took him 20 years to find a city to settle in– Spokane. And it took him even longer to find a political party to call home. First a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat, then a Silver Republican, then– after a bit it becomes too complicated to follow his allegiances. In the end he was a member of Patrick Henry Winston Party. But by 1896 he was part of the Populist Fusion ticket that swept every statewide office in Washington and he was elected the State Attorney General.

Winston 1

In addition to being politically active, Winston was a newspaperman. After his single term in office he started Winston’s Weekly, which ran 34 issues from Aug. 22, 1903 (Winston’s 56th birthday) to Apr. 9, 1904. To call it a newspaper is sort of misleading. Actually it was more of an ancestor to what we call blogs today. The paper gave him a forum to proclaim his views (such as advocating the U.S. takeover of Canada, or promoting the Right to Die), tell stories, and exhibit his devilish sense of humor.

John Rankin Rogers, who was elected Governor as part of the 1896 Populist sweep, switched to the Democratic Party in 1900 and was the only statewide incumbent to be re-elected. But only after less than a year into term two, he died in office Dec. 26, 1901. Soon there was talk of erecting a statue to honor the late Governor. Here’s how his former fellow Populist office-holder reacted to this news, Winston’s Weekly, Sept. 5, 1903:


Statue of Governor Rogers

Statue of Governor Rogers

“In all ages and in all lands monuments have been erected to perpetuate the memory of great deeds and great men.”

“The statue of Napoleon in his imperial robes surmounts the Vendome Column, that of Lord Nelson adorns Trafalgar Square, and a monument to the memory of Washington towers to the sky in the capital of the country of which he was the father. It is a beautiful custom, not only because it is a tribute to departed greatness and a grateful expression of popular gratitude, but because it is an object lesson calculated to inspire coming generations with lofty aspirations.”

“Happily for our country the names of many of her sons are worthy to be inscribed over the portals of immortal fame. Congress has provided a national pantheon in which may be placed by the states the statues of their illustrious dead, and in the Capitol grounds of many of the states there stand monuments erected by a grateful sovereignty to departed worth.”

“In selecting these subjects of a peoples gratitude and veneration the greatest care should be exercised lest what is now an honored and beautiful custom become one of derision and contempt.”

“The state of Illinois could with propriety erect a monument to Lincoln or Grant; Virginia to Washington, Jefferson, or Henry; Ohio to Wm. Tecumseh Sherman; Massachusetts to Samuel Adams; Pennsylvania to Benjamin Franklin; Oregon to Edward Baker; of Washington to General Isaac I. Stevens, her first governor, a brave pioneer, a distinguished statesman, and a gallant soldier.”

“Upon what theory is it proposed to erect a monument to perpetuate the memory of Governor Rogers? What was there in his life as a citizen or career as an office-holder to justify this greatest popular tribute? Except the fact that he happened to die in office, in what respect did his career differ from that of the ordinary run of governors? He was neither a statesman nor a soldier, nor a poet, nor an artist, nor an orator, nor an inventor, nor a discoverer, nor a philanthropist, nor a pioneer. Even as a druggist, which occupation he followed before entering the field of politics, he failed to make any revolution in the science of pharmacy, and although he wrote some ridiculous books which nobody remembers, he never took rank as an author. As a politician he failed to rise above the level of the every day populist politician of the Omaha platform school, beginning his political career by attacking corporations and ending it by soliciting railroad support. After posing as the champion of popular rights, when the opportunity came to go to the front in the fight against the merger, along with Governor Van Sant, he shrunk into pitiable littleness and played the role of a weak and nerveless trimmer.

Clip From the Winston Weekly“It has become fashionable for small minds to attach themselves to what they believe to be popular events and to make merchandise of them.”

“After the exhibition furnished by the last legislature it seemed that the limit of human folly had been reached and that nothing could ever happen again to shock the common sense of the average person in the state of Washington, but the proposition to erect a monument by public subscription to the late Governor Rogers proves that there is no limit to human folly. If the falling political fortunes of these parasites will be temporarily propped by being attached to the remains of John R. Rogers that is no reason why whole communities should be involved in their folly and great state made ridiculous.”

Winston's 1899 Biennial Report

Winston’s 1899 Biennial Report

Winston died Apr. 3, 1904, and his newspaper died with him, the final issue assembled as a printed memorial by his friends. The Rogers statue was unveiled a few months later on the Capitol grounds, known today as Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia. Historian Gordon Newell commented in his book Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen (1975):

“The body of John Rankin Rogers was buried in his home town of Puyallup, but the school children of the state donated their pennies and nickels to pay for a very bad statue of a good man and the lifesized figure of a frock-coated Rogers stands to this day in Sylvester park, its back to the old gray sandstone statehouse and its face toward a high-rise luxury hotel across from what used to be Main street. Carved in the granite base is the creed of the old Populist … ‘I would prevent the poor from being utterly impoverished by the greedy and avaricious … the rich can take care of themselves.’”

The Washington State Library has a complete run of Winston’s Weekly available on microfilm including via interlibrary loan as well as Winston’s Biennial Reports as Washington State Attorney General.

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John Wilkes Booth and the Socialist

September 5th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections No Comments »


William H. Packer

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

William H. Packer was probably among the last living Civil War veterans in Washington State. In his eventful life he was able to strut and fret his hour upon the stage alongside Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, serve in the Union Army, and help found a Socialist Utopian community in Washington State.

Changing his surname from Packard to Packer in order to avoid detection from his family, William enlisted in the Union Army and initially served as a drummer boy but eventually took up arms. He saw quite a bit of action including Gettysburg, Rappahannock, and the fall of Richmond.

The following profile is from page 1 of the March 11, 1921 issue of the Bay-Island News, published in Gig Harbor. The piece was originally printed in the Tacoma Ledger.


Gig Harbor Man Who Appeared with Booth Studies Stagecraft Here.

“Sputtering gas lights, which cast a yellow glare, floors built on a slope that the audience might have a better view, scenery sections built on flats or rollers, which made a great rumble when brought together in the middle of the stage, and strictly conventional furnishings of the somewhat showy style of the period– such was the stage on which W.H. Packer of Gig Harbor, began in 1859, a boy of 14 years, with Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth, a stage career which was cut short by the Civil War.”

“Now, at 76, Mr. Packer is learning modern methods in stagecraft as taught at the Drama Institute last week at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ clubhouse. Heavy velvet drapes, concealed lights casting a soft, indistinct glow, shaded footlights or sometimes no footlights at all, fanciful settings, such as only a most imaginative mind could evolve, these are some of the changes Mr. Packer has found in the stage of today. But despite the changes, he says he thoroughly enjoyed the institute and believes that he ‘may shift into some sort of play.’”


“Born in Boston, Mr. Packer was attending school there when he had an opportunity to fill an auxiliary role in ‘Hamlet,’ in which Edwin Booth was playing the lead. It was greatly to the envy of his schoolmates that he appeared on the stage at the same time as the great actor. All spare moments following school hours found the boy at the Boston theater, watching every movement, listening to every word of the man whose fame as an American actor had spread throughout the country. A few months later he was given a part in the play in which John Wilkes Booth was then taking the lead.”

Drummer Boy in Civil War

“Then came the Civil War, and Mr. Packer, a boy of 16, enlisted as a drummer boy in the 11th United States infantry. For three years and month he served in the army and on receiving his discharge returned to Boston, where, a short time later, he was married. Mrs. Packer, however had no such admiration for the theater as had her young husband so he gave up his idea of becoming a famous actor and turned his attention to becoming an expert electrician. He and his wife traveled over the United States for a time, the electrician sometimes finding employment in a theater where he gave much time and attention to working out new lighting effects.”

“On their return East, Mr. Packer became head of the city light department at Binghampton, N.Y. Here he continued his experiments in lighting and when Admiral Robert E. Peary returned to the United States after discovering the North Pole, and was to give a lecture in the Binghampton theater, Mr. Packer was asked to arrange the stage.”

“‘That was the hardest job I ever had,’ said Mr. Packer. ‘I wanted to show the Northern lights and a rainbow. I worked on it for a long time but finally managed to get a beautiful effect. Maybe the Northern lights weren’t just right but most of the people had never seen them anyway, so it didn’t make any particular difference.’”


Map of Burley, WA

One of Founders of Burley

“Twenty-two years ago, in the fall of ’98, the wanderlust again seized Mr. Packer and he and his wife started for the Pacific coast. They arrived in Seattle, stayed there for three months and then, with a man by the name of DeArmond, of Colorado, they started to explore the surrounding country. Rich farming land, found not far from Gig Harbor, decided them to start a colony there and, with the advent of a few more families, the settlement was given the name Burley, now six miles from Gig Harbor.”

“Five years ago Mr. Packer’s wife died, just three months before they were to have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Mr. Packer continued to work his little farm until four months ago when he sold his home and moved to Gig Harbor.”

Our earlier profile of the Burley commune in this blog included a map, and on it you can plainly see W.H. Packer had a nice chunk of land very close to the center of the settlement. Packer was appointed the first Postmaster of Burley in early 1901.

According to Charles Pierce LeWarne’s Utopias on Puget Sound 1885-1915, Packer, who had a white beard at the time, was able to use his thespian skills while playing the part of Santa Claus for the community’s children.

William H. Packer died in the veteran’s hospital in American Lake on November 20, 1937. The Bay-Island News changed its title in 1923 and became the present-day Peninsula Gateway. The Washington State Library has both titles available on microfilm here in Tumwater or via interlibrary loan.

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