WA Secretary of State Blogs

Women’s History Month; Women with a Mission

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections | No Comments »


From the Desk of Marlys Rudeen

Pulled by religious fervor, men and women left homes and families to come West, intending to bring their faith to the “heathen”. They were often well-meaning but unprepared for life on the frontier and for interacting with people of another culture. They strove faithfully, endured hardships and grief among people whose responses to their teachings ran the gamut from acceptance to violence. Two of our Classics in Washington History describe the lives of Protestant women in western missions.

clip_image002In Memoirs of the West: the Spaldings,  Eliza Spalding, the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Spalding, looks back at an idyllic childhood at Lapwai, the Spaldings mission. She helps her mother, travels with her father, and grows up among the Nez Perce Indians. She often stays with Marcus and Narcissa Whitman at their mission for months at a time in order to attend school with other mission and immigrant children. And she is there on Nov. 29, 1847 when the Whitman mission is attacked by the Cayuse Indians. Her account is harrowing, as the 10-year-old child witnesses death and terror, and then serves as interpreter between the Indians and their captives. The book also includes excerpts from her mother’s diary and some of her father’s letters that speak of the unrelenting labor that he and his wife undertake.

You can also look through three fascinating collections of letters by Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, gathered and published in the late nineteenth century by the Oregon Pioneer Association. The first covers their journey across the country to the Oregon Territory in 1836. The others include Narcissa’s letters to her family back east and correspondence with other missionaries in the West. They can be found in Classics in Washington History as Journey across the plains in 1836.

The letters reveal a woman who is determined to live up to her religious ideals. She accepts the loss of home and her extended family. She accepts her husband’s frequent absences and the physical hardships of frontier living. Yet, she continually begs her family to write more often, and is without any letters from home for up to two years due to long distances. She is never quite at home with the Indians and has difficulty learning the language. There are hints in her narratives about the tensions among the missionaries and the discouragement when few others arrive to join the mission effort.

Narcissa bears a child at Waiilatpu, Alice Clarissa, that is the light of her life until she drowns at the age of “two years, three months, and nine days.” At the same time she takes on the care of children in need, having as many as eleven children in her home at once and writes, “I am sometimes about ready to sink under the weight of responsibility resting on me…” The letters, though relentlessly optimistic, create a portrait of an intensely social and conventional woman laboring in isolation and surrounded by a culture that remains foreign to her.

For an overview of the Whitmans and Spaldings you might try Waiilatpu : its rise and fall, 1836-1847 : a story of pioneer days in the Pacific Northwest based entirely upon historical research by Miles Cannon. Cannon interviews many of the survivors of the mission as well as dealing with its early years.

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Eleanor (Ellen) Sharp Stevenson, 1888-1890

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, WSL 160 | No Comments »


ellenstevenson_detailEleanor (Ellen) Sharp Stevenson, 1888-1890

She was the last Territorial Librarian and by default became the first State Librarian when Washington attained statehood on Nov. 11, 1889. Born July, 1848 in Logan County, Ky., she surfaced as a teacher in Olympia in 1882. In 1884 she was apparently teaching in Mason County. By 1886 Ellen was employed as a clerk for the Legislature and in that brief window of time (1883-1888) when women could vote in Washington (before legal challenges shut down the right), she ran unsuccessfully as a candidate from the radical People’s Party for the office of Thurston County School Superintendent. She was appointed by Gov. Eugene Semple to the office of Territorial Librarian. In her 1888 report Ellen wrote:

There has been an allowance of $50 a year for the expenses of the Library. There may have been a time when this sum was sufficient, based on the business transacted by the office, yet, in the two years just passed, it has restricted the business of this office in every department– limiting the correspondence, the shipping and receiving. It has made of the Librarian both porter and janitor, and necessitated working in cold rooms without fire.

Given the popularity of the current Washington State Library’s massive collection of newspapers (on microfilm, hardcopy, and online), Stevenson was prophetic when she wrote, “Newspapers contain the history of the days’ proceedings and will grow in value with the years.” By 1897 she was living in Spokane where she ran a boarding house. Ellen appears to have lived in Spokane until at least 1915.

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Eliza Des Saure Newell, 1882-1887

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | No Comments »


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Eliza Des Saure Newell

Eliza Des Saure Newell, 1882-1887

The longest serving Territorial Librarian was born in 1853 in New Jersey. In 1882 her father, the eccentric William Augustus Newell, was the Governor. Gov. Newell had appointed his daughter Eleanor as his personal secretary. His other daughter, Eliza, he appointed to the post of Territorial Librarian. The Governor’s nepotism forced the Legislature to change the Territorial laws regarding women in office. Maryan Reynolds picks up the story:

In 1881, Governor William A. Newell submitted his daughter’s name for Territorial Librarian. The legislature responded by passing a bill establishing that ‘Any person male or female over the age of twenty-one years shall be eligible to the office of Territorial Librarian and the word ‘he’ whenever contained in this act shall be construed to mean ‘he’ and ‘she.’

Eliza Newell, Washington’s first female Territorial Librarian, began her tenure on the first Monday in January 1882. Governor Watson C. Squire, Governor Newell’s successor, reappointed her to the post in 1884. Eliza Newell had a wonderful way of wording when it came to official business. In her 1887 report to the Legislature she stated her need for a larger budget with this:

The appropriation for incidentals, is too small for the necessary expenses of the Library, which requires postoffice box, stationary, stamps, wrapping paper, twine, light, fuel, and expressage and porterage to be paid frequently for books to be sent to the Library. The shelves of the main Library are filled to dense packing, also those of the annex. The necessity for additional room is manifest to any observer, and I trust that suitable provision will be made to overcome the inconvenience to which the Library is now subjected, and to make provision for the large increase which may properly be expected. The Library now contains ten thousand volumes.

It seems Gov. Newell, famous for being eternally financially hard pressed, used the Library as his residence. According to historian Gordon Newell (apparently no relation):

Previous governors had been accustomed to rent office space for themselves in downtown Olympia, but the always financially embarrassed Newell took over the territorial library rooms in the capitol building to save that expense. When his daughter was out he frequently ambled from his inner sanctum to check out books for clients of the library, a charming example of territorial informality …

At the end of her term, Eliza married Judge Mason Irwin. She died an untimely death on Dec. 16, 1891.

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Elwood Evans 1877-1879

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | No Comments »


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Elwood Evans

It is difficult to get away from Elwood Evans while reading about the political history of Washington Territory. Born in Philadelphia Dec. 29, 1828, he was appointed a Deputy Collector of Customs under Simpson P. Moses and arrived in Olympia with the Moses brothers in 1851. Admitted to the bar shortly after setting up shop, he became one of the Territory’s earliest lawyers. His initial stay in Washington Territory was brief, in late 1852 he went to Washington, D.C. to campaign for the creation of a territory separate from Oregon. Evans served as an aide to Gov. Stevens during the overland expedition to Washington Territory in 1853, a party that included Bion Kendall. He served as the Chief Clerk of the House during the First Session (1854) and was later elected to fill an unexpired term of a House member. At the same time he filled the role of Thurston County School Superintendent.

An active member of the Whig Party, he led his colleagues into the newly formed Republican Party by the end of the 1850s. Although Evans and Kendall became political enemies, they were united in their hostility to Gov. Stevens and his declaration of martial law. In Jan. 1859 he was instrumental in the incorporation of Olympia and was elected the President (Mayor) 1859-1861. Although Evans lobbied hard for an appointment to the office of Governor, he was never successful. Yet he was frequently in a position to be Acting-Governor. He was made Territorial Secretary during the Lincoln Administration and assumed the right to select a public printer, and awarded the post to Olympian T.H. McElroy– who, according to Robert Ficken, was “the public face in a printing business partly owned by Evans.” He was no friend of Bion Kendall, and some historians have tried to implicate Evans as guilty by association in a murder conspiracy against his nemesis. 

In 1868 he once again served as Chief Clerk in the House, and made valuable contributions in compiling the Code of 1869. He was elected to the House in the mid-1870s, rising to the office of Speaker. He apparently took over the office of Territorial Librarian simply to move the facility to the capitol campus. It was during this time he seriously started compiling his history of the region, as Norman Clark observed, “Among the most literate of the territorial barristers, his experiences left him with an intense interest in the drama of those early years, and he had already presented manuscripts to the most enterprising historian of the West, H.H. Bancroft of San Francisco.” After he completed his Librarian term, he moved to Tacoma. In 1881 he compiled, along with fellow past Librarian John Paul Judson, the Laws of Washington Territory. He was elected as a member of the First Session of the Washington State House. Evans died in The City of Destiny on Jan. 28, 1898.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Frederick S. Holmes, 1875-1877

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | No Comments »


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Holmes’ headstone in Odd Fellows Memorial Park, Tumwater

Frederick S. Holmes, 1875-1877

He was born May 8, 1849 in Chicago and spent his early years in Kenosha, Wis. Holmes arrived in Olympia Nov. 9, 1853 with his parents, Samuel and Mary. Only 25 years of age, he was the first Territorial Librarian to be appointed directly by the Governor. According to Maryan Reynolds in The Dynamics of Change,

When Yantis vacated the position of librarian in 1875, members of the bar campaigned for Governor Elisha P. Ferry to reappoint Mossman to the post. Ferry, however, nominated Josiah H. Munson. The Legislative Council rejected Ferry’s candidate– a singular occurrence in Washington’s history. Ferry then nominated Frederick S. Holmes, who was approved by the council and served until 1877. When Holmes resigned, he cited the pressure of personal business, but wrote, ‘I have arranged with my successor to take charge after tomorrow.

Apparently some deal had been made with House Speaker Elwood Evans or the post was filled by some unknown acting-Librarian, as Reynolds adds,

In 1875, the legislature passed a joint resolution instructing Holmes to move the library from Tacoma Hall in downtown Olympia to its old quarters in the capitol building. Holmes apparently ignored the order, for the 1877 session again required the librarian to move the library back to the capitol within five days. Because Holmes was no longer librarian at the time of this order, Elwood Evans, the Speaker of the House who had signed the order, took over the post and obeyed what he had instructed himself to do.

Holmes worked as a bookkeeper and printer for the Washington Standard and later the Olympia Transcript. He tried his hand at the hardware and grocery businesses and eventually ran a fruit farm just northeast of Olympia. He died in April 1916.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | No Comments »


Bejamin Yantis

Benjamin Yantis

 Benjamin Franklin Yantis,
1873-1875

Born Mar. 19, 1807 in Garrard County, Ky., B.F. Yantis emigrated to Missouri in 1835, where he became the Superior Court Judge of Saline County. In 1850 (some sources say 1852) he was part of an overland party to the Oregon country that was an ordeal even by pioneering standards. His wife was included among the several deaths in the group. Judge Yantis ran a stage line to and from points south of Olympia, and in this capacity was frequently the first member of the community to greet new settlers to the town. He was the father-in-law of the previously mentioned Indian War casualty A.B. Moses.

In 1854 he was a member of the 1st session of the Territorial Council (Senate). In the later 1850s Yantis was active in Eastern Washington as part of the “Colville Gold Rush” and even participated in early Idaho Territorial legislative politics. He was also Captain of the civilian militia group, the “Spokane Invincibles” during the Indian War. Returning to Olympia, he served in the 1862 10th Session of the House, and the 1873 4th Biennial Session of the House. Also in 1873 he was the last Territorial Librarian elected by Legislature. Yantis listed his occupation as “W.T. Librarian” in the 1875 census. Yantis’s grandson, George Blankenship, recalled in a 1932 speech:

“My grandfather possessing sufficient political influence to procure the position, which he did not want, turned the office over to me to assist me in procuring what I laughingly refer to as my education, and then proceeded to wash his hands of the matter.”

The Judge died in Feb. 1879. The Yantis name has been part of Thurston County political history for well over a century. WSL has a copy of Psalms and Hymns Adapted to Social, Private and Public Worship in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1843) inscribed by B.F. Yantis in several places.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Isaac Van Dorsey Mossman, 1870-1873

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | No Comments »


Mossman

Isaac Mossman

Isaac Van Dorsey Mossman, 1870-1873

“We doubt not,” said the Daily Pacific Tribune, “that Mr. Mossman will make an efficient and faithful librarian” when the fourth Territorial Librarian for the year 1870 was named. He was born Aug. 8, 1830 in Centerville, Indiana. Mossman arrived in Oregon City Oct. 20, 1853 as part of the Miller Party. Isaac took part in the 1855-1856 Indian War, holding the rank of Corporal and fighting in the Columbia Gorge and east of the Cascades theater where he was wounded in 1856. For the next few years he held a series of odd jobs in Oregon and Washington, including running a pony express business in the Walla Walla area.

He came to Olympia in 1867 and found employment with the city’s Street Superintendent. Appointed Territorial Librarian by the Governor Nov. 7, 1870. While still in office of Librarian, he was elected Thurston County Coroner in 1872 and Olympia Marshall in 1873. In 1877 he worked as a Sergeant of Arms in the Legislature. By 1879 his poor health forced him to retire from public life, and he made a living by light work and running a used furniture store. Mossman left Olympia for Oakland, California in 1890 and eventually moved to Portland late in life. He died Oct. 11, 1912 in a Roseburg, Oregon soldiers’ home.

Mossman’s autobiographical work, A Pony Expressman’s Recollections, is part of the WSL collection. In this role you could say he was an early promoter of rapid information delivery.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Champion B. Mann

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, WSL 160 | No Comments »


Champion B, Mann

Champion B, Mann

Longtime Olympia political fixture, C.B. Mann was born Nov. 2, 1844 in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Mann attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon and graduated from Portland Business College before arriving in Olympia in March 1870.

He was assigned to the position of Territorial Librarian and served from Aug. 1 to Nov. 6, 1870. C.B. initially held the occupation of school teacher in Oregon and was chosen school district principal in Olympia at the same time he was Librarian.

A Republican, Mann held a variety of public offices: City Treasurer, County Treasurer, County Commissioner, and Olympia Mayor (1894-1895).

A bottle from C. B. Mann’s apothecary.

A bottle from C. B. Mann’s apothecary.

Later in life he was active in gathering historical and biographical data on the pioneers of Thurston County. In a sad coincidence, although in different states Mann and his only son, Claude, died almost simultaneously on October 19, 1929.

Mann was also the topic of an earlier blogpost here, “Digging Up History“.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Sylvester Hill Mann, 1870

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | No Comments »


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Sylvester Hill Mann

He was born May 6, 1817 in upstate New York. Raised in Pennsylvania, Mann was a soldier in a volunteer unit during the Civil War in 1862-1863. His occupation as a Methodist minister took him all over the Pacific Northwest. The Mann family arrived in Oregon’s Willamette River Valley via the Isthmus route in 1864. By 1870 Rev. Mann was sent to Olympia, where he found himself appointed to fill out the Territorial Librarian term of the late Mr. Mabie. He took the oath of office June 21, 1870. As the June 20 issue of the Daily Pacific Tribune reported: “The decease of J.D. Mabie having left this office vacant, Acting Gov. Scott has appointed Rev. S.H. Mann to fill it until the next Legislature convenes. We heartily approve of this appointment, though it is questionable whether the new incumbent will be able to fill it for the unexpired term, as the next Methodist Conference will probably assign him to another field.” There was no “probably” about it. They did. To Seattle. By Aug. 1, his son, C.B. Mann, was taking the oath of office as his replacement. The roughly five weeks of Rev. Mann’s term might be a record for brevity in the office. He was sent to Seattle in 1870-1872, Steilacoom 1872-1874, and finally to Brownsville, Oregon in 1874. He died there Mar. 15, 1876. Considered “somewhat retiring,” his poor health was attributed to his involvement in the Civil War.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Thomas Taylor, 1862 & John Paul Judson 1864

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | 2 Comments »


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Thomas Taylor, 1862

Although no oath of office record exists today, Taylor was apparently Librarian in 1862. The March 29, 1862 issue of the Washington Standard includes this Library Notice: “All persons having books belonging to the Territorial Library will please return at once, or the by-laws will be put in force. Thos. Taylor, Ter. Librarian.” He quite probably was the same aged Thomas Taylor who was born Oct. 17, 1793 (some sources say 1791) in Frederick County, Va. and came out to Oregon in the early 1850s from Morgan County, Illinois. In 1861 he served as a member of the House in the 9th Session. For a while he lived in the Grand Mound area and then in Elma. He was a long-time and active preacher, remaining in amazingly good health during his senior years. Taylor died in Elma, Wash., May 14, 1886.

John Paul Judson, 1864

Judson

John Paul Judson

Born May 6, 1840 in Cologne, Prussia, J.P. Judson’s family came to Illinois in 1845. In Oct. 1853 they made their way to Pierce County. According to Bancroft, “He earned the money in mining on the Fraser River with which he paid for two years’ schooling in Vancouver.” The young Judson was appointed Territorial Librarian while still a law student and literally lived in the Library “to have more ready access to the law books then at his command,” so wrote John Miller Murphy. He also worked as Chief Clerk in the House in 1864. For a brief time he was a school teacher until he earned his law degree in 1867 and went into private practice.

After living in Port Townsend, he returned to Olympia in order to assume the office of Territorial Superintendent of Public Instruction, a post he held from 1873 to 1880. His legacy was overhauling Washington’s educational system. As Dryden explains:

The School Law of 1877 was an important milestone because it marked the end of the pioneer period in education. Responsibility for it can be attributed to John P. Judson, Washington Territory’s … superintendent of public instruction. This law created a Territorial Board of Education with specified duties, and it also provided for county boards of education. One section dealt with certification of teachers, qualifications, and examinations.

Writer Angie Burt Bowden echoes, “His term was one of the most important in territorial history, because of its length– he served six years– because of the growth in professional spirit and usefulness through the county and territorial institutes; and because of the initiation of the Board of Education.” In 1876 he was the Democratic candidate for Territorial Delegate to Congress and lost by a mere 73 votes. In 1877 he also held the office of Olympia Mayor. After his Superintendent term was completed, Judson moved to Tacoma and became a Regent for the University of Washington. His final years were spent in Spokane and then Colville, where he died in April, 1910.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]