WA Secretary of State Blogs

Protection Island

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


protectionislandmap

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:

 ISLAND OWNERSHIP IS IN DISPUTE

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:

rosalie

Rosalie

“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.

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 »


wshs_ElizaNewellJordan

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.

The One Minute Jail Sentence

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


jail

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:

MINUTE IN JAIL

 SHORTEST SENTENCE EVER PASSED GIVEN TO JOE INCARCERATION.

JUDGE FRATER THINKS HE SHOULD GO TO JAIL BUT NOT STAY THERE.

RESULT OF SIX MONTHS’ LITIGATION IS ONE MINUTE’S INCARCERATION.

“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.”

Frater

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.

UST_Buford

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.

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 »


Evans-edited

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]

WSL and Wheedle at the National Book Festival

Monday, October 7th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public | No Comments »


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L to R:Marja Lentz, Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Crystal Lentz, Head of Public Services, Washington State Library

On Saturday, September 21st, the Wheedle traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent our state in the Pavilion of the States at the National Book Festival.

The Pavilion of the States represents the reading and library promotion programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. When people entered the Pavilion they picked up a Discover Great Places Through Reading map of the United States, which they took around to each state and territory in the Pavilion to be stamped or stickered.  Over 2,500 Washington State Seal stickers were placed on maps throughout the day.

On the back side of the map was a “Great Reads about Great Places” list of books.  Each state selected a work of either fiction or nonfiction about the state or by an author from the state that is a good read for children or young adults, who are the primary audience for the Pavilion of the States.  Washington’s selection for 2013 was “Wheedle and the Noodle,” written by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James.  Stephen Cosgrove generously had his art department create a bookmark to help publicize the book and 5,000 were quickly given away at the Festival.  Children and adults alike oohed and aahed over the adorable illustrations on the bookmark and many took a moment to page through the book.SAMSUNG

While the Pavilion of the States is only open on Saturday, the various genre tents at the Festival were open both Saturday and Sunday.  Over the course of the weekend over 100 authors spoke and many of them signed books as well.  Thousands of people enjoyed listening to authors and learning about books.

The National Book Festival is organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, while the Pavilion of the States is organized by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  The Festival just completed its 13th year.

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 »


Holmes2

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]

The Devil Fish and Octopus Wrestling

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 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:

FIGHTS DEVIL FISH

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.

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]

The Jean Valjean of Raymond, Washington

Friday, September 20th, 2013 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:

VICTOR HUGO’S HERO REAL MAN

 J.B. SMITH EXEMPLIFIES JEAN VALJEAN

 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

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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,

President.”

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.

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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]