WA Secretary of State Blogs

The Killing Season

October 7th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on The Killing Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 18th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on LIKE AS “TWO DROMIOS”: COMPLICATIONS FROM A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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June 5th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on TENDERLOIN CELEBRITIES IN THE TOILS

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

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


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

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


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

 Showed fight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But she came back.

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

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









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

May 7th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections Comments Off on “Veritable Hermit Discovered Living in the Heart of the Olympics”

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

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

headlineThe Times Special Service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Had Found Paradise.

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

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

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

 The Hermit’s Library.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

April 22nd, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on The Uncle of the Father of Earth Day: Washington’s sort of Connection…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Love in Bucoda

December 17th, 2013 steve.willis Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections Comments Off on Love in Bucoda

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 Comments Off on The Galoot is Here

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 Comments Off on A Mephitis Mephitica in Vancouver


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 Comments Off on The Brief Life of Stanley, Washington

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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