WA Secretary of State Blogs

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

October 30th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, WSL 160 Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Eleanor (Ellen) Sharp Stevenson, 1888-1890

ellenstevenson_detailEleanor (Ellen) Sharp Stevenson, 1888-1890

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

October 23rd, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Eliza Des Saure Newell, 1882-1887


Eliza Des Saure Newell

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Walter Newlin and James Ferry

October 17th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Walter Newlin and James Ferry

Newlin CatalogueFrom the Desks of the Central Library Staff

Walter W. Newlin, 1879-1880

Born in Pennsylvania ca. 1841, Walter W. Newlin was living and working in Olympia as early as 1870 as a lawyer. Appointed Territorial Librarian in Aug. 1879 by Gov. Ferry, his tenure was brief but eventful. With Newlin, we see the first glimmer of the kind of librarian we recognize in modern times. His Oct. 1, 1879 report laments the lack of a catalog and the poor facilities. He brought in new shelving since books were stacked out in the halls. Walter solicited donations from members of the legal community and government agencies in an effort to upgrade the collection. He also published a bound catalog of the Library’s holdings in 1880, with this preface:

“TO THE PROFESSION:–Having no reliable data to go upon, the Librarian found great difficulty in distinguishing missing books from those which were never in the library, and marked as missing those where doubt existed. Those having missing books in their possession are earnestly requested to return the same, and information regarding any of them will be thankfully received.”

Newlin 1

By May 1880 he had been selected as the Register of the Land Office in Vancouver. His subsequent career took him to Walla Walla and King County. He was elected Prosecuting Attorney for King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties in 1888. He was accused of dismissing serious gambling indictments against brothers Frank and Charles Clancy during September of 1889, but was exonerated by a committee of the Washington State Bar Association. Walter Newlin died Nov. 28, 1889 while visiting his mother in Denver, Colorado.

James Peyre Ferry, 1880-1881

The son of Gov. Ferry, born Apr. 26, 1853 in Illinois, was no stranger to Olympia politics. Although it might be tempting to say his appointment to fill out the term of Newlin was the result of nepotism, he took the oath of office on May 19, 1880, which means he was probably named by the incoming Governor, William A. Newell. Ferry worked in the newspaper trade as a printer and compositor. He never married and always lived with family members. He died Nov. 23, 1914 in Seattle.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

160 Years of Service to the People of Washington

October 15th, 2013 Rand Simmons Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, WSL 160 Comments Off on 160 Years of Service to the People of Washington


From the desk of Kim Wyman, Secretary of State.

From its beginnings as the Washington Territorial Library in 1853, the Washington State Library has played a major role preserving and providing public access to books, maps, collections, documents and other vital information about Washington’s history and government.

For the past 160 years, the State Library has lived up to its mission and purpose, which is to “collect, preserve and make accessible to Washingtonians materials on the government, history, culture, and natural resources of the state.” In addition, the State Library has led the way in coordinating services and helping secure federal or private funding to benefit other libraries throughout Washington. Literally, the benefits of your Washington State Library are felt throughout the state, and on the Internet!

Back in the 1850s, Congress understood the importance of having a library for the Washington Territory. In fact, when Congress in 1853 passed the Organic Act, creating the Washington Territory, it included a section specifically creating a territorial library:

SEC. 17. And be it further enacted, That the sum of five thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be expended, by and under the direction of the Governor of Washington, in the purchase of a library, to be kept at the seat of government for the use of the Governor, legislative assembly, Judges of the Supreme Court, secretary, marshal, and Attorney of said Territory, and such other persons, and under such regulations, as shall be prescribed by law.

Congress had the wisdom to provide ample funding for the new library. And Isaac Stevens, Washington’s first Territorial Governor, used that money well, buying books, maps, globes and other items. The $5,000 appropriation back then would amount to more than $135,000 today! That appropriation was a key component in making the Territorial Library a worthy and valuable institution to serve Washingtonians for generations to come.

After Stevens made the initial purchases, he had the 1,850 books placed on the Invincible that left New York and sailed around the tip of South America before stopping in San Francisco. When the Tarquina, the vessel carrying the books and other items from California, finally reached Olympia, it meant more than the arrival of some books. It marked the arrival of Washington’s oldest cultural institution, one that still plays an important role today.

As Washington’s Secretary of State, I’m proud that our State Library is a central part of our office. I applaud State Librarian Rand Simmons and all of the State Library staff and volunteers for their tremendous work on behalf of the people of Washington.

Congratulations to the Washington State Library on this special anniversary. Here’s to many more years of service!

Kim Wyman

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Elwood Evans 1877-1879

October 10th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Elwood Evans 1877-1879


Elwood Evans

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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]

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Oh, the places you’ll go! (Part 3)

October 10th, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, WSL 160 1 Comment »

Note: this article is part three of a multi-part series on the Origins and the Historic Locations of the Washington Territorial Library.  If you have not read part one, please click here to access the article. If you missed only part two, click here.

Circa 1875-1877: Tacoma Hall


Tacoma Hall (front & center), circa 1869.

On July 1, 1875, the collection was disrupted again, having been moved to “Tacoma Hall,” a two-story structure located at Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street in Olympia. This was done as a temporary move due to repairs that were needed at the original Capitol Building. Built by Charles Williams in 1861 and originally dubbed the Olympia Building, it was purchased by Capt. D. B. Finch, owner and commander of the mail steamer that delivered between Olympia and Victoria. He donated this building in 1869 for the use of the Good Templars of Olympia, a Masonic fraternal order that advocated abstinence and temperance. Finch also donated a large number of books that would appeal to public reading demands and reserved a portion of the building for use as the first free lending library for the city of Olympia around August of 1868.

Tacoma Hall was the site of several historic events including the first meeting site of the Territorial Supreme Court. It was also the location where Susan B. Anthony spoke on her visit to Olympia on October 17 of 1871 to speak for women’s suffrage and the site of the first Washington Women’s Suffrage Association Convention in 1871. Part of the building was also the first free reading room or library in the city. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union also met here.

This building was known by many names over the course of its life: Olympia Building, Tacoma Hall, Tacoma Lodge, and Knights of the Good Templars Hall. For some period in time, the Territorial Library collection must have also been housed there. In 1875 the Territorial Legislature ordered by joint resolution that Territorial Librarian Frederick S. Holmes relocate the library from Tacoma Hall to the original Capitol Building, which stood on the Capitol Campus near the present-day Legislative Building. Holmes refused to execute this order.

The original Tacoma Hall is no longer. The building was replaced with another building in 1902. This new building then burned down and was subsequently replaced by the Barnes Building (also known as Knights of Pythias Building and Goodfellows Hall), which was built in 1911 and is still standing today.


1877-1891: Territorial Legislative Building 

Inauguration of Governor Ferry, 1889. Image courtesy of WA State Digital Archives.

The Legislature ordered the library’s relocation – again by joint resolution – in 1877.  Speaker of the House Elwood Evans was the author of the resolution and given that he had recently assumed the post of Territorial Librarian following Holmes’ vacating of the office, it was finally relocated to the old territorial Capitol Building.

During the library’s second occupancy of the old Legislative Building, it witnessed the appointment of Eliza Newell, the first woman to hold the office of Territorial Librarian and at the same time served as the residence of our 15th Territorial Governor, William A. Newell. The collection also became the State Library upon our admittance into the union on November 11, 1889. In 1890 the Legislature authorized preparation for the first official catalog of the library’s holdings.  It was prepared by Philip D. Moore, the first official State Librarian, and published in 1891.  At that time Moore cataloged the law collection as separate from the general collection.

Both collections remained at the building until a move to the McKenny Building in 1891. The building served its original purpose until 1901 when the Legislature purchased the building that originally was built for use as the Thurston County Courthouse. The Library relocated from the McKenny block to the new building from the Old Thurston Courthouse (for more information, click here) in 1901 and the Legislature moved in upon completing renovations in 1905.  The Territorial Legislative building was destroyed in 1911 to make way for the new Legislative Building designed by architects Walter Wilder and Harry White, and the new Capitol Campus, as envisioned by landscape design firm Olmstead Brothers.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

WSL Updates for October 10, 2013

October 10th, 2013 Diane Hutchins Posted in Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Grants and Funding, News, State Library Collections, Technology and Resources, Training and Continuing Education, Updates, WSL 160 Comments Off on WSL Updates for October 10, 2013

Volume 9, October 10, 2013 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Topics include:







Read the rest of this entry »

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

October 3rd, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Frederick S. Holmes, 1875-1877


Holmes’ headstone in Odd Fellows Memorial Park, Tumwater

Frederick S. Holmes, 1875-1877

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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]

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Oh, the places you’ll go! (Part 2)

October 3rd, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, WSL 160 Comments Off on Oh, the places you’ll go! (Part 2)

Note: this article is part two of a multi-part series on the Origins and the Historic Locations of the Washington Territorial Library.  If you have not read part one, please click here to access the article.

Circa 11/1854: B.F. Kendall’s Building*


Benjamin Freeman Kendall

In November of 1854, the library was relocated to a small wood-frame building on Fourth and Main Street. Territorial Librarian B.F. Kendall had the structure built specifically to hold the library materials, the law insisting that it be housed “as convenient as possible to the house occupied by the legislative assembly.” [1854 Laws, pg. 415.]

“The legislators, holding a proprietary attitude toward the library, bridled at Kendall’s action; they fully expected the Territorial Library to be located under the same roof as themselves…” explains former State Librarian, Maryan Reynolds, in her history of the State Library, The Dynamics of Change.

In truth, the legislature had not had a building built specific to its needs up to this point. It met for its first session starting on February 27th, 1854, at the Gold Bar Restaurant on Second and Main in downtown Olympia [Newell History, pg.36] and then moved during the time of the Indian uprising to the Olympia Masonic Temple on Eighth and Main, meeting there from 1855 to 1856. [Stevenson, pg. 146.]  The building was still unfinished at the outbreak of the Indian Wars.

This demand for clarity over the location of the library stands to emphasize the collection’s value as a tool of both the government and its people. We are not sure as to when this building stopped being used as the library, but we place it at 1856, when a hastily constructed territorial Capitol Building was completed. The image we have of the two story structure is apparently not representative of the building as it stood from the late 1856-1863. The cupola, veranda and overall finished look of the site were added in 1875 (W. T. Jackson, PNQ, 36:3 pg. 262)

At some point Kendall’s original Fourth and Main building was demolished and replaced with the McKenny Building (built  in 1889), which also acted as a home for the collection, from 1891 to 1901.

*No picture of the B.F. Kendall building available. If you have an image or leads towards an image of this historic site, please contact us at [email protected]

1856-1875: Territorial Legislative Building*



Territorial Legislative Building, circa 1890’s. Image courtesy of WA State Digital Archives.

According to local historian George Blankenship, the library collection was shifted to the Old Territorial Legislative Building upon completion of its construction. [MS 37, “Paper read at the Olympia Public Library, 1932-11-08.”] The building was built in 1856 on 12 acres donated by Edmund Sylvester. The new Legislative Building was described by historian Gordon Newell as a “wooden two-story structure that stood between where the present Legislative and Insurance Commissioner buildings now stand.”  The frame building, as described by Acting Governor Charles Mason, measured 40 feet by 68 feet, and two stories high.  The first floor held the House of Representatives and two small committee rooms.  The second floor held two additional committee rooms, the Council chamber and a room for the Territorial Library.

Again, the library was at the center of controversy – a much larger one than Kendall’s decision to locate it on 4th Avenue.  Maryan Reynolds again explains: “A sizable number of legislators sought to move the territorial capital from Olympia to Vancouver. Their first step was to pass a law requiring Territorial Librarian J.C. Head to move his office and the library to Vancouver between June 2 and August 1. Another law mandated a popular vote on the issue during July, which the legislators were certain would favor their cause. But Acting Governor McGill refused to permit the move, and the district court refused to require J.C. Head to show cause as to why he should not move the library.”

The building was hastily built and never really in an ideal state following its occupancy.  Reports of the era described it as a “sad picture of melancholy dinginess” [Ex. Doc. 144, 43rd Congress, 2nd Sess.] and according to Ezra L. Smith in his letter entitled, “Estimate of the current expenses of the Legislative Assembly and Secretary’s Office of the Territory of Washington for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1870” the building was  “in a sad state of repair” with worn out furniture; “faded, soiled, and ragged carpets;” and a rotting wooden block foundation that had caused the building to slope toward one end.   As described in 1874 by Henry J. Struve, Territory Secretary, the territorial Capitol Building was “left in an entirely unfinished condition” following its construction. He continues:  “The walls of the main chambers, committee rooms, library, entrance halls, &c., have never been lathed, plastered, or painted, and a portion of the same were and remain to this day, covered with rough, unplanned boards with a coat of common whitewash.” Alongside this description, Struve requests the Secretary of the Interior approve $5,274.75 toward needed repairs and upgrades to the building, which the Secretary of the Interior affirms in a return correspondence, dated April 2, 1875. The repairs were completed by year’s end.

An interesting side note: Territorial Librarian John Paul Judson, a 24-year-old law student at the time of his appointment, actually lived in the Legislative Building during his year-long tenure.  He did this on practical grounds, claiming it was the best way to gain access to the resources he needed to support his education.

 *WSL has, to date, no pre-1889 pictures of the Territorial Legislative building. If you have an image or leads towards an image of this historic site during that time, please contact us at [email protected]

Next week: How the library came to share space with another library, and the struggle to move it back to the legislative building.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

September 25th, 2013 Matthew Roach Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875

Bejamin Yantis

Benjamin Yantis

 Benjamin Franklin Yantis,

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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]

AddThis Social Bookmark Button