WA Secretary of State Blogs

A Mephitis Mephitica in Vancouver

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 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]

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 | 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]

Col. Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations

Friday, September 13th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | Comments Off on Col. Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations

Captain Patrick Henry Winston

Colonel Patrick Henry Winston

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

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

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

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

Winston 1

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

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


Statue of Governor Rogers

Statue of Governor Rogers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winston's 1899 Biennial Report

Winston’s 1899 Biennial Report

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

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

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

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Champion B. Mann

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Champion B. Mann

Champion B, Mann

Champion B, Mann


From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Exciting World of Accounting!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | Comments Off on The Exciting World of Accounting!

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

My Father was an accountant, and when he wanted us kids to get sleepy and not stay up too late, all he had to do was talk about his job. But before you dismiss the profession of accounting as a boring and tedious vocation, consider this front page story from the Sept. 14, 1911 issue of the Olympia Daily Recorder:


“Another state official was in sheriff’s irons at the court house this morning and secured his release with difficulty, although without bail. F.H. Lieben, member of the state board of supervision and inspection of public offices literally put himself in the toils, not of the law but of the implements of the law, and as he sat ruminating at the ways of folly, swore by the board of the prophet, the sacred bull of Osiris, Anthony Comstock and such other traditional symbols of grace and virtue that if he ever got out this time he never would get in again. Lieben, whose business it is to examine the accounts of public officers to see that they don’t get too careless in office, himself got too careless in the office of Sheriff Gaston, and trying on one of the big leg irons out of curiosity, had his curiosity amply satisfied when he discovered he could not get it off and the key could not be found. And for more than an hour Lieben sat and winced at the jibes of the county officials who dropped in to see the new prisoner, and at the clanking galling ankle iron. Some were for getting him a copy of Byron’s ‘Prisoner of Chilon’ to read for consolation, but Lieben would have none of poetry. He wanted ‘out,’ nothing else.”

olympia 2-1

“Lieben called on the sheriff this morning about 8 o’clock on a matter of business. While the two were talking Lieben toyed with a pair of heavy leg irons and when the sheriff had his back turned slipped one the anklets on. The irons are worked by a spring lock and Lieben found himself caught tight around the ankle. Explaining how it happened they slipped tighter until they pinched uncomfortably.”

“For a half hour the sheriff conducted an unavailing search for the key. In the meantime pretended news of the arrest of Lieben on a serious charge was spread through the court house and officials gathered to josh him. After trying all the keys in the office without getting one to work, Clyde Duval, the forest ranger, began to file one down but this was slow, so Charles Talcott was called into consultation. While he was making a key Duval finished his and the leg irons were finally slipped off the state officer. He tried his best to cajole the crowd that had gathered and the newspaper men to secrecy but they wouldn’t fall, and so the story is being told all about town.”

Francis Henry Lieben was born Sept. 21, 1860 in Dubuque, Iowa. He was raised in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. In the late 1890s, along with his wife Mary and son Howard, he migrated to Davenport, Washington, where he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1909 the family moved to Seattle.

Lieben found employment as one of the original three board members of the Bureau of Inspection and Supervision of Public offices, which was created in 1909 as a department of the State Auditor. This watchdog trio must have been effective in finding accounting problems in local governments. Someone disliked them enough to get an initiative on the ballot in 1914 to abolish the Bureau. Initiative Measure No. 7, which is found in the very first Washington voter’s pamphlet, was soundly defeated by the voters in 1914.

olympia 2-2

In a publication describing their mission ca. 1917, the Bureau commented:

“It cannot be expected that governing officers having disregarded the welfare of their constituents will call in examiners to expose their shortcomings.”

“The public spoke after a strenuous campaign in 1915 [i.e. 1914] on Initiative Measure No. 7 in no uncertain way by sustaining the bureau by a large majority.”

“It is to be regretted that designing politicians who know nothing of our work and care less, having never darkened our doors should on account of some personal pique, biennially harass and belittle so important a work as is being accomplished by the Bureau.”

The Bureau existed until 1921, when it was superceded by the Dept. of Efficiency. The Washington State Library has several publications from the short-lived Bureau.

Meanwhile, Lieben served on the Bureau until Jan. 1913, when he became a regular examiner for the State Auditor. He retired in 1932.

In Sept. 1918 his ankle once again made the news. A truck ran over his left foot at the corner of Madison and 2nd in downtown Seattle, and the newspaper thought Lieben might have to have the foot and ankle amputated. A month later his wife Mary died.

He remarried in 1921 and lived a long life, dying in Seattle Dec. 3, 1958, age 98.

A couple of the background characters in the above news article are worth noting. George Gaston (1849-1930) was Sheriff and later Assessor of Thurston County. He was married to a descendant of African-American Tumwater pioneer George Washington Bush. Charles Talcott (1854-1939) was an early Olympia jeweler  who is known as the designer of the original Washington State seal in 1889.

The Olympia Daily Recorder can be counted as one of the ancestors of the current Olympian news paper.

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

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


Thomas Taylor, 1862

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

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

John Paul Judson, 1864


John Paul Judson

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

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

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

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

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

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Andrew Jackson Moses, 1859

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | 1 Comment »

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

Called “a family of rascals” by one historian, the Moses brothers (Simpson, A.B., and Andrew, a native of South Carolina) along with Elwood Evans, came from Ohio to Olympia 1851 via the Nicaragua route. Simpson had been appointed the Collector and Andrew became a merchant on Main Street (Capitol Way). He had the instincts of an information professional when he ran this notice in the Feb. 5, 1853 issue of the Columbian

Notice: From and after this date I will keep a register of names of all persons arriving in our new Territory, and I simply suggest to those now here to place their names upon the same book in order hereafter when any person desiring to know the place of residence of any relative or friend who may be living in this section of Oregon, they may know where to find them, and at the same time shall be ready to facilitate transportation to those who may desire going down the Sound. Andrew J. Moses, Main Street, Olympia.

When Gov. Stevens arrived in Olympia, he compiled a roster of prominent locals who, in the words of historian Kent D. Richards, “might provide information or services or who exercised power and influence among their peers.” Andrew was among the 30 or so names in the list. He served as a sergeant in the Indian War. It was for the alleged involvement in the death of his brother, A.B. Moses, that Leschi was executed. In 1859 Andrew defeated his father-in-law, James Clark Head, 22-11 in the legislative vote selecting a new Auditor/Librarian.

In addition to holding two territorial posts he was also the U.S. District Court Clerk in 1859. Moses was involved in forming the Alert Hook and Ladder Company, Olympia’s first firefighting group. Andrew was admitted to the bar in 1865 and acted as a Justice of the Peace. Vanishing from the Olympia scene after his divorce in 1870, he surfaced in Portland. The May 11, 1872 of the Washington Standard reported Moses had been arrested for forgery. He was still living in Portland, working as an attorney, and providing entertaining newspaper copy through his exploits as late as the 1890s.  Andrew Jackson Moses died in Roseburg, Oregon on April 3, 1897 and was buried in Portland.

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

Profiles in Washington Territorial Librarians- Bion Freeman Kendall

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Profiles in Washington Territorial Librarians- Bion Freeman Kendall


Bion (Benjamin) Freeman Kendall, 1853 – 1857

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

Bion (Benjamin) Freeman Kendall, 1853 – 1857

Born Oct. 1827 in Bethel, Maine. Fresh out of Bowdoin College in 1852, Kendall found employment as a government clerk in the Survey Land Office in Washington, D.C. He served as an aide (along with future Territorial Librarian Elwood Evans) on the 1853 Isaac Stevens survey team when the first Territorial Governor made his way to Olympia. Governor Stevens had arranged for the selection of the Territorial Library prior to his departure, and the books arrived by ship in October 1853. The Governor made it to Olympia in November, and Kendall a month later. As Louise Morrison wrote, “Governor Stevens’ first message to the Legislature implied that he considered Kendall the librarian,” but he wasn’t officially elected to the post by the Legislature until April 17, 1854. In that election he defeated attorney Frank Clark on vote of 17-9.

On his qualifications and legacy as Librarian, Maryan Reynolds writes, “Kendall’s political activity and connections were his primary qualifications for the post. Kendall immediately built a small facility at Fourth and Main Streets (now Capitol Way) to house the library. 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 …” In his reports to the Legislature, Kendall also provided a listing of the Library’s holdings, the first version of the catalog. He was also appointed as Chief Clerk of the House, February 27, 1854, and was admitted to the bar later that year.  In April 1855 his short and meteoric rise found him in the office of acting U.S. District Attorney, and he was elected Prosecuting Attorney for the 2nd District in 1856. Although he eventually became “bitterly opposed” to Governor Stevens, he successfully prosecuted Leschi in his 2nd trial held in Olympia, going against defense attorney Frank Clark.

Realizing he was not making any friends in Olympia, he visited Washington D.C. in early 1861 to lobby for a new post, and was actually present when Fort Sumter was attacked. He served as a spy at the bequest of General Scott, gathering intelligence for the Union government during a swing through the Southern States. As a reward, Kendall was appointed Washington Territory Superintendent of Indian Affairs for awhile. One writer has observed that “Kendall, though an eloquent orator, able, energetic and industrious, was noted for his unyielding opinions, bitter and juvenile prejudices, high-handed contempt for the views of others and his indiscreet utterances.” He was called Bezaleel Freeman Kendall by his political opponents. His editorship of the Olympia newspaper Overland Press gave him ample opportunity to expand the number of his enemies, and one them shot and killed him in his business office in January 1863. Frank Clark, who had been defeated by Kendall for the post of librarian and was also bested by him at the Leschi trial, was the defense attorney for the man charged with Bion’s murder. The accused man fled, never to be seen again. Some historians have suggested it was Clark’s firearm that was used as the murder weapon and the killer was merely an instrument of broad conspiracy.

Contemporary accounts of Kendall’s murder can be found in the WSL newspapers on microfilm collection or online on our digital historic newspapers site (The Puget Sound Herald of Steilacoom covered the story)

The boundaries of free speech are tested, Tacoma, 1916

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | 1 Comment »

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

I stumbled across a legal case in Washington State history that deserves to be revisited. The following news nugget was found at random in the Morning Olympian for May 5, 1916:



 “TACOMA, May 4.–Paul R. Haffer was found guilty of libel and defamation of character when he said that George Washington drank more liquor than was good for him and used occasional profanity. A jury in the superior court so decided last night after deliberating an hour and 30 minutes.”

“Col. A.E. Joab brought the charge against Haffer after the latter had written a letter to a newspaper on Washington’s birthday, setting forth the alleged delinquencies of the father of his country. In his own defense, Haffer said that he had read much of Washington’s life, and wrote the charges because he was opposed to hero worship, and he thought the people were making too much of Washington’s memory. He is a socialist and employed as a car repairer. The maximum penalty for the offense is a year in jail and $1,000 fine. An appeal will be taken.”

“Col. Joab thanked each juror as they filed from the box for being ‘a real American.'”

OK, probably not a good idea to be an iconoclast in a state named after George at a time when America was nervous about socialists and the possibility of entering the Great War, which was already underway in Europe. Also, Prohibition was  the law of the land in Washington State by 1916, and comments about drunkenness were not taken lightly. But the Haffer case was not one of the most shining moments in the legal history of The Evergreen State.

Haffer was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan ca. 1895. His family moved to the Tacoma area when he was about 9. He was apparently a strong socialist throughout his entire life.

The exact content of his letter to the editor of the Tacoma Tribune for the issue in question remains murky. It was Haffer 3published on Feb. 18, 1916, but that issue is mysteriously missing from our microfilm reel for that time slot, even though every issue around that date is intact. If anyone out there has the full contents of Mr. Haffer’s letter, I’d appreciate seeing it.

However, other newspapers quoted parts of it. The Tacoma Times: Haffer said Washington was a “slaveholder, a profane and blasphemous man and an inveterate drinker.” The first accusation was certainly true, but the next three are very open to debate and definition.

Haffer’s reply to the press was that he wrote the letter “to check the unthinking idolatry of heroes held up by demigods before the public.”

The day following publication of his letter to the editor, he was charged with criminal libel by Col. Albert E. Joab (1857-1930), a self-appointed guardian of “patriotic values” and considered as something of a “picturesque” character by the local press. It is interesting Col. Joab went after the writer rather than the newspaper that published the piece.

Haffer 4

The Tacoma Tribune had no comment on the case, but the rival Tacoma Times exalted in it. They quoted Col. Joab as calling Haffer a “Damnable blackguard, infamous anarchist, Red socialist!” Also these choice quotes: “I’ve been raised all my life to respect men such as Washington and I don’t propose to stand for a red anarchist to desecrate his memory. Thank God I’ve got some red blood in my system to stick up for Washington, if nobody else will. I don’t know who the man is who wrote the article, but he undoubtedly is a socialist. You can tell a rabbit by his track. He is a —- blackguard. Let this man prove in open court what he says of Washington, if he can. I can produce articles by Thomas Jefferson, whom we all learned to love through Woodrow Wilson, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and others, showing Washington was an upright man, noted for his sobriety. Why, he was even a communicant of the Episcopal church and a Master Mason. Look in any standard dictionary and you will see Washington’s picture in his Masonic apron.”

Haffer was convicted in Pierce County Superior Court and the decision was upheld, incredibly, after an appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court. Haffer was fined and sentenced to several months imprisonment, but after a month of serving his time he was pardoned by Gov. Lister.

But Haffer and the legal system still had another issue to sort out. Like many other socialists, Paul was opposed to the U.S. entry into the Great War in 1917, and according to Albert F. Gunns in Civil Liberties in Crisis : the Pacific Northwest 1917-1940 Haffer was forced into the Army after serving 10 months in jail for refusing to register for the draft. He served his time in uniform at Camp Lewis and was honorably discharged in 1919 having never been overseas.

In spite of all the contemporary publicity over his radical views, Haffer might be better remembered today as the one-time husband of the innovative and acclaimed photographer Virna Haffer (1899-1974). Paul and Virna had a son, Jean Paul, in 1924 before they divorced a few years later.


In the 1930s and 1940s Haffer remarried, started a second family, had another son and obtained work as a shipfitter. He ran for State Representative in 1934 as a member of the Socialist Party and placed 6 out of 6 in the primary with 0.99% of the vote. None of the slings and arrows hurled at him in earlier years had distracted him from his original vision.

When Haffer died on June 15, 1949 at age 54, his obituary mentioned he “gained brief notoriety when he was convicted in a Tacoma court of libeling George Washington on charges brought by the late Col. Albert Joab.”

The New and Improved Online Index to the Olympian Just Released!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, News, State Library Collections, Technology and Resources | 3 Comments »

The webpage intro modestly states: “Produced by Washington State Library, this index contains citations to articles in The Olympian (Olympia, Washington) and other Washington state newspapers. Dates covered are from 1993-2009. Subsequent Olympian issues will be indexed as time allows.”

In reality this amazing finding aid is the result of thousands of hours of labor by dedicated WSL staff. Not only is this a valuable research tool for local Olympia area history and genealogy, but as The Olympian covers the State Capital in some detail this index has a value of statewide significance.

The new improved index includes more sophisticated searching options, as well as an opportunity for the library user to request the article once it is located. Crystal Lentz, one of our Public Services librarians, summarizes:

“All the records from the old database were imported into the new one and a new front end/search page was created.  A new feature of the database is a ‘Request this article’ link in each citation.  When customers click on the link they will be asked for their name, email address, zip code, and the name of the deceased person if the request is for an obituary article.  When the request is submitted, the citation and customer information are automatically sent to question queue where it will be claimed and filled by a librarian.”

Many thanks to Public Services librarian Mary Schaff for spearheading this upgrade,  Crystal Lentz, and Head of Public Services Lori Thornton for setting the wheels in motion. We also extend our gratitude to Webmaster Matthew Edwards for listening to our ideas and making the new index a reality in a very short time.

The online Olympian index can be found at:


We also have an Olympian index for 1989-1993 available in print, but the data is also stored on ancient 5 and half inch square Bernoulli tapes. If anyone out there has a device that will help us extract this information so we can convert it to an online finding aid, we would love to talk with you!