WA Secretary of State Blogs

Protection Island

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


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.

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 – 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]

“A Perpetual Ovation” in Port Townsend for Major Morris

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | Comments Off on “A Perpetual Ovation” in Port Townsend for Major Morris

major 1From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The very first issue of The Democratic Press (August 31, 1877) covered a visit to Port Townsend by Treasury Agent William Gouverneur Morris. It is safe to say the reporter was not impressed.


 “Port Townsend has been the recipient, recently, of a visit from Major Morris, Special Agent of the Treasury Department. This individual was sent here ostensibly for the purpose of inspecting affairs pertaining to the Custom House, Marine Hospital, etc., which errand was sufficient to insure him a hospitable reception by Custom House officials.”

“Doubtless the gallant Major will long remember his biennial visits to Port Townsend. Certainly no where that his arduous duties, as a Government Inspector may call him, will he receive more downright gushing homage than was lavished upon him here by those whose affairs with the Government he was sent here to inspect. Quartered, with his family, at the residence of the contractor for the Government hospital, no pains or expense were spared to render his stay a perpetual ovation. The gallant Inspector spent the time while here in fishing and hunting, wining and dining, always under guard by some of the official brotherhood. Supplied with a pack of deer hounds and ample escort, he was carried in state about among neighboring islands in a steamboat, rioting amid the finest hunting grounds and trout-streams in the Territory, slaughtering the timid deer by dozens, in pure wantoness, to cast the carcasses to the dogs and crows.”Major 2

“But all good times must have an ending. An order from the Department called our festive Nimrod back to San Francisco, to attend the investigation of Custom House affairs in that city. We would like to read his official report of this visit to Port Townsend. No doubt he remunerates our obsequious officials by an abundance of fulsome flattery in return for their zeal in fawning over him while here.”

“He has gone from among us– vamoosed– and the Custom House folk breathe easier. But the ruby glow of a blooming nose is missed, which was wont to illuminate the sample rooms of our wholesale liquor houses a few short weeks ago, and the bummers who polish the counters and the heads of beer barrels in those institutions, while waiting for free drinks, listen in vain for a familiar voice, which in maudlin accents rehearsed pointless jokes and retailed obscene stories. Gone like the shadow of a beautiful vision! Vanished like the memory of some pleasant dream!”

Major Morris actually had quite a record. The book Who’s Who in Alaskan Politics gives the vital statistics on his career: MORRIS, William Gouverneur, collector of customs, lawyer. B. in Morrisania, N.Y., Dec. 25, 1832; father was Army officer; collector of customs, Key West, Fla., 1849; B.A., Georgetown Coll.; LL.B., Harvard U.; clerk, Calif. Supreme Ct., 1857-; fought in Civil War; U.S. Marshal, Calif., 1865-74; special agent, U.S. Treas. Dept., 1875-; made 2 trips to Alaska; collector of customs for Alaska, Sitka, 1881-84; died in Sitka, Jan. 31, 1884; buried in Nat. Cemetery, Sitka. Mem., Masons, Loyal Leg., GAR. Republican.

Another brief, but colorful description of Morris comes from pioneer James G. Swan, who described the Treasury Agent in 1880: “The major was short of stature, with duck legs and a ponderous belly …” (found in Thomas Warner Camfield’s Port Townsend : vol. 1. An Illustrated History of Shanghaiing, Shipwrecks, Soiled Doves and Sundry Souls)

The Democratic Press appears to have ceased publication in early 1881. It is available on microfilm from the Washington State Library.


Thursday, September 20th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | 1 Comment »

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

Shortly after losing the status of Clallam County seat in an election in 1890, many in the town of New Dungeness picked up and moved across the river forming a community called, interestingly enough, Dungeness. This new hamlet even had an optimistic (although short-lived) newspaper: The Dungeness Beacon.

The following item was found at random in the July 29, 1892 issue, reprinted from Port Townsend’s Key City Graphic:


 The Gay and Festive Sea Serpent in the Vicinity of Dungeness.

 “We clip the following harrowing tale from the Key City Graphic of July 21st:”

“Yesterday morning, while the steamer Monticello was coming from Angeles to this city, and when almost directly opposite Dungeness, Captain Oliver says he saw the water in the Straits lashed into foam. Drawing near, to the surprise of the captain and all on board, a huge sea serpent, wrestling about in the waters as if fighting with an unseen enemy, was seen. It soon quieted down and lay at full length on the surface of the water. Captain Oliver estimates it to be about fifty feet in length and not less than four feet in circumference of the body. Its head was projecting from the water about four feet. He says it was a terrible looking object. It had viciously sparkling eyes and a large head. Fins were seen, seemingly sufficiently large to assist the snake through the water. The body was dark brown in color and was uniform all along. From what he says it would be capable of crushing a yawl boat and its occupants.”

“As the steamer passed on its course, the snake was seen disporting itself in the water. At the time the Straits were calm, and there could have been no mistake in recognizing the object.”

Sea serpent reports in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in general and Dungeness in particular have a long history. L.E. Bragg in Myths and Mysteries of Washington describes a sea serpent that was seen so frequently in the Strait in the 1930s that the citizens of Victoria gave it a name: “So many came forward after these reports were published that editor Archie Wills of the Victoria Daily Times held a contest to name the sea serpent. The winning entry was ‘Cadborosaurus,’ or ‘Caddy’ for short, named for Cadboro Bay just north of Victoria where it had been seen. Even after limiting reports to those that were signed and verified, Wills compiled a list of around 100 people, including three sea captains and the pilot who flew the mail between Seattle and Victoria, who had seen the beast.”

But I’d like to propose a new name for the serpent, at least for the one who hangs around the Washington State side of the Strait:


When You Need a Friend: Gayle Shonkwiler

Monday, February 6th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 5 Comments »

In times like these, folks need all the friends they can get.  That goes double for librarians who work in the state’s correctional and psychiatric institutions.  Since the 1960s when the U.S. government provided start-up funding to establish libraries in state institutions (ILS) ,  support for these critically needed libraries has plummeted.  As of October 2011, funding for the state’s ILS collections was terminated.

This crisis is not new to Gayle Shonkwiler, library associate at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.  She supervised school libraries at an elementary and high school in Pend Oreille County.  She learned early that if a librarian doesn’t have funds, that librarian better have friends.   Following the success of a 4-H fundraiser she managed, Gayle decided to write letters to popular writers.  Many writers were pleased to hear from a school librarian and they responded by sending small gifts of posters and bookmarks for her library.  Next she had to take the big leap.  She applied for a Dr. Seuss grant and won.  Her library and the whole school got involved with the fun.  Kids were served green eggs and ham in the cafeteria.  A reporter from the Newport Miner wrote a story when the school assembled for a Dr. Seuss birthday bash.  After, Gayle shared her grant writing success with the local county library. 

In response to the Coyote Ridge funding crisis, Gayle started a letter-writing campaign in partnership with ILS manager Laura Sherbo.  To date, Gayle has written to nearly 200 publishers asking for “in-kind” support.  Companies have shown themselves to be generous and supportive of small, struggling libraries.  Those companies include Orca Books in Canada.  The manager contacted Laura Sherbo and offered like-new books from their stock.  Copper Canyon Press of Port Townsend sent five boxes of poetry books.   The Gibbs Smith Publishers—a company that specializes in fun, whimsical books–sent enough books for every ILS branch.  HarperCollins shipped  J. A. Jance mysteries that are set in Washington State.  Hunter House sent books about domestic violence prevention.  The Parenting Press sent guidance books for children and adolescents. Bilingual Books of Seattle sent popular titles from their self-instruction inventory.   There are several boxes of books on the way from Sasquatch Books in Seattle. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and Pacific NW Chapter of Multiple Sclerosis Foundation sent several educational pamphlets. 

Librarians find out who their real friends are during hard times.  Thank you, Gayle. And thank you to the publishers who have responded so generously to the ILS program!


WSL Updates for November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 Posted in Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, News, Training and Continuing Education, Updates | 1 Comment »

Volume 6, November 18, 2010 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Topics include:







Read the rest of this entry »