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Seattle and a Past Pandemic

Uniformed policemen wearing gauze face masks stand in lines on a Seattle street.

Maybe we are a morose bunch, but current events aroused our curiosity about a past pandemic that visited Seattle in 1918. For those of you with similar tendencies, here is Chapter 16 from our 2003 book, Eccentric Seattle, by J. Kingston Pierce. We hope you all stay safe and healthy!

Above: Seattle policemen in December 1918, wearing masks made by the Red Cross.

Danger in the Air

Like hundreds of thousands of others, Seattleites perished from influenza in the worst epidemic this country has yet known.

Nobody who lived through the autumn of 1918 could ever forget how nature declared war on humanity, just as humans were ending the First World War against themselves.

The firestorm of battle that had engulfed Europe for four years was then dwindling to coals. Germany, in full retreat on the Western Front, would be granted an armistice on November 11, 1918, effectively ending the conflict—though a formal treaty wasn’t inked until 1919. At the same time, however, the United States was under attack by a particularly virulent form of influenza—the Spanish flu—that seemed to rise out of nowhere and was spread merely by breathing.

Some claimed the disease had been deliberately created and covertly circulated by German spies. Others posited that it had incubated accidentally in Europe through the mixing of poisonous gases with vapors given off by rotting corpses. There was even one theory, advanced through the press by the wife of an American official living in France, that the Spanish flu was some form of mesmeric warfare engineered by the German army—a “malicious suggestion on the world . . . frightening unto death thousands of our people.”

But no psychic “suggestion” could have killed as many humans as this pandemic did in 1918 and 1919. Twenty to 40 million people perished around the world, and 675,000 of them were Americans—more Americans than those who died in combat during all of the wars fought in the 20th century. Most bewilderingly, casualties weren’t just the aged or the infirm, the common victims of flu. They primarily were men and women in the prime of their lives, from about 21 to 40 years of age. Regardless of whether rich or poor, obscure or renown, all appeared susceptible. Among the flu’s victims were Irma Cody Garlow, Buffalo Bill Cody’s daughter, and Leopold Kahn (a.k.a. “Admiral Dot, the El Dorado Elf”) one of showman P.T. Barnum’s first dwarfs. President Woodrow Wilson, actress Mary Pickford, and General John Pershing all contracted the disease, but survived.

Like other U.S. cities, Seattle suffered. Public gatherings were prohibited in order to stem the spread of the disease by personal contact. Residents took to wearing gauze masks, hoping to protect their lungs. Yet few families in the city escaped without at least one of their number being struck down by the Spanish flu, and it wasn’t unusual for whole clans to succumb at once. On October 18, 1918, the Seattle Union Record headlined a grim fact—Seattle’s morgue was “jammed with dead bodies.” And the news was destined to get much worse.

It’s hard now to imagine in our era of rabid health consciousness and frequent medical breakthroughs, but during that postwar autumn fear held Washington’s largest city tightly in its grip. No one knew for sure whether he or she, or the people they cared most about, would wake up one morning full of vigor and optimism—and then be dead by nightfall.

* * *

History knows it as the Spanish flu. However, that’s a misnomer, for while Spain was particularly hard hit by this long-ago contagion, the epidemic apparently started in the United States. In March 1918, ill soldiers at Fort Riley, Kansas, began filling the camp hospital. Before spring was out, 48 of them were fitted for caskets. Cause of death was listed as pneumonia.

From there, the silent killer traveled rapidly and extensively. Almost two million soldiers, many of them from Kansas, unknowingly carried the flu with them to Europe that summer. By the end of August 1918, another military hospital, this one in Boston, Massachusetts, was overwhelmed by men complaining about hacking coughs, muscle aches, fevers as high as 105 degrees, wild bouts of delirium, and a bluish complexion with purple blisters—not at all the kinds of minor ailments normally associated with the flu. This version hit its victims within one to three days of exposure, could overcome even a hardy man within an hour, and often progressed into severe bronchial pneumonia. Odder still, when doctors autopsied the casualties, they found lungs filled with a bloody, foamy fluid. The victims quite literally had drowned.

Not surprisingly, the disease couldn’t be contained to the ranks of the military. Patriotic gatherings heralding America’s participation in what was then known as the Great War were popular all over the nation. Every time civilians crowded into streets with army or navy inductees to sing songs and boost public morale, it threatened to escalate the epidemic. As September wound to a close, Boston counted 1,000 of its citizens dead from influenza. By the third week of October, Philadelphia had lost 4,500 and the city had to appeal to the federal government for funds just to bury the decaying dead before they caused a secondary epidemic. As the airborne slayer wound west, Chicago’s death toll rose to 8,500. By mid-October San Francisco reported another 4,000 cases of influenza—one doctor claimed to have seen 525 new patients in a single day.

Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson must have cringed when, in the midst of this mounting crisis, he was told by the city’s health commissioner, Dr. J.S. McBride, “the circumstances for an uncontrollable epidemic hardly could be worse.”

The big problem, of course, was that Seattle was surrounded by military facilities—a naval training station at the University of Washington, the army’s Camp Lewis 35 miles to the south, and Bremerton’s Puget Sound Navy Yard. The transfer of sick men from Philadelphia to Bremerton in September 1918 imported influenza into the area. Within weeks, Camp Lewis was hit too, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in early October that 700 instances of “flu-like” illnesses had been recorded at the UW naval station.

McBride had downplayed this news from the military bases. But after the first two civilians died in Seattle, Mayor Hanson—a former real-estate agent and ex-state legislator who was more than aware of how his response to the crisis might affect his political ambitions—decided to make the fight against influenza his greatest campaign yet. He told McBride to do whatever was necessary to protect Seattleites from contagion. The health commissioner responded on October 5 by forbidding dancing in the city (then a favorite evening amusement), closing pool halls and the public library, prohibiting “all entertainments in cafes, restaurants and hotels,” and ordering businesses to “prevent the gathering of crowds.” Later, theaters and schools were shut down. So were churches, with McBride telling any ministers who protested, “religion that won’t keep for two weeks is not worth having.” Most of the press endorsed McBride’s drastic regulations. The Seattle Times told residents that it was their “patriotic duty to . . . check the spread of the disease.”

Linking the civilian battle against influenza with the U.S. military’s titanic struggle with Germany proved highly effective not only here, but across the country. It made it easier to convince citizens that they should stay in their residences, give their homes a “thorough cleaning,” and, when in public, wear six-layer gauze masks that authorities said would curb the airborne transmission of influenza—though such porous masks couldn’t possibly have restrained the microbes that caused the disease.

Across the United States, a sense of community solidarity kept people’s spirits up while pulling together to defeat the dreaded flu, even as worries abounded that no cure would be found. One national health official lamented to local authorities that the best thing they could do was “hunt up your wood-workers and cabinet-makers and set them to making coffins. Then take your street laborers and set them to digging graves.” The use of folk remedies was rampant. Some mothers told their children to stuff salt up their noses, wear goose grease poultices, or eat inordinate amounts of onions. Patent medicine companies capitalized on people’s fears by pushing bogus panaceas. Seattle came up with its own vaccine and began inoculating residents, but like similar cures developed back east, this was never more than experimental.

By mid-October, reports in the newspapers of Seattle’s fight against the influenza were competing with dispatches from the war front. The numbers of sick and dead were growing, with 1,368 cases reported locally by October 11. Emergency hospital services were stretched to the limit, especially since so many doctors had left to help in Europe. Downtown stores, wanting to maintain their business activities but at the same time wishing to endorse public safety, urged Seattleites to, “shop by telephone. It is not unpatriotic.”

As the weeks wore on, stories appeared about undertakers garnering unfair profits, as well as landlords who hoped to protect themselves by evicting from their rental properties sick tenants and nurses who’d been exposed to flu patients. A phony policeman levied $5 fines against people he met on downtown streets who weren’t wearing masks—he made a tidy bundle before being caught. Worse happened in San Francisco where an actual health inspector shot a man who refused to don his mask.

On November 11, 1918, news of victory in Europe suddenly forced Seattleites out of their doldrums—and a little out of their minds. The P-I reported that the streets were filled with celebrants and “not a gauze mask was visible.” Mayor Hanson and Dr. McBride reiterated that continued vigilance against the disease was essential, but it was a losing cause. Seattle wanted to celebrate the victory over the Germans, and victory over influenza—the number of new cases, in fact, had dropped since October. The health department reluctantly lifted the rule about wearing gauze masks. Business activity started to pick up again. Theaters reopened and immediately were filled—with the P-I joking in a headline, “‘Flu’ May Be Followed by Film Epidemic.”

* * *

A second wave of influenza struck Seattle in December 1918, causing commissioner McBride to order a 10-day quarantine for the newly sick, but the city no longer took the peril so seriously. The worst of the epidemic was over—at least in the United States. It continued to rage for a few more months in the South Pacific and Europe, and killed 60 percent of the Eskimo population in Nome, Alaska. Records show that at least 1,372 Seattleites perished from the flu.

No cure for the contagion had been found. It appeared simply to have run out of people who were susceptible its dire affects. However, that was blessing enough, for when the body counts were done, they showed something nobody could have expected—more civilians were dying at home than soldiers on European battlefields in the autumn of 1918.



Although Seattleites generally appreciated the restrictions under which they had to live during the influenza scare, they didn’t have to like their state. A bit of doggerel from the October 8, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer captured the spirit of those days:

Too Much Precaution

By Carlton Fitchett

At home we’re trying mighty hard to follow the directions. To fight the “flu” we stand on guard, with fear in our complexions. With windows open to the breeze we wait with breath abated, and every time the children sneeze the house is fumigated.

The doctor says, “Take lots of air, if you’d escape contagion; rub antiseptics in your hair while Spanish ‘flu’ is ragin’.” So on the porch I moved my bed, a process quite exciting, and rubbed some ratbane on my head to keep the germs from biting.

That night it rained and also blew; the rain fell helter-skelter, and though the sheets were soaked clean through, I scorned to flee to shelter. I figured this was but a ruse, a sortie to upset me, and if I waved the flag of truce the germs would up and get me. All night I fought temptation off to seek my bedroom stuffy, and in the morning had a cold and eyelids red and puffy.

A doleful life I led that day and not a bit decorous; the street cars running out our way were open-faced and porous, and when I took a seat inside the drafts were far from pleasing, and so I oped my features wide and started in a-sneezing.

The boss, a man of little shame and much inclined to scoffing, he dubbed me a Castilian name when I came in a-coughing. They wouldn’t let me in at home, they shunned me as a leper. The shows were closed, I couldn’t roam to view some vodvil stepper. With rancor I did cogitate while through the rain a-sloshin’; the reason for my sorry fate was too darned much precaution!

* * *

(Post photo credit:, Public Domain,

An Unexpected Connection to World War II Japanese Incarceration

photo of envelope with censorship tape and hree page letter handwritten in Japanese

One of the most exciting aspects of publishing history books is discovering unexpected connections. Not long ago, we had one right in our office. Our staff members were assigning covers and discussing our new season’s titles when one of our designers offered a surprising revelation. Our list included a book about the Minidoka War Relocation Center called, An Eye for Injustice. Some time ago, he had purchased a lot from a Spokane estate sale, and inside one box he came across a set of old letters that detailed facets of a poignant story—one very similar to experiences the book portrayed.

He brought them to work, and it was heartbreaking to hold World War II era letters that revealed a family’s suffering. Especially touching were Michi and Shingo Hirata’s inquiries about securing their father’s release—Michi shared how lonely it was without him, and Shingo offered to take his place—from the Santa Fe Internment Camp in New Mexico. That location was under the Department of Justice, and smaller than Minidoka. The packet included letters (some as drafts) to and from Edward J. Ennis, Director of the Department of Justice’s formidably named Alien Enemy Control Unit, and one from United States Attorney Edward M. Connelly, granting a rehearing. Envelopes display censorship tape, and there is additional untranslated correspondence in Japanese. We also found handwritten drafts documenting Tsunejiro Kurita’s efforts to establish that he was in the United States legally—all sobering reminders of what Japanese Americans lived through during the war. For us, it brought new meaning to our book, which we just released this week.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, and the FBI arrested Kazuma Hirata, known as Frank, that evening. With his wife, Jun, he owned Spokane’s Clem Hotel. He also was president of the Japanese Association’s local chapter. United States officials never brought formal criminal charges or linked him to espionage, yet he spent more than two years in federal prisons. He was released in February 1944. Searching online, we found photos and more about his life in this Gonzaga Foley Library post.

Our designer hopes to find an appropriate home for these historical documents. Perhaps they can join the Hirata Family Papers held by the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/ Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

Photograph of Mishi Hirata's letter

photograph of two typewritten letters

Surrounded by books, yet we still want more

Stack of old books including Scarlet Petticoat by Nard Jones, Island in the Sound by Hazel Heckman, Mister B. by Irving Petite, The Light on the Island by Helene Glidden, and Northwest Gateway buy Archie Binns

It is likely no surprise that we have piles and shelves of WSU Press books all over our offices. So why this stack of clearly older titles we didn’t publish?

It all started with a manuscript submission from Wenatchee Valley College English professor Peter Donahue, just published as Salmon Eaters to Sagebrushers: Washington’s Lost Literary Legacy. A hybrid of literary criticism, history, and biography, the volume examines Washington State novels, memoirs, and poetry from the late 1800s to the mid-1960s, pairing reappraisals of more than forty works with short excerpts and author profiles.

Reading about these once best-selling writers and their work inspired us to begin our own collection of their vintage fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. We didn’t have to look far, easily discovering several at our campus and community libraries as well as our local used bookstore. We hope our success inspires other readers to seek out gems from the past.

The pictured mass-market edition of Scarlet Petticoat contains a note from Nard Jones that we, given our focus on Northwest history, found immensely amusing:

“Readers unfamiliar with the early history of the Lower Columbia River may inquire, as is their right, which parts of the foregoing story are based upon historical fact. For the casual inquisitor, it will suffice to confess that Jane Barnes, Alexander Henry, Donald McTavish, Duncan McDougall, Doctor Swann, Chief Comcomly, La Blanche, Little Necklace, and others mentioned in the narrative, actually lived on the banks of the Columbia in 1813–1814.

For those who prefer history, a bibliography is appended—with the respectful warning that the contemporary historian of the nineteenth century, like that of the twentieth, was himself two-thirds novelist.”

For those who can’t wait to get started, below are links to public domain works by some of the Salmon Eaters to Sagebrushers authors. Enjoy!


Ella Rhoads Higginson

Works include:

A Bunch of Western Clover (1894)

The Flower That Grew in the Sand and Other Stories (1896)

A Forest Orchid and Other Stories (1897)

When the Birds Go North Again (1898)

Four-Leaf Clover: A Little Book of Verse (1901)

Mariella; of Out-West (1902)

The Voice of April-Land and Other Poems (1903)

Alaska, the Great Country (1908)

The Vanishing Race (1911)


Peter B. Kyne

Kindred of the Dust (1920)

Cappy Ricks Series


Mrs. Hugh Fraser

Seven Years on the Pacific Slope (1914)

Sound Transit’s Survival Story

An oerhead view inside a Sound Transit station with people waiting to board the train

Residents of Seattle and Central Puget Sound are familiar with Sound Transit as the agency behind their multi-billion dollar light rail train network. Without commuter trains, the growing region of more than three million would suffocate under congestion. Yet in its beginning phase, the public transportation organization confronted one controversy after another and teetered on the verge of collapse. Back on Track: Sound Transit’s Fight to Save Light Rail, recently published by Washington State University (WSU) Press, is an inside look at those early days and how WSU graduate and new CEO Joni Earl, despite having no transit experience, pulled them from the brink of closure.

The book’s primary focus is on the pivotal year 2001. Sound Transit faced angry backlash from multiple fronts after announcing it would require a billion extra dollars and three additional years to complete its initial light rail line. There were unrelenting attacks from all corners—legal, political, and personal. Opponents intensified their efforts to eliminate the fledgling agency, and headlines in local papers repeatedly mocked the organization as “hapless,” “beleaguered,” or “out of control.” At public meetings, irate taxpayers, joined by a number of regional politicians, lined up to eviscerate the agency’s leaders. Booth Gardner, a former two-term governor, did not support light rail. He shared his opinion with anyone who would listen, and many did. Dino Rossi, then a prominent state Senator, introduced a bill in the legislature asking voters to dissolve Sound Transit. In Washington, D.C., approval for desperately needed federal funding faltered as members of Congress from as far away as Kentucky railed against the Seattle agency.

Back on Track author Bob Wodnik is a former Puget Sound reporter and columnist who received the Blethen Award for feature writing and an Excellence in Journalism award from the Pacific Northwest Society of Professional Journalists. He witnessed events as Sound Transit’s senior communications specialist from 1999 to 2017. To recount their story and detail challenges and solutions, he utilizes in-depth interviews with the start-up era’s major players. In particular, he profiles Joni Earl, who became the driving force behind saving Link light rail and its $3 billion program—one that today averages more than 76,000 riders every weekday.

Back on Track cover image

Washington State University Press Announces New Editor-in-Chief

Closeup of text in open book

Washington State University (WSU) Press has named Linda Bathgate as editor-in-chief starting September 3, 2019. Replacing Robert A. Clark, who retired in January, 2019, Bathgate comes to WSU Press after working for the University Press of Florida (UPF) in Gainesville, Florida, where she was Deputy Director and Editor-in-Chief. She has extensive editorial experience, including book and journal acquisitions, development, writing, technical editing, and project coordination. At UPF, she acquired and developed trade and academic resources, including scholarly monographs in space history, gardening, and natural history. She also managed an acquisitions team with annual revenues of over $2 million and facilitated the expansion of their journals program from two to ten. Prior to her time at UPF, she served on the editorial staff at several publishing companies, including Routledge/Taylor & Francis, LLC, and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Bathgate holds an MS in Publishing from New York’s Pace University, where she was also an Adjunct Professor, and a BA in Literature from the University of California at San Diego. WSU Press Director Edward Sala is pleased with the search results. “Linda’s outstanding accomplishments and experience in growing scholarly and trade publishing programs will be a tremendous asset to WSU Press as we continue to build on our established list of award-winning books and journals,” he said. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

How family secrets led to a book

Photo of various old medical supplies, medical bags, and a microscope

Some families are full of storytellers, and Robert Wright was fortunate to grow up in such a clan. As a young boy, he eagerly absorbed his physician grandfather’s thrilling tales about medical practice on the frontier West—of performing operations by lantern light and braving avalanches while traveling to remote patients by dogsled. He asked question after question about sights, sounds, smells, emotions, and thoughts. Yet as he grew older, Wright became aware of an unspoken past. There were certain topics they never discussed. Who was the girl in the photograph on the dresser? Why hadn’t he ever met his spirited Aunt Jean, a lively part of so many of his grandfather’s anecdotes?

The mysteries behind the questions drove him to delve deeper, and he resolved to fully capture and recount the beloved Doc’s exciting life. So as a teenager, before they were no longer around to ask, Wright would sit cross-legged on the floor with a typewriter propped before him, grilling his elders for details, tapping the keys to record their answers. He did eventually uncover those family secrets, but he still needed to expand beyond a personal history to make it a complete story.

To achieve a cohesive manuscript, the Hailey, Idaho native spent nearly two decades gathering information, conducting interviews, speaking with a variety of medical specialists—a University of Washington professor, pediatric heart surgeon, even a gynecologist, and ear, nose, and throat specialist. He researched the time period, reading history books and texts on everything from steam locomotives to sled dogs to the hats and shoes people wore. He visited locations and wrote seemingly endless revisions. A devastating loss of his own enriched his portrayals of events.

Wright’s lifelong dedication finally paid off when WSU Press agreed to publish Rugged Mercy: A Country Doctor in Idaho’s Sun Valley, making his grandfather’s captivating stories available to the world, secrets and all.


Photo of Jean Wright from 1918
Jean Wright in 1918

“Waterlogged” helps bridge knowledge gaps in wet-site archaeology

Wood stake features on Vancouver Island beach

On the Northwest Coast in antiquity, people made an estimated 85 percent of objects entirely from wood and other plant materials that normally do not survive the ravages of time. Fortunately, wetlands, silt-laden rivers, high groundwater levels, and abundant rainfall have provided ideal conditions for long-term preservation of waterlogged wood. Although few intentionally search for wet sites, every Northwest Coast archaeologist may encounter waterlogged cultural remains on beaches and eroding riverbanks, at the bottom of an excavation trench, or even inland, away from the coast. Those who investigate such places can uncover artifacts, structures, and environmental remains that are missing from the usual reconstructions of past lifeways.

Clearly, wet sites matter, yet wet-site archaeology is not widely known in North America. To help bridge that gap, editor Kathryn Bernick, an internationally recognized expert on basketry technology and a research associate in archaeology at the Royal British Columbia Museum, brought together sixteen other experienced archaeologists who work on the Northwest Coast. With her guidance, they produced Waterlogged: Examples and Procedures for Northwest Coast Archaeologists, recently published by Washington State University Press. In it, Bernick and her colleagues discuss their original research in regional and global perspectives, share highlights of their findings, provide direction and guidance on how to locate wet sites, and outline procedures for recovering and caring for perishable waterlogged artifacts. They also offer practical information about logistics, equipment, and supplies, including a list of items for a wet-site field kit.

To demonstrate the significance of wet sites, Waterlogged presents previously unpublished original research spanning the past ten thousand years of human presence on the Northwest Coast. Examples include the first fish trap features in the region to be identified as longshore weirs, a complete 750-year-old basket cradle from the lower Fraser Valley, wooden self-armed fishhooks from the Salish Sea, and a paleoethnobotanical study at the 10,500-year-old Kilgii Gwaay wet site on Haida Gwaii. In addition, contributors discuss insider-vs.-outsider perceptions of wetlands in Cowichan traditional territory on Vancouver Island, a habitation site in a disappearing wetland in the Fraser Valley, a collaborative community–academic project on the Babine River in the Fraser Plateau, and Early and Middle Holocene waterlogged materials from British Columbia’s central coast.

Recent copies of “Sagebrush Homesteads” missing pages

A thoughtful reader recently alerted WSU Press to missing pages in her copy of Sagebrush Homesteads. We narrowed the cause to a scanning failure that created a deficient printing file. Unfortunately, although older copies are intact, this means that all the copies from our most recent print run—about 500—have the issue. Please accept our deepest apologies for the error.

If you have purchased a flawed copy, please contact us for a free replacement. We will provide a new print copy, and/or a complete PDF. For your convenience, the six missing pages are available to read and view below, and as a free download (select the missing pages option under FORMAT) on the Sagebrush Homesteads product page.


PAGES 74-75

fright. A ten foot, eight by eight inch timber had been set upright deep into the ground for a snubbing post. Even then, they couldn’t get near enough to put on the harness until a blinder was tied over his eyes. They handled him as gently as possible, patting and rubbing his back as they put on the harness and buckled it, talking to him as he trembled under their hands.

Matt, an old white horse who had long since adopted an easy-going gait that nothing could excite, was used as a team­mate in breaking in young horses. Roanie was hitched with Matt and driven around in the plowed field for a while to accustom him to the bridle and the pull on the reins. Next, the team was fastened to a heavy drag to teach him to pull a load and to become used to an object at his heels. During his training period he was kept in the barn where he came in closer contact with men, though little progress was made in his training. He was so unmanageable the men were convinced he was an outlaw, and he was turned out to pasture with the other horses.

Some weeks later when Roanie came to the barnlot for water with the other horses, Papa noticed he was limping badly. With the other horses he was driven into the barn. Closer examination showed one hind leg was badly swollen, and a piece of barbed wire extended out from his foot. He had become entangled in a barbed wire gate which had been left on the ground and a loop was drawn so tightly around his foot just below the fetlock it was with difficulty cut away. His foot and leg were supperating, with the swelling extending far up his leg. It must have been extremely painful. In his sickened condition, he stood trembling but no longer fighting. Treatment was begun. His leg was placed in a five gallon can of warm water, to which was added carbolic acid, several times a day. This treatment was continued for periods each day until the infection was stopped and the leg returned to normal.

Roanie learned that man is a friend instead of an enemy; and when it came time to resume his education to work he no longer fought. He became the most willing horse on any team; his neck arched proudly, prancing along with tail slightly raised, he was always out in front, a natural leader.

At first he was placed in the wheel team when a four-horse team was being driven, as a safer place for a young high-spirited horse, but he was always in trouble there, impatiently biting his team-mate or the ones in front. Then someone got the idea of trying him in the lead team. From that time there was no more trouble with Roanie; after a long hard trip he would (Orne in prancing, flecked with foam and covered with sweat, but out in front of the rest of the team. He became the favorite farm horse, whether for riding, driving or working; to be trusted anywhere. The buckskin never gave in. Kicking, striking, lying down to be dragged when placed in the header team, he would not accept the control of man.

A man by the name of George who was working for us during the harvest season, decided to try riding the buckskin when all other methods to break the horse had failed. Buckskin was taken from the header team and drawn up to the snubbing post, blind­folded and saddled. George climbed on, settled himself into the saddle with his spurred boots in the stirrups and told Jim, “Turn him loose!”

The buckskin seemed to go insane with rage; squealing his hate as he went into action. The next moment he reared on his hind legs to throw himself over backwards in an attempt to crush the hated object on his back. George saw what was happening and managed to leap off to one side. Quicker than a cat, the horse regained his feet and before George could get out of the way, Buckskin bit him on the thigh then whirled and lashed out at him with both hind feet. One hoof struck the same thigh that had received the bite.

Now George’s blood was up. ‘I’ll ride him or kill him,” he exploded. But Jim stepped in. “No, George,” he told him, “That horse is liable to kill you. He is too dangerous.” Papa and Billie agreed with Jim, so all efforts to tame the buckskin were discon­tinued and he was traded off for a gentle riding pony.

The summer of 1907 saw most of the range cattle in our area


PAGES 92 – 93

department,” Stella explained. “The instructors are always glad to have us bring specimens for biological study.”

Such a reasonable request was not to be denied. Doubtless a number of scorpions were just waiting the opportunity of going to college! Armed with short sticks and carrying cans and jars, we spent most of one afternoon in the big flat, turning over rocks in search of the little poisonous creature with the long jointed tail. That tail ended in a bulb and sharp stinger which we were careful to avoid when an over-turned rock disclosed one beneath. It was carefully prodded with the short stick to get it into the jar as it tried to find something into which to plunge that stinger. About twenty scorpions were captured that day. To render them safe for travel and handling, she secured formaldehyde at Carl’s drug store.

Mamma’s sister Ellen Wood, came out from Saint Louis for a visit and to be near her boys, Cleve and Ottie who were both employed in Seattle. Aunt Ellen stopped for a few weeks’ visit before going on to Seattle, and while at our place she became interested in homestead land.

One mile north of our place in the same section with the Barton homestead, was a quarter section which had not yet been homesteaded. It could be reached on foot across a deep coulee that lay between our place and the quarter section. About forty acres of tillable land lay on top of the bench above the flat, and another possible forty acres in the flat.

“There is some pretty good land in that part on top of the bench, Ellen,” Papa told her. “Now that the railroad is coming through, there will be more people looking for land.”

“How long did you say I would have to live on it to prove up on it?” Being way off there in the sagebrush would be something entirely different from what she had been used to. ‘I’d have to live on it most of the time, wouldn’t I?”

“You can prove up any time after three years. Susie would be glad to have you near us, and you could visit back and forth so you wouldn’t be alone all the time.” Papa knew how pleased Mamma would be to have her sister living near.

Homestead shack of Mrs. Ellen Wood was formerly office of railroad grading camp – 1907. Decorations are effort to hide awful bleakness.
Otis, Aunt Ellen and Spot. Courtesy Mrs. G. F. Kluss.


“Some of the children could come over and stay part of the time at nights,” Mamma assured her. “We would see that you had a way to get to town for groceries when you need anything.” Aunt Ellen was interested, and when she heard that someone else was also considering the property, she lost no time in getting to the land office and securing it for herself. When the railroad grading construction camp nearest to her place moved on, she bought the office shack and had it moved to her homestead.

It was a lonely place in the little tar-papered shack, with Bartons as her nearest neighbors three quarters of a mile away. Some one of our family often went over to keep her company, or she came over to spend a few days with us. After the boys’ work at Seattle was completed the next spring, Cleve came to live with her; but since there were no calls for a marble setter amid the sagebrush, he was often away working.

“If I just had a little dog for company, Cleveland, it would not be quite so lonely,” she told him one day. She knew there


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“Did you girls bother any of their melons?” Mamma queried them.

“Well, the coyotes were he!ping themselves and we thought we might as well have one as for the coyotes to get them. It was good and ripe, too.” They didn’t seem to feel badly when Mamma chided them for it.

The next time the cows were not to be found near home, it was evident they had gone back to the neighbors. Remembering the melon patch, I generously offered to ride after the strays. As I hoped, my offer was accepted.

Yea, the cows were there. So was the watermelon patch, as I discovered after some searching. Riding up to the house to say “Hello!” and incidentally, to assure myself there was no one at home, I returned to the patch. Coyotes had been raiding it, too, I could see as I got off to examine if any were ripe, and started to pick one. I could feel eyes watching me on all sides. Guiltily, I got on my horse and started after the cows. But Temp­tation was not to leave me alone so easily. Again, I looked at the patch of melons thinking of the ones the coyotes were getting. Turning my horse, I rode back to the patch, jumped off and hastily picked one before those All-seeing Eyes could make themselves felt too strongly. At a distance from the patch, with anticipation of its juiciness, I broke it over the saddle horn. It was green. I rode on after the cows.

Chapter X

Autumn Days

“WE’LL BUTCHER THE HOGS tomorrow. Billie and John can be over to help.” We were at the supper table, and Papa was letting Mamma know his plans for the next day.

“How many are you butchering this time?” inquired Mamma. “There will be three to kill this time. Those young shoats are

fattened and ready to kill, and the weather is turning cooler.”

Vapor was rising from the long vat in the barnyard on that crisp October morning. Papa was astir early to get the water heating so it would be ready when Billie and John got there to help.

A long shallow pit had been dug in the barnlot in which a fire was laid. The long metal scalding vat filled with water was placed over this heat, and from time to time Papa tested the water to find when it was ready for scalding the hogs. A heavy timber was set up on crossed supports near by on which to hang the hogs. Boards were laid on saw-horses beside the vat to form a platform on which the scalded animal was placed to scrape off the bristles.

Otis and I were always interested in anything unusual going on about the place, but when the water was finally ready for the next step, Papa would say, “You children go to the house to your mother.” We were never allowed to watch what went on at the pig pen. A harnessed horse stood near in readiness to pull the carcass to the small platform beside the scalding vat. From the kitchen window we watched until the dead animal was safely in the water.

“Mamma, can we go and watch now?” We knew Papa would not mind if we watched the rest of the work.

“Yes, if you keep back out of the way; and take this big

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“Interwoven Lives” destroys stereotypes, exposes lasting influence of Puget Sound’s cross-cultural marriages

Oil painting of Mt. Rainier by artist James Tilton Pickett

In the past, many historians chose to ignore the historical significance of indigenous wives during the birth of Bellingham Bay communities, typically mentioning only the first white women. Yet these mid-1800s alliances played a crucial role, with the women serving as cultural interpreters and mediators, aiding settlement, and reducing regional conflict between native peoples and newcomers. The newest book from Washington State University Press, Candace Wellman’s Interwoven Lives: Indigenous Mothers of Salish Coast Communities, depicts the lives of four of these intermarried Native women.

A companion work to Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages, Wellman’s first book on Puget Sound’s cross-cultural marriages, Interwoven Lives describes each wife’s native culture, details ancestral history for both spouses, and traces descendants’ destinies, highlighting their contributions to new communities. Wellman’s research also reveals new details about the Northwest life of Captain George W. Pickett, who later became a Civil War brigadier general.

Jenny Wynn, daughter of an elite Lummi and his Songhees wife, owned a farm with her husband Thomas and donated property for the region’s second rural school. Many descendants became teachers. Snoqualmie Elizabeth Patterson, daughter of Patkanim, western Washington’s most powerful native leader, married a cattleman. After tuberculosis took her life, foster parents raised her daughters, who enhanced Lynden’s literary and business growth as adults. Mary Allen was the daughter of an Nlaka’pamux leader on British Columbia’s Fraser River. The village of Marietta arose from her long marriage. Later, her sons played important roles in southeast Alaska’s early development. Mrs. Pickett, the Haida wife of Fort Bellingham’s commander, died young and left no name to history, but she gave birth to one of the West’s most important early artists, James Tilton Pickett.

Wellman holds undergraduate degrees in sociology from Washington State University and history/secondary education from Western Washington University, and has pursued graduate work in sociology. Born and raised in Washington, the Bellingham resident is a local history consultant and speaks regularly about women’s history and regional settlement. Peace Weavers won the 2018 WILLA literary award for scholarly nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

Wellman attributes much of her success to the generous assistance of mentors and numerous contributors. An expert researcher, her methodology combined disparate primary and secondary sources in academic and local history as well as genealogy and family memory—and her discoveries help destroy common stereotypes about these cross-cultural marriages. Coll Thrush, University of British Columbia professor and author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, agrees. “Candace Wellman’s years of painstaking research and work with local families have brought to the fore these crucially important histories of Indigenous-settler relations in the far Northwest, and challenge much of the received wisdom about the workings of colonialism in this place.”

Interwoven Lives is paperback, 6″ x 9″, 310 pages in length, and lists for $27.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360 or online at A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

(The book’s cover image, featured here, is “Mt. Rainier,” an oil painting by James Tilton Pickett of Portland, Oregon. Courtesy of the Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington.)

A life-altering event leads to book on Seattle

Jean Godden standing in front of a structure

In December 2015, columnist and newly-retired politician Jean Godden suffered a heart attack. Reflecting during her recovery, she realized she had never told the hidden account of Governor Dixy Lee Ray and the deadly 1980 volcanic eruption. She had not written about Mayor Charley Royer’s initial response when a Greek freighter rammed the West Seattle Bridge, gubernatorial candidate Norm Rice’s battle with a false rumor, or the party staff held the night the Seattle Post-Intelligencer moved to the waterfront. And, she had never fully confided why she decided to leave what she calls, “the best job in the world,” and run for office. It is these stories and others that now—released from the aroma of hospital disinfectants and the tether of IV tubes—she was eager to tell, and she lets them loose in the newest title from Washington State University Press, Citizen Jean: Riots, Rogues, Rumors, and other Inside Seattle Stories.

Godden spent two decades as a reporter, editor, and columnist with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Seattle Times, and served three terms as a Seattle city councilmember, working toward reducing the country’s largest gender wage gap, championing paid parental leave, and more. She witnessed historic events, watched her beloved hometown evolve into a civic and national affairs leader, met city and state movers and shakers, and became a local celebrity herself.

Godden’s tales are based on her own notes, ample files, recollections, and personal experiences. Indeed, few people have spent so much time contemplating Seattle. “What could be better than having two careers, one as a witness recording city history being made and a second one participating in making that history? Seattle is my adopted city, the only one where I have roots. It is a city that has gone from a remote waystation, little known on the world stage, to a leader in civic and national affairs. No longer do people ask if Seattle is near Nome or if you can see Anchorage from here. What is happening in Seattle today shapes the world tomorrow,” she says.

In Citizen Jean, the consummate observer recounts—as only she can—the World’s Fair that got Seattle noticed, the citizen-led battle against freeways, the fight to keep Pike Place Market away from New York investors, the World Trade Organization protests, and more. She shares personal insights, delivers an insider’s view of the city’s newspaper strikes and rivalry, and casts a revealing look at regional politicians.

Beginning in February 2019, she’ll be making multiple appearances across Seattle at places like Elliott Bay Book Company, Third Place Books in Ravenna, and the University Book Store. Our events page has details.

For links to some of her articles, go here and here.

Or, listen to her recent interview on NPR.