Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 25
ABOUT THE KEY CITY AND VICINITY.
Port Townshend— that is the way Vancouver spelled it—is situated on the Quimper Peninsula between Port Townsend ant. Port Discovery Bays. It does not face the Fuca Sea to the north, nor even Admiralty Inlet, but is situated on the bay,
IX TH15 STRAITS.
facing south, a fact which bewilders the tourist, whose head is already turned with the effort to keep his course on these wandering waters. Let no one begin a journey on the Sound without a map in his hand,—a good one, like that published by Eastwick, Morris & Co., of Seattle,—for you learn nothing from the ordinary maps of the actual shape of land or sea.
The Quimper Peninsula has a general width of about four miles, although only two miles wide at its eastern end, being shaped like a sickle with its point towards the east broken off, leaving not one but two points at the end. The northern one, on which there is a light-house, is called Point Wilson, and the
southern one Point Hudson. It is under the lee of the latter that the city is located. There is a strip of low-lying land along the front where the business of the town is centred, and rising abruptly back of it is a high bluff, level and bare, on which the residence portion of the city is laid off, which is much exposed to winds from all quarters.
This is one of the oldest towns in Washington, having been founded in 1851 by L. B. Hastings, F. W. Pettygrove, C. C. Bachelder, and A. A. Plummer. It was soon made the port of entry for this district, which it still remains, and which gives it the sobriquet of Key City. For many years there was a military post on the west shore of the bay, two and a half miles distant. The customs office, trade with the people at the fort and the scattered population along the shore of the Strait of Fuca, as well as of the more thickly inhabited Whidbey and Camano Islands, with some local lumbering and ship-building enterprises, kept the Port Townsend people fairly prosperous during the period from 1852 to 1888, and not only that, in an oyster-like content, but with a wide-awake, intelligent, courteous, and modish spirit. They had enough, they were able to wait, they cultivated social habits, and enjoyed the beauties of their situation. For one could not reasonably ask to be shown anything finer than can be seen from the bluffs at Port Townsend. To the northeast is Mount Baker, with its ragged double peak fretting the heavens. In the southeast is Mount Rainier; on the west, Mount Olympus; on the east, Whidbey Island, the garden of Puget Sound, and across the Strait the San Juan group, in the Fuca Sea.
It is claimed, and I have no doubt with truth, that the climate of this locality is superior to other parts of the Sound country, the average annual rainfall being sixteen or seventeen inches against from forty to sixty at Olympia. The southerly winds which prevail during winter, and bring copious rains to West Washington when they reach the Strait, seem to be met by the warm-air current from the Japanese gulf-stream and the rainclouds carried away eastward, for there is much less precipitation on Quimper Peninsula and the islands in the Fuca Sea than elsewhere. My attention was called to the fact that the flowering shrubs of three degrees farther south reappeared on the bluffs about Port Townsend. Even the city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, enjoys this exemption from surplus moisture, which at the mouth of the Strait is excessive. The superior mildness of the climate of this locality and the archipelago still farther north is to be attributed to the warmed water of the gulf-stream which flows inland with the tides, warming the air above it.
Port Townsend has a population of about seven thousand, a good part of which has been gained in the two years just passed. The recent sudden impulse given to the growth of the city was the effect of the inception of the Port Townsend and Southern Railroad, a local enterprise which was to connect it with Portland, and thus with two transcontinental roads from there, as well as with the Northern Pacific somewhere south of Olympia, which would give it a third overland route. The enterprise was soon taken in hand by the Oregon Improvement Company, a syndicate which is closely allied to the Union Pacific and the leased Oregon Railway and Navigation Companies.
Over one million dollars was expended in 1889 in the construction of new business buildings. The government also began work on a new custom-house, to cost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. A fine hotel, the "Eisenbeis," was erected, three miles of street railway built, a company formed to supply the city with water, and several new manufactories started. Besides all this, half a dozen "additions" were made to the old town. Truly, the power of railroads, or even the prospect of one, to give life to business, is marvellous.
Besides the lumber-mills before mentioned as being in the vicinity of Port Townsend, there are the Puget Sound Iron-Works at Chimacum, or Irondale, near the head of the bay, which turned out in 1889 three hundred and fifty thousand dollars' worth of pig-iron, employing in the mines, the woods, and the works six hundred men.
The rival, but hitherto an unsuccessful one, of Port Townsend is Port Angeles, on the south shore of Fuca Strait, and west about thirty miles. It has a good harbor, and there is no natural reason why it should not be the port of entry instead of Townsend. When, in 1861, Victor Smith was appointed collector, he became one of a town company at Port Angeles, and after a good deal of quarrelling with other officials and the proprietors of Port Townsend, finally succeeded in removing the office to the new site, being sustained by the authorities at Washington, D.C., in his action. But now behold the punishment which follows naughty deeds. In his absence, and during the winter rains of 1863, a land-slide occurred in the hills back of Port Angeles, damming up a stream already swollen, which, after the restrained waters had formed a lake, broke through the obstruction and precipitated such a flood upon the town as destroyed it and cost several lives. Smith, however, continued to keep the office at Port Angeles until 1865, when he perished by the foundering of the "Brother Jonathan," near Crescent City, California, after which the custom-house was restored to Port Townsend, and the lots of the Port of the Angels went back into acreage, so remaining until within a year or two, when it was new-created by the Port Angeles Land Company and the Union Pacific Railroad.
That Port Angeles has merit as a site for a city is admitted. General McClellan, when he was surveying for a route for the Northern Pacific in 1853-54, said of it that it was the "first attempt of nature on this coast to form a good harbor," and in a recent petition of the shipmasters of the Pacific Coast to the Treasury Department, indorsed by the Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco, asking for a sub-port of entry at Port Angeles, the reasons given were that the harbor was easy of access and in the direct route of vessels bound up or down the Strait of Fuca, that it was the first harbor on the American side after entering the Strait from the ocean, and that it was protected from all winds, had good holding-ground, ample room, and no rocks or shoals. On this presentation the prayer was granted, and at the same time that Seattle and Tacoma were made subports of entry, Port Angeles opened her books. It means much to vessels for that place, which otherwise would have to go sixty miles to Port Townsend to enter.
A coal-field has been discovered within a few miles of Port Angeles; the country back of it is good, and there appears no reason, if people come here, why they should not prosper. The best harbor, situated, too, nearest the sea, ought to go for something. The city of Victoria, B.C., is directly opposite, twenty miles distant.
The coast lying east of Port Townsend, as far as the Elwha River, has long been settled, donation claims being taken under the Oregon Land Law on these remote shores in 1852 and 1853; New Dungeness, Squim Bay, and Protection Island in front of Port Discovery having been among the earliest settlements in the northern part of Washington, the pioneers still clinging fondly to their first choice.
Whidbey Island also, so much admired by both Vancouver and Wilkes, was quickly appropriated by the immigrants from the Western States, whose descendants inherit the lands won by indescribable hardships and danger. The first permanent settlers were the Ebey family, in 1854. I. N. Ebey was a man of unusual ability and cultivation for his time and environments. He was the second collector of customs on Puget Sound, for which distinction he paid with his life, being murdered in his own house by the Northern Indians, or Hydahs, who landed on the island in the night, and, to avenge some loss of their tribe, cut off Ebey's head and carried it away. The family escaped in the darkness, and with them a Mr. and Mrs. Corliss, who afterwards went to Southern California to live, on a sheep rancho, where they were murdered in their house by unknown persons, supposed to be Mexicans. Mrs. Corliss was a daughter of Peter Judson, the first settler at Tacoma, whose family escaped the Indian massacres of 1855-56. Yet her fate pursued her to her death in a far-off home where no danger was apprehended.
Whidbey Island contains about one hundred and fifty square miles, about six thousand acres of which is excellent prairieland, requiring no clearing, an agreeable climate, a favorable position in the Sound, and many charms of scenery, from which characteristics it obtained the title of Garden of Puget Sound. Coupeville, on Penn's Cove, is the only town of any importance, but an effort is being made to build up a place named Whidbey City, and another which has beatified the bold navigator Juan de Fuca, and called itself the city of San de Fuca. This ambitious townlet, under the patronage of its before-unheard-of saint, promises to expend two million dollars in cutting a ship-canal across the mile and a half of land between Penn's Cove and the Strait, and in railroad building. Steamers could, in case the canal was constructed, pass out of the east channels into the Strait without going as far north as Deception Pass, it is true, but it is doubtful if sailing-vessels would care to face the wind which would be blowing on shore just at this point a good portion of the year.
Camano Island, with Whidbey, constitute Island County. They are separated by Saratoga Passage, which in the nautical parlance of the Sound is known as "the inside passage" in going to Bellingham Bay or Victoria. To get into the Fuca Sea by this route we must run through Deception Pass, between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. So desirous was I of viewing the reputed wonders of this passage that I spent most of a night in looking for them, being rewarded towards daylight by the actual scene. The pass is only about six miles long, being from a quarter to half a mile in width, with rocky shores rising abruptly from the water, the rounded tops of which have a time-worn appearance, and out of the crevices of which grow evergreen trees of a size very inferior to those along the mainland shores. Through this rocky funnel the wind carouses, and the tide runs with a swiftness which sometimes holds a steamer stationary. The very force which seems dangerous is a protection, the flood running up the side of the channel and its reflex action carrying the steamer back to mid-passage. So with great whistling of the wind, rushing of water, and rattling of cargo, we were carried safely through into smooth water in the Fuca Sea.