The Tramp

Few residents are aware that our community is named after a tramp. This is not Charlie Chaplin, the famous Little Tramp, but our own Tramp, Judge Arthur Eugene Griffin.

Judge Griffin, namesake of our school district, fire district, and community, was a colorful figure who was called “The Tramp” by many of his family members. The nickname referred to his wanderlust ways, rebellious streak, and varied careers, including cook, merchant, post master, inventor, lawyer, judge, gold prospector, rancher, and investor.

Judge Arthur Eugene Griffin

Judge Arthur Eugene Griffin

Griffin’s tenuous connection with Charlie Chaplin extended beyond their similar nicknames. Perhaps Chaplin’s most famous movie was the 1925 hit, “The Gold Rush”, depicting the Little Tramp’s adventures at the Klondike or Yukon Gold Rush. Our namesake was bitten by the gold bug in 1897 and was one of tens of thousands who sought their fortunes in the Yukon. The Little Tramp climbed the famous Golden Stairs of Chilkoot Pass to reach the fabled gold fields. Our Tramp rode a horse over the nearby White Pass on his journey to the goldfields.

Arthur Griffin was born during the Civil War in 1862 at New Haven Township, Olmstead County, Minnesota. His parents were farmers. Griffin graduated from the Chicago Business College and immediately left the Midwest to seek his fortune without returning home as a prodigal son. His first job was as a cook for a Canadian Pacific Railroad survey crew. The Tramp had started his wanderlust ways.

Several years later, while passing through Enumclaw on a railroad car, Griffin took note of a good location for a store next to a saloon and boarding house. He and a partner later built Griffin and Blake Store at that site. Griffin soon was smitten by and married Gabrielle Paumell, a young French woman who was the first teacher in the community. When residents wanted to incorporate the settlement into a town, they asked Griffin to “draw up” the necessary documents. Griffin borrowed some books from a Seattle lawyer and drafted the necessary papers. After this initial success in the legal field, Griffin studied for and passed what constituted the Bar Exam in those days. He eventually became an expert in Indian law and wrote a number of short Indian stories and legends. The Griffin School Library has a compilation of these stories entitled Washington Indian Fables.

The Griffins eventually moved to Seattle. After the steamer S.S. Portland docked at Seattle’s Coleman dock with over a ton of gold from the Klondike in July of 1897, the alluring gold bug bit Griffin. He joined the stampede to find gold. Many of the thousands seeking Yukon gold traveled through Seattle and purchased their supplies there. This surge of economic activity not only put Seattle on the road to prosperity but was the catalyst to pull the nation out of its worst economic depression. Griffin opened a law firm with two other attorneys in a log cabin in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada. He both prospected and practiced law.

After returning to Seattle from the Gold Rush, Griffin practiced law, became a superior court judge in King County, and made a number of investments. Of particular importance to us was his ill-fated attempt at ranching on Schneider’s Prairie. Griffin purchased much of Schneider’s Prairie in 1917. He expected to make a fortune during World War I when the price of wool skyrocketed. However, his purebred Ramboulet sheep soon died of lung worms. Griffin then tried raising registered Holsteins, but the prairie’s thin grass and wild flowers were too meager to support the cattle. Finally oyster beds where diked and he grew Pacific Oysters. This venture apparently was not successful when the market for oysters fell. Griffin then subdivided the land in a final attempt to make money on Schneider’s Prairie.

The Schneider’s Prairie District No. 33 school house burned to the ground in August of 1926. As a temporary measure, grades one through four were moved to the then abandoned schoolhouse of the prior Frye Cove School District No. 52 off what now is Gravelly Beach Loop NW.  Grades 5 through 8 were held at the second story of the old Grange Hall. The Grange had organized in 1909 and had a two-story building with an outside stairway to the second floor. Griffin donated five acres to the Schneider’s Prairie School District for a schoolhouse and grounds as part of his subdivision. Residents must have seen the deeding of the land as a grand gesture because they renamed the school district Griffin School District. The new school opened in March of 1927 with three rooms.

A new schoolhouse was constructed in 1969 and 1970, eventually becoming a 12 room building.  The new school building was constructed in phases with different grades moving into the new building as space became available. First, in early 1970, grades 6-8 moved out of portable buildings into the partially constructed new schoolhouse and grades 2-5 moved from the old schoolhouse into the portable buildings. The principal, kindergarten and grade 1 remained in the old building for the remainder of the school year. During the summer of 1970, the old building was torn down and rooms were added to the new building on the site of the old schoolhouse, allowing all grades and administration to be located in the new building by the 1970-71 school year. In 1977, a new junior module was added and grades 6-8 moved out of the 1970 structure into the addition. In 1989, six more classrooms, a gym, music room, kitchen and cafeteria were added. In 1991, two portable buildings were added supplying an additional four classrooms. In 2004 a new addition and other remodeling was completed.

The wanderlust Tramp, Arthur Eugene Griffin, died in an auto accident at the age of 86 in 1947. A large portrait of our benefactor is in the Griffin School library.

By Steve Lundin

Copyright 2014 by Steve Lundin

Reprinted from the January 1999 issue of “Neighbors“, the newsletter of the Griffin Neighborhood Association. Revised 2014.

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and recently retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years. He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10.

Lundin also wrote a comprehensive reference book on local governments in Washington State entitled The Closest Governments to the People – A Complete Reference Guide to Local Government in Washington State.  The book costs $85, plus shipping and handling.  It is available on the web from the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, Washington State University, at http://dgss.wsu.edu/ or from WSU Extension at www.pubs.wsu.edu

Interested in reading more about our local history? Click here for the whole series.

Feline Friends Cat Adoption Day, Santa Paws, and Holiday Bazaar – December 6

Feline Friends will hold a Cat Adoption Day and Holiday Bazaar at the Griffin Fire Department Headquarters, 10 AM to 3 PM on Saturday, December 6.

This is an annual bazaar with over 20 tables filled with great gift ideas for the season. Santa will be available for pictures!

Crafts include hand blown glass art, Christmas wreaths and decorations, handmade soap, jams and jellies, candles and many other unique items.

There will also be a bake sale.

Join us for fun and to support this special cause.


Feline Friends Cat Adoption Day, Santa Paws, and Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, December 6
10 AM to 3 PM
Griffin Fire Department Headquarters

Free “Naturescaping” Class, Thursday November 20

Click on the image for a larger version.

The WSU Extension Native Plant Salvage Project and Stream Team Program are sponsoring a free “Naturescaping for Water & Wildlife” class this Thursday, 6 PM to 9 PM at the Tumwater Fire Hall.

Topics in this class include:

  • Planting for four-season interest
  • How to attract birds, butterflies, & amphibians
  • Landscaping for tricky areas, including slopes
  • Easy ways to minimize lawn area
  • Water-wise ideas for your landscape
  • How simple changes can save time and money

“Naturescaping for Water & Wildlife”
Thursday, November 20
6 PM to 9 PM
Tumwater Fire Hall
311 Israel Rd. SW, Tumwater

Register online at www.streamteam.info

Questions? Contact nativeplantsalvage@gmail.com or (360) 867-2167.

Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool’s 3rd Annual Dinner & Silent Auction, December 6


Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool’s 3rd Annual Dinner & Silent Auction

Saturday, December 6
6:00 PM
Griffin School Cafeteria

Featuring a 50/50 Raffle, Silent & Live Auction, Kids Music Feature, Photo Booth, Arts & Crafts, Face Painting, Ice Cream.

General Admission: $15
Members, Alumni, and Children under 12: $10

For more information, call (360) 866-1819 or steamboatcooppreschool@gmail.com

Building Earth Farm Announces “An Apple Affair” and Winter CSA Subscriptions


Building Earth Farm and the folks from the old Madrona Grove Summer Fruit Truck are announcing the Return of “An Apple Affair”. After a one-year hiatus, ‘An Apple Affair’ is back!

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event,” writes Jeannine Anderson, “‘An Apple Affair’ is a once-a-year opportunity to sample and purchase some of the finest apple varieties in Washington State.” Inspired by Feil Orchard in Wenatchee, An Apple Affair brings together varieties that have been grown for over a century by the Feil family, as well as some varieties grafted by the ever-curious Jack Feil. Feil is an octogenarian who continues to experiment with grafting unique varieties onto old orchard standards. Many of the apples featured will come from this farm, but there are several farms’ hard work represented at the Affair. Each apple variety and farm gets full credit on the table-talkers found next to each sample plate.

Apples specific for baking, drying, preserving, storing and eating out of hand are featured at this local food fair. If you are someone who thinks you wouldn’t know the difference between the sweets, tarts, juicy and old-fashioneds, there is a community apple potluck table where local residents prepare their favorite varieties in traditional and new recipes. Everyone is encouraged to taste for them selves why one type is suggested over another. Bring your own favorite recipe to share, or just come and sip coffee, tea or local cider while learning about the apples.

Apple inventory will be limited and you should bring a box or other container to carry some apples home with you. The Building Earth Farm will provide paper bags and pens for labeling so you don’t forget the names of your newfound favorites.

An Apple Affair
Sunday, October 19
12 noon to 4 PM
Rignal Hall
8131 Urquhart Rd NW, Olympia, WA 98502

For more detailed information visit www.farmandfruitstand.com or email Jeannine at madronagrove@farmandfruitstand.com.

“Join us for An Apple Affair to taste old favorites, discover new ones, meet the neighbors and remind your self why autumn isn’t so bad after all.”

The Building Earth Farm is also announcing it’s 2014 – 2015 Winter Box Subscription.
According to Jeannine, “We will offer the highest quality, locally sourced, mostly organic, winter fruits and vegetables, along with a selection of specialty items such as cheese, eggs, baked goods and nuts.”
The winter box features produce such as winter squash, carrots, onions, potatoes and the like from local farms, including ours, and Washington-grown fruit such as apples and pears. “As long as the chickens cooperate, we’ll supply our own eggs and add other wonderful items to fill in the box from the Pacific Northwest such as cheese and nuts and baked goods from The Bread Peddler (classic French baked goods) and 8 Arms Bakery (traditional and gluten-free available), both in Olympia.  We will get citrus assistance from our friends in sunny California.” That’s right, this box of food is relatively local but we aren’t afraid to source lovely avocados, dates, tangelos and other tropicals to beat the rainy day blues.
Building Earth Farm’s Winter Food Box Subscription
Pick Up Time and Location:  10:00 – 12:00 at the Farm, 9140 Steamboat Island Rd. NW.
Pick Up Dates:  November 22, 2014, December 20, 2014, January 17, 2015, February 21, 2015, March 21, 2015.
How Much: $625 – Full Shares only (but you can share with friends and family).
Deposit Amount: $325.00 due by October 19th. $300 Balance due by January 17, 2015.
How many does this feed?  Just about anyone can use a monthly infusion of wonderful food that is designed to last. Apples, pears, nuts, roots, garlic, etc. can last at least several weeks. According to Jeannine, “We have busy, single folks as well as larger families who devour this box every month.”
“We only have space for 16 boxes so let us know as soon as possible if you are interested.” Contact Jen at buildingearthfarm@farmandfruitstand.com.
Happy Fall from the crew at Building Earth Farm!

Rignall Hall, Local History Site Open House Saturday, September 20

Have you ever driven by and wondered, what is Rignall Hall and why does it sit where it is? Well, there is a story behind that. In May of 1920, the town of Rignall, Washington was established.

There was no power, no phones and no road to the island. What road they did have was a dirt road. It was a very important town for the upper part of the Steamboat Island area. There was a store/service station, a second store, a school, boat docks, a Post Office, and Rignall Civic Improvement Club. The club had monthly meetings in the store owned by l.M. Noble. The members paid a yearly due and the meetings were for the betterment of the community.

The docks at the town of Rignall, just down the road from the hall, is where all the supplies for the local farmers were shipped. Boats were the only way they had of getting their supplies. Farmers would drive their horse-drawn wagons to the docks, pick up their supplies and take them back to the farms.

In 1923, Rignall Hall was built with the labor of the members on a piece of land donated by Mr. Noble. The Hall became the center of all community activity. There were dances, box socials, dinners, and holiday parties. Fundraisers and meetings of the ladies of the club and even St. Christopher’s Mission had its beginning there on Sundays.

The problems of the community were discussed, if a solution was one they could handle amongst themselves a committee was appointed and volunteers were asked for help and the problem was solved.

There were letters written to the county asking for a road to the island and that the road be oiled and have trash service brought to the area. There were talks at the meetings from the power company about bringing power to the area in 1931 and there was a lot of discussion at this same time about bringing in a phone line.

As a historical part of this area, it is important to keep Rignall Hall here. There is a small group of us trying to maintain the building and keep it in operating order so that it can be rented by anyone in the neighborhood. The building has seen many weddings, parties, dances, anniversary parties, and celebrations of life. In 1990 the band Nirvana played a concert there.

If you are interested in renting this building you can call Ms. Faye Olson at (360)  534-0456. Contact Faye Olson, too, if you would like to make a donation to help maintain the building.

Come and see a piece of Steamboat Island history!
Rignall Hall Open House
Saturday, September 20
11 AM to 4 PM
Rignall Hall is located at the corner of Urquart and Steamboat Island Rd. NW, across the street from Griffin Fire Station #2

Here is a small list of the last names of some of the members dating back to the 1920’s, many who are still in the neighborhood. Their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are still here. Some of them may be your neighbors. If you recognize a name, ask them about the Town of Rignall.

Ash     Barnum     Benson     Bigelow     Bray
Brown     Camus     Carpenter     Carr     Cassell
Collier     Dana     Degler     Dekker     Dunkelberger
Hacker     Hanson     Hunter     Jackson     Jones
Juhl     Longmire     Lull     Mason     McGaughy
Noble     Patterson     Popple     Post     Prehm
Ronne     Rose     Sawtell     Schirm     Schmidt
Sinclair     Skellenger     Taylor     Thornton     Thurlow
Van Gilder     Watson     Whitt     Wilson     Woodhouse

— text from a brochure produced by Rignall Hall

Rignall Hall contact information updated March 21, 2016.

Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool Open House is Saturday, August 9

Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool is having an Open House for prospective parents for our Otter Class (ages 3-4 years old) on Saturday, August 9th from 10:00 AM until Noon. Stop by and meet our teacher, take a tour of the school, and talk to current members to learn more about SICP!

For more information and our address, visit our website at: steamboatislandpreschool.org