Prosperity Grange More Than 100 Years in Griffin Area

Steamboat-Island-article-Prosperity-Grange-300x224Prosperity Grange is part of the Griffin, Steamboat Island neighborhood. The first building was built in 1909, burned down in 1928, and was replaced in 1930 by the one we see today. Since the beginning, it has stood for community and was the gathering place for the betterment of the area in which we live.

In the early years it served as the meeting place of farmers and families. Meetings were held to discuss the political, religious, and personal needs of the community in an effort to work together for a more prosperous environment.

The Grange stood for family fun and gatherings as well. Many dances, weddings, celebrations of life, and neighborhood picnics have graced its walls. Farmers and their families made their own entertainment with bands, dancing, games, parties, and contests.

Neighbors came to the grange to share information, new developments in farming, and sharing of goods. The ability to gather together and support one another was crucial to survival.

Today the Grange still serves as a gathering place for this community. Weddings, dances, bands, celebrations of life, and Grange contests are held here. Members still hold regular meetings and potluck dinners once a month. Membership is open to any of our Steamboat Island neighbors.

Rental of the Grange is open to anyone in the community. The price is $225 a day with a $200 deposit. Members can rent for a discounted price as long as they attend at least five of the ten monthly meetings. The Grange features a stage and full kitchen.

A Karate class, taught by Authority Martial Arts, is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone age seven and older is welcome. The first two weeks are free. Continued instruction is available at $40 a month. There is a discount for two or more family members. Click here for the Facebook Page of Authority Martial Arts.

A one-day community flea market is held in April and again in October. Tables are available for $15 and the hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All table rental monies go to the grange for maintenance and other expenses.

Monthly meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month (except July and August). There is a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7 p.m. We welcome anyone who is interested in our grange to attend these meetings. Dues are $39 a year, renewable the first of every year.

Look us up on Facebook.

If you would like to rent Prosperity Grange, please call Bill Wake at (360) 970-5652, Faye Olson (Grand Master) at (360) 534-0456, or Marie Burfoot (Secretary) at (360) 878-9216.

Prosperity Grange #315 is located at 3701 Steamboat Island Rd. NW, Olympia, WA 98502.

text from a June 2015 brochure by Prosperity Grange #315.

The Way It Was: Griffin Area Pre-School 3 (Now More Than 4) Decades Ago

SICP_Open_HouseThough I had grown up in the Griffin area, I found when we moved into our half-finished new home in 1971 that I really knew very few “younger” people. So when Mrs. Groeschell, Scot’s kindergarten teacher, mentioned that there was a group of mothers interested in starting a preschool, I was curious — even if Greg was only twenty months old.

It was in the days when Evergreen-State College was just getting under way and there were many new families of staff and faculty moving into the area. They were accustomed to a more urban life style and missed having next-door neighbors and organized opportunities for young children. In a matter of weeks a group of women were meeting semi-weekly in homes, exchanging experiences with preschools in other areas, talking philosophy of childrearing, drinking coffee and just getting acquainted.

I believe it was Sandy Nisbet who first met with Griffin principal Eunice Carter, to present our proposal for utilizing the unused portable building behind the school (now one of the maintenance sheds) to house the prospective Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool Permission. The request was granted by the Griffin school board.

Now the work really began! We started moving out lumber scraps, broken chairs and miscellaneous “junk”. Then came the cleaning, painting and decorating. (Greg always did like having the left-over Winnie-the-Pooh wallpaper from his bedroom in the new “story comer”). Soon appeared the block area, painting place and housekeeping space all furnished with donated items from members and the supportive community.

It was time to get the fathers involved. The outside play area was their project. As with everything else, it was done on shoestring. There was a sandbox, a jungle-gym made of used tires bolted together, the ever-popular old wooden rowboat, and the low, peeled-pole territorial fence that doubled as a balance beam. It was as much to keep our little ones in as to keep out the curious grade school students.

We now had a name, bylaws, a building, two teachers, two sessions of eager students and many involved parents. It was March 1972 and school was open! Out of those six months of hard work had come new friends, new parenting skills, new opportunities for our children and a legacy of learning and laughter for years to come.

By Marilyn Calkins

Reprinted from the March 1999 issue of “Neighbors”, the newsletter of the Griffin Neighborhood Association. This is part of a series of articles reprinted from earlier publications in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

This Saturday, August 8, from 10 AM to 12 noon, Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool will host an Open House. Interested families can meet Teacher Alex, tour the classroom, see the new play area, and chat with other preschool families!

Visit the school’s web site at http://www.steamboatislandpreschool.org for more information.

Griffin Area Schools

Griffin School wideEducation is now provided in the Griffin area by the Griffin School District, the Steamboat Island Cooperative Preschool, and home education.

Historically, a number of different public school districts have educated children in the Griffin area. These school districts were created by Thurston County in the early years of Washington Territory and statehood.

Initially, the Griffin community was included the Olympia School District which was created by the first Board of County Commissioners for all of Thurston County. Although this school district was countywide, its schoolhouse was constructed in Olympia and probably only the few white school children living in that town attended the school.

Thurston County soon created additional school districts throughout the county as settlers moved throughout Thurston County. More and more school districts were created as settlers moved to more remote areas. Mud Bay School District was formed around 1870 and served all of the northwestern portion of the county, including the Griffin community. The primary schoolhouse was located on John McLane’s claim off of what now is known as Delphi Road. However, it appears that the school district operated a school in the late 1870’s at the log cabin of John and Ella Olson, which was located in what is now called the Holiday Valley Estates. Schneider’s Prairie School District was created in 1881, occupying all of the Griffin peninsula. The Summit Lake School was also created in 1881, occupying the area around Summit Lake.Read More

What’s In A Name? A Lot of History, For One Thing

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It’s thought Young Cove is named after Volney C.F. Young. Young was born on June 9, 1881, and died December 13, 1967 in Olympia at age 86.

A goldmine of information on historic place names can be found in Thurston County Place Names: A Heritage Guide, published by the Thurston County Historic Commission, and edited by Gayle Palmer and Shanna Stevenson.

You may remember Shanna Stevenson, the Thurston County Historian, who regaled many of us with stories and historical information at a meeting of the Griffin Neighborhood Association in October of 1996. Many Griffin area names appear in this publication, including:

  • Burns Cove and Burns Lake, which are named after Jolson and Henry Burns who arrived on the Cove in 1870.
  • Butler Cove, which is named after John L. Butler who obtained a 640-acre donation land claim in 1861 above the Cove. Some years before, a young Haida Indian chief, Tsus-sy-uch, from the Queen Charloue Islands was killed at the Cove by white settlers. It is believed that the Haida retaliated several years later and killed Isaac N. Ebey on Whidbey Island.
  • Carlyon Beach is named after Fred and Carlie Carlyon. It was developed as a farm and resort with cabins, a store, and boat rentals, operating from 1927 until 1959.
  • Gallagher Cove is named after John H. Galliher, an early resident of the area. Shanna Stevenson notes that most maps have incorrectly used the more common spelling of Gallagher.
  • Hunter Point is named after Alfred Allan Hunter and his wife Sarah Emma Daniels Hunter. They purchased the point, which was known as Cushman Point, from Elizabeth Cushman in 1887. The Hunters operated a resort, had a fruit orchard, and supplied firewood to steamships.
  • Schneider’s Prairie is named for Konrad and Albertine Schneider. They arrived in Thurston County in 1852 and filed a land claim on April 15, 1853. He was born in what now is Germany and became a naturalized citizen in Iowa in 1849. Don Lee Frazier, who spoke at the Griffin Neighborhood Association annual meeting in January of 1997, indicates that the original homesteader on the Prairie was not Schneider, but was a man named Puffin. Puffin disappeared and in short order the names Case and Cross show up in county land records. Finally, Schneider bought the Prairie.
  • Summit Lake was known as Pray’s Lake in 1860, named after James B. Pray, who was an early settler on the lake. The lake was called Crooked Lake in an 1875 survey map. Apparently, Summit Lake came into use around 1900 when the Henry McCleary Timber Company began logging in the area At one time there was a logging camp called the Summit Lake Auto Camp on the lake. A resort was also operated on the lake for years.
  • Young Cove was named after Volney Young who was an early steamboat captain (click here for information about the mail boat Mizpah). However, during their youth both Bill Durwood and Mike LeMay recall E.T. Young as the owner of land in the area. As noted in an earlier article, Mike LeMay remembers a story that E. T. Young had at one time attempted to buy land running from Oyster Bay to Young Cove and run cattle in the area. Perhaps, E.T. was the son of Volney.

Later articles will provide more information on local historic place names.

– Original text by Steve Lundin. Reprinted from the January 1998 issue of “Neighbors”, the newsletter of the Griffin Neighborhood Association. This is part of a series of articles reprinted from earlier publications in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

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.

Griffin’s Roots Include a Colorful Farming History

Oyster Bay Farm

The Oyster Bay Farm

In addition to harvesting Olympia oysters and other forms of sea life, agriculture on the Griffin peninsula has consisted of growing fruit, raising cattle and sheep, dairy farming, and raising poultry. Many early farms were not large commercial operations, producing food for the settlers and some cash crops to supplement incomes.

The first significant commercial agricultural operation may have been a short-lived commercial apple orchard at Hunter’s Point. Other early commercial operations included raising strawberries on what is now called Gravelly Beach Loop and raising blueberries at the Eberhardt blueberry farm off what is now called Steamboat Island Road.

Hunter Apple Orchard

Alfred Allan Hunter and Sarah Emma Daniels Hunter moved from Ukiah, California, and settled on Bush Prairie with their old friend George Bush. In 1887 they purchased a tract of land on the tip of what is now known as Hunter’s Point. The land was purchased for its timber. They built a home, a wharf and sold firewood and fresh water to the steamer ships, ferries, and barges plying the waters between Olympia and Shelton. The boats made a number of stops up and down Eld Inlet, including the Mud Bay Logging Company facilities at the foot of Mud Bay and the infamous Ellis tavern and general pleasure house on what is now Madrona Beach Road.

Old_homestead_inn

Promotional flyer from the Old Homestead Inn (click the image for a larger view)

The Hunters planted some 1200 fruit trees and hoped to make money in the fruit business. Their business prospered for several years but the market dried up with the advent of the Yakima Valley fruit industry. The orchard was reduced in size for home use. Descendants recall an old family story where the Hunters traded a bucket of apples with a Native American for a bucket of oysters.

Their daughter, Georgia, married Frederick A. (Fritz) Schmidt. They built cottages on the beach at Hunter’s Point and rented the cottages during the summer. The resort was known as both the Hunter’s Point Pleasure Resort and the Old Homestead Inn. They catered to visitors and locals alike. An old advertisement described the resort as a place “where the simplicity of the farmhouse extends its restful welcome.” The daily camping fee was 50¢, the weekly vacation rate for a stay in a cabin was $15, and a chicken dinner cost $1.25.

Lea McGaughy and her husband Harry McGaughy, aunt and uncle of long-time Griffin peninsula resident Mike Le May, ran the Hunter farm in the 1920’s.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Jim Tobin, a Native American, had a farm in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s north of Young Cove on what now is called Gravelly Beach Loop. Mr. Tobin grew strawberries and had a mixed orchard of apple and Italian prune plum trees. Tobin’s primary income came from harvesting oysters on oysterlands he owned that extended from the mouth of Young Cove, around Flapjack Point, to north of the present day Frye Cove county park.

Tobin had trouble making mortgage and tax payments and his oyster operations became less productive. He began selling parts of his farm to make his mortgage payments. William Joseph Le May and Dora Drake Le May purchased 20 acres from Tobin in 1923. Their boys, aged 11 and 14, ran the farm. Mike Le May was then 11 years old.

J.A. Melliour also purchased 20 acres from Tobin in 1923. The farm was immediately west of the Le May property. Melliour soon died and his brother Osias Melliour inherited the land and ran a strawberry farm there. Mike Le May recalls that years later when times were hard during the Depression, the “money lender” took over the Melliour farm, subdivided the acreage, and sold lots.

Many of the Griffin area’s older residents picked strawberries as children at the Le May and Melliour farms.

The Almost Cattle Baron

Mike Le May recalls hearing a story that in the late 1800’s E.T. Young attempted to buy considerable acreage in the lower portion of Griffin peninsula and create a large cattle ranch. Although Mr. Young purchased considerable acreage, the ranch never really materialized.

Apparently, Mr. Young had hoped to purchase a large block of land stretching from the foot of Oyster Bay to Young Cove and northward for a considerable distance. He had planned to run a fence from Oyster Bay to Young Cove and let the cattle forage north of the fence.

Bill Durward recalls that E.T. Young owned the end of what is now Keating Road. This probably was the last remnants of the want-a-be cattle baron’s holdings. Mike Le May indicates that in the 1920’s old man Young lived in a float house tied up north of Fourth Street in the vicinity of Jack J. Brenner and Charles Brenner’s Oyster Company. This is the present location of the Olympia Oyster House.

Young Road and Young Cove are named after E.T. Young.

Eberhardt Blueberries sales flyerThe Blueberry Bash

In 1921, Joseph Eberhardt planted 50 acres of blueberries east of the current Steamboat Island Road. He experimented with various different species of berries, finally developing a large berry bearing his name, the Eberhardt Blueberry. The Eberhardt farm was the most successful berry farm in the area.

Mr. Eberhardt sold his farm to Floyd and Laniera Savage and moved to Santa Cruz, California, where the climate was better suited for his namesake blueberry. The Savages ran the farm for years. The farm produces the delectable blueberries that are consumed with glee at the annual Saint Christopher’s Church Blueberry Bash.

– from original text by Steve Lundin, reprinted from the October 1997 issue of “Neighbors”, the newsletter of the Griffin Neighborhood Association. This is part of a series of articles reprinted from earlier publications in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

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.

On Becoming a Steamboat Island Road Scholar

road_scholar_illustration

This is not a historic photo from Steamboat Peninsula.

Several speakers at the Griffin Association’s annual meeting on January 31, 1997, recalled early days when poor road conditions existed in the Griffin area. Our roads were narrow, winding, pot holed, and dusty. Travel was hard. Families made infrequent trips into Olympia for supplies.

Steamboat Island Road was once known as Hunter Point Road. Bill Durward recalled that in 1926 or 1927, a major revision of Hunter Point Road relocated the road to the approximate location of the current Steamboat Island Road. Our primary thoroughfare has been straightened, widened, and leveled since then.

Anyone wanting to experience the old winding route can walk or drive several hundred yards up Steamboat Loop Road, once part of the old Hunter Point Road and early route of Steamboat Island Road. Steamboat Loop Road runs northward immediately west of the current route of Steamboat Island Road, starting just north of the main fire station and ending just south of the 41st Avenue and Steamboat Island Road intersection.

Bill Durward described the old route of Hunter Point Road prior to its major relocation 1926 or 1927, that zigged and zagged from the base of the peninsula out to Hunter Point. You can still drive most of the old route.

The southern portion of Old Hunter Point Road basically followed the current route of Old Steamboat Island Road past the present site of Griffin School, prior to its revision for the Highway 101 overpass, northward along Steamboat Loop Road past the fire hall, and continued out to Gravelly Beach Road. Then old Hunter Point Road followed Gravelly Beach Road for several miles, down the steep hill that was called Frederick’s Hill or Whitaker Hill, turned sharply to the left at the bottom of the hill and continued northward for several hundred yards, past the first turn off to Gravelly Beach Loop, and up a shorter hill to the point where Gravelly Beach Road bends eastward and meets Gravelly Beach Loop again.

At that point, old Hunter Point Road left the existing roadway and ran northward. The now long abandoned second school site of the Frye Cove School District is located several hundred feet north of the point where old Hunter Point Road left the existing Gravelly Beach Road. After proceeding northward from the existing Gravelly Beach Road, the old Hunter Point Road met 69th Avenue and followed 69th Avenue eastward to Olympic Road. Then old Hunter Point Road followed Olympic Road northeasterly joining the current Steamboat Island Road and followed Steamboat Island Road to 79th Avenue. From this point old Hunter Point Road ran due northward out Howe Street to 81st Avenue. Then old Hunter Point Road turned eastward and traveled down 81st Avenue, passed the fire station to Uruquart Road. Old Hunter Point Road continued northward out Uruquart Road to its junction with Steamboat Island Road and followed Steamboat Island Road to the existing Hunter Point Road. Finally, old Hunter Point Road followed the existing Hunter Point road to its end.

Bill Durward recalls a low point on a portion of old Hunter Point Road, on Steamboat Island Road between the Grange Hall and Steamboat Annies’ drive in, was a mud hole every Spring when the frost left and rains came. Cars with 36 inch wheels would get stuck there. This is the approximate location of a fault line that could prove problematic if an earthquake were to occur in our area.

– from original text by Steve Lundin, published in the May 1997 issue of the Griffin Neighborhood Association’s “Neighbors” newsletter. This is part of a series of articles reprinted from earlier publications in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

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 .

 

Spotlight on the Rescue of Schneider Creek

2009 0510 Wynne Farm

The Wynne Farm. Photo Credit: Greg Mennegar

Stand in their yard and you can hear the voice of nature whispering. Schneider Creek gently ripples through a culvert passing under the driveway of Tom and Charlene Wynne, carrying an occasional coho salmon, beginning its journey here on Wynne’s farm, a 500-plus acre estate that includes a mile and a half of Schneider Creek’s five-mile run through the Griffin peninsula. But if not for the efforts of the Wynnes over the past several years, that whisper might have been silenced by now.

The creek was artificially re-routed for unknown reasons sometime before Wynne’s grandfather Dominic Wynne bought the first 80 acres of the farm back in 1916. Consequently, it was not flowing according to Mother Nature’s plan, to the point where the salmon and other fish were at risk, and parts of the Wynne property were under 18 inches of water when it rained.

“It was a problem for me because I was driving through a foot or more of water any time it rained,” says Tom Wynne. “It was going to create a flooding problem on the county road sometime soon. “And,” he adds, “it was a problem for the fish because the passage in the creek was becoming so narrow that the fish were having trouble getting through.”

So in 1993, Wynne began enlisting the help of government agencies to help with the cost and the work of restoring the creek to its former route. The federal and state departments of Fish and Wildlife, South Sound Salmon Enhancement, and the Thurston County Conservation District were all eager to assist, mostly because the creek was home to the endangered salmon.

But the enthusiasm of government agencies didn’t mean it would be easy to get the work done. It was a long process to deal with all the permitting necessary to even begin re-routing the creek.

“It seems like it’s even harder to get the permits and to do the work to save something than it is to destroy something,” Wynne muses. There is still a sense of disbelief in his voice when he tells of how wonderfully everything worked out. “You have to understand I started trying to get something done in 1993 and we just got done in 1997.”

And this was not a project done with Wynne watching from the sidelines, not by any stretch. On the contrary, Wynne was working every step of the way. In fact, when the US Department of Fish and Wildlife had to pull their crew out before the project’s completion because of another commitment, that left Wynne himself to run the backhoe.

Wynne’s face beams a transparent affection for the creek and the farm that has been his home since childhood and his livelihood for many years. He clear-cuts and replants six acres of trees per year and thins an additional 30 acres, making for a sustainable annual yield of 70 year-old trees. He gladly shares the land with deer and elk, coyotes and even an occasional cougar. It’s no wonder that the owners of the Indian Summer Golf Course, who approached Wynne about buying his farm before settling on another site, were met with a secure “No Thanks.”

He says he’s walked every nook and cranny of the property many times and hopes that it will remain in one piece long after his days are over so that others will be able to share in its natural wonder. And while he does not expect that the creek restoration will work a miracle for the salmon, he says it’s already a success.

“When I was a kid, the salmon used to be swimming right up alongside the county road,” he remembers. “There were salmon everywhere, and you just don’t see that anymore. But we did see some fish coming up through here this year,” he adds with a smile. “So we got ’em back.”

– from original text by Rob Hill, published in the January 1998 issue of the Griffin Neighborhood Association’s “Neighbors” newsletter. This is part of a series of articles reprinted from earlier publications in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

Postscript: Tom Wynne passed away, at his home. on April 29, 2015. He was 77.

Through, in part, the efforts of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership, a unique relationship between the Griffin Neighborhood Association and Capitol Land Trust, the entire 530-acre Wynne Tree Farm has now been conserved, protecting most of the upper Schneider Creek Valley. The Wynne Family conserved these lands with the Trust in two pieces; the first in 2007 and the last in 2014.

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.

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.

Local Resident LLyn De Danaan’s Book Chronicles Salish Woman’s Life on Oyster Bay

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Click to purchase the book.

Long time resident of Oyster Bay, author and anthropologist LLyn De Danaan, has a new book available on October 1. The title is Katie Gale: A Coast Salish Woman’s Life on Oyster Bay. It is a comprehensive history of Oyster Bay, with many references to Mud Bay, from about 1870 to 1900.

A gravestone, a mention in local archives, stories still handed down around Oyster Bay: the outline of a woman begins to emerge and with her the world she inhabited, so rich in tradition, so shaken by violent change. Katie Kettle Gale was born into a Salish community in Puget Sound in the 1850s, just as settlers were migrating into what would become Washington State. With her people forced out of their accustomed hunting and fishing grounds into ill-provisioned island camps and reservations, Katie Gale sought her fortune in Oyster Bay. In that early outpost of multiculturalism – where Native Americans and immigrants from the eastern United States, Europe, and Asia vied for economic, social, political, and legal power – a woman like Gale could make her way.

Llyn De Danaan’s new book, Katie Gale: a Coast Salish Woman’s Life on Oyster Bay, is a must read for anyone interested in local history, the shellfish industry, and our local Native American heritage. The book tells the story of Katie Kettle, a Native American woman, who married Joseph Gale, a white settler, in the late 1800s and lived on Oyster Bay. The Gales were major personalities in the oyster growing business.

This memoir is suitable for general audiences. Follow De Danaan’s intellectual and spiritual journey discovering the historically significant Katie Gale.

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Author LLyn De Danaan

As LLyn De Danaan mines the historical record, we begin to see Gale, a strong-willed Native woman who co-founded a successful oyster business, then wrested it away from her Euro-American husband, a man with whom she raised children and who ultimately made her life unbearable. Steeped in sadness – with a lost home and a broken marriage, children dying in their teens, and tuberculosis claiming her at forty-three – Katie Gale’s story is also one of remarkable pluck, a tale of hard work and ingenuity, gritty initiative and bad luck that is, ultimately, essentially American.

LLyn De Danaan is a writer and an anthropologist. She contributed to the book Vashon Island Archaeology: A View from Burton Acres Shell Midden, and her articles have appeared in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, and Oregon Historical Quarterly.

“Katie Gale’s story is unique in its scale; few accounts of the nineteenth-century Northwest focus on the life of a single Native woman and her family. LLyn De Danaan’s writing is big history made deeply human, offering insights not just into Native American history but also into the arrival of industrial capitalism on Puget Sound, the politics of statehood and race in Washington, and the profound transformation of local landscapes.”
— Coll Thrush, author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place

“I have followed LLyn De Danaan’s writing path for years now. She is talented and bold, and this new book puts her firmly where she belongs – at the heart of the American voice. Good stuff, highly recommended.”
— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway and Into the Beautiful North