A page from history

Posted by Tom Camfield

I began my research of Port Townsend area history, in writing for a term paper about the Port Townsend Leader, for a journalism class at the University of California in 1953. I have covered a lot of ground since—including the reading of every page of ever issue the Port Townsend Leader since 1889 during my many years in harness there, interviews with people who could recall their youth and local history around the 1890s and early 1900s, pre-Leader local newspapers back to 1860, history books, microfilm and photo resources from the Seattle and Tacoma public libraries, the University of Washington and Washington State libraries, the local historical society, books and photos from private individuals, in later years withdrawals from various Internet sources.

And, of course, I’ve lived here 90 years myself. I also received material—old newspapers, photos, etc.—from individuals over the past 65 years

You get the idea. I was loaded for bear with local history by the time I jumped the fence at the Leader and eventually published my two books of local history in 2000 and 2002, by then in my 70s. They were many cuts above the slap-dash ego projects of occasional newcomers to the area—regarding both the amount and accuracy of content.

The first of my volumes is finally out of print, unavailable except for rare occasions of emergency, and cannot be reprinted at present due to the wrinkles in advancing technology and one major computer disaster. But that may change at some point in the future when I’m history myself. With some 2,500 in circulation, a used copy occasionally pops up on eBay. The second volume is also worthwhile, still “in print” but making it to book-sellers only with some difficulty (Try the JCHS record center).

I kept no copies of earlier historian stories I wrote for the Leader between 1954 and 1988.

So for the moment I will be passing along here from time to time stories and pictures, mainly from that first volume—thanks to the opportunity afforded by this ongoing Leader on-line edition, now back up to speed in an enhanced version. I feel there are enough interested readers out there to justify my glutting the blogs arena now and then.

For 25 cents, I made this dingy copy of a page of an 1884 issue of “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” heading this article—on a relatively crude, single-setting copy machine at the Seattle Public Library sometime in the 1990s. I found that library, for many years, to be full of genealogical books, other historical books and magazines, fiche and microfilm. There are even books there describing my immigrant Camfield’s participation in town meetings in New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1630s.

But back to this illustration from Harper’s. l’ve never been able to definitively identify the scene at top. Center left is the old Pioneer (later “Cosmopolitan”) Hotel at the foot of Adams Street on the south side of Water Street. The large light-colored building seen through the hotel porch, across Water Street, is the First National Bank building, constructed in 1883. Minutely seen atop the hill in background is the spire of the old St. Mary’s Star of the Sea church on Franklin Street. Back up on the west side of Adams Street, across from the Fowler Building that has house the Leader during most of its existence, is a large frame structure I’ve also seen in a couple of other early photos. The upper inset photo is possibly a view of the same old hotel in a beach view from the west.

The plight of many of the then-remaining local members of the indigent native-American S’Klallam tribe also is illustrated here on the beach next to the old hotel, with their crude survival quarters. They definitely were not assimilated in any sort of a gracious manner by the whites who stole their beaches, steams and forests. And, one might observe, pretty much destroyed that natural environment.


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