Can Memorial Field commemorate our complex history?

Posted 7/3/19

Wouldn’t this be a good time to amend the bronze plaque at the gate to Memorial Field?

Pried off by thieves who likely meant to pawn it, it was recovered and is at Pete and Cathy …

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Can Memorial Field commemorate our complex history?

Posted

Wouldn’t this be a good time to amend the bronze plaque at the gate to Memorial Field?

Pried off by thieves who likely meant to pawn it, it was recovered and is at Pete and Cathy Langley’s foundry for repairs.

This moment of chaos presents us with an opportunity.

Reading Lily Haight’s excellent series about the Chetzemoka Trail these last two months, Leader readers have been learning the less-sanitized history of the S’Klallam leader who saved lives by urging his people to make way for white settlement of his homeland rather than make war.

In doing so, he found the way to make a victory for his nation and for the U.S.A.

Certainly at Memorial Field we should continue to pay tribute to the 50 Jefferson County soldiers from Anderson through Wimberly who sacrificed their lives in the two World Wars. Their sacrifice was the original focus of the memorial plaque and cannons. But it would be appropriate to add to that list our war dead from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

And now we know Memorial Field holds more than a symbolic marker of graves. The recent work on the light system turned up human remains deep in the churned fill that has been graded back and forth on that site since the U.S. Government ordered qatay village destroyed by fire.

We know Port Townsend’s early Chinatown also was burned on that site.

Is there a way to amend the plaque to give passersby a full accounting of lives that went before ours that have made Port Townsend what it is today?

Let’s not miss this opportunity for an honest accounting of the price of progress. We would make ourselves an unusual place if we embraced all of our histories in that shared gathering-ground.

Jefferson County was focused on the two World Wars when the field was dedicated in May of 1948 as a tribute to those whose deaths were a fresh scar on the psyches of local families. Volunteers have maintained and improved the field from time to time when tax dollars weren’t available to install irrigation and other improvements, so they are important stakeholders and the kin of our war-dead cannot be disrespected.

But also paying taxes for Memorial Field’s upkeep have been S’Klallam families whose homes were burned off the site in 1871 and relatives of those who lost all in the fire that swept the Chinese District in 1900.

Aren’t we big enough to remember all that as we file into the bleachers for a game of football or softball, without diminishing our gratitude for soldiers who have protected our way of life?

If you have ideas about this, contact your county commission to urge a revision to the plaque, or to object to any revisions:

The Leader’s Editorials are the opinion of the Editorial Board: Publisher Lloyd Mullen; co-owner Louis Mullen; Editor Dean Miller and Leader readers.

Comments

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Tom Camfield

I really like the thought of including the later wars. I lost a couple of fellow soldiers in the Korean one and I wrote the obituaries of several young local acquaintances who died in Vietnam. Some sort of expanded peace theme also could certainly pay tribute to the Native Americans whose spirits still inhabit the area, as they too were victims of a form of aggression—the earlier war that was the invasion of Euro-whites.

The Chinese though, are somewhat peripheral. Their presence of the Memorial Field aeaa was mainly a few wash houses. Chinese were elsewhere throughout the community—as witnessed by the Zee Tai Company at the city's main downtown intersection and as vegetable farmers ("Chinese Garden" at the end of San Juan Ave.) and elsewhere. The fire of 1900 also destroyed Mike DeLeo''s tavern, and old whiskey drinkers are not in the same league as innocent natives and war-time soldiers.

Actually, there were ladies of the evening occupying that block also, whose memory need not be honored, despite their being societal victims of a sort—just as today. It was said that two drunken prostitutes got into an argument, an oil lamp was thrown—and the subsequent fire spread. I have printed history of only Mona Hervey in that regard.

In all, I think a new form of plaque, two plaques if necessary to contain all pertinence, is definitely a great idea. Perhaps our county commissioners will form a committee to not only gather information but also determine the nature of a local social conscience that spans the centuries and struggles for survival in today's political climate.

Wednesday, July 3

I am confused. I thought the burning of Kah Tai village was at Kah Lagoon Tai Park. Have I been misinformed? Captain George Vancouver wrote in his diaries about the village at Kah Tai, drawing seemed to be at Kah Tai Lagoon Park. The nets spread across to catch ducks.

500 Chinese in Port Townsend dismissed. Was it because of bigotry? The U.S. has a lot to answer for.

World War I saw that more people died of Spanish Flu than in combat, just as in the Civil War, more soldiers died from dysentery than from bullets. History is a lie agreed upon, Napoleon.

Thursday, July 4
Tom Camfield

Over some 65 years reading various sources of local history I don't recall that the Vancouver sketch illustrated any connection to the local lagoon. Most of the later stories and photos seem to suggest the natives occupied the beaches of what became the original white townsite—mainly the commodious Point Hudson Beach facing Admiralty Inlet.

James Swan wrote of walking to the home of Chetzemoka on one occasion in the 1860s—and of "graves near the bluff." I thought that to mean the bluff below what is now Chetzemoka Park.

I only unearthed history of one fire involving Indian habitat over the years. A small item in the March 11, 1903, Morning Leader read: "Exactly at midnight last night an alarm was sounded and people rushing out found the entire lower end of the city illuminated to an extent that indicated serious conflagration. From Uptown it appeared the fire was in the Downs sawmill on lower Water Street [roughly, on the bay side at the foot of Monroe Street], but close approach developed the conflagration to be among the huts on the beach occupied by the siwashes. Just how the blaze started is a mystery, but it is rumored that the conflagration wax attended by a terrific loss of life, every one that could not crawl away was burned in embers of its home."

Various other means actually were utilized in attempts to remove local indigenous Americans. After the adoption of local treaties there was an attempt to transport some of the local S'Klallams to the Skokomish reservation well down Hood Canal. Many of them doggedly returned to their ancestral home here. At one time, many relocated on nearby Indian Island. Some of the most accurate history is found in early reports by the area's Indian agents—although many of those were written with somewhat bigoted pens. A good source of some of these would be the University of Washington library, where the diaries of James G. Swan also are archived.

All in all, there is more history available than a person can research/absorb in a lifetime. I've live through 90 years of local history. Go back another 90 years before my birth and it was 1839, well before Port Townsend was occupied by any other than Native Americans.

Thursday, July 4
Marge Samuelson

As the town grew the school was moved, to Washington and Gaines street, but parents did not like their children being so close to the swamp (Kah Tai) and Indian town, so when it burned to the ground it was moved to a log cabin where the Rothschild house is at the corner of Jefferson and Taylor.

Are you saying Kah Tai Village was not where Vancouver said in his journal? Although, this was where Chetzemoka was born? So why did the Indians use Happy Valley to get to their village at Kah Tai? Yes, Point Hudson was a stop on the S'Klallam Tribes nomadic visits. But I still believe Kah Tai Village was at the Lagoon which is now called Kah Tai Lagoon Park. Memorial Field is a whole different history. The Olympic Peninsula Tribes followed the fish (Salmon). But the places they visited where not their permanent home.

Friday, July 5
Tom Camfield

I wish they'd had photography back then. It's difficult to picture just where an Indian village may have been in the lagoon area. Until 1961, the area between the the present lagoon water and the highway was totally water. I can remember that much well. And even after the Olympic Highway was completed about 1914, large ponds on the south side toward the bay are seen in photos. I also don't recall any Indian artifacts or bones reported from the area. But I also have had no personal access to history of a fire occurring there. I've never read the complete Swan diaries, for instance.

Swan wrote of graves near the bluff in the 1860s, and there is certainly a bluff not far from the lagoon.

He also made a point of stating he ''walked" to Chetzemoka's home, so it must have been some distance worth mentioning from the early city district. A written account of the fire would be most interesting, especially to those with an archeological bent.

There certainly was an expansive area of nice bayside beach in the area

Saturday, July 6