Fowler building to be stop on Chetzemoka trail

Posted 5/22/19

On June 29, the new Chetzemoka Trail will be unveiled in a ceremony at Memorial Athletic Field in Port Townsend to begin the area’s journey to understanding the difficulties of coexistence between American Indians and non-Native people.

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Fowler building to be stop on Chetzemoka trail


On June 29, the new Chetzemoka Trail will be unveiled in a ceremony at Memorial Athletic Field in Port Townsend to begin the area’s journey to understanding the difficulties of coexistence between American Indians and non-Native people.

The trail, a project of the Native Connections Action Group of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in partnership with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, will feature 18 sites throughout Port Townsend.

At each site, signs will offer historic information about Chief Chetzemoka (pronounced Cheech-ma-han; later changed by settlers to Chetzemoka) and the S’Klallam people of the 19th century, as well as the impact of the arrival of European settlers and connections to present-day S’Klallam people.

The intent of the trail project is to educate the public on the relationship between the S’Klallam people who lived for hundreds of years at the place they called “qatáy,” and the European settlers who arrived in Port Townsend in the mid-19th century. The trail follows the life of Chief Chetzemoka and the stories of his life represent the difficulties, not just in Port Townsend, but across the country, of living side-by-side.

Leading up to the opening of the trail, the Leader will present historical tidbits surrounding specific sites that are stops along the trail, with the help of research done by the Native Connections Action Group and Jamestown S’Klallam tribal elder Celeste Dybeck and resources from the Jefferson County Historical Society.


For years, the back room of the Fowler building, on 226 Adams Street, smelled of ink and paper.

In the “back shop,” the Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader was put together on a marble top table, with handset type picked letter by letter to prepare for printing.

Today, though the days of ink-stained, type-high printing are no more, the building still houses reporters­—working at computers—who put together the weekly community paper.

The building has a history beyond the Leader and as it will be one of the 18 stops along the Chetzemoka Trail, it seemed only right that we profile its history first.

The Fowler Building was the first stone building in Port Townsend. Built in 1874 as a “commodious fireproof store,” it was the largest masonry building in town.

In an advertisement in the newspaper the Weekly Argus in 1875, the building was listed as available for rent for “theatrical performances, lectures and concerts, social dances, and public balls,” at a cost ranging from $2 to $5.

“It was a favorite place to hold dances,” wrote Eva Bash, daughter of Henry Bash, in an essay on Fowler’s Hall. “A small stage was built in the first floor and here a number of musical entertainments were given by local talent.”

After serving as a store and hall for rent for several years, the Fowler Building became the Masonic Temple in 1880. Then Jefferson County purchased the building.

The stone building was called the Fowler building because it was funded by Enoch S. Fowler, a ship captain who transported Governor Isaac Stevens and his treaty negotiators around the state, including to Point No Point in 1855, where Stevens, Fowler and Chetzemoka convinced the Natives to trust the whites and affix their “X” mark to the Point No Point Treaty.

The book “Shadows of Our Ancestors” details exchanges from this historic treaty signing, from the writings of George Gibbs, an attorney and advisor to the governor, who was present:

“The treaty was then read and interpreted to the Skokomish by Hool-hole-tan or Jim, the first sub-chief and to the S’Klallams and Chemakums by Yaht-le-min or Gen Taylory. The reading being concluded Gov. Stevens asked if they had anything to say.

Che-lan-teh-tat, an old Skokomish Indian then rose and said, ‘I wish to speak my mind as to selling the land. Great Chief! What shall we eat if we do so? I don’t want to sign away all my land, take half of it and let us keep the rest. I am afraid that I shall become destitute and perish for want of food. I don’t like the place you have chosen for us to live on. I am not ready to sign the paper.’”

After more discussion of the treaty, Chetzemoka spoke on behalf of it:

“My heart is good (I am happy) since I have heard the paper read, and since I have understood Gov. Stevens, particularly since I have been told that I could look for food where I pleased, and not in one place only. I will always be the same. My heart has lately become better. Formerly the Indians were bad towards each other, but Governor Stevens has made them agree to be friends, and I am willing he should act as he pleases. I think the more I know of him the better I shall be satisfied. Before the Whites came we were always poor. Since then we have earned money and got blankets and clothing. I hope the Governor will tell the Whites not to abuse the Indians as many are in the habit of doing, ordering them to go away and knocking them down. We are willing to go up the Canal since we know we can fish elsewhere. We shall only leave there to get salmon, and when done fishing will return to or houses.”

This treaty meant that the tribes ceded their rights to nearly 440,000 acres of land. In return, they retained 3,480 acres in a reservation on the Hood Canal, $60,000 payable over 20 years and the “right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations.”

Another treaty for the Makah tribe was negotiated and signed aboard Fowler’s ship, at Neah Bay and Stevens later named Fowler the region’s Indian Agent.

While Fowler eventually settled in Port Townsend, he built the Fowler building among many others and purchased large amounts of land, including what is now Fort Worden.

Long before the Fowler building became the production center of the town’s newspaper, it was briefly used by the courthouse. In June of 1888, when Chetzemoka died on Indian Island, his sons brought his body into town by cedar canoe. The townspeople laid his body in state in the Fowler Building’s main parlor for two days, so settlers could pay their respects to the Duke of York, as he was known, who they knew as a friend, because of his work to create peace between the white settlers and the Native people.


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