Category Archives: Summer 2013

President’s Column – Summer 2013

Mark Foutch

A lot has been happening this Spring, and it feels like we’re really getting traction toward a number of the Society’s goals. A few examples:

Our absolutely outstanding website, which only a few months ago began to show signs of collapse due to its aging online platform, actually disappeared for a couple of weeks. But it was our great good luck that volunteer Thad Curtz was already in the process of migrating our site’s content to a more modern, more secure, and more adaptable platform. Thad, working with OHS Web Content Manager Deb Ross and Secretary Anne Kilgannon, put in many, many hours during this very detailed process, and while they were at it, redesigned the website.  Deb is busy now restoring the links within our site and those to related websites, which will take some time. But the bottom line is, the OHS website is back, and better than ever. The new platform helps our website show up closer to the top of Web searches and so the number of persons visiting our site and the number of hits has already multiplied significantly. Our Board approved a Certificate of Appreciation for Thad, along with a complimentary five-year membership in the Society.

Remember at our January meeting, we had to pass the hat to collect money for professional web services? It wasn’t enough to hire professional help, but Thad Curtz’ volunteer work helped us avoid that cost. Still, it’s clear that we need reliably-available expertise to maintain our site’s technical integrity.  So the Board authorized Deb Ross to contract with the Williams Group for this. Coincidentally, recognizing the value of our website and our other activities to the City of Olympia’s historic preservation efforts, the City and OHS are negotiating a contract for services.  The City now benefits from our excellent online presence, and avoids the cost of doing its own.  The contract, in turn, would insure the service’s reliability by making it possible for the Society to fund routine site maintenance while accumulating an emergency fund that might also be used to expand and improve our website. It’s a win-win for both parties. Meanwhile, the Board has directed Treasurer Ralph Blankenship to establish a website maintenance fund on our financial reports to make sure the City’s contract dollars and your January website donations are reserved for that purpose.

The Board established two new committees to recommend actions as we anticipate significant developments. First, the Finance Committee (Ralph Blankenship, Vice President Tim Ransom, and advisor Debra Jackson) got Board approval for its recommendations for safeguarding Roger Easton’s bequest when it arrives. We will deposit the money at Olympia Federal Savings and then distribute it among interest bearing, Federally insured accounts in the local area. Also, the Finance Committee is working on our application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Revenue Code. Clearly OHS qualifies for that status. Another report: the new Bylaws Committee has finished its first draft of a major revision to the OHS Bylaws. The new version, if adopted by the membership at our next annual meeting, would consolidate functions and duties, eliminate an anomaly or two, and position our Bylaws specifically to address questions in the 501(c)(3) application.

Now, here’s something hasn’t happened for quite a while: We actually have two excellent, and early, Board candidates! Debra Jackson, from Olympia Federal Savings, has already brought much-needed banking and financial expertise to the Board. For the past few months she has been meeting in a nonvoting advisory capacity with the Board and the Finance Committee, and has been tremendously helpful as we anticipate Roger’s bequest and apply for tax-exempt status. Not coincidentally, Olympia Fed has joined OHS as a corporate member. Also, former Secretary of State and OHS member Sam Reed has expressed an interest in joining the Board. He attended the June Board meeting to get up to speed. Debra and Sam are expected to apply formally to our Nominating Committee later in the year using our new application form; the Nominating Committee will present a slate of Board candidates at the annual meeting early in December. With Bylaw amendments and Board elections already on that meeting’s agenda, OHS members should plan to be there. We’ll need a quorum for sure!

To top off all this good news, a brand-new University of Oregon history graduate, Marisa Merkel, contacted us offering to serve as a volunteer intern! OHS Secretary Anne Kilgannon is working with her to craft a wide-ranging experience, one that will be useful to OHS while enhancing her resume for graduate school and future employment in the field. Welcome, Marisa!

Did you know that Olympia has its own Underground Railroad story from pre-Civil War days? That will be the topic of authors Lorraine McConaghy and Judith Bentley’s presentation at our September meeting. Details to come; watch for it!

Finally, some maritime heritage news: the 1909 motor yacht Lotus, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Olympia Heritage Register, is expected to be here for Harbor Days, and perhaps for a couple of weeks beforehand. She’ll be open for tours and cruises. Once a local feature, she’s now docked at Port Townsend. Also, we hear that the restored steam-powered Mosquito Fleet passenger boat Virginia V will also come from Seattle for Harbor Days.

Meanwhile, enjoy Summer in Olympia!

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Table of Contents – Summer 2013

President’s Column – Summer 2013
Mark Foutch

Temple Beth Hatfiloh is 75!
Anne Kilgannon and Beth Dubey

Have an Historic Summer Stay-Cation
Anne Kilgannon

Origins of Olympia Historical Society, Chapter 3
Mark Foutch

Lanny’s and Deb’s Excellent Adventures 
Deb Ross

We Like to Hear from You!
Anne Kilgannon

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Have an Historic Stay-cation and Come Home with Memories

Anne Kilgannon

We’d been talking about doing a field trip for years, so last year on my birthday my friend picked me up on a beautiful sunny day and we headed out, not to the beach, but to Centralia with several stops before and after planned for a local history extravaganza. She had it all mapped out but I had done my homework, too. We were going to focus on famous Wobbly sites, so in preparation I had reread John McClelland’s excellent study, Wobbly War: the Centralia Story. It was full of great—and site-specific information—with photographs to aid us in our identifications of old halls and other places of interest. We searched out all the places mentioned, and added some memorials built since the publication of the book: the plaza and flagpole with curiously enigmatic commemorative plaques, the colorful and oddly Diego Rivera-like mural, and most moving of all, the gravesite of Wesley Everest, the lynching victim, whose gravestone minces no words: Killed (not died) Nov. 11, 1919. Someone had recently placed flowers there and someone, perhaps the same person, had gone to the trouble of procuring a second marker that identified Wesley as a veteran of World War 1, much like the American Legion members who also died that day in the infamous violent confrontation at the Wobbly hall. Standing there at the gravesite in the silence of the cemetery, all the messy, contradictory bits of history remained unresolved, not smoothed over by flapping flags or cartoon images on a mural wall. And so it should be, and this is why going to the actual historic sites, looking at the bridge where the body hung so ignobly, the streets where men marched and ran, the remaining old buildings that reverberated to the sounds of gunfire and shouts, is so important. John McClelland guided us through the story but it was cemented by our day of exploring and by softly touching that gravestone and confronting that word: killed.

We meandered through other places that day, too: among others, the Tenino quarry, swimming pool and the Depot Museum, the old Claquato Church, and even the monument to the original state prison at Seatco, now Bucoda.

Images of these places come to mind as we plan this year’s adventure, but also because Ed Echtle has made our efforts so much easier by giving us a wonderful list of historic sites and local museums located in a day-trip driving arc from and in Olympia. His essay, A Brief History of the South Sound Country, newly posted on the OHS website, not only sweeps the area for known and little-known places of interest, he embeds them in a survey of history so that you can pick your era as well as area of interest. From easily reached Native American sites to pioneer structures to early industrial remains, Ed guides you through the years and provides a map for your own explorations. Don’t wait for your birthday; pack a lunch and grab the camera: history is all around us! And then write a review to be posted here about the special historic places to be found nearby.

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Kilgannon: Temple Beth Hatfiloh is 75!

Anne Kilgannon, with thanks to Beth Dubey for background information.

Louis Bettman arrived in Olympia and set up a general merchandise store in 1853. Within a year, two other establishments with Jewish proprietors opened for business in the muddy little village that would become the city of Olympia: Goldman and Rosenblatt’s People’s Emporium and M. Louisson’s shop, filled with goods from San Francisco.  They offered the townspeople and local farmers and loggers—and maybe most especially their wives—everything from dress trimmings imported from New York, to violins and groceries. It was the beginning of the end of frontier conditions. Like many of the early Jewish settlers in the west, they came as town dwellers and merchants, not as farmers or workers in the woods or mills.

They were part of a wave of German-speaking Jews leaving Europe between 1830 to 1860, seeking economic betterment and escape from the harsh conditions imposed on them by anti-Semitic regimes then dominant in central Europe. They came to the Pacific Northwest often by way of California, lured west by the gold rush. Some of the young men came alone, unmarried and without connections, who by dint of hard work established themselves and only later found wives and set up families. Others were part of far-flung family networks that supported new endeavors in pioneer towns and built upon their connections to establish businesses. Gustave and Bertha Rosenthal setting up a shipping business and dealt in wool, coal and oysters. The Kaufman brothers sold clothing and Isaac Harris stocked all manner of dry goods. Edward Salomon, who had served as a general during the Civil War, notably came to Olympia as the ninth Territorial Governor. Others followed.

This group concentrated on gaining a foothold in the fast-opening societies; they pitched in to build the towns and create the institutions that promoted economic growth and community survival. They were often more intent on assimilation than finding an outlet for religious expression. Having experienced the persecution and discrimination of the Old Countries, they tended to downplay their separate identity and focused on a more shared pioneer experience. For some, like George Jacob Wolff, feelings of gratitude for freedom dominated their emotions and cemented their attachment to their new homes. While they did establish a Jewish cemetery in 1873—one of the first in the Territory, no synagogue or temple was built in Olympia during this period.

The histories of these first Jewish pioneers have been gathered in an outstanding study, Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State, by Molly Cone, Howard Droker and Jacqueline Williams, published by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society and the University of Washington Press, 2003. The authors describe three distinct waves of immigration, the first as described, followed by Yiddish-speaking Jews from eastern Europe who came from 1880 to 1924, and a separate population of Sephardic Jews from Turkey and parts of Greece, coming just after the turn of the century. The thesis of these authors is that these waves of immigrant Jews were not only “strangers” in the communities of the west, but also strangers to each other, with completely different origins, languages, customs, and observances. Their history is one of finding their place in the wider community and learning to help each other and live together.

As with any group of people, there was generosity and misunderstandings, conflict and compassion, friendly helping hands and suspicion. Each community in the Territory and then State carved out its own path within patterns shared and repeated in different locations. Other than in Seattle where a burgeoning population allowed more expression of differences, most Jewish immigrants in Washington struggled to create communities of co-religionists of any stripe. This tension of differences and isolation was an undercurrent that influenced the development of religious institutions in the smaller centers. Family of Strangers traces this complex history through several generations and developments up to the near-present. It helps provide the historical context for understanding and appreciating the achievements of each community’s growth and survival.

The progress of the community in Olympia was marked by the welcome received family by family as more Jewish people found their way here. The Jewish Benevolent Society, founded in 1873, leant a helping hand. The next year, land was dedicated for a Jewish cemetery. The Berkowitz/Bean family came in the early years of the twentieth century. It was in their home that the Torahs were kept, to be brought to the Labor Temple or Eagles Lodge for services on High Holidays. The Cohn and Hollander families added to the community, and many others came in the Thirties: the Goldberg family who opened a furniture store to operate alongside Anna Blom’s bookstore, Eddie Dobrin’s women’s apparel store, M.M. Morris’ Specialty Shop, Joe Jenkin’s dry cleaners, and others, to name only a few business establishments.

Finally, by the late 1930s, a strong group existed who could venture taking the next important step as a community.  Centralia and Chehalis had banded together to build a temple in 1930, as had a group in Aberdeen. They shared the architectural plans they had used and supported the Olympia group in their fundraising, headed by Earl Bean. Despite the lingering Depression, the wider community pitched in too, helping with building supplies, purchasing raffle tickets and pledging contributions. Land was cleared on Eighth and Jefferson Street and the venerable Olympia construction firm of Phillips and Newell erected the temple that became the center for religious and community life until 2004. By then the congregation had grown beyond the capacity of the original building and a move was made to the present location.

Temple Beth Hatfiloh was built in time to act as a strong center of activities and refuge as many Jewish people fled Europe in the wake of growing persecution, and then during World War II as a base for families whose members were serving overseas. After the war, although served only by a visiting rabbi for a period, more normal activities and services filled the calendar. A tradition of raising funds for the Olympia-wide charities saw Temple members hosting huge annual rummage sales; in more recent years they have hosted giant book-bagel-and blintz sales. For a time religious education classes had to be offered in Tacoma, but as the Olympia group grew, more could be organized within this community.

With an influx of new families brought to Olympia by the growth of state government and the establishment of Evergreen State College in the 1960s and 1970s, the Temple was assured of a solid foundation and future. Not until the 1980s could the congregation support their own rabbi, at first part-time and then finally full-time. The program for religious education also developed as more families joined. Besides growth in numbers, the congregation has gradually shifted in approach from Orthodox to a mix of Conservative and Reform practices. Eva Goldberg, an early chronicler and leader in the congregation, saw the community as “an extended family” ready to welcome all with open arms and assistance from its earliest days. Something of that spirit still prevails and adds strength and resiliency to this vital Olympia institution.

The Olympia Historical Society congratulates the members of Temple Beth Hatfiloh on the occasion of their seventy-fifth anniversary. They are an integral and important part of the history and growth of Olympia. Their many contributions, energy, success and longevity benefits the whole City.

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We Like to Hear from You!

Anne  Kilgannon

As President Mark Foutch reports above, the Olympia Historical Society is actively pursuing its mission and goals, and invites our members and readers of this newsletter to join in exploring, preserving and sharing the stories and artifacts of our history. If you have delved into the history of your historic home or pioneer forebears, or researched the history of a longtime business or organization, or discovered letters, diaries, photographs, or records of activities or events that would help us piece together the mosaic of our past, please consider writing an article to be posted here or donating or making copies of records for our archival collection. If your organization, business, church or other group will be celebrating an important anniversary, we’d like to hear about your history and how you plan to mark the occasion. Your story enriches everyone’s understanding and appreciation of our local history! Please send story ideas, articles for inclusion and other notices to: olyhistory@gmail.com with “OHS newsletter” in the subject line.

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Origins of the Olympia Historical Society, Chapter 3

Mark Foutch

 

The first two chapters of this history described the Society’s early organizing efforts beginning in 2001, leading to formalizing the organization and its incorporation in February 2002. At the Society’s next two meetings the group began to change its focus as it scheduled public activities and offered historical information resources online, while continuing to set policy and wrap up its organizing tasks.

The Olympia Historical Society’s meeting for March 30, 2002, was called to order by interim President Annamary Fitzgerald at 10:10 a.m. at the Thurston County Courthouse.  Present were: Virginia Challen, Rebecca Christie, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Lynn Erickson, Lois Fenske, Mark Foutch, Beverly Gunstone, Pat Harper, Russ Hupe’, Jim Jenner, Eve Johnson, David Kindle, Barbara McKeieley, Winnifred Olsen, Liza Rognas, Shanna Stevenson, Lanny Weaver, Tom Zahn.

Treasurer’s Report:  $640.00 in revenue; expenditures of $18.50 for checks and $51.40 for reimbursements of expenses; balance $569.66.

Announcements: Russ Hupe’ asked who was keeping the history of the Olympia Historical Society. Rebecca Christie replied she was keeping all materials including emails. Shanna Stevenson reported Drew Crooks’ presentation April 2 on the Hudson’s Bay Company in Thurston County.

Committee Reports:

Publicity Committee: Requested guidance on whether to pursue a newsletter or a (more scholarly?) publication. (See below for discussion/clarification of committee issues.)

Membership Committee: Rebecca Christie reported they were working on a membership brochure, using the Olympia Genealogical Society’s brochure as a model. Also, OHS had 33 members. She noted that only paid members are allowed to vote.
Collections Committee: Susan Goff resigned. Preliminary guidelines have been drafted but the geographical area of interest has not been decided. Examples: “Olympia and Environs” or “Olympia School District”.

Committee Clarifications:

Publicity: After discussion, the group settled on a quarterly newsletter format with OHS activities, schedule of events, possibly some original research.

Collections: Activities outside Olympia (Example: logging) had impact within Olympia.  But if the standard was too vague lots of extraneous material might be collected.  “Olympia and Environs” was the standard suggested by Annamary Fitzgerald; no further action taken. Roger Easton noted that extraneous material could be redistributed to other (interested) groups. Drew Crooks noted that items submitted had to be approved for accession by the Committee. Drew Crooks and Annamary Fitzgerald reported that the South Sound Heritage Association was a group of local museums that it might be good for OHS to join to coordinate accessions and other activities. Drew Crooks moved and Liza Rognas seconded, that OHS join SSHA for dues of $25 per year. (Apparent approval, no formal action noted in minutes.)

Committee Reports (Continued):

Finance and Fundraising: Drew Crooks noted that some people were joining OHS as institutional members. After the brochure is ready, service clubs and other groups will be approached about joining.

Logo Design: Roger Easton presented an oyster shell motif with the motto, “The Pearl of Puget Sound.” Nikki McClure will draw the logo but this might take a few weeks. (No formal action noted; apparent agreement?)

Web/phone: Drew Crooks has secured a debit card for Ed Echtle to use; Echtle will now secure www.olympiahistory.org as the OHS website URL. Ed Echtle also reported costs for a phone line going directly to voice mail: $16 per month plus hookup charges, plus $.02 per minute for incoming calls. Rebecca Christie said this was too expensive; Annamary Fitzgerald agreed. The web presence is more important at this time. (Old media was losing to new media even at this early date!)

Meeting Locations: Rebecca Christie has secured the Courthouse meeting room for future meetings but it is always possible that County business could bump OHS from the room’s schedule. Other locations suggested were Madison School, Apollo’s Pizza, Puget Sound Energy.

Membership (Continued Discussion): Annamary Fitzgerald cited confusion about voting rights for various categories of members. Decision: Clarify Bylaws that one membership means one vote, by changing “regular” to “individual” membership category. Liza Rognas moved, Tom Zahn seconded; approved.

Other matters: Rebecca Christie asked for suggestions to organizations to be added to OHS’ Email notification list.

Programs:

Eve Johnson, representing Friends of the Waterfront, discussed the City of Olympia’s proposed zoning amendment to allow higher buildings on the downtown Isthmus.  She said this would block views of the Capitol and endanger historic buildings. It also would impede views of the waterfront and restrict public access. She reminded the group that local activists saved Sylvester Park and this is a similar situation. Lois Fenske asked what citizens should do; Annamary Fitzgerald suggested contacting the City Council.

Lynn Erickson presented her project, “The View From Sylvester’s Window.”  It will consist of eight views of Olympia looking north from where Edmund Sylvester’s mansion south of Sylvester Park would be built/was built/once was. Years completed to date: 1841, 1856, 2001. She is developing a classroom curriculum using smaller versions of the paintings to discuss urban design, architecture, etc. Members congratulated Lynn on her project, and the meeting adjourned at noon.

The Society’s May 2 meeting was called to order by Annamary Fitzgerald at the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Building on Lilly Road NE at 7:08 p.m.

Present: Bob Arnold, Rebecca Christie, Marilyn Connon, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Lynn Erickson, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Susan Goff, Pat  Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, Thomas Kerr, David Kindle, Eve Johnson, Shanna Stevenson, Lanny Weaver.

Treasurer’s Report: Drew Crooks reported $789.66 in the checking account at South Sound Bank.

Housekeeping Items: Need to discuss a Draft Collections Policy, Nominations for Permanent Office, Meeting Location, Monthly or Bi-Monthly Meetings, Logo.

Meetings: Drew Crooks suggested the whole group meet bi-monthly and the officers meet monthly. Bob Arnold agreed. Russ Hupe’ said the group should meet monthly.  Lois Fenske suggested bi-monthly until permanent officers were elected. Drew Crooks suggested the group meet in June but not July; in August there should be a slate of nominees (this would be six months after incorporation, per the Bylaws). But if officers were elected in August they would have less than a one-year term. Annamary Fitzgerald will appoint a Nominating Committee to propose a slate of Board candidates for the August meeting. The Public Health and Social Services building would be the permanent meeting location. There would be no July meeting.

Collections: Some donations received already. Drew Crooks has adopted the Lacey Museum’s accession form to accept them: Postcards of downtown Olympia ca. 1920, collected by Olympia Light and Power. At Sue Goff’s suggestion, Drew and Annamary agreed to establish a screening committee. On an interim basis donated items would be given to Drew who will use his adaptation of Lacey’s accessioning system, marking items in pencil for now. Lanny Weaver reported an inquiry about two clocks from the Olympia Fire Department. The Collections Committee will continue to flesh out the collections policy. Spencer Daniels asked about acknowledgement letters for donations.  Drew Crooks replied that the deed of gift constituted an acknowledgement. Questions arose about the tax deductibility of donations. Annamary Fitzgerald replied that OHS did not yet have 501(c)(3) status; will discuss at the next meeting. (As of 6/18/13 OHS still does not have tax exempt status; in process of applying.)

Logo: OHS will keep “for the time being” the earlier version of the oyster shell logo with the motto, “The Pearl of Puget Sound.”  Will revisit the logo after a permanent Board is elected.

Announcements:

Annamary Fitzgerald noted a (statewide?) request from Secretary of State Sam Reed for Territorial Sesquicentennial projects. OHS will sponsor, probably with the Olympia Heritage Commission, Kent Richards to speak on Gov. Isaac Stevens in November 2003, to commemorate Stevens’ arrival in Olympia November 25, 1853.

Shanna Stevenson reviewed a recent meeting about the (Art Deco) Greyhound Bus Station and concerns for its preservation.

Three requests for information have been posted on the OHS website, about: A chair inscribed November 28, 1853; Jothan Goodall’s Point, A.E. Hicks and Gallatin Hartsock; and Friendly Grove in NE Olympia.

Susan Goff volunteered to be a screener for the web requests and refer them to the appropriate museum or group.

Committee Reports:

Outreach/Education: Drew Crooks reported planning an OHS booth for the August 2 Family History Day at the State Capitol Museum. He is also working on speakers for the June and August meetings.

Publications: Lois Fenske reported the committee is planning a newsletter for September.  Susan Goff will provide an article on the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exhibition by Olympia High School and will ask Michael Houser for an item on Olympia City Hall. Shanna Stevenson will provide information on Francis Sylvester; Drew Crooks will provide one of the donated postcards for an illustration.

Membership: Rebecca Christie presented the draft membership flier. Members suggested 250 copies for the first printing; members would distribute them instead of mailing.

Program: Lois Fenske presented “A Short History of South Puget Sound Community College” as part of the school’s 40th Anniversary Celebration. Lois has been involved with the College since its beginnings as Olympia Vocational-Technical Institute.

The meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.

So, in slightly less than nine months after the first organizational meeting, the Olympia Historical society had organized and incorporated, and addressed issues of policy, procedure and logistics.  It had produced its first programs, established an active Website, and received its first collections, all while planning for the next phase:  Electing permanent officers and Board members, which would relieve the general membership of the need to meet as a “committee of the whole” so frequently to conduct Society business. 

 

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Lanny’s and Deb’s Excellent Adventures

On a weekly basis, Members Lanny Weaver and Deb Ross catalogue the State Capital Museum collection now housed at the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) in Tacoma. This project is made possible through a collaboration between the Olympia Historical Society and WSHS, and Deb and Lanny are grateful for the time and cooperation of the WSHS and Research Center staff in making this possible. This regular column will inform you about their work.

 

One of the more exciting and interesting collections to come Lanny’s way are the records of Percival Dock. The Research Center in Tacoma has 56 volumes of materials relating to the business run by Samuel Wing Percival and his son John. Of particular interest are the freight records, which identify the shipper and detail the types of items shipped and received. Also of interest are the names of the ships, barges and steamers who plied the waters of Puget Sound. Since Puget Sound was the equivalent of Interstate 5 in its day, nearly every merchant, and many individual citizens of Olympia and Thurston County, can be found somewhere in these volumes, and the list of cargo carried offers a wonderful glimpse into the day to day lives of Olympians. A finding aid is available here for viewing: http://collections.washingtonhistory.org/details.aspx?id=121433

 

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