President’s Message Fall 2012

Mark Foutch, President

As you all know, one of our Olympia Historical Society’s most dedicated members, Roger Easton, died  July 2 after a short illness.  This was completely unexpected and sent a shock throughout the entire South Sound historic preservation community.  Roger was a retired junior high school teacher, but “retired” certainly did not describe him.  He was active everywhere in historic preservation and interpretation and it will be quite a while before we are able to understand all of our community’s losses from his passing.  At a gathering of Roger’s friends and family members July 18 at the Jacob Smith House, I offered a few remarks on behalf of OHS about my longtime friend and neighbor, ending with this observation:

“I don’t think Roger ever let a minute go to waste.  It was a life well lived, and we are very lucky to have had him among us for so long.”

RogerEaston-198x300Those who knew him won’t be surprised to learn that Roger years before had prepared meticulously for his passing.  He had designated Ed Echtle to catalog his extensive local history collection.  Once that’s done Ed’s preliminary plan is to house the collection temporarily at the State Archives.  When OHS has its own suitable location to house this and other local history collections and provide for public access, Roger’s collection will go there.

Coincidentally, the Timberland  Regional Library system has been holding a series of exploratory meetings to get public input on what a new Olympia library might offer.  On July 12 OHS Vice President Tim Ransom, Secretary Anne Kilgannon and I met with acting Olympia librarian Sara Pete’ to share some ideas, including the possibility of a local history archive and research room in a new library.  The Board, which met July 2, had already endorsed the idea of naming such a room for Roger Easton.  Obviously this is a long-term prospect, and other ideas might take precedence, but for now Roger’s collection is in good hands until OHS can responsibly take physical possession.

Tim, Anne, Collections Chair Susan Goff and I met July 18 with the City of Olympia’s historic preservation officer, Jennifer Kenny.  Our goal was to find ways to increase OHS’ visibility and influence with the City Council and staff, and to explore in this time of tight municipal budgets how the City might increase its support of OHS’ local history activities—more in line with the City of Lacey’s support of the Lacey Historical Society.  While budgeted support from Olympia is not likely at this time, Jennifer suggested certain in-kind City staff capabilities such as graphics support that would be useful for activities jointly sponsored by the City and OHS.   That’s definitely a gap we need filled so her suggestion was most welcome.

And our first opportunity to take advantage of that offer is here, now.  Jennifer Kenny tells us that two display cases in the New Caldonia building’s indoor shopping arcade at 106 E. 5th are available and OHS has been invited to fill them with local history exhibits.  Anne and Tim are working on that project now. The Olympia Downtown Association and perhaps the Visitor and Convention Bureau will help publicize the exhibits when they’re ready.  More later on this.

On July 15 Treasurer Ralph Blankenship, Anne, Tim and I attended the dedication of a display at the State Capital Museum featuring a canoe paddle believed to have belonged to noted Nisqually tribal leader Leschi.  Descendants of Leschi and his brother Quiemuth spoke eloquently about their martyred ancestors and their continuing significance to Northwest Indians.

The rest of our summer has ranged from the mundane (Ralph’s getting a second key to the P.O. box so our secretary can pick up the mail when the he is out of town) to the spectacular:

On July 29 nearly one hundred canoes from tribes all the way from South Puget Sound to the ocean coast of Vancouver Island and beyond converged at the Port of Olympia’s North Point for the 2012 Canoe Journey, “Paddle to Squaxin.”  The host Squaxin Island Tribe, with help from the entire community, turned out thousands of spectators to welcome the visitors.  OHS was lucky to get a table at the State Capital Museum/Washington State Historical Society’s booth.  Anne and Tim created a display that pictured Native American sites in downtown Olympia along with photographs of what’s there now, each with a narrative and keyed to a map that also showed the original waterline and later “made land” from dredging and filling.  Our table got a lot of attention in the midst of many attractions and distractions.  Great work, Anne and Tim!  Thanks also to Susan Rohrer and Shanna Stevenson at the Museum for letting us share their booth.  Besides our “regulars” who helped staff the booth, special thanks go to Joan Bower, Steve Lundin, Elizabeth McHugh, and Theresa Scott who helped out.  A great effort and lots of visibility for OHS!

Incidentally, Ralph Blankenship did our early coordination with the Museum staff and the Squaxin Island Tribe, then volunteered many hours to help make the tribe’s multiday host duties successful.

Three upcoming events:  OHS will partner with the Washington State Historical Society with a display table at the Olympia Farmer’s Market September 13, the starting point for a walking tour of Native American historic sites downtown.  Our next general membership meeting will be in October at the Masonic Lodge on North Street in Tumwater, marking the lodge’s 160 years in our area.  Also in October, the next Thurston County Through the Decades event will take place in Tumwater.  More details to follow.

Board member Brian Tomlinson, who did such a great job on May’s Thurston County Through the Decades event, tells us he will be resigning from the Board.  His new job takes him away so often that he can’t reliably attend Board meetings.  We’ll miss Brian, and now we need another dedicated OHS member to step forward so we can maintain the Bylaws-prescribed minimum of seven members.  (See Tim Ransom’s article, below.)

Finally:  In the Spring newsletter I noted the 10th anniversary of OHS’ incorporation.  We’d been sensing that our own history was getting away from us, and the topic interested me so much that I took it on myself.  Part One of “Origins of the Olympia Historical Society follows. Thanks to Susan Goff for access to her beautifully-organized files from the OHS Collection!

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