Tag Archives: family

Echtle, (Re)Discover Bigelow House!

Ed Echtle, President of Bigelow House Preservation Association

As those familiar with local history know, the Bigelow House Museum on Olympia’s east side is the oldest surviving home in town. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, more recent homes now obscure its former prominence overlooking the town. What many don’t know is the home not only showcases original antique furnishings and décor, it also holds the personal records of the Bigelow family, offering a window into more than 150 years of local, state and national history. To better understand the significance of these materials, a brief overview of Bigelow House Museum is in order.

Daniel Bigelow and Ann Elizabeth White traveled the Oregon Trail separately in 1851.  Twenty-eight year old Daniel came on his own as a recent graduate of Harvard Law School, looking for opportunity. Ann Elizabeth arrived with her family at age 15. By 1854 she was working as one of the first schoolteachers in Washington. That year she met and married Daniel and they began married life together on Daniel’s claim, across the bay from downtown.

Daniel’s time in the Boston area exposed him to many social and political causes he adopted as his own. He became a lifelong advocate of female suffrage, public education and equal treatment under the law for non-whites. Together, Daniel and Ann Elizabeth worked throughout their lives to ensure their community and their government embraced these values as well. While Daniel served in the first three legislatures—and later for a term in 1871—Ann Elizabeth was active in the Methodist Church and other social organizations, including the Olympia Women’s Club, the first founded on the west coast.  As key participants, they kept extensive documentation of their part in these activities.

By the time Daniel passed away in 1905, the Bigelows were venerated pioneers, consulted by the press and historians for their insights on the founding of Washington and their opinions on current affairs. After Daniel’s death, Ann Elizabeth, an accomplished businesswoman in her own right, managed their extensive land holdings until her death in 1926. The eight children they raised in the house also went on to become prominent in local affairs. Their youngest son, George, followed his father into law practice and served as Olympia’s city attorney. Among his many accomplishments, George Bigelow was instrumental in securing Priest Point as a city park for Olympia.

George’s son Daniel was born in their home just above the old Bigelow place in 1911. He too became a lawyer and in 1935 married Mary Ann Campbell. In their early married life, they lived upstairs in Bigelow House, while Daniel’s aunts Margaret and Ruth lived downstairs. After their passing, Daniel and Mary Ann modernized the house to make it their own. However, by the 1950s, people interested in the history of the house began asking the Bigelows for tours. Mary Ann and Daniel graciously opened their home and many individuals, school classes, church groups, and others visited to learn stories of the past. Mary Ann especially embraced the family’s history and used her talent for storytelling and music to bring the past alive.

As Daniel and Mary Ann aged, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the house. By the 1990s developers were offering them substantial sums for the homestead. In response, the Bigelows partnered with friends and neighbors to preserve the house as a museum. While the city was reluctant to manage a museum, it facilitated a loan for the purchase of Bigelow House by the newly formed Bigelow House Preservation Association (BHPA). After BHPA purchased Bigelow House, it undertook a year-long renovation, returning the home to its territorial era appearance inside and out. The Museum opened for tours in 1994. Within a few years BHPA repaid the loan from the city as well.

Meanwhile, Daniel and Mary Ann retained a life-estate in the house where they continued to host visitors and tours until their deaths in 2005. Since then, Bigelow House is fully open as a private non-profit museum, providing visitors a look into middle-class domestic life in the Pacific Northwest prior to Washington statehood.

As OHS and Bigelow House move toward a merger in 2014, not only will OHS finally have a place to call home, but Bigelow House will take on a larger role, beyond the story of one family. In coming years, records stored in the house will become a part of the growing OHS collection of materials that will be available for researchers through the new organization. As the combined Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum enters their next phase, the Bigelow House will continue the role established by its builders Daniel and Ann Elizabeth as a place where community can look to its past to gain perspective on its present and future.

Note: you can also find more information on the Bigelow House and the White and Bigelow families on our website at Where Are We?

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Partlow: Meet a Family: The Streets and Partlows of West Olympia

Written by Janet Partlow, a descendant of the Streets and Partlow families

Streets_RalphRalph Raymond Streets was born in Brockville, Ontario (on the St. Lawrence seaway) in 1870.  His father John Streets had emigrated to Canada in 1865 from Lincolnshire, England.  John was a shoemaker, and taught the trade to his son, but Ralph had bigger ambitions.  At age 17, he left home for San Diego.

Ralph got to California in  1888, where he met and married Pearl Griswold  (her parents were Ida Wyman and Julius Griswold of  New England Puritan stock). In 1890 he got his American citizenship.  He started working in the lumber trade,  then he and his family went to San Francisco, where their only child Elizabeth was born in 1893.  They flourished in San Francisco, and he continued to rise in the ranks of the lumber business. Sadly in 1902, Pearl died;  Elizabeth was sent to live with her aunt in Nebraska, and Ralph moved to Olympia, taking a steamer ship from San Francisco to Percival landing in November 1902.

westside_millRalph bought and managed the West Side Mill company.  Later he became a vice-president in  another Olympia waterfront lumber company;  he lived on site at 1306 West Bay Drive, near where the old Hardel company was most recently located.During this time he created the Oldport Kennels, where he raised and sold Airedales.

He remarried in 1904 to Susan Porter;  at this point Elizabeth rejoined the family in Olympia.  Daughters Janet, Suzanne and Mary Louise followed, all born in Olympia.  With a larger family, they needed more house room, so around 1912, Ralph had a house built above the Deschutes estuary (today’s Capitol lake). This house still stands today at 2004 Water Street.

By 1915, the family moved back to San Francisco, except daughter Elizabeth, who stayed to finish her senior year at Olympia High School.  She then married Verne Austin Partlow, Sr and the couple settled in Olympia, where they lived out the rest of their lives.

On his retirement in 1936 from the Little River Redwood Company of California, Ralph and Susan moved back to Seattle, where he died in 1941.


Dr . HW Partlow was born in Eagle, Michigan in 1863 of parents Almond and Mary (Blake) Partlow. He was descended from Scots emigrant John Partelo, who settled on the Hudson river just before the Revolutionary War. John was a Loyalist; the events of the war forced his family to move to the Eastern townships of lower Canada, while his descendants eventually left Canada, moving first into Vermont and New York, and later west to Michigan.

HW was raised on a farm, but as a young man he worked in a drug store, which eventually led him to Detroit Medical College and a career as a physician. He moved to Olympia around August 1908 and continued his general medical practice until his death in 1938.
He was married to Ellen Slattery in 1886 and they had four children: Beulah (Robertson), Kenneth, Verne and Katherine (Draham).

slattery_nellEllen Matilda Slattery Partlow was born in 1864 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin of Irish potato famine emigrant parent Catherine MacSweeney Slattery and her Canadian Irish husband John Slattery.

Ellen worked as a milliner; also as a skilled musician (piano) she played for events, which is where she met her husband to be H. W. Partlow. They were married in 1886; they left Eagle, Michigan for Shawano, Wisconsin where he established a medical practice.
They moved to Olympia in the summer of 1908, bringing with them their four children Beulah (Robertson), Kenneth, Verne and Katherine (Draham). Ellen was active in the social and philanthropical life of Olympia. She continued to play and teach piano.
She died in 1953 in Olympia.

This is a continuing newsletter series
that will help you become acquainted with some of the families whose
names you see in our local history, neighborhoods, and street signs.
Their intentional brevity will hopefully pique your curiosity and
consequent research. We welcome contributions from our members and
friends. For additional links to the members of other Olympia area families, please see
the Names section of the website. 

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Blankenship: Meet the Yantises and Blankenships

Ralph Blankenship

In October of 1852 Sarah Y Yantis rode into Olympia with her father B.F. Yantis and 7 brothers and sisters in their covered wagon. They left from Saline County, Missouri where B.F. had been a superior court judge. Sadly B.F.s wife died during the difficult journey to Olympia. B.F. and family homesteaded on Bush Prairie, ran an early stage line to Cowlitz Landing, and was a legislator, among other things.

To add confusion to our early family history A.S. Yantis, B.F.s brother, arrived in Olympia about the same time. He also had a daughter named Sarah who in turn had her own daughter named Sarah. They settled in the Skookumchuck Valley near Bucoda.

sarah_y_blankenship_smallSarah Y married 28 year old Abram Benton Moses on April 11, 1855 at 20 years of age. This was during the Indian War of 1855/1856. AB Moses, a militia volunteer and former Thurston County Sheriff, was shot and killed on October 31, 1855 during surprise attack on his patrol near Bonney Lake. It was for this killing that Leschi was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged. To this day this trial and conviction are controversial from many points of view.

george_c_blankenshipsmallThe widow Sarah Y Moses subsequently married George C Blankenship on May 22, 1857. George C our great grandfather arrived in Olympia, a single man, in July of 1853. He also served in the militia and followed AB Moses steps to become the Thurston County Sheriff in the late 1850s. It is said that while he held Yelm Jim in custody that he had this gentle man babysit for his first son with Sarah, our great uncle, George E Blankenship.

George E was followed by Frank Y Blankenship (died at 6), and then Robert L Blankenship our grandfather. George E was a newspaper reporter and book author. His wife Georgianna also was a book author (Tillicum Tales later republished as Early History of Thurston County) and suffragist as well.

[Robert Blankenship with bicycle] Robert L married Elizabeth Savage to carry on our family. Robert L had three children, Betty (had son Bobby), Robert (died at 9), and Nathaniel (our dad). Robert L and Ed Winstanly formed “Winstanly & Blankenship” a partnership that continued through two generations and around 90 years. It ran the Smokeshop that was located on Capitol Way between 4th and 5th (now Olympia Federal Savings). Robert L also was an early Commodore of the Olympia Yacht Club.

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Fenske: Captain Calvin Hale and his House on Tullis Street

Captain Calvin Hale and his House on Tullis Street

by Lois J. Fenske

There is a unique house on the corner of Tullis and Pine streets in North East Olympia.  According to the description from the City of Olympia:  “This charming Queen Anne-style cottage was built for Captain Calvin Hale and his second wife, Pamela Case Hale in 1882.  The Hale House, though small in scale, captures all the spirited elements of the popular Queen Anne style: irregular profile and floor plan, steeply pitched roof, large front porch, elaborate use of fancy shingles, turned posts and other decorative millwork.”

It is currently a private residence as it was when it was built in 1882.  The unpretentious house is listed on the National and Washington State Registers of Historic Places as well as the Olympia Heritage Register.

Calvin Henry Hale was born 26 June 1818 in Norridgewock, Somerset County, Maine.  His father was Ebenezer Hale (1784-1861) and his mother was Ann Dinsmore (1788-1861).

Captain Hale was a master seaman and boat builder.  He married Waitstill Look in about 1841.  According to the 1850 census, they lived in Lincolnville, Waldo County, Maine with two sons, Henry Calvin, born 25 September 1842, and Samuel Look, born in 1846.  They had a daughter, Nancy A., born in late 1850, after the census was taken.

In 1851 Captain Hale, his wife and three young children decided to head west, but not overland.  They boarded a ship that took the family around Cape Horn to Olympia where he obtained a 320 acre donation land claim in North East Olympia.

In all of the federal, state and territorial census from 1860 on, Captain Hale was listed as a farmer (or agriculturist or horticulturist), but he made much more of an impact on his new home in Olympia than just as a farmer.

Captain Hale had been a legislator in Maine and he became active in local affairs soon after his arrival in Olympia.  In 1852 he attended the Monticello Convention and served in the first territorial legislature. At one time, he was the Thurston County Coroner and was on the Olympia City Council.  He also helped establish the Puget Sound Wesleyan Institute, the first school of higher education in the State.  (The original building still exists near the Capital Campus and is used as a private residence.)  Captain Hale was also on the first Board of Regents of the University of Washington.

In 1862, Captain Hale was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to the post of Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Washington and Idaho Territories.  In this capacity he was involved in the Treaty of 1863 with the Nez Perce tribe, among many other treaties over the years.

These were busy years for Captain Hale and Waitstill, Calvin with his local civic duties, his Indian Affairs responsibilities, and, of course, being a farmer.

Waitstill died 4 December 1870 and had been bedridden during the last six years of her life, having injured her spine in a fall.

On 17 August 1872, Captain Hale married Mrs. Pamela C. Case. They had one child, a son, Paul Eaton Hale, born in 1873.  Pamela was a respected school teacher, an astute busiiness woman and a founding member of the Olympia Woman’s Club.  In 1882, she became the first woman ever elected as Thurston County’s Superintendent of Public Schools.

1882 was also the year that the Hales had their house on Tullis Street built.  Captain Hale was only able to enjoy the house for five years.  He died in 1887.

Take a Sunday drive and look at this delightful little house.  It is worth saving for Olympia and the state’s and nation’s historic value.



Various federal, state and territorial census.

Internet, City of Olympia’s Historic Places.

Internet, Monticello Convenstion Commemoration, Calvin Henry Hale.

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Bret: Living with the Pioneers

Living with the Pioneers

by Elizabeth Bret with photographs from her personal collection,

When I was asked to write about what it  was like living with the Percivals I wasn’t sure how to begin.  I was six years old when we left Santa Monica, my mother driving me and  my 15 year old brother Ross  in our car stuffed with our possessions up to my grandparents house on Water Street. It was 1931. My grandmother had visited us several times in California.  She had told me stories of Olympia and my grandfather and I was excited to see  “Grandmama” again and to meet  “Granddaddy” for the first time .

My great grandfather, Captain Sam W. Percival, had forsaken the sea in 1853 to become an entrepreneur of several businesses in the new little town.  When my grandfarther  John Percival was  16 he was put in  charge of running one of them, the  Percival’s dock, which he did for the rest of his life. But that is another story. Another sea captain from England, Charles Grainger, had settled in Olympia around the same time. His daughter, Elizabeth, was my grandmother. John and Elizabeth had two daughters, my aunt Marjorie and my mother Lorraine.


As we drove up to the curb in front of the house on Water Street, between 16th and 17th, both grandparents came out to greet us along with a bald man who my mother seemed to know. He was introduced as Mr. Rankin.  It was many years later my brother told me the Rankins had been  friends of my grandparents.  Mrs. Rankin had died and my grandparents had  invited him to stay with them until he resettled. As it turned out he stayed for thirty years until he died a few years after we arrived on the scene.

My grandfather looked exactly like the pictures I see of him today.  Always dressed in a suit  with a rather high starched shirt collar and often a bow tie.  His thick steel grey hair parted in the middle, topped a kindly face.  I started babbling to him and following him around the house when my grandmother told me that he was deaf and could not hear me.   I soon learned  If I shouted he could hear me and he could hear if adults spoke loudly.  In those days hearing aids were monstrous  ineffective contrivances.

My grandmother had the erect posture of the Victorian woman. How one walked  was a judging point in her eyes. An accolade for someone would be “She has beautiful carriage.”  Because I was tall she was constantly admonishing me for any sign of slumping   She resembled the Queen Mother Mary of England, grandmother of the current Queen.  I’m sure she was aware of it.  She wore the small pillbox style hats Queen Mary wore.   Her long white hair swept up in a French twist at  the back of her head. intensified her sparkling blue eyes.   I have a picture of her in her early nineties still standing tall and straight in her black suit and the pill box hat, looking very formidable although she was only about five foot five.


Mrs John Percival  in her late eighties

Mrs John Percival  in her late eighties


We quickly adjusted to the household routine.  Every morning Granddaddy would  put on his hat and swinging his cane would go for a jaunty walk down Capitol Way to the dock.  At lunchtime he would go to the Olympia Oyster House for his favorite oyster stew.  In the late afternoon he would take the bus back (uphill) and first thing  would open a can of salmon to feed his cat, Smokey. Can you imagine! Occasionally on Fridays he would come home with a bucket of Olympia oysters for our dinner. After dinner he would play solitaire at the dining room table. Later he would teach me to play checkers on the chess table.  I wasn’t very good and he would chuckle as he won the game.



Capt. Sam W. Percival House Taken 8-8-1888 at 8 o’clock

My brother, who loved boats, went with him often to his office, the  walls of which were completely covered with photos of various ships.   My brother had worked months building a scale model of Old Ironsides. the USS Constitution.  My grandfather took it to his office and  Noyes Talcott, a friend of my mother’s, displayed it in his jewelry shop window when the famous ship came to Olympia on its world tour.


Grandmama  began working on my manners which weren’t up to her standards yet and soon had me visit her friend Mrs. Lord up the street a few blocks to “the Lord Mansion” (the current state capitol museum) to test out the manners lesson.         “Remember when she comes in the room, you stand up and don’t sit down until she does. When I introduce you you say how do you do, Mrs. Lord” .and look at her face.  After passing that, table manners came next. First the cutlery and when to use it and other esoteric skills, such as  slicing off the top of a soft boiled egg in an egg cup.  To this day I  can put a Samurai to shame with my egg topping.

Mrs. Lord’s daughter lived in California so I apparently substituted for her grand daughter.  She would occasionally invite me to stay the night especially on Hallowe’en when she opened her house to all children to come in and perform…. dance, recite something, play the piano, whatever.  Any effort was rewarded with a small present –mostly candy.  In the summer time she would move to her summer house near Butler’s Cove just south of the Country Club. Once my grandmother and I were invited for dinner and I was to spend the night.  After dessert  her maid carried  in  a silver tray with one stick of gum on it for Mrs. Lord.  I was not allowed to chew gum so this was impressive but Grandmama explained the doctor had prescribed it for her digestion.


The ‘Darning Club” met on a regular basis. The women had been friends since young brides.  Besides Mrs. Lord was Mrs. Ingham, Mrs. Mills (Mills Funeral Home) Mrs. Bridges, and several others whose names I cannot remember.  They would meet at each others houses and have lunch and then darn or sew and chat away the afternoon.  On the days  Grandmama was hostess Granddaddy left earlier than usual and I played outside with the kids from the neighborhood..  However I was expected to come in  and speak to each of the ladies.  I remember once they were discussing a book , “Oil for the Lamps of China.”

When the  club met in a house on the bay I was always invited to come too and go swimming and bring a friend.  If the house wasn’t within walking distance  Mrs. Lord, who had a chauffeur named Ben, would pick us up.  Grandmama also played bridge with some other ladies  on a regular basis.  Through the prism of childhood it seems life in those days was more leisurely.  The depression was the reason  given for my not having some things I dearly wanted…..a Shirley Temple doll, a bike, otherwise I wasn’t aware of the turmoil in the country . The occasional “tramp” (today we call them homeless)  would appear asking for food and my grandmother would fix a sack lunch for him. We never saw “tramps” otherwise. They kept to the woods and the railroad tracks.  Once a very old lady came to the door selling packages of needles for ten cents.  My grandmother was very distressed about that.

Grandmama wasn’t  a great cook.  When my mother was growing up their home had been somewhere where the capitol grounds are today. They had a Chinese man named Toy who did the cooking and a lot of other things. But he had gone back to China “to die.”  So we had English fare…..roast beef or lamb and lots of peas with mint sauce and creamed potatoes.

After my mother moved to Seattle  I spent every school vacation with my grandparents until in high school when I had a summer job.  My brother meanwhile at age 17 had shipped out on a Luckenbach merchant ship helped by my grandfather and was gone for a year. As the war built up he became a merchant seaman,

There were a number of items in the house, a chest, some chairs and the piano  with red satin behind the delicate wooden carving on the front which had “come around the horn,”which meant they had come by ship around South America from   Massachusetts, from Captain Sam’s and Lurana’s  home.   It had great significance to them.  I started piano lessons from Mrs. Partlow and I practiced and practiced on that piano. It was sadly out of tune.  Granddaddy  had been in the Olympia Band as a young man and had been  quite a musician so was lucky to be deaf  and not suffer the twanging.  But not deaf enough apparently.  One vacation I came back and he had tuned the piano and was so pleased I  had noticed, when I shouted “thank you for fixing the piano!” As a footnote I ended up with the piano in California and kept it in storage until the owner of Denny’s Restaurants bought  it since he was a collector of antique musical instruments.

On Thursday  Grandaddy  would leave after dinner and go to the movie theater downtown. They had hearing impaired devices of some sort and they had a game, maybe Bingo, which  he played. I don’t recall his ever winning anything.

On Sunday my grandmother would take me with her as she walked to the  Episcopal Church which was where the current Baptist Church is now I believe.  She always sat in  “the Percival pew” which was next to the window with a brass plaque  honoring Sam’s wife Lurana.

There were two things I can think of that totally upset my Grandmother. One was the tearing down of the original Sam W. Percival home at the east end of 4th Street Bridge in 1937. It had even once served as the temporary Governor’s manse.  And the other was newspaper stories about Wallis Simpson who was marrying the Prince of Wales. She never spoke her name, only referring to her as “that woman” for ever more.

As W.W. II was developing overseas, my grandparents would sit by the radio (my grandfather cupping his ear) after dinner, in order to hear Edward R. Murrow reporting from London  with the sounds of the bombs dropping  in the distance and  in his sonorous voice …”and that’s it from London, good night and good luck”.


I wish I knew so much more about my grandparents.  If only I could ask those questions today. Therefore  my memories are from conversations overheard. One was how Sam Percival had been logging on Squaxin Island for his mill at Tumwater and had fallen from a tree breaking  his leg.  The Indians had bundled him up in a blanket and paddled him home by canoe , bringing him up to the house and unrolling the blanket on the floor.

Once I heard them speak about Lurana Percival’s  walk across the isthmus of Panama when returning to Olympia from  Massachusetts. Her sister had died in childbirth.  Lurana, carrying the newborn baby, chose to cut out the arduous five month trip around the horn and  instead rode a mule and walked  through the jungles and heat to catch a boat on the other coast.  But that  too, is another story.

Another  was about the time Grandmama and her two daughters were  on the steamship,The Queen, when it caught fire off  the entrance to the Columbia River. It was February 1904.They were returning home from a trip to California.  Everyone was ordered off the ship but my grandmother refused and stayed in their cabin until the captain came to her and said “Mrs Percival, I will charge you with mutiny unless you leave the ship.”  The daughter of a ship’s captain understood that and they went to the lifeboats.  As luck would have it the boat tipped over as it was being lowered throwing them all in the water.  As they clung to an oar for quite some time in the icy water my grandmother admonished the two girls to stop crying and to act with  bravery. Obviously they were rescued but fourteen others were not so lucky


My grandfather died at age 82 in 1942. It was only then after reading the editorial in the Daily Olympian dedicated to my grandfather that I realized who the Percivals were and the part they played in the development of Olympia. It mentioned the honor and integrity of those days when contracts were sealed with a handshake and the part John Percival and the Percival dock had played in the history of Olympia along with the other early pioneers. There were more stories about him in the Marine Magazines calling him “the Dean of the Sound.”  While reading old books and papers I have come to admire the toughness and fortitude, the character and ethics of those early citizens who created “our town.”

After several years my grandmother sold the house and went to live in Los Angeles with my aunt Marjorie and came home to Olympia in the summers  to  the Olympian Hotel traveling back and forth on a Greyhound bus.   There were still some of the Darning Club left .  We exchanged letters weekly and she would write of an active social life going to a “sherry tea” or  luncheons .

I lived in California then and luckily my children had a chance to know their beloved “GiGi,”  now in her early nineties.   She came to visit us often  and always arrived bringing  gingerbread men from  Van de Camp’s bakery. She continued to read and keep up with the news. Our friends enjoyed her company. We would ask her to stay and linger longer  but she would go back to L.A. saying she wouldn’t outstay her welcome.   She died in L.A. in 1962 at age 98.

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