THE PACIFIC COAST OF ALASKA FROM SEATTLE TO DIXON ENTRANCE (Historic Information)
Seattle is the gateway, and the "Inside Passage" the highway, to Alaska; therefore we will begin at Seattle, pointing out some of the most interesting places and events on the way from Seattle to Dixon Entrance as a prelude.
Early in the summer of 1908 my wife and self left Seattle on a cruise along the coast and among the islands northward to Cross Sound and Sitka, gathering information on the way for my Alaska books, including this one.
In the Alaska boom days of 1897-98 every kind of cheap, questionable craft was employed for the rush to the North, and as they left the Seattle docks they whistled long and loudly. Friends of the departing waved or sobbed a feeling last farewell.
Not so now, when almost every boat is safe and comfortable, and many of them even luxuriantly equipped for the Alaska trade.
The arrival and departure of Alaska boats is a daily occurrence both winter and summer, causing no more excitement than the coming or going of one of our transcontinental trains.
Jingle, jingle, jingle! and we backed away. Jingle, jingle! we stopped. Jingle! we started northward from the dock at Seattle for Alaska. These little signal bells from the captain were about the only audible sounds heard or made on our large boat, bearing two hundred passengers, in getting her off for the voyage.
Swiftly we plowed our way up sound. Occasionally our boat gave a short toot and we passed on our port side: or two toots, and we passed on our starboard side an approaching steamer.
In the pioneer days of Mediterranean commerce the steersman sat in the stern of the craft and held in his hand a steerboard, which he used on his right to steer the boat. It is almost impossible for a "landlubber" to remember which is starboard and which port, but if he can recall the position of the steersman he will have the starboard on his right looking forward.
As we steamed up Puget Sound we passed several suburban villages, then Everett and Bellingham. cities of thirty thousand each, where some of the largest lumber and shingle mills in the world are located, and Anacortes, the headquarters for many large fisheries, to our right.
On our port side was the home land of Chief Seattle and his people, a miserable remnant of which may be found on the Port Madison Reserve near by. A little farther westward and across Hood's Canal is Jimmicum Valley, in which lived the Jimmicum tribe, once powerful, of which but one full-blood now survives. Mr. Bishop, a member of the Legislature of the State of Washington for years, lives in and owns much of the fertile valley. He is an intelligent and wealthy man. His mother was one of these natives, whom his father, a white man, married at a time when all the whites here could be counted on your fingers.
In the summer of 1852 the first settlers took up donation land claims where Seattle now stands, living meanwhile at Alki Point.
Across the Sound, about twenty miles away, lived Chief Seattle with his -daughter Angeline (ever the friends of the whites), in perhaps the largest tribe house ever erected by Indians on the Coast, being about a fifth of a mile long.
The next year a sawmill was erected and Seattle platted; the next a post-office was established, and the third a church erected. From that time to this the Seattle spirit has never left the city, and instead of adding annual improvements, they became semi-annual, monthly, weekly and daily, until now the city-doubles in population and wealth about every three years. The coming census will show that it has made greater progress than any other city in the United States, and that it now has a quarter million population or more.
There were troubles in the early days, however. The Indians, apparently friendly, secretly conspired with the Klikitats from over the mountains against the whites, and made a concerted attack, ending in a retreat after they were shelled by the Decatur then lying in the harbor 1856.
This was the first and last stand of the Siwash; he went back to digging clams, and is digging clams still. When the sloop of war Decatur hailed shot and canister among the trees on the first hill (now the very center of the city), among the Klikitats, they could not understand the phenomenon! and fled in terror. It is said they returned home on a run, without stopping to camp. They never formed any more conspiracies with the Siwash to fight the whites.
In later years came the fire which destroyed the business part of the city. Then the financial panic, which checked its growth. But out of every calamity and vicissitude came a more vigorous development.
Half of the mining population of Alaska live, or at least winter, in Seattle. A large part of the gold is invested here, and the head office of every large Alaskan industry is here.
On March 8, 1791, officers of the British crown commissioned and instructed Captain George Vancouver to survey the western coast of America from 30 degrees north latitude northward. In 1 792 he explored and named about every part of Puget Sound. (See "Vancouver's Discovery of Puget Sound," by Professor Meany of University of Washington; "Pioneer Days on Puget Sound," by Arthur A. Denny, and "Indian War of 1855-56," by Alice Harriman.)
At Port Townsend the boys had a juvenile attack of the Seattle Spirit. Although they were not allowed to come aboard, they did a good business in gum, lemons, etc., by means of a net at the end of a long pole. We took on a good supply for our feminine pedagogues, and expected cases of seasickness.
Port Townsend is the Port of Entry, and our townsman, Fred Harper, the Collector of Customs. The custom receipts of but few ports in the United Stales are larger.
For 1908 the customs officer reports that Alaska exported to the United Stales (including Klondike) $21,087,798 in gold and silver (almost two million more than the year before). At the same time Alaska exported to the United Stales through this district $12,255,255, practically all fish and fur. During the same lime, through this district, we exported to Alaska $18,000,000, mostly food and machinery. These figures will serve to give some idea of the immense Alaska trade on Puget Sound now annually. The total gold of Alaska and the Klondike to date approximates $250,000,000.
Port Townsend has a population of about 7,000, and 2,000 soldiers are quartered at Forts Warden, Casey and Flagler nearby.
One of the largest and best blocks of standing limber in the United States occupies the Olympic Peninsula, toward which several large railroads are now building. The rainfall on the north side of the Olympic Mountains is light, and the climate is almost perfect all the year.
Formidable defenses and powerful modern guns face every side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (named in honor of its supposed discoverer, Juan de Fuca, a Greek, in 1592, just two hundred years ahead of Vancouver). The combined navies of the world could not force their way past these forts; neither
could an enemy enter Puget Sound without corning within their range. All the forts can he commanded from either one by cable, phone, telegraph, signal or wireless. The waters are so charted that a gunner can fire accurately in fog or at an unseen enemy. The hig guns disappear behind impenetrable walls of stone, earth and concrete, where they can be reloaded and protected after they have been discharged.
Behind Port Townsend is the detention island, on the tops of the hills and forts are wireless instruments for commercial and government use, and out at the entrance of the straits is Tattoosh Island, with its wire and wireless telegraphs, busy informing the world in general and government in particular of all craft going in and coming out of this doorway to the commercial ports of the Northwest. This old tide-washed, storm-beaten Tattoosh Island is the advance guard. Its honeycombed, water-made caves were homes, graves or hiding places for the natives hundreds of years ago, and will bear their marks long after they have ceased to exist. Some time it may be necessary to strengthen the island with concrete.
The long Cascade Range to the East, and Olympic Group to the West, sitting in an evergreen forest primeval; the snow-robed, sky-piercing Ranier to the South and Baker in the North; the beautiful brown, rugged San Juan Islands at the East end of the straits and boundless Pacific at the West; the blue waters of the Sound, framed at its egdes with the white spray of the breakers and on the banks with the dark green ferns, fir and cedar, makes one ofthe most beautiful pictures of nature to be found on the face of the earth.
The Canadian steamers going to the States and ours going to Canada pass and repass with friendly salutes. These, mingling with others of all nations, make this a busy marine thoroughfare.
In the afternoon and evening of the first day out, with the aid of glasses, we recognized the Parliament Buildings, C. P. R. Hotel and Lord Dunsmuir Castle at Victoria. The day was still light when we passed Vancouver, near which the Fraser River empties. On September 30, 1908. the citizens of New Westminster erected a monument to Simon Fraser, who discovered the river one hundred years before.
Alexander McKenzie crossed the upper waters of this river in 1793 on his way across the continent, but he thought it was, and reported it to be. the Columbia.
I believe this river produces more good commercial salmon than any other in the world. There are dozens of salmon rivers and creeks on this Coast and in Alaska, but this one should bear the name.
The Strait of de Fuca was a little rough until after we passed behind Vancouver Island, although no cases of seasickness developed. However, a few timid ones from the interior of the States went to bed. sucked lemons, shut their eyes and waited in vain for the feeling to come, and at times declared that they felt a certain internal uneasiness never felt before, but at last were half ashamed and half disappointed.
The day was a perfect one. Of all the grandeur of this matchless panorama. Mount Baker at one end and Mount Rainier at the other were the grandest and most awe producing, not even excepting the blue, boundless ocean.
The sunset was typically western, golden and beautiful; the night clear and warm; the water smooth, absorbing the colors of the sky and reflecting the trees from the bank; the songs and laughter had died down; the blanket-robed tourists had left the upper deck; lunch was over, and but few persons were to be seen in the cabins when we retired to our stateroom at the close of the first day. Nothing was heard but the swish of the water at the prow, and the chug, chug, chug of the propeller aft. Everything was conducive to sound, restful slumber.
We lay in our berth and mused: Is this the land and these the waters of Malonado, Fuca, Fonte, Gali, Drake and others, whose mythical reports and claims of discoveries are seriously questioned? Are these poor, dirty Siwashes the natives Fuca reported here as being "dressed in skins, rich with gold, silver, pearls, etc."? How long have these natives inhabited this Coast? They are not red men; they do not belong to the family of Indians eastward. Where did they originate? How long since these titanic cloud-capped peaks were smoking volcanoes?
It was an even hundred years from the discovery of America by Columbus to Fuca's purported discovery of the Straits, and another even two hundred years (1792) until the discovery of the Puget Sound by Vancouver, and yet another hundrded years before it was settled by white men. If the early explorers left monuments they have never been found. The natives have no tradition of them, and students of history will always question their fabulous claims. While John Mears and George Vancouver doubted Fuca's discoveries, they nevertheless honored them by giving the strait his name.
Steam and gases still arise from the craters of Mount Baker and the temperature, taken in 1908, in the crater of Mount Rainier registered 109 degrees. Every year new islands and volcanoes are born among the Aleutian Islands. Two years ago the streets of Nome were covered with volcanic ashes; lava in recent years flowed freely in the gorges of the Naas River, so that these great peaks not many centuries in the past were violent vents for a cooling range. Extensive mounds, not unlike those of the Mound Builders, are well known on Vancouver Island, mutely testifying to a pre-historic man. Last summer a stone ax was found under a tree on Hood's Canal; the growth of the tree showed over six hundred years. Other implements have been found among the shell beds of the San Juan Islands and elsewhere, so placed as to indicate that they had been there a thousand years or more. It is very evident that when the people of Europe were still savages the Siwash, or their Mongolian ancestors, made their home within view of the grandest and loftiest mountain in the United States, Mount Rainier.
Mexico has its Popocatepetl, Naples its Vesuvius, California its Shasta, and Japan its Fusiyama, but Puget Sound has its Rainier, the noblest of them all.
In passing up Georgia Gulf one sees here and there a farm, cannery, tumble-down Indian village or settlement, but always an unbroken forest of fir and hemlock.