Friday, November 21, 2014

Random bits of Whidbey Island History

I was digging a bit into the history of the water front area of Oak Harbor related to a project I was working on and came across a couple of unrelated but interesting bits on the history of Whidbey Island by David Wilma at

"The settlers learned to dose deer carcasses with strychnine and the wolves eventually became extinct on Whidbey Island."

A good reminder as to how wide spread wolves were and that returning to some natural condition ecosystem may not be so easy without a top predator keeping the deer population in check.

"Sea Captain Edward Barrington and Charlie Phillips opened a trading post at Oak Harbor in the early 1850s because he did not want to paddle a canoe two days to Olympia for supplies. Barrington became an important intermediary between whites and Indians when disputes arose. Local legend holds that Barrington, a large man with red hair and beard, confronted a group of raiding Northern Indians. Barrington showed the invaders his fear of no one by destroying a nearby Skagit burial canoe and placing a skull on a stick. He then began to dance and then rushed the raiders. They fled in panic and Barrington saved himself and local Skagits from death and enslavement. Northern Indians never again bothered Oak Harbor."

This legend does conjure an entertaining visual impression. What is definitely true is that northern Indians did routinely raid this area and had been for some time including in the 1850s. One of these raids near present day Port Gamble likely played a major role in the outcome of the Yakama War. The U.S. Navy fired on the invading Indians. North Puget Sound and Washington tribes were not receptive to the idea of joining the Yakama War in part due to appreciation of defense from the invading northern Indians. Barrington may have played some role in repelling an attack, but cannon fire from the U.S. Navy likely put an end to the northern Indian raids.   

1 comment:

Robin said...

One of the US Navy's counter-raids on the Haida involved a Gatling gun. I'm told the local Salish stood on the beach and cheered. (Fair enough, given thousands of years of death and destruction at Northern hands.)

The disappearance of wolves in Western Washington coincides with the appearance and proliferation of coyotes, which are not native to that environment. By extension, it's also responsible for the rapidly-proceeding extinction of the Olympic marmot, which was effusively populous in the mountains when I was a kid. Coyotes love to eat marmots. Wolves rarely do, but they do eat coyotes.

Basic algebra.

Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit