History in the making

Earliest known photo of Friday Harbor, circa 1880s - Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Fox, SJ Historical Society,  U of W Archives, HistoryLink
Earliest known photo of Friday Harbor, circa 1880s
— image credit: Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Fox, SJ Historical Society, U of W Archives, HistoryLink

Could any time be better than the dark days and long nights of winter to fire up the computer and curl up with an intriguing online article? Probably not.

And if local history is your thing, boy, are you in luck. If not, you really ought to consider taking an extended cruise through the free online encyclopedia of Washington state history, You might get hooked. There you’ll find a treasure trove of articles about Washington history and a growing list of stories about the history of the San Juan Islands as well.Friday Harbor frontier saloon

The HistoryLink website is used daily by more than 5,000 students, teachers, journalists, scholars, government and business researchers, and tourists, as well as the general public. It recently added four stories written by island authors under the umbrella of the local “Writing Our History Project,” a countywide collaborative writing project launched in May.

Virgil FritzTown of Friday Harbor Preservation Coordinator Sandy Strehlou, co-founder of the project along with Liz Illg, said the goal of the writing project is to develop well-researched and well-documented articles about local history, add to the historical record and expand on some of the lesser known but equally important island episodes, events and personalities. By partnering with HistoryLink, Strehlou said, the local project can piggy-back on the non-profit’s online presence and its editorial expertise, and present the stories of island history to an extremely wide audience.

HistoryLink subscribers receive a weekly newsletter highlighting recent additions and events from “this day in history.” Subscriptions are free.

Strehlou said fundraising ideas are in the works to help finance the Writing our History partnership with HistoryLink, and that more essays on island history are expected soon, such as the history of Friday Harbor’s waterfront, American Camp, the Land Bank, the lime kilns of Ocean (Orcas Island), journalist Virgil Frits, notable doctors and providers of health services on San Juan Island, to name only a few.

Below are excerpts from three of the recent San Juan Islands contributions to HistoryLink:

Thank God It’s Still Friday!

By the late Brenda C. Pratt, originally published in the San Juan Historical Museum’s 2003 newsletter.

“It is possible that Friday’s name was Poalima. He was born on Oahu, in 1830, according to the 1880 San Juan Island Census. His Hawaiian name has been written as “Poalie,” though this word has no meaning in the Hawaiian language, and therefore was most probably “Poalima,” which translates as “Friday.” This would have been his only given name due to his class in Hawaiian society. During his employment with Hudson’s Bay Company from 1841 to 1860, he is referred to as “Friday” only.”

A Town Called Richardson

By Kathi and Woody Ciskowski

“Richardson was blessed with a deep-water harbor. The town played an important role in shipping lucrative island produce to mainland markets. This was before government-sponsored irrigation projects increased agricultural production in eastern Washington, and before new railroad lines provided fast, inexpensive transport of goods from eastern Washington farms to cities nation-wide. The same public works projects that enabled other areas to prosper, made San Juan Islands’ produce inconvenient and uncompetitive.”

Lucinda Boyce (1836-1916)Lucinda Boyce

By Julia Vouri

“Endurance, ingenuity, and a rugged physical and mental disposition were necessary for pioneer women to survive in the early days. But Lucinda Boyce didn’t just endure. She thrived.

While Stephen was called Hyas Tyee (great and powerful) by local Indians, Lucinda was referred to as First Lady of the San Juans. While Stephen conducted legal hearings in front of their fireplace, Lucinda might be paddling a cedar canoe to an outer island to deliver an Indian baby.”

For more information about the Writing our History project, including research and writing opportunities for other essay topics, contact Sandy Strehlou,, or 378.2810.

To support the research, writing and publishing of these and other articles, consider making a charitable contribution to History Link. To donate to HistoryLink, contact Marie McCaffrey,, or (206) 447-8140.


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