Journal of the San Juan Islands


Pig War Part 2: new territory unveiled

April 17, 2013 · Updated 2:51 PM

The Pig War / Contributed photo

While the past may be the past, history is forever changing. And what arguably stands as the most pivotal point in the history of the San Juan Islands — The Pig War — is no exception.

Mike VouriLocal author Mike Vouri will be on hand at Griffin Bay Bookstore Saturday, April 20, to present and talk about the new discoveries that prompted a revision and expansion of his definitive historical account of that famous 12-year-long joint-occupation of San Juan Island, in which Great Britain and the U.S. nearly went to war over the Northwest boundary when an American farmer shot a British pig.

The recently released second edition of “The Pig War: Standoff at Griffin Bay”, includes additional photographs, maps, drawings and 100 more pages of text that offer fresh insights into that international boundary dispute that confounded diplomats of three nations, but ended up being resolved without the firing of a single shot — minus the one that killed the pig.

The presentation begins at 7 p.m.

“I’m frequently asked, ‘Why more work on a book already in print?’” Vouri says. “The answer is simple: 14 years have passed since the first iteration and when you work with a topic everyday as I have, as park historian, there has been no end to ‘Ah Hah’ moments either in the park or visiting the archives of three nations.”

Such “Ah Hah” moments include: an encounter between the skipper of the U.S. Coast Surveyor Steamer Active, James Alden, and the governor of Great Britain's Vancouver Island, James Douglas, a struggle over a revolver at the height of the crisis between George Pickett and a rebellious subordinate, as well as a wealth of information about the joint occupation that did not appear in the first edition, originally published by Griffin Bay Bookstore and now distributed by the University of Washington Press. Still, Vouri notes that even as the second edition was going to press a whole new body of information arose, which could not be included.

“And that’s the beauty of history,” he says. “It is a dynamic, ever-changing process.

In his career with the National Park Service, Vouri has been historian-ranger at San Juan Island National Historical Park for the past 18 years. In addition to The Pig War: Standoff at Griffin Bay, he is the author of four other books, two also focused on the Pig War and two other, one co-authored with his wife, Julia, that feature historical images and insight into the past of San Juan Island, both published by Arcadia Publishing.

Vouri is also regionally renowned for the starring role of his one-act play, “The Life and Times of General George E. Pickett”, and has been featured on the History channel and in the pages of the The Smithsonian.

— Scott Rasmussen


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