By hook and by (Jim) crook

  • Sat Feb 26th, 2011 1:55am
  • News

San Juan Island pioneer Jim Crook on the grounds of modern day English Camp

Can you imagine life without commodities? Living on San Juan and making and scraping everything you need from the barest resources?

Pioneer Jim Crook did just that. 

“He is kind of a San Juan Island pioneer original,” said Kevin Loftus, executive director of the San Juan Historical Museum. 

His homesteader life will be celebrated at the museum this month with the opening of the exhibit “By Hook and by Crook”,  Feb. 26 from 1-4 p.m.

The opening will be held at the museum, with free admission, and will give the pubic a chance to glimpse the resourcefulness that guided Crook’s life on the island.  

Crook was born in Wyoming in 1873, when his parents, William and Mary, were heading west on the Oregon Trail. In 1875, the Crook family settled on San Juan Island at English Camp.  

The family, whose tenure lasted at English Camp until 1972, consisted of parents William and Mary, children Jim, Mary Crook Davis and Rhoda Crook Anderson.

Jim Crook was a lifelong bachelor who rarely left the island. He passed away in 1966. 

 His resourcefulness was demonstrated in the various pieces of equipment he built with ‘raw materials’ he found at English Camp. “His way of life is something that is still respected and revered on the island, he  lived off the land, was pretty self sufficient,” Loftus said. 

According to Loftus, the exhibition is a long time in coming and Crook’s memory deserves it. Crook’s equipment has been stored in various locations round the island by groups dedicated to his legacy, such as the Jim Crook Society. 

Indeed those at the museum said they are especially grateful to the society for their restoration and displaying of the equipment in late 1980s and early 1990s. At that time the various items were exhibited at the San Juan County Fairgrounds. 

The pieces have even been photographed and digitally archived by the Washington State Library, available at

The Jim Crook exhibit is comprised of three educational stations: Learning how Crook made his own clothes and some of the equipment he used to do so, featuring a 2-ton Carder that Crook made from materials he gathered on his homestead; Learning about Crook and his family’s life at English Camp; Learning additional information at a computer station. 

This station will be equipped with photos, articles, videos, audio recordings and documentations provided by the San Juan Historical Museum, San Juan Island National Historical Park, San Juan Island Library and Washington State Library. 

At the opening Mike Vouri, Chief of Interpretation and Historian, San Juan Island National Historical Park, will give a presentation entitled “The Crook Family – Caretakers of English Camp”. 

The talk  will begin at 2 p.m. in the Etta Egeland Resource Center. Light refreshments will be provided.

The exhibit is made possible in part by a grant from the San Juan County Historical Preservation Grants Program and by a grant from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. 

For more information contact Kevin Loftus at 378.3949 or