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The Pioneers of Dog Fish Bay
    by Ranvald Kvelstad (Volume 30: Page 196)

ONLY FOUR YEARS after the boundary between Canada and the United States was set at the 49th Parallel, the first Norwegian arrived in the Pacific Northwest. It was 1849, the year of the great gold rush to California, and his name was Zachariah Martin Toftezen. Exact details of his trek are wanting, but it is known that at age twenty-eight he had shipped out as a sailor and landed in New Orleans. Thomas Ostenson Stine in his book Scandinavians on the Pacific (1900) says of him: “He was a pioneer of heart and courage --- chivalrous Martin Toftezen. He had drifted around the Horn on a ship, and was tossed into the mouth of Puget Sound, where the breath of the deep calmed to a gentle zephyr, and the wings of speed flapped in disconsolation.”

In a less flowery vein, Alice Essex in her Stanwood Story (1975) says of his landing on Whidbey Island: “Enroute, he met Col. Ulrich Freud of Switzerland, who was also seeking a land of promise . . . . they were joined by C. W. Sumner, a Yankee from New England with the same yearning. The three teamed up, hired a sloop, and via Indian canoe and guide found themselves [197] in Crescent Harbor, where they landed at a spot called ‘Big Springs’ in December, 1849. After climbing to the top of a high hill, Toftezen pronounced the view ‘the most glorious on earth and shouted to his companions, ‘Our search is over --- we have at last found our earthly paradise.“’ The “paradise” Toftezen saw was from a hill now overlooking the town of Oak Harbor. Alice Essex continues her story: “Stirred with a tinge of wanderlust, Toftezen left his Paradise three times, but always returned to the island he loved, where he died in 1901 at the age of 80. He was buried in an old cemetery in Oak Harbor, the place that was his first love in the West.”

The remains of the first Norwegian settler in what is now the state of Washington were consigned to a forgotten grave in an abandoned cemetery. Thirty years later compassionate fellow Norwegians on Whidbey Island and in the Stanwood community were instrumental in having the body moved to the Lutheran cemetery in Stanwood. A marker was erected over his grave by the Pioneer Historical Society of the Stillaquamish Valley and the Sons of Norway. Suitably, the monument was dedicated by the future King Olav V of Norway, on May 27, 1939.

The founders of what was to become the city of Seattle followed Toftezen by two years, in 1851. The Arthur Denny party came over the Oregon Trail from Illinois to Portland, and then by ship to the Puget Sound. They landed on what is now known as Alki Point. In the party was Mary Denny’s newborn baby boy. Eighty years later he was still alive and well. Rolland Denny had spanned the years from the Indian cayuse to the automobile, from the canoe to the airplane. He saw Seattle grow from one roofless cabin in the wilderness to a city of towering buildings.

When the Norwegians moved into the Pacific North [198] west they found a land very similar in climate and scenery to their homeland. The surprising difference was the huge stands of big trees. The forests provided them with a livelihood until they could clear a piece of land and begin to grow their food. Dozens of sawmills sprang up, some the largest in the world, and the timber products found a worldwide market. Amidst this abundance of timber, game, waterfowl, fish, shellfish, wild berries, and fruit lived the children of Nature, the Indians. At first the white man posed no threat to their livelihood and the relationship was amicable. There were here none of the fierce military confrontations that shook the Midwest, though the Indians’ lack of a sense of ownership of land was later to create problems. The Indian tribes limited their activities within fairly well defined areas. A tribe would usually number only a few hundred souls. Since here there was very little need for extended travel as with the nomadic tribes of the plains, each tribe developed its own customs, culture, and language, somewhat like the fjord and mountain communities of Norway. The Indians around Seattle, Bainbridge, and parts of Kitsap county were called the Suquamish. Chief Seattle, for whom the city is named, was a member of that tribe. The Point Elliott Treaty in 1855 set aside a tract of land for the Suquamish tribe and they still own a part of it.

Picture of Ole Anderson Stubbhaug (1821-1916), known as Ole Stubb in America, was the first white man to move to the Dog Fish Bay area. He came in 1875.

To the west of Seattle, across Puget Sound, lies the Kitsap peninsula. Bainbridge Island lies as a sort of buffer between the peninsula and the mainland. A quiet, tranquil bay lies between the peninsula and the island. When the white man first came, the bay was teeming with dogfish, hence the name Dog Fish Bay. The name has since been changed to Liberty Bay. At the head of the bay lies Poulsbo. At the neck where it enters the Sound lies Keyport, now the United States Naval [199] Torpedo Station. In 1875 the bay was uninhabited except for an occasional Indian who came in to hunt or fish. That was the year the first white man entered the bay with the object of establishing a home. He was Ole Anderson Stubbhaug, know in America as Ole Stubb, who was born in Naustdal, Førdefjord, Norway in 1821. Very little has been written about Ole Stubb. He is barely mentioned in passing in a number of historical accounts about the first settlers. The writer discovered a great-grandson of Ole Stubb, Donald Stubb of Aberdeen, Washington. Through his genealogical research [200] this void in the story of the first Norwegians to settle in western Washington can now be filled.

Ole’s father died in 1860 and Ole, the eldest son, inherited the family farm, which was said to be the finest in the Naustdal valley. A census report from 1860 showed a 25-acre (99 dekar) field and a 27-acre (105 dekar) pasture - a sizable spread in that time and place. The livestock included three horses, eighteen cows, ten calves, and seventy-six sheep and goats. An illustration in the family history from Sunnfjord, Henrikslekta, by Andreas Karstad, published in Bergen, Norway, in 1968, shows some very imposing farm buildings. Ole Stubb was no pauper who had to go out into the world to seek his fortune.

Ole Stubb married Danele Solem. A son, Anders, was born on March 26, 1850, and the mother died nine days later. The boy was reared by his maternal grandparents and took their name. In 1855 Ole then married Gunhild Hafstad from Ferde. Four sons were born to the couple while they were living in Naustdal: Ludvig Daniel, 1856-1933; Matias Olai, 1858-1894; Andreas, 1860-1961; and Olai Andreas, who was born in 1862 and died as a child in America. In 1866 this family, including Anders Solem, left Ferdefjord for Stony Lake, Michigan. There is some evidence that Ole came to America alone in 1864, then returned and sold his farm in 1865. The families of his brother, Kristian Anderson Stubbhaug, and his cousin, Kristian Larsen Karstad, accompanied him to settle in Michigan.

In 1868, Ole and his family left Michigan for Spink township in Union county, South Dakota, and then, in 1875, they headed west again. It is known that Ole visited the Norwegian settlement at Stanwood but he finally chose Dog Fish Bay in Kitsap county as his permanent residence. There is some uncertainty about his arrival there but he very likely went back to South Dakota [201] and brought the family out in 1876. His wife did not come to Washington. After a lingering illness she died on December 28, 1876. She was cared for by her stepson Anders Solem. Ole was apparently not at home when she died. Ole and Gunhild had two children that were born in America; Helle Johanne was born in 1868 and died at the age of four; Henrik was born in 1872 and died October 28, 1944.

Ole’s matrimonial ventures were not yet at an end. Sometime after coming to the West Coast he met and married a widow by the name of Ingeborg Erikson Peterson. Nothing is known concerning her except that she was born in Norway on February 18, 1821, and died October 28, 1907. She is buried in the cemetery by the First Lutheran Church in Poulsbo.

What sort of person was Ole Stubb? A passage from the genealogical study by Donald Stubb attempts to answer this question: “Very little is known of his characteristics, as no one now alive knew him intimately. His son, Andreas, once said he was a ‘very restless man.’ Captain J. Chris Moe, who first met him in 1883 when Mr. Moe was a small boy, pictured him as a very independent and self-sufficient man who believed in direct action and was not inclined toward compromise or bargaining. . . . Mr. Moe told these two stories: His father, two brothers and himself had rowed the three miles from Poulsbo to visit Ole Stubb. During their visit a rather violent storm came up and they were afraid to row home. They remained with Ole for three days. Finally Ole, tired of hearing them worry about the rest of
the family at Poulsbo, said, ‘If you cowards are afraid to go home alone, I’ll take you.’ So he herded them into his boat, took their boat in tow and rowed the three miles across the stormy bay and then returned home. He was then about 65 years old. Mr. Moe also told about bargaining for apples with Ole who had the only orchard in [202] the area at the time. Being boys they always tried to get him to lower his prices. The old man’s firm reply was, ‘Well, boys, the apples are mine and the money is yours; if each one of us keeps what belongs to him we’ll both be satisfied.’ ”

A Norwegian Christmas magazine, Jul i Sunnfjord (1932), printed a rather farfetched account written by Andreas Johan Sørebøe, who had some years earlier paid a visit to Ole Stubb and was now regaling his readers with vignettes of life in America. A translation of one section of the article follows:

WHEN 1,000 INDIANS CONDEMNED TO DEATH
ONE SUNNFJORDING
THE FIRST EMIGRANT FROM NAUSTDAL
by Andreas Johan Sørebøe

“It wasn’t completely a romantic life to be a pioneer in those days. The Indians paddled their canoes in and out among the many bays and fjords and kept their eyes on the scattered whites. Then something happened. An Indian disappeared without a trace. A Norwegian named Benson and a Finn were suspected of having done away with him. While this was going on Ole Stubb came rowing back from Seattle with food supplies and headed for a visit with his friend Benson. He was told of what had happened. While they were sitting discussing this something else happened to make the situation more ominous. An Indian’s dog had come in and molested a milk cow in the pasture. Tired of this one of the men had gone out and shot the dog, thrown the dog in the boat, rowed out and dumped the dog in the bay.

“The next morning there was a band of Indians at the house. The three men went out to meet them. The chief pointed to the blood in the boat and demanded an explanation. It was given but the Indians did not believe [203] the story. They insisted the blood in the boat was evidence of what had happened to the missing Indian.

“The three men were taken prisoner and conveyed to Bainbridge Island. There at least a thousand Indians had gathered, all the way from British Columbia. A trial was held and a disposition was to be made of the matter. The cross-examination and final arguments of the Indians was an amazing performance and their whole demeanor was cool, calm, and collected. The result was that the three men were found guilty of murdering the vanished Indian.

“An Indian with a feather headdress hanging down his back quietly told the men they had been found guilty and proceeded to pronounce the sentence. He pointed to the Olympic Mountains to the west and said in a few simple words, Indian style, ‘See the sinking sun. When that has dropped below the mountain’s rim, your life will end.’

“But then suddenly, like a miracle, a troop of soldiers appeared in the arena. They had been alerted in Seattle that something unusual was going on on the island. Against them the Indians dared not put up resistance, so the three men who had stood at Death’s door were saved.”

For seven years, from 1876 to 1883, the Stubbs were the lone settlers on Dog Fish Bay. A couple of hours by rowboat would take Ole to Port Madison with its mill and probably a company store. A day’s rowing, making use of the tide, would take him to Seattle, a bustling city of 16,000 people, and the next day’s tide would carry him home. Though he came from the finest farm in Naustdal, Ferdefjord, here Ole Stubb, imbued with the pioneering spirit, was willing to grub and hoe to create a farm from the wilderness. He had found his Shangri-La. Ole Stubb died at his home in Kitsap county in 1916, at the age of 95. He is buried in the Island Lake cemetery in Poulsbo in an unmarked grave. [204]

Five sons of Ole Stubb reached maturity. Information on each, garnered from Donald Stubb’s genealogical study, follows:

1. Anders Olai Olsen (Stubbhaug) Solem, born in 1850, came to America with his father in 1866. He worked in the sawmills and logging camps in Michigan until 1874, when he made a trip back to Norway. He returned in 1875 and went to South Dakota, where he took care of his stepmother in her final illness. He held a number of elective offices, including that of county assessor in Union county, South Dakota. He died January 24, 1935.

2. Ludvig Daniel Olsen Stubb, born in 1856, farmed in South Dakota until he went west in 1880. He came to his father in Kitsap county and worked in the sawmill at Port Madison for a year and a half. In 1882 he moved to the Stillaquamish valley, settling at Norman, Washington, which is five miles upriver from Stanwood. He bought 140 acres of land which was densely covered with timber. Before buying the land he started a logging business with his brother Andreas. He continued logging while clearing his land in preparation for farming. He put up a log house and other buildings which were used until 1903, when a large house and other new buildings were constructed. He operated a shingle mill for a period of time. Later he confined his activities to dairy farming, maintaining a herd of forty milk cows. Their feed was raised on the farm. Cash crops such as spinach, beets, and other vegetables were raised, as well as field peas for canning and freezing. He was also involved in mining ventures in the Cascade Mountains. He served on the school board for many years, was on the election board as a representative of the republican party for forty-nine years, and was county road supervisor in his district for a time. He was one of the five original directors of the Josephine Old People’s Home at Stanwood and one of its trustees for eleven years. [205]

Ludvig married Nele Marie Samsonsdatter Leknes. They had eleven children. They were a musical family; a picture in The Stanwood Story shows three of the boys in the Silvana Concert Band. The picture must have been taken around 1900 because one of the boys, Anton, died of a ruptured appendix in 1906. Ludvig died on the Stubb farm at Norman, Washington, on November 4, 1933. His obituary in the Stanwood Twin City News says of him, “He was a kind and helpful neighbor and possessed the courage and perseverance so necessary to him who would follow the frontier and develop new states. The pallbearers were his six sons.”

3. Matias Olai Olsen Stubb, born in 1858, came to America with the family in 1866. While he was living in South Dakota he suffered a severe sunstroke which affected his mind. It is quite probable that he went west with his father in 1875. He lived with his father in Kitsap county but spent his last years with his brother Ludvig. He contracted tuberculosis in 1894 and soon died, at the age of thirty-six.

4. Andreas Olsen Stubb, born in 1860, came to America with the family in 1866. He went to Washington to join his father in Kitsap county in 1878. He followed his brother Ludvig to the Stillaquamish valley, where he and Ludvig were engaged in logging. After they quit logging, Andreas operated a packtrain carrying mining machinery into the Cascade Mountains. In 1898 he took his horses to Alaska where he carried miners and their equipment from Skagway to Lake Bennett over the Chilkoot Pass. After the gold rush he came back to Washington. From then until his retirement he operated hotels and apartment houses and for a time farmed near Kent, Washington. Andreas married Karoline (maiden name unknown). They had two children, Hazel Oline, born July 1, 1892, and Albert Charles, whose birth date is unknown. According to the genealogical records, Andreas died at the home of his daughter [206] in Palo Alto, California, in February, 1961. He would have been 101 years old.

5. Henrik (Henry) Olsen Stubb was born in 1872 on the Stubb farm in South Dakota. He went west to his father in company with his brother Andreas in 1878. He worked in the logging camps and farmed his father’s homestead in Kitsap county. He is the only Stubb the residents of the Poulsbo area have any recollection of. Henrik married Sofia Pearson, a widow, sometime around 1907. They had no children. Sofia died August 20, 1944, and Henrik died October 28, 1944. They are both buried in unmarked graves in the Island Lake cemetery not far from Poulsbo.

The summer of 1883 was unusually hot and dry in western Washington. Forest fires raged unchecked through the magnificent stands of timber. There was no way of fighting the fires, so they just burned themselves out. The smoke hung so heavy in the air that it shut out light. For weeks neither sun nor moon had been visible.

Through this smoke one day came two men in a rowboat from Seattle to visit Ole Stubb. Without benefit of compass and without visible landmarks to steer by, they had let out and dragged a long anchor rope behind their boat to keep from rowing in a circle and thus they had kept the course. The men were Jorgen Martinus Eliason and his friend Peter Olsen. Eliason, like Stubb, was from Førde, which undoubtedly prompted the visit. The men were seeking land and there are several accounts of the welcome they received from Stubb. According to one account, Stubb told them, “No one else is going to come to this part of the country. I have been here six years and I am still the only settler.” Another account has Stubb taking them about three miles up the bay to where Poulsbo is now located. There each man finally filed a claim, up the hill and away from the water. [207] The waterfront had already been acquired for logging, the earliest logging being done where the logs could be felled right into the water.

Jorgen Martinus Eliason was born in Førde, Sunnfjord, Norway, on November 20, 1847. The family had financial problems and the father lost the farm. At age nine, Jorgen had to go out and earn his living by herding sheep. As a thirteen year old he sought work in a neighboring community, where he stayed for five years. His next job was assistant to the lensmann (sheriff) in Førde. He saved enough money to buy a steamer ticket and after a three-week trip he landed in New York in 1868, when he was barely twenty-one years old.

From New York, Jorgen Eliason headed for Whitehall, Michigan. He spent fifteen years there working in sawmills and a tannery. In 1875 he married Martha Solem, who was also from his home region of Norway. She was probably a relative of the Solem family Ole Stubb first married into. In 1881 Martha died, leaving a six-year-old son, Elias, who in later years was always referred to as E. J. Eliason. Jorgen Eliason found it too difficult to continue to live in Michigan now that his wife was gone, so he sold his home, took his son Elias and his sister Rakel, and headed for Seattle. They traveled by Union Pacific to San Francisco, since there was no railroad to Seattle, and on to Seattle by ship.

The sister, Rakel, took a job at the Occidental Hotel in Seattle and at the same time took care of little Elias. Jorgen was determined to acquire a homestead. With several others, he rowed across Lake Washington and headed north up the valley past the present location of Bothell. They cut trails about four miles through the timber and each of them staked out a tract of land and a site for a house. They soon ran out of provisions and wandered about without food for three days. They estimated that they were about twenty miles from the [208] nearest source of supply, Seattle. Packing supplies that distance through the wilds of western Washington, they realized, was out of the question, so they went back to Seattle. Jorgen Eliason decided a water route was preferable and headed across Puget Sound for Ole Stubb and Dog Fish Bay. After that visit, after the smoke and the fog, after the backbreaking work of rowing his boat across the Sound, and then the endless prospect of clearing the forest to make a farm out of the land he had filed on, Jorgen Eliason was not eager to remain in Washington. If he had had the money, he would have returned to Michigan with another party that had come out with them. Jorgen conferred with his sister and she recommended that they stay; in later years he often said he never regretted the decision. Jorgen Eliason lived until 1937.

The early Kitsap county historian, E. E. Riddell, who knew the Eliasons quite well, writes thus of him in Kitsap County, a History: “Mr. Jorgen Eliason represents the early pioneer and his many hardships, among which were to row many miles to Port Madison for provisions and mail. Or sometimes setting out for Seattle or Olympia in their rowboats, having to camp on the way while waiting for suitable weather or tides, so it sometimes took them a whole week for the trip. When traveling by rowboat they took their blankets, cooking utensils, two or three loaves of bread, some potatoes, an axe and matches. Their meat supply was plentiful when the tide was out. It is hard for us to realize the difficulties which they underwent. For days after rowing to Seattle and back, their fingers were cramped in the position of holding the oars, and would not straighten out until the tired muscles relaxed again. But knowing nothing but hardships, they proceeded to hew out their homes, and being few neighbors they gladly took turns in rowing to Port Madison for supplies or mail for each other.” [209]

Riddell relates several other interesting incidents about the Eliasons: “The first cow was brought in by Mr. Eliason on a narrow three log float which was so tippy that whenever the cow moved, Mr. Eliason had to jump to the other side to balance it. However, he managed to get the cow home safely. But the cow did not seem to care much for her new home as she ran away the next day toward Suquamish where young E. J. and a neighbor cornered her and started homeward along the beach, but in the meantime the tide had come in and it was necessary to cross a deep creek. The neighbor finally succeeded to lead the cow into the water, but E. J. was too small to wade or swim and seeing himself left alone, he made a desperate grab for the last thing in sight which was the cow’s tail and hanging on for dear life, she pulled him through the water while he was whirling somewhat like a trolling spoon.”

The first wedding in Poulsbo was that of Nels Olsen and Rachel (Rakel) Eliason, Jorgen’s sister and housekeeper. They wanted a Norwegian minister to perform the ceremony. The nearest one was in Stanwood. He came to Seattle by boat and on to Port Madison. When he found he had to row the rest of the way to Poulsbo he refused and sent word for the bridal couple to come to Port Madison by six o’clock the following morning. They got the message at eleven o’clock in the evening and with a lot of hurrying and a midnight row to Port Madison they made it in time for the wedding.

The third permanent settlers on Dog Fish Bay were the family of Iver B. Moe, who arrived about a month after the Eliasons. They came from Paulsbo, Norway, a small community between Halden and Kornsjo. The story of the Moe family is well recorded. Captain Torger (Tom) Birkland interviewed one of the sons, Chris Moe, for a series of articles for the monthly newsletter of the [210] Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, from which excerpts will be taken.

Iver Moe (1843-1927) had a small sawmill in Norway but the work was slow and hard and he could see no future in it. The America fever was raging in Norway, and in 1880 Iver left by himself for New York to see what the New World had to offer. He went to Minneapolis and got work in a sawmill. In the fall he sent for his family, which included his wife Anne, a daughter Mina, and two sons, Albert and Chris. They traveled from Hamburg, Germany, to Baltimore, Maryland, and thence to Minneapolis. An older son, Andrew, was at sea in the Baltic at the time so did not come to America until the spring of 1881.

In the fall of 1881, Moe went to the Red River valley in Minnesota and took up a homestead. In the spring of 1882 he went for a second look and found it all under water. It was then that he decided to head for the Puget Sound country. He hired out to work for the Northern Pacific Railroad which was then building through Montana. The family lived in a boxcar which was moved westward as the construction advanced. Railroading was not to Moe’s liking, so he managed to land a contract with a gold-mining operation near Helena in Montana Territory to provide cordwood for their steam boilers. The mining company advanced him money to buy four horses and the equipment to get the wood to the mines, deducting one dollar per cord until it was paid back. The family now experienced life in a cabin dug out of the hillside. Their worst hardship was the necessity of melting snow for water for themselves and their horses. By spring there was plenty of water; the roof leaked so badly that puddles stood on the floor.

Their mecca was Seattle on Puget Sound. They had two wagons with canvas covers and one pony for Moe to ride scouting the trail ahead. There were no roads. Part [211] of the time their trail led them through Indian reservations where they were rudely treated. Over the Bitterroot Mountains in Idaho they followed a trail used by the cattlemen to get their stock to market. Driving steadily they made their first major stop at Ellensburg.

Let Chris Moe continue the story here: “When we finally saw the lovely valley where Ellensburg is located it was indeed a beautiful sight of deep green fields and alfalfa, lovely homes and the abundance of precious water. At this time most of the farmers in and around Ellensburg were of Scandinavian descent. They went all out to help us. They wanted us to remain there and take up land. There was a lot of good land to be had for free, but father said he was no farmer and would rest a few days and be on his way. There was a lake up in the mountains and there was a road to the lake, but he was told that was as far as he could possibly go. Father, of course, was determined to get there. He left us to see for himself; when he returned he had it all figured out. He said he would build a raft of logs to cross the lake. There was lots of timber near the lake and with large oars he would row the raft across. This was Lake Kechelus. At that time it was about two miles long. We remained with the good people in Ellensburg for about two weeks. By that time the horses, as well as ourselves, were all rested so we were on our way again.

“It required about two weeks to build the raft. We made two trips across the lake but our troubles began again. No road at all, just a pack trail. Whenever possible to do so we cut trail but in some places we could not cut large trees which had blown down. They simply were too large to cut. We had to pile brush on each side of the logs so it was possible to lift the wagons over. It took two weeks from Lake Kechelus in the Cascade Mountains to Issaquah.

“Well, at last we were near our destination [Seattle]. [212] In this town [Issaquah] we again met some very nice people. Father rode his pony in to Seattle. Now we had a very good road compared to the trails we had traveled here-to-fore. My father had arranged for a place in Seattle where we could pitch our tent for a time at 5th and Madison, which is now the site of the Seattle Public Library. This was late September and the woods were very dry. While in this location someone set fire to the woods which spread rapidly and it became necessary to move our tent several times. Fires were a common thing in those days. Many thousands of acres of the finest timber went up in smoke and there was nothing that could be done about it. There was so much smoke a person could not see the sun for days at a time.

“Father put the horses to work grading part of what is now First Avenue. He then found a better job on a railroad that was being built into the Black Diamond coal mines east of Seattle. Andrew, my oldest brother, was old enough to drive one team of horses and father hired another man to drive the other team. This left father free to locate land and look for timber. He rented a row boat and procured some maps. He first landed on Bainbridge Island.”

One of the first people Moe met on the island was the owner of a logging operation who offered to sell him forty acres of land on Mosquito Bay very cheaply. A deal was made, an agreement signed, and a down payment made. There was a lot of discarded lumber from the sawmills along the beach so the family soon had a two-room cabin to move into. In an interview in 1962, Chris Moe relates what happened: “It was a lovely little bay and a nice creek ran right by our house. Beautiful green timber grew all the way to the water’s edge. Fish were so plentiful they would jump right out of the water onto dry land. It was a wonderful place to live. We needed some more lumber and other supplies. Port Madison, a mill town, was about four miles away. Father went there [213] and was told it was the county seat for Kitsap county.

“Father wanted to get some information as to taxes regarding the land he had purchased and much to his surprise was told the land he had bought did not belong to the man who sold it to him. We did not have it after all. While he was in Port Madison he was told there was good timber land that he could take up as a homestead at that time, called Dog Fish Bay. Here he located on 150 acres of large timber and underbrush right down to salt water. Father then went to the courthouse in Port Madison to have his homestead recorded.

“In the fall of 1883 a man by the name of Jorgen Eliason had homesteaded on land a little east of the town of Poulsbo. He was the first settler and my father was next, following one month after Eliason. Where the town of Poulsbo is now located was an abandoned logging camp. There were two bunk houses with no windows and no doors. Mr. Eliason had moved into one of them. My father decided to move his family into the other one until such a time as he could build on his own claim. Mr. Eliason, a widower, had a sister and a small boy. So now it was back to Mosquito Bay to get someone to move us to Dog Fish Bay. Now for the first time since leaving Minneapolis, my mother had a woman companion, who was Mr. Eliason’s sister.”

Iver Moe now homesteaded a 160-acre tract at what was known as the head of the bay. He rowed to the Port Madison mill, about eight miles away, where he bought lumber for a house. He made a raft, secured it with a rope, and towed it behind his rowboat, a trip requiring several days. It was difficult to know exactly where the property lines were, which had been surveyed some years before. A timber cruiser came along and informed them they were on mill-company land, so they had to move again. Chris says it was the first time he ever saw his mother cry.

This time they built a better house on their own land. [214] Iver had to leave his family to go to work in Seattle. On one trip he brought home two little pigs. The family cleared a plot of ground for a garden. The big problem was to protect both the pigs and the garden from the bears that would come right up to the door. In the spring of 1884, Moe decided to log for himself. The mill at Port Madison, owned by Mr. Meigs, would buy his logs. Meigs would bring his horses over to Port Madison on the steamboat and Moe would raft them across to the Kitsap peninsula shoreline. From there they followed the beach to Moe’s home near Poulsbo. Chris says they bought a Jersey cow about this time which they swam across the Agate Pass channel and then led it along the beach as they had done with the horses. By then they had added a stable, a chicken house, and a bunkhouse, and had a large garden with excellent soil. In the pigpen were many young porkers. But timber was the cash crop, so logging would be their business.

More settlers arrived. Chris says, “In 1885, my father petitioned the government for a post office with himself as postmaster.” The date on the application, however, is September 9, 1886. In six places on the application the name of the new post office is to be filled in. Iver Moe decided to use the name of his home community in Norway, but his handwriting was not too precise. Three times it looks like an a, three times it looks like an o. The Post Office Department chose the o and thus Paulsbo became Poulsbo. In 1886, Adolph Hostmark had come to Poulsbo and opened a store. It was logical that the post office should be in the store, which was the central meeting place for the community, so in September, 1887, Adolph Hostmark became the postmaster. His building still stands and is the oldest building in Poulsbo.

The first schoolhouse was built on the Moe land. The first teacher was Miss Nellie Kiddy, who had a three [215] month contract. There were six pupils, all boys: Sam Olson, Paul and Theodore Thompson, Albert and Chris Moe, and E. J. Eliason. Nellie Kiddy was only sixteen years old and this was her first school. The boys were determined to make things as miserable for her as they could, and she resigned after six weeks. A new teacher came to complete the term and the boys vowed to get rid of her, too, but they were not successful this time. Chris says, “The jig was up. She just beat the tar out of us. This was all the schooling I ever had. To me it was just a waste of time.”

With the Norwegian pioneers, it was first a school and then a church, and so it was in Poulsbo. By 1886 some additional families had moved in along Dog Fish Bay. A Lutheran home missionary pastor who visited the area encouraged them to form a congregation. A meeting was called in Jorgen Eliason’s home. Iver B. Moe was elected secretary and apparently the pastor served as chairman. The following men also signed as charter members: Ole Thoresen, Stener Thoresen, Johannes Olson, Nels Olson, Edvart Bjermeland, Ole Asplund, Paul Wahl, Iver Thomsen, and T. B. Moe. Jorgen Eliason donated the land for the church and cemetery. It was named Ferdefjord Lutheran Church for Eliason’s home parish in Norway; it has since become First Lutheran. Pastor Ingebricht Tollefson was called to serve the new congregation as well as parishes in Bothell and Tacoma. His salary was $200 a year. The new church
was dedicated in 1887. Many of the charter members are buried in the churchyard.

Logging was Moe’s business. He found Meigs at the Port Madison mill difficult to deal with. There was another sawmill at Port Gamble about twelve miles north of Moe’s home, but there was no trail, just dense forest. He started for the Port Gamble mill one day equipped with a compass, a hand axe, and some sandwiches. He [216] guessed on direction and blazed the trees as he went. The trip took three days. To prove he had been to Port Gamble he brought back a bottle of liquor. The present highway from Poulsbo to Port Gamble follows the trail Moe blazed.

The most lucrative logging involved taking out spar trees to be used for masts on sailing vessels. They had to be straight trees of good grain from sixty to one hundred feet tall. The Moes found a good source of such trees in the Miller Bay area on the Kitsap peninsula several miles from Port Madison. Large spar trees would bring one hundred dollars each. They would be made up into rafts and towed to the Port Blakely mill on Bainbridge Island. There the poles had to be scored on four sides to make them square. The spars would then take up less room and any defects would show up. Port Blakely was at one time the largest mill in the world. Five full shiploads of spars were shipped from there to Boston. From the profits of this business the Moes were able to expand their operations elsewhere. Logging had hitherto been done with oxen and horses, but now the steam engine was replacing them. Locomotives and logging trains were now being used to haul the logs down to the salt water to be made up into rafts. Let Chris Moe tell about it: “We started our first railroad in 1907. Logging, of course, was still our business, but logging, too, was due for a change. Timber was getting farther away and the old method of logging was not practical or profitable and the only answer was the railroad. Most logging companies were changing over to railroad operation. Rails were in such demand they were not procurable on the Sound. Father made the trip east to the rail manufacturers at some point in Ohio to secure the necessary rails. He also went to Cory, Pennsylvania, to order a locomotive. We had about thirty miles of railroad not including the side tracks. This was a tremendous improvement [217] over the old method of logging. In 1907 we built our own standard gauge railroad.” Andrew, the oldest Moe brother, was supervisor of the logging and railroading operations. The Moe railroad carried the logs to be dumped into Hood Canal on the west side of the Kitsap peninsula. From there they were rafted to the Port Gamble mill. There are pictures to prove that quite often there were half a dozen sailing vessels anchored in Port Gamble waiting for cargo. Port Gamble lumber was carried all around the world. The mill is still in use and at 130 years it is the oldest operating mill in the United States.

The Moes expanded into another venture. Transportation by steamboat between Poulsbo and Seattle was not satisfactory. The Moes bought a steamboat, the Dauntless, and put it on the run. There were no dock facilities in Poulsbo, so passengers had to row out to a raft anchored in the bay and wait to board the boat. As the business grew, the Moes expanded by purchasing faster and more comfortable ships. The pride of their fleet was the Reliance. They put the Advance on the Seattle-Port Gamble-Port Townsend run. In 1905 they got the government contract to carry the mail, but in the same year they sold their ships and gave up the transportation business.

When city government was first set up in Poulsbo in 1908, Andrew Moe was the first mayor and Chris Moe was elected councilman. At the first meeting of the town council, when one of the members resigned, Iver B. was appointed to fill the vacancy. Thus there were three Moes on the first town council.

Fishing was now on the upswing in Poulsbo. Halibut, salmon, and codfish were the main catch. The Moe family were determined to try for halibut, which is deep-sea fishing. Again let Chris tell of their experience: “In 1912 we built the halibut schooner Tyee at a [218] cost of $30,000. The halibut business was good, especially if the owner himself was on the boat. But hiring all the crew, and especially the captain, did not work out so well, as we soon found out. The boat operated at a loss every trip. We received an offer from the New England Fish Company of Bellingham, Washington, for the halibut schooner. We accepted the offer and sold to them at a loss charging it to experience. Fishing is an unprofitable business and especially so for loggers.”

A codfish venture came next. The Pacific Coast Cod Fish Company of Poulsbo was organized about 1911. It was a stock company and the Moes invested with the stipulation that the plant be located in Poulsbo. The company purchased three- and four-masted schooners that had been engaged in the lumber trade, which had now changed over to steam-driven vessels. The Poulsbo company eventually owned four of these sailing ships. Without engines they would be able to bring back larger loads of fish. They would leave the Poulsbo plant about the first of April for the Bering Sea, where the codfish were caught by hook and line in one-man dories, and would return about the middle of September. They would carry supplies to last for six months and employ about forty-five men on each vessel. Each ship would return with about 500 tons of codfish salted down. Much of the codfish was dried to be made into lutefisk. The cod would be brought back to the plant in Poulsbo, hung on racks to dry, and then piled like cordwood.

By that time it had lost ninety percent of its weight of liquid, was very light, and required no refrigeration. To return the cod to its original state it was soaked in a lye-water solution. Modern refrigeration has done away with the lutefisk business in Poulsbo.

The Moe family did not find the codfish business to their liking and sold out after the first season. The family had now moved into Poulsbo. All the timber had [219] been cut and they had done very well financially and thought it was time to quit. Chris, however, had to take one more fling in the business world. In his own words: “In those days the only lighting was coal lamps. The nearest electric power lines were at Keyport four miles away. In 1917, I made a twenty-five-year contract with Olympic Power Company of Port Angeles, Washington. I built four miles of power lines into the town of Poulsbo and the surrounding district. I was not interested in operating the system but just to get the lights into town.”

Because Chris Moe was more verbal than the rest of the family, he is the source of much historical information that might otherwise have been forgotten. He seemed always eager and ready to try something new. In 1911, he brought the first automobile into Poulsbo, a 1911 Studebaker for which he paid $1,200. The contract is in the Kitsap County Historical Society archives. It was purchased from E. M. F. Studebaker Company in Seattle. The company was jokingly referred to as Every-Morning-Fix-it Studebaker Company. Chris does best at relating his adventures: “In 1911 I bought my first automobile, a Studebaker. It was also the first car north of Bremerton in Kitsap county. I had it shipped from Seattle to Port Gamble on a steamer. I had only one hour’s instruction in driving. The roads were only for wagons. Stumps in the middle of the road some places were so high the car had to be lifted over them. If I met someone with horses the driver would have to unhitch them and take them into the woods, but the horses did not seem to mind after a time. Speed of from fifteen to twenty miles an hour seemed rather fast.

“It was not long until almost everyone had a car. On my first trip to Shelton, Washington, a distance of about eighty miles from Poulsbo, it took all day. From Shelton to Seattle by way of Olympia, there were good dust [220] roads. A Dr. Slippern went with me, and our neighbors said it was smart to take a doctor along on the trip.”

The Moes sold their interests in Poulsbo in 1918 and moved to Seattle, where they built a house in the Magnolia Bluff section of that city. Chris had married Oline Marie Olson in 1905. Here again Chris speaks: “Just why she came out west I cannot say. Anyway she was and is the most beautiful and the sweetest girl in the whole world. We have been married for 52 years. To my dear wife I owe a lot. She has been an inspiration and in pouring oil on sometimes troubled waters made it possible for the family ship to survive and come through undamaged. We celebrated our Golden Anniversary in 1955.” Chris Moe died in 1966. His wife, Oline, was later taken to the Martha-Mary Rest Home in Poulsbo where she died November 11, 1978, at age ninety-three. And so a chapter of pioneer history came to an end.

 

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