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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Joshua Green, Skagit sternwheelers
and the birth of Puget sound ferries

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2003
(Young Joshua Green)
Young Joshua Green

      We have Reconstruction in the old South to thank for the appearance of the most famous owner of a sternwheeler on the Skagit river. The grandfather of Joshua Green owned a cotton mill that produced confederate uniforms and the Yankees burned it to the ground at the end of the war in addition to stripping the family bank of its coin.
      From the time that Joshua was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1869, his father, W.H.H. Green, searched through the mid-1880s for a place to start fresh as his family struggled through Reconstruction. According to the book, Ferryboats, a legend on Puget sound, Joshua's father had a specific reason for moving clear across the country to the Puget sound. Decades before dams were built on the upper Skagit river, the elder Green reasoned that the rivers that emptied into Puget sound in the Washington territory would be important energy sources. He lived to see the water power that was be harnessed to furnish hydroelectric power as the Northwestern corner of the U.S. was settled.
      Joshua was 16 when he and his parents and brother Hal crossed the country by rail, connecting with the Northern Pacific to Tacoma. They then boarded a steamboat for Seattle, where father Green soon met Bailey Gatzert, one of the hard chargers during those freewheeling early days of the town. Destined to be mayor and a civic giant, Gatzert was a partner in Schwabacher Bros. Hardware and married the boss's daughter. He admired both father and son Green and soon found young Joshua a job as chain man for the surveying crew of the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern [SLS&E] railroad, the line that would help put Sedro on the map four years later.


This is a "place-holder story." It was originally posted back in 2003 on our original domain, and since then we have discovered many more details about Green and his steamboats. We plan to completely update and extend the story by 2010. For now, we leave it in its original state. We hope that readers and descendants of the family will suggest ideas and provide copies of photos and documents that will illuminate the story when we update it.

      Gatzert became president of the Seattle Drydock & Shipbuilding Co. in 1888 and, remembering young Joshua's love of the water, he helped him get a job as purser on a shallow-draft freight and passenger sternwheeler, the Henry Bailey, owned by the Skagit Railway & Navigation Co. The boat was 108 feet, 6 inches in length, with a beam of 25 feet, four inches and was launched by the Pacific Navigation Co. earlier that year at Tacoma. For the next 38 years Green would work tirelessly until he became the leader in freight hauling and then the early ferry system of Puget sound. Sternwheelers were the umbilical cord to areas like the Skagit river — roughly 75 miles to the north, which were still considered remote. After the Indian canoe, they had been the primary method of transportation and shipping since Washington territory was formed in 1853. The SLS&E was building a branch of their line north to Sedro-Woolley, as were two other rail companies, but even after all three lines crossed at Sedro, the sternwheeler would be backbone of freight shipping and log booms until the turn of the century. Green's first trip on the Henry Bailey was up to the Skagit river on Oct. 14, 1888, when he was 19. Nearly 80 years later, he still showed visitors the manifest for that trip, which showed receipts of about $190 each for cargo and passengers (see a photo of the steamboat and details of that first trip's manifest). The Henry Bailey in those days traveled as far upriver as the junction with the Baker river to transport supplies for logging camps. Stops included Mann's Landing — now Fir, Mount Vernon, Sterling — which was the main trading center before Sedro ascended, and long forgotten wharves at Johnson's landing and Six Mile Point on the way to the Baker.
(Henry Bailey)
Click this thumbnail for a full-sized photo of the Henry Bailey steamboat and see this Journal story of Green's first trip on it in 1888, from the manifest he saved

      We know from the diary of P.A. Woolley's wife Catherine that the Henry Bailey carried them to Sterling when the family originally arrived. After a stop in Seattle on Nov. 24, 1889, they boarded the Henry Bailey on the 25th, traveling overnight and arriving in Mount Vernon at noon on the 26th. That was the end of the trip at that time, maybe because of snags from the common November floods.
      In 1939 Skiyou settler John Harrison told a Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times reporter a humorous anecdote about the day that his father, James M. Harrison, brought his family to Sterling on the Henry Bailey. They unloaded their possessions on the riverbank and James asked purser Joshua Green if someone would steal them while they arranged for a horse and wagon to take them to their claim.
      "I don't know who in hell would steal them," replied Green deadpan, "there is no place to take them." An article that September in the Skagit News of Mount Vernon noted that the Henry Bailey transported two steel jail cells from the Pauly Jail Co. of St. Louis to Mount Vernon so that "Skagit county jailbirds will be cared for at home." Three months later the Post-Intelligencer [hereafter P-I] newspaper in Seattle reported that the Henry Bailey left the night before with 52 tons of miscellaneous freight for different points on the Skagit. And an advertisement in the Jan. 16, 1890, Puget Sound Mail newspaper in LaConner included the sternwheeler's schedule, with trips leaving north from Tacoma to the Skagit river weekly on Monday and Thursday at 1 p.m., with stopovers at Seattle, Utsalady and other points.


Joshua Green becomes owner, mate and captain
(The Fanny Lake partners)
Fanny Lake partners: captain and master Sam Denny, Peter Falk, Frank Zickmund and the industrious Joshua Green.

      In January 1965, when Joshua was 95 years old and the retired chairman of a major Pacific Northwest banking chain, he was interviewed by Seattle writer Lucille McDonald, who was born in Sterling. He told her that he was lucky to have been put aboard a sternwheeler with such a hard-working and industrious crew; he said that Seattle's waterfront at the time often produced crew members who were drunks or worse. The captain and master was Sam Denny and the crew included Peter Falk, mate; Henry Denny, 1st engineer; and Frank Zickmund, 2d engineer.
      Green had been well educated, attending a private academy in Jackson for two years and Maupin's University School in Ellicott, Maryland. He had a good head for figures and in his first two years as purser, he realized that the future for freight-hauling sternwheelers was full of opportunity. He approached his fellow crewmembers — Falk, Sam Denny and Zickmund, about becoming partners in a boat of their own. He had saved up about $250 himself, and the others scraped together about that much between them. Once again Joshua appealed to Gatzert and his patron again came through. Gatzert was getting into the banking business with Jacob Furth, a German immigrant from Bohemia who moved his family to Seattle in 1882 and established the Puget Sound National Bank, which soon merged with Dexter Horton's bank to become the nucleus of the future Seattle First National. Furth trusted Gatzert's intuition because the two men had just teamed together to save the Spring Hill Water System.
      Joshua laid out his plans to Furth in hopes of borrowing $5,000, a very large sum in those days. He may have been surprised when Furth loaned each of the partners $1,250 without collateral, but such a figure seems inconsequential when you realize that Furth stood on the smoldering rubble the day after the great June 6, 1889, fire that destroyed most of Seattle and pledged enough capital to rebuild the city, eventually loaning $150 million. Little did Furth know that he was providing the next egg for a young man who would 40 years later become one of the most successful competitors to Furth's banking system.

(Sam Denny)
Sam Denny

      Green, Sam Denny, Falk and Zickmund invested their capital in the sternwheeler Fanny Lake and a river scow. Helen Barrett's wonderful 1971 book, Sternwheelers and the Skagit River — the first in the Skagit County Historical Society's series, notes that the Fanny Lake began a route to the Skagit river as early as 1874. Back in those early days, the sternwheeler's route stopped about two miles south of future Mount Vernon because two gigantic log jams blocked the river from there to the south end of what we call the Avon Bend.
      The sternwheelers were easily built in early shipyards and were the backbone of what was called the mosquito fleet in the early decades of Elliott Bay settlement from the 1850s to the '90s. The fleet was named because observers on the hills of Seattle said the boats resembled mosquitoes on the surface of a mill pond. Rugged and powerful, the sternwheelers were built to carry heavy loads, even in shallow waters. They were broad, with a flat bottom and no external keel so that they rode on the top of water. They were wooden so they were buoyant and repairs were easy and inexpensive. In extremely shallow water, even 6 inches of running water still supplied the needed thrust. The paddlewheel in stern was usually 16-24 feet in diameter and the paddles immersed 6-18 inches in the water. One drawback was that because there was no outside keel, the boat sagged at the bow and stern, so it required iron braces called hog chains or hog rods. Turnbuckles were used to keep the hull completely flat and the apparatus had to be checked constantly.
      Green chose the Fanny Lake because it had an especially shallow draft and could slide its bow right up onto the bank of the myriad of sloughs on the Skagit river delta and then back out to again enter the south or north fork of the river and continue on to the next farm. The boat became famous in 1880 during the Ruby creek gold rush because an abnormally deep snow pack in the Cascades provided the highest river level ever and even in the hot summer months that year sternwheelers like the Fanny Lake, Josephine, Chehalis, Glide and Lady of the Lake were able to ply the Skagit waters to and above the future site of Marblemount. The sternwheelers captured the imagination of settlers all along the river as they watched the boats challenge narrows, rapids, riffles, canyons and even low falls. Then in 1883 the Fanny Lake hit a submerged rock at the treacherous Dead Man's Riffle just upstream from future Sedro and sank. It was eventually raised with considerable expense. That was a bad year for the sternwheelers: the Gem burned while carrying a load of hay and the Josephine's boiler blew to smithereens on another run.
      Green said the Fanny Lake was "built to float on a heavy dew," ideal for the lower river and the LaConner flats. He planned the trips carefully, buying oats and hays directly from farmers along the sloughs of Fir island, then trading the grain to loggers and sawmill owners to feed their oxen and later their horses. In turn, the woodsmen traded their raw lumber, which the Fanny Lake transported to mills like the Cranney-Grennan operation at Utsalady on the north shore of Camano island. After it was milled, the lumber was traded back to farmers who grew phenomenally in numbers in the late 1880s and early '90s and were building homes for their families and bunkhouses for their crews. Business in the very early '90s was good and the partners paid off their loan within a year.
      At first, the partners competed with George T. Willey, a hay and grain merchant on the Seattle waterfront who invested in other boats. As he would in his future business dealings, Green worked to absorb his competition and he soon negotiated a deal with Willey so that the original partners joined with Willey to form a new corporation, the LaConner Trading & Transportation Co. [hereafter LT&T], through which they bought another steamer, the Annie M. Pence . Willey continued working on shore while Green and the other partners worked on boats. In the intervening years, Green had qualified for a master's and a pilot's license.


1890s and nationwide Depression challenge the young partners
      Just when they thought they were on the road to profit, the partners encountered some serious hurdles. Back East, trouble was brewing as Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which required that the U.S. Treasury buy at market value 4.5 million ounces of silver a month. In April 1893 the gold reserve fell below the $100 million mark because silver had been overvalued in relation to gold. The surplus of 1890 had shrunk so far under Republican President Benjamin Harrison and the Republican Congress's largesse to industrialists that a $70 million deficit loomed in 1894. President Grover Cleveland led the way to repeal in October but alienated members of his Democratic party, who wanted easy credit, and the repeal did not solve the problem. Foreign investors began withdrawing their capital starting that spring, railroads bankrupted, the steel industry declined and more than 600 banks failed. Cleveland tried to stave off disaster by selling $50 million of government bonds for gold, but the public did not respond and even after the House of J.P. Morgan spearheaded the sale, the economy worsened.
      Out here on the West Coast, the economy of the young states was not prepared for such an onslaught. Built on a series of booms that came with the railroads, many cities and counties could no longer pay their employees and had to pay in warrants that might be covered in the future. The downturn devastated real estate developer C.C. Calkins, who had invested heavily to transform Mercer island into a resort destination, and he fled to California. With capital drying up, construction halted and that caused a chain of reactions that cut the LT&T partners both ways, from the supplier end and the buyers in the settlements. As they did in 1873, settlers in the remote counties like the Skagit just hunkered down and traded by the barter system, so the partners had to tread water and adapt to the new economy.
      As if that were not bad enough, later that year Captain Alexander Wood tied up the Fanny Lake to a pier at the Sam Calhoun landing on Sullivan slough in LaConner, waiting for the tide to rise, when a fire started in the boiler and the boat quickly burned. The crew barely had time to escape with their lives and the vessel was a total loss. Valued at $5,000, it was insured for just $4,000. When trouble rained, it poured; the next year the Annie M. Pence was also destroyed by fire. The situation looked grim but Green knew that they had to get a boat up and running quickly and he also knew how to save a buck. While arranging for contractor T.W. Lake to rebuild the Pence , he worked out a deal to save $2,000 by renaming the boat for the builder.
      Launched in the fall of 1895 from Ballard, the T.W. Lake turned out to the last boat that Lake completed. Smaller than the Henry Bailey, the restored sternwheeler was 95 feet long with a beam of 20 feet and the hold was 6 feet, 6 inches deep, designed to fit the specific needs of the local freight business. It was one of the first boats on the Sound to be equipped with a winch for hauling freight right off a riverbank even at low tide. Sporting twin screws, it was powered by 40-horsepower engines that were built by A.L. Kelsall of Northwestern Ironworks.
      The Northwest recovered from the Depression earlier than much of the rest of the country, largely due to the supply of timber that was always needed as the wooden frontier towns burned, and then the shipping trade with the Orient by James J. Hill's Great Northern, the Union Pacific Railroad and Canada's Canadian Pacific Railway. When the Klondike Gold Rush started heating up in 1897, the region was well on its way to another boom. LT&T built slowly and conservatively in the mid-'90s, buying the E.D. Smith , which was equipped with a scow-type bow, and then the Utopia — built in Seattle in 1893, and the George E. Starr side-wheeler.
      The Starr was a sentimental favorite of many Northwesterners, partly because it was the runt of the litter. Ezra Meeker remembered the Starr fondly. His hop ranch in the Puyallup area was a frequent stop since Green's early days with the Fanny Lake. In an interview with the Sea Chest magazine, Green recalled that when they bought the Starr, the partners still had a "peck of troubles." He said that under a heavy load, the Starr's side paddlewheels dipped so low in the water that the boat seemed to hardly move. On one trip when it was crammed with canned salmon, the Starr was so slow that it cost more to feed the passengers than they paid for the trip. One of the Starr's captains was Steamboat Dan Benson, who came to Seattle in 1871 and homesteaded east of future Sedro in 1880 on Hansen creek, which was originally named Benson. He moved his family to Seattle in 1888 and died in a freak accident in February 1900 at the Treadwell mine on Douglass island off the coast of Alaska.
      The Klondike run opened a market for anything that would float and as the excitement built, LT&T bought the sternwheelers State of Washington, Fairhaven and the LaConner. The first two were built in 1889 at the same Commencement Bay shipyard that built the Henry Bailey the year before and both were bargains in the later years of the Depression. Another perennial Skagit favorite, the Skagit Chief, was also launched there that year. Nelson Bennett launched the Fairhaven as he promoted his boomtown of Fairhaven and the Fairhaven & Southern railroad, which linked the Bellingham Bay town and Sedro on the Skagit. Tacoma was cranking out boats quickly to compete with rival Seattle's mosquito fleet. According to Gordon Newell's 1966 book, Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, the Washington would become historically famous in 1906 when Capt. William P. Thornton loaded the first automobile on a Sound ship for a run on the Navy Yard Route to Bremerton and Port Orchard. LT&T built the sternwheeler City of Denver specifically for the Klondike route, but the Colorado consortium that ordered it forgot to pay and the boat became a regular on the Sound routes.


Green becomes steamboat industry leader, partners split up
      By 1900, the LT&T partners were finally making real profits and their concern that started with a lone sternwheeler and a scow 11 years before had grown to a fleet of 12 boats, carrying passengers as well as freight. Green had his eye on another route that he thought had a bright future. Back in December 1890, the U.S. Navy decided to build a shipyard at Point Turner near Port Orchard. A Navy drydock was also located nearby at a little burg called Bremerton in honor of James Bremer, who homesteaded there in 1882 and platted the townsite in 1891. Regular steamship service started on the route in 1885 and by the turn of the century, companies were competing to carry both passengers and freight to the shipyards, along with sightseers who wanted to see the marvelous Olympic Peninsula in the days before it was urbanized.
      Green was fully in charge of the company by then and he entered into a joint agreement with H.B. Kennedy to operate LT&T's sternwheeler Inland Flyer and Kennedy's sleek and fast Athlon from Pier 2 in Seattle on what would soon become known as the Port Orchard route. By May 1901 those two boats were the leaders on the run and all others were considered opposition, including the Barlow Brothers' Skagit Chief, which crossed on that route since 1893.

(Frank Zickmund)
Frank Zickmund and cookie duster

      Within a year, Green bought out Sam Denny's original interest in the company. Zickmund and Willey were gradually concentrating more and more on outside interests, but they remained active in the partnership for the time being. Peter Falk was the only partner, however, who remained in active partnership with Green until he retired in 1905. Born in Borgholm, Bada, Sweden, he came to the U.S. as a young man. After learning the steamship officer's trade, he became chief officer on the City of Quincy out of Seattle in 1888 and then transferred over to the Henry Bailey in 1889 about the same time that Green was hired. He was the first of the partners to marry and he had a marked effect on Green's future by preaching frugality. In the 1965 interview with McDonald, Green recalled how Falk advised the young purser early on to save a nickel by "walking home rather than taking the cable car, regardless of the distance.
(Mr. and Mrs. Peter Falk)
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Falk

      The P-I announced a major turning point in the steamship industry on May 2, 1903, when it reported that the Alaska Steamship Co., owners of Puget Sound Navigation Co. [hereafter PSN], had purchased controlling stock of LT&T. The largest block was $100,000 worth of stock from Willey. Green retained 40 percent and Falk kept 2-3 percent. The new concern was initially named Inland Navigation Co. but as PSN the resulting company would become the 800-pound gorilla of Puget sound shipping. Charles E. Peabody controlled the majority and he became president of the enlarged company and soon became chairman of the board. The LT&T retained an identity, however, through the strength of Green, who became president when Peabody was elevated; Falk became vice president and Walter Oakes was the secretary-treasurer.

Charles E. Peabody
(Charles E. Peabody)
Charles E. Peabody, 1888,
[now that is
one fine beard]


      Peabody was from a famous old family that launched the Black Ball Line in 1818 out of a New York pier with the packet ship James Monroe, a schooner. Black Ball was initially known for textile importer Benjamin Marshall's revolutionary idea — prompt, reliable service on boats that departed and arrived on schedule, full or not. Benjamin's daughter Cornelia married Enoch W. Peabody. Their third child of eight, Charles E. Peabody, was a stockbroker on Wall Street, temporarily leaving the family's profession on the sea. Charles H. Folger, who was heir to the Folger coffee empire and Enoch's cousin, was named Secretary of the U.S. Treasury in Chester Arthur's administration in the 1880s and he named Charles E. Peabody special agent for the West Coast, where he managed the U.S. Revenue Cutter service. Leaving for the West at age 25 in 1882, he met Miss Lilly Macaulay on the train, a meeting that would change not only his plans for the future but would eventually influence Puget sound shipping and Joshua Green.
      Lilly's father was William J. Macaulay, an early day lumber king on Vancouver island. As Charles pursued Lilly over the next few years, his father-in-law liked the cut of his jib and the two, along with Robert Dunsmuir, formed the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. at Chemainus, B.C. Peabody became business manager and soon married Lilly on May 27, 1891. They made their home in Port Townsend, where Peabody had become prominent in the coal industry, logging operations and the Merchants Bank. Peabody and Oakes became partners in the Pacific Wharf Co. there in 1891 and steered it through the financial shoals of the 1893 panic. On Jan. 21, 1895, the partners, along with others, formed the Alaska Steamship Company. They bought the 140-foot steamer Willapa and placed her on the route to Southeastern Alaska in direct competition with the established Pacific Steamship Company.
      A rate war ensued and the older company slashed their rates in half to try to starve the young whippersnappers. But the Alaska Steamship officers were the real thing, not just flashes in the pan, as the Klondike miners would say. Peabody was strong in all his industries and Oakes was the son of Thomas Oakes, president of the Northern Pacific Railway. In addition, they were adept in the emerging art of public relations. The public resented Pacific Steamship rapacious attempts to squelch the young company and most prospective miners and businessmen patronized the Willapa for passage north. From the beginning, the Willapa unfurled the historic old Black Ball flag, which had a black ball on a red field. Alaska Steamship flew that flag until the company was sold to Guggenheim interests in 1909 and it was flown again by Charles's son Capt. Alexander Marshall, starting in 1928, when his company became a leader in the Puget Sound ferry industry.
      Back at the end of 1897, Charles E. Peabody reorganized the Alaska Steamship Co. and his fleet expanded rapidly as the Klondike gold stampede mounted. In 1898 the stockholders formed the Puget Sound Navigation Co. [PSN] as an inland water subsidiary. That new company was registered in Nevada where corporate laws were much more lenient. The Puget sound routes were a natural place for the company to recycle some of its smaller original vessels as they became obsolete for the strenuous Alaska runs. One of the partners in this venture was D.B. Jackson, who was affiliated with Charles E. Peabody from the early days of the original Pacific Wharf Co. and was the grandfather of future Washington state governor Daniel J. Evans.


Bellwether sheep and other bad omens on the Victoria route
      Just a year before Peabody and his associates bought out Willey's interest in LT&T, they initiated through PSN a Port Townsend and Port Angeles to Victoria steamship route for both freight and passengers in 1902. Pacific Steamship Co. was caught napping as they had committed all their ships to the Klondike run, which was still running as the gold rush slowly subsided. The other possible competitor, Canadian Pacific Railway [CPR], initially declined to compete on the route, concentrating instead on their Empress oceangoing sleek steamships that connected with their rail route across the Canadian Rockies and their Empress Hotels in Victoria and Vancouver.
      Just two months after the LT&T purchase, PSN launched their new super steamer, the 155-foot wooden Clallam on the Seattle to Victoria run. The vessel was a luxury ship with 44 staterooms. Peabody was apparently not as frugal or conservative as his new partner, Joshua Green, because he made a fateful decision that backfired.
      On Jan. 9, 1904, a strange omen escaped the notice of the Clallam Capt. George Roberts, one of the Alaska Steamship founders, as sheep were loaded onto the Clallam on the way to Victoria slaughterhouses. Such sheep were customarily lead aboard by a bellwether sheep, who was the only one given a round-trip. On that day, the stubborn bellwether emphatically refused to board the Clallam and was left behind. After the steamer departed later from Port Townsend, a gale arose that caused the ship to roll heavily as it neared Vancouver island. The ship took on water at a perilous rate and Roberts was forced to order three lifeboats over the side for the women and children. All 54 people in the lifeboats perished in the violent water as the men who stayed aboard watched the horror, including a bridegroom who lost his bride. After fighting to save the ship, the crew and male passengers finally slipped off the sides of the vessel into life rafts and were picked up by two tugs that arrived just as the Clallam rolled over and sank.
      Peabody's major mistake was a precursor to the mistake that the White Star Line would make with the Titanic eight years later. PSN considered the Clallam to be so safely built that the company insured her only for collision and fire and the ship cost $100,000 to build and replace. In the aftermath, Captain Roberts's license was suspended for safety violations. The positive result was that Puget sound vessels became a safer fleet afterwards. For those who believe in superstition, two other negative omens were not heeded. Back when the new steamer was launched the summer before, the young daughter of the Tatoosh island weather observer, who was chosen by Clallam county residents to christen the Clallam, missed the bow with the champagne bottle as the vessel slid down the ways with unexpected speed. Then a gasp arose from the crowd as the ship's ensign unfurled upside down, the universal distress sign for a ship at sea.


Green leads the move towards Puget sound ferries
      We will not attempt here to recount the many twists and turns in the Puget sound shipping industry of the early century. We only note the Clallam story above because it indirectly led to Joshua Green's increased influence over the Puget Sound Navigation Co. [PSN]. We noted above that Green gained stature even after his LT&T was absorbed by PSN. A symbol of his strength was the new fleet flag, which was designed under the advice of Mrs. Green. It featured a red star on a white diamond on a blue field, which is now the flag of Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society. Only the Alaska Steamship Co. vessels continued to fly the Peabody family's Black Ball flag. The combined fleet now had 16 vessels. Over the next decade or so, Green also became a leader in the new segment of shipping that resulted from the popularity of the automobile. Historically, the Puget sound shipping fleet at the turn of the century was still an outgrowth of the mosquito fleet that started when Washington became a territory in 1853. Steamers for the various routes were designed to transport both passengers and freight but not vehicles, even wagons except for those being shipped to buyers.
      That all ended because of an attempt by Canadian authorities to thwart the American lines such as PSN and Alaska Steamship, which the Canadians thought were unfairly competing with their ships. In a move that attracted little initial attention, the Canadian government enacted an obscure law that Americans concluded was written to aid in the supremacy of the Canadian Pacific Railway [CPR]. The new Canadian steamboat law stated that ocean steamers would be limited to carrying one passenger per two gross tons capacity. That would affect American steamers that docked at Canadian ports. American steamboat laws were far less stringent. Therefore, the Chippewa, which replaced the Clallam on the Victoria route, was 100 feet shorter overall than the Canadian Princess Victoria but it was licensed by the U.S. to carry 1250 passengers while the Victoria was restricted to carry only 971. The Victoria was registered at 1943 tons, while the Chippewa was 996 tons, which meant that the Canadians would only authorize 498 passengers onboard the Chippewa.
      A very angry Charles Peabody responded with a public statement, charging that the Canadians had enacted a contrived law. Peabody insisted that PSN vessels were not ocean steamers but rather were "ferries." Until that time, the only other Puget sound ocean-going vessels referred to as ferries were the City of Seattle and the West Seattle. Other ferryboats also traveled across Lake Washington at that time, but all other ships were consistently referred to as steamers. As he had 14 years before, Peabody once more reached into his public relations bag and voluntarily limited the Chippewa to 1,000 passengers — down from the prior 1,250, and the Canadian government backed down and did not contest Peabody's assertion about ferries. Ten years into the new century, PSN began to dominate the Sound, challenging all steamboat companies on inland waters. The PSN proved to be a fast learner from the CPR's lessons about dominating the competition.
      As we mentioned above, Capt. William P. Thornton ferried the first automobile across the Sound on the State of Washington steamer in 1906 on the Port Orchard run. That did not start a rush because the old boats were not designed at all for transporting the bulky autos of the day. But within a couple of years, Charles E. Peabody bought a touring car for his family. He liked to take a few of his eight sons for a ride in his "machine" to visit friends on the Olympic Peninsula or in Victoria. Captains who wanted to please the boss scurried to aid his social pursuits. The company installed an elevator on the bow of several steamers to assist loading and off-loading of cargo at varying tide levels. To accommodate Peabody, the captains installed plank ramps that led onto the elevator and the auto was then driven aboard the ship. The next problem was the low ceiling on the vessel's superstructure on the cargo deck, much shorter than the tall Peabody car. Once again, necessity acted as the mother of invention, as the crew let the air out of the tires and removed the convertible top of the car along with the windshield, a daring act on a $4,000 auto. Once the steamer reached its destination, the crew reassembled the car. Soon, other notable worthies wanted to be accommodated. Back in those days this lengthy process did not hold up a long line of waiting cars because you were required to make an appointment many hours in advance of departure time. As requests mounted, some daring drivers pitched in to remove their own tires to speed up the process and their act became a common occurrence to the passenger crowd's amusement.
      Always the practical visionary, Joshua Green looked ahead to the years when automobiles would draw passengers away from the PSN ferries. After the Navy construction at Port Orchard and Bremerton, housing developments followed. By the teen years of the century, Green wondered if travelers would choose to drive around the base of the sound via Olympia to reach their peninsula destinations once roads were improved enough to make such a trip more convenient than following the company's ferry schedule. As we mentioned above, before LT&T was merged with the PSN, Green signed a joint agreement with H.B. Kennedy for two ships to cross on the Port Orchard route. Seven years later, PSN and Kennedy entered an equal partnership in a separate company called the Navy Yard Route Inc., and that new company retained the name through Kennedy's death in 1920.
      In that same year of 1908, the PSN reorganized, increasing its capital stock from $500,000 to $1.5 million. The May 1947 PSN earnings report shows that Kennedy and Green subscribed the full 2,000 shares of Navy Yard Route stock. For the next few decades that route was called by the name of their company, regardless of which boat the passenger was riding. Also in 1908, PSN moved their terminal from Pier 2 to Colman dock, the same general area where riders board the Peninsula ferries today.
      One of the reasons that Green started thinking about the future was that competitor Samuel Barlow adapted his Bremerton steamer, the Tourist, to carry autos twice daily. The location of its boilers severely limited the ship's auto capacity to six per trip. PSN also adapted to allow cars but their older boats would need considerable conversion to allow enough autos to top Barlow's ship. By the time PSN decided to contract the conversion, World War I was heating up and shipyards were too busy with war production.


Green remembers his patron, Bailey Gatzert
(Bailey Gatzert)
Bailey Gatzert, patron, merchant, banker, mayor

      Green decided that the solution was to find a vessel somewhere that both had the capacity to carry more autos and was distinctive enough to attract attention and press coverage, especially the free kind. On a trip to Portland, PSN representatives noticed the sternwheeler Bailey Gatzert [BG]. The BG was launched among the shingle mills along the shore at Ballard Marine Railway in the fall of 1890, just a year or so after Green started in the business. What a publicity coup, he must have surmised. He might have imagined the resulting headline: Steamship Executive honors his patron 41 years later. Built by John J. Holland for the Seattle Steam Navigation and Transportation Co. and was without question the finest vessel yet launched on Puget sound. The interior decoration reflected the owner's pride, with interior design supervised by the British artist Harnett, who adorned the cabin panels himself. Back then, three years before the Depression struck, money was lavishly spent to make the BG a floating palace.
      Then the beautiful darling got away. She was taken to the Columbia river in 1892, where she was used for excursions. The Bailey Gatzert Waltz was composed in her honor for the Lewis and Clark Centennial celebration of 1905. The BG was then used as the Royal Barge for the Portland Rose Festival. By 1907 the original hull was deteriorating, so a new hull was constructed and the house — built with lavish care, was still quite sound and was simply transferred to the new hull, which was 17 feet longer than the original. PSN bought the ship in 1918 and she was towed to Seattle by the tug Wallowa, where she re-entered Puget sound service on April 18, 1918. With slight refitting, the Bailey Gatzert easily surpassed the auto-carrying capacity of the competing Tourist ship, which was now limited to four cars per trip. The BG was assigned to three daily round trips and four on weekends, catering especially to the owner of automobiles. By 1920, even greater auto capacity was urgently needed, so the BG entered Todd Shipyards and her hull was sponsoned out to accommodate 30 autos of the day. Washington Iron Works custom built a ten-ton elevator for the rebuilt ship, the first ferry specifically altered for that purpose. As a result, a new group of businesses sprang up to retrofit Sound ferries until the last of the old mosquito fleet steamers left the regular runs on Puget sound.

(Bailey Gatzert)
The Bailey Gatzert sternwheeler

      The BG's success led to the next step in the ferries adapting to autos. A year later, PSN decided to convert the former Whatcom steamer to an auto ferry, which would be renamed The City of Bremerton. Unlike the BG, where the lavish hull was largely left intact, the shipyard began by stripping off most of the superstructure above the main deck. The hull of the vessel was then sponsoned out, giving increased breadth on the main deck, now called the auto deck, and then the bow was widened and rounded — [along with stern, if necessary, on later retrofits] to fit the various landing slips. The result was a single-ended, drive-around ferryboat. The City of Bremerton landed bow-in at the Seattle terminal. A turntable in the stern looped the cars around to the other side of the vessel and they then exited over the same bow onto which they had boarded. Thus the autos were no longer forced to back on or off the ferry in reverse gear, a considerable safety improvement. Before that, the mate and the pilot house had to use a complex series of signals by an electric bell to maneuver the ferry into a position that insured that the ferry would always stay on the apron of the landing slip as the driver slowly backed up the ramp.
      Although stories about Joshua Green always portray him as a workaholic, we know that he did let his hair down now and then. Sometime around the turn of the century, he was invited to join a special hunting club on the Swinomish flats just east of the slough. Colonel Blethen from the Seattle Times and his cronies bundled up there on weekends to get away from the pressures of work and responsibilities for their family. There is a tale, possibly apocryphal, that Blethen had so much influence over the owners of OIC, the company that initially built the railroad tracks east from Anacortes in 1890, that he convinced them to build a depot close enough that he could take his buggy over to pick up his guests. We always assumed that the lodge was long gone, but when we interviewed Puget "Pete" Knudson, age 88, last month, he let out a roar and told his nephew, Pat Farrell of antiques and Stanley Steamer fame, to take me out to see it. Sure enough, we left the busy Hwy. 20 and turned underneath the overpass and there it was out in a field. The cabin looked oddly lonely, as if it pined for a couple of black labs and some grouse flying by. Pete walked by there almost daily when he was growing up on his father's farm, which straddled both sides of the Swinomish slough. As we left, Pat drove us by the second lodge, which was built in later years by Joshua Green for his special clients. It has been converted into a house and does not look so lonely.


Joshua Green moves on to greener banking pastures
(Black Ball Ferries ad)
Black Ball Ferries promotional ad

      By 1921, Joshua Green had acquired 48 per cent of the profitable Navy Yard Route with PSN owning almost all of the balance. He was also becoming a wealthy man and he was no longer spending his entire days in active management of the companies. Back in 1913 he moved his wife, Missy, and his family into a mansion located at 1204 Minor Avenue on First Hill that was designed by noted Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter (who also designed Spokane's Davenport Hotel) in 1899 for timber magnate C. D. Stimson and his wife, Harriet Overton Stimson. He and his family lived in the house until his death in 1975. [See the restored mansion.]
(Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Green)
Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Green

      Green's leadership in the autoferry conversions on the Sound led to a conversion of a steamer to a ferry on the Anacortes-Sidney route, which PSN took over from founder Capt. H.W. Crosby in 1924. Soon there were auto and ferry links all around the Sound in both Washington state and British Columbia, including Vancouver island, so that tourists who were buying autos at a record clip could drive their auto, board a ferry, and so on in a great circle of nearly a thousand miles through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
      Charles E. Peabody died on Aug. 13, 1926. Green's original partner and friend, Capt. Peter Falk, died two years earlier on May 17, 1924, a PSN stockholder to his dying day. With his industry friends and peers gone, Green decided it was time for him to retire, too, at age 55. Of course he did not know it then, but he was just barely past his halfway point in a very long and successful life. In the early 1920s he gradually bought controlling interest in the People Savings Bank, which had fallen on hard times. After investing $200,000 and gaining control in 1927, he changed the name to Peoples Bank and Trust Co. In that same year, he resigned as president of Puget Sound Navigation Co. to concentrate fully on his banking interests. Because branch banking was not allowed at the time, People Savings Bank added First Avenue Bank in Seattle as a wholly owned but independent subsidiary in 1929. That was followed in subsequent years by the acquisition of banks in Renton, North Seattle and other locations. PSN survived the Depression years of the 1930s and dominated the Puget sound ferry system under the old Black Ball flag until the ferries were sold to the state of Washington in 1951.

(Stimson-Green Mansion)
. . . and their mansion, now completely restored

      Just as he did with the sternwheelers, Joshua Green focused his attention on preserving his banking interests during hard times and implemented visionary ideas to make his banks competitive and ready to thrive in the good times. By 1949, when Green's son, Joshua Jr., was named president of the bank, it had deposits of $128 million and was serving 103,000 customers. By 1969, the year Joshua Green turned 100, deposits surged to $400 million. He communicated by both phone and letters with his old friends on the Skagit river, including descendants of the owners of the original landings, such as members of the von Pressentin family upriver. He also enjoyed visiting his old haunts, recounting the region's early history and sharing information from his journals and boat manifests. Joshua Green died at age 105 in 1975, just a year after his wife, Missy, who died at age 104. In 1988, U.S. Bancorp of Portland acquired Peoples Bank and renamed it the U.S. Bank of Washington. He truly left an indelible mark on the water and the land that was his home for 88 years.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on March 18, 2003, last updated Feb. 15, 2009
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This article originally appeared in Issue 13 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine



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