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The Jarman Myths and
Kitsap (Slaughter) County

(Bremerton Billboard)
Caption from the Jeffcott book: "A signboard near Bremerton proclaims Jarman's fame. Courtesy of Mrs. C.H. Virtue." This photo is evidence of a Jarman myth that we discuss and debunk below. This photo proves that some Kitsap historian helped propagate the myth that Jarman was an early settlers there. We especially hope that Mrs. Virtue's descendants read this story and provide more information about her and the sign.

      As we addressed the many myths about Blanket Bill Jarman in Issue 40 of the online Journal, none was more challenging than the mysterious billboard that a retailer erected near Bremerton in 1922, according to Percival R. Jeffcott, author of the Blanket Bill Jarman book (1958). We have consulted with historians all over Kitsap County and the Olympic Peninsula and we have come up with theories, but no actual answers. So we will present the results of our research and we hope that a reader can help all of us solve this puzzle.
      A tire dealer erected a billboard near Bremerton in the 1920s era that honored Jarman's supposed settlement nearby:

Bremerton, 5 miles from here
      William Jarman, an Englishman in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Co., was the first to settle in this district. He came in 1852. The first permanent settler was Christian Tutts.
      Of the two claims there, the first was over the top and the second is just plain confused. Whenever Jarman actually lived in the area that is now called Kitsap County and Bremerton (originally named Slaughter County when formed in 1857), that period appears to have been a very brief one in 1852. Regarding Mr. Tutts, that claim seems to be just a sloppy mistake, as we will discuss below.
      Jeffcott inferred from the thin historical record that Alice accompanied Bill when he ranged down south on Puget Sound to the area that would be officially named Slaughter County in January 1857 and soon changed to Kitsap County on July 13 that year]. Our skepticism about the Bremerton claim was only reinforced when we consulted our old friend Fredi Perry Pargeter, the author who is the acknowledged expert on Kitsap County history. She disagrees vociferously with the quote from the billboard and when we showed her a photo of the billboard, she told us that:

      I had never heard the story about the billboard nor Jarman having any connection to the community. At the time stated, as you know, there was no Bremerton. The area was covered with thick underbrush and trees to the shorelines. There was a band of natives who lived on what is now Dye's Inlet and they "supposedly" had a fort in what is now the Manette area. Over the years there has been some confusion about a Hudson's Bay outpost in the Bremerton area between Oyster Bay and Mud Bay. The actual Hudson Bay outpost was between Oyster Bay and Mud Bay in the Olympia area.
      Gerald Elfendahl, whom Fredi calls the best Kitsap County historian, also doubts the story altogether. Both he and Fredi thought at first that the 1922 billboard must have referred to Bellingham, not Bremerton. Both pointed out the many times that various historians have confused the two towns, but the text of the billboard clearly referred to "Bremerton, five miles from here." The caption on the photo in Jeffcott's book indicates that the photo came from Mrs. C.H. Virtue. So the billboard was real but were either of the claims also real and who was Mrs. Virtue?

Kitsap was originally Slaughter County
(Lt. Slaughter)
Lt. and Mrs. William Aloway Slaughter

      Before Washington was split off into a new Territory in 1853 and while it was still the northern part of Oregon Territory, this area consisted of three counties. The entire Puget Sound area west of the Cascades and the southwest area were included in Lewis County. When President Millard Fillmore signed legislation that authorized the creation of Washington Territory on March 2, 1853, Lewis County was split further: The new Jefferson County included the northern portion of the Olympic Peninsula and the new King County extended from the Cascades west to the Pacific Ocean.
      The Territorial Legislature split the counties further and named a new one on Jan. 16, 1857, when they formed Slaughter County out of parts of Jefferson and King counties. The eastern shore of the new county would front on Puget Sound and included Port Gamble, which was rapidly growing to where it would be home to the most important sawmill in the territory, Pope & Talbot. At a general election of July 13, 1857, however, voters in the sparsely settled new county, chose instead the name of Kitsap, for the local Indian chief, whose name has been translated as "good" or "brave." Chief Kitsap was the uncle of Chief Sealth (Seattle) and he was considered a friend of the white settlers. He had ruled over his tribe for more than six decades and they respected and maybe feared him as a shaman and medicine man. But the tribe turned on him on April 18, 1860, after he administered a new "red magic medicine" to three of his tribe and they soon died. Relatives of the dead swore vengeance, and shot Kitsap and hacked him into pieces. Kitsap was thus one of the hard-luck Indians, second only to Chief Leschi, but Kitsap was acquitted by the whites when he and Leschi were arrested during the Indian Wars of 1855-56. The whites hanged Leschi.
      The Slaughter name honored U.S. Army Lieutenant William A. Slaughter. Some Washington residents considered him a martyred hero of the Indian Wars of 1855-56; others considered him a mistake-prone lieutenant who knew war from studying books at West Point but who ignored the wisdom of frontier soldiers.
      In October 1855, Lt. Slaughter and Major Granville O. Haller led two units of the U.S. 4th Infantry in search of hostile Indians on opposite sides of the Cascades mountain range after efforts to move tribes to reservations had mixed results. In the book, Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865, author Robert Marshall Utley recalled, " . . . Slaughter and fifty men, sent from Fort Steilacoom to cooperate with Haller, had crossed the Cascades at Naches Pass, found the Yakima Valley crawling with Indians and hastily fallen back to White River. Haller's defeat emboldened the hostiles and spread the war fever to uncommitted tribes." In the first week of November, Slaughter and other officers led Army units in skirmishes in the valley between the White and Green Rivers in southeastern King County. On October 28, Indians attacked several settler homes on the White River, killing nine settlers and leaving several children orphans.
      On November 24, Indians attacked a platoon of the 4th, led by Slaughter, along with a company of volunteers, near the present town of Auburn. Slaughter was killed along with two corporals of the volunteer company. That led to settlers naming the voting precinct in the southern part of the county, Slaughter, in the lieutenant's honor. When a town arose in the district and was incorporated in 1891, the name stuck. Then, in 1893, a group of settlers from Auburn, New York, a hop-growing town, moved to Slaughter, because of the thriving hop industry. The new settlers renamed the town, Auburn, on Feb. 21, 1893.

Slaughter, Kitsap and Auburn beyond the headlines
      While Slaughter was lionized by some, lingering doubts followed his death. Some thought he had stuck his head up above a log at the wrong time. Leonard Forsman, another Kitsap historian, recalled: "I had heard that Slaughter sat too near the campfire, despite advice from his Indian scouts not to go near it and was shot from the woods." Bill Speidel, the late author of Doc Maynard (1978), was more specific about Slaughter's mistakes. In researching documents from that period, Speidel discovered that Slaughter was convinced that Snoqualmoo (now Snoqualmie) Chief Patkanim was "dogging my footsteps," and that the powerful Indian was his nemesis. As we discuss in the other stories in this issue about Washington Indians, Patknanim certainly was hostile to white settlers back in 1848, but by October 1855, he had decided that his bread was buttered on the settler side. Arthur A. Denny, leader of the Seattle forces, argued in vain that Patkanim was the best Indian friend who the settlers had. In fact, Speidel found a letter signed by Patkanim on November 4 that actually offered 100 of his "Good Men" to prove that his tribal members were not "Enemies of the Bostons."
      After I discussed these matters with Kitsap historians, Gerald Elfendahl of explained to me what he had discovered about the politics behind the Slaughter name for the county and the nearly immediate change to Kitsap County.

      [George A.] Meigs [sawmill owner at Port Madison] and [Capt William] Renton [[sawmill owner at Port Blakely] helped get Timothy Duane Hinkley elected to the Territorial] Legislature and the gang from Port gamble had their book keeper elected, S B Wilson. Both were directed by mill owners to "bring home a new county." They both introduced identical bills to do so naming it "Madison County" [for the U.S. president]. Representative [George] Abernathy from Wahkiakum County moved to strike the name Madison and changed it to Slaughter. The mill owners' reps were not going to rock the boat so they let Slaughter stand. Gov. Isaac Stevens signed the bill on Jan. 16, 1857.
      Just as soon as three commissioners were appointed at Port Madison, where Meigs had offered land for the county seat, they set up three voting precincts and they were given the right to select their name at the next general election. Mill, Madison and Kitsap were put on the ballot. Slaughter was not even made a voting choice. On July 13, 1857, Kitsap was selected unanimously. Mill owners in the west Sound were tired of having to run to Seattle of Port Townsend to record deeds, mortgages, etc. so While Isaac Stevens and the territorial legislature moved to memorialize Slaughter, folks on the west side of the Sound were not having any of it. As soon as the loggers got together to organize themselves, they put up the names: Madison County, Mill County and Kitsap County. Kitsap won in a landslide.

      And then there was another myth to debunk. A few sources have repeated the myth that hotel owners objected to the name, Slaughter County, because they did not want to lure guests by suggesting, "Come stay at the lovely Slaughter House." The only problem was, the first hotel in Kitsap County was erected in 1860, long after the name was changed. Then, Leonard Forsman answered the question or at least led us in the right direction: "I believe the "Welcome to the Slaughter House" line came from Auburn, Washington or thereabouts. They were named Slaughter for a while too. That certainly makes more sense. Researching the Auburn and White River, I discovered a common memory that "A runner from a local hotel met trains with a cry of, "This way to Slaughter House!" Although we have not yet nailed down the location and time period of such a named hotel, we will accept the story and we hope a reader can enlighten us with more details.

      After considerable research, we have concluded that whoever created the text for the billboard clearly did create a modern myth or possibly quoted someone else who read their history wrong. As often happens, we were led to at least a partial answer by Donna Sand, an excellent researcher from Bellingham. She discovered that the pioneer settler was Christian Tuttle, not Tutts. The incorrect spelling can be attributed to the famous California historian Hubert Howe Bancroft , who wrote in his 1890 book, History of Washington, Idaho and Montana, that "Christian Tutts was the first permanent settler on Lummi." Tuttle certainly was the first white settler to stake a claim at Lummi Island, northwest of present Bellingham. Tuttle settled there in Whatcom County in 1871 and, as you will read elsewhere in Issue 40, Jarman settled at the delta of the Samish River in 1852. That latter area was also part of Whatcom County until 1883, when Skagit County was split off from the mother county.
      After all the research and comparison of various historians, we have concluded that the billboard author simply made a mistake and posted information about Bellingham history, not Bremerton. Now all we have to do is determine who did so and why, and a number of Kitsap researchers are helping in that quest. We still wonder why Kitsap County historians ignored the mistake on the billboard from 1922 to the World War II period, when it was apparently taken down. Luckily for people in that area, there are many excellent historians in the county now, who are much more careful about their research and claims.
      Finally, Pargeter summed up the myth very nicely: "I'm thinking that somewhere, early in the 20th century, a newspaper reporter wrote that Jarman lived in Bremerton in 1850-whatever. As I believe I mentioned, many confuse, in their brains, Bremerton and Bellingham. That story was picked up by someone in Bremerton who passed it on and it became an urban legend. Hopefully this will be clarified one day." We agree. And maybe we will even find Mrs. Virtue or her descendants.

(Samish Island book cover)
Links, background reading and sources
      Blanket Bill Jarman and the stories associated with him are the entire contents of Issue 40. Go back to the Table of Contents for that issue to find the links to all the stories. If you are not yet a subscriber to the Subscribers Journal magazine online, please see the complete story list and details of how to subscribe. We are pleased to announce the publication of a complete history of the island where the Samish Indians were based. Samish Island, a History: From the Beginning to the 1970s by Susan and Fred Miller is a terrific new book and a loving story of the hook of land just west of Edison in Skagit County. Look for it at your favorite bookstore or online. There is no ISBN number, but the publishing information is: Mount Vernon, WA: Copy & Print Store, 2007. Gail Hopley laid out the book, which also includes poems and stories by and from one of our favorite writers, Berniece Hoyt Leaf, of Sedro-Woolley and Juniper Beach. When we finish reading the book, we will review it in depth in the free home pages of the Journal. If you want to purchase the self-published Miller book in your area, Fred shared a current list of retail locations: "WD Foods in Allen; Skagit County Museum at LaConner and Anacortes Museums; Stowe's Clothing Store and Horen's Drugstore, both in Burlington; Rosabella's Gift and Apple Store on Allen-West and Farm to Market Road; Rhododendron Cafe on Chuckanut Drive; and Blau's Oysters, here on Samish Island. Books can also be ordered thru our e-mail ( and at Hopley's e-mail at (ghopley@wavecable,com). Or people can phone me at 360-766-6548 or Gail Hopley at 766-6823. We will go on line to such outlets as Amazon at some point. We arranged the publication ourselves, so there is no publisher sales outlet." If you live outside the area, look for it at your favorite bookstore or better yet, ask them to stock it. There is no ISBN number, but the publishing information is: Mount Vernon, WA: Copy & Print Store, 2007.
Attention: We have reserved the Burlington Library meeting room for a presentation on October 18. This replaces our original date of Sept. 27, which had a conflict. We will review rare photos and documents about the settlement of the towns north of the Skagit River and west of Sterling. Reservations are not required, but we would appreciate your feedback for planning purposes if you would like to attend. Please click this email button ->> with the number of people, your remarks and what you would like to see. Or read more details here

Story posted on Aug. 30, 2007 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 40 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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