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Skagit River Journal

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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
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William "Blanket Bill" Jarman Part Two of Two

Bill mainly at Whatcom in 1857-62
(Jarman 1900)
Bill Jarman, circa 1900, after returning from England

      Bill Jarman told Bellingham editor Frank Teck another tale in the 1897 interview about an incident in the year 1857 that cannot be verified; Edson and Jeffcott supplied more details. He claimed that while he was splitting rails at Fort Bellingham, Captain George E. Pickett asked him to pilot the Fort's whale boat to Victoria with Pickett and some of his soldiers, and Lelah Jackson Edson (The Fourth Corner) wrote that all members of the party bought five gallons each of Port and London Dock brandy. Jarman told Teck that Governor Douglas sought him out and scolded him, but he did not explain why. Bill also told Teck that Douglas recounted the blankets and ransom tale to Pickett but once again we have only Bill's word for that.
      By the early 1860s, Bill may well have left Alice and the children back at the Samish camp during his stints in Whatcom. She was seen with him at Indian camps on the beach east of Whatcom Falls (present courthouse area) after 1860, but more than one settler usually saw him in the company of two Indian girls named Lucy and Susie, whom Bill called his wives. Jeffcott also concluded that Bill and Alice lost more than child to disease in infancy during that period. Jeffcott learned sketchy details of such from Harry Banner, who we discovered was a noted Bellingham insurance broker and may have been a newspaper even earlier. Banner died in 1963 at age 87 and the 1910 census noted that he was born in Kansas, so he could have possibly come to the Bay as a young man with the Kansas Colony and the Jennings newspaper clan. Banner told Jeffcott that he was at Deadman's Point, just west of Fairhaven, when the hill there by the water was regarded by hydraulic hoses. He asked Jarman about it and told him that he saw human bones floating down the flume, and Jarman remarked, "I ought to [know], for some of my kids were buried there."
      Jeffcott also learned about Jarman's dalliances during that period when Henry Slater — a son of George Slater, who worked at the Sehome Coal Mines in the 1860s, told the writer that his father often told the story of how a friend of his reporting finding a "white Indian" living among the Indians at "the beach," probably Squalicum. "I know he was a full-blooded Indian for he was dressed like one and spoke the language of the tribe," the man told George. "Well, sir, as you know, those siwashes wear odds and ends of both Indian and whiteman garb. All that hid his nakedness was an old shirt and a dirty blanket. Now, do you believe me?" In her 1929 History of Whatcom County, Lottie Roeder Roth wrote that Captain James W. Tarte wrote about Jarman living among the Indians. Jeffcott knew Tarte well because Tarte was the older brother of Jeffcott's father-in-law. Rebecca Tarte Jeffcott told her husband that James came to the Bay in 1869 as the son of a Englishman who originally came to the Northwest during the Cariboo (B.C.) gold strikes of the early '60s. Young James was soon hired as head teamster for the Sehome Coal Mine. He later owned a salmon cannery on California Creek, near Semiahmoo, and was captain on steamboats between the Bay and New Westminster, which was then the key city on mainland British Columbia. Tarte recalled that Bill then lived in a crude tent of reed matting that was woven by his two Indian wives, Lucy and Susie.
      You may well wonder how Bill was involved in the seminal event in Whatcom history during that time: the abbreviated gold rush to the Fraser River on what would soon become the mainland of British Columbia. Jeffcott researched that question extensively and "found not a single line or reference to the man in the exciting annals of that period. In fact, no one has found any details about Bill other than his mail contract in what one could well call his lost years of 1857-60.
      We know that Capt. Pickett The only other mention about Bill by other Whatcom pioneers came from Henry Roeder who had not started building his own sloops yet and needed transportation over to Friday Harbor in late March 1862. In his own journal he noted that he went to Bellingham Bay Coal Mine at Sehome to seek transportation with Bill

Bill goes trading in his sloop from 1865-70
(John Deighton)
Percival R. Jeffcott found this drawing of "Gassy Jack" John Deighton in a scrapbook in the Vancouver Historical Archives. It portrays Deighton standing on his saloon on Water Street, which volunteers erected almost overnight. Drawn by a Mr. Wilson, the sketch was printed in a Vancouver Sun newspaper article, dated April 8, 1940, which was in turn derived from a book, Early Vancouver, Vo.. III (1937), by Major J.S. Matthews. Matthews wrote about how Deighton had lost his saloon business in New Westminster, the dominant town on the mainland at the mid-19th century, and then rowed over to Granville Island with a barrel of whisky, which he served the day he opened his new saloon. Water Street then ran along what was the beach near the docks.

      We found Bill again in the public record in the mid-1860s when another opportunity came Bill's way because of his sloop, Alice. At that time, investors in the trans-Atlantic telegraph-cable project became frustrated after two breaks in the cable. The Western Union and California State Telegraph companies began laying cable up the West Coast in 1864 in a plan to stretch a line over the Bering Straits and across Russia to Europe. When they reached the Puget Sound, the consortium hired John Fravel to head the construction crew. Long stretches of the line followed the waterline from Swinomish to Samish Island and Edison Slough, then McElroy Slough — where Fravel would center his eponymous village in 1871, and Oyster Bay, Clayton Bay and on up to Fairhaven.
      Jeffcott interviewed Bellingham banker Henry Heal, who married one of Fravel's daughters, and Heal confirmed that Bill told him details of his work with Fravel, presumably using his sloop to transport wire, insulators and supplies. With a crew that included William "Blanket Bill" Jarman, Fravel continued stringing wire north to Lake Terrell near Ferndale, Birch Bay and Semiahmoo and then east through future Everson and future Nooksack and finally north to the Fraser river. The final link to British Columbia was completed after Fravel's crew crossed the river and erected lines into New Westminster, where the first message originated on April 4, 1865. Although we have never seen any details confirmed, several sources state that the first telegraphic message on the Puget sound line was the news of Lincoln's assassination on April 14. Wires had reached the town of Sehome on March 16, 1865.
      For the next few years Bill claimed to have been fishing and trading up and down the Sound in his sloop, but Jeffcott suspected that he was probably smuggling like others who lived on the fringe of the villages — Dan Harris, Larry Kelley and Spanish John, and, 20 years later, Ben Ure. On one of his trips up to the Fraser River, he met an old English sailor, Jack Roan, who fished and shared Bill's interests. They became great friends and Bill introduced Jack to the early settlers near Ferndale, where Jack moved permanently. On another trip, Bill met the first permanent settler/merchant on Burrard Inlet, the future site of Vancouver.
      John Deighton was born in Yorkshire, England in 1830 and sailed like Jarman until he went bust as a miner during the '49er days. He appeared in British Columbia during the Cariboo Gold Rush in 1860 and later captained a steamboat between New Westminster and Harrison Lake. He explored Burrard Inlet starting in 1863 and soon owned a saloon in New Westminster, but it went bust, too. He moved to Burrard for good in 1867. He brought a barrel of whisky with him, which was a welcome sight to the fishermen there so he soon built another saloon at erected his saloon at a spot called Luck-Lucky that meant a grove of maple trees. That was close to Stamp's Mill, near what is now the foot of Gore street. His legend states that the mill workers helped him build almost overnight and he called his new business the Globe, after the former saloon that failed. Like Bill he was a teller of tales and the word for that in Victorian days was "Gassy," so he became known as Gassy Jack. That area of Gastown is now an upscale tourist destination, but in the 1960s it was a haven for college students from both Washington state and B.C. Jeffcott suspected that, after the two sailors became friends, Bill sailed back to Whatcom with Jack's whisky in his hold.

Samish pioneer at Jarman Prairie
Percival R. Jeffcott

      Sometime by 1868 an idea began forming in Bill's head about the prospects of turning the raw land of Whatcom County into cash. All during the 1850s and '60s, Jarman liked to hunt deer and elk — mowich and moolok in the Samish dialect, and to trap beaver in what we now call the Samish flats, near where he and Alice originally settled in 1852. By the spring of 1868, he decided to try a claim there again. This period also marked his return to Alice as a mate. Although he may have told Alice that farming and a pretty little home in the country was the end goal, more than likely he deduced how profitable a claim would be if he chose well and if the settlers kept arriving.
      Jeffcott noted that in the spring of 1868, the Bill and Alice paddled up the north fork of the Samish River with daughter Alice in his sloop to a place at a bow of what we now call the Edison Slough. Later in the century, William Brown would call that area Brownsville and in 1902 he named it Bow for his home in London. The bow in the slough disappeared when the north fork was altered for logging purposes but the depression in the earth by the Bow Community Church today shows where the water ran. That is where the most famous Indian of that area also lived off and on until his death in 1923. The Indian Freadaya (whom we now call Friday) roamed back and forth over what we now call Bow Hill to the bow in the slough that was the head of navigation by boat. Historian Ray Jordan of Sedro-Woolley told Jeffcott that settlers soon called the Indian, Friday, and also attached that name to the creek on the northeast of Bow Hill where he was born.
      Maybe Friday led the family for a hike over the hill or maybe Alice had been hiking the old trail before to join the women of the Samish tribe at the prairie where they dug camas roots. Regardless, they followed the barefoot Friday with heavy packs and tools while Friday carried his salmon in a sack. The prairie southeast of Friday Creek and the eventual fish hatchery had apparently been burned over periodically by Indians so they could plant the camas, a member of the lily family that had a bulb-shaped corm or solid root. The plant was indigenous to the coastal areas of both Washington and Oregon and when it bloomed, the prairie became a sea of light purple color. That area was also the launching point for hunting parties who set out east over what is now Duke's Hill and the other hills north of present Sedro-Woolley. Meanwhile the klootchmen — young girls and wives of the tribe, set up house in huts along the edge of the prairie and cultivated the camas until the corm matured in the late summer. They dug it up with a flat, pointed, vine maple digging tool and then ground and pounded the root into pulp and dried it until they mixed it with water and dried, wild berries for their meal staple, as whites would prepare bread. Over the next few decades, Indians came to prefer the white man's potatoes, and then the settlers' plows spelled the end to the camas.
      The location was perfect for Bill. No whites had discovered the area yet, just a couple hundred yards from where the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad tracks would run on a diagonal in 1889 and just east of what would become the town of Belfast in 1891 on the north-and-south Great Northern rail line. No surveyor had determined the lines yet, so he could stake his homestead claim and wait. According to his homestead application, he completed a crude cabin, "built of shakes, about the 15th of July, 1868, containing windows, doors, with fireplace and chimney." The one-room structure on the brow of a hill was comfy in summertime but drafty and uncomfortable in the winter. Bill found a spring nearby but he soon tired of fetching water — or sending Alice for it, so he dug a well near the cabin. He cleared a few square rods but did little else that first season. Photo collector Ed Marlow, who lives east of the Prairie on Prairie Road, explained that the Jarman homesite was on the slope north of the road, about a half mile west of where the F&S Grade Road intersects.

The Jarmans return to Whatcom and Liquor and homicide
Englishman Edmund Coleman, was the first climber to ascend Mount Baker to the summit, in 1868. This drawing of the village of Sehome, where we look north across Bellingham Bay, is from an article about the climb in an 1869 issue of Harper's magazine, a dominant U.S. publication at the time. The town was platted while Bill lived on the Bay in 1858.

      Whatever Bill's intention were with his claim, the family apparently moved back to Whatcom by the first winter. From his research, Jeffcott concluded that over the next five years, Jarman only returned to the claim on the prairie intermittently as needed to protect it from possible claim jumpers and squatters. He could not sell it until the land was surveyed. He signed affidavits in the summer of 1869 along with his friend James Taylor, regarding Solomon Allen's homestead at Lummi. They clearly established that he was residing near the village of Whatcom. One of the reasons for returning could have been for the Jarmans to enroll daughter Alice in the Sehome School, which was taught by Miss Isabelle Eldridge, daughter of early pioneer Edward Eldridge. According to Jeffcott and Eldridge, the Jarmans lived in the house that historians say was built by and for Capt. Pickett while he was serving at Fort Bellingham. We have discovered, however, that a number of pioneers questioned whether Pickett actually lived in the house.
      In the fall of 1871, Bill went to work for the Bellingham Bay Coal Co., which had bought the original Sehome mine. Edmund C. Fitzhugh, who also married an Indian woman — Julia, the daughter of Samish Chief Sehome — platted the town of Sehome in 1858, naming it for the anglicized version of the chief's name. Sehome was a company town and Bill became bartender of the company saloon, perhaps through Alice's friendship with Julia. The saloon shared the building with the company store and the telegraph office and supplied a liquor outlet for the hard-working miners, mainly British and Welch immigrants.
      On the evening of Jan. 15, 1872, the boisterous miners got on Bill's nerves. By some accounts, Jarman's sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Head (who two months later married William Pitchford), came by the saloon on an errand and a hard-drinking miner named Jim Farmer "passed an indecent remark" about her. A brawl soon erupted and Bill came around from the back of the bar to add some punches of his own. He had bounced Farmer and two of his friends a couple of nights before, roughing one up pretty badly, so this night they left quickly. But once outside they remembered that Farmer had left their whiskey bottle in his haste. Farmer volunteered to go back for it and picked a fight with Bill inside the now-dark saloon. When he realized that Bill was coming out on top, Farmer grabbed for Bill's six-shooter, but Bill got to it first. Bill backed him up and warned him that he would shoot, but Farmer raised a poker from the stove and advanced. Bill felled him with one shot to the breast. Sheriff C.J. Coots arrived after Farmer died and promptly threw Bill into the jail in the old brick Whatcom county courthouse, where he stayed for over a month.

(Division Street, Whatcom)
      Galen Biery gave us this copy of an old Whatcom photo long ago. We are looking north from about where the Bellingham City Hall stands today. The photo of what was then downtown Whatcom by an unknown photographer was taken circa 1875, three years after Jarman was indicted for murder. Biery explained the view this way in his book, Looking Back: "The buildings were on Division Street between C and D streets. The Whatcom House on E and Astor streets can be seen at the right. The sloop was possibly owned by Henry Roeder. A fire in 1885 destroyed most of the buildings on Division Street. Holly Street in this photograph is only the bridge running across the upper portion. What is now Maritime Heritage Center Park is the foreground of the picture." The waterway in the forefront is the mouth of Whatcom Creek, years before that area and the Squalicum Flats were filled in with regrade materials from the hill.

Luck visits Jarman again via a past good deed
      Prospects in Whatcom were not good for Bill as some townspeople and miners condemned him for shooting a drunken man. The coroner's jury soon recommended a first-degree murder charge. At a coroner's jury conducted the next day, the jurors called for a Grand Jury at Port Townsend, even though Sutcliffe Baxter, the saloon manager, spoke in Jarman's favor. That jury indicted Jarman for murder in the first degree and set the trial for March 5, 1872, at the district court in Port Townsend. But just as Alice and Bill saved the lost sailor, Cooper, in 1866, they saved another person a year or two before the bar fight who would be even more important in Bill's life. One night while rowing into Port Townsend as Bill slept, Alice happened to see two men standing up to their chests in water as the tide rolled rapidly in. The men had been clamming and their canoe floated away with the tide. One was Charles M. Bradshaw, who in 1872 was district attorney and prosecutor for the Jarman trial. Only portions of the transcript survive, but the trial was over in a day and the petit jury came back with a surprising verdict of justifiable homicide.
      There were also two weddings in the Jarman family that year. In March, after divorcing her hard-drinking first husband, Mrs. Elizabeth Head married William Pitchford, the blacksmith at the Sehome mine. His original assistant was William Head, Elizabeth's former husband. Many doubted that Elizabeth was really Jarman's sister, but Jeffcott conducted considerable research and found the original 1853 marriage certificate for the Heads in England, which clearly shows that Jarman was her maiden name. On April 23, in the Pitchford home, Alice Jarman, age 16, married Thomas Edge, who had sat on the original coroner's jury three months before. That may be the reason why Bill did not attend his daughter's wedding. But then again, he had not attended his sister's rites either, which cast doubt on her being his sister. We do not even know if Alice attended her daughter's wedding, which was destined to be the beginning of a long slide downhill for Bill's only daughter. You can read about her divorce, her second marriage and ownership of a hotel on the Skagit River, and her eventual demise, in another chapter of the Jarman story in Issue 40. The Pitchfords, meanwhile, moved to Sumas Prairie, B.C., where William owned a sawmill and he and Elizabeth invested in Whatcom property.

Bill and Alice return to his Prairie
(Cabin site)
Author Ray Jordan shows Jeffcott the one acre that Jarman cleared and the site of this second Cabin. As Jordan explained, the fenceline marked Jarman's east line on the slope just north of Jarman Prairie. As Jarman later discovered, his claim was actually on the other side, outside his staked claim. Alice's grave and that of their infant daughter are to the left of scene in the photo.

      Sehome was probably not going to be hospitable to Bill, even if he was acquitted, so the claim back at the prairie must have looked awfully inviting. They returned to the shake cabin he built in 1868. That structure had windows, doors, fireplace and chimney, more than was required for a preemption claim, but it was not habitable during winter, so Bill began building a larger 1 1/2-story cabin, which he completed in April 1873, probably with the help of his white neighbors who were now beginning to settle in the Samish area. Sometime during that period the land of that section was surveyed, probably by the team led by John Cornelius of Pleasant Ridge, and Bill applied for a homestead patent on Sept. 6, 1873.
      After Bill "proved up" on his claim and paid $1.25 per acre (total of $204.32) for the 163+-acres quarter section, he was granted a homestead patent on March 22, 1876. Witnesses John McIntosh and Joseph Hall documented that in the interim, Bill plowed, fenced and cultivated about one acre — which could have been Alice's doing, converted the first cabin into a barn, built a workshop, dug a well, planted a fruit orchard with 50 trees, built a root house and chicken house and cut out the heaviest timber around the cabin, the total improvements worth at least $400. As was often noted in those homestead documents, the witnesses apologized for not traveling to Olympia to post the paperwork, "because of the great distance and heavy expense of traveling to and from Olympia." Edward McTaggart of Edison notarized the affidavit.
      Bill was known for his bravery and daring all his life, but he was not known for hard work. Over those five years, he barely cleared enough around the cabin to prove up, but he did plant the orchard. When Jeffcott visited the site, south of present Prairie Road, in 1957, writer Ray Jordan showed him just one apple tree that survived among the hardier second growth Douglas firs. After all the improvements, the government surveyors discovered that the cabin and clearing was actually outside his original 1868 claim lines, but apparently they did not report the discrepancy to the land office in Olympia.

Bill's land speculation pays off
      There were not very many people to report Bill's claim mistake even if they wanted to. Bill's only close neighbor was John Warner and family, who trekked from Edison in 1872, up what is now the Prairie road and settled a couple of miles to the east where Harold "Ed" Hoyt lives today. Always keeping in mind his goal of selling all or part of the claim for a profit, Bill knew that he needed to build some sort of crude road for transporting agricultural products to the market center that was developing in Edison. Thus from about 1873-75, he painstakingly dug out what could pass for a wagon road. We suspect that he employed Indian labor on a barter basis and his road could well have followed the trail that Indians had used for centuries. The resulting road cut west from his claim to the site of future Belfast on latter-day Highway 99 and there it met another crude trail that settlers dug out from Edison slough over Bow Hill.
      The combined settlers then petitioned Whatcom county for aid in improving the road, and the commissioners responded by forming "Road District No. 15 or East Samish" in 1875. William Jarman was named as road supervisor, his only public office, but he was soon succeeded after only a few months by Warner, who later became famous for his leadership in roadwork. Jeffcott notes that in 1877, the road was "viewed out" and the viewers were instructed to utilize the tree blazings that Jarman cut from his claim clear out to Dan Dingwall's logging camp on the Samish flats.
      But that was the year of Bill's greatest loss. Sometime in early 1872, his wife of about 20 years took seriously ill out there in the woods far from hospitals and died within a few days. Broken hearted, Bill buried her in the same grove with their infant daughter, and Ray Jordan noted that Bill carried large white quartz stones long distances to form a border, which he later replaced with a white picket fence. Only a few know today where the location might have been, but back in 1957, Jordan showed Jeffcott the grave and told him that he had kept one of the white stones when almost all of them had been removed. A Mrs. Kennedy owned the old home site in 1957 when Jeffcott visited; we hope a reader will know about her and exactly where she lived. She recalled a time from a half century earlier when an unidentified elderly man came by her family's farm on his way up the hill to visit the grave of Alice and that of their infant girl who died sometime in the mid-1870s. Jordan knew the layout of the claim well because his family settled in neighboring Belfast soon after 1900.
      Bill's sale of the Samish homestead in 1873 illustrates that he was smart enough to know how to turn a buck even if some of his biographers have considered him to be light upstairs. As we noted above, he bought the 160 acres for $200.32 on March 28, 1876 and got the deed on Dec. 1, 1876. He appears to have financed the purchase by taking a mortgage. Then when the first mortgage was due, he got a new mortgage to satisfy the first one. And then on Sept. 28, 1880, he sold the property for $750 to M.V.B. (Martin Van Buren) Stacy. Jeffcott insisted that Bill was not the only old settler who carried out the same maneuver. Some enterprising homesteaders were even more creative. They constructed a shake cabin that just barely fulfilled the patent requirements, hoisted it onto a flat wagon bed and pulled it back and forth between homesteads that the government agent was due to visit for the final authentication.

(Whatcom village beach)
      Galen Biery found this photo of the beach at the original village of Whatcom during the time of the Fraser River gold rush of 1858. Near the far left is the old brick building, which is still standing, that was built by T.G. Richards and Co. and soon became the first Whatcom County Courthouse. The Grand Army of the Republic civil war veterans bought the structure in 1863. This was long before the regrade and elevation of the tideflat streets. The water area in the foreground is now the Squalicum Fill.

Another wife, with a very confusing lineage
      After Alice died, Bill did not lose his attraction to young Indian girls. While on a hunting trip sometime in 1879 he found a "winsome 16 year old maid of Mt. Baker," as he described her to Frank Teck. He brought her back to his Prairie cabin but she was soon gone, apparently replaced by a young Samish Indian girl named Sophia briefly, and then he appeared back at Bellingham Bay without her in early January 1880. The deed to Stacy was from "William Jarman and Wife, Etux."
      Although Bill claimed many "marriages" in name only throughout his Washington period, that time it was for real and to a white settler woman. Within days back in Whatcom, he soon courted Emily Plaster, the daughter of Ferndale Probate Judge John H. Plaster and his Lummi wife. The judge performed the rites earlier at Jarman's sister's wedding. Their marriage-return record is dated Feb. 17, 1880. They lived together for two years on the Lummi Indian Reservation and lived briefly with her father until she left him. She remarried soon afterwards to Archie Barr and a decade later she and her new husband lived next to Jarman's daughter in Bessemer, an upper Skagit River town next to Birdsview.
      Jeffcott quoted Emily's brother John Plaster: "John, recently told the writer that the Judge was much opposed to the match, but finally gave his consent." John is the one who was most demonstrative of the witnesses about Jarman's laziness, and he recalled Jarman's friendship with the English sailor turned fisherman in British Columbia, Jack Roan, who had moved to the Ferndale area permanently by the time Bill married Emily. We recently researched census records, and once doing so, we now realize that we should have paid closer attention to John's comments, as Jeffcott recorded them in the appendix to his Jarman book, especially about Emily: " . . . called "Aunt Em" by the other Plaster children, and she was his last wife. "Aunt Em" lived with Jarman for two winters and then left him."
      Why is that important? Because Emily Plaster Jarman Barr had a very complicated lineage and when we connected the dots of the Plaster family, with the help of Donna Sand, we concluded that she and Judge Plaster have the most complicated lineage we have yet encountered. Without getting into all the details at this time, we note that Judge Plaster apparently lived with or married Indian women with the same frequency that Jarman did, so maybe he objected because he saw that Jarman was just as flighty as was the judge himself. Sand discovered that the Judge married two different Lummi girls, in 1873 and 1876. By then he had fathered at least two children by them or others, one being Emily in 1866 (according to her 1921 obituary) and the other his acknowledged first born, General Lee Plaster, in 1863, at least a decade before his recorded marriages.
      Why did the younger children call Emily "Aunt Em?" Maybe that occurred because she had a completely different mother altogether. We discuss this because Emily is never listed in any of the six federal and territorial censuses as being part of the Plaster family. The scattered records for Emily began to read like a tabloid tale. Not only was she born out of wedlock, along with not living with the Judge's nuclear family, but Capt. Tarte even introduced another quizzical memory about her. Keep in mind that Jarman had two different Indian mates in the early 1860s in Whatcom, named Lucy and Susie, and although the handwritten census records are hard to read, one of the Judge's wives was named either Lucy or Susi. The complication came when Roth wrote that Tarte recalled Jarman had a daughter during his Whatcom 1860s period and that her name was . . . Emily. We truly do not know what to make of that, other than Tarte may have confused the names of Jarman's second wife with Jarman's first daughter, but we will continue looking. We are also aware that because of social pressure and because of convoluted Washington Territory laws, early marriages with Indian women were very complicated. We are not always aware of tribal wedding ceremonies, which were often not recognized by civil authorities and usually not recorded outside the tribes.

Jarman plays real estate developer on the islands
      In late 1882, Jarman headed for the wilderness of Waldron Island and fished when not smuggling contraband from Vancouver Island. Famed smuggler Larry Kelly also used those islands and their many hidden bays and streams during that time. Whatcom pioneer Philip C. Van Buskirk was a mate on a U.S. Navy ship at the time and he scouted possible island locations in June 1883, deciding that the best available claim would be on Matia; the Indian name was originally pronounced by settlers as Pee-nooch-on. Van Buskirk noted in his diary on June 16, 1883:
      . . . cross over to Matia Island where we find Skookum Tom encamped. . . . The next thing visible is a paper tacked to a stake inscribed as follows: Notice. I, William Jarman, have this day taken possession of 160 acres of this island for the purpose of making a home. Dated June first (1) 1883. Signed.
      Van Buskirk concluded in his 1889 diary that Jarman heard about the sailor inquiring about Matia, and had then rushed over to Matia before him to post the sign, in hopes that he could get Van Buskirk to pay $100 to convince Jarman to not file the papers. Van Buskirk sailed away instead as did Jarman soon thereafter. Jarman was 63 years old, the same present age of this writer, and was still making deals like the one we witnessed on his namesake Prairie a decade before.

Preview of the rest of Bill's life and a practical joke
      The last half of Bill's adult life will be continued in a future Chapter Three after we finish additional research into his last 30 years. He was probably 57 when Alice died and he lived another 40 years after that before dying at the home of his English niece in Ferndale on June 11, 1912. His heart healed enough to marry again at least twice more and his travels and schemes took him all over Puget Sound and once back to England. As a preview of that chapter, we will leave you with a tale from about 1888 that illustrated Bill's sense of humor. At that time he looked up Charles Bradshaw again, who was by then supervisor of customs at Port Townsend and owned a large sawmill there. Although Bill was 68, he sailed a sloop for his former prosecutor from 1888-90. There he met 16-year-old Richard Eacrett, who became one of Jeffcott's prime sources. Bill's joke was on young Eacrett, who, along with his brother, was fascinated to hear Bill's many tales while working together at the Bradshaw Shingle Mill at Dry creek, near Port Angeles, especially the stories about his wives. We quote Eacrett through Jeffcott for the rest:
      One evening in the course of conversation he commented on the ceaseless lonesomeness of his life, and casually remarked that he was thinking of seeking another clootchman to fill the void. We paid little attention to his remark, thinking it just the overflow of one of his moods; but for several nights after, he again brought up the subject, so we began to think he was serious in his notion and began to try to joke him out of his idea by telling him there now were plenty of white women available and more attractive.
      Jarman could not see it our way, however, so for several days the relative virtues of women, white and red, were warmly debated; then both sides lost interest and the subject was dropped. Shortly after, Jarman went away for a few days, so we began to wonder, was he putting his proposal into action — gone to the Clallams to seek a wife?
      After a few days, he returned when we were not around, and did not show up evenings in his old place to listen to our music; so our curiosity was much aroused. Then one day we were surprised to find the clothesline by his shack exhibiting a various assortment of woman's apparel, but never a woman in sight all day. Then we two were more than curious. Jarman made no move to explain, and we kept mum; but there was a twinkle in the old boy's eyes that presaged something. The clothes were taken in, but no female made her appearance; and our inquisitive anxiety knew no bounds. At last when the old fellow figured he had let us stew long enough, he invited us in to meet his 'new wife.' We found the old rascal's shack as empty and dirty as ever. He had played us to his fill with his joke to our mortification — his deceased wife's garments the medium.

      See the table of contents for Issue 40 for the link to part one of Jarman's biography. You can also read the portion of Bill's history when he lived at Birdsview. It answers several questions that many people have asked about the Elliott Hotel, the towns of Bessemer and Birdsview — a very early upriver steamboat stop, and the family of Bill's daughter Alice. We also identify her daughter by name in print for the first time.

Finally, we put the Blankets legend to bed
      Regarding the famous Ransom/Blankets tale, it really falls apart in recollections and articles on the Olympic Peninsula. For instance, Jarman's original tale about kidnapping as told to the family of his Peninsula neighbor, Richard Eacrett (in the 1880s), is vastly different than the one that became legend. In the version he told Eacrett, he claimed that he had been held captive by Indians on Graham Island (in the Queen Charlotte archipelago in British Columbia) from 1837-47. According to Jarman's original tales, he was still sailing in the waters around Australia in 1837. Also, Jarman's friend Henry Heal of Bellingham countered that Bill told him that the S'Klallam on the Peninsula were his captors. Still another recalled that Jarmans placed his capture at the San Juan Islands.
      After all those versions of the Bill's Blanket ransom, I hope you will understand why we take an opposite view from Jeffcott and other historians. We conclude that there is actual evidence that Bill was living as a free man on the Peninsula, off and on, from 1848-52, while there is zero evidence for his claim of the ransom beyond his own tall tales. Maybe a document will eventually surface that provides some facts about a ransom and that would make people pay attention. At this point, we do not even know when he started spinning the tale. We do know, on the other hand, that he affected wearing blankets, Indian-style, in the period, circa 1850. That fact alone could have inspired him to concoct a tale that went like, "I do that because . . ."


6. The Pickett House (excerpted from the Bellingham American Reveille, Jan. 27, 1919
      The house which is reported to be the headquarters of Captain George E. Pickett has given the most trouble of all to authenticate, not the house itself, which is well known, but the occupancy of it by George Pickett. It is a tradition in the town that the little white cottage standing on Bancroft Street, between E and F was once the headquarters of the company which Pickett commanded. Now this could scarcely be true, because the three years which Pickett spent on the Bay, from [1856 to 1859], were spent at Fort Bellingham, where the headquarters building is well remembered.
      David Tuck, the old soldier at the Soldiers' Home, says that Pickett never lived in Bellingham, because he must of necessity live with his command at the fort. Other men have asserted the same, and still the tradition holds that Pickett lived in the little white house and planted the old pear tree, the oldest and largest in the Northwest. Investigation has proved that Pickett did live there at times with his Indian wife and son, but the house was never a military headquarters. Pickett was one of the men who cared for the future of his halfbreed son, and although some have asserted that he did not have an Indian wife, the fact is too well substantiated to admit of the doubt. So he probably built the house for her, although nobody now alive can say that he was the builder, as it must have been erected before 1859, when Pickett left the Bay for San Juan Island and never returned to stay for more than a few weeks at the fort. . . .
      The abstract of title to this house, shows no ownership by Pickett whatever, but he probably built the house without purchasing the land legally. It was afterward occupied by a man with an Indian wife, who was known as Blanket Bill German [sic], and who was a great character in the day. His half-breed children used to claim that he had been captured by the Indians of San Juan. who held him for ransom, the price being a dozen or so of blankets.
      [Journal Ed. note: From this website, "The Pickett House still stands at an address that evolved to become 910 Bancroft Street, just northwest of present downtown Bellingham. The last private owner deeded the house to the Washington State Historical Society in 1936 and since 1941 it has been a museum and the home for the Daughters of the Pioneers."
      As you can see, this newspaper transcription shows that, seven years after Bill's death, this writer remembered his tale with his capture on the San Juan Islands, still another site and certainly not on Vancouver Island. In addition, his name was already spelled incorrectly, which may explain why Jarman Prairie was misspelled as German Prairie for the next six decades. See another profile of Pickett in this Journal website about early Whatcom pioneers. [Return]

7. David E. Tuck
(Bill and Ezra Meeker)
R.E. Hawley took this photo at Ferndale during the Old Settlers Picnic of 1905. Jarman had won the annual cup there three years earlier. Bill is at the right, with Puyallup pioneer Ezra Meeker in the center. Jeffcott identified the man to the left as "Dad" Shefler. That could have been either Charles or George Shefler, who were listed in the 1890 Fairhaven Directory as owning a hardware store.

      David Tuck is a key early-Whatcom figure who is rarely addressed any more. A New York City native, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and after brief service in California, he was eventually assigned in 1857 to Company H in the Washington Territory, serving on San Juan Island when Capt. George Pickett dismantled most of the buildings at Fort Bellingham and built a new fort on the island. Although he did not belong to Pickett's Company D, he was the last surviving veteran who recalled the details of Pickett's command until Pickett traveled to Virginia in 1861 to receive the legacy of a relative's will, at which time he left the U.S. Army and took a commission with the Confederacy. He was destined to lead the fateful charge on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg.
      Tuck's enlistment was up that same year after he had been transferred back to San Francisco. He was not sent to a Civil War posting, so he separated from the service and soon found his way back up north, where he briefly settled at Fern Hill near Steilacoom and took a land claim there. By 1862 he moved back to Bellingham where he was very briefly posted and was hired along with a Mr. M. Bullock (New York native, 1860 Whatcom Federal Census) to build the first ferry at The Crossing, just downriver from the bridge that would be built across the Nooksack at Everson.
      At that time he competed with Bullock for the hand of the widow Roberts. Her story will be subject of a full profile this winter. Briefly, Maria Roberts came to Whatcom in 1854 with her husband Charles. On September 10, they filed a Donation Claim three miles northwest of Whatcom Creek, beyond the Eldridge and Compton claims near present-day Marietta. That land selection soon proved to be unlucky. Capt. Pickett landed with Co. D in August 1856 and looked for a site to build a fort to protect the settlers he was assigned to guard during the Indian Wars. He found one: on a prairie above a bluff, 80 feet above Bellingham Bay, which just happened to be the Roberts claim. It was the only open space on the bay and had an excellent spring.
      Charles was missing, having accompanied Henry Roeder on a supply pack trip to the Cariboo gold fields in British Columbia. He either died there or stayed with the argonauts and abandoned Maria. When Pickett and some of his troops marched up the bluff and told her to move, she refused and stayed until they caved in her roof. She moved to other quarters in the village of Whatcom, where Tuck found her in 1862. Although Pickett felt sorry for the widow and tried to obtain compensation for her before the left in 1861, she was never repaid.
      After courting for some time, Maria obtained a divorce at Steilacoom on May 19, 1865, and she married David Tuck soon afterwards on an unknown date. Maria was tenacious about recovering the property, where only a blockhouse remained from the original buildings. Pickett's troops even dismantled her house and used the lumber to build a house on the beach below the bluff. She appealed to George Whitworth, the pioneer Presbyterian leader of the Territory and founder of Whitworth College, and he helped her regain the Roberts's original 320 acres. Her daughter with Charles Robert was the first white girl child born in the Whatcom area, on Oct. 2, 1856, and married Frank Tuck. They wound up moving to the Skagway area during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. Maria died in March 1889. David E. Tuck was still alive in 1919. [Return]

8. Town of Sehome/Seahome
      We are still trying to track down the occasional reports from 1858 to the early 1900s that the town of Sehome was also often called Seahome. Historians unanimously cite Sehome as the name but we are curious of Seahome was just an alternative, based on the town fronting on Bellingham Bay, or if there was something behind the alternative name in opposition to the story that the name honored Chief Sehome (S'yah-whom) of the Samish tribe. We especially cite the article written by Edmund T. Coleman, when he was the first to ascend Mount Baker in 1868, in which he called the town Seahome. The actual plat filed by Edmund C. Fitzhugh is headed Sehome. He filed it on May 8, 1858, for the proprietors of the original Sehome Coal Mine, Charles C. Vail and James Tilton. Both Vail and Fitzhugh filed donation claims on the western flank of what became known as Sehome Hill. In 1883, the original plat of Sehome and land around it was re-platted New Whatcom by subsequent mine owner Pierre B. Cornwall. None of the original street names from 1858 have survived, including Front Street, now Railroad Avenue; Main Street, now State Street (in between it was Elk Street); and streets named after Military Road-builder William Walter. DeLacey (also spelled DeLacy) and Capt. Pickett. We hope a reader will have more information about the name of Seahome. [Return]

9. Martin Van Buren Stacy (sometimes spelled Stacey)
      Stacy was a real estate and railroad promoter and speculator. Read more about him at this Journal website. We now know subsequently to our profile of him that the spelling of his name was definitely Stacy, not Stacey, and that his initials stood for Martin Van Buren, one more 19th century pioneer named for a U.S. president. Thanks to our friend and collaborator, Paul Dorpat, we know that Stacy and his wife Elizabeth built an Empire-style mansion in 1885 on Marion Street near the corner of Third Avenue that cost a splendiferous $50,000. Their home was one of the "Big Three," joining the splendid domiciles of Henry and Sara Yesler, and of Jim and Agnes McNaught. In the mid-1920s, Charles Joseph Ernest Blanc converted the house into the Maison Blanc Restaurant, which stood until 1960, when a fire gutted it and the structure was razed. In 2002, the IXT Tower arose on the site. [Return]

(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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