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Skagit River Journal

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Percival R. Jeffcott

Jeffcott researches and debunks
Jarman's tall tales

Jeffcott profile and Skagit River Journal research by Noel V. Bourasaw

Jeffcott researches and debunks Jarman's tall tales

Jeffcott profile and Skagit River Journal
research by Noel V. Bourasaw
      By mid-20th century, the story of William R. Jarman was mired in legend and myth, much more than in fact. Percival R. Jeffcott, who had researched rural Whatcom County extensively in his first book, Nooksack Tales and Trails, decided to look behind all the Jarman tales. A 25-year teacher in the Ferndale School District, Jeffcott launched the first scholarly investigation about a Whatcom or Skagit County historical figure.
      He derived much of the information for his first book from interviews with elderly pioneers and their descendants and from associates and relatives of his wife, who was a descendant of the Tarte family, pioneers of Sehome and the northern rural part of Whatcom County. In this story, we excerpt parts of five chapters of his Jarman book that illustrate how he pursued the many Jarman tall tales, myths and legends, debunking some of them along the way. Our Issue 40 of the Journal is the first attempt in 50 years to research Jarman even further and debunk some of the Jarman stories and substantiate others.
      Jeffcott was not a native Mossyback, but he was the first historian to correct the historical record about the first white settler in the northwestern Washington counties. Jeffcott was born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 27, 1876, just before he and his parents, English-born John and Sarah Jeffcott, boarded the Central Pacific Railroad to San Francisco, and then the steamer "George W. Elder" to Portland. All his education was completed in that city, culminating in his graduation in 1899 from the Oregon School of Education. Within a year he was teaching in Whatcom County and in 1901 he organized the first high school class in Ferndale — where he served as the principal, and in 1904 he began the first high school class in Custer. Teaching the second and third generations of the original pioneers and interacting with the students' parents and grandparents may be the answer to why he has proven to be such a valuable resource for all of us who have followed and to why we are indebted to him.

The Tartes
      Sometime within his first two years in Whatcom, he was smitten with Rebecca Elizabeth Tarte; the year of their marriage is uncertain. She was the daughter of John F. Tarte Jr. and Mary Eleanor (Smith) Tarte. John and Eleanor met in the mid-1870s at Seabeck on Hood's Canal when John was an assistant engineer on the Richard Holyoke tugboat. Born in England, as were her parents, Eleanor was educated in Connecticut before her parents moved briefly to British Columbia and then to Washington Territory. The couple married in 1878 and lived briefly at Seabeck — where Rebecca was born in 1880, until moving to John Sr.'s claim at California Creek near Semiahmoo.
      The connection with the Tarte family was vital when Jeffcott began recounting history in publications after retiring from teaching. Jeffcott paid his wife respect by interviewing her in Tales and Trails. Rebecca Tarte Jeffcott recalled that John F. Tarte Sr. emigrated to the U.S. alone in 1861-62, and the ship was pursued by a Confederate frigate, the Alabama. He soon traveled to future British Columbia in 1862 as a hopeful argonaut in the Cariboo gold rush in the upper Fraser River area. He left the mainland disappointed and arrived broke in Victoria the following winter, where he soon ran a hotel. He was originally a coal miner back home and had a hard time adjusting to "city" life.
      John Sr. originally told his wife to follow at a predetermined time if she did not hear back from him. Thus, in 1863, Mrs. Rebecca (McKnight) Tarte and five children left England in March 1863, sailing uneventfully across the ocean, along the Confederate coast, and then crossing the Isthmus of Panama, sailing to San Francisco on the second leg, and arrived at Victoria in May. As Rebecca noted, "[grandfather's] letter passed her going the other way, telling not to come." They settled in Esquimalt, three miles west of Victoria proper, they bought the hotel and the family ran it. In 1869, another Cariboo miner, John Evans, alerted John Sr. to the Bellingham Bay Coal Mines at Sehome. After a two-day hard row and sail, father and three sons arrived at Sehome. With his experience, he was hired to be foreman and oversee 40 Chinese and a few white miners who were building new chutes at the mine. Eldest son James, the eldest, was hired as head teamster for the horses and mules pulling ore and supply wagons in and out. John Jr. was hired to be in charge of coal cars between the mine and chutes. Will cut mine timbers in nearby forest. Rebecca and two younger children went by steamer to Seattle and then rode a sternwheeler to Sehome.
      Over the next year, various accidents caused delays and shutdowns, two fires led to the mine being flooded, and then there was a cave-in and at least one explosion when Chinamen were killed. Miners became discontented and looked for new potential homes in the country, many of them like McKinney Tawes, John Tennant and George Slater taking up homesteads near future Ferndale. John Sr. and James rowed a canoe up the Nooksack River as far as Lynden and met the Judsons, but they rowed back downstream and then continued north up around the Semiahmoo Spit and discovered California Creek, south of present Blaine. While still working at the mine, John Sr. built a cabin from trees around his claim a little ways up the creek and bought nothing at stores except for nails, window glass, locks and hinges. As Rebecca Jeffcott explained, they all had a "raising bee" with the neighbor homesteaders in the area and they eventually cleared 100 acres. The family moved in sometime in 1872. Although three of the Tarte boys took claims nearby at Pleasant Valley themselves, James and John Jr. began working on steamboats and were away from home for long stretches of time.
      James, who became known as Captain for the rest of his life, advanced quickly and became a mate and pilot with Capt. Tom Wright on the Eliza Anderson sternwheeler, which became famous for being a training school for pilots and captains. He worked for years on the runs from Whatcom to New Westminster and later established the route from Seattle to Port Moody, BC. Whitford Tarte also became known as Captain after working first as a deckhand with brother James and then advancing to become a marine engineer off and on through 1917. After that, he and his wife owned several hotels, including the old Antlers/American Hotel on Cornwall.
      Percival must have been Rebecca Tarte soon after he arrived in Whatcom County. When the 1900 Federal Census was enumerated in June, he was boarding with a couple in Birch Bay. Two months later, August 22, he married Rebecca at Pleasant Valley, near her parents' farm, with W.E. Dawson, the minister, and witnesses, the bride's brother, Alfred, and his wife, Frances. Donna discovered that the couple was married at least 50 years, because she found the story about their golden anniversary, but we do not yet have her death date, nor have we yet found their obituaries. For most of their life they lived on their Garden Home Farm on Enterprise Road in the Woodland District, where he loved to grow blueberries.
      Percival died on Jan. 4, 1969, just days after his last history column appeared in the Bellingham Herald, a story about early Sehome. During his retirement at his "Garden Home Farm" near Ferndale, he published three books: Nooksack Tales and Trails (1949), Blanket Bill Jarman (1958), and Chechaco and Sourdough (1963), a history of the Mt. Baker Gold Rush. He also edited the memoirs of pioneer Robert Emmett Hawley in Skee Mus, and wrote dozens of history articles in the Bellingham Herald, the Ferndale Record, and the Lynden Tribune. His principal legacy is the collection of his papers at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies in Bellingham, which the Center insists may have been lost without his care for them. They include hundreds of local historical photos, including pictures of pioneer log cabins that were displayed annually at the annual picnics at Ferndale's Pioneer Park of the Whatcom County Old Settler's Association, for which. Jeffcott served as historian. He was also a long-time member of the Clam Diggers Association and the Whatcom County Historical Society. He was accorded the honor of naming and dedicating Sehome High School. He was accorded the honor of naming and dedicating Sehome High School. According to his obituary in the Bellingham Herald:

      Percival Robert Jeffcott, 92, of Ferndale, passed away Saturday, Jan. 4, A resident of Whatcom County since 1899, Mr. Jeffcott was a schoolteacher, farmer and historian. He was a member of the Advent Christian Church, Old Settlers Association, Clamdiggers Association and Whatcom County Historical Society. He is survived by three daughters, Mrs. Sarah Melson of Portland, Mrs. Rachael Carruthers and Mrs. Mabelle Smith, both of Bellingham; two sons, P.A. Jeffcott of Ferndale and Stanley Jeffcott of Everson; one brother, Vernon Jeffcott of Salt Lake City; eight grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday, January 8, at 1:30 p.m. in Moles Funeral Home, De. Alvin Lobb officiating. Interment, Enterprise Cemetery.
      Meanwhile, we are saddened this week to learn that Jeffcott's grandson, Robert Clarence Jeffcott, passed away just before we had hoped to meet him and record his memories and see his personal library. We pass on our regards to his survivors. His obituary was very sparse in the Bellingham Herald on Sept. 29, 2007.
      Robert Clarence Jeffcott died Tuesday evening, September 25, 2007, at his home on Lummi Island. He was 74 years old. He is survived by his two daughters, Heather Rebecca Jeffcott and Hillary Haddon Jeffcott. A Celebration Of Life gathering for family and friends is planned for 2pm Saturday, October 13, at Mr. Jeffcott's beloved Lummi Island property at 3610 Sunrise Rd, Lummi Island.
      So, we post below, in honor of Percival and his family, excerpts from the Blanket Bill Jarman book that show how extensively Mr. Jeffcott tracked down details to prove or disprove Jarman myths. And consider that he did all this by longhand and U.S. mail, 50 years before the Internet and near-instantaneous communication. His efforts and the results were spectacular and if he had not conducted that research, we may never have been able to complete this update a half-century later. We hope that a family member will correct any errors we have recorded and help us fill in the gaps.

Jeffcott researches and debunks Jarman's tall tales

Excerpted from Blanket Bill Jarman, by Percival R. Jeffcott, 1958
[EN refers to the Endnotes following each chapter]
Chapter 7
      After having detailed three unrelated descriptions of the life of William Robert Jarman, and evaluated another to be presented later, the enormity of any effort to harmonize them, seems discouraging. The difficulties involved, largely arrange themselves under three topics or heads, namely: 1-Jarman's Nativity; 2-His Captivity by the Indians and Ransom; 3-His Coming and Settlement in Whatcom County. At first thought, it would seem there should be no confusion about his birth; yet, strange to say, as will be seen the evidence is prohibitive of any certain conclusion. To visualize this, a tabulated form of the evidence is given:

His Nativity Record
1.Gravesend, Kent, Eng.1820Lottie Roeder Roth, History of Whatcom County, Vol. I.
2.Gravesend. Kent, Eng.1821Lottie Roeder Roth, History of Whatcom County, Vol. II, p. 242. Parentage: William and Frances Jarman
3.Gravesend. Kent, Eng.1820Lelah Jackson Edson, The Fourth Corner
4.Gravesend, Kent, Eng1820Frank Teck Notes of Jarman Interview. [Journal ed. note: we will transcribe these 1897 handwritten notes by the longtime Bellingham editor in an upcoming edition]
5Gravesend, Kent, Eng.1818Lionel Manning, on Head-stone.
6.Greenwich, Eng.1818Ferndale Record, June 21, 1912
7Greenwich, Eng.1818Monroe Mort. [mortician?] Record, June 11, 1912.
8.Greenwich, Eng1818American Reveille [Bellingham], June 12, 1912.
9.Gravesend, Eng.1820Richard Eacrett Interview [Olympic Peninsula], 1956.
10.London, Eng.1820Jarman's Reg. [Whatcom Old] Pioneer Association, 1902.
11Gravesend, Eng.1820General Reg. Pioneer Associationo.
12.Milton-next-Graves-end, Eng.1820Gravesend Library; and E. Moore. T. Scott Lucas. Parentage: William Robert and Elizabeth Jarman
13.England1820Clara F. Davenport Manuscript.
      [Journal ed. note: A Jeffcott photo at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies in Bellingham was originally captioned: "Graves End, Kent, England. From here Vancouver sailed in 1791 on his famous voyage to Puget Sound and vicinity."]

Chapter 8: Jarman arrives in the Pacific Northwest
[(?) indicated something that Jeffcott had to deduce or something he was unable to substantiate ]
      "He next crossed to King Island, Australia, and signed with Captain Richard Hardy of the trading brig, Platypus, engaged in picking up furseal, Platypus and kangaroo skins. Two years later (1846 ?), the brig was in the North Pacific. Jarman possessed a number of fur seals, Platypus and other skins which he hoped to unload eventually on the China Market for an estimated one thousand dollars. Failing to find the Columbia, the Platypus continued to Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, where a number of beaver and sea otter skins were secured.
      "At Nootka Sound the brig anchored to take on water. Captain Hardy and Jarman went ashore with the water casks which they hired the Indians to fill (?).The vessel's crew numbered but nine men exclusive of Jarman. Because of his low strength, and reputation of the Nootkas for treachery, Captain Hardy had taken the precaution of putting out boarding nets on the Platypus. At noon the Captain went aboard with a boat load of casks (?), leaving Jarman ashore (?).
      "Almost immediately a flotilla of canoes swarmed around the little vessel, the Nootkas attacking with spears, bows and arrows and two or three Hudson's Bay flintlocks, while the more agile braves tried to climb the netting. The crew fought desperately and with the aid of the netting, checked the attack until they could slip their moorings, hoist sail and stand out into the channel. Incidentally, Jarman never heard again of the Platypus.
      "He was captured .and immediately became a pawn between the chief and the chief's brother who had led the attack. The chief wanted the distinction of possessing a white slave. The Chief's brother wanted to kill the whiteman in revenge for the killing of his warriors during the fight. Several attempts were made on Jarman's life, but later he knew safety, when the chief bought off his brother with gifts of blue beads and other trinkets.
      [There are several different accounts of the Nootka attack all different in details, and the writer is not able to completely evaluate them as to correctness; but one version given to the writer by Jarman's niece, Mrs. Minnie Manning, being passed to her by her uncle, Jarman himself, for several reasons seems more authentic. The statement above that the Captain and Jarman went ashore for water, and the Captain went on board at noon with a load of casks, does not agree with ship-board procedure, for customary procedure confines the Cap-tain's duties to giving orders to others and not to perform the tasks himself. According to Mrs. Manning, the Captain sent Jarman and another sailor ashore; that the Indians at-tacked and the Captain put to sea, leaving the two men to their fate. Later the two were attacked by the Indians and Jarman was wounded in his mouth with an arrow and his companion was killed. Jarman hid in the woods and suffered terribly, but a squaw found him after several days and took care of him [EN 8].
      "The white slave seems to have fitted into the Indian way of life, and to have achieved some standing with them during the next two years. He reported he had two Indian wives while with the Nootkas, neither of whom he liked, but that the Indians wanted it that way. This was in 1846 (?). (Jeffcott note: As already told, Jarman was on King Island in late August, 1845. He then traded with Captain Hardy, collecting skins for probably another year; crossed the Pacific and traded up and down the Northwest Coast for a long time, which would require more than one year, date at least 1847, probably first of 1848.)
      "In the summer of 1848, (?), Governor [James] Douglas, head of the Hudson's Bay Company at Victoria (?), heard of the whiteman's plight, and negotiated for his release. Jarman was placed in a canoe, taken to Victoria and there ransomed for 32 blankets, a pile equal to his height. Thereafter he was known as "Blanket Bill" to the whites and "Paseesie" to the Indians, that being their word for blanket [EN 9]."
      Here the plot deepens and Mystery Number Two appears, as inconsistencies develop:
      1. In 1848, James Douglas of the Hudson's Bay Company was not at Victoria, but at his station at Vancouver on the Columbia River [EN 10].
      2. Roderick Finlayson was Chief Trader at Fort Victoria at that time, 1843-1849 [EN 11].
      3. Douglas did not reach Victoria until June, 1849 [EN 12].
      4. Douglas did not become Governor till Sept., 1851 [EN 13].
      5. There is no record of Jarman's ransom in any of the Hudson's Bay Company Records, either at Victoria, or at London, Eng. We have had them all searched [EN 14]. See Letter, Appendix 24. By the above, it will be seen that if Frank Teck reported Jarman's story correctly, in his interview in 1897, then we must question Jarman's veracity, for the statements in the ransom story cannot be substantiated by any documentary evidence.

Endnotes, Chapter 7
8. Interview, Mrs. Minnie Manning.
9. The Chinook Jargon for "blanket" is "pa-see-see."
10. Provincial Archives, Victoria, Letter, App. 23.
11. Ibid, Victoria.
12. Ibid, Victoria.
13. Ibid, Victoria.
14. Hudson's Bay Archives, Beaver House, London, Letters, App. 24.
      [App. means appendix items in Jeffcott's Jarman book.]

Chapter 9: Solving mystery no.2
(Bill Jarman)
Bill Jarman circa 1900 after returning from his trip back home to England

      To begin with, the writer wishes to state that in no way does he wish or intend to cast any derogatory reflections on the writers who up to this time, have recorded the story of Blanket Bill Jarman. They have only put into print what has been accepted for a hundred years as facts. It has been a fine story, and one we certainly hesitate to mar, or much less repudiate. But, like all tales founded mostly on tradition, there is no doubt much fact, but at the same time, considerable fancy connected with it. So, difficult as the task seems to be, we hope, and shall -endeavor to pan out the golden sands and recover enough values to perpetuate the tale that has become almost a pioneer classic in the lore of Northwest History. After weighing all accounts and noting all evidence; after becoming thoroughly convinced that "Blanket Bill" did tell some "pretty tall yarns" after failing to uncover as much documentary corroberation as the subject seems to demand; after all this, the writer's verdict, if we may assume the role of a one-man jury, is that the man's story, in the main, is no myth or product of a virile imagination.
      As far as known, Jarman left no diary or other written evidence to bolster his narrative. That being true, only a superman could have told the same story down through so many years, without variance. But, that is not saying that he deliberately mistold the truth. He — perhaps unconsciously — fitted his tales to the circumstances of time and his listeners; and often slipped in an inaccurate date, place or even person, to meet the requirements of the occasion.
      Mr. B.A. McKelvie of Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island, to whom we called attention to Mystery No. 2, (Mr. McKelvie is a recognized authority on Northwest History) makes the suggestion that Jarman was at least a year too early in fixing the dates of his capture by the Indians, and his ransom by the Hudson's Bay Company. That fits in with our theory, already stated, that Jarman could hardly have been on Vancouver Island and captured by the Indians, before late in 1847. That being true, James Douglas would have "after two years" arrived at Victoria June, 1849 and possibly ransomed Jarman late in 1849 or 50, which would explain away the most glaring impossibility in the ransom story, and largely solve Mystery No. 2. The fact that Douglas was called "Governor," could be just a slip in timing by Jarman, who never was in anywise an authority on historical facts. In passing, the writer must emphasize that this hypothetical handling of the ransom story, while it clears Jarman and his biographers of an impressive misstatement of fact, of necessity upsets all of the subsequent timing of his story by the same period of time, or nearly two years. But, happily it does aid in clearing up some later conflicts in timing.
      There are also, other conflicting statements, regarding the location of Jarman's captivity, which cannot so easily be explained away. Richard Eacrett in his narration [EN1] says Jarman was captured and held prisoner for nine years on Graham Island, one of the Queen Charlotte group and then ransomed by the Hudson's Bay Company; C. T. Conover gives the location on Queen Charlotte Sound, with the same number of years of captivity [EN2]; Henry Heal of Bellingham, an old acquaintance of Jarman's, reported that Jarman told him that he was captured by the Clallams [S'Klallam] on the Olympic Peninsula [EN3]; another reports it on the San Juan Islands [EN4]; still another says Jarman came on a Hudson's Bay trading vessel, and the incident took place on the shores of Puget Sound [EN5].
      Of these five other accounts, that of Richard Eacrett seems the most plausible. The writer in person took his deposition and has no reason for doubting him. He said that he got the story from Jarman himself, with whom he was closely associated for two years, and that he never heard any other recital of Jarman's experiences.
      It will thus be seen, that if we cling to our previous assertion that Jarman's timing for his ransom "by Governor Douglas," 1848, is about two years too early, we may partly harmonize the Teck and Edson accounts with well established facts; but taken at face value, they stand alone and in contradiction to documented evidence. Frankly, we lean toward the former to add authenticity to the ransom story. Of the weight of evidence as to the scene of action in the five other accounts, since we can find no conclusive support for any location outside of the story tellers themselves, one man's guess is as good as another's. Let the reader evaluate them, for Mystery No. 2 is only partly solved. Too bad, too bad, that the Hudson's Bay. company's Records are silent!

Jarman's captivity and ransom record
Date RangePlaceAuthorityRemarks
1846-48Nootka SoundFrank Teck NotesJarman Interview. 1897
1846-48Nootka SoundLelah Jackson EdsonThe Fourth Corner
1837-47Graham IslandRichard Eacrett Interview1956
??Olympic PeninsulaJ. Henry Heal Interview1956
??San Juan IslandsAmerican Reveille (Bellingham)Jan. 27, 1918
1846-48Nootka SoundReveille1903
1846-?Nootka SoundLottie Roeder RothHistory of Whatcom County, Vol. I, [Section?] written by Frank Teck, 1926
1841-Vancouver IslandRothHistory of Whatcom County, Vol. IIPossibly Mrs. Manning [Jarman's English niece]
1843-52Queen Charlotte SoundC. T. ConoverSeattle Times March 8, 1953
1837-46Queen Charlotte IslandsJack HensenPort Angeles News

Endnotes, Chapter 9
1. Richard Eacrett, Port Angeles Evening News, March 24, 1950.
2. C.T. Conover, Seattle Times, March 8, 1953.
3. Henry Heal Interview, App. 15.
4. [Bellingham] American Reveille, Jan. 27, 1918.
5. Ferndale Record, June 21, 1912.
      [App. means appendix items in Jeffcott's Jarman book.]

Chapter 21
      It has already been hinted, that Jarman's desire to take up a claim was not connected with any intention to create for himself a steady occupation, nor a permanent home for his family; and the eight years he was on the land before getting his patent which resulted in clearing only one acre, bears out the suspicion that he had some ulterior motive for his inactivity.
      There is other strong evidence to substantiate this. It will be recalled that he got his deed Dec. 1st, 1876, and it was necessary under a preemption to have paid the full price. $204.32.5. That was paid March 28, 1876 [Endnote1]. The question is, where did he get the money?
      On October 30, 1876 (one month before he got his deed) Jarman gave a mortgage to Charles Strange to secure a loan of $250. That Mortgage was "satisfied" on March 27, 1878, by giving the said Charles Strange a new mortgage on March 23, 1878, simply a renewal. This second mortgage was "Satisfied" (no date given) and then he immediately gave a new mortgage to William P. Jones (Record gives neither date or amount), evidently to "satisfy" Strange's second mortgage. The mortgage Jones held must have run up to the time of the final notation when Jones's mortgage was "Satisfied" and then on Sept. 28, 1880, "William Jarman and Wife, Etux, gave a deed to his property to M.V.B. [Martin Van Buren] Stacy for a consideration of $750.00 [EN2]. Thus it will be seen that Blanket Bill Jarman had financed his claim with other men's capital, and in the end came out $750.00 minus $250.00 or $500.00 to the good on the deal. It is self evident, as previously suggested, he took the preemption with full intention of selling it, using a subterfuge to conceal a plan which was plainly adverse to legal procedure; but Jarman was not the only old settler who carried out the same maneuver [EN3].
      Soon after Jarman squatted on his claim at the prairie, he made an effort to connect his isolated habitation with civilization by cutting out the trail from his cabin to a point near present Belfast. There other settlers had ended their efforts in opening a "road" from the landing on Edison Slough, now called Edison. They then petitioned the Whatcom County Commissioners for aid in improving the so-called "road," with the result that in 1875, the Commissioners formed "Road District No. 15 or East Samish," and appointed William Jarman as Road Supervisor."
      This was the first and only time in his long career, that our subject ever basked in the limelight of his fellow men in public office. Whether it was distaste for this minor invasion of his freedom of action, or the interference of petty politics that removed him from office, is uncertain, but after a few months of service, he was succeeded by his neighbor on the Upper Prairie, Captain [John] W. Warner, who became quite active in opening a road as far up the Samish as his claim on Warner's Prairie. In 1877, this road was ordered "Viewed out," and instructions given "to utilize the line of blazings made by William Jarman from D. Dingwall's Logging Camp to the east side of Jarman Prairie [EN5]."
      It was about this time that misfortune struck with a cruel blow. Jarman's Clallam wife, Alice, she who had won his sailor heart at Port Townsend and followed faithfully his every move and whim with characteristic cheerfulness of her race and sex, was taken seriously ill. No details are known [EN6], but the big heart of Blanket Bill was broken by her sudden death within a few days, for all accounts agree that Alice was the favorite of all his conjugal alliances.
      On the brow of the bluff, not far from the lonely cabin, beside the resting place of a little daughter [EN7] they had buried some time before, poor sailor Jarman sadly dug her grave and laid her to rest. Rough, uncouth and carelessly indifferent to all the niceties of civilized existence, this silent touch that comes to all men, moved his spirit as it had not been stirred in many, many, years. Devotedly, he rounded off the graves, and as the lonely days dragged by, he carried large white granite stones and tenderly made a border around each grave; then finally, to shield the sacred precincts from the tread of man or beast, he built a neat white picket fence around the plot that held what was closest to his heart.
      A quarter of a century later, according to Mrs. Kennedy [10], now an old lady that now occupies the place, an old man, bowed with the hardships of many years, called at her parents' home, and talked much of early days on Jarman Prairie. He did not introduce himself, but they invited him to stay for lunch which he did. After the meal, the old man said he was going up the bluff to visit the graves on the hill.
      Slowly, and with unsteady steps, he made his way up the zigzag trail to the top, and there alone with himself and his dead, William Robert Jarman, the so-called "Blanket Bill," said his last farewell, and dropped a parting tear at the graves of his Clallam wife and little daughter [EN8]. Whatever may be said — and much has been — about Blanket Bill Jarman, a man who could exhibit the tender sentiments such as just related, carried much of nobility beneath his hoary breast.
      Nearly half a century more has slipped by since that far-off scene. Old-timers still point out the sites of Blanket Bill's cabin and the graves; but little very little remains to suggest what occurred there. Many years ago, a devastating forest fire destroyed the cabin and the picket fence. The forest has again returned and obliterated every trace of the graves. Mr. Ray Jordan, who has lived in the neighborhood for many years, and is historically minded, has one of the stones, kept as a memento of the tragedy that lives only as a fast fading event in a few old timers [EN9] memories. A few more years and even that will be gone. [Journal ed. note: we hope that a reader will have researched records and found a date or at least a year when Alice died. We have been singularly unsuccessful in finding any Ray Jordan records besides the ones that Fred Slipper passed on, so we are also curious about the gravestone that Ray retained at his farm.

Endnotes Chapter 21
1. Land Office Receipt, App. 28.
2. Mortgage. Deed Records, Auditors, Whatcom County. [Journal ed. note: M.V.B. Stacy became a railroad speculator later that decade. Read his profile
3. Ibid, Skagit County.
4. Whatcom County Commissioner Proceedings, Feb. 6, 1877
5. Ibid, Whatcom.
6. Teck Notes, App. 1.
7. Ray Jordan Interview.
8. Ibid, Jordan.
9. Ibid, Jordan.
      [App. means appendix items in Jeffcott's Jarman book. Many of these records are now available for researchers at the Washington State Archives, Bellingham]

Chapter 22
      It has often been said, "Time is the great healer." With some men that is true, but not with all, for the wounds of great grief in some cut deep and never close. But not so with William Jarman, for it was not too long after he had tenderly laid away Alice on the brow of the bluff, that love twinges began to stir his amorous nature and prompt him to cast furtive glances toward the fair faces of the Samish maidens.
      There is no time-element existant for this story, and at best, it is but fragmentary; but in the camps of the upper Samish, spoken of as "Stick Indians" [Stickine] because of their proclivity to live and hunt in the forest foothills of Mt. Baker, Jarman came in touch, while on one of his hunting trips, with a "winsome 16 year old maid of Mt. Baker." [EN1] So moved was he — and also so forgetful — that he was soon seeking her hand at the door of her father's teepee. The inducement he proffered to the "tillikum papa" for the "tenas clootchman" (young lady — also spelled klootchman), we will have to guess; but in his efforts at "Thyas mamook tikeh" (ardent love making)., he was successful; and led off his prize to his cabin at the Prairie. Her name we do not know, neither do we know her virtues; more than that she was "beautiful" [EN2].
      But his "Maid of Mt. Baker" seems to have slipped out of Jarman's life very quickly, for by the first of 1880, he was in the vicinity of Bellingham Bay in search for the desired adjunct to another matrimonial alliance. This time it was the no less personage than Emily, the daughter of Probate Judge John 1-1. Plaster [EN3]. It will be remembered that His Honor, in 1872, performed the rites for the William Pitchford-Elizabeth Head (Jarman's sister's) wedding, and also that of the Thomas Edge-Alice Jarman union, so Jarman must have had some edge on the Judge in. spite of his legal acuity. The then young lady's brother, John, recently told the writer that the Judge was much opposed to the match, but finally gave his consent [EN4]. A marriage license, dated February 17, 1880, issued to William Jarman and Emily Plaster, with John H. Plaster's consent, is on file; but so far, the marriage-return record has not been found. Judge Plaster, being no longer in office, could not perform the ceremony, and it is just possible that some other official neglected to make the return. After this marriage, the last for Blanket Bill as far as we have been able to determine, it becomes somewhat difficult to follow him [EN5]. He seems to have had one other alliance with a Samish woman, Sophia, said to have been "a brilliant girl and a great reader," but it has been impossible for the writer to place her in point of time. Our guess would be right after the death of Alice, but we have no evidence.
      After the union with Judge Plaster's daughter, Jarman must have returned at once to his claim on the Samish, where he remained until he sold it, September 28, 1880. Then he left the upper Samish permanently, thus ending a more or less broken residence on the Prairie of twelve years.

Endnotes Chapter 22
l. Teck Notes, App. 1
2. Ibid, Teck.
3. John Plaster, Interview, App. 9.
4. Ibid, Plaster.
5. Teck Notes, App. 1.
[App. means appendix items in Jeffcott's Jarman book.]

(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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