A house once stood on the scenic property adjacent to the Colby Cemetery, near the intersection of Mile Hill and Alaska Drives, and its story speaks volumes about the hardships of turn-of-the-century living here and the practical aspects of social life.
It was built by the effective “founding father” of the now-vanished town of Colby Village, Joseph Squire Grant, probably around 1901. The community was constructed in the 1880’s and 1890’s due East and downhill from your property at the water’s edge and, in its heyday, included three stores, hotel, blacksmith shop, livery stable, large lumber mill, one-room-schoolhouse, boarding houses, and a Good Templars Meeting Hall. (See the related articles about the town and the Grant Family on this site)
Grant, who was born in England, moved to Colby in 1884 and became postmaster and proprietor of Grant & Sons Store at the base of the pier. His wife died during the birth of his third child, so he took on the challenge of raising three children in the wilds of Western Puget Sound at a time before schools and roads existed, and somehow was a successful businessman as well. He lived in a very small hip-roofed house on the slight hill above the main store, and also built larger homes for his two sons, Thomas and Joseph, Jr, and his daughter, Annie.
By the time he reached his 52ndbirthday in 1901, his adult children were well established with families of their own. Colby was prospering, as were Grant’s business enterprises. He helped build a school and funded a steamship pier, and permanent roads were constructed to Sidney (Port Orchard) and Bremerton. Grant sought female companionship and made a dedicated effort to re-marry. It was quite common for single, wealthy men to “advertise” for a wife, especially with so few women living in the region. Family accounts and anecdotes passed along to us by locals lead us to believe that he contacted a spinster from Chicago, exchanging letters and photographs. Eventually, Grant proposed that she come meet him and see Colby for herself.
Since the house above the store was extremely small, it was at this time that he had the house constructed specifically to accommodate a larger family and allow for social entertaining. The property was on the high ground and contained a small pond fed by an active creek. This, he thought, would offer his potential bride added incentive to live in the semi-wilderness, isolated from city life. (It should be noted that the house’s design was almost exactly the same as the one he built for his second son, a structure that still stands on Yukon Harbor Drive today.) It eventually became known by the Grant Family as The Ranch House, ostensibly because it had a pasture, corrals and outbuildings for livestock.
The story goes that the woman traveled across the country by train and arrived in Colby by steamship, stayed at the Nieblock Hotel near the pier, and met the townspeople. As a successful businessman and known by everyone in the region, Grant was a powerful and wealthy man. She apparently did not find the weather, the rural life, nor Joseph Grant appealing, and returned to Chicago a few days later. Now, while the weather in Western Puget Sound is, indeed, often cold and wet, but from what we know conditions in Chicago aren’t much better. You have to wonder why she turned down his offer.
Grant never remarried and probably never lived there, eventually deeding the house to his son, Thomas. At some point the parcel included the Colby Cemetery, as well. The 1906 County Platt shows both belonging to Thomas Grant. Victor Cains purchased the house and property decades later, and built a new house before tearing the Grant Ranch House down in the 1960’s. His son’s family, the David Cains family, lives there today.. –RN