By Russell Neyman and JB Hall.
It is so easy to think of “progress” as the development of bigger and better roads, but recently we have been drawn to avenues that no longer exist. One of the more interesting current projects we are undertaking is a study of the various roadways and where they were – and, in come cases, where they aren’t. Some roads that were once essential in their day have completely disappeared.
Our focus would normally be, of course, the area in and around Yukon Harbor, but in this case we are examining the entire region, including Port Orchard, Bethel, Long Lake, Olalla and the entire peninsula that extend northward to Rich Passage. We intend to document these infrastructures as they existed in 1909, since that is when the entire region was platted and the towns began to blossom. That is the year that the schools expanded, the business districts were built, and when the towns came of age. 1909 is, in a very real sense, a starting point.
Stories of difficult overland travel in the pre-automobile era abound. The countless creeks, streams, and hills were extremely challenging, and movement by land was further complicated by the weather and soggy, muddy conditions that still exist. Imagine what travel would be like today on roadways that did not even have a gravel surfacing. Even horse-drawn wagons were impractical because of the countless steep hills and lack of bridges at that time.
The Yukon Harbor communities of Colby, Manchester (nee, Brooklyn), and Harper were jumping off points to other places, and the local citizenry needed to travel by land to conduct business, pay taxes, and simply visit friends. The paths to Port Orchard, Bethel, and elsewhere were critical.
There is one account of a citizen of Brooklyn needing to pay his taxes, and he chose to walk to the County Seat in Sidney. His journey took him south to Colby, up the hill to Garfield Avenue, then down Woods Road into the Salmonberry Creek Estuary, following that watershed as far as Bethel, and then turning down Sidney Road to the “big city.” That trip was an all day affair.
Our study was based on two documents in particular: a 1909 White & McConihey map (above) and a 1943 United States Army Strategic map. The White & McConihey document, taken from the Washington State University archives, provides the most detail, but it also has several inaccuracies. One suspects that the roads were only casually surveyed and the locations are approximate. Still, this document is key to our research. We also used satellite views and topographical maps from Google.
The Army map, while not from the era in question, contains many details of roads and highways that have since been abandoned, so it is useful in refining the information included in the White & McConihey map. It was drawn up during the Second World War at a time when invasion by the Japanese was a real possibility. As historians, we see this map as a collection of data from all previous times that might be of use in a time of war. Some of it was, clearly, out of date, but you could easily imagine that a combat officer might find a casual note useful.
One of the fascinating details on this map was the “Indian Forts” noted in the Curley Creek shoreline. They were, clearly, not existent in 1943 and probably were gone by 1885, but the United States Army included it anyway because it was a fact noted by earlier explorers – probably an observation by the Wilkes Expedition – and the Army Corps of Engineers made note of it just in case it became of military value. An invasion by the Japanese Army during World War II was, after all, a possibility at that time.
We studied the two maps carefully. For practical purposes, we will identify the various landmarks with their present names. Three roads, in particular, caught our eye.
One is the aforementioned thoroughfare that followed Salmonberry Creek. For all practical purposes, it completely disappeared by the 1930’s. The old road ends about where Woods Road intersects Long Lake Road, but a satellite image shows traces of it on the various pastures and fields of that area. We suppose the direct route down SE Mile Hill (which previously was known as the Manchester Highway) made it an obsolete path. The faster, more direct east-west and north-south roads made this meandering country road impractical. Cars could traverse the long and relatively steep mile-long grade (giving the road its name) from the low land near the National Guard Armory to the hill top at South Park.
It could also be that the reasons to travel in that direction diminished. The wandering roadway started near the first established community, Colby Village, heading west and southwest to Bethel. Both towns started with a flourish but soon faded. So, today, the road gone.
Another “missing roadway” is a direct route from Manchester to Annapolis. In the early 1900’s travelers heading west would follow Chester for a mile or two, and then turn South and West on a journey that roughly traced the roadways currently known as Collins, Horstrom, and Baby Doll. Today, that roadway dead-ends at Olney, but as late as 1943 it continued directly through to the town of Annapolis.
A third major route that has disappeared is an extension of Collins westward, also leading directly to Annapolis. Our guess is that this road was put down in the 20’s, and removed in the 50’s. This is shown in the 1943 map.
Reedville? Aquarium? Nellita?
The nature of small towns in the homesteading and settlement era – 1860 to 1880 – is that they were really business ventures. Small groups of speculators would pick a key piece of property, one that would accommodate steamship service and allow foot travel to critical inland areas, and build a dry goods store, hotel, blacksmith shop, and pier. If a logging camp or other industry thrived nearby, the town prospered; if not, the town faded away.
One mystery town is “Reedville,” located due west of Olalla and due south of Port Orchard. It is noted on one colored 1909 Kitsap County map (source unknown) and, frankly, we have never heard mention of it before. We plan to investigate, but we suspect is was nothing more than a store. There is no record of a post office by that name.
There are countless other small communities that have disappeared. Nearby Vashon Island once was home to places known as Aquarium and Chautauqua, all long forgotten except for notation on this one document. In that era, a traveler who arrived by steamship at Quilcene Bay via Hood Canal and headed due north would encounter as many as eleven business centers. As indicated on the colored Kitsap County Map, they were: Quilcene, Beck, Delions, Cooks, Bowman, Thomas, Kawamoto, Leland, Shows Landing, Uncas, and Fairmont, to name a few. Other long disappeared towns along the Hood Canal were Triton, Duckabush, Brinnon, Nellita, Holly, One wonders if a trace of any of these places remains.
For many of us, the study of old maps is a fascinating look into the past. We have included a few to tell this story, but we have collected quite a few more that can be viewed in our Historical Documents page of this website. We will leave it to you to explore those details, but here are a few things to look for:
- Expansion of White Settlements—Early maps (1865-1884) show virtually no overland travel routes, but by 1900 a network of roadways appeared.
- Mis-spelled and mis-identified places– Curley Creek is often noted as Gurley’s Creek. Rich Passage is also called Rich’s Passage.
- Current towns that have changed names—Manchester and Port Orchard were once known as Brooklyn and Sydney. On one 1891 topographical map, Port Orchard is shown to be where Charleston is currently located.
- Explorer Maps—Captains Vancouver and Wilkes both made specific visits to the areas that are daily travel for us all.
- Indian Settlements—One crude map shows several villages frequented by Native Americans.
We are actively seeking new survey documents and plan to post more. See our historical documents page: https://yukonharbor.wordpress.com/historical-photographs/