The Grant & Sons, A Cornerstone of Commerce for Eight Decades.

Downtown Colby, which sat on the waterfront for eight decades, shown about 1905. The original Grant & Sons store (left) with adjoining storeroom was initially established by William Morgan, who sold the business to his brother-in-law, Joseph Squire Grant, Sr. The structure served as a United States Post Office. The black building behind the horses was the first Post Office and later served as a lending library. To the right is a blacksmith shop. The three Grant residences on the rise above the store still stand well into the 2010's

By Russell Neyman.

For so many decades, beginning in the early 1880’s, the cornerstone of commerce in the elbow of water extending from the entrance to Sinclair Inlet to Southworth was Grant & Sons Store, located along the water’s edge at the steamship landing at Colby. It existed and thrived during a time when the region was nothing more than settlers and homesteaders.

The business was established by English immigrant William Morgan and his wife, Sarah, in 1883. The structure was, at first, a modest two-story log building, with living quarters upstairs and an adjoining stable. It sat along the shoreline near a sawmill located where Mile Hill Road bends southward to Southworth Drive today. It served as a “company store” for a Puget Lumber Company shingle and lumber mill.

Joseph Squire Grant, Sr., who established general merchandise stores in Olalla and Colby, about 1875. He was born in England, and a true visionary for the future of Western Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of JoAnn Grant Lorden.

Just two years after beginning the venture, Morgan sold the business to his wife’s brother, Joseph Squire Grant, who came to Colby by way of Kansas, Oakland, and Olalla, just a few miles to the South. Grant had built a store and post office in Olalla, but sold that to take over the Morgan venture. Grant took ownership, officially, in 1885, when the Morgans moved to Seattle. One of the first things Grant did was to replace the log structure with a more conventional white planked building alongside the first one, with a living quarters attached. He placed a large bell above the store, and rang it to announce the arrivals of the steamships and other special occasions. Later, he and his family built a series of house on the slight rise above the original two stores.

Grant was a widower, his wife having died after giving birth to his third child in Kansas. He relied on his mother, also widowed, to care for the brood of two sons, Tom and Squire, and daughter, Annie. He was a shrewd businessman, understood the importance of having a store located in the intersection of local commerce, and excelled at promotion. He quickly became postmaster.

The interior of the store was typical of general goods businesses at the turn of the century, featuring everything from beans and coffee to sewing machines and plows.

Actually, there were several Grant stores, although the one built in 1887-8 is the one most closely associated with the family enterprise. Grant’s Fancy Groceries was built across the street in Colby, specializing in “confectionaries” and giftware, and a second general merchandise was established in Harper, near the steamship and ferry pier there. That business was run by the youngest son, Squire. A Harper store opened about 1916 and closed down about 1925 when the road was widened.

The lumbermen, ranchers, and farmers of the Southern Kitsap Peninsula relied heavily on him to create goods and, in turn, take them to market. There was a large lumber mill just to the South of the store, making construction of new housing easier. Grant established ties with the various steamship companies, encouraging them to stop at Colby on a regular basis by first building a float (passengers landed on the floating dock and were rowed ashore) and later erecting a permanent pier. The locals came to Grant & Sons Store to pick up their mail — and that was the only way mail service was available for the first 20 years — and purchase essential supplies. When the farmers needed to take their goods by steamer to the Seattle markets, they left their horses and oxen in the stable located next to the store. Virtually all commerce passed by the front porch.

With better roads came better machinery, including a "tin lizzy" delivery truck, sometime around 1920.

In the early days, the business offered flour and other grains, canned goods, coffee, cured meats, fabrics, tools, and everyday necessities. Refrigeration was not available for many decades, so the selection of perishables was extremely limited.  For a time the work space was nothing more than long planks placed over barrels, with floor-to-ceiling shelving behind, and a potbellied stove in the corner.

This remarkable, detailed photo of the senior Grant, sitting in an office-type setting and surrounded by a patriotic theme, might have been taken in the Good Templars Hall, near the base of the Colby pier. There are portraits of former President US Grant, as well as a memorial to recently-assasinated President Garfield, on the walls. The flag is a 45-star version. futher dating this photo. Provided by Shirlee Toman.

Thomas Grant, the oldest son, inherited the family business and ran it long after Joseph's death in 1916. Click to enlarge.

With this as a starting point, the town of Colby grew and prospered. The Anspaugh family arrived shortly thereafter, built a hotel and a competing grocery store, and several new houses. Anspaugh also built personal residences for the Grant Families, now expanding through marriages and births. A second Grant Store, Grant’s Fancy Groceries, offered ice cream, post cards, and “fancies” was built across the street from the original Store. Other businessmen established complimentary enterprises, including a barber shop, blacksmith, and a third grocery.

By this time Joseph Grant’s sons had taken the over his business interests (although around 1908-10 there may have been a falling out in the family, leading to the elimination of a “s” in “Sons”) and the senior Grant settled into retirement. He passed away in 1916, and his oldest son, Tom, took ownership, trying to overcome the isolation the resulted when the automobile came on the scene and the ferry service went elsewhere. Tom Grant opened a second store in Harper, and even built a gas station in Colby. When Tom died in 1936, his wife, Georgeina Harding Grant, became custodian of the barely profitable store. Eventually, Georgeina had the building torn down. Her heirs sold the property and the land has become residential today, although no building occupies the space. Only the large, expansive oak tree plant by Joseph Grant remains.

Four generations of Grants lived in the neighborhood, but no direct links to the Grant Family reside there today. There are no remnants of the various stores, hotels, shops, or lumber mill, and barely a trace of the pier.

Grant & Son Store, about 1952

These 1950’s photos of the store, taken from the entrance of the lumber mill looking south (above) and from the water side (below) shows the store in it’s decline. The establishment of roadways and bridges around Tacoma Narrows made steamer travel obsolete, so traffic through the Colby landing diminished. The distinctive oak tree still stands on the site today. Below, the store in its last days, open to vagrants and in sad shape. Note that “Grant & Sons” now reads “Son.”

Grant Store 1950\'s?

   Colby shown from the end of the steamship pier, 1908   Colby, c 1907. (Click to enlarge)

Sources for this article include a newspaper article by Agnes E Kelley that appeared in The Port Orchard Independent, Grant Family Archives, and Kitsap County Historical Records. See other articles and photographs on this site for additional views of the town and the store.

One thought on “The Grant & Sons, A Cornerstone of Commerce for Eight Decades.

  1. I have really enjoyed your website! I grew up in port orchard and never knew there was this much history there. I was wondering if you knew anything about the old church/grange that is located on Harvey RD. I am considering buying it and am curious about the history. I have always wanted to live in an old church. Any info would be great. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s