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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.