Historical records provide some answers | History Files


Last updated 11/22/2022 at 10:43am

Popular author Mary Daheim died eight months ago. Teresa A. Anderson and I have been helping Mary's family sort through photos and historic records that Mary had collected. Teresa has helped a lot, and I have helped a little.

Teresa found a letter from Mary's maternal grandfather, Frank Dawson. The letter is dated 1899, and Frank was in Port Blakely. I assume that he worked at the lumber mill in Port Blakely. Twenty years later, he was a deckman at the lumber mill in Alpine, Washington.

In the letter, Frank says that he and other men from the mill went to Bremerton to play a baseball game. The opponent was the crew of the U S Navy battleship Iowa. This would be the first battleship Iowa, BB-4, which fought at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in the Spanish-American War.

There was a later battleship Iowa, BB-61, which fought in World War II and is now a museum in Los Angeles.

In 1899, baseball was much less organized than it is now. The American League, in which the Mariners play, didn't exist yet. The National League did exist, and had been playing for 23 years. The minor league system we have now didn't exist. Businesses and battleships formed teams and played against whomever they could.

In southeast King County and northeast Pierce County, coal mine workers formed teams to play against other mine teams. The tradition of businesses sponsoring baseball teams (and basketball teams) continued into my lifetime.

As a child, I remember reading about Federal Old Line Insurance Company playing against Buchan Bakers and others.

The baseball game in 1899 went badly for the Port Blakely team against USS Iowa. Dawson records that the catcher for the Port Blakely team "got his hand split open and could not play."

The Port Blakely Company still exists, but I don't think they have a baseball team anymore. The company has its headquarters in Seattle on Fourth Avenue. The former location of the mill on Bainbridge Island is now an upscale waterfront neighborhood.

I have often seen signs on the Olympic Peninsula proclaiming tracts of land as belonging to the Port Blakely Company.

I spent some time on the Port Blakely website. There, I learned that the mill at Port Blakely was built in 1864 by William Renton. Yes, that William Renton. The website says the mill flourished for four decades, "at one point operating the world's largest sawmill under one roof."

Over the course of more than 150 years, the focus of the Port Blakely Company has changed. The company now owns timberland in the United States and New Zealand. It doesn't appear that they own a mill anymore.

When timberland is cut near a major metropolitan area, the land probably has more value for other uses than growing timber and logging it. The Port Blakely Company has moved into property development.

In 1990, the company launched Port Blakely Communities. Described as "a real estate venture focused on creating innovative urban villages combining a sense of community with smart growth, Issaquah Highlands becomes our signature development."

And until the letter from Frank Dawson goes back to Mary's family, it is located there in the Issaquah Highlands where Teresa is sorting through Mary's keepsakes. I have said before that I love to find connections from our past to our present.

Even I am surprised by how tidily this fits.


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