This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Historical Society

GIHS minutes - August 12, 2019


August 12, 2019



Present: Tom Deach (chair), Janice Veal (treas), Win Anderson, Adam Veal, Bob Anderson, Barb & Mark Ohms, Mary Hale, Doug & Lisa Charnock, Robert R. Turner, Mark Funk, Morna McEachern & Grant Brockmeyer, Randy Schnabel, Pat & Dick de la Chapelle, Bill VanVlack & Stephanie Kavanaugh, Pam McGaffin, Dennis Palmer, Lynne Myall, Ron Knowles, Mark Spahr, Norlin & Mary C. Joyce, Sally Stapp, John Polli, Gary Rainwater, Ian Woofenden, Bob & Jacquie Prescott, Sue O’Donnell (sec)

Show & Tell:  Historical Society has recently been given a life ring from the old ferry Almar (1960–1979).  Tom held it up, bright orange and sturdy enough to haul in a fallen-overboard-foot passenger.  A second life ring is from the current Guemes ferry, white and autographed on the back side by ferry crew members.

The society has also been given a 12’ banner, commemorating the maiden voyage of the original Guemes Ferry.


Program: SMUGGLER KELLY - Win Anderson was asked by the Skagit Land Trust to research the 3000 feet of marine shoreline and naturally eroding “feeder bluff” on the southwestern point of Guemes Island – Kelly’s Point.  In 2018, many folks came together to raise enough funds to conserve and acquire - from the Jones/Bingham estate - the beach and yellow bluffs of the point. 

During his research, Win found a photo from 1877 of the South Shore of Guemes showing the first wharf ever built on either Guemes or Fidalgo Islands.  The photo has a wide view of the dock, a building, (store with a working post office, according to postmaster documents), fences, several people plus a native person in a Samish canoe.  Win surmises this is the earliest picture we have of a Native American canoe. 

As recently as 2019, part of the foundation of that very dock has been found, buried in the sand!   Willie McWaters had wondered about the jetty-like area on South beach with many field stones.  He began to dig there and unearthed a 20-foot fir log.  Was it the original 142-year-old beam with hand-worked mortice and tenon base, supporting the angled uprights of the dock, fastened with wooden tree nails??  Or part of a more recent rebuild?? It has since been reburied in the sand by wind and wave action. 

“Kelly’s Point” - is named for Lawrence Kelly (1839-1926), born in either Ireland or England. He arrived in US at beginning of the Civil War, joined up (1862), then made his way to Puget Sound in 1864, perhaps planning to work in the logging industry.  Kelly bought land on Guemes Island, owned the point (1872-1878).  In 1877, he married Lizzie Cootes, Native American daughter of Charles Cootes, the sheriff of Whatcom & Skagit counties.  They had nine children and lived on Sinclair Island as well as on Guemes.  Win has been able to find no journals written by Kelly but the 1910 book (Criss-Cross Over the Boundary) by James McCurdy, called Kelly a very successful, persistent and single-handed pirate.  

Commonly known as Smuggler Kelly, for 47 years he was in the business of evading the revenuers as he brought silk, wool, whiskey and refined opium into the local waters from Canada.  For the first 20 or so years of his crime spree, there was not much in the way of law enforcement.  He most likely worked alone.  Win believes other smugglers were more active, bringing in Chinese workers/slaves to work in the canneries in addition to hiding the silk, opium, etc. mixed in with the legitimate cargo on the much larger steamships.  Win imagined Kelly’s operation too small to allow for human trafficking.  For a single helmsman to maintain control over a boatload of valuable human cargo fails the reality test.  There would have been room for smuggled humans but Kelly would have had to employ guards, etc.  (There are chilling recounts of slaves being weighed down by heavy weights and tossed overboard under pressure from agents.  But Win has found no credible source ever accusing Kelly of that despicable practice.)

As law enforcement became more forceful, Kelly had to devise ways to hide his booty to avoid being caught.  However, he was caught, suffered fines, was arrested and incarcerated at McNeil Island, jailed in Seattle, eventually losing his property and family.

During his career, Kelly ran 3 different boats.  Most well-known has become the “Katie Thomas”, built in 1894 on Waldron Island by the Thomas brothers.  The Katie – 38’ long, 12’ beam and 8 tons - was in the fashion of wooden, hand-built “pinky type”, sailing rowboats.  Kelly owned the Katie near the end of his 47 working years, giving up his life of crime in 1910.  Smuggler Kelly died at age 87 after living for a time in an “old soldier’s home”.

In 1955 the “Katie” was berthed at the Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes.  The last known picture of the craft in the water appeared in the September 1955 “American Bulletin” newspaper (Anacortes, 1950-1961).  In 1974 the hull was delivered to a cradle in Ship Harbor (where the barracks housing the Chinese slaves used to be).  There it remained, continuing to deteriorate for the next few years.

In 1979, the “Katie Thomas” was dismantled under the watchful eye of Anacortes historian Bill Mitchell (1949-2019).  Bill insisted that parts of the hull would be saved as examples of the craft of boat building and to show the lengths folks went to to preserve the boat.  Win Anderson has very interesting photos of the process and has donated an actual piece of the hull to the Guemes Island Historical Society.

Local shipwright, Kenny Powell (1954-1991), studied the hulk and recorded the lines and offsets of the hull.  Kenny later built his own boat, the “Tillicum” (not one of the “pinky” types), and first launched it off the west beach of Guemes Island.  The Historical Society owns a video of the launching of Powell’s “Tillicum”.


Old Business: 

Treasurer’s Report (attached) Janice reports current balance of $19,859.95; value of the 7 CDs is $20,987.77.  One of the laddered CDs has been renewed for 19 months at 1.98%.

The dog show permit has been applied for.

Appreciation – Guemes Island Envoironmental Trust sent a nice t-y note to acknowledge our participation in the annual Father’s Day ice cream social.  With help from the Skagit County Weed Board, Marianne Kooiman and Connie Snell, Sue O’Donnell & Sally Stapp presented a display of noxious weeds one might find in a Guemes yard, roadway or field.


New Business: 

Next meeting - Sally Stapp will lead a walk of the North Beach “Alverson’s Camping Tracts”, first up for sale in 1921.  Lots of history here as Anacortes residents (some ancestors of current North Beach property owners) nearly 100 years ago decided to “camp” on the island across the Guemes Channel from town.

Cruise – Tom had a display with pictures of Vendovi Island and the water craft, Rising Tide, scheduled to transport picnickers from Young’s Park on Guemes to a beach on Vendovi, Saturday, September 7, 11am – 3pm.  Skipper Monte Hughes will drive the boat and give some history of Vendovi and Eliza Islandsg.

Cost for the day trip will be $90/person and will include a catered lunch of sandwich/salad options from “Gere-a-Deli” restaurant in Anacortes.  Sign-ups are ongoing.


Dog Island Dog Show – the 6th Annual Guemes Dog Show will be Saturday, August 24, 11am-3pm. 

Historically speaking, we have had a very loyal participant (Andy Larson with Riley) who, with his trusty side-kick, has won most every year!  The side-kick has slowed down and to honor their participation over the years, we will recognize them with a special plaque.  Janice will research a picture of the 2 together. Sue moved to spend up to $25 on the “prize”.  Passed.

The details: we will need to purchase lots of onions to be chopped, 125 hot dogs, Country Time lemonade powder, napkins, food trays and cups (all non-plastic); Barb reports the griddles have been wiped down; 3 BBQers need to be checked; tables/chairs transported to park; tents erected; water bottles to park; swimming pool transported and filled; Bob A. will letter all the signs we will need; Win will bring historical artifacts to display;  Sally will bring doggy bags.

Auction items have been gratefully accepted.

Friday, 6PM – set-up work party

Saturday, 7am – day of event set-up


Community Sharing – Historical Society has been meeting regularly at the Guemes Island Community Church since 2002 when Society was started.  At this time the church is in need of a new gas-powered oven/stove to replace the current one in the church kitchen.  Many community organizations use the church spaces and benefit from the church’s hospitality, especially when food is involved.  Janice moved to donate $200 to the church kitchen project.  Seconded by Sue.  Passed.


Recent Guemes Losses:

Darrel Berg (1920-2019)


Hubert Adams ( ? - 2019)


Respectfully submitted,

Sue O’Donnell (secretary) 8/12/2019