Six Years On the Soleduck River – Part one

  • Fri Oct 4th, 2019 11:42am
  • Life

With next week’s Heritage Days looking at Homesteading here is one man’s account of his experience here on the West End. I have had this story about 20 years and was recently reminded that I had it when family of the man who wrote it stopped at the Forks Forum office one afternoon.

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Written by …

George Hopkins, who was eight years old when the family moved to Clallam County, Washington. (1892)

This is the story of the family of William Francis Hopkins, who was one of Clallam County’s early settlers on the upper Soleduck River, State of Washington. It is a story of six rather hard years, with some pleasant memories and some events bordering on the tragic.

I feel that I am called upon to leave some record of our years there in order to help preserve some of the atmospheres of the life of the early settlers in the area. In my later years, I have covered Clallam County pretty thoroughly and many times have I come upon the old homes that are now falling to pieces and are almost entirely hidden by the new growth, and the thought always comes of the forgotten hopes, hardships, romances and tragedies that must have existed in the early days, but now live only in the imagination.

At this time there is practically no visible evidence at all of the families and friends that lived around us in those early days.

To begin with, my father’s family moved by ox team from Kentucky into Southeastern Indiana where my grandfather was born in 1831. Another move into Central Indiana was made in 1843. My father was born here in 1850.

Then westward the family went into Wisconsin, then into Iowa, and finally into the Black Hills of South Dakota, settling down near Fort Mead where the three youngest of us children were born. Drought and storms drove them westward again, this time by horse-drawn covered wagon to Miles City, Montana, where the horses and wagons were sold and the family continued on westward by Northern Pacific Railway, arriving in Tacoma in mid-December 1888.

Tacoma was to be the end of the journeying, but within three years my father was again looking for new land, this time in Clallam County, on the Soleduck River. He found his location here in 1891, built the cabin, and in November 1892, moved his family into it; The home was located in Section 31, Township 30 North, Range 11 West, immediately south of the Big Bend of the river in that Section.

The move from Tacoma to the cabin on the Soleduck River was interesting, indeed. There were seven in my family at that time: Father and Mother and five of us youngsters. My brother Darwin, or Dor, as we called him, was fourteen years old. May was twelve, Elmer was ten, I was eight years old, and Stephen was six. We took passage from Seattle to Pysht on the steamer Garland. Clallam Bay had been and was the principal point of entry, with travel going from Clallam Bay to Beaver and Forks, but with our neighborhood being seven miles upriver from Beaver, it became apparent that a much shorter route could be found from Pysht, over Pysht Mountain, and down Bear Creek to Collins’ home and thence southeasterly about two miles to our new home.

The Garland stopped off at Pysht for us, about one-quarter mile from shore, where a rowboat with several men came out to help us ashore. It was raining hard. We were all led into the boat and moved as far in toward shore as the loaded boat could go, and then we had to take to the water. We kids were carried ashore, and two big rough looking slicker-covered men waded up to my mother, made a chair for her with their hands, and said: “Come on Mam.” I can still hear my mother say “No, thank you. I would rather walk.”

She didn’t walk, though. She sat on the “chair” made for her, and with an arm around each pair of wet shoulders, she was carried up to the shore.

We stayed at the “Hotel,” such as it was, overnight. We youngsters, who had been pretty sick coming up on the boat, did not especially appreciate the Chinese cooked fish balls and rice given us for supper.

The next day the trip over Pysht Mountain, across and down Bear Creek to Bert Collins place was made by most of us. Father had met us at Pysht and with him were Franklin, Wash Humphrey, and Collins. Collins was in charge of the train of horses that was taking us in. Stephen and I rode in style on a little donkey. Empty kerosene boxes, each of which had originally held two five-gallon cans of kerosene, or coal oil, as we called it, were strapped on the little animal, one on each side. Steve sat in one box and I sat in the other so that the day was much less rigorous for us than it was for the older folks, all of whom walked.

To be continued next week …