By Karolyn Burdick
This photograph was taken by Philip Wischmeyer in 1909, and is from the collection of the Forks Timber Museum. The picture, framed in fir bark, along with a “50 lb Tyee salmon,” was displayed at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, which was held on the grounds of the present University of Washington campus.
The entire caption on the photo reads, TAFT NEAR CLALLAM BAY WASH 14 ft diameter, 10 ft above the ground, considered the largest fir tree in the state. The individuals in the picture are Alston Fairservice, his son, H.C(lement) Fairservice, and his future son-in-law, C(larence) E. Kefauver. Alston Fairservice was an early entrepreneur in Clallam Bay (formerly East Clallam), who built the dock which established the town’s role as commercial hub of the western Olympic Peninsula.
H.C. Fairservice contributed the “Clallam Bay” portion of the “Jimmy Come Lately” book published by the Clallam County Historical Society in 1971. In 1969 he wrote to the assistant editor, Mrs. Mary Howard Harper, saying that he was sending this picture to be included in the book, but it was not used there. At that time, he wrote an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the photograph:
The tree picture which I have was taken April 1909 and was at the Alaska Yukon Exposition in the Washington Building.
The owner of the Logging Co. happened on the fallers as they made the undercut and stopped them for the reason they did not have rigging large enough to haul a tree like that out of the woods – 14’ diameter.
There are three people in the undercut – C.E. Kefauver, myself (10 yrs old) and my father. The tree would still be standing I am sure. It would be about 1 mi south of Sekiu. My father had the photographer come from Seattle specially to take the picture. He had him go to a Seattle Saw Mill and get fir bark for the frame. He also had a 50 lb Tyee salmon mounted and these two items were on display at the exposition.
The “owner of the Logging Co.” may have been Deighton A. Robinson, who logged in the Falls Creek area. Most information indicates that Robinson had sold out to Goodyear well before the time this picture was taken, but the exact date that his logging activity in the area ended is not clear. Goodyear’s logging operations didn’t begin until September 13, 1915, so they would have been unlikely to take on such a monumental task so many years earlier.
(The reference to “Taft” in the caption is unexplained. However, William Howard Taft had just become President of the United States in March of 1909. He weighed over 300 pounds, so perhaps it was a “tongue-in-cheek” comparison of his size to the size of the fir tree. Other explanations are welcome!