By Sid Nourse
Along in the fall of the year 1880 a quiet, reflective German youth impelled
by the ageless urge of humanity to see what lays beyond the near horizon
set out from Mukilteo in a small skiff. At the time the South Whidbey
Island was in about the same stage of development as the outlying islands
of South-eastern Alaska are today. A fe hardy pioneers, seeking refuge
from the demands of civilization, were living tranquil and unregulated
lives with aminimum
of undesirable effort, on favored spots along the shore. There were
no roads, but tenuous trails, and bridle-paths linked together the various
sections of the country. Game of all kinds was super-abundant.
Ducks and geese covered the marshes, and the sloughs were full of salmon.
Deer and bears were everywhere. There was no need of anyone going
hungry. Our youth, Jacob Anthes by name, landed on Useless Bay and
spent that fall and winter roaming over and exploring the country and visiting
and becoming acquainted with every settler and logging camp in the region.
N. E. Porter had a place near Mutiny Bay; then going South, a man named
Johnson near Double Bluff; then George Finn, Chris Anderson, F. George,
G. Johnson, Thomas Johns, Edward Oliver and , at what later became Maxwelton,
Mike Lyons. Then in Bailey's Bay, now Cultus Bay, was Robert Bailey;
and proceeding East and North around Possession Point there were John Phinney
near what is now Columbia Beach; and lastly Joseph F. Brown of Brown's
Point, now Sandy Point. Beyond that for twenty miles clear to the
head of Holmes Harbor, there were no settlers. There were four logging
camps in operation but these were mere transients, cutting their allotted
timber and moving on to other fields, providing, however, a ready market
for all the farm produce that the settlers cared to sell.
Modern youth may wonder how existence in the 1880's could be found endurable
without electricity, without automobiles, without movies and the countless
other frills of the present day. Possibly happiness, like beauty,
unadorned is adorned the most. Anyway, life was not lacking in zest
for the young folk of seventy years ago. In 1881, Jacob Anthes bought
120 acres of land one mile west of the present town site of Langley from
John Phinney for one hundred dollars and lived there for the next several
years, building a log cabin, clearing up some of the excellent land, and
having no difficulty in providing himself with all the cash money he might
need by cutting cordwood for the many wood burning steamers that in these
pre railroad days were the sole commerce carriers on Puget Sound. In off
periods and for relaxation, Anthes resumed his wanderings throughout the
hinterland, the woods then being open and free from the dense underbrush
that has sprung up after the cutting of the virgin timber and became acquainted
with the lines of the Government surveys and the general topography of
the terrain. He noted particularly that Langley possessed a good
harbor and was accessible from almost any point without the necessity of
crossing the high ridges which formed the backbone of the Island.
Feeling sure that these lands would eventually be occupied and that a town
would result, Anthes in 1886 files a homestead claim and in quick succession
a pre-emption and timber claim, paying all expenses by logging operations.
In 1890-1891 the Great Northern Railway started building to the Coast and
townsites were platted and offered for sale all over the Northwest.
Feeling the time was ripe for the materialization of his dream, Jacob Anthes,
with Judge J. W. Langley of Seattle, C. W. Sheafe, James Satterlee, A.
P Kirk and Howard B. Slauson incorporated the Langley Land and Improvement
Co. and the town of Langley was born. At a cost of $5000 a dock was
built, followed by a general store and post office. In all these
undertakings Anthes took the leading part, being the town's first storekeeper
and postmaster. A general spirit of optimism prevailed during this
period, and available government land was soon taken up, and cabins and
clearings began to appear in the woods. As in other pioneer regions,
the 'trading post', under intelligent and shrewd management, was the fountain
spring of the community's well being. The storekeeper contracted
with the steamboats to supply their essential cordwood fuel, averaging
thirty five cords daily and furnishing employment for twenty five woodsmen
and seven teams. As another angle a community log schoolhouse was
built for the fifteen children of school age and the store acted as a clearing
house in an arrangement whereby the parents of each child was assessed
$2.50 a month for tuition and the proceeds paid to the teacher. The
store also encouraged and assisted in the opening and widening of trails
into the interior to permit settlers to come to town and do their trading.
The great depression of 1893 and 1894 dealt Langley a hard blow.
The dock went out in a storm and had to be rebuilt, and then the building
of the Great Northern Railway to Bellingham put the steamboats out of commission
and lost for Langley a steady source of revenue. By 1898 the Alaska
gold rush was stimulating business all through the Northwest, and large
orders were booked for piling and brush provided work for 100 men in the
Langley area. The agriculturally minded county administration at
Coupeville considered the South end a hopeless bank of sand and gravel,
valuable only for the native timber, so no county funds were allotted for
road building until 1902 when the road to Coupeville was opened.
street, Langley, about 1908, looking west. Wagon in foreground is
parked in front of Bill Howard's livery stable which was later remodeled
and now houses Puget Power office and Langley Electric Center. Seated
in wagon are: Martin Mortensen, left, and Bill Howard. Leaning againt
wagon is Albert Melsen, Langley's present mayor. Furtherest building
at right is McCarter's hotel, later destroyed by fire. Visible at
left under trees is general merchandise store originally owned by Jacob
Anthes, which also burned. It stood at corner of Anthes Ave. and
First Street now occupied by Clyde's garage and Clyde Theater.
From 1898 on to the present day progress has been constant and cumulative.
A commodious schoolhouse was erected in 1899 and the 'Friends' built a
church in 1902. Rev. Mcnames organized the Methodist church which
was built by popular subscription in 1908. Langley has been very
fortunate in continually being able to draw upon the services of skilled,
resourceful, and energetic men and women imbued with a zeal to make Langley
the metropolis of South Whidbey. Their policies and actions have
often caused friction with neighboring communities especially in regards
to school matters, but even the severest critics can not help but concede
admiration for the Langley citizens who have not failed to back up their
faith with their money and have built up their town with structures that
would do credit to far larger towns. Among these are Norman Clyde,
Albert Melsen, Victor Primevera and Dr. A. O. Brewer. Jacob Anthes
was truly the father of Langley. Unfortunately there was one act
of his of which he did not live to see the fruition. When Langley
Lodge No. 218, Free and Accepted Masons, was constituted in 1916, Jacob
Anthes donated a beautifully situated lot on which, thirty two years later,
1948 has been erected probably the finest Masonic Temple of its kind in