OF PIONEERS KEEP THE FLAME
By Christina Miovski
Whidbey Press Staff
a dream might live, and a flame be kept."
Throughout the state of Washington that motto is repeated by all chapters
of the Daughters of the Pioneers.
In the early settlement days on Whidbey Island, back in the 1850's those
struggling pioneers probably felt, like Lincoln, that "the world will little
nor long remember what was done or said here." But like Lincoln,
they were wrong and even today, close to one hundred years later, their
sons and daughters, their grand, great grand and great great grandsons
and daughters are still repeating their names and again and again telling
those wonderful stories about Whidbey Island's pioneers.
Yes, the dream is still living, and that flame still being kept, mostly
through the efforts of the present day chapter of the Daughter's of the
Pioneers. Their aim is to perpetuate the memory of these first citizens,
and to revive interest in the pioneer background of Whidbey Island.
Their successful efforts have kept alive the names of Crockett, Holbrook,
Swift, Alexander, Morse, Kellegg, Ebey, Coupe, Barrington, Race, Engle,
Glasgow, and may others.
By their continued work in gathering and publicizing information, Island
residents today can picture quite vividly those early settlements, those
old homes, and the terror of Indian attacks when women and children were
roused from their home and hustled into the protective blockhouse while
their menfolk shot through the slits in the blockhouses to drive the redskins
away. To most residents of Coupeville, where the earliest settlers
first came, the story of the tragic murder of Col. Isaac Ebey, is legendary.
The people of Coupeville like to point out the old Thomas Coupe home on
front street (said to be the first frame house built on Whidbey Island
in 1854) and the tall walnut tree which stands in front, grown from a black
walnut planted by the captain himself; they like to point out the "old"
County House, Island County's first court house at the head of the cove;
they like to show their tourist friends the monument which points out the
spot in which Colonel Ebey was beheaded by Indians; and they like to take
their friends to the remaining blockhouses. The Coupeville people
are proud to show off their pioneer ancestry and to the Pioneer Daughters
deserve credit that evidence of those proud years may still be seen.
The Whidbey Island chapter of the Daughters of the Pioneers was not organized
until 1934, on April 2, with Mrs. Maude Fullington as the first president.
The club was organized with fifty charter members.
Of these original charter members, 25 are still active members, eight have
died. The club now has 60 active members 34 of whom live on Whidbey
Island. In their early years the club met at the home of the different
members but for the past two years, Mrs. Louise Malstrom has allowed them
to meet in her home, the "old county house."
In pioneer activities, the club has rebuilt the Crockett blockhouse
and has moved it out close to the road where it is more easily accessible
to tourists. At the cemetery the women have also restored the old
Latest project of the chapter is to obtain a clubhouse for their meetings.
Furnishing the clubhouse would be the simplest job, for the Pioneer Daughters
have a tremendous amount of antique and pioneer furniture, with which to
fully equip their house in wonderful fashion. Several years ago,
about 1936, Horace Holbrook donated to the Pioneer daughters a portion
of his property in Coupeville (40 by 40), for the Pioneers to erect a home.
The Daughters later purchased his machine shop and had it moved to their
lot (which is one block south of the state highway near the Union Oil plant).
Since that time they have sponsored many programs, with an eye to raising
sufficient funds for their clubhouse.
With the advent of war, activities were cut and it wasn't until April of
this year that the Pioneer Daughters again began thinking seriously of
their clubhouse project. They eventually hope to remodel the shop
into a pretty little home fully furnished with pioneer items of interest.
And when that is done they hope to open it to the public at least several
days a week. That it would provide a tremendous tourist attraction
to Whidbey Island cannot be denied.
In April of this year, the Pioneer Daughters planned a birthday party (their
fourteenth) and for it they gathered an impressive collection of priceless
china antiques, precious pictures of early Whidbey Island scenes, and a
number of other pioneer items. Another feature of the party was a
style show, with the belles of today, modeling the gowns worn by the belles
of close to a century ago. Some of these fashions are pictured in
Gowns which had not been taken out of their wrappings since the famous
International Canoe races in Coupeville (at which time they were modeled
to provide local color) were again brought down out of heavy trunks and
In a dress rehearsal at the home of Ida SILL, the group gathered for their
group at tea in the home of Mrs. Nels Sill (left) are (left to right) Mrs.
Jack Engstrom dressed in Flora Engle's party dress of 1895, Mary Jo Sorgenfrei
in Mrs. Sill's grandmother's dress over a hundred years old, Mrs. Charles
Arnold in a gown also a hundred years old brought across the continent
by Mrs. Powers, and Sadie Davis in a beaded shawl she wore when she was
Modeling in a tea time picture (picture above) are five of the oldest gowns
still in existence here. Pouring tea at the left is Ida Alexander
Sill, descendant of the pioneer Alexander family. She is wearing
the plaid taffeta wedding dress of Mrs. Trott, worn when Mrs. Trott was
married in Wisconsin in 1876. Smiling down at her is Betty Engstrom,
grand-daughter of the well known Mercer girl, Flora P. Engles. As
petite as her grandmother , Betty wears here a beautiful black dress worn
by her grandmother in 1895. Her large puffed sleeves reflected the
style of the time.
Mary Jo Sorgenfrei here models the very pretty blue velvet dress that was
remodeled from Ida Sill's grandmother's wedding dress which was more than
100 years old. The beautiful lace work shawl is from the original.
Viola Arnold (standing) models one of the oldest gowns, a black gown and
hat brought across the country by Mrs. Powers when she came to Whidbey
Island close to 100 years ago.
FLIRTS IN YESTERDAY'S GOWN
she danced at Governor's Ball.
Davis, flirting with the crowd. She's wearing her own black mull
dress and beaded cape. The black mull openwork flounce was over 100
years ago. Her beaded shawl was one Sadie wore when she was 16.
Stealing the show are her red peak-a-boo petticoat, her red stockings,
and her red peaked toe slippers, which Sadie danced in 50 years ago, when
she ws honored guest at the Governor's ball.
worn by Pioneer Grandmothers.
Ready for bed in above picture are Lyla Libbey and Phyllis Sloth.
Lyla, who is a pioneer daughter herself (her ancestry dates back to four
pioneer families: the Hancocks, Kinneys, Cooks and Libbeys), is wearing
the old nightie belonging to Mrs. Puget Race's mother, while Phyllis is
modeling the nightgown worn by Nell Sill's mother. The nightcap worn
by Lyla dates even farther back.
Mercer Girl wore, over 70 years ago, is shown here. At left is Betty
Engle Engstrom, granddaughter of Mercer Girl Flora P. Engle, wearing her
grandmother's 83-year-old yellow taffeta gown. At right is Iris Engle
wearing a 72-year-old breakfast robe which was part of the Mercer Girl's
trousseau. In the center is tiny Carolee Engstrom, daughter of Mr.
and Mrs. Jack Engstrom, wearing her grandfather Carl Engle's 68-year-old
dress, which shows how a Mercer Girl dressed her son.
Island County || ALHN