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DAUGHTERS OF PIONEERS KEEP THE FLAME
By Christina Miovski
Whidbey Press Staff
"That 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.
LEGENDS OF WHIDBEY
         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."
ACTIVITIES
    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 Davis blockhouse.
        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.
FUTURE OBJECT
        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 this edition.
        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 suitcases.
        In a dress rehearsal at the home of Ida SILL, the group gathered for their pictures.
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This charming 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 sixteen.
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       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.
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AND SADIE FLIRTS IN YESTERDAY'S GOWN
The way she danced at Governor's Ball.
That's Sadie 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.
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Nightgowns 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.
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What a 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.
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|| ALHN Island County || ALHN Washington ||