Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island  


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Mercer Island Historical Society

Founded 1954

Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island

A Washington State Non-profit Charitable organization with 501(c)(3) status.

Our Next Meeting April 21, 2018

Join us as acoustic trio Trillium-239 regales us with songs and stories of working life in the early Northwest.

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Don't forget Our Book!

Available at Island Books
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Early Mercer Island History

By Florence Guitteau Storey
Posted 1/15/18

Ed. Note: Florence Guitteau (1885-1976) arrived on Mercer Island in the late fall of 1889 with her mother and younger sister Otella, who went by “Ollie”, joining her father, William Putnam Guitteau, who was already there. They left in late 1892 to return home to Wisconsin to care for her grandfather, returning once again in December, 1894. The family moved permanently to Seattle in 1902, returning during summer months intermittently. She recounts her early memories in this 1958 article.

The many overgrown skid roads led to logged-off areas. The campsites were usually somewhere on the lakeshore. One was not far from our home. There were a few temporary structures: bunk houses, cookhouse with bunks for the cook and his helper, and sheds for the horses. The horses were used to yank the logs over the greased skid roads.

After an area had been logged off, the camp moved on scows to the next place. It took only a year or so to make the skid road invaluable. Alder, vine maple and devil’s club grew fast. The logs the skid roads were made of rotted fast. It was hard to walk these roads. There was low overhead. Blackberries and red huckleberries grew on them, but were often hard to pick. Snakes sunned on them. Once my sisters and I, on our way from school to our home, saw a snake near the opening of one of these roads. Around her, nearby, were a dozen or so baby snakes. When we drew near, the mother snake opened her mouth. The babies went in one after the other, head to tail. When all were in, the mother slithered off down the old skid road.

East Seattle School, 1909
(courtesy of UW Collections)

On our way home from school [in East Seattle] we usually ate portions of our lunches we had saved on purpose. One game we played as we walked along was to bite off equal sized pieces of bread crusts at the same time and see how far we could walk before we had to swallow. The road was lonely. There were no houses between East Seattle and our place. Seldom did we meet anyone. The one break in the road was a wooden bridge over a creek. Our father had supervised its construction. It was probably 30 feet long and about 10 feet above the creek somewhere near the middle of the decking. We were halfway home then. Some days I went alone to school, or alone on errands to East Seattle on a Saturday. It was so quiet the air drummed. I used to talk out loud, or say verses I had memorized, or whistle. Once I lost a silver dollar. I could never....[more]