After the Puget Sound "Indian War" of 1855-1856, a number of high-status Coast Salish refugees relocated to Chimacum Prairie, south of Port Townsend at the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. There they built a new life as neighbors, spouses, and business partners of European immigrants. The nucleus of this economically integrated, but self-consciously "Indian" (and specifically "Snohomish Indian"), community was the dairy farm of William Bishop Sr., a former British seaman, and his Snohomish first wife, "Lag-wah," also known as Sally. Not only did other mixed-ancestry households buy land or camp around the edges of the Bishop property, but William and Sally Bishop's sons -- Thomas G. Bishop (1859-1923) and William Bishop Jr. (1861-1934) -- became pioneer Native American political leaders: Thomas as founder of the first inter-tribal treaty-rights organization, the Northwest Federation of American Indians (NFAI), and William Jr. as an outspoken state legislator and first president of the Snohomish Tribe of Indians. Descendants of William and Sally Bishop and their Native and mixed-ancestry neighbors continued to live in the Chimacum area and to identify as Native American, many specifically as Snohomish, into the twenty-first century, although in 2003 the Snohomish Tribe of Indians was denied federal recognition.
A Tale of Two Wars
In 1854 a savage war was raging on the shores of the Black Sea between the western European empires and Ottoman Turkey, allied with Russia. Concerned that the Russian Imperial Navy might cross the North Pacific to harass British settlers on Vancouver Island, the British Admiralty directed one of its small Pacific squadrons to destroy the Russian naval operations center at Petropavlovsk on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. The first engagement was a disaster for the attackers, who were beaten back by the big Russian coastal guns. HMS Monarch, an 84-gun ship of the line, under orders to reinforce the task force, arrived months too late. Meanwhile the Russians, although victorious, quietly abandoned their base, depriving the Royal Navy of a decisive battle. Without another shot being fired, the humiliated British warships dispersed to warmer latitudes.
The Monarch retired to Esquimalt Harbor on Vancouver Island to refit and re-supply. Two of its ordinary seamen, William Bishop and William Eldridge (1835-1902), friends since their childhood in Maidstone at Kent, England, slipped ashore, procured a small boat, and made for freedom on the American side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They eventually stumbled into the town of Port Townsend, which in 1855 was not much more than a few wooden cabins on the tip of the Quimper Peninsula, a projection at the northeast corner of the larger Olympic Peninsula. A few miles to the west, on the shores of Discovery Bay, was a large S'Klallam community whose principal ši?áb (or wealthy burgher) was Chetzemoka (ca. 1808-1888), called "the Duke of York" by the Hudson's Bay Company and American settlers. Like most Coast Salish leaders, Chetzemoka initially welcomed the business brought by settlers.
Coast Salish social organization, best described by ethnographer and linguist Wayne Suttles (1918-2005), was competitive and meritocratic. Men and women strove through professional skills and helping organize the labor and talents of others to make their names famous, gaining influence and amassing the good will, property, and creditworthiness that could be applied to future projects. Marrying children into distant villages was an important part of building personal wealth: each marriage created a new network of kinship and business relationships abroad, a subsidiary business. It would be said of a wealthy person, "s/he has a lot of friends," using the term (in the Straits language) sčé?čǝ? (pronounced scheh-chuh), which can also mean "cousins" or, broadly, "valued relatives." Coast Salish ši?áb arranged marriages with Hudson's Bay Company and American Fur Company employees in this spirit. The first arrangement of this nature in the Port Townsend area involved William Robert "Blanket Bill" Jarman (1820-1912), who lived with the Port Discovery S'Klallam community for some time and married a high-status S'Klallam woman in 1854.
American settlers in the Puget Sound area had meanwhile antagonized their indigenous neighbors. While Bishop and Eldridge were still rolling in the swells of the North Pacific, swabbing the decks of Monarch, American volunteer militiamen were burning Hibulb, the main palisaded cedar-plank village and trade center of the Sdu'hubš (Snohomish) people, located strategically on the river of that name where the city of Everett stands today. Hibulb appears to have coordinated a large share of pre-contact sailing-canoe traffic between Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia, and its leaders quickly recognized the value of partnering with the Hudson's Bay Company once it had opened its post at Fort Langley near present-day Vancouver, B.C., in the 1820s. Owing to their numbers, widespread influence, and friendship with the British merchants, the Snohomish were regarded as a threat to the recently established American settlements around Seattle, where they were blamed for sporadic murders. As 1854 drew to a close, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens (1818-1862) authorized volunteer militia companies to roam the east shores of Puget Sound and "teach them a lesson they would not soon forget" (Bagley, 56). Stevens also directed Seattle merchant and local Indian agent David "Doc" Maynard (1808-1873) to re-settle Indians on the west shores of the sound, by force if necessary.
The destruction of Hibulb displaced many wealthy and prominent Snohomish families with strong business ties to the Hudson's Bay Company, making this militia action also a slap at John Bull. Among them were "S'lootsloot" (sometimes written "S'hootst-hoot," probably s'ƛ'uc?ƛ'ut, meaning "tied up all together," connoting wealth) and his teenage daughter "Lag-wah." Together with many other refugees, father and daughter settled at Degwadx, another large fortified Snohomish village, located at Cultus Bay on Whidbey Island. Months later, about the time that Bishop and Eldridge learned that they would be crossing the Pacific to Kamchatka, S'lootsloot had to bear the additional humiliation of signing the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, that opened Snohomish and other Native lands to non-Native settlers in exchange for peace and protection. His signature can be found alongside those of his cousin "Snah-tahlc," also from Hibulb and known as "Bonaparte" to the Hudson's Bay Company for his imperious manners, and "Chief Seattle," who helped persuade his in-laws and business partners around Puget Sound to agree to a treaty, arguing that while promises might be broken by the Pastun ("Boston men," meaning Americans), they were better than nothing.
Bishop and Eldridge arrived at Port Townsend less than a year after the treaty, and Bishop served briefly in the territorial militia during the subsequent "Indian War" (1855-1856), perhaps better described as a police action against the faction of Puget Sound Native peoples that rejected diplomacy and felt that the Americans had to be driven away before there were simply too many of them to fight. While the USS Decatur was bombarding the dissidents' positions around Elliott Bay, Snohomish people were re-grouping and rebuilding on the beach at Whidbey Island.
William and Sally at Chimacum
There once was a Native village at the mouth of the creek that drained Chimacum Prairie on the Quimper Peninsula, south of present-day Port Townsend. Its occupants were not Coast Salish, like the rest of the Native villages of the Salish Sea, but rather a branch of the Quileute people who lived on the Olympic Peninsula's Pacific seashore. The "Chemakum" village of Tsetsibus and the other Quileutes across the Olympic Peninsula were separated ages ago, they said, by a tsunami. Proud and troublesome, according to Coast Salish traditions recorded in the 1850s by George Gibbs, the Quileute village of Chimacum was razed by a coalition of Salish-speaking villages in the 1820s, perhaps as retribution for Chimacum piracy along the critical sailing canoe trade route linking Puget Sound and Vancouver Island.
Not long after they reached Port Townsend, Bishop and Eldridge reportedly took the suggestion of an established settler, Loren B. Hastings (1814-1881), to follow an "old Indian trail" inland to Chimacum Prairie, where the two young renegade British seamen bought 160 acres in partnership (McCurdy, 135). Among the early non-Native settlers in the Northwest, "prairie" generally denoted treeless herbaceous meadows. They could be natural wetlands or else cultivated camas fields, which were frequently established in seasonal wetlands and kept treeless by the careful periodic application of light, flashy fires. Prairies were a magnet for early settlers, who could clear and plant them easily without cutting and burning rainforest. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) reported finding fields of potatoes growing around Chimacum in 1841, perhaps evidence that the Coast Salish victors of the Chimacum raid had maintained the gardens of the defeated villagers.
It is unclear exactly when or where William Bishop met S'lootsloot's daughter but it was probably soon after he and Eldridge settled at Chimacum. If some Snohomish were continuing to maintain and seasonally harvest old gardens at Chimacum Prairie, this may have brought S'lootsloot and his family to the newly fenced Bishop-Eldridge farm. By oral tradition among their descendants, William Bishop and Lag-wah married in 1858, although there is no record of the marriage. Their first-born, Thomas G., arrived in 1859, followed by William Jr. in 1861, and Elizabeth in 1866. "Lag-wah" (probably Lá?gwas, which can mean "points it out repeatedly," not inappropriate for a strong young woman who had survived war, displacement, and marriage to an exotic foreigner who was soon to leave her) meanwhile became known as Sally Bishop or Sally Klasitook.
Like many other young white men who settled in the Salish Sea region in the 1850s, William Bishop found a welcome among Coast Salish families eager to attract in-laws with new skills, as well as legal status in Washington Territory. Most Coast Salish people would not attain U.S. citizenship until 1924, and even then they suffered federal restrictions on their freedom and property if they were living on Indian reservations -- and varying levels of discriminatory treatment by their neighbors if living off-reservation. They could not file lawsuits, hold public office, vote, or testify under oath. Although it was possible to obtain individual dispensation from the federal Indian Superintendent at Tulalip, or from local judges, it was easier for Native families to absorb some of the young newcomers, who were mostly unmarried. In the growing number of mixed families in the latter half of the nineteenth century, women taught traditions, while the men worked and voted, and the children, if they were raised beyond the reach of the Indian Agents and federal Indian boarding-school system, attended public schools. Ceremonial events such as feasts, the "winter dance," and the Indian Shaker Church, linked reservation and off-reservation families, financed by dollars earned at mills and canneries.
In 1860 the first federal census of Jefferson County found 530 persons; more than a dozen men had Indian wives or "housekeepers" (often not legally married). As immigration from the East Coast and northern Europe increased after the American Civil War, more Jefferson County settlers were married couples and marriageable "white" women. Indian reservations were also being surveyed, organized, and allotted, with growing administrative pressure on Native families to take up farming plots on reservations rather than earning wages at canneries, mills, and logging camps alongside non-Native neighbors. Mixed families, common before 1870, became unwelcome on the reservations, where white in-laws were deemed troublemakers by federal Indian Agents. (Such was the fate of Bonaparte's granddaughter Anastasia, married to the Scottish businessman Alexander Spithill.) By the 1880s mixed families were also unwelcome in a growing number of "white" communities, where they were denigrated as "squaw men" and "dirty siwash" (a derogative derivative of "Salish").
In 1868 William Bishop Sr. married Hannah Hutchinson, an Irish immigrant, who came to live with him on the Chimacum farm with his sons by Sally, Thomas G. and William Jr. Divorced or abandoned, Sally Bishop disappeared from local records until 1880, when she was enumerated as the wife of Charles Williams, a Finnish farmer at Chimacum a short distance from the Bishops with two young children by his first wife, Mary, also a Native woman, and two by Sally. In the 1881 census, Charles Wlliams has yet another Native wife, Cecilia, who is helping raise his four children by Mary and Sally. There is little further information on Sally Bishop Williams until her burial at Chimacum's Greenwood Cemetery in 1916, but it is likely that she continued to live in the Chimacum area, maintaining contact with Thomas and William Jr., who both self-identified as "Snohomish" for the rest of their lives.
William Bishop Sr. Grows Rich
The elder Bishop's fortunes grew. His Glendale Dairy produced cream, butter, and cheese for the seaport and military establishment of Port Townsend, and was increasingly shipped by steamer to markets in Seattle and Tacoma. Creamery income was reinvested in local real estate. As teenagers his sons went to work in the family business: Thomas in the dairy as a cheese maker, according to census records, and William Jr. on the farm.
By 1887 Thomas was married and living in Port Townsend; a few years later he and his wife moved their family to Tacoma where Thomas owned a confectionary store. Later Thomas would build a career as a Snohomish Indian advocate for citizenship and tribal treaty rights, a role he played until his death in 1923. William Jr. remained at home in Chimacum, where in 1889 his father turned over the management of the Glendale Creamery to him. With the income from the farm, creamery, and, after his father's death, real estate in Port Townsend, William Jr. had the means to pursue a career as a Republican state legislator. First elected to the state House of Representatives in 1899 and to the state Senate in 1919, he was a fixture in Jefferson County and state politics until his death in 1935.
William Bishop Sr. moved in 1889 to Port Townsend, where he built and leased a commercial block on Washington Street in 1890 (as of 2017 the building houses the Bishop Hotel). He followed by buying the Roma Saloon on Water Street in 1894, and finally by raising a brick mansion for his retirement with Hannah in 1896 at the staggering cost of $4,000. Much of the commercial property was inherited by William Bishop Jr. when his father died in 1906.
The elder Bishop was described by some of his contemporaries as "a very energetic little man" with a distinct lower-class English accent (McCurdy, 136). He also appears to have shared a tendency to boastfulness with others of his generation of settlers, claiming that he had seen combat in the Bering Sea aboard the Monarch, which is not borne out by Admiralty records. As to whether he approved or disapproved of his two Native American sons' interests in their Snohomish ancestry and treaty rights, we have no evidence.
The Chimacum Community
The Bishop farm had meanwhile become a magnet for Coast Salish families and seasonal farm workers. Many other families of mixed ancestry settled in the Chimacum precinct after 1870, representing a large portion of the remaining off-reservation Snohomish as well as descendants of S'Klallams and Alaskan Natives, attracted by friendly neighbors, rich farmland, and wages at nearby logging camps and sawmills. William Bishop Sr. began growing hops at Chimacum in the 1880s, with the crop eventually rivaling his creamery as a source of income, and the annual hop-picking drew up to a hundred Native people from throughout the Puget Sound region to camp, work, and socialize around the Bishop homestead. Hops were shipped as far away as Chicago. As late as the 1920s, scores of S'Klallams and Makah from farther west on the Olympic Peninsula camped in the Bishops' apple orchard every summer on their way to salmon-fishing and hop fields.
In the quarter century that William Bishop Sr. dominated the economy of Chimacum, he was like a traditional ši?áb who made his name famous by establishing a new village. A dozen families of mixed ancestry coalesced around William and Sally, even after they had separated. The newcomers included two of Sally's cousins from a high-status upstream family of the Sqíxwubš (Skykomish) people, William Hicks and his sister Boedah (1834-1928), who were siblings of "Tseul-tud" (Sultan John), a founder of the town of Sultan in Snohomish County. Their Skykomish River village apparently regarded itself as part of the wider consortium of villages centered at Hibulb, and judging from the number of signatories to the Treaty of Point Elliott, it was second only to Degwadx (Cultus Bay) in wealth and importance (with seven signers, to nine from Cultus Bay). It is intriguing that the evolving Native community at Chimacum centered on descendants of women from two of the leading Snohomish villages at the time of contact.
The Hickses established their own settlement at the mouth of Chimacum Creek, identified in early photographs as an "Indian camp" complete with cedar-plank cabins and canoes. In 1877 Boedah Hicks married Edward Strand (1818-1910), a Finnish immigrant who had settled in the valley in 1852, built its first mill and farmed. Their five daughters raised children at Chimacum, forming a large extended family in which, according to an interview conducted in 1986 with three of her great-grandchildren (grandchildren of her daughter Clara Strand Woodley), who knew her and regarded her as a grandmother, Boedah continued to serve as cultural teacher. Descendants self-identified as American Indian, and continued to be members of the "Snohomish Tribe of Indians," founded by William Bishop Sr.'s sons Thomas and William Jr.
Another pillar of the Chimacum community was Martin Shaw, who first appeared at Port Ludlow as a 9-year-old boarder on a small farm. Shaw later took up work at Chimacum, boarded with the Strands, and about 1898 married Malvina Strand. Years later, Malvina signed an affidavit affirming her Snohomish Indian ancestry in which she claimed that Martin was "one-quarter" Tsimshian from Alaska. According to grandchildren of Clara Strand Woodley, when interviewed in 1986, William Bishop Jr. and Martin Shaw were fast friends, and their homes were the social centers of the Chimacum valley in the early twentieth century.
The elder Bishop's partner William Eldridge married a Native woman named Mary in 1859 and had six children. In the 1870 census the Bishops had seven neighbors with Native wives, and 15 mixed children in the neighborhood including the Strand children, while the Hickses were nearby at Irondale. Although most of the identifiable women in this community were Snohomish, they were on cordial terms with their S'Klallam neighbors at Port Townsend and nearby Discovery Bay. One of the names frequently encountered in oral history interviews is Patsy, son of the "Duke of York," who lived nearby and worked at the Irondale mill.
After Senator Bishop
By the 1920s, William Bishop Jr. was an influential state senator and the unofficial but undisputed leader and peacemaker at Chimacum. As one of Clara Strand Woodley's grandchildren recalled in a 1986 interview:
"Senator Bishop did a lot of that; he separated a lot of deeds, both legally and physically, because he had a pretty tough hand; when he spoke, you just dropped what you were doing and went back to business, and they all respected him, and I think he was one Snohomish Indian who you could say did take care of things, he spoke with authority, he had a big place there, he had a big dining room, and he would put out food for whoever was there" (Barsh interviews, transcription, pp. 6-7).
The fact that a significant portion of the Chimacum community was of Native ancestry, including a powerful state senator and owner of the valley's principal business, did not extinguish racial prejudice. On the contrary, Chimacum's old Native families experienced increasing social discrimination and ridicule as their proportion of the county's population decreased, and Port Townsend grew self-consciously more "white." Negative sentiment against Indians and "squaw men" was also building in neighboring San Juan County at the time, as described by James Tulloch in his memoirs. One of Clara Strand's grandchildren described going to school in Jefferson County this way:
"[W]hen we went to school, we were kind of ostracized down here, we were known as siwash clamdiggers, my dad took it on me ... he was sorry he had ever married an Indian, he didn't want me playing with any of those siwashes, I always went to school with a white shirt and a tie, because he didn't want me classified as an Indian because I was white -- my brother and sister were darker" (Barsh interviews, transcription, pp. 4-5).
The publication of The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald's 1945 memoir of farming at Chimacum in the late 1920s, had the effect of outing and ridiculing the Native families of Chimacum in the growing hostile social environment of mid-century Washington. MacDonald wrote that her Indian neighbors were so dirty that she had to disinfect her home with Lysol after their visits: "The more I saw of them the more I thought what an excellent thing it was to take that beautiful country away from them" (The Egg and I, 212). She also lampooned the old-timers who were friends and in-laws of the Native families at Chimacum, depicting them as hopelessly incompetent bumpkins.
Four years after the book appeared, Albert Bishop and his children sued MacDonald for libel. Albert Bishop was not a relative of the Snohomish Bishops; federal census records show that he was a white American of Swiss descent born in Utah. However, the negative public attention directed at the "siwash" Bishop, Strand, and Hicks families was so intense that the "white" Bishops felt humiliated as well. A Seattle jury found for the defendant, who maintained that her characters were not identifiable as the Albert Bishop family. Of course, the trial itself identified publicly who was being lampooned. One of Clara Strand Woodley's grandsons, who was in his twenties when The Egg and I was published, remembered the effect of its publication this way: "Well, it's all right for her to make money [but] it was a put-down for the Indian people, everyone that read it from this area was really hurt by it" (Barsh interviews, transcription, p. 6)
The popularity of The Egg and I, which was made into a Hollywood movie, helped to erase the memory of the Bishop brothers as Jefferson County "pioneers" who happened to be Snohomish Indian and proud of it. The final humiliation was not to come until 2003, when the U.S. Department of the Interior ruled that the aggregation of Native families around the Bishop dairy farm was not a "community," was not "Snohomish," and had no historical leaders or organization; and that the treaty rights of Snohomish people could only be exercised by the enrolled members of the Tulalip Tribes, whether or not of Snohomish ancestry. The irony is that Thomas Bishop and William Bishop Jr. represented their own community at Chimacum as well as the Snohomish living on the Tulalip Reservation when they agitated for recognition of treaty rights from the 1910s through the 1930s.
When British sailor William Bishop jumped ship in 1855, he could scarcely have imagined that his sons would include the first Native American to be elected to the Washington State Legislature and the founder of the first inter-tribal organization promoting treaty rights. Or that his family farm would create the nucleus of a post-treaty Native community that would continue struggling for recognition and rights long after his death. In a further irony it was Thomas who moved to Tacoma, became what decades later would be called an "urban Indian," and yet focused his career on treaty rights. William Jr. stayed on the farm, with its Native farmworkers and neighbors -- effectively an off-reservation Indian community -- but chose a career in mainstream state politics that had him fighting for the dignity of non-Native rural citizens confronting economic change and marginalization after the First World War.