Jorgen Eliason homesteads Poulsbo in September 1883.

  • By Jennifer Ott
  • Posted 11/05/2007
  • Essay 8363

In September 1883, Jorgen Eliason (1847-1937), Poulsbo's first permanent settler, rows into Dog Fish Bay on the eastern side of the Kitsap Peninsula, north of Bremerton. Eliason has followed Ole Stubb (shortened from Stubbhaug) (1821-1916), who lives on the south side of the bay, to the area because they are from the same hometown in Norway. After Stubb assists him in locating a parcel, Eliason files his claim and returns to Seattle to fetch his sister, Rakel, and son, E. J. Eliason. He and his family moved west from New York after his wife died. He is a farmer and claims his homestead just up from the waterfront, which logging companies on the Kitsap Peninsula and Bainbridge Island already own.

Getting Lost and Getting Found

Eliason looked elsewhere in the vicinity of Seattle before going to Dog Fish Bay. On one exploratory trip he lost his way in the area of Bothell and spent three days wandering in the woods before finding his way home. According to one biographical essay, Eliason would have left Puget Sound at that point if he had had the money to purchase train tickets for himself and his family. 

He decided to look up someone from his hometown of Nautsdal, Norway, Ole Stubb. It appears that they had not known each other previously. More likely they had mutual acquaintances. Eliason, born in 1847, was 26 years younger than Stubb. 

Stubb lived on the south side of Dog Fish Bay (so named because of the plentiful dogfish living in its waters), having settled there with his family in 1876. Eliason and a fellow homestead-seeker, Peter Olson, rowed across Puget Sound to seek Stubb's help in locating a homestead. Stubb showed them around and they each filed claims on land up the hill from the waterfront. Eliason's claim lay just south of where the Ebenezer Apartments are located today (2007). 

Olson left soon after filing his claim, but the Eliasons stayed and found their first home on the waterfront, in shacks left behind from earlier logging operations. 

Living in Little Norway

Jorgen farmed the homestead until his death in 1937. He donated some of the land for the first Lutheran church and cemetery. In 1885 Rakel (also known as Rachel) married Nels Olson (b. 1858), who owned a boot, shoe, and harness repair shop in town. E. J. also lived in Poulsbo until his death in 1954. He served as postmaster for a time and owned several businesses. 

Almost all of the settlers who followed Eliason at the turn of the twentieth century emigrated from Norway either directly or via the Midwest, giving the town the nickname "Little Norway." This identity persists today although now the population is far more diverse. The Sons of Norway have a thriving chapter and numerous festivals throughout the year celebrate the town's Norwegian heritage. 

Sources: Joan Carson, Tall Timber and the Tide (Poulsbo: Kitsap Weeklies, 1971), 53; Edmond S. Meany, Origin of Washington Geographic Names (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1923), 146; E. E. Riddell, "The History of Poulsbo" in Kitsap County Historical Society, Vol. 2: North Kitsap of Kitsap County History (Seattle: Dinner & Klein, 1977), 12; "Kitsap County Business Review, 1901," supplement to The Port Orchard Independent, reprinted by The Shorey Book Store, 1970; "Lack of Fare Brought Jorgen Eliason to Dogfish Bay," Kitsap County Herald, October 5, 1950; Poulsbo: Its First Hundred Years compiled and edited by Rangveld Kvelstad (Poulsbo, WA : Poulsbo Centennial Book Committee, 1986).

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