Couple gives gift of history to museum, Brinnon

BRINNON — Born on the banks of Puget Sound and weaned in a logging camp on the Dosewallips River, she was the designated boy of the family, helping her father milk the cows, mend the fences, cut wood and shovel out the barn on the farm in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains.

When she was 18, Ida Bunnell met Vern Bailey, who was visiting his parents from Wyoming, and married him in the church parsonage in Quilcene, adjacent to the old theater.

For their home, the couple bought 80 acres uphill from her parents’ property.

“I grew up on the other side of the fence,” Ida said earlier this month. “Then I got married and jumped the fence.”

She spoke while sitting in the white frame house on the Dosewallips Road that she and Vern built from sketches he sent home in letters during World War II.

The wood stove that Ida cooked on before electricity came to the Brinnon area in 1949 is in the kitchen; she still uses it to cook breakfast sometimes.

Kerosene lanterns are at hand, ready for emergencies, but the nearest phone is in the next room, not 5 miles down the road.

On the walls are photographs of the Brinnon area from the early 1900s, when Ida’s maternal grandparents settled there.

On the dining-room table are other offerings from the past: six scrapbooks of photographs, records and stories of local history that Ida and Vern collected in the 1980s.

“This is 15 years of research,” Vern said.

The scrapbooks, covering everything from school picnics to local murders, formed the basis of the book, A Scrapbook of History — Brinnon, that the Baileys published in 1997.

In February, the Baileys announced they are donating the scrapbooks — and the copyright — to the Quilcene Historical Museum.

“That’s why we did it in the first place,” Ida said, of donating the material to the museum. “We didn’t think of it being a book.”

Granddaughter played role

The Baileys’ history quest started in the mid-1980s, when Charles Lachowitzer, a Brinnon School teacher, gave his class an assignment to interview people about local history.

One of the Baileys’ granddaughters, Mary Jeanne Corey, was in the class.

“The students went out and questioned anyone with gray hair, even if they had only lived in the area for two years,” Vern said.

“So we took Mary Jeanne and a friend to the Jefferson County Courthouse.”

There, they went to the auditor’s office and asked to see records in the vault, and also went upstairs to the clerk’s office.

Carter Huth, who worked in the engineer’s office, showed them the attic, where there were maps hanging over everything, Vern said.

What they found was so interesting that they came back for more.

“They got so used to us coming and going into the vault, they said, ‘Go ahead,'” Ida said.

“In those days, all the original books were out on the shelves,” Vern said.

“Boy, you could find anything.”

Other families

The couple also contacted descendants of local families and started collecting diaries, letters and other original material.

Vern learned to use a close-up lens on his camera to take photographs from family albums.

People also gave the couple photographs for their scrapbooks, saying they were glad someone wanted them, he said.

The result: six scrapbooks of first-person resource material on early logging operations, native culture, one-room schools and churches, the mosquito fleet, fisheries and the Olympic Mountains covering a century and half.

And the Baileys have a connection to all of it.

‘Last of old-timers’

“My mother (Myrtle) was the last of the old-timers left in the community,” Ida said.

“Everybody else except us and the Mullers had sold their homesteads and moved on.”

In the mid-1990s, Fredi Perri, who had published a book on the history of the Hood Canal town of Seabeck, took the scrapbooks and selected parts for a hard-bound book.

A Scrapbook of History — Brinnon was published in 1,500 copies, which sold out, according to Mari Phillips, Quilcene Museum board president.

“I am so grateful to the Baileys for doing the history of Brinnon with honesty and humor,” Phillips said.

In addition to republishing the book, the museum is creating a dedicated space and exhibit to Brinnon history, Phillips said, using a bequest that her husband, Gary Phillips, made to the museum in memory of his mother, lifelong Brinnon resident Jean Phillips.

The second edition of the book will include a chapter on Ida and Vern’s history, as the first time around, they wrote about everything except their own family, Phillips said.

The Baileys’ other legacy: three children, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

One of their daughters, Myrtle Corey, lives on adjoining property on the slope above the Bailey’s acreage.

“We just kept marrying and moving uphill,” Ida said.


Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at

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