IN LAST WEEK’S episode, we were reviewing a number of historic individuals who could be considered heroes or villains depending on your point of view.
These included Kwati, Juan de Fuca, Anna Petrovna and Yutramaki.
Continuing through the 1800s, we encounter more conflicted individuals who shaped the future of the Olympic Peninsula.
In 1853, President Millard Fillmore appointed Isaac Stevens as Washington’s territorial governor.
Stevens saw the Native Americans as an impediment to statehood, pioneer settlement and the coming of the transcontinental railroad.
Some believe that Stevens’ harsh terms of the 1855 Point No Point Treaty may have been an attempt to start a war with the Indians.
The fact that there was no Indian war on the Olympic Peninsula is largely due to the earlier European-introduced epidemics and the efforts of one man, Chetzemoka, who Stevens had designated Chief of the S’Klallam.
This meant he was to sign the treaty and be held personally responsible for the good behavior of his people.
Chetzemoka was called the Duke of York by white men who had trouble pronouncing his name and was referred to as “the Paul Revere of Port Townsend.”
In 1857 a war party of western S’Klallam descended on Port Townsend.
During a nine-day conference, Chetzemoka dissuaded them from exterminating the new town by telling them if the S’Klallam killed the whites, others would come and wipe them out.
On the 10th day, Chetzemoka sent a message from Signal Rock, “Danger is passed.”
These peacemaking efforts did not stop attempts to remove the S’Klallam from their ancestral lands.
On Aug. 31, 1871, Chetzemoka was ordered to move from Port Townsend to Skokomish.
The S’Klallam moved all their possessions into canoes, which were to be towed by a side-wheeler to their new reservation on the Hood Canal.
Their village was burned before the S’Klallam were out of sight.
Chetzemoka visited San Francisco in 1851, and he was greatly impressed by the large numbers of white people.
This is where he met James Swan and invited him to Port Townsend.
Swan journeyed north at this suggestion, settling in Shoalwater Bay in the 1850s and was a teacher at Neah Bay in 1862 before settling in Port Townsend.
Swan had a varied career as a teacher, newspaper man, ethnologist and railroad promoter.
His writing describes harrowing canoe journeys with his Makah and S’Klallam friends where he reveals his secret for getting along with the, at times, hostile Native Americans — he ate their food and never carried a gun.
Swan was a true hero, as opposed to Victor Smith.
He came to Port Angeles in 1861 as the customs agent and had it declared a “Second National City” so that if something happened to Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol could simply move 3,000 miles west to Port Angeles where, coincidentally, Smith and his cronies owned waterfront property.
Port Townsend was the official Port of Entry for all vessels entering Puget Sound until Smith parked the cutter Shubrick in front of the Customs House and threatened to open fire if the Customs Records were not surrendered in 15 minutes.
The Port of Entry was moved to Port Angeles.
Meanwhile a Grand Jury in Olympia indicted Smith for embezzling $15,000 from the Port Townsend Custom House, fraud, resisting arrest and assault on the entire population of Port Townsend.
For these and other outrages, the people of Port Townsend described Smith as a “Federal-fed parasite who has been foisted upon us.”
In Port Angeles, a town that to this day is still recognized as America’s “Second National City,” Smith was applauded as the “city father.”
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360- 683-9867 or by email via [email protected].