Geographically, Bainbridge Island rose from the receding glaciers that carved out Puget Sound around 13,000 years ago. With no known date of first habitation, the earliest records of life on the island come from the Suquamish Tribe. The Suquamish flourished with great fishing within a gentle coastal climate. The tribe excelled in canoeing and traveled extensively across and around the sound.
In May 1792, Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798) and his ship the HMS Discovery sailed through the Bainbridge and Blake Islands. Vancouver surveyed and charted the island and named Restoration Point and Port Orchard. Ten days after first arriving and getting to know the Suquamish, Vancouver sailed off and it wasn’t until 1841 that the first Americans sailed into the harbor.In the summer of 1841, the United States Exploring Expedition headed by Captain Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) reached Puget Sound and the island. Wilkes and his crew reexamined the island and made changes to supposed facts assumed by Vancouver. Vancouver and his men considered the island not actually an island at all, but rather a peninsula. However, Lieutenant Maury from Captain Wilkes crew discovered Agate Passage and its connection through to Port Orchard, qualifying the land as a freestanding island. Wilkes also found Port Madison and is credited for naming the surrounding area Bainbridge Island after his mentor, Captain William Bainbridge (1774-1833).
Little Winslow Growing
The Eagle Harbor area didn’t immediately boom as a mill town as did Port Madison or Port Blakely; instead it grew gradually. In 1878, Riley M. Hoskinson, from Kansas, was one of the first to actually settle in the town Winslow, which was then named Madrone, after the madrone trees on the island. Hoskinson set the ball rolling on the development of the town. He set up an unofficial Weather Bureau that for the next 12 years was the only weather reporting and recording, before the Seattle Bureau was established. Next to come in the small town was a one-room schoolhouse in 1881, and in 1882 the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church followed as the third established church in the Kitsap County.In 1902, the little shipping town of Madrone began a new era with the arrival of the Hall Brothers Marine Railway and Shipbuilding Company. Moving from Port Blakely to the center of the Eagle Harbor area, the Hall Brothers initiated even more substantial growth. Henry Knox Hall, president of the company, influenced the soaring real-estate market by building a 20-room home. Soon numerous community halls and theaters were constructed with stages and balconies with capacity to hold crowds of up to 200. Henry Knox Hall also had a hand in the changing of the town name of Madrone to Winslow, in memory of late his brother, Winslow Hall, who had passed away before the company moved from Port Blakely.
A Soaring Eagle
The community banded together to continue to advance their town with the building of the steamship, Eagle. In 1900, the residents need transportation to and from Seattle. The residents raised money to produce the steamer by selling shares of it. The steamer ran beautifully for the next two years, and was the pride and joy of the Winslow community.
Wood powered the Eagle's engine. Captain B. F. Klunker commanded the vessel, and later went on to start the first newspaper plant near the docks. The paper was called The Beacon. The Eagle ran for two years but in August 1902, burned down to the water while tied at the dock. Soon the town built the Florence K to replace its first ferry.
In 1947, shortly after World War II and a population and property boom, residents talked of making Winslow a city. So on August 23, 1947, Winslow residents chose to incorporate, after a close vote. On September 18, 1947, Winslow officially became a fourth-class city.
The inaugural Mayor was Herbert Allen and the City Council members consisted of Ray Williamson, George Townsend, Frank Sheppard, Harold Woodman, and William Roberts. Winslow, now officially a city of Kitsap county, became known for its grand Fourth of July bashes and wacky parades that showcase the delight and pride of Eagle Harbor residents.
Winslow remained the hub of Bainbridge Island and a community that continued to grow without drastic change until 1991, when residents voted to change the name to Bainbridge Island after local debate about the annexation and allowance of a common government over the entire island. After a vote of 3,193 in favor, and 3,057 against the change, Winslow became Bainbridge Island.
Though some residents thought the change would result in loss of rural character and culture, the Bainbridge community has done well preserving their history and the small town feel of little Winslow.