Fred Grow -- Reminiscence of a Bainbridge Island Pioneer (1958)

  • By Natalie Rudolph
  • Posted 7/01/2008
  • Essay 8388
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This is a 1958 interview of Fred Grow, a Bainbridge Island pioneer, by Natalie Rudolf. Fred Grow arrived as a child about 1881, and grew up to become a deputy sheriff and later a Justice of the Peace in the town of Winslow. The interview is reprinted from the Bainbridge Review, May 1, 1958, p. 1.

It was 77 Years Ago that Fred Grow Landed Here

Hear, now from a real Island pioneer, Judge Fred Grow of Winslow: 

"You get me started on something and you'll be able to write a book. 

"I was born about six or seven miles from Manhattan, Kans. I wasn't quite four when we came out. My father corresponded with R.M. Hoskinson who had an article in a New York paper that my father had seen Mr. Hoskinson -- he had 160 acres out here -- gave my father plenty of inducements to come out ... . We got 80 acres his son had homesteaded. 

"We came out here on a little old emigrant train -- two parents and five children came at that time and several older relatives came in the fall in a covered wagon. Coming across on the emigrant train, which the Southern Pacific ran to San Francisco, the train was chased by bandits on horseback. Emigrants carried a lot of money for their homesteading. The engineer got up enough steam to outrun the horses. 

"From San Francisco we came to Seattle on an old side wheel steamship called Idaho. It was sail and steam both. I don't remember that part about bandits chasing the emigrant train but I do remember coming up from San Francisco with all on board seasick but me. 

"It was 77 years ago this May that we landed in front of this house. A little steamship out of Port Blakely under Captain Nugent ran us in to here. There were only five houses in all of Eagle Harbor.

"Father was a carpenter and joiner on the Island. He had farmed in Kansas and Mother always said the reason they came out was that they were tired of the grasshoppers, chintz bugs and cyclones. 

"Father worked as a carpenter on the houses at Port Blakely and got an injury there that crippled him for the rest of his life. We farmed and had stock cattle -- it was open range then and the cattle ran all over. 

"It was '82 or '83 when the School District was organized. There was one school at Port Madison and one at Port Blakely. Father donated an acre in back of where that bar on the corner is. It was rustic -- boards and battens, with the desks and benches handmade. Settlers came in and the attendance grew so the District decided to get back from the water. Father exchanged an acre for an acre where the Lincoln School stood under that big maple tree -- I used to rake hay under that maple. 

"It was a two-room school but we soon outgrew that. My older sister -- Carrie Grow, later Mrs. Ed Parfitt -- was my first teacher. My next teacher was Annie Bucklin, later Hyde. 

"In those days the boys didn't have time to get into mischief. After school you had to milk cows, hunt cattle, and other chores. I've walked halfway around the Island hunting cattle by foot. 

"Haven't been off the Island much -- this has always been home to me. I've been to Alaska two different times. In 1901 Iwent to Atlin in British Columbia. My two uncles were 'forty-niners' and they had a claim there. They got the gold bug to bite me a little -- and we took out some gold. In 1917 I went to Cook's Inlet to inspect a hydraulic mine for a Seattle company.

"I started working pretty young. I greased skids for ox teams when I was only eleven years old -- course, that was during the summer. We had no high school, so our education was finished in the eighth grade. 

"I got started in law enforcement when I was 21 -- just come of age. I was a deputy sheriff for a number of years. My first assignment was in Bremerton. The Navy was having troubles with saloon keepers whose saloons were next to the Navy gates. The Navy issued an ultimatum -- 'close the saloons or there'll be no more ships coming into Bremerton.' I don't know why they chose me but I was to get evidence. I got the evidence but they didn't even have to use it. 

"One time we rounded up five men who had been breaking into beach homes and summer homes. We were a year after them but finally got them. 

"We never had such rough times here in Winslow but they had rough times at Port Blakely and Pleasant Beach. I was a resident deputy and served mostly around here but went wherever they called me. 

"In 1930 I became a deputy United States marshal in the Seattle office and was there for four years. I went over the country -- once took a prisoner to Portland, Me. I retired in 1934. They changed administrations -- you know those political jobs.  

"I don't want to blow my own horn, but there was one special case while I was in the marshal's office. Our orders were to bring back from Leavenworth a man who had escaped from McNeil Island and was to go on trial in Tacoma. When the other deputy and I got out of the gate the captain of the guards had all the guards lined up to where the taxi was waiting to take us to the station. 

"The captain said 'we had a report that his friends are going to try to take this man away.' We got down to the station and there's a fellow came in the door, staggering as if drunk. We had him out in a hurry. There was no doubt he was one of them. They were going to get the drop on us but they didn't get a chance. It so happens that prisoner was the first one to go to Alcatraz.

"The most sensational case on the Island was when the Baker boy was kidnapped. They were summer people and lived down where Charley Taylor lives. The little boy was walking with his grandmother on the road down to the ferry. The boy was lagging behind and when she looked back he was gone. Pinkerton detectives worked here a year and they cover the Island for trace of his clothing -- nothing. They had strong suspicions but didn't book anyone of it. It's one kidnap case that was never solved. 

"I worked at the Winslow shipyard 'til the close of the last world war. Then I was the Justice of the Peace for seven years after the Town of Winslow was incorporated. Retired two years ago last January. 

"I was the first police judge the Town ever had. There were all kinds of cases. At 2:30 or 3:00 on morning there was a rapping at the door. A sailor, about seventeen, a young fellow, stood there. He asked 'Are you the Justice of the Peace?' 'That's right.' 'Do you marry people?' 'Yes, I do.' Then he says 'I got a pal in the car who wants to get married.' 'Has he got a license?' 'Do they have to have a license? Where do they get it?' And I answered 'In Seattle or Port Orchard and they have to wait three days.' 'Oh,' he says. I didn't see anymore of them. 

"When I get up into Winslow, I see the progress-- new buildings, new streets. You couldn't realize it was all sold woods when I first came, timber everywhere. I don't know. 

"Years ago I had my own boat and sailed it to Seattle or sometimes I rented one. John Hornbeck, who owned property down there, used to sail to Seattle and I'd go along. Sometimes we'd have to reef down in the middle of the Sound. 

"Now from this window we look towards Seattle and at night when the welders are working on the boats in the shipyard it's just like fireworks."

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