San Juan Island National Historical Park commemorates a period in history when the United States and Great Britain, in dispute over boundaries, militarily occupied the same and in Puget Sound. Here, the site of the "Pig War" of 1859 and sites related to the conflict will be preserved and interpreted. This exciting period in our diplomatic history and the resulting arbitration has been called by historians ". . . an event of cardinal importance in the history of the relations of the two English-speaking powers." The significant theme is classified under Theme Study XIII, Political and Military Affairs (1830-1860) in the List of Themes and Criteria (1959), National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings.
The Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846 settled part of the international boundary question, but the conflict concerning the water boundary between Vancouver Island, Canada and the Oregon Territory of the United States continued. This was due largely to the inaccurate and incomplete geographical knowledge available to the treaty-making parties and the subsequently appointed boundary commission. As a result, the status of several islands was left uncertain. The most important of these was San Juan, lying between the continental United States and Vancouver Island.
From 1853 to 1859, there were various disputes on San Juan involving the Hudson's Bay Company, Canadian citizens of the United States, all of whom had property or claims on the island. The situation climaxed in 1859 in an absurd incident. One of the 29 American settlers on the island, a Mr. Cutler, shot and killed a hog belonging to a Hudson's Bay Company officer because it was routing in his garden.
When Canadian authorities from Victoria attempted to arrest Mr. Cutler for shooting the hog, American citizens drew up a memorial requesting United States military protection against British warships and ground forces who threatened to make the arrest and seize San Juan Island. A company of the 9th United States Infantry, under the command of George E. Pickett (later of Civil War fame), was sent to the island and a British man-of-war appeared on the scene and assumed a threatening posture. Reinforcements with cannon were dispatched to the aid of Pickett. In the worsening situation, General Winfield Scott went to the scene and met British Admiral Bayne.
In 1860, the two men reached an agreement to prevent hostilities until the issue could be negotiated. Under this agreement, 100 men of the British Royal Marine Light Infantry landed on the island, raised the British flag, and built a blockhouse and quarters. A few miles south of them 100 American soldiers raised the American flag, built barracks, and remained as a garrison.
The Treaty of Washington in 1871 finally paved the way for the settlement of the controversy. It referred the issue to the German Emporor Wilhelm I for arbitration, who placed the San Juan Archipelago within the possessions of the United States. The British troops withdrew immediately and peaceably from the island. Then, for the first time in the history of the United States, the Republic had no boundary dispute with Great Britain.
The sites of both military establishments have been firmly identified, were marked by the Washington State Historical Society in 1904, and accorded Registered National Landmark Status in 1961.
AMERICAN CAMP, on the barren and windswept southeast tip of the island 5-1/2 miles from Friday Harbor, contains no structures but the locations of period structures are fairly well known.
American Campsite is located near Cattle Point Road and Pickett's Redoubt, west of the State of Washington marker. Foundations and several blackened posts are reputed to be the location of a hospital and a row of officers' quarters. Also a cemetery is alleged to be near this area.
Pickett's Redoubt is a well-preserved remain of the American fortifications. These earthworks sheltered gun platforms and heavy cannon and were constructed to cover a field of fire across Griffin Bay to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Today, the distinctness of the redoubt is obvious.
Old Military Road stretched from Old San Juan Town past American Camp. There is little physical evidence of the road today, but period maps indicate clearly the actual location of the road.
Old San Juan Town was just to the east of a small tidal pool on the Griffin Bay side of American Camp. Legend has it that Old San Juan Town was a notorious and lively community, but a fire in 1890 totally destroyed the site, leaving only a few cellar depressions which may still be seen today.
Hudson's Bay Company Farmsite "Belleview," a short distance south of American Camp, was a successful sheep and livestock farm employing some 20 people. The location of the farm and its buildings have been fairly well-documented on period maps and sketches of the time. There are apparently few remains which could be positively identified as those of the farmsite.
Cutler's Potato Patch was the beginning scene of the "Pig War" and is unfortunately not located at this time. Local traditional accounts suggest two possible sites but neither agree with Cutler's court deposition. If the potato patch is found to be outside the park boundaries, the boundaries should be extended to include this important site.
Hudson's Bay Company Wharf site at Old San Juan Town seems firmly fixed by a period map and a contemporary painting. A pile of rocks in the bay is reputed to be the actual location of the wharf.
ENGLISH CAMP. 8 miles from Friday Harbor, has existing physical evidence of the British garrison. The camp is located on the tree-sheltered cove, Garrison Bay, where three remaining structures built during the British occupation still stand.
The Blockhouse is a two-story log structure on the eastern shore of Garrison Bay. The second story is set diagonally across the lower room. At high tide the water laps over the first few timbers which support the building, with no apparent foundation. The structure is in fair condition.
The Commissary, a one-story gabled structure northwest of the blockhouse, is in poor condition, having been used as a barn and a chicken coop.
The Barracks are directly across from the commissary and in just as poor condition.
The Blacksmith Shop is known to have been in this vicinity also. On a rise next to the Crook house, overlooking the three remaining structures, is what appears to have been the hearth of the blacksmith shopcrumbled, but resembling a chimney.
Officers' Quarters are on a bench overlooking the barracks. All that remains of three houses are the foundations which are moss-covered and nestled under large trees.
British Cemetery, beyond the officers' quarters on Young Hill, is a small, fenced plot in which six Royal Marines are buried. A Royal Canadian Navy marker designating the site was placed there in 1964. The stones marking the graves are in fair condition but an unreadable wooden maltese cross is in poor condition.
The Lookout was a log structure at the crest of the 650-foot Young Hill, from which the British could see Garrison Bay and most of the Haro Strait. There is no evidence of the structure today.
The Military Road, tree-lined, is evident as it passes north of the blockhouse and barracks, the officers' quarters and the county road. It is reputed to have been built by the Marines and connect with other parts of the island.
Other areas of historic interest outside the park boundaries:
The Pickett House is an altered structure in the town of Friday Harbor, reputed to be the one Pickett lived in during the occupation. It was moved from American Camp and additions made which altered its appearance. Until further research can be made, the actual designation of the Pickett House is speculative.
Eagle Cove, southwest of American Camp and on the border of the park boundary, served as a landing area for the troops and artillery of Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey, U.S. Army.
Although most of the structures associated with the British and American camps of 1859 to 1872 have disappeared, the few which remain and the prevalent rural character of the landscape still reflect the essence of the scene at the time when conflict threatened San Juan Island. Both sites possess a high degree of integrity and association with the events that occurred on the island and are of great historical interest. The blockhouse is extremely well-preserved, considering its age and exposure to weather. During the occupation, both the American and British camps were mapped, photographed, and sketched; this material is available from the Archives of the United States and those of British Columbia.
FACTORS AFFECTING RESOURCES AND THEIR USE
On September 9, 1966 the 89th Congress passed Public Law 89-565, 80 Stat. 737, an act to authorize the establishment of San Juan Island National Historical Park. Under the provisions of this law, the total amount appropriated$3,542,000will be used for the acquisition of lands and interests therein, and for the development of the park. The type of jurisdiction at the two sites will be proprietary with cooperative agreements with governmental or private individuals for the protection of any other sites not included in the park boundaries.
At the Congressional hearings in April 1965, the National Park Service made certain committments which are legally binding. These include:
Puget Sound, in northwestern Washington, has a reputation for heavy rainfall. However, San Juan Island, in the "rain shadow" of the Olympic Mountains, does not get a great amount of rain. It averages 27.4 inches per year and less than 5 inches of snow. Temperatures during July average between 35°F and 72°F.
Relative humidity at Bellingham varies from 57 percent in July to 80 percent in December during the day and 76 percent in January to 91 percent in August during the night.
The construction season will be unrestricted. Limitations may occur during short periods of cold or intense rainfall.
Winter wind is from the south to southeast and in summer from west to northwest. During winter, low pressure off the coast and cold air from the Fraser River Canyon produce occasional strong northeasterly winds across the islands and through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Wind velocity as high as 55 miles per hour occurs only once or twice in two years.
The landscape of the two camps is quite different, though the transition between them is gradual. The high point of American Camp is 290-foot Mount Finlayson at the south end of the reserve. Except for the heavily wooded east side of this hill and a few small clumps of trees along Griffin Bay shoreline, the reserve is devoid of vegetation from past grazing and the present rabbit population. The low rolling pastures at one time had been cleared and cultivated, but there has been no commercial farming on the lands for quite some time.
English Camp is heavily wooded, except for a few areas once cleared for farming. One orchard remains, though the rest of the cleared areas have not been cultivated in recent years. Only a minimum number of trees have ever been logged. Young Hill, on the east side of the reserve, is 650 feet above the water. The shore at the historic site rises gradually from the water except along Bell Point and Westcott Bay, where the shore rises 20 feet on rocky outcrops before it levels out to woodlands.
Both areas have rock outcroppings, with more in evidence on English Camp's steeper slopes. Most soil on the island is loam, varying from rocky and gravelly to a silt. The longer beaches are at American Camp; English Camp has some short ones, but the remainder of its shoreline is quite rocky. Both areas have minor marshlands.
Land ownership acreages within the boundaries of the park (as of October 1967):
The existing land use by acreage is:
Land near the park is primarily undeveloped and already subdivided; there is almost no farming or logging. The State-owned tidal lands at both American and English Camps are used for hunting and fishing (in conformance with State laws), sand and gravel operations, and the construction of improvements upon approval of lease application by the State.
Existing Land Use Analysis
The lands affected by the recent population increase were mostly agricultural, which were subdivided into homesites. Farming on the island has constantly been decreasing as owners are now realizing a profit from the sale of real estate. Land values have doubled in the past five years and are expected to continue to increase. Many of the new residents are buying and building retirement homes; this creates an additional demand for land suitable for home-sites.
Compatible Uses: At American Camp, grazing by animals historically associated with the scene would be compatible. The residential use of the land at English Camp is not compatible, but the Service granted life tenure to Mrs. Rhoda Anderson, the sister and sole heir of the past land owner, Mr. Crook. Since American Camp is very open and exposed, major developments are more appropriate at English Camp, where they would be screened by the wooded terrain.
Non-compatible Uses: All current land usesagricultural, commercial, residential, and huntingare non-compatible uses in the historical park.
Visitor Use: The following activities are considered compatible with the resources of the park based upon the park's objectives and National Park Service policy for management of an historic area:
There are few motels or restaurants and even fewer places of entertainment on the island; most of these cater to residents. The ferry service forces either an overnight stay on the island or a rushed visit in order to be on board the last ferry back to the mainland. Long lines of cars waiting for the ferry are common on busy weekends. One weekend, during the summer of 1966, more than 300 cars waited to board a ferry with a capacity of approximately 100 cars. The only campground on the island is a small one operated by San Juan County.
Recreationists often explore the island, looking for quiet, out-of-the-way places. There has been a history of trailer and pickup camping along the highways on the island. Little has been done to discourage this practice and there are no county ordinances forbidding it.
Rabbit hunters, who need no license and either net the rabbits from fast-moving pickup trucks or shoot them, cause problems by irresponsibly shooting near residences and other vandalistic acts. These are mostly younger residents and non-residents, who are creating a law-enforcement problem of concern to officials and property owners.
Many visitors want to see the sites of historical significance. Here, in the generally unimpaired scenes of the two camps, they can recreate and appreciate the history of the entire island. At present, visitors may drive into the two camps and walk through the lands owned by the National Park Service. At English Camp, Mrs. Rhoda Anderson, who lives on the site, occasionally greets the park visitors and discusses and interprets the area in a very pleasant manner.
Projected Visitation: The annual number of visitors to the park within the first year of operation, after development, is an estimated 50,000 and within 5 years visitation may rise to 75,000 annually. This projection is not only realistic, but may prove to be modest, since visits to historic areas within the State of Washington are increasing rapidly, often faster than many of the estimates. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site s annual visits have risen from 8,000 in 1957 to 80,000 in 1966. Whitman Mission National Historic Site's increase was from 34,000 in 1957 to 98,300 in 1966.
Last Updated: 07-May-2007