9 Replies Latest reply on Jan 8, 2021 1:04 PM by Alexander Koch

    Seeking history of McMicken Island

    Joseph Pentheroudakis Wayfarer

      I have been researching the history of McMicken Island, a tiny, 12-acre island in south Puget Sound, now a marine state park, which was first settled in 1895. The island appears as Stui Island on Charles Wilkes's atlas, published following the 1838-1842 U.S. Exploring Expedition. In subsequent charts by the U.S. Coastal Survey the island appears nameless, until an 1889 chart when it first sports its present-day name of McMicken Island. According to the legend on the 1889 chart, the survey work for it was completed by 1887, so the name was in use by then. Several sources suggest, but without proof, that the island is named for William McMicken, Surveyor General in Washington Territory from 1873 until 1886 when he retired and went on to serve as the territory's Treasurer. He was appointed Surveyor General again in 1898, and died in office in 1899. The 1870s and 1880s were busy years in surveying the territory, and McMicken achieved a certain degree of renown because of his work.


      My question: I am trying to establish when exactly the island was named and whether it was indeed named after Gen. McMicken. The date when the name first appears on a chart roughly matches that of McMicken's retirement in 1886 so I wondered if the Washington Territorial Assembly or the federal government named the island in his honor, and if so why. McMicken lived in Olympia, and the island is easily accessible by steamer from there, so perhaps he had some connection to it. There is nothing about this in papers of the era, in the McMicken family's records or in the records of the territorial assembly sessions, so my next stop was going to be the National Archives, hoping I could find something in the Congressional Record or Dept. of Interior archives. Where do I start? I imagine requests for research into physical records are not accepted at the moment? Any other potential sources? The Washington Board on Geographic Names was no help, btw, and I had no response from its U.S. counterpart. Thanks!

        • Re: Seeking history of McMicken Island
          Alice Lane Pioneer

          Hi Joseph,

          Welcome to History Hub

          I guess you could call this folklore about the name of the island.



          Copied the following from article above.

          Fun facts

          A surveyor employed by the US government reportedly named McMicken Island after himself. The State of Washington purchased McMicken Island in 1974 for $133,000. Harstine Island - often spelled Hartstene, Harstene, and Hartstine - was named for Lieutenant Henry J. Hartstein, a member of the Wilkes Expedition. Later in life, Hartstein and his wife changed their surname to "Hartstene" to avoid people mispronouncing it, and mapmakers followed suit. The current spelling of "Harstine" was made up by island residents and mapmakers in the early 1900s, and the Washington Legislature made that spelling official in 1997. Other islands in southern Puget Sound named for members of the Wilkes Expedition include Maury Island and Stretch Island (after the gunners mate Samuel Stretch)


          Another source has the same information https://waparks.org/parks/mcmicken-island/#:~:text=Originally%2C%20a%20Swedish%20sailor%20jumped%20ship%20and%20settled,…

          McMicken Island State Park is an 11.5 acre marine park with 1,661 feet of saltwater shoreline. It is situated in the beautiful South Puget Sound and features a pristine cove to set anchor. Visitors can enjoy the many hiking trails, viewing an active bald eagle nest and shellfish harvesting. The shellfish population is abundant and open to shellfish harvesters year round. Originally, a Swedish sailor jumped ship and settled on the island, naming the island after himself, Lundquist. However, when Mr. Lundquist attempted a legal claim on the island with the U.S. government, he was told they had no record of its existence. A surveyor was sent to record the island on U.S. maps and then gave the island his name, McMicken.


          Alice Lane

          Research Volunteer

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            • Re: Seeking history of McMicken Island
              Joseph Pentheroudakis Wayfarer

              Thanks Alice!


              I know all that, actually, and you're right, it is folklore and quite incorrect. William McMicken did NOT survey the island - I have looked up the survey and all related records. And the documentary record (marine charts and GLO surveys) shows without any doubt that the legend is incorrect; the dates of when the island appears with its current name (1889) and the date of the Small Island Survey (1894) just don't match.


              So I'm only missing that one piece of information about when exactly the island was named for a long article I'm writing. I actually do know the rest of the island's history, and I think I know where the legend came from, but for that you're going to have to wait for my article :=)


              Thank you!



            • Re: Seeking history of McMicken Island
              Sabine Gorgas Adventurer

              Hi Joseph,

              With a search, for example, with google.books or hatitrust.org you can find several publications from 1894 which mention the name of the surveyor of the island.

              In accordance to the books the contract for a survey for McMicken Island dates from 10 April 1894. The deputy responsible was David B. Ogden. In 1894 he was an Assistant Engineer for the Corps of Engineers. (https://books.google.com/books?id=vbxIAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA3350&lpg=PA3350&dq=David+B.+Ogden+Engineer+1894&source=bl&ots=_rnqB6Pvg2&sig=ACfU3U3-nxV-pDbbukW5mCSUA9X8dwfuIA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjZ4MD-x-nrAhU4lnIEHdxrDcAQ6AEwDnoECAEQAQ#v=onepage&q=David%20B.%20Ogden&f=false)

                So maybe it was David B. Ogden who named the island.


              Here is another interesting document which mentions William McMicken as well as David B. Ogden (https://www.olsonengr.com/sites/default/files/surveying-history/files/glosurveyorspublishmr.pdf ).

                By reading some of the biographies I noticed that William McMicken and some other surveyors had some kind of family relation or somehow knew each other when getting contracts as surveyors or assistant engineers. My thought was that if the Island was indeed named after William McMicken that it might be not because of his accomplishments but because Ogden got the contract because he knew McMicken and wanted to honor him somehow. I noticed that Ogdens stepfather Alexander McKinsey was a Westpoint graduate and also worked as a Captain for the Corps of Engineers. So McKinsey and McMicken could have fought together in the Civil War or also could have worked together so that Ogden got his job that way, which was even mentioned in this document.

                Maybe it helps.



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                • Re: Seeking history of McMicken Island
                  Joseph Pentheroudakis Wayfarer

                  Thanks Sabine, nice connection! The problem is that the island was named *before* Ogden got the survey gig. The name appears on a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey chart from 1889, the actual survey work for which was completed by 1888, and Ogden's survey wasn't conducted until 1894. Ogden's survey was requested and paid for by Charles Lundquist, who had filed a homestead claim for it; because the small, 12-acre island is not on a survey boundary line it had not been included in the original 1854 survey of the township, something which was standard practice for small islands (and small lakes, btw). The law allowed for private settlers of small islands to conduct a cadastral survey at their own expense.

                  Lundquist himself was one of the axemen on the survey crew. Both Lundquist and Ogden lived in Tacoma, Lundquist working as a bricklayer and Ogden working as an engineer, so it's quite possible they knew each other.


                  By the way, here is a link to the 1889 chart. McMicken Island is at abut 47 deg. 10 ' latitude and about 11 deg. 55" longitude, bottom quarter of the chart, almost attached to the much larger Hartstene (now spelled Harstine) Island. You can see what the authorities were that the chart was based on, lower right.



                  We know that the GLO didn't have the island on their surveys of public lands, so the name couldn't have come from them. I know that there must be records somewhere of how the chart was compiled, I should probably tr to dig all that up?

                  • Re: Seeking history of McMicken Island
                    Joseph Pentheroudakis Wayfarer

                    Thanks Alice! I've actually been through all the Mason County recorded deeds, the grantee/grantor indexes for which are available on Family Search. I got copies of the actual deeds from the Washington state archives. I've reconstructed the island's history and that of its settlers in detail.


                    Interesting about the fire resolution!


                    I've contacted the Mason County Historical Society to see if they have anything, haven't heard back yet.





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                  • Re: Seeking history of McMicken Island
                    Cara Jensen Tracker

                    Dear Mr. Pentheroudakis,


                    Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


                    We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the series Letters Received and Related Records Concerning Washington Territory, 1854 - 1890 and the series Transcripts of Executive Proceedings and Related Correspondence of the Governor of Washington Territory, 3/28/1877 - 1889 in the Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior (Record Group 48), and the series Letters Received from the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 10/1879 - 1/1885 in the Records of the Hydrographic Office (Record Group 37) that may include information on the naming of McMicken Island.  For access to these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov for the two series in RG 48 and the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) via email at archives1reference@nara.gov for the series in RG 37.


                    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1 and RDT2. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


                    We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


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