Monday Mystery

Our very recent EWGS Fall Workshop featured Dave Obee from Victoria, BC, who is a recognized expert on Canadian research. (He’s the founder of

One “mystery” thing he explained to us was how our ancestors thought nothing of going back-and-forth across the Canada-U.S. border and did so multiple times during their lives. I never thought about that. Asking “Grandma” Google, I found there are 29 official border crossing points between the two countries along WA-ID-MT with British Columbia and Alberta. This explains why an ancestor of my dau-in-law’s came to and lived his life in Washington but married a lady from Victoria IN Victoria. It was no big deal in those days.

If you have Pacific Northwest connections, have you double-checked to see if you have Canadian connections too?


Monday Mystery

Who built the Peace Arch at the border north of Bellingham?

The builder was none other than Washington’s famous Sam Hill, businessman, road builder and philanthropist. The Arch was built between 1914 and 1921 and was one of the first structures built with earthquake resistance in mind. The name Peace Arch denotes the friendly relations between Canada and the U.S.

If you’ve driven I-5 north, heading for Vancouver, Canada, you’ve gone through the checkpoint at this famous place. It sits in a lovely park; did you ever get out and walk around in that park?

(From Washington Curiosities, by Harriet Baskas, 2008.)

Monday Mystery

These are not Washington-related mysteries but are certainly genealogical mysteries. Ever heard of burials in Iron Coffins or Quaker guns??

A Quaker gun is a deception tactic that was commonly used in warfare during the 18th and 19th centuries. Although resembling an actual cannon, the Quaker gun was simply a wooden log, usually painted black, used to deceive an enemy. And I guess they worked!

Watched a fab show on PBS called “The Iron Coffin Woman” about a mid-1800s burial in Queens, New York. Yes, such vessels were used for a short time before the Civil War when there was no embalming. Here’s a link to more about the show which delved into the history of such coffins and researched the probable history of the long-deceased lady.

Death, Burial and Iron Coffins

Monday Mystery

Here’s a crazy question for you……. a “mystery” question, if you will.

How many museums are there in Washington State? Give a guess…..

The answer: LOTS! MANY! I don’t really know how many!! But two things I do know. Almost every town, from bitty to big, is proud of its heritage and has a museum of some sort. And a new Museum Listing Database is now posted on our WSGS website!

The initial list was compiled by EWGS member Duane Beck and then turned over to Donna Phillips who then turned it over to our WSGS most-capable webmanager, Heather Murphy and viola! It’s there for all to view.

That’s not all; if YOU know if a museum or historical site or fort or any some such that is not on the list, you can click to send that information to our webmanager and she will get the list updated asap.

WSGS offers this to you for your traveling planning and for hometown researching. After all, isn’t it the stuff and artifacts of the pioneers of that place that fill those museums???

Monday Mystery

How did you do answering those ten questions about Washington history and geography?  Here are the answers:

  1. I-90 spans 3022 miles going from Seattle to Boston.
  2. Tri-Cities are comprised of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland.
  3. The “kettles” near Kettle Falls on the upper Columbia River were made by large stones swirled in the current to make “kettles” in the rock; they are now under water.
  4. Lake Roosevelt, the man-made lake formed behind Grand Coulee Dam, is the state’s largest river….. it is also the Columbia River.
  5. The Hoh River is a river in the S. state of Washington, located on the Olympic Peninsula. About 56 miles (90 km) long,[3] the Hoh River originates at the Hoh Glacier on Mount Olympus and flows west through the Olympic Mountains of Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, then through the foothills in a broad valley, emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the Hoh Indian Reservation.
  6. Vampires in Forks? Have you read the Twilight series? You tell me.
  7. Deception Pass was so named when a group of sailors led by Joseph Whidbey, part of the Vancouver Expedition, found and mapped Deception Pass on June 7, 1792.[2]George Vancouver gave it the name “Deception” because it had misled him into thinking Whidbey Island was a peninsula.
  8. Baldy was given the more dignified name of Mt. Spokane in 1912.
  9. Spotted Owls in the forests? I’ve never seen one…have you?
  10. According to a big sign on I-90 going east after crossing the Vantage Bridge, Grant County claims that honor.

Monday Mystery

Today let’s check our memories to answer some Washington “mystery” questions:

  1. Where does I-90 begin and end?
  2. What are the three cities comprising the Tri-Cities?
  3. What were, and where were, the “kettles” on the Columbia River?
  4. What’s the biggest lake in Washington?
  5. Where is the Hoh River?
  6. Have vampires ever lived in Forks?
  7. How did Deception Pass gain its name?
  8. What mountain was known as Mt. Baldy until 1912?
  9. Are there still Spotted Owls in Washington?
  10. What county boasts to be The Potato Producing Capital of the state?

See how many you can answer, with or without Google’s help. Test yourself!  Answers next week…..


Monday Mystery

Would you have guessed that there were Hawaiians at Fort Vancouver in the 1790s??? That’s along the Columbia in Clark County. An article by Frank Bear in the Clark County Washington History 2014 issue explains how the usual route around the Horn and to the Pacific Northwest included a stop in Hawaii. According to Bear, “Hawaiian workers came by the hundreds; their influence remains.” The explorers, merchants and missionaries would stop in Hawaii and enlist workers for Fort Vancouver. These kanakas (native Hawaiians) worked at a variety of jobs including sawyers, coopers, guards, sailors, gardeners, soldiers, cooks and servants. The Hudson’s Bay Company hired them on contracts negotiated by Hawaiian royalty that left them, in effect, as indentured servants.  Aloha in Oregon, the Owyhee River in Idaho and Kalama in Washington, are all place names reminding us today of the Hawaiian presence even way back then.

Monday Mystery

To me, this is a mystery. Hubby’s Aunt Dorothy, born and raised here in Spokane, Washington, met and married an Army guy, Angelo Cicero. Ange was Italian, born in New York, and grandparents born in Italy. A real Italian, one-of-a-kind name for the Pacific Northwest.  Or so I thought.

I spotted this photo on the wall at the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society in Arlington, Snohomish County. The name leaped out at me! Cicero! In early Washington??? How could that be?

“The Cicero school district was organized on 27 Feb 1892, and is composed of a narrow fertile valley along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River….  Stephen and Martha Cicero built a small grocery and post office and the school was named for them. The school closed in 1936, consolidated with Arlington.”

Daughter Ollie Cicero married a Mr. Powell. Any descendants out there?

So the mystery today is do not be surprised when a surname pops up where you would never have imagined it to be.