Pioneer Pursuit Contest Winner: Ralph Brown

Wholehearted congratulations are extended to Ralph Brown from Bothell (Snohomish County). Ralph contributed an amazing 1,285 individuals to the Pioneer Pursuit Contest. Although the contest portion of Pioneer Pursuit ended 31 Oct 2024, Ralph is continuing to submit names, sources and associated stories of individuals, mostly in southwest Washington, who were in Washington Territory on or before statehood on 11 Nov 1889.

Although he now lives in Snohomish County, Ralph grew up in Underwood, an unincorporated community on the Columbia River in Skamania County. He went to school just up the river in White Salmon (Klickitat County).  

Ralph and his wife Ruth had three children of their own and adopted another. He was a missile technician in the Navy, then a long career with Pacific Northwest Bell. 

Trike Trips Lead to Discoveries

After he retired, Ralph spent the next ten years researching his wife’s and his families and got heavily involved in Find a Grave. In a wild and crazy decision, Ralph decided to buy a three-wheeled trike – without even knowing how to ride a motorcycle! Undaunted, Ralph and Ruth soon put more than 200,000 miles on that trike, traveling to all the local cemeteries in Klickitat and Skamania Counties taking pictures and satisfying photo requests for Find A Grave. 

Because of his ardent work on Find a Grave, Ralph decided to document all the pioneers in the Underwood Cemetery. One thing led to another and his interest soon mushroomed to document all the other small cemeteries in the area.

Pioneer Pursuit to the Rescue

Over the years, Ralph carefully documented Klickitat and Skamania Counties’ local history with a vast amount of research, documents, photographs, newspaper articles and interviews. But he needed to find a home all that research.

Fortunately for Washington State researchers, WSGS came up with the Pioneer Pursuit program – an effort to document every man, woman and child that lived in Washington Territory on or before statehood on 11 Nov 1889.

Ralph is a dedicated Facebook contributor, managing a group with over 2,000 followers. One of his followers, Bo/Casey Gleason had already submitted the Creviston pioneer family to Pioneer Pursuit. When Bo realized a connection with Ralph’s Gilmer family, they hooked up.

Continuing to Pursue Pioneers – and Quilting

Ralph still hasn’t stopped identifying territorial settlers and submitting them to Pioneer Pursuit. He’s also researching local logging, utilities and transportation histories and he hasn’t forgotten about schoolhouses and post offices.

But he’s also spending more time with his quilting longarm. Yes, Ralph is a quilter – supporting Ruth’s passion for creating intricate quilts, such as “Labyrinth Walk” shown here. “I can see me spending the rest of my life identifying people, but I have to get my passion aligned with my wife’s — which is quilting.”

According to Ralph, “There is a slogan for us motorcycle riders, “Too many roads, not enough time” and that applies to genealogy as well:  “Too many territorial settlers, not enough time” and “too much history to uncover and not enough time to document.”  

Congratulations, Ralph, for submitting 1,285 individuals to the Pioneer Pursuit. If anyone is interested in following your lead and participating in Pioneer Pursuit, visit our website here.

3 comments on “Pioneer Pursuit Contest Winner: Ralph Brown

  1. Julie Mannos says:

    Fantastic and well deserved recognition for a man who’s dedicated so much time/effort to do many great causes such as this! Cannot think of a more deserving person, he’s gone above and beyond in recording history for both current and future generations! Thank you, Ralph (and your family for sharing your time and effort in this regard)!

  2. Joyce Lucas says:

    Congratulations to Ralph Brown for an award that he is more than qualified in receiving. He and his work are invaluable and greatly appreciated.

  3. Laurene Eldred says:

    A well deserved award. He is always so willing to help others trace their family history.

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