October 25, 2016

Bravery or Stupidity – You Be the Judge

These stories are not in any particular chronological order, or of any importance really, except maybe to me. C.

Out On a Trestle

When I was a teenager I was with a group of friends who decided to visit a local railroad trestle so we could see it for ourselves. This took place here in western Washington State, but for the life of me, I can’t remember just where the bridge was. I just know it was up in the hills somewhere with no buildings or houses around. This trestle had no rails on it except the railroad tracks for the trains. I presume this was an old logging train route.  I didn’t go out on the trestle as far as the other kids because I knew there was going to be a train coming with just my luck and I wouldn’t be able to run to escape it. It seems like there might have been some curved culvert type things on the edge of the trestle but not all along the sides. That could have worked for a quick escape, but what if I dove into it and flipped right out? What if the air being pushed by the engine just blew me right out of there and into the creek below? In any case, I lived and never went out on a trestle like that again.

The Body in the Middle of the Road

This next event happened here in Port Orchard, Washington sometime in the early 1990’s. Jim and I were out in the early evening on Halloween night driving home to dole out candy to our own trick or treaters. We were just rounding the curve on Lund Avenue after turning from Jackson and alarm bells went off in my head as we saw a small “body” laying sprawled across the road. I yelled at Jim to pull over and I jumped out to go rescue the kid. As I was bending down to see what I could do a car was coming at me from the opposite direction. I put my hand up hoping to stop them but they didn’t seem like they were going to slow down. Great, not only would they run over this kid again, but me too in the process! It was one of those scenes where to you everything seems to creep along as it all happens, but in reality it was almost immediately that I determined that this was not an injured child, but a “body” dressed up like one and flung in the road for fun. In my defense, it ‘could’ have been a real kid who fell down and the other kids didn’t know it. We were in a heavily populated area and on Halloween you know how excited kids seem to dart from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood. After I got back in the car I was amazed at myself to think that I was just ready to rush to some injured person’s aid.

The Attorney and the Homemaker

In the 1980’s we lived in a big two story house in rural Port Orchard. Surrounding us were neighbors with ten and five acre parcels. Ours was just shy of one acre and we had spent many days of hard labor trying to reclaim to the yard from the overgrowth of wild huckleberry and salal bushes. We’d even fenced off our yard in the front with the intention of keeping out ‘critters’ of all kinds. In that era Jackson Perkins would sell a large variety of roses in reduced prices. I wanted to fill my front yard with them and little by little we did so. In those days I was younger and spryer than I am now and I took on the task of mowing the yard and weeding the flower beds. It was so infuriating to me when I would go out to admire my yard, or to mow and there would be ‘deposits’ of dog poop here and there. The most frequent depositor was the dog across the street who had a whole ten acres to poop on, but no, it came in our yard to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs for the most part. It’s their owners who irritate me.

It wasn’t just this one neighbor, we had a few other dogs  on our street and in nearby acreages that would also come by to share their processed cheap dogfood piles. One of them was a big golden lab that came from our neighbors behind us who also had ten acres. This dog would show up in our yard way to frequently and after a while it was just too often. The road we lived on was about a half mile long and straight so some of the cars would really get up a full head of steam and race down the road at unhealthy speeds. With trees on the sides of the road too, there was no way that man nor beast could get out of the way fast enough. My first attempt at trying to keep the dog on its own property was to call the owners and let them know we had their dog at our house. On that occasion the wife did come and get the dog. The next time though, my phone call to them was for naught and it seemed like I was being unreasonable to ask them to keep their dog on their ten acres. That gave me a clue that these people thought that the leash laws didn’t apply to them and that I was just “bothering” them.

The next time the dog showed up I had a leash and I put the dog on it and called animal control to come pick it up. I felt sorry for the dog, but my intention was to send a message to the owners to follow the law. Apparently, that didn’t sit too well with the husband because a day or so later he and his wife, kids and the dog rolled into our driveway like Lord and Lady Gotrocks. Jim and I were sitting out in the front yard and the husband, who happened to be an attorney at the time, got out of the car and proceeded to berate me for having their dog impounded!

He began his little tirade and I gave it right back to him. He thought he could brow beat me for reason. I knew he was wrong and told him that as an attorney of law he should know there are leash laws in this county and he needed to abide by them. All this time Jim is sitting on the picnic table just watching the verbal exchange. It wasn’t about winning the argument and him driving off in a huff, but I did feel rather brave to go up a practicing attorney, make my case and not be browbeaten by some pompous ass. Also, I don’t think their dog came in our yard ever again.



William Burden Stevenson – His final resting place in Port Orchard Washington


I wouldn’t have known about William B Stevenson at all if I hadn’t been researching a collateral family connection, his younger sister Isabel Katherine Stevenson who had married Benjamin Alysworth Ferris in Ontario Canada in 1878. This connection lead to a family connected to my Yates family some 137 years later. Since these are still living descendants, I’ve chosen to not disclose any further individuals in this line.

Instead, I’ve created a genealogy report for William that includes all of his immediate family information as well as sources. Individual Genealogy Report William Burden Stevenson (PDF)

It seems just too little to share just the report though. How do you sum up and man’s life with just a report. It’s doesn’t really speak to his rough and tumble upbringing in Ireland where as a young boy he would sneak out of the house to attend wakes and get inebriated on free ale. Or, his household that included not only his family members but also a goat in the house. The goat spent a lot of time in the kitchen in the house in Ireland, but it knew enough to make itself scarce when the lady of the house (William’s mother Ellen) would enter the kitchen. Did she flap her apron at him and tell him to ‘shoo’?

As William went off to join the British Navy, his father John (Jock) was ending his Irish Coast Guard career. This was during the reign of Queen Victoria and as I have mentioned before, John was awarded land in Canada which initiated the next migration of the family to Ontario.

As you remember, William deserted the British Navy and made his way to join the US Army. He served both in the Army and then in the Navy where they could put his true skills to work onboard ships. William was honorably discharged from the Union Navy and the decades that followed found him still in maritime service on merchant ships that sailed around the world. He would come home now and then and tell tales of his adventures, some of which were quite extraordinary (which his mother didn’t believe) and fabricated stories which his mother took as gospel. (this anecdotal information is from the book “Oh Lord, What Next” by Geraldine Jacobi Russell, mother of actress Jane Russell, who was also a descendant of the Stevenson family).

William’s first wife was Elizabeth Schumacher who was born 31 July 1841 in Pennsylvania. They married in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1881, and resided in Ardoch, Walsh, ND until her death in 1891. I haven’t yet found her cause of death or any children they might have had together. The year following Elizabeth’s death William married again in Grand Forks, ND, this time to Elenor Glen Seeley.

Elenor and William lived in the Ardoch, ND area from 1892 to 1900. During the years leading up to 1900 Elenor and William had three children: William, Kenneth B, and Loila. The middle child, Kenneth B (Burden?) was not living with the family when we find them in the 1900 census of Seattle, WA where William is employed as a Ship Master. Ten years later William and their two children are living in another location (Port Orchard, WA) and William is employed now as a rigger (one who works with rigging for ships) at Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton.

It appears that William and his family lived in Port Orchard through the years 1910 to the year of his death in 1926. Elenor would predecease him in 1924. The oldest son, William S. Stevenson was by then married to Idabelle and they were also living in Port Orchard with their daughter Willa who was born in 1933.

For a short time William Seeley Stevenson was the owner of Stevenson’s furniture store on Bay Street in Port Orchard, WA. The store building is still in existence but as of 2016 it is a community events center.

former stevenson furniture store

We come to the end of William Burden Stevenson’s life in 1926 when he entered the Veteran’s Home at Retsil, Washington when his health was failing and his family could no longer care for him at home. He had dementia and essentially had lost all of his motor skills and was completely dependent on the staff at Retsil. He passed away on 26 June 1926 and soon after the home ordered his headstone from the Veteran’s Administration. That stone has since been replaced by the one below and William and Elenor share the stone that is at Sunset Lane, Knights of Pythias Cemetery in Port Orchard, WA.

william b stevenson headstone

Fair winds and following seas William!

Previous articles about William Burden Stevenson

William Burden Stevenson 1842 – 1926

William Burden Stevenson – The Civil War Years 1862 – 1864

1893 W B Stevenson Civil War Pension Application Transcription




1912 Washington State Gun Fanatics

Gun Fanaticism Or Just Practicality?

Admittedly, I don’t really know what these men really felt about their guns and how ‘fanatical’ they might have been about using them. Anything I say here about them comes from my own views of how my family used their rifles, how they talked about them, and our family history with guns.

First, a little background on the people in this picture and where it was taken. From left to right is George Martin, obviously older than the other men in the picture. Next is William K Yates (my paternal grandfather, age 20), unknown man, and far right is Will Yates’ older brother Lemuel W Yates (age 25). On the back of this picture postcard is the postmark of “July 6, 1912 Union Mills, Washington.” I suppose it’s possible that the picture was taken somewhere else and then made into a postcard sent from Washington.

George Martin, Will Yates, , Lem Yates

All that said, I do believe it was taken near Union Mills, WA. I’m not showing the back of the postcard here, but I do have the original and it has been clipped along the edges, and the original message on the postcard was written in pencil and is now so light after 115 years I’m unable to read it. Union Mills, Washington was located in Thurston County near what is now the town of Lacey and was base for the Union Lumber Company.

Union Lumber Co. History

Source: Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Oregon, Washington

 By Donald B. Robertson

So, were they fanatics about their guns? I think they were in the sense that they felt they were a invaluable tool which they could always use to hunt game to feed their families. Or, at least supplement the larder at home. Considering there were no freezers of size at the time I assume they would dress their game in the woods if it was large like a deer, perhaps cutting it in smaller sections to be shared as they saw fit, and much of it eaten immediately. In this picture, I don’t think the men were actively hunting, but rather ‘posing’ for the photographer to make it look like an interesting tableau. The reason I say that is because it was probably taken and sent in July as the postmark indicates, and hunting season wasn’t until much later in the fall.

One thing I do know from my family history with my dad, “Never touch my gun” was law in our house and neither my brother nor I ever considered going against that edict. The men in my family (none of the women hunted, as far as I know) were fanatics about gun safety. I don’t think any of the hunters in the family ever used pistols because it just wouldn’t have been practical for their needs. I do know that when my dad hunted in he used a .30-06. I wonder what happened to that rifle. I bet my brother has it.


100 Years Ago Today WA Women Won The Right To Vote

Washington State Historical Society Photo

HeraldNet.com – Local news: How Washington women won the right to vote.

I’ve always exercised my right to vote since I was old enough to do so, but I so admire the women who stood up and fought to get their equal say at the ballot box here in our state.  Washington (caucasian) women were fully ten years ahead of the rest of the nation, and I suspect that at least my Moline and Nordgren grandmothers were fully on-board when the right was granted.



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