May 22, 2017

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.