The history behind the camp property

Screenshot 2019-02-08 at 5.59.43 PM.png

I like to delve deeper - don’t you?

Before our amazing property was Sound View Camp, it was Camp Wakoma - operated by the Camp Fire Girls (when their organization was for girls only). This I knew already and we still have lots of reminders of over 20 years of Camp Wakoma.

But what about before that?

I asked my friend, Christine Anderson, from the Key Peninsula Historical Society, if she could dig up some land-use history for the Sound View Property. What she came up with is really cool.



Residents along the shores of Drayton Passage have found arrow heads, clam shell middens and fired rocks, all which point to centuries of Indian activity on the lower peninsula. In her book the People of Cascadia, Heidi Bohan depicts the life ways of the Coastal Salish. She describes how they hunted in the woods, fished and gathered clams along the shores, and used the cedar trees to provide the materials for housing, canoes, clothing, baskets and medicine.

early days.jpeg

Early Days on the Key Peninsula by R.T. Arledge details how the area’s plants were used. A prevailing need for the requirements of everyday living gave the Indians a familiarity with the location of vegetables, fruits and wild meats. Among the plants, nettles, sea arrow grass, fern roots and abundant Camus lily bulbs supplied a vegetable diet. Young willow stalks were readily available for basket weaving, and several plants provided dyes for craft work. The bark of the bear-club was used for a type of tea drink. Raspberries, salmon berries and blackberries were prized fruits which were also dried and preserved for future use.


The line shows route first used by the used by the Nisqually, then later by Hudson Bay Company (1832) employees and early settlers (1870s)

The line shows route first used by the used by the Nisqually, then later by Hudson Bay Company (1832) employees and early settlers (1870s)

Because the Peninsula was situated midway between the east portion of the Sound and the islands and shorelines to the west, it was heavily scored by the crisscrossing of numerous trails. The network of trails within the interior of the Peninsula served for hunting and gathering of food, but Drayton Passage, 1860 Pierce County, T. C. Metsker Map at certain points the trails were portage points … At these points canoes and food supplies were often left for anyone's use… (Arledge)

One such portage point between the Peninsula and the Nisqually Delta was the trail between Oro and Amsterdam Bays on Anderson Island. This route was used quite frequently after the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company at Nisqually. Canoes were left at both points for common use. The route was particularly popular because it by-passed most of the turbulent waters around the island. Tidal currents meeting the Nisqually River's seaward flow on the east side were deceptive and troublesome. Stormy conditions could develop suddenly at any time of the year. (Arledge)

In 1833, the British-run Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post - Fort Nisqually - in present-day Dupont. Active trade of beaver pelts, European goods and agricultural goods occurred between the British traders and the native population. The US government established a military base - Fort Steilacoom - near present-day Lakewood. This was at a time when both nations laid claim to the Pacific Northwest.

Douglas Fir and Cedar Trees

Douglas Fir and Cedar Trees


In 1841, the voyage of exploration expedition led by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, reached Fort Nisqually. His crew charted the waters of Puget Sound, giving many of the places the names they bear today, including DRAYTON PASSAGE, named for Joseph Drayton the expedition’s illustrator/artist. Drayton gave the United States its first view of the Northwest”s greatest natural resource ….. trees.


The Messenger

The Messenger

By the 1870s, entrepreneurs established floating logging camps that moved along the shorelines of the Peninsula cutting down the most accessible trees. After the logs were removed the land was either given back to the state or sold off, some say, for as low as 25 cents an acre. The logs were towed to the Steilacoom sawmill by Harry Winchester’s flat bottom boat “The Messenger”

Over the next 30 years, loggers and farmers came and went. The Panic of 1893 caused Tacoma banks to close, business to fail, sawmills and logging operation to closed down. Many folks walked away from their farms to on the peninsula to go live with family members in Seattle and Tacoma.


Our sand spit is marked - 36

Our sand spit is marked - 36

By the end of the early 1900s a new wave of farmer immigrants came to the lower peninsula from not only the Midwest and East Coast but from Western Europe and Scandinavia. Farms sprang up where forest once stood. Turning a logged off land into a farm was the most difficult challenge facing homesteaders of the forested land of the Peninsula. Farmers grew crops in, around, and among the stumps left by the early loggers. Clearing land was hard work until the 1920s when farmers could use dynamite from Dupont to blow up the old growth stumps

Screenshot 2019-02-08 at 6.59.59 PM.png

World War I brought an industrial boom as the region's lumber was used in local shipyards and the expansion of Fort Lewis. Midwest farmers found jobs in the area and looked to the peninsula to purchase once again a farm of their own. The Peninsula’s farms were self-sufficient operations with a garden, an orchard, grain crops, chickens, a milk cow, hogs and beef cattle, and horses to do the work. They produced food for the family, feed for livestock, and agricultural products to sell for income to buy family and farm supplies


Ms Anderson has graciously researched a few of the earliest settlers on the camp property. The Sound View staff will further discover more about these farmers and the events that brought about Camp Wakoma and eventually, our beloved Sound View. Stay tuned!