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New museum exhibit tells forgotten island story of the West
It was an epic road trip tale that had been lost to time. Until now.
This Saturday, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum will debut a new exhibit that tells an adventurous 100-year-old story of four men blazing a trail out of the Old West.
In 1912, four Kitsap men mounted their horses and took to the trails across the nation.
Two of the men, George W. Beck and his brother Charles C. Beck, lived in Port Blakely on Bainbridge Island. They were loggers, but sought something more adventurous.
“They were seeking fame and fortune,” said Dan Groff, administrative coordinator for the historical museum.
“A 20,000-mile overland trip on horseback, they expected to attract some attention,” he added.
The Becks were joined by Jay B. Ransom and Raymond G. Rayne from Shelton. They also had the company of Nip, a dog who took the journey with them.
The trip took the men to every state capitol — 48 at the time. They met every state governor and took a picture with them in front of each capitol building. After meeting each governor, they would collect a letter that would introduce them to the leader in the next state.
Then they would hop on their horses, with Nip at their side, and ride on.
The venture took three years to complete. But when the four men completed their journey, they did not find the fame they sought.
“By the time they finished, World War I was getting cranked up and nobody cared,” Groff said. “It’s kind of a sad story that got lost into history.”
Museum curator Rick Chandler put the exhibit together after coming across two dairies from the trip. A total of
18 diaries were originally written, and they tell of a time when the nation was changing.
“It was a time when the automobile was hitting the roads and they were making a statement about what the real West was about: horses and adventure,” Chandler said. “It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.”
The exhibit tells the story through photos and other artifacts from the journey. The museum even has accented it with local driftwood art representing Nip and a horse.
Chandler hopes that the exhibit will catch on in other states, and that historical museums from where the four men traveled will start their own.