A lot of Silverdale history in 128 pages | Kitsap Week

A team of volunteers from the Kitsap County Historical Society produced this book over an 18-month period. - Kitsap County Historical Society
A team of volunteers from the Kitsap County Historical Society produced this book over an 18-month period.
— image credit: Kitsap County Historical Society

The book’s format is familiar: The sepia-toned cover, the introductory paragraphs, and the 200-or-so historical images over 128 pages.

But from cover-to-cover, the book is unique, telling Silverdale’s story in a way that only a book like this can.

“Silverdale” is the latest book in Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series – one of 8,500 books in the Arcadia stable and the fourth on a Kitsap community.

A team of volunteers from the Kitsap County Historical Society produced this book over an 18-month period: Patricia Drollet encouraged the project; Claudia Hunt, Randy Hunt and Carolyn Neal selected images and wrote text; Nina Hallett edited; Eric Dahlberg and George Willock assisted; Carolyn LaFountaine located rare images; and 35 others shared photographs and stories that filled in the gaps.

The result: A cram course in Silverdale history, a keepsake worthy of personal library and school shelf.

The book is neatly organized into three chapters: Old Town: 1857-1920; Middle Town: 1921-1945; New Town: 1946-1989.

The authors do a masterful job of summarizing Silverdale’s history in a two-page introduction — from pre-treaty times to the settlement era; the agricultural era to the demographic changes brought by two world wars; and the community’s rise as the retail center of the Kitsap Peninsula.

Among the oldest images: Steve Wilson (Suquamish) and his wife in their canoe at Steve’s Point, now Erland’s Point, in 1895; William Littlewood, the first non-Native settler in Silverdale, at his cabin; an early logging camp; and a group of Fourth of July revelers at a downed 21-foot diameter tree named Admiral Dewey, in honor of the hero of the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.

Photos depict local life in its various phases: The Schold family dressed in their Sunday finest, posing with their musical instruments. C.W. Gustafson leading a horse with his wife and two children in the buggy. A hayride in 1908. A group of young people on an outing in 1903. Residents socializing on the dock in 1910. A dance around the maypole at Silverdale School in 1914. An Old Maids’ Convention — featuring popular music and dramatics to raise funds for community projects — in 1913. A group swimming in 60-degree water on the beach in front of the Bourg home in Dyes Inlet. The Brandlein family fishing off the shore near their home.

There’s so much more. Each caption provides engaging detail about the image and helps the story flow from chapter to chapter.

You learn some fascinating stuff about Silverdale. It was originally known as Sa’quad, meaning “spear it,” by the Suquamish people. Dyes Inlet was named by Capt. Charles Wilkes in honor of John W.W. Dyes, the assistant taxidermist on the 1841 Exploring Expedition. (Gee, what community was named after the lead taxidermist?) Settlers wanted to name their community “Goldendale,” but downgraded to “Silverdale” after learning that their first choice was already taken.

Silverdale’s competitive spirit is depicted in images of the 1917 community baseball team, the 1913 Silverdale High School girls basketball team, the 1924 high school boys’ basketball team, a circa 1940s bowling team sponsored by lumber company Dahl & Petersen, a circa 1950 salmon derby, and racing at the Silverdale Speedway.

Historic events are depicted. An August 1969 image shows the Port of Silverdale’s dock being burned to make way for a new boat launch and park. Port officials thought the burn would take one day; it took two weeks.

Colorful characters are featured on nearly every page. You’ll meet Swedish-born fisherman Mule Anderson and his family, with Yonkers the cat. And Charles Greaves, a veterinarian who could cure your horse’s colic and set your broken arm. And Peter Emel, who drove a Ford camper truck to and from California in 1918 on whatever roads were available. And Jesse “Red” Jones, who was born on the USS Nipsic and became a shipyard machinist as well as a florist shop owner. And Louis Morey, who founded the local power company in 1922 with $50 he borrowed and in seven years hand-dug power pole holes for 70 miles of power line. And Bob Gossett, racing his 1933 Pontiac which he called the “Poor Man’s Bonneville.” (In this writer’s view, one of the coolest character portraits is of Capt. Martin Madison, pipe in mouth, at the wheel of his Mosquito Fleet ferry. Check it out on page 63).

Here’s a colorful factoid: During the height of the ag era, record-setting shipments of poultry and eggs caused the local newspaper editor to report: “From Silverdale, the cackle of hens was heard round the world.”

Asked for her favorite fact in the book, Carolyn Neal, one of the book’s writers, said she likes to think that Steve Wilson really did bury a teapot of gold at what is now Erland’s Point.

She hopes the book helps people understand that Silverdale is more than just a retail center; it’s a community.

“I was thrilled with the sense of place,” she said of the experience of working on the book. “Silverdale could be just considered a retail center on the highway, but there’s still a sense of a real town and a real community.”

Neal said the book was an “extremely collaborative effort, a great community effort.” And it was fun. “The people I worked with made me laugh,” she said.

Nina Hallett, the editor, said many of the people on the “Silverdale” project worked together on the update of “Kitsap County: A History,” which took five years.

“We kind of got used to things,” Hallett said. “We’ve all worked together and we know each other fairly well. And we’re not shy.”

Claudia Hunt, one of the book’s writers, said her favorite part of the project was “talking to all the old timers and hearing their stories.” She and others went to the annual Old Timers Picnic and collected photos and oral histories. The project “was such a springboard for people’s memories. I absolutely loved that part of it,” she said.

“Silverdale” was released Feb. 3. It sells for $21.99; royalties will go to the Kitsap County Historical Society.

The historical society was founded in 1948. Its mission is to collect, preserve and exhibit the diverse culture, heritage, and history of Kitsap County.

— All photos courtesy Kitsap County Historical Society

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