Historical Society Minutes, June 2017


June 12, 2017


Present: Tom Deach (pres), Janice Veal (treas), Carol Deach, Win Anderson, Nancy Bush, Al Bush, Allen Bush, Sally Stapp, Max Benjamin, Barb Ohms, Dan Lewis, Holiday Matchett, Carol Harma, Bob & Margaret Stickrod, Sue O’Donnell (sec)


SHOW & TELL:  Barb & Carol D. brought the relief map back to show.  Turns out name on the map is not Dunn but Dunthorne.  Carol has done some initial cleaning and will soon begin repairs. 

Tom showed a scale model of the hull of the “ELK II”, fashioned by the marine architect, C. C. Keesling.    This from the collection of the late Don Taylor. 

Nancy brought the worship folder from the memorial service for “Bud Strom”.

PROGRAM:  BUSH RANCH – 63 years!

Nancy, Al and Allen came with pictures, slide show, beautiful “Bush Ranch” sign and memories to share of their very successful years ranching (cattle, sheep), haying and living on Guemes Island. 

They brought a scrapbook made by daughter Audrey back when she was in school and 4-H.  Nancy passed the pages around the tables as Al began the story of coming to Guemes with parents, Charles & Vivian back in the mid-fifties when they bought the Strom family home.  The older Bushes wanted Al and brother Charles to have the “beach experience”.  The boys were not enthused . . . at first.  But cleaning up the house and property, meeting people, buying/tending their first 4 head of cattle, becoming involved in 4-H (Wade Gilkey was 4-H advisor to the local teens) got them all hooked on Guemes and the farm. 


After high school Al went to Washington State University in Pullman to study Animal Science.  His advisor at WSU was a sheep expert and urged Al to research the Skagit & Island county sheep ranches.  Al bought sheep once he was back from military service. He joined other Guemes sheep farmers – Benjamins, Troutmans, Schillers.  The market for wool and lamb meat was good until they had to take their wares all the way to market in Oregon. 


Al and Nancy met at WSU and were married in 1965.  The young couple lived at Similk Beach until the ferry schedule limited their participation at the ranch.  The old Gould house was moved to the beach and that’s where Nancy & Al lived while raising children Audrey & Allen, jr.


In 1984, Al & Nancy wanted the children to be involved in 4-H.  Al took this on and soon a crowd of Guemes younsters joined them.  Al described the wonderful-terrifying-hilarious adventures they had together. 

The family by then was seriously involved in producing good stock for breeding; keeping excellent records; caring for the land by strategic land management (SLM), rotational grazing, etc.  Audrey and Allen, jr. won many ribbons all the years they showed cattle in county fairs all over the state.

One of the 4-H projects was a photography class given by island resident Joella Solus.  Audrey Bush and Peter Townsend (who won state championship at the Puyallup fair) were very interested and won prizes.  Audrey had a photo of one of the Black Angus with Cypress Island in the background published on the cover of the Missouri Angus Journal.

Al became the county representative to the Cattlemen’s Association in 1986.  Soon his involvement saw him as 2nd vice president to the Association.

Al was also the first president of G.I.P.O.A.  Many issues arose during those years – a 22 car ferry to replace the 9-car ferry; aluminum plant scare; Save the San Juans; the new “ferry committee”.

When the aluminum plant idea went down to defeat, The Bush family leased the valley from Sal Werner.  There were two barns on the property, formerly owned by the Bessner family.  The oldest barn was torn down in 1973; the ‘grey barn’ still exists and is now barn-red.  Cattle were raised on that land for 20 more years.  The Historical Society has the old grain mill which processed oats, barley, peas, etc. grown on the site.

1987 saw the last year of harvesting hay into square bales.  Over the years the Bush Ranch employed local youth (Valquist, Orsini, Hood, Radke, Ashback, Strom among others wanting jobs and also to “bulk up” for the coming high school football season).  This was grueling work, the “haying” of many, many acres of our island’s fields!  While teaching school and working in the fields, Nancy partnered with Linda Porter and the state Extension Service to organize programs for the island women.  Nancy headed up the “Beef Cook-off”.

1995 – Bushes sold their herd and Allen, jr. began leasing their fields – “The Happy Cows Summer Camp”!

2017 – all those present were very impressed with the antique slide projector the Bushes still operate!   Still works just fine.


Treasurers Report (attached):  Previous balance - May: $26,243.06 plus our 2 CDs (around $2,200 each) at Washington Federal.   


Current balance: $26,245.43 + the 2 CDs. 


A $10 incorporation fee was paid to the Secretary of State. 


A hard drive has been purchased to store records.


From her ongoing plant sale, Sally Stapp has donated more to our treasury and has plans to sell bunches of flowers at the Strawberry Social, June 18.  Funds from the Social will go toward the Guemes Ferry Trail.


Next meeting:  July 10, 7pm; Guemes Community Church; program topic will be highlights from 1917 Anacortes American newspapers, a “critical year” for the island. 


Win has been photographing and scanning the issues for permanent storage in our archives.   The City of Anacortes Museum owns all the bound copies of the Anacortes American.  Soon to be added to the Anacortes American will be “optimal character recognition”.


Guemes Historical Society owns 80 issues of the old “Tillicum” and “Beachcomber” newspapers from the early 1900s.


Carol Shoultz Deach has been working with the Anacortes Museum to get her family history - of the Shoultz/Gibbons/Dolph/Lopp/Stone families - added to the museum archives.


After the very entertaining presentation from the Bush family, we pondered how to get more people to our meetings.  We will explore some kind of signage at the ferry dock, a few days before the usual 2nd Monday-of-the-month meetings.   There was also a suggestion we make folks aware of “what they missed by missing the meeting”!


Sally recalled the wonderful presentation by former Guemes ferry hand, Robert Townsend (at our June meeting one year ago), about his family’s purchase in 1946 of 20 acres on North Beach for a “fishing camp”. Operated by the Townsend family for the next 41 years, it is now the Guemes Island Resort.  Sally suggests some kind of plaque to be prominently placed at the resort to note the history of the property.


Historical Display Update:  Janice has plans to research display options used at the elementary school where she works.


Newsletter update: Win has found that sending a 4-page newsletter to each mailbox on Guemes will be about $120 for postage/issue.






Coming Events:


Strawberry Social – June 18, 2-4pm; Society helping to raise funds for the Guemes Ferry Trail by hosting a Father’s Day picture display of Dads & their kids.  Tom proposed we also take photos during the Social of Dads/Kids.


DOG SHOW – August 19; Nancy will head up food committee; Tom has secured necessary permits; reserved venue, table & chairs; we need to start collecting silent auction items.


Guemes Island Shore History Dessert Cruise in Fall to raise funds toward a future museum space with room for our archives and historical treasures.


Tom has posted the summer’s programs on Linetime.org and myguemes.org:


            June – Bush Ranch

            July – 1917, Win Anderson

            Aug. – History of Holiday Hideaway – Carol Harma

            Sept. – Robin Mittelstaedt – “Down the Hatch”

            Oct. – Linda Porter



Possible programs for future:

“Mystic Sea” social sailing fundraiser (history of local shores)

North Beach walk

Children of Madge Welch

The LaVeque/Gould families

West  Beach settlements


Recent Guemes losses:  Eugene “Bud” Strom (1922-2017)


Sue Stapp O’Donnell, secretary                    



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