Journal of Peter Puget Describes Our Area in 1792

As any area student will tell you, the Puget Sound is named after Peter Puget, who sailed on the HMS Discovery, with Captain George Vancouver. Below is a portion of Puget’s journal, transcribed by local historian and author Steve Lundin. This portion of the journal describes his trip down Totten, Eld, and Budd Inlets. Incidentally, Vancouver anchored Discovery near present day Seattle and sent Puget in command of two rowing craft to survey south, in May and into June, 1792. So, you see, Puget wasn’t in our area with a ship like that depicted in the photo here. The portion of the journal here starts part way down page 197.

[Puget refers to “Friendly Indians” who followed his boats near Nisqually Flats.] They did not leave us to after we had passed the SSW Channel and still conducted themselves in the most inoffensive and peaceable Manner — by Noon we had reached the Continental Shore that now trended about West and pursued it for Ten Miles to an Island where we were glad to stop and erect our Tents to avoid a threatening Squall from the SE about two it came on with Thunder Lightning and a heavy Gust which continued without Intermission all the Afternoon The Rain fell in perfect torrents; we therefore were obliged to remain in our Quarters Till Next Morning Thursday May 24th.

We again set out Early and pursuing the Continent which now trended to the Northward of West by 8 we had determined the termination of this Branch about 12 Miles from Wednesday Island [probably Herron Island in Case Inlet], here we tryed the Seine and caught only one Salmon trout. from this termination we entered another Branch trending in a SW and Southerly and in various Directions [Pickering Passage, between Harstine Island and the Olympic Peninsula] but not more than 1/4 or 1/2 a Mile Broad we continued on till 6 in the Evening when we brought too for the Night and dinner, from this Situation we could see a Channel to the SE [either Peales Passage or Squaxin Passage] by which we hoped to return into the Main Branch through an Opening in the Opposite Shore where the last Canoes had left us.

Early Next Morning Friday May 25th we had a Survey on the Provisions which we found would last till Wednesday next. I therefore thought it best to determine this alternative Navigation and save the trouble of a Second Expedition to this Extent [page 198] We had likewise been successful in procuring a good Quantity of Clams which with Nettle tops Fat Hen and gooseberry Tops greatly assisted the customary allowance of Provisions and Yesterday during a hard Shower of Rain we were particularly fortunate in that Respect — — for the Boats could have loaded with the former, and the People were not averse to eating Crows of which we could always procure plenty. Therefore, as our continuance out could not be attended with any Inconvenience, but would be saving time, We pursued our Examination of the Southern narrow Inlet [Totten Inlet] the termination of which we sounded out by Noon — In this Branch were many beautiful Spots the Low Surrounding country though thickly covered with Wood had a very pleasant Appearance, now in the height of Spring. We had already passed during this Expedition several Small deserted Villages which were supposed to be only the temporary Habitations of Fishermen, we took advantage of the Remaining part of the Tide to come down as far as possible and about five Miles from the termination stopped to Dine

In the Evening we were fortunate in reaching the SE passage seen from last Nights Sleeping Place where we pitched out Tents in a very pleasant Situation; Early next morning Saturday May 26th with a continuance of favorable Weather we pursued another Small Branch [Eld Inlet] that nearly ran parallel to the one we had determined yesterday. About an Hour after we had set out, An Indian Village made it Appearance from whence some Canoes came off perfectly unarmed He pointed that we were near the Termination of this Arm, which Intelligence we found true; In our Way down we landed for a Short time and were received by the Inhabitants with all the Friendship and Hospitality we could have expected — These people I should suppose were about Sixty in Number of all Ages and Descriptions they lived under a Kind of Shed open at the Front and Sides. The Women appeared employed in the Domestic Duties such as curing Clams and fish, making Baskets of various Colours and as nearly woven that they are perfectly watertight. The Occupations of the Men I believe consists chiefly in Fishing, constructing Canoes and performing all the Labourious Work of the Village; Though it was perfectly Curiosity which had induced us to land, yet that was the sooner satisfied by the horrid Stench which came from all parts of these Habitations, with which they were delighted.

The Natives had but Two Sea Otter Skins which were purchased and a variety of Marmot, Rabbit Raccoon Deer and Bear skins were also procured The Men had a War Garment on, it consisted of a very thick Hide supposedly made from the Moose Deer, and well prepared — I have no doubt but it [page 199] is a Sufficient Shield against Arrows, though not against Fire Arms The Garment reaches from the Shoulders down to the Knees, this however was got in exchange for a Small piece of Copper, from which we may suppose they were not of much Value, they likewise disposed of some well constructed Bows and Arrows, in Short it was only to ask, and have your Wish gratified, the only Difference, I perceived between our present Companions and former Visitors, were the Extravagance with Which their Faces were Ornamented. Streaks of Red Ochre and Black Glimmer, were on some, others entirely with the Former, and a few that gave the Preference to the Latter — ever Person had a fashion of his own, and to us who were Strangers to Indians, this Sight conveyed a Stronger Force of the Savageness of the Native Inhabitants, then any other Circumstance we had hitherto met with; not but their Conduct, friendly and inoffensive, had already merited our warmest Approbation, but their Appearance was absolutely terrific. And it will frequently occur, that the Imagination receives a much greater Shock by such unusual Objects, than it would otherwise would, was that Object divested of its Exterior Ornaments or Dress, or the Sight was more familiarized to People in a State of Nature and Though we could not behold these Ornaments with the same satisfactory Eye as themselves, yet in receiving the looking Glasses, each appeared well Satisfied with his own Fashion, at least the Paint was not at all altered. — They likewise had the Hair covered with the Down of Birds; which certainly was a good substitute for Powder, and the Paint only differed in the Colours and not the Quantity used by our own Fair Country women — In those two Instances we meet with some Resemblance to our Customs and I believe the above mentioned Ornaments were of a Ceremonious Nature for our Reception at the Village — —

From Friendly Inlet we pulled up another [Budd Inlet] in the same Direction and landed not far from its termination to Breakfast whither the Indians from the last Arm had followed us. here they made Signs, that this Branch was the Same as their own, which after a Quarter of an hours Row we found to be the case.

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and recently retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years.

He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10.

Lundin also wrote a comprehensive reference book on local governments in Washington State entitled The Closest Governments to the People – A Complete Reference Guide to Local Government in Washington State. The book costs $85, plus shipping and handling. It is available on the web from the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, Washington State University, or from WSU Extension.

If you have old historic photos of the Griffin area, or family stories of the old days in the Griffin area, please contact Steve Lundin at Steve is most interested in photos of the old two-story Grange Hall in the Griffin area and the old Schneider’s Prairie schoolhouse that burned to the ground in 1926.

Posted in local history, Squaxin Island Tribe.