Black History of Kitsap County and the Multiethnic Puget Mill Company Town, 1860s to 1870s
Esther Mumford's Black Heritage Survey of Washington State (1985:13) identifies at least five instances of involuntary migration (enslavement) to western Washington of Black Americans, between 1860 and 1908. During a research session of the Pacific Northwest African Diaspora Archaeology Consortium, we started digging into the story of persons who "are reported to have been brought to Kitsap County directly from Africa." A review of Kitsap County US Federal Census schedules from 1860 and 1870 revealed that 5 Black Americans lived in Kitsap County in 1860 and 15 lived in Kitsap County in 1870. All of the adult men worked in the lumber industry, at a time when company towns were the focus of the local settler economy and the logging industry was booming.
1860 Port Gamble/Teckalet T. Gardner, 55, B, cook, Africa Port Orchard L. Millford, 31, B, cook, New Jersey JW. Woods, 33, B, cook, New Jersey John Garrison, 42, B, lumberman, Maine Port Madison John Glomes, 22, B, seaman, Scotland 1870 Port Blakely Frank Santer, 23, M, works in sawmill, Costa Rica Joseph Barrows, 17, M, barber, Cape de Verd Island Port Madison John Burgess, 36, M, lumberman, Ecuador Cadero Lomaro, 25, M, lumberman, Chile Romero Antonio, 21, M, lumberman, New Granada Daniel Asibide, 20, M, lumberman, Chile Peter Saladlas, 23, M, lumberman, Chile Peter Doell, 26, M, lumberman, Mexico Port Orchard John Garrison, 37, B, lumberman, Connecticut John Garrison, 14, B, Washington Territory Mary Garrison, 12, B, Washington Territory Robert Garrison, 8, B, Washington Territory Thomas Garrison, 6, B, Washington Territory Katie Garrison, 6, B, Washington Territory Joseph Garrison, 5, B, Washington Territory
The only Black resident who appears on both the 1860 and 1870 censuses in Kitsap County is John Garrison, although the discrepancy of his age and place of birth on these records may indicate there were three generations of John Garrisons living in Port Orchard. The 1870 Census does not list a wife of John Garrison, but Garrison's 6 children are listed. Other records indicate John was married to a woman named Jennie who was "Indian" and therefore may not have been recorded on the census. The 1880 Census lists the Garrison family within an Indian neighborhood. In 1896 John's son Joseph, who also worked as a logger, married a woman named Lizzie Gidson. Both Joseph and Lizzie are called Indian suggesting the Garrison family had strong ties to the Duwamish or Suquamish. A John Garrison purchased several large land tracts in Kitsap County between 1865 and 1880, located along the shorelines near Keyport/Brownsville, Tracyton, and Waterman. Perhaps the Garrison family was also self-employed in the lumber industry.
Were these men enslaved?
Although the exact sources of Mumford's information regarding enslaved persons in Kitsap County is unknown at this time, this exploration of the 1860 and 1870 Censuses revealed an interesting and underreported aspect of Kitsap County history, company town life, and early logging history. Although most settlers were immigrants to the area in the 1860s and 1870s, the diversity of birth places of the people living and working in these port towns is remarkable. Their origins include Africa, Cape de Verd Island (off the west coast of Africa), Ecuador, New Granada (northern South America), Chile, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Page 8 of the Port Gamble 1870 Census reveals a large labor crew who were born in the Sandwich Islands and China, possibly working at the Puget Mill Company which was established in 1852 at Port Gamble. Further research is needed to determine how and why these people came to Kitsap County, and whether records exist of enslaved persons living in Kitsap County.
Bureau of Land Management
2021 General Land Office Patents.
2017 Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.
1985 Black Heritage Survey of Washington State. Report on file at the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Olympia, WA.
United States Federal Census
1860 Port Madison, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1860 Port Orchard, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1860 Seabeck, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1860 Teckalet, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1870 Port Blakely, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1870 Port Gamble, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1870 Port Madison, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1870 Port Orchard, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1870 Seabeck, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
1880 Port Orchard, Kitsap County, Washington. U.S. Census, Population Schedule.
Washington State University
2021 WSU Libraries Digital Collections. https://content.libraries.wsu.edu/digital/collection/5984/id/38/