|Mary Crook Davis, 1946|
English Camp, San Juan Island, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
First, you come down a long private road, through woods and pasture, into the yard where the house is. You knock on the door, pay your 10 cents that Mrs. Davis reluctantly accepts, and then this strong, well-presered pioneer woman takes you into her front room to see pictures and a few relics she keeps there. You ask about Jim Crook, the brother you have heard so much about––how he makes his own clothes from the sheep's back to his own.
"Oh, you won't see Jim today, he's out with the wheat. He's busy––yes, he did spin some wool once, and weave himself a suit of clothes. The old loom is still here and the clothes, too, if you want to see them; he's had a lot of notions. His latest is a sawmill and an electric plant run by a windmill..." Mrs. Davis says.
Now, you go out into the grounds along a road made by the soldiers in the 60s. The trees are planted along the sides in even rows as the English always do things, native firs transplanted in two long rows.
Ivy grows thick up the trees and all around, Mrs. Davis says. It was brought from England by Mrs. Delacombe, the second officer's wife, who was very homesick here.
The winding switch-back trail down the hill from here soon arrives at the old blockhouse on the beach. This building is in better repair than it was when I saw it 15 years ago. Mr. Crook has shingled and mended and whitewashed it afresh. The old frayed shingles from the days of the occupation are neatly piled in heap for souvenir hunters.
There is a sturdy new stair-ladder up to the second story where the gun holes ring the low wall. If you peep through one of the holes you see Garrison Bay, Henry Island, Vancouver Island across Haro Strait and nearby green points hemmed in blue.
The blockhouse sits right down on the beach. High tide laps it. Low tide leaves it at the edge of a wide mud flat––the same mud that prevented out coming here by water today and that prevents our going on to Mitchell Bay and Yacht Haven. If anyone but the Crooks owned this place, the blockhouse might itself be part of this mud by now.
From the blockhouse, you cross the parade ground that is now an orchard. The old barracks building still stands over at the edge where orchard meets woods.
When you are ready to go, your guide comes with you part of the way back up the hill to the public road again, explaining as you walk together between the Queen Anne's lace, how to get to the little English cemetery where 10 boys are buried. You cross the road and go over a stile and up a hill, or you go through the cows' underpass below the road. Beyond, you follow an indefinite almost-road for a quarter of a mile up the hill to a grove of trees on a knoll of its own overlooking Canada's waters around Vancouver Island.
The 10 graves are enclosed with a green picket fence. You climb another stile over it to read the inscriptions. Some of them were apparently composed and ordered by the boys themselves, the spelling all their own.
"In memory of JOs Ellis and THOs Kiddy, Private R.M.LI. who whare accidently Drowned JANy 4th 1863. This Tabblet is Erected by their Comrads...In the midst of life, we are in death..."
Back at Roche Harbor, tired and dusty from six miles of walking that morning, we said goodbye to the pretty village and rowed away. The flood was running now. It would take us as far as Limestone Point on Orcas. We'd put up our oars, ride that tide, and have a cold lunch in the boat as we slid along.
See you tomorrow. June."
Day 73 of 100 Days in the San Juans, Burn, June. First published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 1946.
Book in the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society, SJC.
There is an English Camp Holiday Social on 6 Dec 2014. Contra dancing, honoring the volunteers, potluck, hot fires, free admission. For details