Home Prairie, San Juan Island, Washington, ca 1890
This is another postcard made from a photograph in the collection of the San Juan Historical Society and published by Arcadia Publishing Company. It shows what was then called the “Home Prairie” of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Today it is part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park, also known as American and English Camps.
The picture was taken around 1890 and shows a horse drawn binder, at the upper right, cutting and bundling the stalks while two men, at the left of the horses, gather the cut grain into shocks before threshing. This vast grain field was under the direction of Israel Katz a storekeeper in the town of San Juan. Far in the mid background on Mt. Finlayson’s lower slope, just barely visible on the card, is the George and Eliza Jakle homestead.
Last September we visited the English Camp where the British Royal Marines had established a garrison in 1859. There is also an American Camp where the United States soldiers were stationed. These garrisons were built here during a border dispute that resulted in a 12-year occupation by both countries. Other than the killing of a pig that crossed the boundary lines no shots were fired. The dispute was finally resolved by a peaceful negotiation led by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany and the signing of the Treaty of Washington. In 1872 the British abandoned their camp and in 1874 the American camp was disbanded. Before it housed the military this open area had been home to native peoples for as long as 1,000 years. In 1961 it became a National Historic Landmark and in 1966 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are markers and informational posters here and there on the grounds.
A few buildings have been restored and there are a couple of old trees that date from the camp era. It is possible to climb up the hill about 200 feet to where the commander’s home used to be but now there are only a few ruins remaining. At the site of the home there is an informational placard telling of the history of the home and a little about the occupants. From the top of the hillside there are great views out toward the water.
Here are a few photos showing what the grounds look like today.
This fenced tree dates from the time of the English Camp.
It is not uncommon to see eagles, like this one, soaring in the skies in the islands
Two views of the blockhouse
This was originally a kitchen garden that supplied vegetables for the camp.
Today it is filled with flowers.
The photo above shows the view looking down from part way up the hillside onto the kitchen garden and the encampment grounds. The officer’s quarters were located about half way up the hill and the commander’s home was at the top of the hill.
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