History: Part 2

The Late 1800’s

By the late 1800’s, Port Blakely boasted the world’s largest sawmill. Mill workers came from many nations. Japanese and Hawaiian communities and an Indian village were located near the harbor. Many Filipinos emigrated to Bainbridge Island during the 1920’s; others came as shipyard workers during World War II.

logging1The Hall Brothers Shipyard, which moved in 1902 from Port Blakely to Eagle Harbor, was world famous for four and five-masted “West Coast Schooners” ideal for carrying lumber. The town of Madrone was renamed Winslow in honor of Winslow Hall, and incorporated as a city in 1947. In 1898, the federal government built Fort Ward to protect the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Manchester oil depot. Fort Ward became a state park in 1960.

In March, 1942, fifteen Army trucks evacuated the 220 Japanese-Americans living on Bainbridge Island. The first group in the country to be interned during World War II, they were sent to Manzanar on the edge of the Mojave Desert in California, and then to Minidoka in Idaho. Many islanders were appalled at this treatment of their friends and neighbors. They supported the Japanese-Americans and welcomed them home at the end of the war. Since then, Japanese-Americans continue to be an integral part of the island business, civic and cultural community.

With few roads, most early island travel was by water. Steamers of the “Mosquito Fleet” carried passengers and freight between island landings and Seattle and Kitsap destinations; completion of State Highway 305 and the Agate Passage bridge in 1950 gave Bainbridge Island its first land link with the rest of Kitsap County. The advent of the Washington State Ferry System, providing service to Seattle, began the transition of the island from its early isolation to a Seattle-oriented community.

As island population grew, and the transition from summer cabins and ruggedly individualistic year-round residents to the Seattle-oriented rural community continued, dissatisfaction with the County government simmered. Some islanders felt they were paying anundue portion of the County’s taxes and receiving indifferent service from the county. Others were concerned that major decisions affecting the island were made with little input from islanders.