Just Imagine Addie's Story

        Buena Vista is a small graveyard at Port Gamble, situated on a knoll, with a fine view of the bay. A lichen-mottled marker there says “Addie May Wright” died in 1888 at age twenty. As I gazed at it, I wondered about her story. What did she do in those few years? What was her everyday life like in Port Gamble?

            In my research, I found Port Gamble was a major lumber mill town for almost 150 years. It was isolated. No doubt her father worked long hours at one of the two mills. Was there space for a girl to dream, to plan her future? Did she experience great joy as well as deep sadness?

           Milling lumber was a dirty, dangerous business. The mills whined twenty-four hours a day and sawdust hovered in a cloud over the town. The saws caused many injuries and a few deaths. Supplies came into town by steam ship. Roads were few to the outside world, scratched through the forests. Virgin fir and cedar clogged the landscape, so walking anywhere was arduous. Diphtheria, scarlet fever and malaria found their way into the community, as well. Conditions could be harsh, and rain drizzled much of the year.

           Pope and Talbot, the owners, did a lot to keep the men happy. They encouraged workers to bring their families. They started baseball teams, horn societies, book clubs and talent nights. They built a school and a church. The owners discouraged disorderly behavior by banning alcohol and gambling from town.  Taverns opened on the outskirts, though.

            All this pondering led me to build a character named Addie May Murray Reagan and imagine her world for my new historical mystery, Trouble at Port Gamble. The time is Winter 1889, Port Gamble, Washington Territory. More about my research later. Have you ever created a character in your mind and watched her grow and fill a story? It’s great fun.

© Beryl Carpenter 2013 - 2020