The Best History Books about the Olympic Peninsula, WA

Olympic Peninsula Suggested Books, Volume 3

Written by guest-blogger and local bibliophile, Mary Brelsford. Cover Photo Courtesy of Port Book and News.

The Olympic Peninsula’s authentic past

Well, were you inspired to do some baking after our last blog? This time, we’re offering some reading on local history, adventure and Native American art. One of the unique experiences on the Olympic Peninsula is to check out the numerous hand-carved totem poles standing throughout the area. And, if you want to know more about a couple major historic expeditions across the Olympic Mountains, we’ve got you covered. Plus, meet the man who is our equivalent to Paul Bunyan.  Read on…

Let’s explore books about HISTORY.

Totem Poles of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe book cover

Totem Poles of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe by Joan Worley, Dale Faulstich / David Woodcock. History, Native American, Art. First published in 2008.

This full-color book discusses the creation and the stories behind the cedar totem poles of Tribal Artist Dale Faulstich, found around the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s campus and businesses. Stop at Blyn, Washington, along the shores of Sequim Bay to see the totems, each depicting a story of the Tribe’s history on the Olympic Peninsula. The book covers the harvesting and preparation of trees, design work, carving and decorating process, and installation of the totems. Learn the enchanting stories behind the animals and characters portrayed on the poles. Some of the stories are contemporary and others are historic teaching tales of the S’Klallam oral tradition. A beautiful book for carvers, historians, lovers of Native American art; and a book of folktales suitable for reading to children, who will love finding the brightly painted animals in each accompanying photograph.

Not only will you find totem poles in Blyn, but Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, Port Angeles, Sequim, South Hood Canal and Neah Bay all have significant ones to find while you are here.

Looking for adventure?

We’ve got the original Press Expedition to get your adrenaline up. While following in the footsteps of the Press Expedition might be more than you want to tackle, a couple jolly-good reads might be right up your alley.

Across the Olympic Mountains book cover

Men, Mules and Mountains book cover

Across the Olympic Mountains: The Press Expedition, 1889-90 by Robert L. Wood. History. First Published in 1988.

In 1889 six men set off to cross the Olympic Mountains, a range shrouded in mystery. The Seattle Press, the state’s primary newspaper, sponsored the Press Expedition. They were confronted with many challenges, as you can well imagine, including one of the worse winters recorded in the area.

Men, Mules and Mountains: Lieutenant O’Neil’s Olympic Expeditions by Robert L. Wood. History. First Published in 1977.

During a second expedition in 1890 sponsored by the US Army and the Oregon Alpine Club, Private Harry Fisher kept a hand-written account. His personal account of this wilderness trek takes you along! Readers who appreciate optimistic perseverance – or just a whopping good story will feel right at home with Private Fisher.

The Iron Man of the Hoh book cover

The Iron Man of the Hoh, The Man, Not the Myth by Elizabeth Huelsdonk Fletcher. History, Biography. First Published 1979.

Carving a life out of the wilderness on the Olympic Peninsula in the late 1800s and early 1900s was no easy task for early pioneer John Huelsdonk, known as the Iron Man of the Hoh (River). No wonder there are so many myths and legends about this man. He was a farmer, trapper and hunter who homesteaded nearly a half-century before Congress created Olympic National Park. He was a man of legendary strength and hunting prowess – the first real Iron Man.

Is it true he carried an iron woodstove miles up the trail on his back? Story goes, he was asked, “Isn’t that heavy?” His response, “It wouldn’t be so bad if the 50- pound bag of flour inside didn’t shift around.” True? Different facts? Just a myth? An amazing man who helped tame the west.

Explore more history

To learn more about the Olympic Peninsula’s early settlers, and particularly its logging history, visit the Forks Timber Museum on your next trip to the peninsula. Also, check out our blog Explore 10 Rural Museums on the Olympic Peninsula for more inspiration.

Port Book and News LogoThanks again to Port Book and News in Port Angeles for reading suggestions. Port Book and News offers curbside pickup from 11am to 4pm; free home delivery for orders over $10 to locations between Black Diamond RD and Deer Park RD after 4pm; free ground shipping for orders over $30.

More Independent Bookstores on the Olympic Peninsula

Odyssey Bookshop, Port Angeles
William James Bookseller, Port Townsend
The Writers’ Workshoppe & Imprint Books, Port Townsend
Twice Loved Books, Sequim

Read all the book list blogs:

Volume 1, Boats

Volume 2, Food

Volume 3, History

Volume 4, Sea Life

Volume 5, Romance and Adventure

Volume 6, Our Favorites

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