Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween on the Reserve

All around the Reserve, frightening & welcoming sights of the season can be seen.
Up and down mainstreen, this year's scarecrow entries stand sentinel along the sidewalks, frightening and amusing those who dare to pass by on a chilly evening. The Sherman Pioneer Farm has been doing a brisk business in pumpkins, with families regularly arriving to choose the best pumpkin to carve their ghoulish jack-o-lantern face. Children have spent the last few weeks dreaming up elaborate costumes, and parents have been working to make those costumes a reality or to find more appropriate/ economical alternatives to suit their children's taste.

Everything has been in preparation for tonight's Halloween festivities. Whatever your choices tonight, have fun, be respectful of other people's time and property (go easy on the tricks), and stay safe. Happy haunting!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oh my, PIE!

When I was a child 'pie' was a four letter word (OK, not really... it was still a three letter word) describing some mysterious dessert filled with some sort of fruit, or vegetable, or meat that adults seemed to love. Grandparents and friends would offer me a slice promising that I would love it if I'd just take a bite. Me? Take a bite? No way!!!

Later on in my school career I learned of a two letter pi (or one letter using a different alphabet). I wasn't any more fond of this pi, than I was of the other pie... though it did help me earn good grades in math. Pi or pie, I didn't want part of either.

Times have changed...

Some time after I finished college and got married I finally gave in to an offer of pie. I remember the occasion. It was an early Christmas dinner at an aunt's house and it was hot apple pie served with vanilla ice cream on top. Actually, when the offer was made, I think I turned the pie down. I don't know if my host was offended or didn't hear me, but a few minutes later there was a huge piece of pie on the plate right in front of me. I looked at the pie as it looked at me. I glanced left and right, looking for support, an extra hungry relative or the family dog to discreetly slide the plate over and let them enjoy. No luck. The dog must have been out and everybody at the table was working their way through their own equally large pieces of pie. I was on my own. I didn't want to make a scene so reluctantly I took the teeniest forkfull of apple pie, along with slightly more vanilla ice cream. I took a deep breath and then slowly put the bite in my mouth...and fell in love with Aunt Mary's apple pie!

For weeks after I HAD to have apple pie... every...single... day! I'd buy it at the store, take some home from restaurants or coax Aunt Mary to make some, and finally learned how to bake it myself. After a few months of apple pie, my husband was ready to stage an intervention. He has nothing against apple pie... his objection was to apple pie every day. He suggested branching out a bit... pumpkin pie, cherry pie, or blackberry pie for starters. At first I balked, what if the others weren't as good as apple pie? What if I hated them? However, I did finally agree to try other pies... pecan, blueberry, sweet potato, chocolate peanut butter, cranapple. Some I liked better than others, but all of them have been great.

Moving to Whidbey Island has been a treat for my pie palate. I got to try marionberry pie and loganberry pie for the first time. My current favorite is strawberry rhubarb (I still don't say no to apple pie). The island is full of wonderful places to buy ready locally made pies or the ingredients to do it yourself. No longer do I turn up my nose to pie, and I do acknowledge that my grandmother was on to something when she said I'd like it if I just gave pie a chance. (As usual, I should have listened to you the first time grammy!)

And on Saturday, November 6th, between 4 and 5pm if you've read the rest of this post I bet you'll know where to find me... The Ebey's Forever Conference Pie Social nodding my head in agreement with whatever my supervisor is saying since I'll have a bite of that heavenly prairie-made strawberry rhubarb... or apple... or berry... or some other delicious pie on my tongue. See you there!

Lauren Gansemer
NPS Ranger

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rebecca - A Pioneering Woman

Rebecca Davis Ebey must have been an amazing woman to strike out alone, without her husband, on the Overland Trail heading west from Plum Grove, Missouri, to the Washington Territory. In 1851 her journey begins with her two young sons (Ellison and Eason) ages 5 and 7 as part of a Wagon Train. She met up with her brother Thomas Davis and the Walter Crockett family from Missouri and they all continued west to the Oregon Trail and then to Whidbey Island, Washington, to meet up with her husband Isaac Ebey.

Rebecca and Isaac married when Rebecca was 21 and living in Missouri. After their marriage in 1843 they resided at Plum Grove Place Farm. Five years later, in 1848, Isaac reluctantly left Rebecca and the boys on the farm in Missouri and he headed for the Oregon Territory and then the California Gold Rush. After returning to the Oregon Territory Isaac took the opportunity to look for farming land for his family to live on. Later, Isaac staked his claim for 640 acres on Whidbey Island in Washington Territory. When he sent for Rebecca and the boys, in early 1851, the excited family loaded up what they could take with them and started their pioneering journey west, in April of 1851, arriving on Whidbey Island in October of the same year.

How difficult and heart-wrenching it must have been for such a young woman and her two small children to leave their familiar surroundings of Plum Grove and her childhood family behind, not knowing if she would ever see her parents again. Life on the trail could be rough and brutal and exhausting, but Rebecca pushed forward knowing she would soon see her husband Isaac again (after a three year absence) and bring joy back into their lives with her family together again. She and Isaac had only been married 8 years by the time she reached their new farm on Whidbey Island.

Shortly after her arrival on the Island Rebecca came down with Tuberculosis, which was common during this time period, and after the birth of her 3rd child Hettie she became very ill with her sickness and never recovered, dying 4 months after her daughter was born, in 1853. Rebecca and Isaac had only been married 10 years when she passed away and she left behind a devastated husband and 3 small children for him to raise and care for alone.

After the arrival of Isaac’s parents in October of 1854, Isaac’s father Jacob staked his claim of 320 acres right next to Isaac’s claim. Jacob and his wife Sarah named their new farm “Sunnyside” after the original family farm in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania. Sarah cared for her son’s disabled young daughter at their new log cabin home on the ridge above the Prairie, until she died a very young 7 year old.

Rebecca’s parents headed west from Missouri as well, to join their children in the new Washington Territory. As Rebecca feared, her mother died on their journey west and buried along the Overland Trail; she never saw her mother again.

Rebecca’s short life was packed with responsibility, adventure, the unknown, loneliness, hard work, and the love for her family. A woman of personal strength and determination set the platform for other American women to look up to and follow. Rebecca died in 1853 and is buried next to her husband Isaac in the Sunnyside Cemetery next to the Jacob Ebey homestead, which still stands today almost 160 years later.

More details of the life of Rebecca Ebey will be revealed by professional storyteller Jill Johnson at the Ebey’s Forever Conference November 6th. Sign up today!

Thanks to Sally Straathof for this post.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Historians at Work!

Local Historians, Roger Sherman and Judy Lynn comb through historic negatives in the Reserve Library (or kitchen!) for a special project. See Roger & Judy - and talk with them about the history of this place - November 5 & 6th at the Ebey's Forever Conference.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Geo-Caching with Reserve Rangers in November!

The Ebey's Reserve rangers have been busy preparing for this year's Ebey's Forever Conference. Rangers Sally & Lauren have plenty of fun activities planned for this years conference, including Old-Fashioned Geo-caching. What's that you say?

Geo-caching is a fun family activity using GPS to find hidden 'treasure' or cache. Geocachers have hidden their treasure boxes around the world in public places. After placing a cache, they usually post the cache and GPS coordinates on Currently there are more than 1.2 million active caches listed on, some of them placed in easily accessed places... other in very difficult places requiring special equipment like scuba or mountaineering gear to get to them.

Anybody with a GPS, time and the desire to geocache can go on a hunt. The first step is to decide where you want to look for a cache. At you can search by zip code for your potential cache hunt. A quick search of zip code 98239 yielded 1692caches located within twenty five miles of Coupeville. Within the list are details including the difficulty of finding the cache on a scale of 1-5, special items called travel bugs (more on them later) that might be in the cache, the date the cache was placed, and the last time the cache was found. Select the cache that interests you from the list to see more details. (You'll have to register with the site to get the main GPS coordinates, but you should be able to read any background information written by the person that placed the cache. Some geocachers add interesting historical or regional information to their cache posts, such as the Mosquito Fleet #5 Rosalie cache which gives a history the steamer Rosalie and her service as a ferry around the Puget Sound and farther.

After you get the coordinates, you head out to the location given in the geocache listing and start your search. Be sure to bring a pen or pencil and a small, family friendly trinket to place in the cache when you get there. Once you find your cache, you'll want to sign the geocache log inside if there is one. You'll also want to select one of the items in the cache to swap with the trinket you brought with you. As a geocacher its important to follow the take one leave one rule in order to keep the fun going for other geocachers. When placing geocache items, its a good idea to avoid leaving food too, so animals aren't attracted to the cache.

After you head home, the next part of geocaching fun is to check back in with and log your discovery on the website. You'll be able to leave notes about your adventure. If you've found a travel bug, you'll be able to announce your find too. Travel bugs are special, registered trinkets that taken from geocache to geocache by players. Once you find a travel bug, to keep the game going you'll need to hide it in a different cache and log your move on the website for other people to look for.

There's your quick background on geocaching, now back to what the rangers have planned with their 'Old-Fashioned Geo-Caching'. We've been busy mapping out a game of our own for registered participants of Ebey's Forever Conference. We'll be starting out with an introduction to map, compass & GPS before sending groups off on their own adventures. Each group will start with a set of directions (similar to the Amazing Race show on TV though we'll keep it local and avoid dangerous and/or embarrassing stunts) leading them to an envelope containing more directions. They'll have several stops where the group will sign a log and get the next set of directions before ending up at the final cache.

We're looking forward to playing our game, having fun, and learning at the same time. What a great way to spend a fall Saturday morning with your family. Children are welcome to come too, you must bring a parent if you are under 10 years old. Register for Ebey's Forever Conference at
Here's a list of family friendly options at this year's conference:
Old-Fashioned Geo-Caching
Junior Rangers to the Rescue
Adventures with Giant Trees

Don't forget about the Friday night potluck dinner at the Crockett Barn. Bring your family and a dish to share!

Special Thanks to Whidbey Island Bank; main sponsor of the Ebey's Forever Conference 2010

Janice Vaughan, Whidbey Island Bank presents Mark Preiss, Manager, Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve with the check for the main sponsorship of the Ebey's Forever Conference.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The military on Central Whidbey Island

View of Camp Casey barracks.
The military has been a part of Whidbey Island history for more than a century. Shortly after the first Donation Land Claim (1850) settlers arrived, they began sending letters to Olympia requesting a military presence on the Island to ease their concerns about the possibility of attack by native Americans. Local natives warned settlers of fierce northern tribes that sometimes came down to raid their villages. Pioneers also wanted to defend their claims from British and Spanish expansion into the region. With the US/Canada border not yet specified along the inland waterways of Washington and British Columbia, US pioneers wanted to make sure their newly claimed lands would be incorporated into the United States rather than subject to British rule or even Spanish influence. While the pioneers awaited the answer to their requests, they built blockhouses to protect themselves in an emergency.

The territorial government decided to focus their protection efforts around Port Townsend, Olympia, the San Juan Islands and near present day Bellingham, leaving Whidbey Island without soldiers assigned for protection. With the exception of Col. Isaac Ebey's murder in 1857, the islanders found that life with local native American neighbors was rather peaceful. In 1859 Pig War defined the final disputed boundary between the U.S. and Canada.
Eagle on the Camp Casey parade field.

The growing population and the importance of the Puget Sound region for world-wide commerce brought Whidbey Island to the attention of the national government in the latter nineteenth century. The U.S. Government had been closely watching events in Spanish Colonies for a while. In the late 1800s the possibility of war with Spain finally convinced the government that protecting Puget Sound was a priority. The government sent the U.S. Army to the West Coast to find land suitable for coastal forts to protect major ports. Situated at the gateway to Puget Sound, home of the Bremerton Naval Shipyards and the ports of Tacoma & Seattle, Admiralty Head on Whidbey Island was an ideal place to construct a coastal fortification. The campaign to build a fort at Admiralty Head went on for more than 25 years. The fort construction was finally approved to begin in 1897 after purchasing donation land claim holdings from Dr. Kellogg. The new architecture of military fortifications on the West Coast featured the Endicott style, named after the Secretary of War at that time. Endicott style forts featured a basically symmetrical arrangement of guns starting with three inch guns on the end. Gun size grew progressively larger until the middle of the line of guns, then grew smaller again ending in three inch guns on the other end. The entire line of guns was hidden behind a cement parapet and was built in a way so it couldn't be seen from the water.

In conjunction with two other coastal forts across Admiralty Inlet, Fort Casey was one side of the formidable Triangle of Fire protecting Puget Sound from foreign navies. Construction began on Fort Casey shortly after the 1897 final approval. Fort Casey was still being built when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. The 10-week long war was fought in the Pacific and Caribbean, though not near the Washington coast.

Fort Casey created a new population cluster in Central Whidbey Island. The new base often hosted community events such as dances attended by Coupeville residents. The base played an active role in World War I, however the invention of airplanes and their role in modern warfare reduced Fort Casey’s usefulness as a source of protection for Puget Sound. The base was placed in caretaker status in 1926 until World War II.

The threat of aerial warfare in World War II forced the U.S. government to broaden their coastal defenses. No longer were large coastal artillery forts situated at the entrance to harbors effective protection. Better protection was offered by keeping hostile fleets and aircraft far from port entrances, preferably far out at sea. Fort Casey was reactivated during World War II, mostly as a training base. Anti-aircraft guns were places at Battery Kingsbury among other defenses. In 1942, to augment the Army defense of Puget Sound, the modern Fort Ebey was constructed along with the Oak Harbor’s Naval Seaplane Base to the north. Working together, these and other Washington bases successful deterred hostile forces from directly impacting Puget Sound.
After World War II Fort Casey and Fort Ebey were both placed in caretaker status and eventually sold. Washington State Parks and Seattle Pacific University purchased Fort Casey in 1956 and still own the properties today. Whidbey Island’s coastal forts no longer have protection as their main mission, now the mission is recreation.

Basketball game at Camp Casey.

Fort Casey State Park is home to the Admiralty Lighthouse, a beautiful waterfront campground, several hiking trails and the majority of the Fort Casey batteries. Camp Casey operates a conference center composed of most of the original Fort Casey barracks, mess halls, officers quarters and several other original buildings. This year, Camp Casey is hosting the Ebey’s Forever Conference, November 5 & 6. Come and explore Whidbey Island’s military history at Camp Casey and Fort Casey during this year’s conference. Register at

All photos provided by Seattle Pacific University's Camp Casey.

Special thanks to Sally Straathof for her expertise in Fort Casey history.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Snapshot of Autumn

...although the word on the street is we never really experienced summer. Regardless of what happened in the past few months, there is no doubt that fall has arrived. The slanted light across the prairie, clouds caught in treetops, brisk mornings, and constant desire for a cup of tea leave some (myself included) invigorated, and ready to cuddle up 'till spring. Included here are only a few of the many good moments of Fall.

It's time to enjoy a local favorite - the Hubbard Squash! Thanks to Dale Sherman and Sherman's Pioneer Farms, Hubbard Squash can be seen aplenty in the fields of Ebey's Prairie.. Simply bake these green giants open faced with butter and brown sugar for a delicious and nutritious dinner. Or get creative with pie, quick bread, stews and more! Sample Hubbard Squash prepared by Dale's wife, Liz - attend the Taste of Ebey's Workshop at the Ebey's Forever Conference November 6th.

The ferry house watches another season pass by.