Monday, June 20, 2011

When the Ship Hit the Span

In the 1970s, Seattle did two things quite well.  Citizen opposition to freeways and official corruption.  Voter approved freeways were being abandoned everywhere and the only city project remaining on the table, the West Seattle Freeway, was in the sights of another group of citizens out gathering signatures. 

While they gathered, the City Engineer, the head of the Highway Committee of the House and a National Democratic Comitteeman were taking bribes and handing the design of the proposed bridge to a Maryland engineering company, who had excellent legal help, the Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives.   

Complicating everything was the fact that, for funding purposes, the West Seattle Project was a city street, at the bottom of the financial food chain for roads and bridges.  It did not qualify for federal funds and its qualification for state funds was marginal.  Unlike our state funding for the today's bored tunnel, the city was on the hook for everything.

The Forward Thrust Committee knew in 1968 exactly what it had to do to get votes in West Seattle -- add a little seed money for a new, high level bridge, something that would vault vehicles over the increasingly frequent and increasingly longer openings of the bridge that provides for marine commerce up river. 

Forward Thrust, Seattle's great infrastructure package that cleaned up Lake Washington and provided several transportation options, included $16.7 million for the bridge and the city added another $17.5 million in Urban Arterial Funds, state gas tax monies shared under a formula for the busiest city streets.  Another $2.7 came from an account most frequently used for repair and maintenance. 

A typical process-heavy Seattle selection process delivered three companies ready to design a bridge for a fee of $1.5 million.  City engineer Bob Gulino chose none of them.  Rather, he cast his lot with the company represented by Speaker Sawyer, Knoerle Bender and Stone from Baltimore.  Not surprisingly, when the design went to bid, in June of 1974, the proposals came back double what Seattle had in its pocket.  And, by the way, the design cost turned out to be $4.5 million.

The opponents had been successful getting their initiative on the ballot and the bridge would be there with a big black eye and a complicated, multi-phase approach that only seasoned planners could understand.  But the proponents of the bridge developed a coalition of good government, economic development, port and affected neighborhoods -- very much like the coalition for the tunnel today, and passed the measure with 68% yes votes. 

Seattle Times

While a big victory, it really had no meaning.  The complications of the project, the scandal, gave it a big stink that no one wanted to be around.  In '75, the state withdrew its urban arterial funds that had been waiting beyond the patience of state legislators and a Municipal League study articulated the dreadful details of the smell. 

Shut out by the state and not enough money at home, and despite its support at the polls, the bridge was barely breathing.  Norbert Tiemann, the federal highway administrator, seemed to put the final nail in the high level coffin.  "I would doubt they would have any success, at least with the Federal Highway Administration," he told the Seattle Times. 

Federal indictments would follow in 1976 and convictions in 1977.  The chair of the Washington State House Highway Committee, Bob Perry, would become a fugitive in Mexico and Costa Rica. 

But part of Mr.  Tiemann's interview that day, nearly overlooked, offered an interesting alternative. 

"Short of a tug knocking it down, (which could trigger federal special bridge replacement funds)" Tiemann said, "there is nothing else.  And you certainly wouldn't want to go that route."

That's exactly the route we took, Mr.  Administrator. Though, to be accurate, we knocked it up!

At 2:38 on June 11, 1978, the Chavez, piloted by 80 year old Rolf Neslund, struck the bridge.  The north span was stuck open and Wes Uhlman got a very excited telephone call from the bridge tender.  "Call the godamned Mayor, said former Mayor Uhlman."

Finally finding a home number for the brand new Mayor Royer, the bridge tender went through his by now well-rehearsed report.

"Seize the vessel" is all the Mayor could think to say.

The Office of Special Bridge Replacement was three or four rooms in Washington, DC with a guy whose desk was full of Polaroids. 

"Look at these," he says, taking out a stack from Virginia where a destroyer collided with a bridge on the way out of port. 

"Or these," he says, showing off the catastrophe in New Orleans, both of which happened in the same month as our collision in Seattle.

He takes the set I give him and tosses them on his desk.

"Gee, that's a hell of a mess." 

Special Bridge Replacement has exactly $100,000,000 in it and it wouldn't fix five percent of his desk drawer gallery.  There are moments when you realize just how big this country is.  This was mine.

Norm Dicks and Senator Magnuson
However,we had some resources in 1978.  Senator Magnuson was Chairman of Appropriations and thought to be in his last term.  Former Representative Brock Adams was Secretary of Transportation, who lusted after Magnuson's seat in the Senate.

Magnuson was famous for his little amendments and one was quickly put together, for sixty million dollars.  Ultimately, the federal pot would grow to $110 million.  Problem was that the transportation budget had long ago left the Senate and was now being heard on the House side.  To insert an amendment required help from the Committee on Public Works and Transportation Chair, James J.  Howard, Democrat from New Jersey. 

He heard out the briefing, presented by a delegation that included a few locals along with Magnuson's personal and committee staff.  It soon became apparent something had gone terribly wrong between the Congressman and Secretary Adams.

"Will this, in any way, help Brock Adams?" he asked, as casually as if offering fizzy water or flat.

At that moment, most people in the room and across Washington State thought that Adams was going to run for Maggie's Senate seat after Magnuson's graceful retirement. Norm Dicks, the Senator's legislative assistant, apparently was the only one breathing:

"No," he said.  And nothing more.

The money came with plenty of advice from political people who had come to equate the high level bridge with failure and unacceptable cost.  "Don't go chasing after that high level bridge," Adams said after one meeting, and all the heads nodded. 

The result was an environmental impact statement featuring several different mid-level alignments that would be wider and high enough so the bridge would open less frequently. 

When these options went to the City Council, Councilmember Jeanette Williams went to work.  She had no use for the wisdom of the elders in DC.  She wanted the big bridge.  Over time, and with a fair amount of risk, she began fashioning deals that brought in the additional money it would take -- ten million from the Port of Seattle, ten from King County, matched by another ten from the City of Seattle. 

City of Seattle
The risk was inflation, then roaring through every capital project in the country.  There was a real cost to delay.  For example, when the Chavez struck the bridge, June of 1978, the Prime Rate, which most construction loans followed, was 8%.  A year later, when Jeanette was trying to buy time for the high bridge, it was 12.5%.  In 1981, when construction began, it was 21%.  Today's Prime Rate is 3.25%.

A few things stand out about that time.  Clearly, events moved faster.  Just ten months after the bridge tender's early morning calls, the City Council approved a high level alignment that was funded by a seat-of-the-pants coalition of federal, state and local governments -- about $190 million in all.  All the additional properties were in city hands by mid-1980 and construction began in mid-1981, well-after the felons who broke the public trust had served their time and left prison.

The new bridge focused development in West Seattle in good ways and bad.  Traffic volumes have increased substantially to accommodate the multi-family development that followed the better transportation solution.  Additionally, new growth occured in Delridge and other previously overlooked communities whose housing prices proved attractive.  However, all this density supports amenities that now make West Seattle as cool a neighborhood as the city has.  

City of Seattle
An orphan in the bridge story is the new low level bridge that crosses the Duwamish just north of the high bridge.  It was part of the package associated with the higher bridge and was put there for freight mobility.  The extensive truck/rail/ship interface that Terminal 5 has become is a testament for how to accommodate intensive port activities in the urban setting.

No West Seattle Bridge story exists without the grisly postscript of Rolf Neslund's demise.  Neslund was probably too old to be piloting large ships but worse, he was a drunk.  So was his wife, Ruth. 

Forced out of the Puget Sound Pilots Association he transfered his pension benefits from his accounts to Ruth's accounts because he feared a lawsuit for damage caused to the bridge.  Later, he found out that she had spent all his pension money and they had one of their frequent drunken arguments.  She shot him, twice.  Then, she and her brother chopped him up, burned his body in a burn barrel and put the ashes in a compost pile behind their Lopez Island home.

HistoryLink's fabulous account of Ruth Neslund's Trial

The Obituary of Robert Perry

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Hampson Goes To War

Thomas Jefferson Hampson
 Today we return to the unpublished Civil War memoir of my great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Hampson.  In the past two episodes we followed how the news of Fort Sumter exploded through Farmers College, just outside of Cincinnati, and how he and his friend enlisted in the Union Army.  We then followed them to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania where they were outfitted and trained. 

This episode begins the 10th of June, 1861, when Hampson learns that he and his mates in the 4th Cavalry are being sent to Kansas.  He is detoured to Missouri where he will participate in several skirmishes during the summer on the way to the Battle of Wilson's Creek, the first major battle in the West and the place where General Nathaniel Lyon becomes the first hero of the war and the first general officer from the Union to fall in battle. 

Lyon had become an abolitionist after serving at Fort Riley, Kansas, the territory where the Civil War was going on long before Fort Sumter.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act, one of those 'what were they thinking' compromises that litter the pre-war landscape, created the idea of 'Popular Sovereignty', in which the residents of the states would define for themselves whether the state would be free or slave.  In the mid-1850s Lyon observed the resulting slaughter in what became known as "bleeding Kansas."

At his March 4 innaugural, Lincoln said:

National Park Service
"In doing this, there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority.  The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere."

Lincoln's remarks did not match Lyon's personality.  In May, six weeks after Lincoln's remarks, Lyon's forces took Camp Jackson in St.  Louis, which warehoused gunpowder, ammunition and money.  When a mob formed, Lyons ordered his men to use deadly force against them, and they did. 

In June, he met with the pro-slavery governor, Claiborne Jackson, and the general commanding the state militia, Sterling Price, and responded firmly, to say the least, to their demand to keep troops out of the state and not recruit in Missouri.

"Rather," said he (he was still seated, and spoke deliberately, slowly, and with a peculiar emphasis), "rather than concede to the State of Missouri the right to demand that my Government shall not enlist troops within her limits, or bring troops into the State whenever it pleases, or move its troops at its own will into or out of or through the State; rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my Government in any matter, however unimportant, I would (rising as he said this and pointing in turn to everyone in the room) see you, and you, and you, and you, and every man, woman and child in the State, dead and buried."

Gettysburg Museum
During the early summer, General Lyon and the nation's first German general, Franz Sigel, chased the rebels through Boonville and Carthage out of the capital to the south and west where they regrouped and declared, with no effect, that Missouri had seceded and become the 13th Confederate state. 
German immigration had changed the face of Missouri from slave state to free.  Many of these people, like Sigel, were fleeing the failure of revolutions at home during the great revolutionary year of 1848.  Many others came to Missouri because of a book written by Gottfried Duden in 1829.  "Report on a Journey to the Western States of America" was a huge seller in Germany and brought waves of immigrants to Missouri.  They were overwhelmingly anti-slave and joined the Union Army in great numbers as the war started.
Hampson's story has them first entering St.  Joseph, Missouri where the brand new troops encounter a bunch of toughs at the train station.  They move through several battles -- he was clearly at Boonville and Carthage -- and finally, as they get ready to attack the rebels at Wilson's Creek, he recounts an act of espionage where he enters the rebel camp and, with a piece of cane as a crude record, creates an inventoy of the enemy's strength.
An uneven speller, he does pretty well in this section, only missing on Sigel, spelled his way, Siegle.

The Death of General Lyon
National Park Service
Some pages are missing, and you wonder if they represented the really good parts, perhaps a first person account of the death of General Lyon.  In the manuscript, there is no specification of the wounds my great grandfather received.  All we know is that several of his ribs were sticking out. 

His story details catching the rebels completely by surprise, a crucial blunder by Sigel that leads to Lyon's death at 9:30 AM on August 12.  Hampson wakes up the following morning in the courthouse at Springfield when the burial detail comes for him and the other 1200 Union men who died the day before at Wilson's Creek.
Memoir of Thomas Jefferson Hampson, Part Three
The War in Missouri, June 10-August 13, 1861

On the tenth of June an order came Companies A, B, and C to proceed at once to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to fill out the vacancies in five companies of the Fourth Regular Cavalry.
Once we were on the road, and got along all right until we reached St. Joe, Missouri, where a mob of rascals concluded to dispute our passage.  The men were ordered out on the platform and the order came to load and fire at will, which soon caused the mob to take to their heels.   We then proceeded to our destination. 
We lay at that place for several days awaiting our Regiment to come up, which they failed to do.  About that time, General Lyons had organized his command at St.  Louis and was planning a raid through the state of Missouri.  We recruits were like a lot of stray sheep; our regiment not coming up we were organized into Company A and B’s Rifles, and when Lyons command came along, we joined.  We started on our miserable march through Missouri.  That march we had several minor skirmishes, losing quite a number of men. 
Someone had to do some reconnoitering for information, and although it gave one the feeling of going out to get a rope around our necks, it was done.
When we arrived at their lines, we told the guard we were looking for stray horses and asked him if he had seen anything of such animals, giving him a description of the imaginary stock.  This particular time, the fellow happened to be a good natured sort of a fellow with a very limited knowledge of military rules and he answered all of our questions.  After a few minutes of conversation, we asked permission to go into camp and see the soldiers.  He said he guessed it would be all right and let us pass. 
We strolled about the camp acting the part of a couple of green gawks, asking foolish questions, staring with open-eyed wonder at everything we saw.
Having a nice piece of cane in our pockets, and by pressing our finger nails into the cane, it would make dents; one piece was for Infantry companys, one for Cavalry, one for the Artillers, and the other number of wagon trains.  The canes were to be our memorandum book for every battery.  We would make a dent on the Battery side and some for infantry.  Of course, we did not dare keep any information we might gain on paper for in case we were suspected and searched, evidence of that nature found on our person might lead to unpleasant results, such as dancing on thin ------
To avoid a surprise by Lyons army was neglected, and for that reason, we were able to surprise the Rebels and were in their camp before the general alarm was given.  The first intimation they had of our presence was our advancing skirmishers opening fire on them.
All was confusion in the enemy’s camp.  They were just getting breakfast when the sharp crack of the spring rifles drove all thought of eating out of their minds.
General Siegle in attempting to make a movement on our right flank to turn the enemies left, run into an ambush and lost five of his guns, and a number of prisoners.  It was an inexcusable blunder, and a great loss to us, as his guns were twelve pounders and had done excellent work before they were captured.  The worst feature was that the Rebels soon had their own guns playing on us.
General Lyons was cold with rage when he was informed of Siegle’s loss.  Siegle was to blame for he disobeyed orders as he had been ordered to keep his battery in the center; instead of doing so, he made a wide circle leaving a gap between his command and our right flank, which the Rebels were not slow to take advantage of.
(The next several pages of the manuscript missing.)
It was disheartening news as we considered that his presence on the field would ultimately give us victory notwithstanding their superiority in numbers.  General Sturges now became Commander in Chief as he ranked next to General Lyons.
About 1:30 p.m. as of by mutual consent, both armies stopped fencing and both Rebel and Yanks were busily engaged in pickimg up their wounded and burying their dead.
Our wounded were taken to Springfield, and their army fell back to Rolla.  It has always been a question as to who were the victors of that terrible struggle. 
Price could not claim a victory as we had crippled his arms to such and extent that he was unable to follow up our army and inflict further punishment.
We had given him such a hard fight that he was glad to see us retreat, and as far as our side was concerned, they had fighting enough that day to last a long time.  
All the wounded at Springfield fell into the hands of the Confederates and became prisoners of war.
As for myself, I knew but little of what was going on after I was placed in the ambulance and taken to Springfield.  When I came to my senses, I was in a large room, surrounded by stacks of dead comrades who had died in the ambulance on their way to Springfield.  When I was taken out of the ambulance, I was, to all appearances dead, and accordingly was placed in the same room with the dead.  But, when the burial party came in to remove the dead bodies, I had my eyes open.  I heard one of the burial parties exclaim, “hello!  This one goes to the hospital.”
The hospital was in a court house, a sort of impromptu affair, destitute of beds or cots or other necessaries.  Our wounded were laying around the floor destitute of any covering and the treatment we received at the hands of those confederates was cruel in the extreme.  All medical stores intended for our wounded had been taken by the confederates for their use, and many a poor wounded soldier’s life could have been saved with humane treatment and proper care, but the Johnnie Rebels were not troubling themselves about our comfort.

Next installment, September.  Prisoner of War. 

The death and burial of General Nathaniel Lyon

The Kansas Nebraska Act

The Republic Of Death

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Last Place Settled

There is no governmental institution closer to the Jeffersonian model than the county.  It is the locality for the dispensation of civil and criminal justice.  It is the source of a community’s records and history.  It is where the franchise, the atom of America, resides.  In the early part of the 19th century, there was a rule of thumb that if you couldn’t get to your county seat in a one day buggy ride then you needed another county. 

The last county formed in Washington state, Pend Oreille, was carved out of Stevens County in 1911, and is celebrating its centennial this June.  It is a vertical strip 22 miles wide and 67 miles high and sits in the upper right hand corner of the state, bordering British Columbia and Idaho. 

Article 11 of the state constitution governs the formation of new counties and the charming idea of one day’s buggy ride isn’t in there.  Instead, the constitution requires that a new county would need to have at least 2,000 residents and the county giving up those residents could not be reduced to less than 4,000 people.  The new county takes on its proportion of the debts and liabilities of the old one.

When it named itself after the Pend Oreille, another name for the Kalispel Tribe, the county became the 17th county in the state to take on an Indian name, though this name comes from the French.  It describes an ear pendent worn by the aboriginal people who met David Thompson, the Canadian explorer, when he first floated down the Pend Oreille River.  Nine of the state's counties are named after tribes, five after Indian place names and three after native chiefs.  For the record, six are named after presidents, four after geographic forms, three after explorers, two after governors, two after United States Senators from other states, two ministers, one founder, one territorial secretary and one, Thurston, a congressman.

Just over a thousand people lived in the county in 1900, but the next decade brought significant growth to nearly 6,000 people.  That’s when two energetic Freds – Ione lawyer Fred Trumbull and the publisher of the Newport Miner, Fred Wolfe – started petitioning for a new county.   On June 1, 1911, Governor Marion Hay arrived in the county by train to tour the what the Spokesman Review called “the baby county.”  Everything became official on June 10, 1911. 

Governor Hay at the Hotel in Metaline Falls
There’s a reason Fred’s paper was named The Miner.  Those who missed out on the California Gold Rush came here in the middle of the 19th Century to pan for gold in the streams that feed into the Pend Oreille.  Later, Zinc and Lead mining became the mainstays of the mining economy.  Deposits of limestone led to a major cement industry.  Then there was the timber.  You could trace the rise and fall of the economy by counting the small sawmills that shut down in hard times.  Loggers like the Ellersick family came out from Minnesota.  Calling themselves “The White Pine Savages,” they scoured the countryside on behalf of the Diamond Match Company.

The White Pine Savages
White Pine is the wood of choice for matches and the tight rings of the White Pine along the Pend Oreille made a great product.  As a Department of Agriculture research paper from 1953 pointed out:

“The matchstick that breaks when struck is a source of irritation and possible danger to the user.” 

There is evidence of habitation along the Pend Oreille River back to the last Ice Age and there are magnificent examples of rock carving in the county.  People survived on a unique freshwater fisheries cycle in the Pend Oreille River.  The Kalispel biologists say that a race of very large Bull Trout were an important source of food for prehistory people.  Spawning in the many small, cold creeks, then returning to the river, they provided enough protein for a significant population. 

Bull Trout love cold water, and the dams on the Pend Oreille River have slowed the river and the temperature is now significantly higher, leading to the Bull Trout listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

Kalispel Home Near Ione
The Kalispel’s story breaks your heart and their comeback is inspirational.  In the great rush of treaties between Territorial Governor Isaac  Stevens and tribes resident in the Washington Territory, most of the Kalispels were sent off to western Montana to the Jocko Reservation after 1855, the year so many treaties were signed. But the southern band of the Kalispel held out, stuck it out where they were, to be knocked about by the waves of miners, loggers and railway men. 

In 1914, with a decree signed by President Woodrow Wilson, the Kalispel established a small reservation in the central part of the county near Usk.  Now, their Northern Quest Casino, located off the reservation near the Spokane Airport, provides them significant income which they spend broadly within the community.   Their Wellness Center at the reservation is a recent contribution.  It includes sports and fitness facilities along with dental, medical and addiction clinics and is available to the general public, not just the tribe. 

For a people who have been banged around as violently as the Kalispel were in the last century, their theme statement from the tribal website says why a recent poll rated the tribe as the second most respected institution in the county, just behind the public utility district:

"Through adaptability and leadership, focused on generosity and kindness, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians has expanded their influence, benefiting the region of their ancestral lands and beyond.  Today, the tribe is a self-sufficient entity with their own business enterprises, tribal education and health programs, and strong alliances with those outside the tribe."

Tony Bamonte had it as hard as any Indian kid ever had it -- a tough Dad, a partially collapsed shack for a home, early life in the woods.  As kids, he and a friend watched a man beaten to death in a fight outside a tavern in Metaline.

He became Sheriff in Pend Oreille County and later worked on the City of Spokane police force.  It's hard for Tony to put down something he's picked up.  As a cop in Spokane, he got interested in the shooting of a police officer at a creamery in Newport, the Pend Oreille County seat.  Problem was the killing took place 35 years before Tony became a cop.  All his work led to the notion that the guy who pulled the trigger was a dirty cop from Spokane who tossed the gun into Spokane Falls.  

He couldn't conclude the investigation without a weapon but then, one day, Tony got word that the electric utility serving Spokane would be lowering the level of the water near the falls for maintenance and damned if Tony didn't go down to the rocks and find the gun!  Bamonte gets into stuff like that.

Bamonte was the inspiration for Tim Egan, who writes wonderful books about the west and who grew up in Spokane, to write his first book, "Breaking Blue," about Tony's quest.

In his book, Egan points out what a lot of celebratory stuff this week will not be covering, that the last hundred years have been a very hard trip and a lot of people got hurt making this hundred years of history.  Egan's take is this:

"Pend Oreille County's story line is this:  40 homicides (seven of them unsolved), 110 drownings, 87 fatal industrial accidents, 153 fatal auto accidents, 71 suicides."

The county is still an exporter of natural resource-based products, but its most valuable commodity is electricity.  Low electricity rates make Ponderay Newsprint, an international supplier, competitive with a product used less and less.  But the big electicity story is how Seattle bumped the Pend Oreille PUD off its big plans for the river.  In the fifties, the Pend Oreille Public Utility District had a very big idea to build a series of dams along the Pend Oreille River, starting at Box Canyon, the narrow opening that was the place of several drownings according to Egan in "Breaking Blue."

The district, however, got into a financial pickle after Box Canyon was built and the commissioners had to put the second and third projects on hold.  During the delay, the City of Seattle's electric utility, City Light, filed, in the mid-fifties, a competing request for one site, Z Canyon, with the Federal Power Commission.  If City Light got Z Canyon, the other site was rendered useless. 

Clarence Cleveland Dill
After several years of hearings, Seattle's west side muscle showed and the Pend Oreille PUD lost its site.  The lawyer arguing the PUD's position, Spokane's attorney C. C.  Dill, had served in the United States Senate from 1923-1935.  He was the last United States Senator elected from eastern Washington.

Boundary Dam, an eggshaped, thin arch dam, now sits in Z Canyon and its generators produce about 40% of Seattle's electrical needs.  Some people still remember that Seattle jumped Pend Oreille's claim, though it is now a long time ago.  But not so distant that every ten years, when the County Commissioners negotiate a new contract with City Light, people start looking at Boundary's very impressive balance sheet and wonder why a little more of it doesn't stick in Pend Oreille County.

When Pend Oreille County looks at its own balance sheet, it keeps coming up short of young people.  Just over 20% of households in the county have children in school.  Also, a lot of people have moved to the county to retire, building houses along the water and watching their spending.  The lack of a strong, core constituency for public education in the county is a problem Pend Oreille County handles better than most rural communities.

The problem they don't do so well with is what to do with young people after they graduate.  It is the overwhelming question about the health of rural culture and life -- keeping a critical mass of young people in small, aging, rural geographies.

It is not something anyone will figure out tomorrow, but people in Pend Oreille County would like to think they won't be talking about this problem a hundred years from now.  But they will.

White Pine Savages

When Butter Was Gold

The Kalispel Tribe