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The History of our Farm

A lot can happen in 130 years...

Photo: KCHS Archives, Gift of Norma Gustafson Card, Clais Gustafson and family at their homestead in Silverdale, circa 1902 -1904

... a bit about the homestead

Clais and Linda Gustafson moved to what is now Kitsap County in1889 and homesteaded 160 acres in the Clear Creek valley. Apparently, Clais slept in trees on the homestead, fearing the many bears in the area. Initially, the cabin was made of logs, and was later finished with lumber inside and out. To build the chimney, he rowed from Silverdale to Port Orchard to load bricks into a small boat. He then used a wheel barrow to move them from Silverdale waterfront back to his property. (WHAT?! This is nuts-- what a feat!) Sadly, Linda passed away, but Clais eventually remarried a woman named Agusta. Clais and Agusta worked the land until 1943 when they sold it. The current farm passed through a couple families before coming to the previous owner's family back in 1951.

Our farm house has transformed through a couple major renovations with the most recent ones being in the 1970's and 1980's.The main part of the house still has the original logs in between the modern sheet rock and exterior boards. Also, the old bricks from the original chimney were cleaned and reused in the new fireplaces and chimney that was part of the 1970's remodel. We love that the history of the home has been preserved over the years. We hope to do the same thing even as we put our mark on our farmhouse. We are so excited to build upon the legacy of this homestead and land.

Fun fact: In the 1960's, Gustafson Road was home to Whispering Firs, a nudist colony! We probably won't be building on that legacy... probably.

Below, you can see our current farmhouse and how it looks similar to the 1900's version! The major difference from this angle is that the front porch is no longer, as it was made part of the living room.

... a bit about the land

Long before homesteaders arrived, the Coast Salish people lived on the Kitsap Peninsula. The Suquamish Tribe, one of the historical fishing tribes, were a people of expert fishermen, canoe builders, and basket weavers. Both the peninsula and county bear the name of Chief Kitsap, an 18th and 19th Century warrior and medicine man.

We tend to celebrate the "homestead spirit" and the bravery and grit it took to leave home, cross an unknown wilderness, and start a new life far from family and comfort. And these homesteaders really did accomplish so much. However, it's important to remember that there are many different sides to any story, and the homesteaders' stories aren't the only ones this land has seen. Imagine a barrage of strangers showing up to the place you live and saying, "this is mine" and bringing different culture and customs that not only eclipse your own, but force you to assimilate. What an absolute bizarre, and quite terrible, thing to have happened.

I don't really have any answers as to how we can best address the complex history of homesteading and what happened with native people. Perhaps a start is simply to be aware. Many of us are at home quarantining right now-- some of us with kiddos-- a great activity could be researching and finding out about local history and local tribes! The Native Land app will show you what tribes are native to your area and then many tribes have websites with information on them. Happy researching!

With thanks to the Kitsap Historical Society for the information about the Gustafson family, the previous owner of our farm, Mr Ball, for information about the farm over the last 70 years, Wikepedia for information about Coast Salish people and Kitsap County History, and the Suquamish Tribe website for information about the history of the Suquamish tribe.

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