The Olympic Peninsula, and towns like Sequim and Port Townsend have become a retirement destination for many people. People move here for many reasons, but attractions certainly include the weather, the beautiful scenery, the opportunity for outdoor activities and the wonderful community spirit. The Peninsula is a diverse and interesting place now. It also has a colorful history. Over the next weeks, this blog will address some of the history of the place, its communities and its people.
The Peninsula itself is the large chunk of real estate across Puget Sound from Seattle bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the north and the Hood Canal on the east. The southern boundary is nowhere near so distinct, but if you define the peninsula as Jefferson and Clallam Counties it is about 5000 square miles of area. It currently has about 100,000 residents and they largely squeeze into a narrow strip of land running along the Pacific Ocean, the Strait down the Hood Canal. The interior of both counties is the Olympic National Forest and this, together with other Federal lands, comprises a little over 3000 square miles. The Olympic Peninsula was one of the last areas of the US that was mapped and that didn’t occur until almost 1900.
Place names on the peninsula reflect the history of early discoveries and exploration in America. Names like Port Angeles, Fidalgo Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca reflect the activity of Spanish explorers; Port Townsend, Admiralty Inlet and Dungeness are chalked up to the English. A third set – Sequim, Chimacum and Kah Tai reflect adoption or adaptation of indigenous names.
The peninsula even has a peninsula. The Quimper Peninsula is an area from Discovery Bay to Port Townsend Bay and terminating at Point Wilson. The Quimper Peninsula is named for a Spanish explorer Manuel Quimper who charted the north and south coasts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1790. In fact, the Spanish gave the name Quimper to Dungeness Bay in Sequim and may have intended that name to refer to the whole area. George Vancouver came long a few years later and named it “Dungeness” because of its resemblance to the Dungeness Headlands in the English Channel. George’s version won so far as the name sticking. Evidently the Quimper slunk east in dejection to arrive at its current location some distance away from the original.
Dungeness remains as a reference to the magnificent spit that lies outside Sequim. The name "Quimper Peninsula" has evolved into a general reference to Port Townsend and the surrounding communities -- Cape George, Port Hadlock, Irondale, and Chimacum.
There were indigenous Indian tribes living here at the time of exploration. The Makah, the Chimakum and the S'Klallam lived on the peninsula and they provided several names for our local places – Chetzemoka, a chief is remembered in a Port Townsend park, Chimacum is a local town name and Sequim is likely a S‘Klallam word for “hunting Ground.” Famous today for the Elk that sometimes wander the streets one can understand the naming.
The population of the peninsula today just tops 100,000. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was important for its natural resources – timber, agriculture, dairy and seafood. Today it is a destination for both tourists and new residents. Tourists visit the Olympic National Park, the Dungeness Spit, the Hood Canal area and the coast for their natural wonders, and Port Townsend for its Victorian History and Forks for its contemporary interest.
The peninsula is a wonderful place to live. It is rich in history and has a wealth of opportunity today. Homer Smith Insurance has been providing Washington Home Insurance for families on the Olympic Peninsula and the Quimper Peninsula since 1950. We are happy to be of service and proud that we remain in the forefront of area insurance agencies. We work hard to keep up with developments in our industry and to put service and technology to work in support of our friends and neighbors here.