The Lopez Island Historical Society & Museum

2005 Exhibit

Maritime Lopez

The Salish Sea, as Native people called the waters between Puget Sound and the Discovery Islands, has been an economic, cultural, and military highway for millennia. Its unique maritime geography and resources have lured fishers, traders, raiders, settlers and smugglers.

The first people came to hunt marine mammals 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. By 3,000 years ago, an extensive family and social network, supported by exceptional boat handling skills and large, seagoing canoes, linked tribes and villages throughout the region. This was in turn connected to a continental trade network that extended as far as Alaska, Central America, and the Great Lakes.

The first Europeans appeared just over 400 years ago, drawn by the fabled Straits of Anian which were reputed to connect the Pacific to the Atlantic. Apostolos Valerianos, a Greek pilot in the service of Spain whom we remember by his Spanish name, "Juan de Fuca," was the first European to enter local waters in 1592.

Conflicts in Europe and the struggle to control the spice trade kept Europeans away for nearly two centuries. Then the fur trade drew them in force. In 1787 Charles Barclay, a British skipper sailing for the Austrian East India Company, entered our Straits. A year later, John Meares sailed into the Straits and named them after de Fuca. In 1790, Manuel Quimper and pilot Gonzalo Lopez de Haro (after whom Lopez is named), explored local waters.

By the early 19th century, Native peoples had been largely displaced, and greatly reduced in number by introduced diseases. Despite a British military presence, land hunger brought American settlers in increasing numbers. The plow proved mightier than the sword, and despite the Royal Navy, the San Juans and much of the Salish Sea were recognized as American territory in 1872.

Richardson Cannery Workers: Mabel Marchant, Vesta Nichols, Eva Thornton, Gladys Burt, Abbie Hammond, Ethel Bruns, Victoria Porter, Gertrude Towell

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