Monday, June 17, 2019

(Written by a local historian)

The ownership study of old houses and buildings is almost as popular today as is the study of genealogy. To anyone historically oriented, efforts at reconstructing such people and building relationships becomes a dual research project, for one works with land title information as well as the personal lives of the owners.

In June 1983, being involved as the hostess at the "Judge Alexander" home for the Sequim-Dungeness Museum's Historic Homes Tour, I became interested in doing such a study on this restored and remodeled home.

Today this property's pedigree reads "Lot #7 in the SW 1/4 of the SW 1/2 of Section 31, township 31 No. Range 3 West, Willamette Meridian", and basically this will never change. In contrast, the list of ownerships now numbers 13.

The house, on its lot #7, is on the west side of Sequim-Dungeness Way at the "S" curve just before turning into the area of Dungeness. It is a unique 1 1/2 story frame home, painted gray with white trim, having two dormer windows at 90 degrees to each other creating a kind of squared turret on the north east corner. The veranda across the front adds to its graciousness, and it is popularly known as the "Judge Alexander House". This title piqued my interest and I wanted to know how it came about.

There are several ways to go, but first I contacted my helpful and trusty advisor at the land title office who provided the following factual transcriptions on paper in which people were the doers.

The first recorded ownership change at this location was in August of 1877 when it was transferred from Robert G. Stewart to the early Dungeness settler Thomas Evans and his wife Susan. In the "meets and bounds" early property descriptions, I learned that this land bordered on two sides the donation claims of B.J. Madison and John C. Brown, both of whom were registered voters in the first election of 1860 at New Dungeness, the Clallam County seat of Government.

Thomas Evans and Susan Weir Evans were the originators of today's Evans descendents still living on nearby property, and both of them brought stability to the area. Thomas had come from Missouri in 1863 and Susan, being 13 years his junior, was the daughter of John and Saulda Weir, born in Texas and having come to Dungeness with her mother and other children to join her father in the early 1860s. Thomas and Susan were married at New Dungeness on January 2, 1868. So by 1877 they were ready to establish their own family home.

For the five year period between August 1877 and June of 1892, Thomas and Susan apparently controlled the land, and, according to the County Assessor's record, which states that this dwelling was built "circa 1890", there is a possibility that this small house could have been built by them during this period of ownership. The next four months in 1892 saw three land transactions here involving two other people and their spouses, which are assumed to have been of financial advantage, for the property returned briefly to the Evans ownership on October 14, 1892, having increased in value by $300.

Before we leave the Evans Family in connection with Lot #7, it is of interest to know the degree of involvement in the life of this community by this couple. Thomas was a logger in the lumber business, homesteaded here as a farmer where he raised stock and work horses. He and Susan had 11 children, one of whom was Hayes, who carried on in the vicinity, being well known and one of the Irrigation Festival Pioneers, with decedents living here today to continue the family tradition these generations later.

To go back to Thomas, he as a "doer", a mail carrier on the route between Dungeness and Sequim on two days a week when the mail came by boat to the long dock at Dungeness; a builder of the first bridge over the Dungeness River; a school director in 1892 when the old Dungeness School was built; and a picture of him in the group of Clallam Count Pioneers taken in 1905, shows a pleasant older man with a white shock of hair and a droopy moustache.

On October 20, 1892, Thomas sold Lot #7 to Mr. E.D. Elliot, a single man who apparently maintained it until April 26, 1899 when he sold it to a Port Angeles widow who kept it for another four years. Then came the advent of the name Alexander, as an owner of this property.

On December 3, 1903 Thomas C. Alexander bought this piece of land for $700. He and his wife Almira lived here for 20 years then transferring ownership to Mr. William H. Alexander, a widower, who may have been a relative.

At this point in my research, it was important to establish where the title of "Judge" came into the picture. Was Thomas Alexander a Judge?....

So, with the help of the Clallam County Museum's research staff and our current Superior Court Judge Chamberlain, I secured a list of all of our Clallam County Probate and Superior Court Judges. No Judge Alexander was to be found there. But that was not the end of the searching. The University of Washington Law Library provided material on a Seattle lawyer, Joseph Bullen Alexander, who was outstanding in his handling of timber and lumber interests. He is listed in Bagley's 1916 publication, The Story of Seattle, Vol III, as having come to Seattle in 1900, and, the fact that he handled timber cases, may mean that he came to Dungeness in an itinerant capacity or as a special case lawyer.

However, it is more likely, since Dungeness was never the County Seat (New Dungeness was), that local court cases were heard in this private home, at the time it was owned by Thomas Alexander, and thus the colloquial association with the law courts and decisions emanating from this location, termed it "the Judge Alexander House". It was commonplace in those years of difficult and long distance transportation to have a circuit judge sent to a town, where the difference of opinion took place, to hold court in a private home. At any rate, this is a colorful feature of this small home which retains a bit of history of the early hamlet.

 Ownership of lot #7 in 1929 left the Alexander family and passed through four ownerships until 1972 when the current owners, Mr. & Mrs. Charles F. Williams acquired the house, and restructuring it, now enjoy a comfortable environment with a modern addition on the rear to add to the small front rooms which are approaching the century mark in age.

Williams Manor Historic Dates

  • August 8th, 1877
    Robert Stewart sold home to Thomas & Susan Evans
  • June 18, 1892
    Home sold to MJ & Clara Hall
  • October 8, 1892
    Home sold to HJ & Jessie Lipsett
  • October 14, 1892
    Home sold to Thomas & Susan Evans
  • October 20, 1892
    Home sold to ED Eliot
  • April 26, 1899
    Home sold to Sarah Marter
  • December 3, 1903
    Home sold to Thomas & Almira Alexander
  • December 1, 1923
    Home sold to William Alexander
  • March 2, 1929
    Home sold to Carrie Roberts
  • April 17, 1945
    Home sold to CL & Evelyn O'Bryant
  • February 9, 1949
    Home sold to Fred & Ethel Crosby
  • March 10, 1966
    Home sold to Rollin & Marjorie Bland
  • May 30 1972
    Home sold to Charles & Florence Williams

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