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Bruce Haulman’s New Book About Vashon

Vashon Island historian Bruce Haulman’s new book, A Brief History of Vashon Island, was released this past week. Haulman indicates that this is the second of three books chronicling island history that he has been working on. The first, written with Jean Cammon Findlay, was the pictorial history Vashon-Maury Island in the Images of America series. The third book will tell the stories of the people who have made our island what it is.
 A Brief History of Vashon places the Vashon story in the context of Western America. The book describes the land, the Native Americans who lived here and the explorers who came to measure and claim the land for Great Britain or the United States. When white settlers came to the island they depended upon “resource extraction,” that is “agriculture, logging, fishing and mining” (mining on the island meant brick-making and extraction of gravel).

 The changing world brought changes to the island, which evolved from a community of loggers, fishermen, farmers and their families to the gentrified island of today. The Mosquito Fleet gave way to large car ferries. Foreign immigrants, especially from Japan, helped solidify Vashon’s agricultural accomplishments. Difficult economic times in the Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s forced islanders to adapt to new conditions. In Haulman’s new book we learn about the postwar decline of agriculture on Vashon and why the island’s strawberry industry collapsed. After the war, undependable ferry service led to the creation of Vashon’s own ferry district. Later, the possibility of a bridge captured islanders’ attention; first, most islanders liked the idea, but more recently it found almost no support on Vashon.

 As the twentieth century proceeded, tourists came, the town of Vashon became a vibrant commercial center and we can read about how it has changed through the years. But while our commercial center grew, the number of islanders commuting to mainland jobs also grew. The author also shows that the love-hate relationship islanders have had with King County government is long-standing. Islanders want to make policies for the island but are also happy to accept county resources. These days islanders volunteer to fill many needs, bring music and drama to their neighbors, and make island history accessible.

 Haulman describes islanders’ changing political attitudes: majorities used to vote for Republicans and when hippies came to the island about 1970, strong opposition surfaced. Times are different now.

 For details of all of this and much much more, see the book. It is a detailed, comprehensive look at the island, covering the story from prehistoric times to the present. Familiar and iconic photographs plus others that have been hidden away in archives accompany the text. The complete island story has not yet been told, though. The final book in the trilogy will bring to life the people whose accomplishments you will read about in the newly-released volume.

 A Brief History of Vashon Island is available for purchase at the Vashon Bookshop and the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum. The Museum will hold a book launch party for Dr. Haulman at 6:00 tonight, Thursday, May 12, and Haulman will appear at the Vashon Bookshop for a reading on Thursday, May 26, at 6:00.