Guest Writer: Mike Vouri and the 150 Anniversary of the Pig War

Mike Vouri as Pickett

What’s in Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million 1857?

Choice of Reading. Never keep  house without books. Life is not life to any great purpose where books are not.  Read on any subject connected with your own pursuits.  A good book is a safe refuge in idle hours.

June 15, 1859. San Juan Island, Pacific Northwest. An American settler named Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a pig belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The boar had been rooting in his garden. From that incident two nations, Great Britain and a young United States, nearly came to blows. This summer, the San Juan Island National Historical Park will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the historic event and its peaceful resolution.

Today, I’m happy to welcome my friend Mike Vouri, Park Pig War book coverRanger/Historian at the San Juan Island National Historical Park who knows quite a bit about the Pig War and George Pickett of Gettysburg fame, who was in the thick of the incident.  In addition to his duties in the park, Mike is a historian, actor, playwright and writer of several books on George Pickett, the Pig War and San Juan Island.

Mike, you began your career as a journalist. What led you to history and in particular to George Pickett and the stories around the Pig War? How did you end up at the national park?

After years as a journalist, including nine in the Air Force, I got interested in history and went back to school for it.  I worked as a reporter for the Skagit Argus and the Bellingham Herald and eventually became the public affairs person for the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. I was there for six years. During that time I curated a couple of exhibits. One of them was George Pickett and the Frontier Army Experience.

At first I wasn’t too keen about it, but as I learned more I found that there was tremendous interest in the man. (note: George Pickett was stationed at Fort Bellingham in present-day Bellingham Washington from 1856-1859 before going to San Juan Island at the start of the Pig War) The show ran from October 1994 to April 1995 and had a number of important objects in it, including two battle flags, Pickett’s sabre and reenacting uniforms. In preparing for the exhibit, I came in contact with Richard Seltzer, considered the top researcher on George  E. Pickett. His book, Faithfully and Forever Yours documents Pickett’s activities on the east coast.  He’s gone on to write more, but at the time, Seltzer knew little about Pickett’s role out here.  I showed him that while he helped me locate sources, objects and contacts. We have become good friends and the show was a great success.

In 1995, you moved to San Juan Island to become a ranger at San Juan Island National Historical Park. Not long after you researched and wrote the popular one-man show Life and Times of General George Pickett. Folksinger Michael Cohen matched the emotional tone of the play with period songs as well provide a supporting role. How did it start?

Originally, it was three hours long.  After its first performance in Friday Harbor,  San Juan Island, I decided to knock the first act down after being advised to make it funny and sad.

It’s a wonderful play. I’ve seen it four times now, one for our Save Our History grant in Bellingham WA in 2007.

It will be performed this summer for the last time on July 10 in Friday Harbor and at Fort Vancouver, Vancouver, Washington — time to be announced.  I’m retiring it.

You have been a pretty prolific writer in the past few years. In addition to a book on George Pickett in the Northwest, there is the OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE, a book on the Royal Marine encampment on San Juan Island which came out in 2004.  And you published a history of FRIDAY HARBOR with your wife Julia Vouri a couple of months ago.

What I would like to talk about is your book THE PIG WAR which came out in 2008. This is the most comprehensive account of the Pig War with never before published pictures from both military camps.  Pictures include those from the Delacombe family whose ancestor, Captain William Delacombe, commanded the royal marine camp from 1867 on. How did that come about?

Pure serendipity. Got an email out of the blue from the wife of the great- grandson of Delacombe. They couldn’t travel from England so they sent me  a CD with pictures from Captain Delacombe’s family album . I learned a lot about the royal marine site from the pictures. There is a view of the hill behind the encampment taken from Guss Island. And we confirmed that there was a long boat at the camp.

There are also wonderful pictures of American Camp after it closed and a painting done by a British midshipman onboard the Satellite showing Pickett’s first camp.

Arcadia Publishing requires a large volume of photographs. Your interview in the San Juan Journal says that there are 190 photos in the book. I remember you telling me that you were a bit surprised by that and had to drop some text to meet their specifications. i.e. more pictures, a lot less text.  How did you reconcile that? Did text translate to caption?

As Arcadia books are image driven with limited space for text (that is, only 350 words per chapter) it is critical to sustain the narrative with captions. Therefore, they cannot be repetitive. Each is composed anew.

I thought the book  moves very smoothly. The pictures are wonderful.  I learned some new things myself.  Amazing that  some building from both camps were preserved at all.

The Pig War is a real historical event and this summer will be the 150th anniversary. For the past eleven years, the park has presented English Encampment, a celebration of the peaceful occupation of the island by American and British military. Re-enactors come from here and Canada. Tell us what your plans are for this important celebration.

We are expecting a large turn out of reenactors from the US and Canada. One thing we are excited about is the participation of the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. They will participate for the first time. Visitors will be able to book a three hour trip on each ship on Sunday. They will anchor off English Camp during the weekend event.

There are other talks and events during the whole summer.

Yes.  Check the park’s calendar.

Thanks, Mike. I’ll see you all soon under my favorite Big Leaf maple.

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Logger Coffee

What’s in Mrs. Hales’ Receipts for the Million 1857?Green coffee beans3American soldier

Substitute for Cream in Tea or Coffee. — Beat the white of an egg to a froth, put to it a very small lump of butter, and mix well. Then turn the coffee to it gradually, so that it may not curdle. If perfectly done, it will be an excellent substitute for cream. For tea, omit the butter, using only the egg. This might be of great use at sea, as eggs can be preserve fresh in various ways.

I’m preparing for my annual trip to San Juan Island to demonstrate 19th century folkways at English Camp. This year I hope to roast my coffee beans on the fire and then make logger coffee.  It is something 19th century folk did all the time.  The soldiers stationed at American Camp and in camps throughout the Civil War did it in their pans.

Mrs. Hale’s, unfortunately was no help as she assumes that everyone knows HOW to do it. Coffee, after all, is for the literary and sedentary (See earlier post) My copy of  The American Frugal Housewife is AWOL off my research bookshelf.  So I went down to our local farmer’s market and spoke to an Ethiopian immigrant who has a popular food stand there. I was told by a local coffee roaster that she does it every day at home.  It’s tradition.

“Just put some green coffee beans in a  pan on top of the stove on medium heat and it will roast.”

“How will I know it’s done?”

“The color will look right.  You will be able to tell.”

I suppose that it will smell good too. I’ll practice this week.  Next step: Should I use a rifle butt like the soldiers did or a coffee grinder? Hmm.

Here’s the receipt for logger coffee. Notice a green alder “chip” off a freshly felled tree.  It works.  It settles the grounds and I believe, takes the acidity out of coffee.

Logger coffee (Old Pacific NW receipt)

1. Fill pot halfway with water.

2. Add an alder “chip” preferably green.

3. Bring it to a boil.

4. Throw in about 2/3 cup of coffee.

5. Bring to a full boil and let boil for 1 Minute.

6. Remove from heat.

7. Check to see if grounds have settled.

Enjoy!

Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million

I’ve decided to add something to this blog.  Every year for the past thirteen years, I have gone to English Camp on San Juan Island and have demonstrated mid- 19th century folkways.  There’s a lot of butter making and biscuit cutting going on — as well as spinning and candle dipping.

Mrs Hale's receipts cover

Leading my understanding of what a housewife put up with is my great-grandmother’s receipt book, MRS.HALE’s RECEIPT’S FOR THE MILLION.  This delightful book is both charming and informative, filled with 4545 “receipts” that range from cleaning leather and churns, caring for the invalid and making coffee. Published in Philadelphia in 1857, my great grandmother surely found use for it as she made her way from Western Pennsylvania to Kansas to craft a life with her surgeon/lawyer husband.

I think we should all get a daily dose or least every time I post. So here’s what’s in MRS. HALE’s RECEIPTS for today:

COFFEE: The infusion of or decoction of the roasted seeds of the coffee-berry, when not too strong, is a wholesome, exhilarating, and strengthening beverage; and when mixed with a large proportion of milk, is a proper article of diet for literary and sedentary people. It is especially suited to persons advanced in age.

I think I’ll go get some.

The Pig War

On June 15th, 1859 the incident known as the Pig War occurred on San Juan Island.  I’ll be writing more about it in another post, but suffice to say, there will be doings at the San Juan Island National Historical Park this summer for the 150th anniversary.

The “English Encampment” is one of them. Sat Morning Meeting 3 An annual event for the past 12 + years, it is very dear to my heart for the friends and history that I have learned there.  I’ll be returning as Miss Lydia to run my Academy on July 24thFather Ted and all the fixings through 26th with about 80 other enactors. Miss Lydia's Academy