Blakely Island: A history

Blakely Island: A History

Blakely Island provides an immersive experience. Here is the timeline of how it became a place for Seattle Pacific students to be in nature.

1592: Juan De Fuca, potentially the first explorer of the San Juans, sails through the Sound

1791: Spaniard Francisco Eliza sends his first Pilot, Juan Pantoja y Arriago, to explore the Haro Strait and the Gulf Islands, but his boat is forced southward by the wind toward the Rosario Strait

May 18th, 1791: Captain George Vancouver navigates the San Juan Islands.

Captain George Vancouver (22 June 1757 – 10 May 1798) was a British Royal Navy officer (Photo: Google)

1841: Charles Wilkes discovers Blakely Island, named after naval commander Johnston Blakely

1850: Paul K Hubbs jr. moves to Blakely, becoming the first property owner

February 1862: Edward C. Gillette arrives on the island as a surveyor and later becomes the superintendent of San Juan County Schools


Thatcher Bay Mill (Photo: Blakely Archives)

March 16th, 1867: Isabelle Reed is born, the first known child born on the island.

1874: Gillette moves to the island to raise Sheep

1879:  Thatcher Bay Mill is started 

1889: Gillette sells his land to Richard H. Staub, who becomes the teacher at the Blakely Island School, succeeding John Vierick

Thatcher School (Photo: SPU Archives)

1889:  Harrison Coffielt finishes the school, and the first class is held 

1892:  Theodore Spencer buys the mill and box factory, renaming it Spencer Mill 

1900: Mineral exploration begins at Bald Bluff

1922: The State Game Commission placed elk on Blakely Island, but they eventually died off

1929: Logging operations stop

1942: Mill ends operations

1946: The Spencer family sells mill and island holdings to Dr. Lloyd W. Hines and his wife, Margaret

Blakely Island Airport (Photo: Peg Achterman)

January 1948:  Blakely Island Airport activated 

June 1st, 1949: Blakely Island School stops operating

July 1st,, 1954: Floyd Johnson purchased the entire Island from Hines 

May 10th, 1956: Harold Bartram and Floyd Johnson enter into a partnership to develop Blakely

March 15th, 1957: Hines sells interest to Johnson

August 27th, 1957: Floyd Johnson sells part of the island to the Puget Sound Pulp & Timber Company of Bellingham

1962: Blakely Marina renovated

The Bell at the Marina (Photo: Emilia Bishop)

1965: Thatcher Bay post office destroyed by Spencer Lake washout

May 27th, 1975: Tom Cowley and David Syre entered into a partnership for a conservation easement for tax-saving purposes

December 1975: Gordon Plume designed the first building that SPU would use

Shortly after construction, Blakely Island Field Station’s Dormitory finished in 1984. (Photo: Adrienne Meier, SPU Archivist)

1976: Seattle Pacific University comes to the Island

1978: The first-weekend class is held on the island

1980s: SPU begins holding summer classes

September 1st, 1983: Dr. Ross and wife move into living Quarters

February 1984: The Thomas B. Cowley Laboratory is completed

Thomas B. Crowley Laboratory (Photo: Emilia Bishop)

1993: 50% of the island was placed in trust

1996: Dr. Shaw retires, Leroy Hubbert becomes campus manager, and Bruce Congdon takes charge of school courses

1995: Bruce Congdon becomes director of Field Station

2010: 80 more acres placed into trust

2014: The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group dredged Thatcher Bay, and restoration of marine life has begun.

2018:  The Hubberts retire from being caretakers at the Field Station 

Deb and Bryan Rodda and their puppy Kaia (Photo: Kolby Benthin)

2018: Journalism students accompany biology professors Elena Bresynski, Eric Long, Tim Nelson (current director), Bruce Congdon, and Blaine Craft for the first time

2022:  Deb and Bryan Rodda take over as caretakers 

2024: A second set of SPU journalism students join biology classes to Blakely

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *