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

Caretakers: Meet Deb and Bryan Rodda

Thirty-one years ago, Brian and Deb Rodda got married, and together, they raised three daughters. After Brian retired from public education, the couple decided it was time for a new adventure.

While Brian prepared to retire, the pair also launched their youngest daughter off to college. Thanks to their middle daughter, who attended Seattle Pacific, they discovered Blakely Island and the Field Station.

Deb was a nurse until she found herself calling the island her new home. Thanks to her past vocation she is able to be calm and help students who may find themselves in need of a little extra help.

The Roddas, along with their puppy, Kaia, are a blessing for Blakely Island and Seattle Pacific University.