Deciding to Go and Getting There
• Deciding to Go
While many saw opportunity in such laudatory accounts, there were other reminders that it might be the kind of opportunity born of a region considered undeveloped by most Americans. On a tour of the Puget Sound in 1883, reporter Helen Hunt Jackson found in the area "the wilderness is dominant still. Vast belts of forest and stretches of shore lie yet untracked, untrodden, as they were a century ago…" While Washington east of the Cascade Mountain range differed greatly from the Puget Sound, Hunt's description certainly rang true of the Olympic Peninsula. A booster from Clallam County tried to spin the area's lack of development as untapped potential and the heavily timbered, mountainous ranges as gorgeous scenery. However, he stopped short of falsely representing the country as a "farmer's paradise" as unscrupulous "real estate sharks" had done. Instead, he advised "all to come and see, without imagining that we live in a land free from forests and stumps; come and investigate our natural advantages and make all you can of them, and we assure you that you will make your home among us and be satisfied in such a favored land."
Although such accounts hinted at the obstacles that farmers might encounter in the northwest corner of the nation, other reports of fertile soils and temperate weather were motivation enough for some like the Boe family, who left their homestead in South Dakota, dried out by the hot summers and frozen by the cold winters, to find better climes farther west.
Whatever the reason, homesteading hopefuls came from a variety of states and countries. With only the intent of future citizenship as a requirement, European immigrants comprised a notable percentage of Olympic Peninsula homesteaders. The Lake Ozette area had concentrations of Swedes, and an area near the confluence of Thunder Creek and the East Dickey River became known as the "Polish Settlement." Austrians Anton and Jospha Kestner took up a claim in the Quinnault Valley, and German immigrants included Theodore Klahn, who came to Dickey River in 1892, and Beaver Prairie homesteader August Konopaski. Very few non-European immigrants, however, could be counted among the homesteaders. Virginia Ketting remembers a sprinkling of Chinese farmers in the Port Angeles area, but they did not own title to land. Instead local farmers worked out various tenant arrangements with the Chinese, such as exchanging the labor of clearing fields for two years worth of crops. Under the terms of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese were ineligible for citizenship and thus could not apply for homesteads.
Homesteaders may have been steered to the Olympic Peninsula by word of mouth or to join family members, others may have read US Department of Agriculture bulletins that advertised homesteading opportunities in various states. Prospective homesteaders could also look to several guidebooks to find practical information about exactly how to file a claim, the different options available for obtaining land, how to prepare for a successful homestead, and how to pursue legal action in the event of a conflict.