Greetings friends, fellow historians, and any and all that love to turn back the clock a bit to look at what folks have done, used to do, or perhaps wanted to do but couldn’t.
I am pretty sure that time travel to the past is a pretty universal fantasy of folks with good imaginations–being a fly on the wall for major events whose stories have come to us imperfectly as memories, usually memories of memories. Did Nero really fiddle while flames consumed the city? Just how seductive was Cleopatra? Did Hamilton and Burr really have a bromance?
Many of you, like me, have stood upon a spot where something “significant” is supposed to have happened 50, or 100, or 500 years ago, and wondered what it looked like back then, what the people there were doing and why, what the food tasted like, whether the air was fresher, how quiet it could have been. A form of nostalgia, for sure, but also a deep curiosity about life as it was then and, perhaps, how it came to be what it is now.
I recently completed a book about life on 410 acres of land on the banks of the Nisqually River in the South Puget Sound region of western Washington state called For the Good of the Order: The Braget Farm and Land Use in the Nisqually Valley. The Bragets, a family of Norwegian immigrants, loved and lived on their dairy farm there for 100 years before selling it to the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the original stewards of the land and the nearby salmon-bearing waters. I spent the better part of 20 years trying to become the fly on the wall in that story so that I could share it, and its importance to all of us, as I would come to know it. I hope I was successful in that.
Along the way I got to know a little about the lives of some of the many pioneers that lived on or near that land in the Nisqually Valley before the Bragets acquired it in 1896. They were a diverse and multi-ethnic bunch, hailing from New and old England, Ireland, France, Prussia, and the Midwest and southeastern Atlantic states. The reasons that brought them to the Nisqually Valley were also diverse, but as far as I can tell these men, women and children all came in search of new lives and improved circumstances. Some found these things, and they and their descendants stayed. Others suffered and left, or died in the trying, and left no trace other than the memories of their contemporaries who, thankfully, committed them to print.
My posts, as they follow, will share what I have learned about those pioneer families, their impact on our lives, and, perhaps a few questions that their existences have raised. For the most part, these posts will be based on the writings of others, past and present, who knew or know something of these people. But please remember, all history is memory, and by necessity, memory is selective, often discarding the parts that are painful, repetitive, boring, or apparently irrelevant at the time. And, as any self-respecting wall fly will tell you, the devil (and so much more) is in the details!
BTW, if you want to know more about the Braget book, or possibly purchase it, check out https://gorhamprinting.com/book/nisqually.
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