Fifty Years on Bainbridge Island by Janet Montgomery Munro

Written by Janet Montgomery Munro – 1942 
Transcribed from her notes by Elizabeth Munro Berry – July, 2016

Thrown out on Bainbridge shore fifty years ago, the Island was the ideal spot for me as I loved peace and quietness. I arrived in Seattle from New York at two in the morning, October 2nd, 1890.  Married the late Mr. Alexander Munro, cut stone contractor.  The Reverend Elliot W. Brown officiating.  I was married in a blue serge sailor suit, trimmed with white braid and embroidered with anchors and compasses.  The ladies in Seattle in those days needed anchors and compasses.  I know I did.  I had a big wreath made up of club moss, white heather and orange blossom.  The heather that was in it would have made a wreath for six brides.  As we were going down the manse steps I notices my sweetie taking a side glance at it, but nothing was said.

My Dearie forgot to order cakes. Luckily I brought two cakes with me from Roseneath Scotland in a tin cracker box. A fruit cake from Morvern and a bride’s cake. Nothing fancy to look at, small and plainly decorated with Asters.  I also brought a moustache cup from Scotland,  a present for my Honey.  When he met me in Seattle he had no moustache, so I never gave him the cup.  I set it on a bracket in the corner of my sitting room.  It didn’t matter who would be in the house, as soon as the children could talk they would say Mama, what is that cup for?  I pretended I never heard them.  One day I got six of them up in the potato patch with their father, so I slipped the cup out and threw it into the junk pile at the back of the wood shed.

The day I married I was putting every thing in its respective place trying to make my self look and act very intelligent. I picked up an old vest on the floor.  A marriage ring fell out of the pocket.  I put it on my finger beside the one he sent me from Horton, Kansas in 1888.  I have been wearing it ever since.  So many was coming in and out to meet the newly weds, often I wonder if it was Mr. Munro’s vet I picked up.  He said it was.

The year I married a kind of marriage fever went round among the Scotchmen in Seattle. So many of them spoke about sending home to the Old Country for their sweethearts, but that was all knocked on the head when they saw me and my Scottish ways.  For days after I married, Pipe Major MacDonald and General MacRae played the bagpipes round and round my house.  I noticed the neighbors were moving away one by one.

For one year after I married every cup, saucer and bowl that would break would just part in ten pieces. Wasn’t that peculiar?  I think it meant ten children.  I know now it didn’t mean $10,000 dollars.

Two weeks after we married we went to Tacoma for a day. Mr. Munro put on his best black serge suit.  He certainly looked handsome.  I dressed in black also. I looked fairly good.  My hat had a big brass ornament on one side, Charta daisies at the front and a little bird all colours of the rainbow at the left.  Just as we got off the train in Tacoma it was pouring down rain.  I had no umbrella.  We ran to the first hotel.  My hat was soaking wet.  We decided to get back to Seattle as quick as possible.  As I was coming out the hotel door my heel caught in the lace of my petticoat.  It was hanging about a yard behind me. A few steps more the little bird fell off my hat and stuck in the lace of my petticoat.  The Charta daisies fell over my face.  I had black gloves on too.  I was clinging to my honey’s arm, walking and running, the rain pouring down.  We got to the station drenched like two black ravens.  Just as we were going aboard the train I picked up the bird and lace that had been dragging behind me, got in and set it down on the seat beside me. My Dearie came in and sad down on the top of my lovely rainbow bird.

We got back to Seattle safely. You have heard about what the cat drags in?  No cat ever dragged in a ticket like me.  You would think I had been pulled down the chimney and drawn through a knot hole.  I wish Tacoma had been Mount Ararat.  When the children got older and studied a little astronomy they would say “Mama, do you know all the colours of the rainbow?”  If their father was in I seldom answered them.  I kept stirring the porridge or kneading out the dough and lowly mumbling to my self “Give us each day our daily bread”.  I spoke about the star of hope and tried to drift them on to the Borealis  Roa that flits around from place to place.  A young lady offered me Charta daisies to plant.  I thanked her very much and told her I had very unfavorable results from Charta daisies many years ago.  The boys made fishing spoons out of the big brass ornament.  They caught nothing but bullhead.  “Oh that Hat”.  The moustache cup and the little bird on my hat was very seldom mentioned in our married life time.  Blessed are the peacemakers.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship’s shaft broke. We were bobbing up and down in the briny deep for three days.  I had a nice Munro tartan shawl.  Owing to the commotion and excitement I lost it.  Later I heard it was hoisted for a distress flag.  No one came to our rescue.  Any ship spying my flag would keep on the course.  “Explosives”.

My Granny gave me an old fashioned veil about seven yards long with lilies and roses round the edge of it. It had been on the battle field at Waterloo.  The young ladies in the cabin with me all wanted to wear it.  I told them to wear it any time, but not to lose it.  Just as we were coming into New York, the Captain was found almost strangled in the star board bow.  Some how or other he got tangled up in my Granny’s old veil.

Shortly after we married we decided to buy a few acres on Bainbridge Island. Point White and where we are now were for sale.  So Xmas week we boarded the San Juan, landed at Point White, looked it over, but it did not suit me.  I loved boating and swimming and the current was very strong that day.  So we walked the Point White trail to the home of the late Mr. & Mrs. Charles Lindquist where we were hospitably entertained.  Yule Cheer flowing all around.  We went on the trail a little further and decided to buy where we now are.

In April 1891 we left Seattle for the Island, bag and baggage on the San Juan with Cap John Nibbie. When we reached our piece of the woods the tide was out low.  Captain Nibbie, to accommodate us, ran his ship right up on the beach.  The cow was thrown out, then the pig in a poke, a tub full of pots and pans, and a barrel of pilot bread.  The furniture, piece by piece. The castors of my bridal bed are on the beach yet and my tam o’shanter.  I am glad the tide didn’t take my bed away or I would have been up a stump.

When I was stepping off, I said to the Captain “Where do I go now?” He answered “Cross the trail, get into the brush and stay in the brush” and I have been in the brush ever since.  Bushes and green bowers swayed to and fro as if to welcome us into the woods. 

Mr. Munro would always say to me “There’s not a soul around here. You can undress in any part of the shack.”  One day I was bare naked between the kitchen door and the cook stove, a space of four feet. Lo and behold a rap at the door.  Believe me that was the only time in my life I wished I was a snake.  Nothing would have been on that floor but my skin if I could have crawled out of it.  The gentleman at the door was Mr. Davis, the butcher buying fat cows. 

My husband wasn’t raised on a stock farm. So I had to harness the pony and milk the cow. The pony was very gentle but the cow kicked and bellowed and acted in every way brutish.  I had the patience of Job and I nursed my anger at being deprived the point of honor. 

The first little pig I had one day got out of its pen. I ran it round and round the pen.  It made three rounds to my one.  The only part I could catch was its tail.  When my hand slipped off its tail, I fell on my face.  Every time I fell the pig ran over me.  If I fell once, I fell ten times.  So never let you little pig out of its pen. 

I am the mother of ten. Six sons and four daughters.  Twenty grandchildren and one sweet great granddaughter.  My family all loves me and respects me.  Before I married I held the position of tutor, Archbishop Newton’s Laudale Highland Mansion House at Laudale [Glencripesdale Estate]

How dear to my heart are the days of my childhood. My children loved to hear their father play the bag pipes. They sounded so cheerful in the woods.  I think their shrill sound sent a Scotch thrill through the timbers.  Happy we were all together.  Happy we were one and all.  Mr. Munro was a beautiful hymn singer.  Studied music from his infancy.  At the age of sixteen he led the choir in the church his parents attended.  He was loved and liked by all who knew him, owing to his jovial disposition.  It was his sweet voice that won my heart. 

There were three families here then; Syversens, Lindquists and Arnolds at Crystal Springs, with post office and store. Proud to say my three neighbors and I were very friendly.  We seldom met in the winter as the trail was wet and miserable, but in the summer months we often visited with each other and had a tete at tete.   Oh would some power the almighty give us to see ourselves as others see us.  As the years passed my family and house hold duties kept me at home.  I was married four years before I could make a palatable pot of Clam Chowder. 

I was highly pleased when the electricity reached here. I had enough of tallow candles sticks and dirty lamp globes.  The phone is very convenient.  It is pleasing to know when your friends are coming here today, but where tomorrow the best of friends must part.  I have 1 ring, 2 rings, three rings.  I am that way muddled up with rings now I wish they would make mine seven as I am getting a little deaf. 

You can’t make an Englishman out of a Highland Scotchman. I gave my dearie a cane.  We were walking along the waterfront in Seattle one day, several years ago, and he gave the cane the Highland fling.  It landed in the bay.  That was the last of it.

The Island is prospering favorably. The roads are in good condition.  The Winslow ship yard and Marine Railway are in full swing and we have two large radio stations giving employment to men from all parts near and afar.  The present hour is in our power.  So let us all be up and doing with a heart for any fate still achieving still pursuing.  Be manly and brave to the end.  Remember for you there is a brighter tomorrow.  Remember that God is your friend.  We shall meet on the banks of the river of peace and bathe on its blissful tide and one of the inheritors of heaven shall be our brave Pearl Harbour Boys.  The rolling stream of life goes past the Vacant Chair.  Recall the love, the smile, the voice of him that once sat there.  May our hearts soon be full of quiet content, and peace and joy lie at our doors. 

Beautiful Bainbridge Isle –  My Isle of Golden Dreams.