New Dungeness

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Date: 1850 to 1897
Location: Dungeness, Clallam, Washington Territorymap
Surname/tag: one_place_studies
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Jamestown marker for "Lord James Balch"

The S'Klallam tribe (Nəxwsƛáy’əm (pronounced “nux s’klallam”), the “Strong People,”)[1] and their forbearers have lived in the area since the end of the last ice age, as determined by the Manis Mastodon discovery[2]. The S'Klallam people were generally friendly to the European and American explorers and settlers. They signed the Point No Point Treaty in 1855 and were evicted from the area of New Dungeness after the first years of its existence but remained nearby and had the rare distinction of having not been removed from their native lands to a reservation. By 1874 their tribal leader, who was known to the settlers as "Lord James Balch", had the foresight to encourage his tribe families to buy their own land, named Jamestown in his honor. The Jamestown S'Klallam are a vibrant part of the community, as leaders and conservationists.

New Dungeness Survey c 1856 showing S'Klallam maintained fields and village (céʔsqaʔt)

When the Washington Territorial Legislature created Clallam County in 1854, most of the Euro/American settlers lived near the sheltered harbor created by a long, narrow sand spit extending more than five miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The small community was called New Dungeness after the harbor and spit (now just Dungeness Spit), which British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798)[3] named in 1792 for a similar promontory in the English Channel. The original town of New Dungeness was located near Cline Spit, primarily in the area on the bluff above, known as "Whisky Flat" shown in the lower portion of the survey map. The first dock was also located at the spit on the inner bay. The homestead claims of the first settlers quickly took advantage of the S'Klallam maintained grass prairie inland to set up their farms. By 1874 the S'Klallam village had been displaced to Jamestown ( nəxʷŋəyaʔáw̕xʷɬč, "Grand Firs"), down the coast by some five miles.

New Dungeness Survey Plat c 1863 showing Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 claims

Elliott Cline was a prominent pioneer who donated land to the county for the first courthouse and jail. He served five terms in the Territorial Legislature. Settlers began clearing their land in the dense forest surrounding the port and joining in the most general occupation of providing logs to the mills that were beginning in nearby Discovery Bay and later at Port Angeles. Prairie land laid nearby, thanks to the S'Klallam, who maintained the natural prairie openings with yearly burns and this invited the settlers out into the expanse of the surrounding area.

In an 1860 election, the first recorded in Clallam County, voters placed the county seat at Whiskey Flat. Within a few years, the seat was moved up to the bluff where most of New Dungeness was developing. On July 24, 1865, Elliott and Margaret Cline platted a townsite there and deeded two lots to the county[4]. There, the first courthouse and jail were constructed. Elliott Cline was Clallam County's first representative in the Territorial legislature and held various county offices.

In 1861, Capt. Thomas Abernathy and his neighbor, Elliot Cline, traded potatoes for dairy cows from Victoria, and that started the dairy industry in the Dungeness Valley.

The settlement of New Dungeness is among the earliest established Euro-American communities on the Olympic Peninsula. Among the first residents was Captain E. H. McAlmond, who received his Donation Land Claim in 1857. The McAlmond House National Register of Historic Places [5] nomination attributes many of these early settlers to New England sailors arriving in the early 1850s. The 1859 Government Land Office [6] several existing Donation Land Claim homesteads predating the GLO survey on land just south of New Dungeness Harbor in Township 31N and Range 04W. Washington archive records[7] show that the original Elliott Cline claim was submitted with other settlers claims and was not confirmed among the Donation claims for several years. These included Richard James McDonnell, Daniel Smalley, Thomas and Christina (Bell) Abernathy, Dr. John P. Barrow, John Thornton, B. J. Madison, Charles M. Bradshaw and William King (under the 1862 Homestead Act). In 1853 John Bell (brother of Christina Bell Abernethy) also arrived and took up a homestead claim inland. Daniel F. Brownfield and John W. Donnell were also early homesteaders[8][9] who took a claim on the Sequim Prairie.

New Dungeness Lighthouse c 1898

Courtesy of the National Archives

During this same period the federal government established the New Dungeness Light House Reserve on March 12, 1859.[10] The first lighthouse keeper was Henry Blake, who became involved with the Tsimshian massacre by rescuing and defending its one survivor. [11] Mr. (William) King and (Daniel) Smalley were involved in the deportation of the S'Klallam who were implicated in the massacre and in the restitution to the Tsimshiam tribe.[12]

The first school at Dungeness was presided over by James McFarlune. Capt. Thomas Abernethy had built a new house for himself and family and his old cabin, located on the Abernathy farm and built of logs, was used for the schoolhouse.[13] . The two-story Dungeness Schoolhouse was opened February 27, 1893. The school term was four months and the students ranged in age from six through twenty. In 1921, the building was enlarged, and it served as a grade school until 1955. The building is now a community hall and a National Historic Site. [14]

On June 6, 1860 a new family arrived by way of Port Townsend. Having steamed up the coast from California, the John Weir family made their home in a log cabin down by the river. At the time the Weir family's youngest son was James Allen Weir, then 6 years old, who began a career in the territory that would see him become the first Washington Secretary of State. Along the way he wrote a colorful essay called "Roughing it on the Puget Sound" that gave many details to the area.[15]

New Dungeness c 1890

Bert Kellogg Collection

From 1883-1890 the town of New Dungeness was the scene of many lovely and delightful affairs, the settlers holding a yearly Fourth of July picnic, dances, roller skating contests, sleighing parties, clambakes, smelting parties, and baseball games. The town at that time boasted of a general store and Post Office combined, owned and managed by Mr. Frank Clapp; a good hotel owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ward, now living at Dungeness; a barber shop and a dressmaker shop. The Bill Law house was managed by Mr. and Mrs. Elias Cays father of Alfred Cays of Dungeness; a Good Templar hall where the dances were held, Clark's and Cline's residences, the Methodist Church and the County Court House. In 1885 Mr. George Lotzgesell, Jr., was elected Justice of the Peace and had the honor of marrying a couple from Forks, Washington. Mr. Lotzgesell was later elected County Commissioner and his foresight in building roads and other community improvements were helpful in building up his district as he was always active in matters of welfare of the country surrounding his birthplace, conducting a vigorous campaign for the office of County Assessor at the fall election previous to his death in 1931 at the age of seventy one years. By 1889 Dungeness was linked with Port Angeles and Port Discovery by a wagon road and although a new hotel had just been built and the settlers thought they had quite a city, it was at this time that the county seat was stolen and removed overnight from Dungeness by citizens of Port Angeles and moved to their now growing city. This incident fairly knocked the props out of the liveliest town on the coast. The fact that the harbor at Dungeness was not always accessible on account of tides, made it unfortunate for the east enders in trying to recover their loss since Port Angeles has a harbor always accessible, and at the present writing is a regular port of call for ocean going vessels.[16]

On November 10, 1890, a posse of Port Angeles residents moved the Clallam County seat to their home town from New Dungeness, where it has been located since the county was created in 1854.

Plat map of New Dungeness, Washington c 1865

Bert Kellogg Collection

Marker reads "New Dungeness Washington Territory. Discovered by Ensign Manuel Quimper, July 4, 1790. Named by Captain George Vancouver, April 30, 1792. Elliot Cline, pioneer, arrived October, 1852. Platted New Dungeness Townsite in 1865. Donated land for first courthouse, jail. Lighthouse lit December 14, 1857. Reference Mark, United State-Canadian Boundary Treaty of 1908. Tsimshian Indian Massacre, Graveyard Spit September 21, 1868. Site donated by Mrs. Margaret Cline Bigelow. Erected by Michael Trebert Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution of Port Angeles, Washington, May 8, 1965."

By 1891 the port of Dungeness had moved east across the Dungeness river to create a deep water port. A mile-long wharf was built to handle the farmers trade from the interior. The old site of "New Dungeness" (remember, Vancouver coined the name "New Dungeness") became Old Town and the new Dungeness was just that, newer than New Dungeness. The business at the wharf was brisk and the settlement grew into a small town. The county seat had shifted to Port Angeles and soon the commerce had shifted there and to the nearby farming town of Sequim. With the coming of auto roads the future of Dungeness was sealed. Today, the local roads still have the names of the pioneers, but only the few historic sites remain.

New Dungeness Panorama, Washington c 1909

Bert Kellogg Collection

Clallam County Election 9 July, 1860

Bert Kellogg Collection


  1. Sequim History Many sources listed within web page
  2. Manis Mastodon
  4. Armed posse moves the Clallam County seat from New Dungeness to Port Angeles on November 10, 1890 Essay 7587 By Kit Oldham
  5. National Register of Historic Places 76001879
  6. 1863 GLO survey records
  7. Washington Territory Donation Land Claims, 1852-1855, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives
  8. Early Oregonian Pioneer OL687
  9. DLC099 Washington Territory Donation Land Claims, 1852-1855, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives,,
  10. National Register of Historic Places 93001338
  11. New Dungeness Light Station Essay 7066 By Daryl C. McClary
  12. Prospectus for "Winter Light" (Winter Brothers), an account of James Gilchrist Swan Ivan Doig Archive - Montana State University (MSU) Library
  13. Sequim and the Sequim-Dungeness Valley — Thumbnail History Essay 8555 By Laura Arksey
  14. National Register of Historic Places 88000627
  15. Google Books Washington, West of the Cascades: Historical and Descriptive; the Explorers, the Indians, the Pioneers, the Modern, Volume 1 Herbert Hunt and Floyd C. Kaylor
  16. Pioneer Days in Old Dungeness by Lillie Kate (Dick) Lotzgesell

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