100 years and then some. It’s hard to imagine farm life in Jefferson County a century ago, a life devoid of conveniences we take for granted today.
There were no telephones, running water or accessible electricity. Light was provided by smoky kerosene lamps. Horses provided transportation as well as pulling power for farming. Meals were cooked on wood or coal stoves. Clothing was washed by hand in tubs with homemade soap.
Farm families faced a multitude of challenges and had few places to turn for help. Hungry for knowledge, many flocked to Farmer’s Institutes and “demonstration trains” staged by the WASHINGTON EXPERIMENT STATION to hear about experiments at the new state’s land-grant college in Pullman, Washington. Pioneer extension educators established a philosophy that’s relevant today; “helping farmers to help themselves”.
(Photo above: Ag agent with Hops Farmers. photo below: The Olympic Trail on the peninsula 1922)
Thomas Jefferson first called for a Cooperative Extension program, a way for the University Expertise to be shared as part of his agrarian democracy view of the country. It took until 1914 for Congress to fund the Smith-Lever Act, providing for “cooperative extension” as a part of the US Department of Agriculture.
Jefferson County’s population in 1860 was about 531, and in a mere 30 years grew to over 9,000 residents. Bolstered by the promise of a new railroad link with the Columbia River, Port Townsend businesses flourished, property values skyrocketed and the population doubled. By 1890, the railroad chose Seattle instead of Port Townsend as its terminus and the country entered into a period of financial depression. Many of the mansions were torn down or boarded up, and both large and small homes were taken over by the banks that financed them.
In 1900, the population of Jefferson County was about 5700. By the 1960s it was not much larger, but by 1990, there were more than 20,000 residents. By 2010, the population rose to more than 30,000 residents for a county that is roughly 21 square miles.
In 1862, the Morrill Act, or the “Land Grant College Grant”, laid the groundwork for the democratization of the public higher education. Today, more than 100 land-grant universities serve the nation and the world, as WSU serves Washington State. Sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill, it was signed into law by President Lincoln on July 2, 1862. Officially titled “An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts,” the Morrill Act provided each state with 30,000 acres of Federal Land for each member of their Congressional delegation. Click the image to the left to watch the video…
Early Local Extension Agents
Ok, so I’m a little obsessive about history, but where we are today is a direct result of what came before us. And WHO! Early records are sketchy, and for several periods there was no extension agent in Jefferson County, yet by all accounts, agent Ovid T. McWhorter (1884-1945) became the first, beginning in September of 1915, he was employed to operate both Clallam and Jefferson Counties…more than 3500 square miles. His family had migrated from Virginia to the Yakima Valley headed by his father, Lucullus V. McWhorter, (photo, below) author of “Yellow Wolf”, about this friendship with a chief in the Nez Pierce Tribe. He recorded first hand native American oral testimony, maintained extensive correspondence and made direct assessments of battle-sites in an effort to establish an accurate and comprehensive account of the 1877 conflict between the tribes and the Federal Government. His extensive library was given to WSU and is available HERE.
Son Ovid learned the value of social structure and negotiation from his father, learning to be a key mediator between tribes and the white settlers in our own county. (photos below: O.T. McWhorter: Graduation 1913, talking to fruit growers in Milton-Freewater, Umatilla, California taken after he left Jefferson County, 1929)
O.T. McWhorter graduated from Washington State College (later WSU) in 1913, was class president, studying horticulture and animal husbandry. It was through his efforts that cow testing was carried on, that the first home demonstration work was started in October of 1916, and that the boys and girls club work was begun. It was during his term that the Jefferson County Fair began!
McWhorter was followed by Ray Wallace McKenna, (also a WSU graduate) in 1922, who was the first extension agent employed to work only in Jefferson County who had his office in the Port Townsend Federal Building. It was he who organized Farmers clubs in the county which later became the Grange. He also assisted in organizing two co-operative Grange Stores.
William Henry served as county extension agent in 1921, and organized the Chimacum drainage district and an irrigation district in Quilcene. There was no county agent from 1922 to 1924. Clallam County employed A.W. Holland as Agricultural Agent who worked out of the courthouse office in Port Angeles.
Agent R.W. McKenna, who wrote in his 1920 Annual Report, “The county exhibits of fruit, grains, and grasses and vegetables were a revelation as showing what could be accomplished in a short time by working cooperatively as a community”, kept busy often riding horseback to the farms.
In 1924 Waldo O. Passmore (photo taken in 1945) became the next agent for Jefferson County. Mr. Passmore’s passion was poultry. The county extension agent served as coordinator, at the beginning, when many federal agencies were in the formative stages, which now have their own administrators, are the soil conservation service and the Agricultural Stabilization Committee. He was also a pilot and flew many crop dusting missions in Kittatas County where he later served as agent. (see photo crop dusting 1945)
In 1928, W.O. Passmore was replaced by Mr. Claude Anderson as County Agent for Jefferson, who placed increased emphasis on dairy and forage crops, and less on poultry. The returns from the Loganberry farms had disappointed many of the farmers and many of them had removed their crops. Mr. Anderson was elected state president of the County Agents’ Association in 1942.
Mr. Lyle Ternahan was the next Agent the following year, when entire crops of loganberries were removed from the fields to make way for cattle.
Cow testing for milk production has always been on of the basic services advocated by the extension service. While such testing has been carried on during the years, it was 1945 before a group of interested dairy farmers banded together to form the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, Inc., (DHIA) of Jefferson County. One of the farmers starting with the DHIA in 1945 was Harold Knapp of Port Ludlow who together agents with Dick Mathews, Lonnie McGrew and Ed McMinn who consolidated both Kitsap and Jefferson Counties well until the late 1960s.
Postwar agriculture depression created the “farm problem” and the Roaring 20s were not good for rural America. Extension Agents more often worked one on one with local farmers, stressing efficient production and marketing. As farm and city people became increasingly interdependent, agents worked more with community groups, and less with individuals. By the late 20’s, the Extension Staff numbered more than 5000 nationwide.
“Twenty people attended a bee club training, learning how to transport, collect and market local bee and honey products. The Quilcene Poultry group obtained direct boat service from Seattle to Quilcene cutting their freight in half, or $4 per ton on eggs.” according to County Agent at that time, W.O. Passmore in his 1926 Annual Report.
CROPS & RURAL ENGINEERING…
(Two pages out of W.O. Passmore’s annual report from 1926, notice Agent Passmore in upper right)
During the 1930’s and 1940’s there was increased interest in poultry farming and dairying for the general Puget Sound region market. Ferry service to the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area was improved. East Jefferson County became part of the milk shed for this urban market. Major pulp mills were built at Port Townsend and Port Angeles and population increased on the Peninsula. The Federal Farm Board was set up by Congress in 1930 to stabilize crop prices by buying wheat, cotton and other crops to create funds for larger scale farms. Tourist and recreational developments in the Olympic National Forest and new and improved roadways stimulated commercial agriculture. Activity by the Army and Navy at Port Townsend, Bremerton and Fort Flagler stimulated commercial growth in the 40’s.
In 1935 the Washington Cooperative Farmer’s Association established a poultry and egg receiving plant in Hadlock. Numerous high producing flocks were developed in the tri area and Marrowstone. During WWII, turkey producers on Marrowstone Island alone sold over 25,000 birds each year. In 1957, cooperative farmers opened a new branch at Chimacum to service members producing poultry and eggs in East Jefferson and Clallam Counties.
Melvin C. Hougan 1938 to 1942. (photo) Mel Hougan was a 1934 WSU grad with a BS in Agriculture. After a 4 year stay at Jefferson County, he went on and spent 32 years as a poultry expert, farm and home planning, and 4-H Club Agent in Chehalis.
Farm Families like the Westergaards, Nisbets, Bishops, Huntingfords, Vandecars, Marches, Nailers, Torkelsens, Kellans, and Cays raised crops, large animals and their families on large and small farms in the valley.
J.O. Tiffany 1953 – 1954
Jefferson County Extension agents provided technical guidance in agronomy, horticulture, and animal husbandry, and Experiment Stations in Mount Vernon and Puyallup gave assistance in dairying and poultry raising.
Oliver O. Orr 1954 – 1956
Edgar Franklin McMinn (1914 – 1993) 1956 – 1970 served from 1956 to 1970. In his 1957 Annual report, he writes that the Extension assisted 80 farms, 60 rural non-farms and 125 urban families. McMinn Road in Port Townsend is named after him. Edgar McMinn later became the owner of Key City Lanes Bowling Alley in Port Townsend. He is buried in the Laurel Grove Cemetery.
Ray W. Isle was the extension agent from 1970 to 1978.
Blair Wolfley With an agriculture degree from the University of Wyoming, Blair managed the WSU Jefferson County Office from 1978 to 1982. He currently manages Washington State University Extension’s Southern district. The 12 counties in this district include Grays Harbor, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Lewis, Clark, Skamania, Klickitat, Yakima, Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla. Blair supervises approximately 38 Extension faculty.
Pamela Chow served as the first woman agent from 1978 to 1982. It’s been led by women ever since.
Sally Weinschrott 1982 – 1990: In 1980 Sally (now Robbins), became the second woman agent. In 1985, Robbins became chair and continued as such until she retired in 1991. As the only agent until 1990, she worked closely with administrative assistant, Pam Rondeau. As a team they covered agriculture, family living, 4H and leadership development. In 1990, they started the Master Gardeners program in Jefferson County, offering the first training in the small room above the County Fair office. In 1990, Carol Costello was hired as the first 4H assistant.
Katherine Baril 1990 – 2010 With a law degree, a background in business, and a keen sense of needs and opportunities in the community, she has been central to growing the local food and farm economy, youth entrepreneurship, and growing the local economy.
Laura Lewis 2011 – present. Laura is an agricultural geographer with an emphasis on biodiversity and environmental systems, a WSU graduate with a focus on crop, soil and horticulture science in world agriculture and sustainability. She holds a Ph.D from the University of California, Davis. firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.379.5610 x 202