The San Juan islands are a very beautiful place, so it makes since that both the Brits and the Americans would want to claim the land as their own. When the island was first occupied by Europeans and their descendants, it was not clear who truly owned the lands. Tensions were obviously high with two opposing sides living on one tiny island together. Then in 1859, an American shot a British man's pig and a war nearly broke out. The pig, who had no loyalty to a nation and only loyalty to the grumble of his own stomach was eating the american farmers potatoes. The pig was just the catalyst and not the true reason a war almost broke out. For twelve years, the island was occupied by both British and American troops. The dispute was eventually solved by a ruling from a German emperor who said the land belonged to the Americans. The British left the island, the Americans settled it further, and the pig hopefully went to a pig heaven where he could eat as many vegetables as he wanted undisturbed by angry farmers.
I visited both the American and British camps and took hikes in the area. Both places are very beautiful and peaceful. It is strange to think that such a peaceful place could have been the home to so much turmoil.
Here is an example of some of the houses the Americans troops lived in. The young men who were sent here probably joined the army for adventure. Instead they were stuck on a small island with not much to do. I read that there were many suicides during the dispute because people felt so bored their lives started to seem meaningless.
At the American camp, there is a place called Grandma's Cove. Unfortunately, I did not get to explore it because I needed to dash to get the ferry home. But on my way out of the park, we did run into a ranger. I asked this ranger why it was named Grandma's cove. Who is this Grandma? The ranger didn't even try to pretend he cared. He said he didn't know. I asked if there were any theories, thinking this may lead him to expand a little. But all he said was that there were three families living here and one of them must have had a grandma.
This grandma must have been someone! My theory is that she was an old lady that lived on the island but did not have any children. She was very lonely because everyone she loved had passed many years ago, including her husband. She went to the cove to stare at the water, to feel more at peace. She would also walk along the cove and collect seashells which she would make into jewelry. Then one day she befriended a little girl who admired her shell jewelry. The two became friends and soon after, the other children wanted to be friends with the old lady. She gave all the children jewelry made from sea shells. Soon, they started to refer to the lonely old woman as Grandma. Grandma no longer felt lonely. She had the friendship of many. Once she passed away, the cove was named after her, in memory of her kind spirit.
Sources for history of San Juan:
- United States. National Park Service. "The Pig War." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <http://www.nps.gov/sajh/learn/historyculture/the-pig-war.htm>
- "PIg War." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, May-June 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_War>