American Camp, English Camp, and Follies of Various Sorts

More touristy gossip about the San Juan Island trip.

The San Juan Island National Historic Park on San Juan Island is mostly centered around the “Pig War” and the lovely environment in which it was set. The Park actually has two units, American Camp and English Camp, each quite different from the other.

American Camp has the wonderful wildflowers, as well as a view of the water from the Redoubt

American camp, at the southern end of the island, was established to provide a military presence when the boundary dispute [provocative incident provided by titular Pig] between the Brits of Canada and the Americans of the US  about the archipelago (now the San Juans of the US and the Gulf Islands of Canada) couldn’t be resolved. Actually, it was a question of which court would settle the dispute about the pig, but that escalated into much stomping and carrying on by empires, as such things sometimes do.

The Pig War happened in 1859, when the American military was getting ready to be busy elsewhere, and the Brits were the looming presence of Empire. The Americans sent Capt. George Pickett (yep, that Pickett) to set up a military camp to keep the British from claiming San Juan and the other islands. (George Pickett resigned shortly thereafter in order to join the Confederacy (and/or to escape the winds of the strait of Juan de Fuca and the boredom of island life).

No shots (except at the pig) were fired in the dispute, and the island commanders quickly decided on joint occupancy until arbitration by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1872 settled the boundaries as they currently stand. The British, as American camp became established, put up a much larger camp at the other end of the island, near Roche Harbor, as a counter to the smaller and more crude American camp. The differences between the two camps (which may have been somewhat enhanced by the Park Service groundskeepers) are still obvious; wildflowers at American Camp, a trimmed formal garden at English Camp.

Other differences between the two camps exist, including the poor siting of American camp  where the winds and inclement weather (August was mentioned as nasty!) made life unpleasant.  I painted at American Camp, in the aforementioned wind, which is why it (the wind, I mean) is mentioned. Luckily, a large rock deposited by a glacier during the last Ice Age (the history of which I will not go into) provided the painter with some shelter.

Another artifact near English camp and Roche Harbor (not a part of the national park), is the Afterglow Vista Mausoleum, burial place of limestone magnate John S. McMillin. The path to the structure from the parking lot winds through the woods and a small cemetery, with graves surrounded by picket fences, and then further into the trees until, voilà,  the structure — like something from Greek mythology — appears, in renovated, classical splendor:

The mausoleum is embedded with symbols, Masonic references, architectural orderings, Methodism, family references, and at least one note about Mr. McMillin being a Republican. It’s worth seeing, all on its own, and worth reading about, just to see if you can name the seven liberal arts, the five architectural orders, and other such arcane trivia. Mr. McMillin obviously could.

After admiring and photographing the mausoleum, we also visited the ever-so-quaint village of Roche Harbor, where Mr. McMillin reigned and built the Hotel de Haro.  However Roche Harbor is too much like other quaint seaside hamlets to be of much interest. After the Mausoleum, Roche Harbor was a bit too plain.

And so completes the tour of San Juan Island, except for posting photos of paintings done there. These shall be saved for the next post (by which time I may have touched them up a bit). –June

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3 Responses to American Camp, English Camp, and Follies of Various Sorts

  1. june says:

    Thanks Cynthia and Jan. The paintings will be forthcoming very soon. I’m debating one last tiny touch.


  2. Just lovely. That’s my kind of vacation.

    I can’t wait to see the paintings!


  3. Jan B says:

    Nice photos of these places. I am fortunate to have spent some time up there too. I guess that was long ago now, seems like only a couple of years ago.


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