Orcas History Lives Here!

Orcas Island Historical Museums

The Enemy Never Came

by Scott McArthur

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing forAdolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

The James Francis Tulloch Dairy


Compiled and Edited by Gordon Keith

Living High

by June Burn

This book, written by Islander Karen Jones-Lamb, highlights the histories of 10 Native women who married white men who settled in the San Juan Islands. With photos and oral histories, Karen helps paint a picture of days in the lives of these women.

Residents of the Pacific Northwest, like all Americans, were deeply affected by the Civil War.But the Pacific Northwest was the most remote corner of the United States, and furthest removed from the scenes of battle. Scott McArthurs book, The Enemy Never Came; The Civil War in the Pacific Northwest, examines the everyday lives of the volunteer soldiers who dealt with the Native American renegades of the region and the settlers who were deeply affected by the war but were unable to really do much about it. In the early years of the War, communication with the rest of the nation was slow and tenuous. So the early settlers of what now is Oregon, Washington and Idaho concentrated on controlling the restive Native Americans whose land and society had been overwhelmed by the Whites, vigorously argued politics and worried about invaders from the South, from the British colonies to the North and from the sea, none of whom ever materialized.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

by Timothy Egan

The Historical Society maintains a library of publications related to the history of Orcas Island and the San Juans.

Some books on this page are rare and/or out of print.  However, they are available for viewing by prior arrangement in our offices.  If you are interested, call us at 360-376-4849 or send us an e-mail at info@orcasmuseum.org.  

"Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous portrait photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. But when he was thirty-two years old, in 1900, he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared. Curtis spent the next three decades documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty North American tribes. It took tremendous perseverance — ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him to observe their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Curtis would amass more than 40,000 photographs and 10,000 audio recordings, and he is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian."

 Author David Richardson, a third generation islander, tells a gripping story of the San Juan Islands, the Pig War and its aftermath, and delves into an intriguing list of the wars key characters.

The Light on the Island

by Helene Glidden

Recommended Reading

Courage, gaiety, and a fresh approach to life are reflected in this unconventional autobiography. It is a story of twentieth-century pioneers as resourceful as ever they were in the days of the old frontier. June Burn and her husband Farrar determined to go their own sweet way, enjoying first hand living and not surrendering to the routines of a workaday world. Through the years they had some high and glorious adventures, which included homesteading a gumdrop in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest, teaching Eskimos near Siberia, and exploring the United States by donkey cart with a baby aboard.

The Boys in the Boat

by Daniel James Brown

Native American Wives of San Juan Settlers

by Karen Jones-Lamb

This is the true story of the ups and downs of James and Annie Tulloch and their nine children, all of whom were born and raised on Orcas Island in Washington State’s San Juan Islands. “James Frances Tulloch writes about his 35 years spent on Orcas with candor and vigor seldom encountered in such a diary.”

Pig War Islands
by David Richardson

The Light on the Island new edition celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Patos Island Lighthouse. Author Helene Glidden's childhood as the light house keepers daughter on Patos Island includes  missing chapters considered too risque in 1951 when book was first published.