The History of Etta’s Place
Historic 1895 Sheriff Newt Jones Home
Built in 1895 by Sheriff Newt and Etta Glasscock Jones
San Juan County Sheriff Newt Jones was known to be a fair minded and competent lawman. The year his home was built, he brought murderer Richard Straub to trial and managed to protect him from a mob hanging in the midst of public outrage. The Islander newspaper praised Jones on October 24, 1895 for his care of the prisoner and professionalism during the County’s first and last execution. According to many sources, Jones reported at that time he never wanted to officiate at another hanging. At the time, he was building a new home on Argyle for his wife Etta Glasscock Jones and their children. The Jones family continued to live in the home until they moved to Everett, Washington. Jones became Everett’s sheriff and later became mayor.
Second Owners: Frank and Fannie Dennison
Frank and Fannie Dennison, originally lighthouse keepers on Smith Island moved into the Jones home. Etta Egeland was their niece. She founded and later donated the logbooks from the Smith Island lighthouse to the San Juan Historical Museum.
Third Owners: Archie and Maria Fleming
Archie was one of twelve children of San Juan pioneers Thomas and Mary Jane Fleming. Archie and his wife Maria Erickson moved into town in the 1930’s after selling their San Juan Valley farm. Their valley farm was 155 acres of lush valley soil. They grew hay and grain as the principle crops. Fleming was also a prosperous dairyman who sold his products to the creamery in Friday Harbor.
Fourth Owners: Etta and Harry Egeland
Etta Egeland, the second “Etta” to live in the house, was the granddaughter of pioneer Peter Lawson and, of course, the niece of Frank and Fannie Denison. Etta Elizabeth Lightheart Egeland was an island icon. She lived to be 105 years old and experience three centuries of American politics, culture and history on the island. Etta was born to Annie and Alexander Lightheart on November 10, 1895 on her grandfather’s “squatters rights” farm at Straitsview on the west side of the island. An Indian mid-wife oversaw her birth in a log cabin.
Etta’s grandfather, Peter Lawson, came to San Juan Island from Denmark in 1856. Her grandmother, Fanny Deardon Lawson arrived from Victoria on a Bride’s Ship from Manchester, England. Etta did not like the prospects for married life in Victoria, but she did fall in love with Peter Lawson from San Juan. They married and had four boys and four girls, one of them Annie, Etta’s mother. Etta’s father, Alexander Lightheart, moved from Michigan to the San Juans in 1889. Alexander and Annie had three children, Harold, Calvin and Etta.
In 1915 Etta married Harry Egeland, a Norwegian immigrant who worked at the local shake mill. On their honeymoon in San Francisco in 1915, the Egelands saw the Wright Brothers fly! Harry later raised and sold turkey’s. Etta and Harry had two children, Juanita Marcella and Edward Calvin. Edward died at age 7 from polio. Etta and Harry lived in a home on Spitz Hill behind the Town of Friday Harbor’s tower for 49 years. When Harry died in 1964, Etta moved to Argyle Street where she resided for 38 years.
Etta pioneered as an 1900’s woman wage earner. She was a telephone operator, income tax preparer, dispatcher, domestic servant, fish cannery worker, liquor store clerk and the dishwasher at the “Bug Station” at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs. We all hold lots of different jobs to support ourselves here on San Juan Island and Etta was not exception.
Etta was also our first local historian, recording thousands of hours of oral histories, genealogies and stories. She gathered artifacts and antiques from pioneer families so that their history would be preserved. Her passion for history began when she was exposed to museums as a child, and later when she saw Queen Victoria during a bicentennial parade in Victoria, BC. Etta is credited for founding the San Juan Historical Society and Museum. She also founded the local garden club; so to honor Etta’s dedication to plants and flowers I continually add those the gardens around Etta’s Home.
Etta’s Place Today
This Prairie Queen Anne-style farmhouse has lived through several notable changes. During the 1960’s, the house was clad with aluminum siding. Current owner Carol Anderson removed the ugly metal siding in 2009 when she discovered the original 1895 wood siding and decorative shingles, were intact and ready for a fresh coat of paint.
Carol is committed to preserving the house and making it functional for contemporary use. She has restored materials where possible, used historic recycled materials and added a dormer to give headroom to the stairway in the hallway.
Because Etta’s Place was know as the place you could go when you had no place to stay, Carol has turned this historic home into vacation rentals in honor of Etta’s lifelong gift of preserving history and helping others to enjoy San Juan Island. Carol was fortunate enough to share a friendship with Etta the last five years of her life.