Brown’s Point descendant untangles Progressive era on Whidbey

The area near Langley, now known as Sandy Point, was settled by her ancestors.

Ruth D. Brown, the great grandmother of Kyle Walker, figures prominently in the story, “A Tangled Web of History at Brown’s Point.” Walker’s presentation is at 7 p.m on Oct. 20 at Langley United Methodist Church.

Ruth D. Brown, the great grandmother of Kyle Walker, figures prominently in the story, “A Tangled Web of History at Brown’s Point.” Walker’s presentation is at 7 p.m on Oct. 20 at Langley United Methodist Church.

By Patricia Guthrie / South Whidbey Record

Tales of wild times from more than a century ago will be presented Saturday, Oct. 20, by the South Whidbey Historical Society.

Kyle Walker, an Oregon resident and descendant of the Brown Family, will give a “Then and Now” talk called “A Tangled Web of History at Brown’s Point.” The area now known as Sandy Point near Langley was once known as Brown’s Point and settled by her relatives.

Walker answered questions about her research, relatives and the “tangled web” she unraveled.

Q. Can you tell me how you got interested in looking into your family’s history?

When I was in my early teens (over 45 years ago!) I found old family scrapbooks, photos, postcards and artifacts in the attic which piqued my interest. After asking my mother and grandmother about them, I was told a compelling story. It sparked my interest in the field of history. I received a BA and MA in Historic Preservation and Pacific Northwest History from Western Washington University.

Q. Did you grow up on Whidbey or come over to the island in the summer?

I did not grow up on Whidbey, nor did I come over in the summer. My mother, grandfather and grandmother would come over to visit Whidbey and my grandfather did spend his teens living on the Island.

My great grandparents (John J. and Ruth D. Brown) had passed by the time I was born. My great-great-grandparents were Joseph F. and Mary (Shelton) Brown (parents of John J. Brown.) They settled the area known as Brown’s Point, sometimes called Joe Brown Point, which was a Snohomish Tribe settlement. It was eventually renamed Sandy Point after the land was sold to developers.

I grew up in Shoreline. My mother and grandmother took me on a field trip to show me the farm, area and cemetery.

Q. What were you told about your great-grandparents and their life on South Whidbey?

My mother told me about her grandparents and visiting their farm as a girl. She would talk about the Portuguese/Native American history of the area. My grandmother would also share stories about the logging history.

Q. Can you give me a summary of what the “tangled web” involved?

The tangled web era describes how three separate lives became inexorably woven into a story of love, deceit, grief and belonging during the backdrop of the Progressive era. It begins and ends on Whidbey, while addressing many key Pacific Northwest topics, including Indian affairs, white slavery and the temperance movement.

It’s based on family history, years of research and genealogy. John Brown, who was born at Brown’s Point, became a special agent with the Indian Bureau Service. He and his partner patrolled the Pacific Northwest towns trying to break up prostitution rings and illegal liquor sales in the early 1900s.

Q. Does your family still own property at Brown’s (Sandy) Point?

That’s uncertain. I’m hoping those who still live on the island can answer that question. I did a deep dive of assessor records but they only go back so far. I have photos but it’s difficult given development over the last 50 years. I have been trying to locate the Ruth/John house and barn but I fear they are gone.

Q. Have you found others who know about your family history?

Since the time I was invited to give the presentation, I was put in contact with other Brown family descendants who will be in attendance. There will be a PowerPoint presentation, display of artifacts and attendee involvement to help solve some mysteries.

“A Tangled Web of History at Brown’s Point” by Kyle Walker, hosted by South Whidbey Historical Society, 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, Langley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Suggested donation is $5.

This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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