Photo provided                                South Whidbey Historical Society volunteer board members include President Bill Haroldson (far right), Bruce Towne, Betty Discher, Bob Waterman and Joan Handy. Seated on the other side are Tom Nack and Gary Gabelein.

Photo provided South Whidbey Historical Society volunteer board members include President Bill Haroldson (far right), Bruce Towne, Betty Discher, Bob Waterman and Joan Handy. Seated on the other side are Tom Nack and Gary Gabelein.

South Whidbey Historical Museum debuts history tour

A fundraiser combines talks, walk and wine tasting.

By Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News Group

WHIDBEY ISLAND — History is more than just learning about old times from old-timers.

Bill Haroldson believes that what happened last century and beyond still affects the way people live today.

“Local history informs us about the human condition — what we have in common with people who occupied the very same place as us decades and even centuries before,” said Haroldson, president of the South Whidbey Historical Society. “It is the story of us, or how we came to be … us.”

This Sunday, Haroldson will help lead the first-ever fundraising history and wine tour of South Whidbey. It will spotlight tribal settlements, pioneering families and communities while providing samples of local Comforts wine along the way.

Sunday’s tour, 1-5 p.m., will take passengers on a Whidbey-SeaTac shuttle bus. It costs $125 per person, and is limited to 20 people (must be 21 or older.)

Money raised will go toward physical improvements at the South Whidbey Historical Museum in Langley, as well as research.

The museum is hosting several events this month. On Oct. 20, Kyle Walker presents “A Tangled Web of History at Brown’s Point,” about the days of her great-grandparents and how prostitution, liquor laws and women’s suffrage intersected between 1910 and 1920.

The Oct. 14 tour begins at Brown’s Point (now called Sandy Point), where a permanent Snohomish tribal village was located. It ends on the deck of Haroldson’s Brighton Beach home, where he’ll share the history of Old Clinton and talk about the early ferries.

The bus tour was a suggestion of local historian Bob Waterman.

“We wanted to do something that would bring local history alive in a fun and informative way,” Haroldson said. “We are looking for ways to raise funds to cover things such as repainting the exterior of the museum, doing more video interviews with local people, and holding more special events to share South Whidbey history with residents, visitors and our schoolchildren.”

More tours may be offered in the future.

“If this one goes well, we will consider doing several next summer,” said Laura Canby, with the museum.

Along the tour, Rita Comfort of Comforts on Whidbey Winery will be serving wine paired with appetizers and desserts.

Participants will also receive a photo booklet of how the towns and area looked more than 100 years ago.

Haroldson and other board members and museum docents Waterman, Betty Discher, Joan Handy, along with several guest docents, will highlight the people and places of Sandy Point, Langley, Bayview, Freeland, Mutiny Bay, Austin, Maxwelton, Glendale and Clinton.

Brief stops will be made at each location. Waterman will lead a 20-minute walking tour in Langley, explaining the city’s development and colorful events and characters.

Following a stop at Bayview, Discher will talk about her family history. She is the great-granddaughter of the Spencers, who came to Freeland in 1905 and established a store, dance hall and post office. Later on, a logging operation, sawmill, mosquito fleet passenger boat service, and a repair shop were all built at Holmes Harbor on the site that later became Nichols Brothers Boat Builders.

Understanding how isolated, rural communities were shaped is particularly relevant when it comes to issues such as land management, Haroldson pointed out.

“We gain a deeper appreciation of our environment — how it used to be, how it was changed, what was lost, what is being reclaimed,” he said. “And hopefully, we gain wisdom, so that past errors are not repeated.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

Learn more

For information about South Whidbey Historical Society events, call 360-341-6090; www. For tickets to the Oct. 14 South Whidbey history tour, go to

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