Here is an attempt at turning my research into writing:
She was known as Harriet Henderson when she came to town. She was 22 or so, her oldest child 4. She had married John Leland at age 17, back home in Harrisburg, Oregon.
Olympia was small and Washington still a territory at that point. It was 1878. The “Indian Wars” hadn’t been fought too long ago. Back then they kept a cannon in the middle of the town square to defend themselves against the natives. In her lifetime, town square would become Sylvester Park and they would put a statue of the park’s name sake where the cannon used to be. The Neuffers built a storefront in sight (now a florist and banh mi shop). The Neuffers also found a baby on their porch, and Harriet just might’ve been the one who left it.
I read a quote from someone who lived between Harriet and I, maybe in the 1940s, who declared the statue “bad”. I’d never noticed anything amateur-ish about the statue of Old Edmund all the times he’s gazed over me- at “Music in the Park” when I was really young, or when I finished the last Harry Potter book beneath the park’s trees.
He still stands there, still in time, and I try not to pass through his park anymore. It’s the domain of the forsaken, the afflicted and the addicted. Speedheads and junkies riding tiny bikes. I feel bad for them but I’m so tired of being yelled at just for passing by.
Weirdly, I feel safest passing through Sylvester Park at night.
Daniel Bigelow is credited with establishing the residential eastside. He was the enterpriser that spanned the gap between exploratory commissions and cannons in the middle of “town” and the industrial slide into modernity. He is adequately remembered and honored for his role in Olympia’s history. His house still stands, a gingerbread cottage perched on the slope down to the water.
It’s obscured by a large bloc of replicated waterfront condominiums, buildings that exude a vibe of single living in the glamorous 1970s. I do not understand who the hell lives in these condos- I’m one degree seperated from every living thing in this area most of the time and nobody has ever mentioned to me that they live there, let alone invited me over. But there are so many of them, how is it possible?!
But the many patios facing the bay, punctuated by bobbing white boats, betray occupancy with their windchimes and plastic chairs. Surely they change but their adornments are so prescribed, so similar, so slowly evolving, that I’ve never bothered to notice.
Long before all that, though, that land was the Bigelows’ and they filled it with fruit trees.