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Gnarled Tree, Matia Island, San Juan Islands, Washington

Gnarled Tree, Matia Island, San Juan Islands, Washington (Nature)

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Matia Island is an island in the San Juan Islands of the U.S. state of Washington. The island's entire 145 acres (59 ha) comes under the protection of Matia Island State Park.

The Hermit of Matia Island

For almost 30 years a man, Elvin H. Smith lived in a cabin on a bay in the island's southeast corner (opposite Rolfe Cove). Elvin H. Smith was born in Wisconsin circa 1835 (185 years ago). Elvin Smith fought in the Civil War during the 1860's, rising from private to brevet captain in the Union Army. Embittered because Army bureaucrats never recognized his battlefield commission and disappointed by an unhappy love affair, he left home for good and headed west. After a stint as a newspaperman, he worked for years as a traveling passenger agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad until he gave up railroad business in 1890 (130 years ago) and came to Bellingham, Washington. Once in Bellingham, Smith joined forces with a lawyer to make some money on land speculation. There were rumors that the federal government was going to open Matia Island for homesteading. The lawyer fronted money to buy out a pair who had acquired squatters' rights on Matia. Smith moved to the island in Apr. 1892 (128 years ago) to perfect a claim the partners could sell at a profit. He was later dubbed "The Hermit of Matia Island", and remained there until his supply-laden rowboat vanished on in a storm on Feb. 23, 1921 (99 years ago) in route from nearby Orcas Island.


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