Bartlett family photo of the Bucklin Hill Bridge. (Contributed photo)

Bartlett family photo of the Bucklin Hill Bridge. (Contributed photo)

Clear Creek Estuary | Past & Present

Clear Creek is located within the traditional territory of the Suquamish Tribe. The Suquamish knew Clear Creek as Duwe’iq (“mouth of a creek way back in a pocket”); and the camping area around the mouth of the creek, the creek itself, and all of Dyes Inlet as Sa’qad (“spear it”).

The Suquamish occupied areas between Gig Harbor and Bainbridge and Whidbey islands (Spier 1936; Suttles and Lane 1990). Pre-contact Suquamish settlements were often located along major waterways and at heads of bays or inlets. In the winter, they lived in large villages at permanent settlements, while the summers were spent fishing, hunting and gathering at temporary camps. The abundant wildlife resources of the coastal and estuarine environments supported a relatively rich, diverse, and reliable subsistence base.

The Clear Creek Sa’qad Interpretive Center, northeast of the bridge, is housed in a barn that dates to 1950. Kirk and Harriett Best constructed the building from surplus Army barrack materials and raised their family there.

In 1960, Carlton and Betty Smith bought the farm where they, too, raised their family. In the early 1990s, the Smiths donated the land to the Kitsap Land Trust (now the Great Peninsula Conservancy), an action that served as a catalyst for the development of the Clear Creek Trail system which includes a section of trail following the eastern edge of the creek in the project area.

Prior to the 1880s, logging was the only industry in the Silverdale area. Logging occurred in shoreline areas, and cut timber was floated to William Renton’s mill in Enetai (Forsman et al. 1997:13). After the 1880s, settlers arrived and began clearing land for farming.

The 1884 GLO map for the area provides little information other than that it was within an area of wet bottomland. The closest trail depicted on this early map was located in the vicinity of Silverdale and extended from the shore of Dyes Inlet northwest (GLO 1884).

A 1909 county atlas provides information about early post-settlement land ownership. Danish-born Tuie B. Thuesen owned 36 acres around the mouth of the creek. Anders Nilson owned the land south of present-day NW Bucklin Hill Road and west of the creek. M.M. Bartlett owned the land southeast of the mouth of the creek (Anderson 1909). No buildings or structures from these early settlements remain.

Thuesen came to the area in 1888 with his brother Mads. Tuie died in 1905 and, by 1926, A. and E. Bartlett owned his property. Between the late 1930s and 1950s, the original Thuesen property was divided into smaller separately owned parcels (Kroll 1935:8; Kroll 1954:8).

Anders Nilson was nicknamed “Dogfish” Nilson because he made a living catching dogfish and selling oil to local sawmills. He lived near Brownsville and may have used his property at Clear Creek as a processing site (Perry 1977a:121).

In the mid-1950s, Westfall-Schneebeck Lumber Company, the later owner of the Nilson property, installed a German-made mill, the remains of which can be seen at the Old Mill Park located southwest of the mouth of the creek (Great Peninsula Conservancy 2009).

NW Bucklin Hill Road has long followed the line between Sections 16 and 21. A 1909 county atlas (Anderson) shows the road where the mouth of the creek opens into Dyes Inlet.

Research suggests this road dates to 1907 when Christian Henry Braendlein built the “Silverdale to Tracyton bridge” (probably over Clear Creek). Braendlein, who worked on roads and was a road supervisor, completed the bridge on Oct. 12, 1907 (Perry 1977a:88). No historical photographs or additional references were obtained to determine if the original road included an actual bridge rather than the existing rock fill and large culverts.

Austrian-born Braendlein arrived in the Silverdale area in 1888. A 1909 map shows that Braendlein owned 40 acres east of where the road crossed Clear Creek in the southeast corner of Section 16. He made a living selling potatoes and in 1898, he had a contract selling meat to the Navy Yard, which required him to look afar for the livestock he brought home to butcher and deliver. Braendlein was also involved in his community, serving on the school board, working closely with the Department of Agriculture tracking fruit and vegetables locally, and serving as county commissioner and coroner (Perry 1977a:88).

— Randy Hunt is a local historian and member of the Central Kitsap History Club. Contact him at marvelrandy306@gmail.com.

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