For many thousands of years, Native American groups including the ancestors of today’s Klallam and Chemakum peoples, used Point Hudson, Washington as a seasonal resource collection site and as a ceremonial site. Shellfish and other seafood as well as an abundance of various waterfowl made this an excellent resource area.
For the First Nations of the Puget Sound region, waterways were the highways for their dugout canoes. They maintained permanent winter villages and summer hunting and fishing camps, travelling between these in the canoes. They also traded with the inland nations and with First Nations people along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California.
Europeans first encountered Point Hudson in 1792 when the British explorer Captain George Vancouver sent a landing party ashore. Captain Vancouver and his crew came ashore in three small boats and spent the night on the shore near Point Hudson. The British explorers encountered no Indians while they camped at Point Hudson. Vancouver and his men, however, using long boats powered by oar and sail, completed a detailed survey of Puget Sound.
Europeans have traditionally made a practice out of ignoring Native place names and Native people’s claims to the land. Europeans, unlike Native peoples, prefer to name places after people and in 1841 American captain Charles Wilkes named the point in honor of Commander William L. Hudson. Wilkes wrote:
“This is a beautiful Bay and has a long level beach with a Pond of Freshwater backing it and a run into the Bay where vessels may be supplied. The Point, a low sandy one [is] called Hudson’s Point.”
Following the European custom of naming places for people, Puget Sound was named for Lieutenant Peter Puget, an officer on Vancouver’s ship Discovery and Port Townsend was named for Vancouver’s friend the Marquis of Townshend.
The European invasion arrived at what would become Port Townsend in 1851 when the first non-Indians took up permanent settlement, officially founding Port Townsend. At this time there were an estimated 500 Klallam people living in the area, primarily in the area around Kah Tai Lagoon which is a short walking distance from Point Hudson. The Native American population by this time had already been decimated by European diseases, notably smallpox and measles. The death rate from these diseases is generally estimated at about 90% which suggests that the pre-European population was over 5,000.
Chief S’Hai-ak gave the arriving Americans permission to settle on Klallam lands. He drowned soon after the settlement invasion began and his younger brother, Chetzemoka, became the tribal spokesman. The new arrivals, unable to pronounce Salish names, called Chetzemoka the Duke of York, his wives Queen Victoria and Jenny Lind, and his son the Prince of Wales.
In 1859, tribal ceremonies involving hundreds of people were held by Klallam chief Chetzemoka at a longhouse somewhere in the Port Townsend area. The event was witnesses by James G. Swann who later wrote a history and ethnography of the Native people of the Olympic Peninsula.
Following the official founding of Port Townsend, the United States government ignored all traditional indigenous claims to the land and the newly arrived settlers pushed the Indians out of the area. A small Indian colony remained at Point Hudson, making a living by selling fish, weavings, and baskets door-to-door.
The city leaders of Port Townsend did their best to drive off the Native Americans who remained. By 1889, only a few Natives remained in the area.
As can be seen in the sign above, the industrialization and modernization brought by the new immigrants has changed Point Hudson’s ecology.
Deer, such as those shown above, as still found in the area, much to the dismay of local gardening aficionados.
Most of the historic buildings which remain at Point Hudson today date from the 1930s when the U.S. Health Administration created the Government Quarantine Station. The Quarantine Station provided disinfection services for vessels entering Puget Sound. The station opened in 1936 with 10 buildings, including a hospital, and detention barracks.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy took over Point Hudson, building machine shops to service mine sweepers as well as other buildings.
In October 1950, the 369th Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment arrived and occupied the site for the duration of the Korean War. In 1953, the government deactivated the facility and in 1956 it was purchased by the Port of Port Townsend.
Photos of some of these buildings are shown below:
In 1934, the small lagoon was dredged to create the dock area for today’s marina. Photographs of today’s marina are shown below.
The RV sites shown above are in the area where World War II barracks once stood.