A Salute to Teachers and the Last Cow in Friday Harbor

Posted September 2, 2020 at 5:30 am by

SJI His­tor­i­cal Muse­um is back with their His­to­ry Col­umn for September…

Walter and Juanita Nichols - Contributed photo

Sep­tem­ber is tra­di­tion­al­ly when we devote the his­to­ry col­umn to some­thing relat­ed to “back to school days.” We have fea­tured stu­dents, school­hous­es, and teach­ers of many dif­fer­ent eras. Since this is such an unusu­al year for all our stu­dents and teach­ers, we thought it appro­pri­ate to add the ele­ment of the cow. You will see short­ly how that fits in with a salute to teach­ers. Some of you will already remem­ber how.

Pic­tured above is one of Fri­day Harbor’s more well-known teach­ers, Wal­ter R. Nichols, with his wife Juani­ta Bar­ry, also a teacher. Wal­ter was born in Kansas in 1883 and came out west to Wash­ing­ton as a child with his fam­i­ly, grad­u­at­ing from teacher’s col­lege in Belling­ham before com­ing to San Juan Island.

This was in 1907 when he was hired as prin­ci­pal of Fri­day Har­bor Pub­lic School. Wal­ter was just 24 years old then, at the begin­ning of a long career in edu­ca­tion. He spent a year teach­ing in Alas­ka for the 1909–1910 school year, return­ing to Wash­ing­ton upon the com­ple­tion of that con­tract. Wal­ter and Juani­ta were mar­ried in 1912, and their fam­i­ly would grow with the addi­tion of three chil­dren: Floyd, Wenon­ah, and Eliz­a­beth. Wal­ter con­tin­ued his own edu­ca­tion through the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton for his Masters.

Wal­ter taught at Fri­day Harbor’s first high school and retired from teach­ing in 1939. He became a rur­al mail car­ri­er on the island, was active in the Grange, Odd Fel­lows, and the Amer­i­can Legion. In 1961, he was elect­ed to the first board of the new­ly formed San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety. He was also appoint­ed San Juan Coun­ty Super­in­ten­dent of Schools, serv­ing until 1967.

And the cow? After Juani­ta passed away in 1956, Wal­ter mar­ried anoth­er teacher by the name of Grace Waik­le. They are remem­bered by many for hav­ing one of the last cows with­in the town lim­its of Fri­day Har­bor. We would like to think this could have been the last cow. This was at the Nichols prop­er­ty on Spring Street, with a house that still stands. Many of us islanders have been inside. It now hous­es Fri­day Har­bor Den­tistry.                                         

Wal­ter died in 1969 and Grace fol­lowed in 1974. The “Wal­ter Nichols Con­tin­u­ing Schol­ar­ship Fund” was estab­lished upon Walter’s pass­ing by the San Juan P.T.A. for Fri­day Har­bor High School grad­u­ates enrolled in col­lege, tech­ni­cal school, or voca­tion­al train­ing. We don’t know what Wal­ter would think of this year’s vir­tu­al class­rooms, but we are cer­tain he would tip his hat to the ded­i­ca­tion of today’s teach­ers, stu­dents, and par­ents to make it work. If you have a mem­o­ry of Wal­ter, Juani­ta, or Grace, please leave a comment.

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  1. I remem­ber Wal­ter being the mail car­ri­er as I was grow­ing on Beaver­ton Val­ley Road!

    Comment by Bob Guard on September 2, 2020 at 8:09 am
  2. I was hop­ing you would chime in. Thanks, Bob!

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on September 2, 2020 at 9:22 am
  3. I am Wal­ter Nichols grand­daugh­ter and I am won­der­ing if would be please E mail me a copy of the article.

    Comment by Launa jones on September 2, 2020 at 4:37 pm
  4. Email has been sent. Thanks for mak­ing the connection!

    Comment by Peggy Sue McRae on September 2, 2020 at 6:49 pm
  5. Thank you, Peg­gy Sue. And hel­lo, Lau­na. I’m one of the his­to­ry col­umn writ­ers from the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Muse­um. I’ve want­ed to write about your grand­fa­ther for a long time. His obit­u­ary was a major source for details. Please let us know if there was any­thing incor­rect there.

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on September 2, 2020 at 7:11 pm
  6. Is Nichols Street named this Nichols family?

    Comment by Sherri Daly on September 2, 2020 at 8:35 pm
  7. I thought that Uncle John Nash had the last milk cow in Fri­day Harbor.
    He and Aunt Edna Hemphill lived in the house (not on the cor­ner) now is part of the Spring St Inter­na­tion­al School.
    Guard N Sundstrom

    Comment by Guard sundstrom on September 2, 2020 at 8:51 pm
  8. Thank you, Guard. We will add this cow to the sto­ry. We have anoth­er cow, once owned by Bill Cheva­lier on Guard Street, that has been men­tioned. So we have cows in the run­ning, it seems! These are great addi­tions to the story.

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on September 3, 2020 at 9:35 am
  9. For Sher­ri Daly, Nichols Street is named for the oth­er Nichols fam­i­ly. No rela­tion to Wal­ter Nichols. Idele LaPlante Nichols (1855–1928) was an ear­ly prop­er­ty own­er and com­mer­cial devel­op­er of Fri­day Har­bor’s down­town core. It is quite notable for a woman of her era. Thanks for a good question.

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on September 3, 2020 at 9:48 am
  10. My mom, Jack­ie Dou­glas Hub­bard, says she remem­bers Mr. Nichols taught Civics class when she was in school, about 1938. She says it was a very inter­est­ing class. She remem­bers Mr. Nichols as a dap­per, gray-haired man who wore a gray suit.

    Comment by Shaun Hubbard on September 7, 2020 at 10:09 am
  11. Please thank your mom for adding to the sto­ry, Shaun. Civics sounds like a class that Wal­ter Nichols would love to teach. Details like these are some­times hard to come by!

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on September 7, 2020 at 1:00 pm
  12. Was Wal­ter Nichols ( We would have called him Mr Nichols) on the Cemetary Board for the Val­ley Cemetary? About 1963

    Comment by Guard sundstrom on September 7, 2020 at 5:54 pm
  13. Guard, we have not seen a ref­er­ence to Wal­ter Nichols being on the ceme­tery dis­trict board, but it does sound like some­thing he would do. Research for the col­umn showed he was very civic mind­ed all his adult life and involved in many com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions. Maybe some­one else knows about this one and will comment.

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on September 8, 2020 at 12:01 pm

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