Behind every road name is a story.
The subject fascinates Brian Grimm, who was born and raised on Whidbey Island. The Bayview resident started a community potluck series seven years ago called “South Whidbey Back Roads,” which invited people knowledgeable about road name histories on South Whidbey to share their stories.
Other pursuits took Grimm away from organizing the events the past few years, but he’s ready to bring the series back, and has attracted a partner with the Island County Museum who envisions more far-reaching possibilities for the rest of the county. Grimm’s own family has more than 100 years of history on the island and there’s even a Grimm Road.
It was during Brian Grimm’s own research on Bayview Community Hall that he found he wanted to identify other early South Whidbey family names, and figured the clues were on many of the road signs all around him. He expected others would want to learn more about road name origins and early family histories, too, so he started the community potluck series at Bayview Hall in 2009.
“We had people representing probably 18 to 20 roads, and it lasted seven hours,” Grimm said. “Part of it too is to get to know your neighbors.”
The “South Whidbey Back Roads” potluck series will resume next year with the stories behind Cameron and Honeymoon Bay Roads Jan. 8 at Bayview Community Hall. It will start at 2 p.m.
The plan is to have four potlucks a year centered on two or three pre-selected roads.
Grimm is working with Sarah Aldrich, archivist with the Island County Historical Society, to expand the series beyond South Whidbey and to the rest of the county. The partnership and information sharing is helping the museum gain much needed histories from South Whidbey, a key area Aldrich has been trying to target.
“All of the materials he was able to collect of past events we were able to digitize, and now we have them in the archives for research and to help build that community history that isn’t always documented,” Aldrich said. “I’m always looking to build the archives and collections here. It seems like a natural partnership.”
Grimm, a 1974 graduate of Coupeville High School, said he ultimately plans to write a book about his South Whidbey research, which he would like to see used as an educational tool for younger generations to learn more about early history.
Aside from the four events a year on South Whidbey, the plan over the next year is to start establishing contacts with families on other parts of Whidbey and Camano islands to expand the series there, Aldrich said.
In 2009, Grimm identified more than 90 roads from Clinton to Classic Road and assigned captains to spearhead efforts on gathering information about particular roads. The captains were often associated with a family connection.
The assignment was to find out what family the road was named after, when the family came to the island, the year the road was built and if there were any living relatives. The roads did not have to carry the family names but often did.
Already covered during past potlucks were the stories behind roads named after the Gabeleins, Campbells, Beckers and Wahls, among others. Nothing is scheduled for the Grimms.
“Not yet,” Grimm said. “That’s going to be an outside, summer-time get-together.”
To learn more about the potluck series, contact Brian Grimm at 360-929-3277 or at bjgrimm@whid bey.com. You may also contact Sarah Aldrich at the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-678-3310.