Ferry town’s history will come alive at Clinton Days

Henry Hinman is recognized as the founder of Clinton. His great-grandson Keith Wrightsman still lives in Clinton.  - Photo courtesy S. Whidbey Historical Society
Henry Hinman is recognized as the founder of Clinton. His great-grandson Keith Wrightsman still lives in Clinton.
— image credit: Photo courtesy S. Whidbey Historical Society

Two visionary men arrived in Clinton with the idea of starting a car ferry service in the early 1900s. They were pioneers in the cross-Sound ferry service, but also became fierce business rivals who tried to settle disputes with fistfights and court cases.

It was the days before the state ran the ferry system, of course. Hard feelings had developed between the two ferry operators as competition intensified; both raced to get more visitors to Whidbey and their cars on their boats. Finally one commissioned a second ferry that could carry between 25 and 35 cars. The strain became so great between the two ferry lines that a fistfight erupted outside of the Progressive Hall in Clinton.

That’s how things were dealt with in the good old days.

Interested in learning more such stories about Clinton?

This coming Memorial Day weekend, South Enders can experience both past and present of the town as the Clinton Days celebration brings art, music and history to life.

The South Whidbey Historical Society will kick off events with Bill Haroldson’s presentation about Clinton’s early days at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Clinton. The evening will focus on Clinton’s early settlers as well as the so called “summer people” who vacationed in the Clinton area in the early 1900s, Haroldson said.

Haroldson will also talk about the development of the ferry service and life after World War II.

Descendants of the Clinton pioneers will add their recollections to the story.

“We bring some people in whose families have been around since the turn of the century,” Haroldson said. “We hope for many impromptu comments.”

After the presentation, desserts and coffee will be served. A donation of $2 is requested.

Those who attend the Thursday event will be well prepared to score high during this year’s History Hunt Contest over Memorial Day weekend, said Barbara MacCallum, who serves on the Clinton Days planning committee.

This is only the second year for Clinton Days, but the event gained a following and is growing this year.

“It’s a good time to celebrate Clinton,” MacCallum said.

One of the highlights will be the dedication of Clinton Beach park, which is scheduled to be finished in time for Memorial Day weekend, she said.

New this year are craft vendors who will be selling their wares from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Also, there will be more kids entertainment. Children can work on their own quizzes and there will be face painting, MacCallum said.

Musical performances will be a big part of this year’s event. Musicians will entertain visitors at venues throughout town. The library will hold a book sale and churches, organizations and local businesses will make sure nobody goes hungry. Breakfast events and countless BBQs are planned throughout the weekend.

On Memorial Day, a remembrance ceremony will be held at the cemetery.

The ongoing raffle sales and History Hunt will come to an end at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, when winners will be announced.

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