THE MCALMOND HOUSE Dungeness, Wa.
The McAlmond House is all that remains of the very early settlement of what was originally known as New Dungeness, named by British explorer Captain George Vancouver in 1792 after a coastal village in England. This community was founded by a small group of sailors who arrived there from New England in the early 1850's. The house was built by ships carpenters from Massachusetts in approximately 1861 for Captain Elijah H. McAlmond. Construction materials were transported by boat from mills in Oregon on the Columbia River, and then loaded on barges which carried them ashore. A team of oxen hauled the materials from the waterfront across the marsh and up the bluff to the site. The Honorable E. H. McAlmond held high public office in the early settlement of New Dungeness. He served as Justice of the Peace, first county commissioner, sheriff, Deputy United States Marshall, Probate Judge and in 1863 as a member of the Territorial Legislature. At age 16, McAlmond worked as a sailor off the coast of Maine where he had been born at Belfast March 4, 1829. As a young man he came around the Cape Horn to San Francisco, but soon left for Central America where he fought the natives of Nicaragua under the command of General Menyosen in a fruitless attempt to start an American colony. He arrived in the Puget Sound area in 1850 at the age of 21. There he fought Indians under Colonel Isaac Ebey, sailed lumber up and down the West Coast, was active in Alaskan trade and hunted seals off Cape Flattery. After settling in New Dungeness he built seagoing sailing ships in the harbor, was a farmer on 160 acres of land and a husband to three wives at the last official count. Reportedly there were four or more wives. Captain McAlmond is said to have fathered a son at the age of 90. Three months after President Fillmore signed the legislation creating Washington Territory, March 2, 1853, Captain McAlmond applied for a Donation Land Claim. McAlmond received his claim October 10, 1857 which included the site of the existing house. During his first years at New Dungeness, McAlmond made his primary living as a ships master and builder of sailing vessels. When he later turned to serious farming rather than laboriously clearing the heavily forested land and pulling immense stumps as the other farmers were doing, he diked the salt marsh at the edge of the tide flats below his house. He then diverted the Dungeness River to wash the soil and provide irrigation. With very little effort the Captain created more than 250 acres of fertile lowland which he cultivated with great success. It was during the period of 1853 to 1861 that he became an important civic leader. The First Washington Territorial Legislature of February 27, 1854, created Clallam County (once a part of Jefferson County), and appointed at its first session Elijah McAlmond one of the first county commissioners. Following this, he held many other offices. In 1857 he served as Probate Judge which, in addition to probate matters, handled a variety of cases from selling liquor to Indians to murder. In 1859, he was one of the judges of elections and the county coroner. From 1855 to 1856 he was clerk of the court, inspector for special elections and supervisor of the poor. In the hall of the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles there is a framed original document of election results held in Washington Territory July, 1860. Captain McAlmond's name appears as elected wreck-master, an important position in those days when boats piled up on the treacherous spit of New Dungeness. In 1860, Captain McAlmond married Elmina Harmon, a native of Steilacoom, Washington. A son, Henry, was born the following year. By 1863, the marriage between Captain Elijah McAlmond and his wife, Elmina, began to break up, for on August 26, 1863, both parents deeded the 160 acre donation land claim, land and buildings to their only child, Henry, who was then three years old, "in consideration of love and affection." Two years later, May 12, 1865, Elmina had a court judgment served through the sheriff against Elijah McAlmond for cost of the suit and counsel fees. She then left the family, never to be heard from again. Elijah remarried on September 18, 1869 to Lucy Ann Miller. The Honorable Alien Weir, the first Secretary of the State of Washington who was also the son of an early pioneer in New Dungeness, read a paper before the Washington Pioneer Association in 1891: "Roughing It on Puget Sound in the Early Sixties". In it, he mentions that Captain McAlmond is still alive and one of the few pioneers who is left in the area. Captain McAlmond was then 62 years of age. The following quotation appears on page 123 of that paper: Houses were mostly built of logs with clapboard roofs and clay fireplaces. When Captain McAlmond built one of real lumber throughout, actually lathed and plastered inside, with real boughten doors and a cornice around the roof, there was a general feeling that the county had taken a long stride toward the opulence and luxury of the old world. The captain was elected justice of the peace out of pure deference for his superior attainments."
The McAlmond House is apparently the oldest frame residence in Clallam County and as Weir's account would indicate, it may have been the first. New Dungeness is among the earliest permanent settlements on the Olympic Peninsula roughly coinciding with the establishment of Port Townsend in 1851. Nearly all evidence of the original development at New Dungeness has disappeared with the exception of McAlmond House which is also the home of one of the first county officials and one of the founders of the community. As a work of architecture, it is an interesting adaptation of the traditional farmhouse form utilizing fine Gothic Revival and picturesque details to give it style and sophistication. Although much of the architectural decoration is deteriorated or missing, it is an unusual example of Gothic Revival in the area. Until mid 70s, the house remained in the ownership of the McAlmond family without any significant modifications to the original design.
Weir, Alien. "Roughing it on Puget Sound in the Early Sixties Washington Historian, Vol. I, No. 3, 1891. .", The Interviews with surviving descendants.
1975 images of house before restoration.
North side of house in 1920