Best Fin Forward: A Call for Finn Hill Stories

Best Fin Forward: A Call for Finn Hill Stories

Calling all history buffs and trail-walking “anthropologists”! For the trail guides and signage  that we’re planning for O. O. Denny Park we’re looking for as much good local historical background information as we can find, as well as natural history about the plants and wildlife, and the park’s geology and paleoecology.
 
Ask anyone who lives here and they’ll tell you what a treasure we have in our county parks, like Big Finn Hill Park, and O.O. Denny Park, which sit on the largest stretches of undeveloped forest on Lake Washington. For one, O.O. Denny contains the huge, sheared-off trunk of a 600-year old Douglas fir tree, 26 feet in diameter, thought to be the largest tree in King County until high winds broke it into pieces in 1993. A loop trail runs through the narrow creek valley, as well as many other offshoot trails, which we’d like to map and publish in a new trail guide. We’d also like to include as much good local history as can be documented.MAP Finn Hill BoundaryMAP Finn Hill Boundary
 
During the last years, Woodlands and Waterways has run some stories on local history, such as Donald Mackey’s memoir of fishing in the park as a young boy, “Halcyon Days: Trout fishing at Lake’s Edge.”
 
But we need more about life up on the Finn Hill. Many Finnish families lived throughout this area, including Norway Hill. They raised vegetables, including potatoes, squash, carrots, lettuce, peas, beans, tomatoes and cabbage and grew fruit trees like apples, plums and pears, according to Mackay. They had ‘smokers’ for smoking fish, particularly salmon; they served ‘lutefisk’ around the holidays. Many families also had traditional Finnish saunas, with a fire pit and hot rocks onto which kettle water would be dripped. Farmers had milking cows and well as chickens. Mackey recounts that his grandfather sold poultry and eggs, until the Depression hit. As for local wildlife, according to local residents, deer were often sited and even bear. According to Mackey; “Coyotes were seen all over the back country and did a lot of howling at night.”
 
Beyond this, of course, a real “secret history “ of this area would have to go much further back—documenting the much deeper anthropology, or ethno botany, of the Native American coastal peoples who inhabited our shores and forests, for millennia, before the state of Washington was established, and before European settlers arrived (not so long ago, relatively speaking!).
 
There’s little documentation, but what we’ve found so far about the Native American tribal presence here, probably Duwamish or Salish, comes from some websites about the “lake Indians,” and a few accounts, notably T.T. Waterman’s “Puget Sound Geography,” and Arthur Ballard’s “Mythology of Southern Puget Sound.”  We do know that there was a Salish village at the mouth of the Sammamish Slough, in Kenmore.
 
Please let us know if you have any firsthand information about the local history of this area. That might include, for example: stories from neighbors or finding artifacts–arrowheads or fish weirs, stone implements or foundations, walls, rafts, or other vestiges of Native American presence. Please let us know, if you know any local stories, or “myths and legends” from past generations of families from Finland, Sweden and Norway that might have been passed down through parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. We’ll let you know what we find and pass it back to you. 
 
 
   Francesca Lyman

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