The rains have let up. I scan Port Madison’s northeast shore through binoculars to see the Farnham house, built above the old mill-site, where much of Bainbridge Island’s forests were milled in the mid-19th century. The house looks the same as when Judge John Farnham leaned on his hoe under his prize apple trees.
He first signed on the General Park Hill at the age of 12 and spent 3 years shipping cotton between South Carolina and Liverpool before trading in contraband silk between Shanghai and Hong Kong. He rounded the Horn in the rush of ’49 and headed north to Port Madison when loggers, ship builders and land speculators were rapidly displacing the indigenous Suquamish people. He commanded side-wheel steamers, worked as shipwright and, in an odd –if not downright ironic–turn of fortune, served as keeper of the Seattle Pest House.
This was when the Old Man House still stood; where creation was annually sung into being in the Winter Dances. It was the lofty, cedar temenos of the Suquamish tribe that was demolished by Albion’s brass-plated cannon of imperious might in 1870.
This is was the home of Princess Angeline.
After reading Jerusalem, I’ve come to see Blake’s Gothic, sweeping poetry entwined with the shadowy firs of Port Madison. A rummy wastrel turned Urizenic guardian of self-righteous law, Farnham became the very image of man’s fallen spiritual state, laboring eternally in the Satanic mills, separated from his Sophianic emanation and closed to the Divine Vision.
And I hear fair Angeline as the banished Jerusalem, still weeping over the bay for her lost and tender children.
Farnham’s end was tragic. He had begun exhibiting signs of odd behavior and was forcibly dismissed from office. He held out against the deputy sheriffs in the Port Madison courthouse (then the County seat) with a shot-gun for 3 days before being led away quietly–a man forsaken by his adamant God of Reason.
Ballasted with river rock, he boarded the Seattle ferry, planning to jump into the deep soundings off Elliot Bay. But the emergency crew fished him out and he died shortly after.
I honor John Farnham, respect his adventuresome spirit and outrageous character; whose salty yarn and prize apples are the true golden relics of another age.