Letters to the Editor

Local history: Put the lake before Hancock

It’s Hancock Lake, not Lake Hancock!

Some people may ask, “What does it matter?” Well, hey, we don’t call some of our other lakes Lake Cranberry, Lake Hastie, Lake Deer, Lake Goss, do we? No.

This lake was always known as Hancock Lake, since the mid to late 1800s when Samuel lived there. It was only in recent years that some people started calling it by the backwards name.

Hancocks have been living in Virginia since the early 1600s. Some of them fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and out here some fought in the later wars. The family was well-to-do and well-educated (and they even owned some of the “S” word). I have a copy of my great-grandfather, Ammon Goode Hancock’s, pardon for having had slaves, signed by President Andrew Johnson, after the Civil War.

And yes, we think we were related to John Hancock, the famous signer of the Declaration of Independence. As that John Hancock had no children, no one could be “descended from.”

But back to this Samuel ... He was quite a guy! He led a wagon train West in 1845, spent some time in the California gold fields, had a claim in Tumwater before coming to Whidbey Island. He had training posts at Neah Bay and Clallam, was captured by Northern Indians, explored for coal at Deception Pass and Bellingham and explored the Stillaguamish River. He was the first white man to see Snoqualmie Falls, having traveled there with local indians. There is/was a sign there that stated this.

He was one of the many Hancocks with bright red hair, which was of great interest to the dark-haired Indians.

He married Susan Crockett, who was also from Virginia. They first lived near Fort Casey, then down near Greenbank where he built a house, barns and outbuildings near the lake. He and Susan had no children, but adopted his brother Daniel’s daughter, Susie Lee. Sam died in 1883, Susan died in 1902. Both are buried in Sunnyside Cemetery in Coupeville. Look for the tallest grave stone. That’s the place.

He wrote his narrative about the time he came to Whidbey. (An early-day resident here said a retired sea captain had written it for him, but this is not true. Samuel was educated in Virginia and wrote the narrative about the time he came to Whidbey. Just another small town false rumor!) This manuscript was borrowed from daughter Susie Lee, never returned, and published as “The Narrative of Samuel Hancock” in 1927. It is intriguing.

The third item of my concern: Down at the information overlook there is information about the area, what grows there, wildlife, etc ... and the logos of the five agencies involved. Isn’t it too bad that they all forgot to mention the man that the lake was named after?

Lillian Dean Huffstetler


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