Ever since first seeing these home movies in the late 1980’s, on a VHS tape my dad got from someone, I have wondered who was in the movies and what was going on.
I knew about the Morgan chicken ranch, growing up on Quartermaster Drive it was in my sphere of neighborhood roaming. Several of the ranch buildings where still standing including the water tower and some of the coops until the 1980’s.
In 2008 I had hip replacement surgery and while recuperating I found the VHS tape and began watching it. Fascinated I wanted to know who that festival Queen was and what years was it? Who was this Morgan? Was he from the J.P Morgan family as rumor implied?
Well that was about it and I forgot about it until I joined the Board of Directors at the Vashon Maury Island Heritage Museum and Jim Sherman and I started the Old Vashon Pictures and Stories Facebook page. I did a little research at the Museum and again that was that.
The movies were all chopped up with scenes that belonged together at opposite ends. I knew nothing about video editing and tried to do a little when I figured out how to convert it to digital Mp4 or whatever.
Then in 2013 I had shoulder replacement surgery and began to teach myself editing in earnest after much swearing and months I began to get the Morgan clips in better order.
I also went on line and did some research on Elisha Morgan’s family and the chicken ranching business in the 1920’s. I spent time researching in the Heritage Museum research room, (open to any member during business hours and full of photos and books and research files) countless hours at the Vashon King County Library looking at old Vashon newspapers on microfiche.
I want to give a special thanks to Gene Sherman who was able to interpret many of the scenes and recognize individuals.
Below the video I have attached the script I used with attribution to my sources.
So after years of messing around with this, while not professional quality I hope you enjoy.
MORGAN HOME MOVIES
Film Edited by, Brian Brenno
Narrated by, Brian Brenno
Elisha Morgan born 1871, he was from Highland Park IL, he attended Northwestern and Cornell Universities. He spent most of his life in Highland Park IL. 1
His father O.H.Morgan was a Captain in the Civil War and involved in many battles including the march to Atlanta. Later he partnered with his father-in-law and started the Chicago Varnish Co in 1885. 2
Elisha Morgan moved to Vashon in 1921 and established the Highland Park Poultry Ranch on the hill, now known as Morgan Hill, above Quartermaster Harbor.
He had farmed poultry back in Illinois where he also had worked for the Chicago Varnish Co. 1
This is Elisha’s family from left to right son Donald, wife Mary daughter Mary Catherine, and son Elisha.
Donald Morgan was valedictorian for his 1928 Vashon High School graduating class and accepted at Cornell University. Later that summer Donald was blinded when a friend threw a stick of dynamite in a beach fire. He ended up going to Cornell a year later and his mom lived with him at school the full four years. 3
This is Elisha wife Mary with Son Donald his wife, daughter and guide dog.
The following home movies were taken between 1926 and 1930 Elisha on left, Mary, daughter Mary Catherine, and an man unknown at front door of house.
This 1926 property map shows the location of the Highland Park Poultry Ranch, just over 40 acres of hillside. Highland Park bred chickens for breeding stock. The ranch, according to the Reliable Poultry journal was one of the best equipped poultry plants inWashington, if not in the U.S.
In the 1920’s Vashon’s economy was based on agriculture; poultry, greenhouse businesses, and outdoor fruit crops were the main three. In the late 1920’s the Poultry business was the largest of the three. There were over 250,000 laying hens on Vashon Island, with over 50 million eggs laid each year. 5
Elisha Morgan’s Highland Park Poultry Ranch held a world record for the price of eggs. In 1926 The Vashon News Record reported that Mr. Morgan has sold several dozen eggs this season at $25.00 per egg, and held a world record for the price of eggs and breeding pairs.
This shot is a pan of a hand tinted, oversized photo of the Morgan’s property.
In the middle from left to right is Monument Road.
You can see Monument curve to meet Quartermaster Drive.In the background is Maury Island and the Kingsbury beach area and Mount Rainier.
Then the Quartermaster Dock and the Billingsley’s barn still standing on the Quartermaster Drive S curves. On the beach is Captan Wiman’s house, the house is still there.
Looking south to Dockton and now Jensen Point the Burton Peninsula.
Morgan’s house, below the house was free range area for the chickens.
Looking south over the peninsula to the mouth of the harbor
Ranch Buildings, panning northwest to the chicken ranch buildings
first set of buildings are the two large laying pens with feed room in the middle
you can see the brooding house roof just above them and the oat germinating house just behind them.
At the end of the laying pen is the incubator house.
Then the water tower then at the far end two more large laying pens.
There were 6 pens divided by fences for free range areas.
An orchard for growing kale and other leafy vegetables for feed, you can also see moveable outdoor colony houses used for the free rangers. 4
SHOT FROM HILL
Looking east toward Portage from a spot where the Billingsley and Morgan properties met.
Monument Road in the middle going from left to right, with Quartermaster Dr meeting it on the right.
Maury Island and Tramp Harbor where the the Fernheath dock can just be seen.
In the center is Point Robinson Road.
Billingsley Barn lower center on Qmaster Drive S curves.
Quartermaster Dock middle right.
Captan Wiman’s house center.
Quartermaster Dr and Monument intersection left center.
Above is Maury Island And Kingsbury dock can be seen above Qmaster dock.
Looking out past Kingsbury.
Quartermaster dock lower left.
Kingsbury dock middle left.
Maury Island light spot in center is where Country Club is and point sticking out from right is Burton Peninsula.
Looking south over Burton Peninsula and Maury Island above.
Looking out over Burton to the mouth of the Harbor in the lower right is Williams Sawmill log boom at Judd Creek and above it on the right the Newport dock and another dock where the Yacht club dock is now.
Random Ranch Building Shots
Shot of laying pens looking south and more ranch buildings
looking east at the two large laying pens and the incubator house
Pan shot of Ranch buildings from west to east.
The water tower feed an automatic watering system for the chickens, there were six indoor pens, an oat sprout-er house, incubator house, brooding houses, and moveable open air colony houses. 4
This is two unknown people at the caretaker / ranch manager’s house. The house is still standing just north of the top corner of Morgan hill at the old entrance to the Ranch, what is now called Elisha Lane.
Harvesting kale, they grew and fed the chickens kale and alfalfa in the fall and winter, lawn clippings in the spring and lettuce in Summer, about 5 tons of lettuce a week! 4
Newport area on right Burton center outer harbor Manzanita and Talehquah.
Feeding Chickens Kale
Here they deliver kale in a wagon to chickens in the free range area note the Billingsley Barn and Monument rd in the background.
They raised Single Comb White Leghorns, Morgan developed two distinct lines he called the Super and Perfection the highest cost $450 a breeding pair. 4
Free range chickens gave Morgan healthy robust chickens who were good layers
Here is an open air colony house built on runners so it could move between range areas
here are chickens in an indoor feed room.
They used trap nests in the laying houses so they could count recover and record each chickens production. All the houses had drop boards that allowed for the easy daily removal and cleaning of the chicken manure. 4
Billingsley barn and Monument Road can be seen in background.
Here workers prepare an egg tray for the incubator.
Highland Park breed their chickens for egg laying and they incubated only large uncolored eggs that weight at least 2 1/12 ounces. Each egg had important information written on it; date laid, the leg band # from the mother, and which pen it came from.
Here they are dividing up the tray so each divided space will contain only chicks from one mother.
This is the incubator where eggs were incubated for about 21 days before hatching.
Here workers are retrieving hatched chicks from the incubator.
Here they put identification bands on the chickens legs. 4
A method for determining the sex of chickens, by squeezing them and examining the miniscule sexual organs was developed in Japan in 1933, several years after this was filmed.
By segregating the newborn chicks, the non-producers can be eliminated immediately and the poultry farmer will realize a 50% savings in cost. 6
Looking south from Cemetery Rd and Main Rd, Fuller store on right house on right still there.
This is from the 1926 mid summer festival.
Band arriving at Heights Dock.
The Queen arrived on schedule at Burton where she was met by a large outpouring of her subjects.The Queen and her court were carried in the big Silent Knight driven by Ed Zarth. 5
Here the procession heads up the dock which was located straight out from the Burton Corner and torn down in the late 1950’s.
On the left you can see the Masonic Hall and Burton Church.
As the procession heads to a brief program, where the Queen was given the key to her Island empire, by Lord Mayor E.H.Miller.
After which a long procession of cars paraded to the Community House. 5
The procession is seen arriving at the Community House grounds.
The Community House, later called the Island Club, building can be seen in this shot.
Located where the Ober Park berms are in the present day, it was originally a school and then a long time community building that held everything from church services to teen dances it was demolished in the late 1970’s.
Festival Queen and Court
Here we have a procession of girls for festival Queen Mabel Hollins who is accidentally crowned upside down.
This is looking north in front of the Island Club with Vashon News Record publisher P. Monroe Smock addressing the crowd. 5
The queen is presented with her court, Consuela Ramquist, Marjorie Stanley, Laura Brosseau, and Francis Blekknik. 5
Entertainment included a Queen’s dance, cake walk, baseball, running races, carnival games and charity chicken dinner. 5
Elisha Morgan was one of the original investors in the Vashon Golf course here he is in white golfing it is not known where.
Nothing is known about this clip other than its at the Swastika Lodge in Dilworth. 7
Wife and daughter
Mary and Mary Catherine picking hollyhocks next to the house.
Mary Catherine playing with dogs.
Ferry boat heading into Vashon Heights.
In 1928 Elisha Morgan gave up his chicken business and planted Rochester peaches being one of the first west of the Cascades to do so successfully. 5
Elisha Morgan died in 1946. 5
Some of the poultry building stood until the 1980’s.
2 National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System database
3 What’s in a name The Don Morgan Story, by Don Donaldson, can be searched online
4 Highland Park Poultry Ranch Catalog, at the Vashon Heritage Museum
5 Vashon News Record
6 American Poultry Association
7 Gene Sherman