Just a few steps from here, Hiram Hutchinson ran the first grocery store (or trading post) on Lopez Island. The store offered staple goods such as flour, sugar, coffee, gunpowder and tobacco. “Hi” or “Hutch,” as he was called, came to Lopez in the early 1860s. He settled in Fisherman Bay where he homestead 160 acres, and had stock cattle, sheep, hogs, as well as his store. As the village grew, the upstairs area became a meeting space for church, Sunday school, dances and a music hall for the local band.
Hiram spoke both Chinook Jargon (an Indigenous trade language) and English at his store. He sold goods to Indigenous Peoples and European settlers alike. Hutch regularly traded for deer skins, and let many people buy things on credit. We know this in part from a recollection by Orcas Island settler James Tulloch. In Tulloch’s diary from 1876, he describes an experience visiting the store, with a derogatory viewpoint of Indigenous People, which was typical of the time. Tulloch writes that Hiram, “had a kind heart, but an abusive tongue and he certainly had cause to use it, for those lazy squaw men broke him up in business. He could not refuse them credit though he knew he’d never get his pay. If they came to him with a story of hungry squaws and children at home, he couldn’t resist their pleas.”
While we don't know Hiram's views towards Indigenous Peoples, we do know he employed a native man called "Siwash Charlie" (Siwash is a Chinook Jargon word from the French "sauvage" meaning savage or wild. While a common word in the 19th century, siwash is a derogatory term today). Hutch also lived for a while with an Indigenous woman named Mary. In 1867, Hiram and Mary had a son, Captain Millard Hutchinson. At some point, Mary left Lopez and lived on a reservation on the Fraser River near Thompson Lake, in Canada, where Millard and Hi would visit her.
After Kaiser Wilhelm I declared the San Juans Islands to be U.S. territory in 1872, (ending the Pig War), an official post office franchise was granted at the store. Hiram’s sister, Irene Weeks, came to Lopez in 1874 with her husband, Lyman, and their four children. While Lyman homesteaded a claim south of the bay, Irene helped Hiram, whose health was failing, manage the store.
Irene served as the postmistress and was considered a shrewd business woman. Upon Hiram’s death in 1881, he left the store, much of his property, and the guardianship of his son, Millard, to her. By 1889, Irene had sold the store to G.M. Johnson. According to county records, Millard bought the store back in 1891, but only owned it for a year before he and his bride, Lillie, sold it and left the island.
An interesting side-note: In the 1880 census, an 18-year old Chinese man named Saam appears to have worked for the Weeks family as a servant. He is the only Chinese person included in the Lopez census from 1870-1940. Chinese people worked at the canneries by Richardson in the early 20th century, but are not recorded in any census.