In the year and a half that the United States participated in World War One 60,617 Washingtonians served in the United States military and of those 1,642 lost their lives. 124 men and two women enlisted or were drafted from the small San Juan County which had a total population of 3600 during the war. Of the San Juan soldiers, nine men died in service and never returned to the Islands, a loss of over six percent of the soldiers sent, compared to most other counties’ three percent loss rates.
Almost immediately after the war locals of the San Juan Islands began to discuss ways to honor the men and women who had served in the Great War. The effort to have the monument built was spearheaded by the Friday Harbor Women’s Study Club, and the editor of the local newspaper suggested that the memorial monument focused on the memory of the nine men who wouldn’t return to their families on the islands. Over the course of three years, the island community raised $1500 to contribute to the memorial project and had numerous votes on what type of monument should be placed.
On November 11, 1921, a special Armistice Day ceremony was held in Friday Harbor to commemorate the finished memorial park and monument. After a series of speeches, the first monument to the war in the state of Washington was officially unveiled. The community had agreed that they wanted a monument with waterworks and commissioned a business in Seattle to produce a fountain made from granite for the park. On one side of the fountain’s bowl is a plaque with the names of San Juan Counties fallen World War One soldiers.
While the Memorial Park and monument fountain are a small monument to the lives lost for the families of the memorial served as a common site to honor their loved ones. For the people of Friday Harbor and San Juan County as a whole, the memorial park was a place to remember the shared sacrifice of the community during the war.