Who is the Namesake of Friday Harbor?

What is the historical memory of Peter Friday and Joe Friday

Friday Harbor is a beautiful little island town on San Juan Island. Friday Harbor is named after one of its first settlers, yet there is a conflicting account as to who that is.

In 1859 the British survey ship HMS Plumper was scouting the San Juan Islands during the joint occupation of the Islands by the British and the United States. Oarsmen from the HMS Plumper took a skiff into what they would later call "Friday Harbor." The namesake of the harbor originated from an interaction between the oarsmen of the HMS Plumper and a Hawaiian shepherd named Joe "Poalie" Friday. One of the oarsmen, from the survey, yelled to the shepherd who was tending his flock inquiring the name of the bay. Joe thought the man was asking his name and replied "Friday." The surveyors noted the bay as Friday's Bay which later became Friday Harbor.

Joe Friday was one of many Hawaiians to work on the San Juan Islands. In the 1830s the Hudson Bay Company began establishing fur trading posts throughout the Pacific Northwest, and the farms to feed them, where Hawaiians made reliable laborers. Lower class Hawaiian Islanders were referred to as “Kanakas” in Hawaii during the nineteenth century, this name would follow them to the Northwest. Kanakas worked as Shepard’s, farm laborers, fur traders, and in many other jobs.

Joe “Poalie” Friday was born on the island of Oahu in 1829. In 1841 Friday was hired as a day laborer for the Hudson Bay Company and sailed to the Northwest to work on the Cowlitz Farm located on the lower Columbia River. Around 1844 Friday had a son whom he named Joseph with a Native American Indian woman. Around 1854 “Friday and son” worked on the Bell Vue Sheep Farm and built a shack near the bay that would later be named Friday Harbor.

Friday employed as a shepherd worked for the Belle Vue Sheep Farm until 1860, although he remained in his home until 1872 when the United States took sole possession of the San Juan Islands. Friday's son Joseph was born on Cowlitz Farm and was a United States citizen, therefore able to stay on the Island of San Juan. Before leaving the island, Friday married a Native Catholic woman named Mary and converted to Catholicism, and changed his name from Joe to Peter Friday. Could it have been the changing of Joe Friday's name to Peter Friday, Peter moving away from the Island of San Juan, or the fact that his son Joseph remained on the island, that influenced how the son Joe, is the one remembered as the Friday on the beach the day that Friday’s Bay was named?

To whom Friday Harbor was named after has been misunderstood mostly because both father and son were named Joe Friday. Both father and son worked at the Belle Vue Sheep Farm, and both lived in the same shack located a short distance from Friday's Bay. The father Peter would have been roughly thirty, while Joe the son, would have been around fifteen when the HMS Plumper scouted the bay and asked the misunderstood question. They both could have been tending to their sheep that day, and they both were named Joe Friday. We may never know which Friday was on the beach that day, either way, the name of the harbor will be called Friday.