A Man Named Friday

How Friday Harbor got its name

It has long been said that Joe Friday is Friday Harbor's namesake, but history tells a different story.

Friday Harbor was incorporated as a city in 1909, but the city’s story starts much earlier. In 1845, the first Europeans arrived, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and they began to occupy the island after claiming it for England. The Hudson’s Bay Company set up a salmon curing station and later, the Belle Vue Sheep Farm. The company used Hawaiian (Kanaka) labor throughout their territories and the island was no different. A Hawaiian man named Friday was placed in charge of the sheep farm.

Until recently, it was thought that the man named Friday was Joe Friday, but as it turns out, Joe was far too young to be the namesake for the city. In 1854, Joe’s father, simply known as “Friday,” a young Joe, and possibly his mother, moved from Cowlitz Farm near the Columbia River to the Belle Vue Sheep Farm on the island. Here, they lived in a small wooden shack that overlooked the bay which is the current site of Friday Harbor. Legend says that while Friday was tending sheep near the coastline, he was hailed by some sailors in a small boat. Thinking they were asking for his name, he replied, “Friday.” From this time forward, the smoke from his small home was used to guide seamen towards “Friday’s Harbor.”

It is unknown what happened to Friday’s first wife, but in 1870, he married a woman named Mary from the Canadian Songhees tribe. She was Catholic, so he converted and began to call himself “Peter Friday.” Peter had three children with Mary and remained on the island until well after the Pig War. He lost a leg in 1880 due to syphilis and eventually died in 1894.

After Peter passed away the memory of his connection to Friday Harbor faded into obscurity. He was re-discovered in 2003 by Brenda Pratt. Thanks to her thorough research the record can now be set straight, and Peter Friday will forever be recalled as the true namesake of Friday Harbor.