Biography of William Munks

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WILLIAM MUNKS. – Mr. Munks, an excellent portrait of whom is placed in this history, is a veteran of several wars, as well as a pioneer, trapper and scout in the early days of the Pacific coast. He is to-day one of the most widely known men on Puget Sound, being often called “king of the Fidalgo Island” as he was the first white man to locate on its shores. It was then a part of Whatcom County, Washington Territory, but is now included in the boundary of Skagit. Mr. Munk was the first white man that lived within the present confines of the latter county, and was born in Canton, Ohio. At the early age of six years he suffered the loss, by death, of his father.

Upon the breaking out of the war with Mexico, he enlisted in the Fifteenth Infantry, United States volunteers, under General (then Colonel) George W. Morgan, with whom he remained until the close of hostilities. The military record of the family is rather bright, his grandfather having served in the war for independence, his father in the war of 1812, and his only brother following the fortunes of Sherman on his march to the sea. In 1849 he left the East to seek his fortune in the far West. After hunting and trapping for a time on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, he came onto Oregon, and then proceeded to the mines of Northern California, where he followed mining with good success until 1855, during which time he took part in two Indian wars, and had many skirmishes with the savages. In the fall of the above year he returned to Oregon and entered the service of the Indian Department under General Joel Palmer, with whom he served in different capacities. He was one of the nine men sent out by the Department, under the command of Captain Jake Rhinerson, to gather and bring in the hostile Rogue River Indians and place them on the Coast Reservation, located at Fort Yamhill and the Silitz, during which service he had many very narrow escapes from savage fury. He then for a time served as an express messenger for the Indian Department.

When he had severed his connection with the Department, he started on a perilous trading and prospecting trip to the headwaters of the Columbia River, passing through a hostile Indian country from The Dalles to the Pend d’Oreille in safety, owing to his knowledge of the Indian character, and his possessing the faculty of obtaining the good will and respect of the Indians. After making this successful trip, he came to Puget Sound, and served one season on the United States Boundary Commission, then locating the boundary line between Washington Territory and British Columbia. On the breaking out of the great Frazer river excitement, he was the first to establish a trading post above Fort Yale, where he also successfully embarked in mining operations.

In the latter part of 1859, Mr. Munks concluded to retire from trapping, hunting and the life of a mountaineer, and that year selected his beautiful place on Fidalgo Island, now known as Munks’ Landing. His nearest white neighbor at the time of his locating on the island was twenty-five miles distant. Although surrounded by Indians in his new home, he was never molested. In the spring of 1860 he again caught the trading fever, and going to The Dalles purchased pack animals and loaded them with goods, and went to the Similkameen mines, where he disposed of horses and goods to good advantage, and again returned to The Dalles. There he joined a government exploring expedition, under Major Stein, for the purpose of exploring the Harney Lake country.

In the following fall he returned to his island home, where he has since resided, engaged in the cultivation of his large farm, in beautifying his home, and in conducting his mercantile store, in which he has been engaged for the past eighteen years. He has held various offices of public trust, and for the past twenty years has been postmaster at Fidalgo. Mr. Munks has one of the finest farms on Puget Sound; and Munks’ Landing is one of the old landmarks on the Lower Sound. No one travels that route without remarking upon the delightful surroundings and beautiful landscape that greet the eye as he comes in sight of Fidalgo.

Mr. Munks has accumulated a sufficiency of this world’s goods to enable him to take that ease and comfort that always attend an active and industrious life. He owns over one thousand acres of valuable land in Skagit, Whatcom and King counties. His Fidalgo property has become very valuable, as the Ship Harbor Railroad now building has established a station near his steamer landing; and it is his intention to plat part of his farm for a townsite. It is certainly one of the most beautiful locations for a city to be found on the Sound.

MLA Source Citation:

History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889. Web. 11 December 2014. - Last updated on Jun 8th, 2012

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