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Originally published October 7, 2009 at 12:38 AM | Page modified October 7, 2009 at 11:57 AM

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New ferry may get S'Klallam chief's name

The new 64-car ferry that will connect Port Townsend with Whidbey Island next summer may carry the name Chetzemoka, after a chief of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe on the Olympic Peninsula.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The new 64-car ferry that will connect Port Townsend with Whidbey Island next summer may carry the name, Chetzemoka, named after a chief of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe on the Olympic Peninsula.

The name, pronounced Chet-za-mocha, has been submitted to the state Transportation Commission by Port Townsend officials, who say it's a way to honor a man who preached peace.

Todd Pacific Shipyards is building the new boat.

The boat needs to be named by the end of the month, or it could cost $10,000 more to name it later. Todd said if it wasn't named this month it would have to put a place-holder on the vessel and go back later and paint on the name, adding to the cost.

"It's really nice to be recognized. He is one of the big people known around here," said Eric Adams, a tourism liaison with the S'Klallam tribe, which has about 500 members.

The proposal will go to the commission Oct. 20, and Les Prince, head of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and great-great grandson of Chetzemoka, will attend.

"It's kind of neat to have something named after your great-great-grandfather," said Prince, who lives in Sequim. "They have to name them (ferries) after someone and I appreciate it."

Adams said Chetzemoka was known as a peacemaker and friend to the early settlers and has a park named after him in Port Townsend, the city's first park, built in 1904. He said the chief's real name was T'chits-a-ma-hun, but nobody could pronounce it so he became Chetzemoka.

The chief lived from 1808 to 1888. In 1857, said Adams, there was a gathering of tribal leaders who proposed to drive the white settlers out of the region. The debate was whether to kill the settlers or spare their lives.

Chetzemoka argued for peace and every day he went to Sentinel Rock near Sequim and signaled to the settlers with his blanket the course of the debate. On the 10th day he stood up, threw off his blanket and shouted that the danger had passed and the threat of war was over.

The settlers were so grateful they installed a bronze plaque on Sentinel Rock to commemorate the 10 days of signals.

JoAnn Bussa, a trustee of the Jefferson County Historical Society, said Chetzemoka is the only name Port Townsend has submitted for the new ferry.

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The three members of the Port Townsend Commission agreed. "The history of Jefferson County should be taken into consideration when selecting a name for the new vessel," said the commissioners in a letter to David Moseley, head of the ferry system, who will not be involved in the naming decision.

If the transportation commission agrees to name the new ferry Chetzemoka, it won't be the first boat named after the tribal chief.

According to ferry historian Steve Pickens, a boat called the Golden Poppy was moved to Puget Sound from California in 1938, was reconditioned, repainted and renamed Chetzemoka and worked the Port Townsend-Edmonds run.

The 240-foot wooden, diesel-electric boat worked the route until 1947 when the boat, nicknamed the Chetzy, was moved to the Columbia Beach-Mukilteo run where it remained until Washington State Ferries took over ferry operations.

She later moved to the San Juan Islands. Her last season was 1973, when she worked as the Sunday-only ferry on the Vashon route. The boat was sold in 1975 for $16,000 to a California investor who planned to turn her into a shopping center moored along the San Francisco waterfront.

But she sank under tow while on the way down. She's in about 235 feet of water nine miles off LaPush.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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