In the Beginning

Photo by Marvin Boland, Courtesy of Tacoma Library.

Traveling from Purdy to Olympia in 1925 wasn’t as easy as it is today, even if you factor in the traffic through Joint Base Lewis-McChord. You had three choices: car, boat or train. Regardless, you had to give yourself plenty of time to travel the 42 miles to Olympia–especially considering the condition of roads and the quality of cars in 1925 or the schedules of a boat or train.

Earl Knapp of Purdy made the journey to Olympia to file and record the Articles of Incorporation for Peninsula Light Co. on July 14, 1925, at 9:03 a.m. with Washington Secretary of State J. Grant Hinkle. The $40 filing fee was paid with his own money, and PenLight was authorized to commence business.

There were nine trustees whose names were recorded with the Articles of Incorporation: Earl Knapp, Dr. Orville Clay, John Goldman, Fred Smythe, Phillip Peyron, Adolfe Rickert, Harriet Richardson, Mitchell Skansie and Chris Thompson. All of these individuals were prominent business leaders.

Homer T. Bone, PenLight attorney. Photo courtesy of Richard Studio/Tacoma Public Library.

2 days later on July 16, 1925, at 8 p.m. the nine trustees and E. D. Nichols met at the Peninsula Hotel to adopt bylaws, elect officers and adopt the membership application. The following officers were elected: Chris Thompson, president; Phillip Peyron, vice president; and Earl Knapp, treasurer/secretary.

The business process to establish PenLight was under the supervision of Tacoma attorney Homer T. Bone, later referred to as “the father of public power.” He served as PenLight's attorney until 1932 when he was elected U.S. Senator.

These 9 individuals were selected by their communities to represent them in the formation of what is now the sixth oldest electrical cooperative in the nation. The driving force behind the formation of the co-op was Tacoma Power’s construction of the Cushman Dam on the Hood Canal and the Potlatch transmission lines. Fortunately, the transmission lines ran through the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas, thus providing an opportunity to bring power to the peninsulas.

These community leaders had no idea how to build an electric distribution system, but they had a vision and determination to succeed and improve the quality of life for their communities. Today, 92 years later, we don’t know much about some of these leaders. Others, we know a great deal about because of their contributions to their communities and the legacy of their families.

We are searching for a photo of Chris Thompson, our first board president; and Harriet Richardson, the first woman to serve on the board. In the group photo outside of the Peninsula Hotel in 1927, we believe the woman standing in front is Harriett. Harriet and her husband, along with business partner Andrew Gilich, owned and built the Peninsula Hotel. The Peninsula Hotel is now the home of Spiros Pizza and other businesses, and is still owned by the Gilich family. The first membership meeting, according to the newly adopted bylaws, was the first Monday of December 1925.