[Note.The Gabelein family is practically a dynasty in the Bayview area. Each of the various branches of the family has had an impact on the development of the area. The origin of the family and its early history follows.]
“Once upon a time… “all good stories should start out that way. Once upon a time, back in 1882, a German shoemaker from Saxony fell in love with a young lady who was working for a wealthy family in Leipzig. They married and lived in Germany for eight years, becoming the parents of three children.
Life in Europe in those days was hard, and the young couple faced a continual struggle for survival. They had heard that things were better in America so they packed up their three children and their meager belongings and set out to seek their fortune in the New World. There was no crystal ball to reveal to Emil Gustav and Emilie Kretchner Gabelein that they would have a profound effect on an island thousands of miles away on an inlet in the Pacific Ocean.
It took Emil Gustav and Emilie 25 years of wandering across two continents and an ocean to find the land of their dreams but once they found it, their roots grew deep. So deep that descendants from five generations have been bound to their home site near Bayview on the brow of the hill overlooking the magnificent spread of Useless Bay and the Olympic mountains.
In 1985, as this is written, there are 86 living descendants of Emil and Emilie living on South Whidbey within a mile or so of the original home they established on October 8, 1908. There are five more descendants remaining part time residents of South Whidbey, and eight more living on the north end of the island.
A series of colorful adventures preceded the Gabelein’s arrival on South Whidbey. Upon arriving in America from Germany they first went to Kansas where they had relatives. There they purchased 80 acres and tried their hand at farming but faced crop failures year after year. By then they had added two more children to their family making a total of five. They were convinced, however, that Kansas was no proper place to raise children Emil Gustav and Emilie loaded all their worldly goods and their five children into a covered wagon and set out for Wisconsin, leading a few cows and some other small stock. The trip was long, hot, and arduous. It took six weeks while they lived largely off the land eating wild game and fish. Eventually they homesteaded 160 acres near the Namakagon river in Washbum County where they lived for eight years. Four more children were born to them during their Wisconsin residence. A 30-acre lake on their property was named for them and is still listed on the maps of Washbum County as Gabelein Lake.
The severe Wisconsin winters took their toll on Emilie’s health, and her doctor advised that she move to a milder climate. Emil Gustav read an ad in the German newspaper, The Lincoln Free Press, listing for sale a piece of property owned by a Mr. Ackerman on South Whidbey. The ad extolled the mild climate of the area, the fertility of the soil, and the beauty of the scenery.
Sight unseen, Emil Gustav purchased the property and once again the Gabeleins were on the move, this time by train, then by boat with eight children in tow. Their oldest daughter, Hedwig, had married and remained in Wisconsin, but Arthur, Milda, Helen, Albert, Elsie, Walter, Martha, and Felix accompanied their parents to Bayview.
They brought all their farm equipment and some livestock by train as far as Everett where it was transferred onto the boat Howard Doe, brought into Useless Bay, then up to Bayview at high tide.
The Gabeleins arrived on their new property October 8, 1908 only to find that the house which they had purchase was sturdy but old and unkempt. Temporarily, they moved into a cabin (still in use today) on what is now the Arthur Gabelein property, while everybody young and old pitched in to clean and repair their house into a livable dwelling.
They soon found that life was kind on South Whidbey. The climate and scenery were everything they had hoped for. Food was available merely for the taking as the bay below their home was filled with crabs, clams, and all manner of fish. Emilie’s health was restored and, at long last, Emil and Emilie had found the permanent home they had been seeking. Emil died in 1918 and Emilie in 1944. Both are buried in Bayview Cemetery where a Gabelein plot has been established.
Shortly after the family became settled, the eldest son, Arthur Frederick who was then 20, decided it was time to start his own farm so he purchased ten acres from his father.
In the meantime, a relative, Phillip Wahl, had settled on a sizeable waterfront farm on the north side of Double Bluff. He married a young lady named Emily Kramer who had come west with her sister, Minnie, for a visit. Emily remained to become a bride while Minnie returned to the home of her parents back east. In the course of events, Emily Wahl suffered a temporary illness that required her to be hospitalized, so Minnie Kramer returned to Double Bluff to care for her sister’s family.
On a certain autumn day in 1913, Arthur Gabelein had to go to the Wahl farm on a business matter. There he met Minnie. For him it was love at first sight. Minnie evidently reciprocated his affection because on Christmas Eve, 1913, the big Gabelein house overlooking Useless Bay resounded with the wedding march as well as Christmas music. That night, Minnie Kramer and Arthur Frederick Gabelein took their nuptial vows.
Arthur and Minnie became the parents of eight children, Lawrence, Harvey, Arthur Jr., Raymond, Emil, Tillie, Alvina, and Violet who died when she was five years old.
Tragedy hit the family on March 4, 1925, when Arthur Frederick was killed in a well cavein. Tillie and Alvina moved to Seattle when they were grown, but each of the five sons remained in the Bayview area, married, and raised their families near their original home.
Lawrence married Lillian Mikelson, a North Dakota girl, and they settled on a farm adjacent to what is now Whidbey City. Their children include Verlane, Myron, Duane, Vernon, Larry, Ruth, and Evelyn. Lawrence died in the middle 1960s. Lillian and her youngest son, Larry, live in the family home adjacent to Whidbey City and Larry owns a bulldozing and back-hoe business. The other brothers are married and also are in the heavy equipment operation business.
Verlane and his wife, Marilyn, are engaged in property development, including a commercial center adjacent to Whidbey City, near Bayview. (Whidbey City is a shopping center begun in the 1960s by Hardin Cherry.)
Rutn Gabelein now lives with her husband and family in Kirkland. Evelyn lives in Winlock.
Harvey Gabelein, the second son of Emil Gustav and Emilie, married Esther Houghtaling of Coupeville and settled in a ten-acre farm on the hill overlooking Useless Bay. Their children are Janice, Karen, and James. Janice now lives in Seattle and Karen in Sedro-Woolley. James served in the navy for 20 years and, after retiring, settled with his wife, the former Jennie Lambert, on property near his parents. Their daughters are Annette ana Connie.
The third son of Arthur and Minnie Gabelein, Arthur Jr., disliked being called “Junior” so much that his brothers nicknamed him “Johnny,” a name which he carries to the present. When he was 13, he became acquainted with twin brothers Helmer and Elmer Mellroth whose parents, Clarence and Maude Mellroth, had moved into what is known as the Werneck place on Lone Lake in 1935. The Mellroths had three daughters besides their twin sons. The girls were Patricia, Melva, and Dora; but as far as Arthur (Johnny) Gabelein was concerned, the most important member of the Mellroth family was 13-year-old Dora. By the time they were each 18, their teenaged friendship had turned to love. They were married the day after St. Valentine’s Day, 1941.
“Johnny” and Dora Gabelein purchased their present home on Bayview Road adjacent to the other Gabelein families after a short stint of living in various locations on the main-land. They have three children, Barbara, Richard, and Cathy. Richard and his wife, Jimelaine, live near his parents. Cathy and her two children live in the original house on her parents’ property.
Barbara Sires and her husband and family live in Oak Harbor. Five generations attended her son’s wedding on lune 1, 1985.
The matriarch was Barbara’s 91-year-old grandmother, Maude Mellroth who has lived at Lone Lake for 50 years. After her husband’s death, she moved into a mobile home in Arlington near her daughter’s home in January of 1985. He died just a few weeks short of their seventieth wedding anniversary.
Minnie and Arthur Gabelein’s fourth son Raymond married Eva Mae Smith, the daughter of a prominent Lone Lake early-day family. They settled on what has come to be known as “Gaoelein Row” on the hill south of Bayview. Both Raymond and Eva Mae have been community leaders over the years. Both have been officers and board members of the Island County Fair and taken a leading role in its development. They were instrumental in organizing the popular 4-H horse club, the Centaurs. Raymond has been a member of the school board and they also are in charge of administering the Bayview Community Hall. Their children are Gary, Bonnie, Ray Jr., Albert, and Sandra.
Emil, the fifth son of Arthur and Minnie Gabelein, and his wife, Gladys, are the owners of a large historic farm on Mutiny Bay. The farm is part of the original Raphael Bruns donation land claim taken out in 1853. It was the second claim owned by a white man on South Whidbey. (The first was by Robert Bailey which was pre-empted the previous year, 1852.) Nathaniel Porter, patriarch of the well known Porter family, took over the Bruns property in 1859. Emil is a retired logger, heavy equipment operator, and a developer of residential property. He also raises cattle on his sizeable farm which extends between Mutiny Bay and Holmes Harbor. Emil and Gladys have two sons, Kenneth who lives in Seattle, and Stanley, who owns a top-soil business in South Whidbey.
The Gabelein family of Bayview and the Olson family of Lone Lake became linked in marriage on May 6, when the second son of the original Gabelein settlers, Emil Albert, took as his bride Cora Olson, daughter of Otto and Caroline Olson. The Olsons had come from Norway to Ballard where they lived for a time prior to homesteading 54 acres on the shore of Lone Lake in 1890. Their daughter, Lillie (now Mrs. Ernest Meier of Arlington), was bom in Ballard, but Cora was born at Lone Lake in 1900.
In an interview prior to her death in 1984, Cora Olson Gabelein gave some interesting highlights of her life during South Whidbey’s early days. She recalled that her father came to Lone Lake in a sailing sloop which came in with the tide as far as Bayview. He then walked the remaining mile to his Lone Lake property through a forest trail, being on the lookout for bears. She also recalled her parents stating that taxes on their 54 acres in the early 1900s were $5.
Oxen were used for farm work during those early days. Finally, there was a wagon road from Lone Lake to Langley, but it was 1914 before a wagon team could drive to Greenbank. One of her most pleasant recollections was of the sternwheeler, Fairhaven, which she boarded with her parents occasionally for trips to Seattle. “It was really elegant, with red plush seats. I used to lie down on them and nearing the long voyage to Seattle.”
After their marriage, Cora and Emil Albert became the parents of Raynard, Doris (Mrs. Nor¬man Stockholm of Langley), Alberta (Mrs. Jack Wardell of Oak Harbor), and Eileen (Mrs. John Peterson of Seattle). Emil Albert was a logger. He was killed during a storm in January, 1946, when the branch of a dead tree fell on him.
Martha and Helen were born while their parents, Emil Gustav and Emilie, still lived in Wisconsin. Martha was nine years old when her parents moved to Bayview. Wnen she was 16, she went to work in Seattle. There she met and mar¬ried Paul Raden on December 23, 1922. He was born in Berlin in 1896. After coming to Seattle, he became owner of the Commodore Hotel. In 1926 they bought a farm in the Mutiny Bay area where they made their permanent home. Randolph Raden took over the Commodore Hotel as well as several others in Seattle.
The other children of Emil Gustav and Emilie who remained on South Whidbey include Walter, who was chief petty officer in the Merchant Marine during World War I. He became a logging contractor after returning home. He married Vanessa Searles on July 11, 1943. He died October 23, 1969, and is buried in the Gabelein plot at Bayview Cemetery.
Elsie Maria Gabelein married Joseph Rousch of Switzerland on May 22, 1915. He died in 1954 and is buried in the Gabelein plot. Helen Anna Gabelein moved to Seattle to make her home. Felix Gabelein and his wife Mabel live on the original family plot, overlooking Useless Bay and their son, Roger and his wife Virginia live next to them.
[Note: Martha Gabelein Raden, and her sister, Helen Gabelein, compiled a history of the Gabelein family in 1972. It was made available for this volume by Chris Gabelein, Mrs. Duane Gabelein. Other material for this history was provided through the courtesy of Dora Gabelein (Mrs. Arthur Gabelein).]