From Pioneer Stock: The Brones Family


Staff Report

Melvin Brones and family (left to right), Wayne, Audrey, Kenneth, Belle and Janice, ca. 1920s.Photo courtesy Audrey Tritle


Six generations to call Vaughn home

Norman Brones is almost a Key Peninsula native but grew up in California.

Great-great-grandfather Nils Olsen immigrated from Sweden to Wisconsin with his wife, three sons and a daughter in 1852.

There were so many Olsens, Nils was afraid if one of his sons were lost, injured or killed in battle (Civil War), they might never find him. He legally changed the family name to Brones, the family farm in Sweden. One son, Olavaus, refused to change his name. All three sons served in the army but Olavaus didn’t survive.

Nils’s grandson, Melvin, son of John Brones, became a citizen of Canada after marrying Isabelle McGuire, who’d been born in Minnesota but moved to Saskatchewan with her family as a child. Her grandparents travelled from Ireland to Nova Scotia and on to Quebec. Her family moved back and forth between North Dakota and Saskatchewan as she grew up.

Melvin, Belle and their son, Wayne, moved to North Dakota, where Janice was born. Their younger children, Audrey and Ken, were born in Montana, where they homesteaded. Melvin later worked in the Rainbow Department Store in Havre.

Due to health problems, their doctor advised Belle to “move to the coast,” as he predicted Melvin would die in about six months. He thought she’d be able to make a better living farther west. Grandparents John and Jane Brones accompanied them. The children took turns riding with them. They liked to be with Grandpa when he stopped to get ice cream for Grandma.

In Oregon, property was too expensive. They came to Lewis Lake, where the Mellbloms, their best friends and neighbors from Havre, had moved, and rented a cabin. On their last night before returning to Oregon, they were awakened about 3 a.m. by a shout: “Brones, are you in there?”

It was Everett and Del Stinson, who worked for Melvin in Havre. They heard at a dance the family was there and wanted to be sure to find them. The Stinsons came by the next day and showed them property available in Vaughn.

Melvin and Belle bought it and the grandparents bought a home across the road.

“Twin Maples is the workingest five acres I’ve ever seen,” Belle said.

Milk cows, pigs, hayfield, an acre of berries, plus fruits, vegetables and a large flower garden kept them busy.

Belle used a ladder to pick her tall beans. Some local brides arranged wedding dates to take advantage of her gladiolas.

Melvin did carpentry work for Bob Davidson, including building portable bunkhouses and cabins for the logging company. When Vaughn storekeeper Lyman Freeborn wanted time off, Melvin took over for him.

Belle cooked at local schools from the time Ben, born in Gig Harbor, started school, until she was 72.

The good Washington air must have been what Melvin needed, as he lived to be 83. Belle visited family in North Dakota nearly every summer, and Ireland, Norway and Sweden (where Norman and Britta lived) in her later years.

Audrey (Brones) and Russell Tritle lived on a chicken ranch in Longbranch for many years. She now lives in Tacoma, with her own younger three generations currently with her.

Ken, son of Melvin, bought Visell’s Lumber in early 1960s. It was destroyed by fire in 1970.

The Key Peninsula library named their meeting room for Ken. His daughters Nadine Niemann and Karlene Rubalcaba live in Victor, Dorene Wade in Gig Harbor and Marlene Wade in Graham.

Norman, son of Wayne and Ruth, spent summers in Vaughn from age 12, visiting grandparents, aunts and uncles, working “on the egg ranch” and later at the lumber company.

Norman and Britta’s daughter, Anna, now in Portland, is the sixth generation of the Brones family in Vaughn.

(Editor’s note: Historical information provided by Audrey, Janice and Ruth, all over age 90.)