Descendants of Julius Summerfelt trace their ancestry on the Key Peninsula to 1890 when Julius and wife Emilie arrived in Longbranch. Born in Germany, they met and married in Minnesota, where Julius emigrated at 15.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1892 in Tacoma, where son Art was born. Julius and Emilie built a home on Summerfelt Hill, now Rouse Road. He died at 41 of a ruptured appendix, on board the Tyconda, as Art, 14, took him to the hospital.
Art was taking professional singing lessons as he was a talented vocalist. His father’s death changed his life, because he had to stay home and take care of the farm.
Granddaughter Debbie Nichols writes: “I can’t remember a single family event that he didn’t lead us all in singing. His favorite was ‘Let me call you sweetheart.’”
Art married Hazel Thomas, a South Dakota girl, and they lived with his parents for a while. Daughter Thelma was born downstairs in her grandparents’ home the same day her cousin Lois was born upstairs.
Art served in the U.S. Army as mess sergeant and had many jobs including logging, caretaker of the Campfire Girl Camp, huckleberry picking, and custom tractor work. He was also fire warden several summers.
He moved his family from waterfront to waterfront around Longbranch in a houseboat for several years, then lived on Devil’s Head. They eventually built a home across from what is now Camp Soundview, where the children were raised. This house still stands, but other family homes burned or were replaced.
Don, Janette, Thelma, Mildred and Earl grew up with assorted chores around a mainly self-sustaining 20-acre farm. They raised chickens, pigs, cows; grew berries, fruits, vegetables. Some milked before school. They made their own butter and when old enough, the children picked loganberries to pay for school clothes.
The Summerfelts walked everywhere, having neither bicycles nor automobile. A ferry trip from Longbranch to Tacoma to shop was an exciting highlight of their life. Millie said they could hardly sleep the night before a prospective ferry trip.
Art’s wife, Hazel, died while Millie and Earl were still at home, and he later married Martha Hannus Johnson, originally from Whiteman Cove area. Dorothy and Linnea were born to them and raised on the Summerfelt farm.
After Martha’s death, Art married Olga Allowson Johnson. He reached 84 years of age, physically fit until his last years while battling cancer.
Millie notes they didn’t have a lot of time off from chores, but did enjoy fishing, clamming, and pleasant days at their grandparents’ homes. In winter, they skated on the pond on Rouse Road, and the radio was part of their daily lives.
Don was one of the first high school seniors allowed to drive the school bus in 1936-37. For several years after that, some of the senior boys followed suit.
Janette Petersen’s home is at Dutcher’s Cove, Don is on Lackey Road, Millie Niemann and two of her sons have homes on fourth generation Hansen property in Vaughn. Linnea Lind and daughter live in Longbranch.
Debbie interviewed her grandfather, Art, and other old-timers while in middle school. Louis Hiller had a brickyard at Delano Beach in late 1800s, and made bricks for Union Station and the old St. Joseph Hospital in Tacoma. He recruited friends and relatives to come from Wisconsin to work for him. Hiller was uncle to Julius Summerfelt and his sister Hulda — grandmother to Shirl, Marge and Dave Rickert.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS