Historian putting pieces of Pacific’s past together

Given 100 years of history, scattered research options and a few weeks to assemble a presentation, J. Clark McAbee accepted the challenge.

Given 100 years of history, scattered research options and a few weeks to assemble a presentation, J. Clark McAbee accepted the challenge.

The City of Pacific centennial committee needed a professional historian to capture its yesteryears in a hurry.

McAbee proved to be a quick study.

On Saturday, the historic preservationist and author will premiere his latest project, “A Look Back at the Founding of Pacific” on Saturday at the city’s community center, located at 100 3rd Ave SE. The program, a part of the city’s centennial celebration, will run from 2 to 5 p.m.

McAbee’s PowerPoint Program, which will feature the small city’s rural beginnings, will be part of an ice cream social supported by the centennial committee and the White River Valley Lions Club and sponsored by the Pacific-Algona Dairy Queen. The public is welcome.

For McAbee, a longtime Algona-Pacific resident, the project hit close to home. He has lived in the Algona-Pacific area for more than 30 years. His father, Durrell McAbee, was Algona’s first full-term mayor.

McAbee grew up hearing stories of logging camps — his grandfather and great-uncle were loggers in Washington last century — and enjoys both riding on and writing about airplanes and trains.

Local history, particularly the importance of the railroads to communities, appeals to him.

“As a historian, I think it’s important we have an idea of where we came from,” said McAbee, who manages the $1.1 million restoration of the Morton Historic Train Depot. “Did you know that Algona was, at one time, bigger than Pacific?”

His latest assignment was by no means an easy exercise – packing some semblance of the city’s 100-year story into a 25-minute presentation.

“So what you kind of look for are the highlights and some entertaining anecdotes,” McAbee said. “This is not a typical centennial project that you prepare years for. … It’s interesting and a little bit daunting.”

McAbee, nonetheless, rolled up his sleeves. He accumulated information from newspapers, tapped into other sources and talked to old-timers who remained in the area. His program will capture some of those words and images.

In his pursuit, McAbee came away with some interesting notes and parallels.

Incorporated in 1909, Pacific has grown from a small agricultural community into a regional partner in transportation, economic development and quality government. The city, spread over 3.8 square miles, has a population of 6,000 today.

The town was as multicultural then as it is today, McAbee found. Filipino and Japanese-American farms tended the rich farmland back then. At one time, three continental railroads passed through Pacific.

But eventually those farmlands gave way to warehouses. Industry had changed over time.

“It has transformed itself from a small, rural community to a larger-sized city with a number of different business,” McAbee added.

McAbee, a history major at Washington State University, completed the museum-studies program at the University of Washington. He served in the U.S. Navy.

Notes: Copies of McAbee’s presentation will become available at Pacific City Hall, the White River Valley Museum and the King County Library System.