Editor’s Note

An Island Mystery on Lopez

The lure of our local archipelago is strong.

By James Ross Gardner August 14, 2018 Published in the September 2018 issue of Seattle Met

Rachel Dill

Seattleites may not have always traipsed off to a nearby island to luxuriate the way we advise in this month’s cover story (“Washington's Best Ferry Feasts"), but our local archipelago has long provided retreat from the vagaries of mainland life. Look at Lopez, whose commercial strip Seattle Met deputy editor Allecia Vermillion compares to “a bottle of crisp, chilled rosé morphed into a waterside village.”

Whether or not Rachel Dill sought the pleasure to be found in a carafe of wine is lost to history. What is known is that she was looking for an escape, though not in the way you, midweek, god, just can’t even with this job right now.

“Information is wanted of a Miss Rachael [sic] Dill,” began a notice in the January 17, 1900, edition of The Seattle Daily Times. “She is believed to have inherited a fortune through the death of a relative.”

The communique was posted in the paper by one of Dill’s two brothers, from a town near San Francisco. She’d apparently been AWOL for some time.

A missing woman? A fortune in the balance? The Times had a mystery on its hands—one that lasted all of 24 hours.

The next day, thanks to a tip from a reader, the newspaper reported Dill’s location, Lopez Island, and a surprising backstory.

“Miss Dill, an English lady, was in love with a young man who was decidedly objectionable to her family,” the story read. Exasperated with her family’s intrusion into her love life, she left home, without her beau, and escaped to Port Townsend, Washington, where she worked as a nurse for a few years, and then moved on to nearby Lopez.

The newspaper’s assessment was rosy, assuming the lure of wealth would be enough to pull our protagonist from the island: “Miss Dill will probably communicate with her remaining brother….”

But motivations and history, and islands, for that matter, are tricky things. A bit of sleuthing through Lopez Island archives suggests that Dill stayed put, right up until her passing in 1926. On Lopez she had connected with another family member, a nephew. Less than three miles from the restaurant Ursa Minor, where, as Vermillion writes, the island’s agrarian abundance translates “into arresting plates of food” and “the Salish Sea sparkles beyond”—Dill Road is named in their honor.

Filed under
Show Comments