James M. Bachelder

James Bachelder served for a time as post sutler at Ft. Steilacoom. Born in Falmouth, Maine in 1817, Mr. Bachelder apprenticed as a seamen and later relocated to Port Townsend near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He served as master of the George Emory, lumber schooner captained by Steilacoom founder, Lafayette Balch.

In 1850, Bachelder settled in Steilacoom with his wife Sarah and their four children. As with many frontier settlers, he supplemented his income with federal appointments. By 1853, Mr. Bachelder was the U.S. Commissioner and Justice of the Peace of the Third Judicial District of Washington Territory. He handled marriages, legal disputes, and land claims for the district.

In opposition to public opinion, Bachelder joined the officers of Ft. Steilacoom in opposing the execution of Leschi in 1858. He used his power as Justice of the Peace to delay the execution by arresting the Pierce County sheriff and his deputy on the day of the execution on January 22, 1858. This led to Bachelder’s hanging in effigy by the citizens of Olympia. He was also removed from office.

Bachelder attempted to run for office that same year as well as maintain a positive cash flow in his sutler’s store on the fort. According to the diary of August Kautz, the Bachelder family hosted guests frequently at their home on the fort’s campus and that Bachelder was a “great drinker” as well as a “strong, hearty looking man.”

In 1861 Mr. Bachelder helped organize Steilacoom’s first Masonic lodge. He also served as the Pierce County auditor from 1862 to 1864. James Bachelder died young on April 8, 1865 at the age of 47 leaving behind a wife and four children.