One particular road on the Key Peninsula raises questions among newcomers, as it is spelled differently on various maps: Whiteman Cove Road or Whitman Road.

Laurie Peltier, a Lakebay resident, heard the stories of their area around Whiteman’s Cove from oldtimer Chick Rembert, who owned a lot of property in the area. Rembert claimed a local Native American tribe built lodges on what is now Camp Coleman land. Their buildings were sited high enough on the hill to see to the shores of the fingers of land north of Olympia, and to view the spectacular Olympic Mountains to the north. The whole cove was visible, said Rembert, before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged it and built a dike for a state fisheries project.

Rembert said the Natives gathered each summer at the Joemma Beach area for trade, tribal games, contests or to find a spouse. A wide trail led from the beach to a burial ground on the north side of the cove. He told of “ghost” canoes gliding silently on the full moons of August, bearing wrapped dead to bury there.

At times, large fires were built on the beach as a marker for travelers.

According to Rembert, the government feared large gatherings of tribes who might be plotting war on the white settlers, so claimed and sold the land around the cove.

Whiteman Cove and the road leading to it supposedly honors a Mr. Reed, the first white man to marry into the native tribe that frequented the area. Why not Reed Road? According to Rembert, Reed was at least partly responsible for the U.S. government taking control of the tribal land, and thus was later held in contempt by the tribe. Rembert referred to them as Indians, and Peltier is uncertain which tribe they were from. It’s possible they were Squaxins, as they were known to frequent the west coast of the peninsula.

When local area road names were defined for government purposes, the Peltiers and neighbors were told Whiteman Cove Road was too long, so it was shortened to Whitman Road. Local residents complained, but to no avail, which is why the name is not consistent on various maps and signs.

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