At age 17, lifelong area resident Tom Taylor already was an experienced clam digger when he began working for the Bugge Cannery Company at Washington Harbor in 1947. For about five winters, Taylor spent his nights in the waters near Sequim Bay filling gunny sacks with 100 pounds of clams.
“I dug clams on what they called the middle ground, just inside Sequim Bay,” Taylor said, noting the Bugge clamming operation was a largely wintertime endeavor.
“It’s a middle ground because it’s covered in water until a low tide. We dug clams at night, except for a couple of weeks of daylight digging in the spring, and we wore cloth hats with lights on them just like miners.”
Such firsthand accounts, as well as photographs, artifacts used at the clam cannery and other Bugge business mementos, are featured in a new history exhibit opening this month at the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley's Exhibit Center, 175 W. Cedar St.
A reception will be at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 13, including fresh clams by Mystery Bay Seafood Catering.
The exhibit spotlights its namesake family of civil servants and entrepreneurs, whose other commercial ventures included a ship-docking wharf and export business at Port Williams and a mercantile/post office in Sequim.
Family historian and author Pamala Kay Grender will discuss and sign copies of her 2011 memoir about the entrepreneurial Bugge family, “Faded Treasures, Vibrant Lives” at the reception.
“Since I brought my research notebook with me on the first visit to Sequim, it took me more than five years of doing research from the beginning of my search to the publication of my book,” said Grender of the largely Olympic Peninsula-centered odyssey of researching and writing her book.
“The Bugges were such a fascinating family; for the rest of my life I will probably continue gathering information about them.”
While few visible traces remain of their extensive entrepreneurial exploits, the business endeavors of brothers Hans and Jens Bugge made their family name a familiar one in the region around the turn of the 20th century. One of the most successful enterprises, the seasonally operated Bugge Cannery Company at Washington Harbor, produced signature brands of widely shipped clams and clam nectar for more than 60 years and earned proprietor Hans Bugge the nickname of Washington’s “Clam King.”
Bugge’s son Anphin oversaw the cannery for 44 years until 1966, when he sold the Washington Harbor property to Battelle-Northwest. The cannery building and nearby 1910-built, 12-room Bugge family mansion, once considered a local landmark, were later razed.
“Anphin Bugge was a darlin’ to work for. He was fair and as good a guy as there ever was,” Taylor said of his former employer, also noting the cannery largely employed women. “They paid pretty good and there was no discrimination. It was a pretty good living.”
The Bugge exhibit will remain on display through December at the MAC Exhibit Center. For more information, call 683-8110 or visit www.macsequim.org.