Grapeview is a community that includes Allyn, Stretch Island, and Reach Island located on the western shore at the head of Case Inlet in South Puget Sound, about 19 miles (31 km) west-northwest of Tacoma and 16 miles (26 km) northeast of Shelton, Washington. Grapeview was originally platted in 1891 as the town of Detroit and was renamed in 1922 during the Prohibition for the view of the vineyards on Stretch Island. Case Inlet is an ancient fjord that runs in a northerly direction from the Nisqually Reach and separates the Key Peninsula on the east side of the inlet from the Kitsap Peninsula on the west side. The fjords of South Puget Sound were gouged out of ancient underlying rocks that record more than 100 million years of earth history including periods of ocean inundation, volcanic island arcs, and subduction zones, mostly between 220 to 65 million years ago in the Mesozoic. These ancient rocks are underneath sandstone and volcanic rocks that were formed 50 to 42 million years ago during the middle and late Eocene. During this time, large rivers flowed across an extensive coastal plain called the Puget Lowland that lay west of the modern Cascade Range and east of the modern Olympic Mountains. At least six major incursions of glacial ice into the Puget Lowland occurred between 2,580,000 and 11,700 years ago during the Pleistocene. The ice originated in the mountains of British Columbia as part of the Cordilleran ice sheet of northwestern North America. During each successive glaciation, ice advanced into the lowland as a broad tongue called the Puget Lobe. The lobe blocked the northern connection to the Pacific Ocean and water flowed southwest from the glacier terminus to Grays Harbor along what is now the Chehalis River valley. The most recent ice advance was named the Fraser Glaciation. Ice occupied the Puget Lowland about 18–15,000 years ago and at its maximum, Seattle was buried by at least 3,000 feet (900 m) of ice. Most of the present-day topography is a direct result of this period of ice sheet inundation. Ongoing processes such as stream and wave erosion, landslides, earthquake deformation, and volcanic eruptions have subsequently modified this topography, but only slightly.
Case Inlet lies within the territorial range of the broader Southern Coast Salish peoples. Lushootseed-speaking Squaxin bands were historically the primary inhabitants with a major village called Tuxsqwa’ksud at the head of Case Inlet ocated near the present-day town of Allyn. Unlike other groups of Southern Coast Salish, Squaxin bands were primarily canoe dependent with a culture based more on a maritime economy and less attached to upland hunting. In 1792, Captain George Vancouver and Lieutenant Peter Puget were the first Europeans to explore Puget Sound in search of a northwest passage. Vancouver anchored the ships HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham near present-day Seattle and sent Puget in command of two rowing craft to survey the southern extent of the sound. In 1841, the U.S. Exploring Expedition sailed into Puget Sound under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. The flagship USS Vincennes and brig USS Porpoise anchored just off Fort Nisqually, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post established in 1833. Wilkes brought the expedition to the area to map, chart, and document the Puget Sound region, and to foster American expansion into the British-dominated area. Stretch Island in Case Inlet was named by Wilkes for gunner’s mate Samuel Stretch. In 1846, the United Kingdom and the United States signed The Oregon Treaty that settled competing claims to the Oregon Country, an area that had been jointly occupied since the Treaty of 1818. In 1853, the Washington Territory split from the Oregon Territory. In 1872, Lambert Evans was the first settler in Grapeview. He was a veteran of the Confederate Army from Florida and purchased 40 acres (16 ha) on Stretch Island, later filing homestead papers for an additional 172 acres (70 ha). He planted grapevines and fruit trees and sold his crops by rowing 23 miles (37 km) to Olympia and 21 miles (34 km) to Steilacoom. In 1885, the Detroit Land Improvement Company acquired land with a vision to develop a large city named Detroit. Several acres opposite Reach Island were platted into building lots. The land development was successful for about a year with a sawmill, two saloons, and a new hotel. In 1889, Adam Eckert arrived on Stretch Island and experimented with many varieties of grapes until he developed the distinctive Island Belle grape. For the next 30 years, the Eckert Fruit Company produced grape juice and fresh grapes packed in wooden baskets for markets in Tacoma, Seattle, Shelton, and Olympia. Stretch island became known as the Isle of Grapes. More settlers arrived and by 1893 the community organized a school district, and in 1922 the name was changed to Grapeview to better reflect the surrounding agricultural community.
The first settlers established logging and sawmilling as the major industry driving the local and regional economy. Settlements were usually at the mouths of creeks, which could provide waterpower for the mills, creating the communities of Allyn, Shelton, Arcadia, and Olympia. There were no roads connecting the logging communities and the most efficient mode of transportation was by water. Rowboats came first, although the strong tidal currents and often-inclement weather made this form of travel slow and difficult. Mills also needed a way to ship timber, so they hired or built their own steamboats. From the 1870s to 1924, before an interconnected road network was built, Case Inlet steamboats served the many small communities along the shore in South Puget Sound. Vessels employed on Case Inlet were generally smaller and engaged in general-purpose work, such as the transport of passengers, construction supplies, and groceries. Small steamboats were constructed at Case Inlet ports, such as E.M. Gill, built at Vaughn in 1895, and Detroit, built at Grapeview in 1889. In 1916, the Washington State Legislature enacted severe alcohol prohibition laws. However, since the law still allowed for individuals to make small amounts of their own home-brew wine, demand for grapes from the Stretch Island vineyards was strong. In 1920, the legislature ratified the 18th Amendment, and Prohibition spread nationwide. In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and a wave of new companies filed papers with the government to establish new commercial wineries. The first such ‘bonded’ winery in Washington was St. Charles Winery, a company founded by Charles Somers on Stretch Island. By 1937, Washington was home to 28 wineries, and with all this increased activity, the Washington Wine Producers Association reorganized in 1938 as the Washington Wine Council to promote the region’s grape and wine industries. In 1965, the St. Charles winery was sold to a Yakima area company and the Stretch Island vineyards languished. In 2015, all that remained were a few small vineyards and an occasional wild vine growing in a meadow. Behind one home stood a solitary vine that was planted in 1872 by Lambert Evans, 17 years before statehood, and this is all that remains of the genesis of Washington’s modern wine industry. Read more here and here. Explore more of Grapeview and Case Inlet here: