The Storyteller and the Princess: The Mystery of Filucy Bay

A closer look at the legend of how the bay got its name. First installment of a two-part series.


William Sipple of Filucy Bay was a gifted woodworker, contractor, and boat-builder, a maker of violins that he often played at local dances, and an active and well-loved member of the early Longbranch community. He built a house on the 13 acres of logged timberland on the northeast shore of the bay. The iconic boathouse on the beach that was home to his business was sometimes used for dance parties and other entertainment.

Sipple was also an accomplished storyteller, sharing tales with anyone who would listen. Two of his stories have survived in typescript, dictated in the 1930s when he was in his 70s. Their elaborate plots weave romance and adventure, tragedy and unrequited longing, secrets kept and revealed. Fact and fiction, real and imagined characters, the present and the past blend seamlessly against the familiar backdrop of Filucy Bay and the shores of Puget Sound.

Sipple’s “Story of Filucy” is the source of what has effectively become the origin myth about the name of Filucy Bay. As his grandson Cliff Bartells remembered it, Sipple thought it would make a good movie.

The story has survived thanks to R.T. Arledge, the preeminent chronicler of the Key Peninsula’s past. Arledge, whose family had roots in Longbranch, drew heavily from the story and included it in its entirety in “Early Days of the Key Peninsula” (1998), his expansive account of the community’s beginnings.

It’s the tale of the beautiful Indian Princess Filucy, daughter of a Haida Chief and a white mother, and French-Canadian Pierre Legard who came to Puget Sound to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Nisqually. Legard met and fell in love with Filucy in Port Ludlow while on HBC business; the two were married and had a son.

Another man fell in love with Filucy, abducting her and her son. Heartbroken and defeated, Legard returned to a log cabin he had built in Filucy Bay on what would years later become Sipple’s property. The cabin was still standing in the 1930s, according to Bartells.

There was more drama in store for Filucy and Legard, but the pair eventually reunited on the bay. When Filucy died, Legard buried her near the cabin. Sipple writes that his Native friends pointed to a pile of stones on the property as the place where she was buried.

Or so the story goes. Arledge was ambivalent about the story. “Those of a more romantic inclination will share Sipple’s fascination with the tragic account of the Indian Princess, Filucy, and easily associate her with Filucy Bay,” he writes. “The skeptical reader of the story would require more data and documentation.”

He also suggested that Legard may have mentioned Filucy’s name to visiting surveyors, who then used it on their maps. That key detail is missing from Sipple’s story; the origin of the name was not what the story was about. Yet local lore has distilled the love story to the different claim that Filucy Bay was named for Princess Filucy, the beautiful daughter of a Haida Chief and a white woman.

O.A. Anderson owners’ map of Filucy Bay, ca 1888 (detail). Sipple’s property (circled) was still under Joseph Shettleroe’s name.
O.A. Anderson owners’ map of Filucy Bay, ca 1888 (detail). Sipple’s property (circled) was still under Joseph Shettleroe’s name.

First, Haida, like all Native languages in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, lacks the sound “f.” That was observed by Horatio Hale, the philologist on the Wilkes expedition that reached Puget Sound in 1841 and is still the case today. In Chinook jargon, the trade language in the 1800s, the English word “fish” was realized as “pish.”

Looking at this from the other direction, there is no sound in those languages that is realized as “f” in English.

In short, the name Filucy was not a Haida word or a word in any language in the region.

Secondly, the claim that Filucy was the daughter of a Haida chief and a white woman flies in the face of Native ethnography. According to local archaeologist Lynn Larson, while marriages between white men and Native women were common and are well documented, unions between Native men, particularly chiefs, and white women were rare to nonexistent.

These inaccuracies in no way detract from William Sipple’s story. Sipple was not writing history; he told a captivating tale, perhaps loosely based on what he had heard about a beautiful and inspiring place that he loved.

But there is a more interesting element in the story that may be the closest it gets to historical fact, and it has to do with Pierre Legard.

Legard is said to have given up the benefits of higher education and life among his own white community in favor of life among the Hudson Bay trappers, making his home in remote Filucy Bay. The bay was an important site for seasonal gatherings by the tribes of the south Sound, and it may well have served as a stopping point for Natives traveling to and from Fort Nisqually.

Pierre Legard is absent from archival sources. He is not listed on Canadian censuses in the 1800s, nor does he appear on the Hudson’s Bay Company employee archives under any spelling (Legarde, Lagard, Lagarde), although the HBC’s online archive does not include all employees. He is not mentioned in the journals of Fort Nisqually and is missing from county, territorial, or U.S. censuses and other documents.

Arledge mentions that Pierre Legard had a brother named John who had settled on a donation claim near Roy. As it turns out, the HBC employee archive does mention a Joseph Lagarde who worked on the steamer Beaver from 1844 to 1846. The Beaver was the first steamship to operate in Puget Sound starting in 1836, three years after the company’s post at Fort Nisqually was established. Lagarde left the HBC in 1853.

Joseph Lagarde also shows up as Joseph Legard on the 1851 census of Lewis County, which included today’s Pierce County and at the time was still part of Oregon Territory. On later censuses he stated that he was born in the Red River of the North, the site of a Métis colony in Manitoba. Métis are communities in Canada that resulted from unions between Indigenous and European people.

In fact, Lagarde’s daughter Mary Lagarde-Wren did describe him as “half Indian” on her application for enrollment in the Quinault tribe in 1914.

Joseph Lagarde must have been Arledge’s John Legard of Roy, which would make Pierre “half Indian” as well. That might explain his preference for the company of Native people in Puget Sound.

The discovery also makes it more likely that Pierre Legard existed, even though he avoided detection by history. The mention of a brother in Roy is hard to explain otherwise.

In the end, the story of Filucy may be a romantic tale inspired by distant echoes of the complicated love between a Canadian Métis man and an Indigenous woman from British Columbia.

As it turns out, the story of how the bay got its name has enough complications of its own.