San Juan is an archipelago located off the coast of Washington state, between U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island. There are about 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County and it’s a very popular tourist destination, and will talk more about this in just a second.
But there is something to one of the main islands of the archipelago - San Juan, that very few people know about and nobody talks about. The site of America’s unknown war, it was in dispute between the U.S. and British Empire. Both claimed it.
Because of the island’s geographical position, multiple straits around, and unclear maps of that region, there was an uncertainty as to which strait (Strait of Juan de Fuca or Rosario Strait) should be considered as the middle of the channel and a legitimate boundary.
Thirteen peaceful years of negotiations without a compromise were suddenly interrupted by an outrageous incident.
An American farmer (Lyman Cutlar), who had settled on the island and claimed his rights for the land under the Donation Land Claim Act, found a large black pig rooting in his garden and eating his tubers. It was not the first instance of such nips and misbehavior but this time, the farmer got really upset. He took an aim and shot the pig.
The pig turned out to belong to an Irishman (Charles Griffin), who was definitely not accepting the loss and demanded a compensation. Even though the 2 gentlemen did try to resolve the incident, none of them was ready to compromise on the other’s offer.
Cutlar offered $10 to Griffin to compensate for the pig, but Griffin was unsatisfied with this offer and demanded $100. Following this reply, Cutlar believed he should not have to pay for the pig because the pig had been trespassing on his land. (A possibly apocryphal story claims Cutlar said to Griffin, "It was eating my potatoes." Griffin replied, "It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig.")
When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, American settlers called for military protection.
As a reaction to such act, the British sent their troops as well.
The situation continued to escalate as both troops were in a standoff against each other with cannons, warships and guns both attempting to goad one another into firing the first shot.
Both commanders in chief were given severe orders to defend themselves but not to fire the first shot. Discipline held on both sides.
In the history, this incident is commemorated as The Pig War.
How One Pig Could Have Changed American History. - Click to Tweet!
If you think about it, this is how a lot of times we balance on a fence. Whether it’s about two great nations, two organizations, two parties or two caring people - isn’t it all the same?
Because the Pig War was handled with the highest level of diplomacy and respect we now all have an amazing place to go, sit back, relax and call it “island time”.
When you go to San Juan you’ll be amazed by tranquil and carefree lifestyle you’ll be surrounded by. Casual is ‘the’ rule here, whether we are talking about clothes, atmosphere or your interactions with friendly local people. Oh, and the food here is, south to the border, delicious.
Mild weather all year round, serene waters and its vicinity to "Emerald City" - Seattle, a home to a thriving tech industry with Microsoft and Amazon headquarters - make San Juan Islands a perfect place for a short weekend getaway, 2-week vacation and even for a long summer residence.
In fact, a known billionaire and Microsoft co-founder had bought one of the islands in the area. But that’s a story for another time.
There are 4 islands in the area that stand out among the rest: San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island. Most of tourist activities, dining and accommodation options are concentrated there. All four are ferry served as well, so it will be easy for you to move around and experience more.
Many of the 8,000 year-round residents of San Juan Island fell in love with it during their first visit, and the town of Friday Harbor is where it all began. When you’ll be planning your trip make sure to visit San Juan lslands Travel Site, they have pretty much everything you need.
Whichever island you’ll decide to explore rest assured it will be hard to leave.
For an active person looking to explore things yourself cycling, kayaking, hiking and boating around San Juan Islands are made just for you. The variety of nature encounters here will keep you and your family (did we mention it’s super friendly to families as well? Yeah!) at “Wow” during your entire stay.
Imagine sailing by one of the iconic lighthouses, exploring vineyards and terraces of lavender farms, spotting orca whales and saying “hi” to local sheep and cows. After a busy day, treat yourself with meals made from delicious locally grown foods.
Now, this might be different what a Caribbean Beach Bum is used to, but hey, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. And if you were curious, there are many beautiful beaches you’ll love, where you can watch the sunsets you’ll never forget.