In 1871 William D. Vaughn (1831-1920) was the first settler on the bay that would bear his name. Vaughn was unable to perfect his homestead claim, losing the land in 1881. He lived the rest of his life on Steilacoom. The name Vaughn’s Bay is first documented in 1884.
Early homesteaders were the Alverson, Wright, Critchfield, Olson, Davidson, Van Slyke and Coblentz families. Olson was a potato farmer and Davidson grew plums and dried them for prunes. Van Slyke and Coblentz were good friends and had traveled together from Kansas in 1886. After they arrived here, they mutually agreed that Van Slyke should run the sawmill and Coblentz should tend the store.
In 1893, the community built a dance floor for the Fourth of July celebrations. Van Slyke donated land behind Coblentz’s store and provided lumber from his mill. A year earlier, Vaughn’s men had organized a horticultural society and purposefully prevented women from joining. So the women decided to establish a library association and they excluded the men in return. The library hall was built in 1893 by adding walls and a roof to the dance floor. The library closed in 1957 and the hall became a private residence. Currently owned by the Key Peninsula Historical Society, the historic hall is being restored.
Van Slyke sold his sawmill to Reverend Applegate in 1897. Before the sawmill burned and he ran out of money, Applegate built the Vaughn Bay Community Church, which is also called the “Chapel by the Sea” because of its bayside location.
text by Joyce Niemann & Simon Priest