Clara Fiander Jensen: True Eatonville Woman

Today’s blog is by guest blogger Abbit Wonnacott. She is the author of Firm Foundation, The Formation of Eatonville, Wa., and you can view the entire book on her blog Early Eatonville, WA.

Fiander Daughters in 1899. Clara is the one on the left of the two tallest girls.
Fiander Daughters in 1899. Clara is the one on the left of the two tallest girls.

While researching early Eatonville history, I have come to admire many of our early citizens.  The Dean/Fiander family has become very near and dear to me.  One member that has greatly influenced me is Clara Fiander Jensen.

Clara was the eldest daughter of Robert and Catherine Fiander.  Robert came from England, married a native woman, had one son, and then grieved his wife’s death.  Later, he met and married Catherine Dean.  Catherine Dean was the daughter of Hudson’s Bay employee Aubrey Dean and a Snohomish/Yakima woman named Chelalicum who went by the name Rosa.  Catherine was the fourth child and eldest daughter.  Her own daughter Clara was also the eldest daughter with seven other sisters.

Clara Fiander was born on January 2, 1883 and raised in the Swan/Silver Lake area of Eatonville.  Her home was literally the “end of the road” in South Pierce County.  Many travelers such as Ohop Valley Settlers, James Longmire, Paul Hayes, Nate Williams, and TC Van Eaton were treated to dinner and lodging.  At meals, Clara heard many tales and even an ambitious plan to start a town.  Besides the various travelers, she had plenty of sisters and her schoolmates from Swan Lake School to keep her occupied.

Swan Lake School in 1893. The Fiander girls and mom, Catherine, are all dressed in plaid.
Swan Lake School in 1893. The Fiander girls and mom, Catherine, are all dressed in plaid.

In 1900, Clara was finished with school and ready to start her own life.  She journeyed to find work in the Yakima Valley.  Once here, Clara stayed with her half-brother William Fiander.  One day as she was riding, Clara happened upon some farmers working hay.  On one of the large haystacks, her eyes fixed on one man: John Jensen.  He was strong, handsome, and felt the same reaction when he saw Clara.  Jensen said, “That is the woman I’m going to marry.”  By 1907, they had been married five years and had two beautiful little girls.  Bessie was born in 1905 and younger sister Little Clara was born two years later.

In 1910, Clara longed for family and home, so the Jensen family left Toppenish.  John handled the wagon, but Clara road a saddled horse with her two girls up front.  Their entire, little family traveled over the Cascades through the Naches Trail.  When they came to a large lake, Clara had her horse swim across and carried all three safely to the other side.

Clara and John Jensen with their daughters Clara (left) and Bessie (right) holding the hunting dogs.
Clara and John Jensen with their daughters Clara (left) and Bessie (right) holding the hunting dogs.

Once back home, Clara and John Jensen bought 160 acres farm near Silver Lake.  The farm cost $4,900, and it had been a homestead complete with a log house, a larger framed house, and even an apple orchard.  Together, they cleared more land with a team of mules and worked the place to make it their home.  According to granddaughter June Carney, “The farm had a herd of registered Guernsey cattle, sold breeding stock, and shipped cream to the Enumclaw Creamery.”  There were pigs, a flock of chickens, and fine thoroughbred hunting dogs.

Clara Jensen soon became famous for her hunting prowess.  She was featured in a 1923 article for “Interesting Westerners” in Sunset Magazine.  It touted her as “Washington’s Diana” for her tracking skills and use of her 30-30 carbine rifle.  Every year Clara bagged one deer plus hunted raccoons, coyotes, bears, and her specialty: wildcats.

According to the Sunset article, Clara was quick and ready to help anyone around with a problem wildcat.  One night, she got a call from seven miles away.  Something was attacking a farmer’s goats.  Clara raced out there with her carbine rifle in hand and her dogs trailing ahead.  It was a wildcat indeed.  Once they treed the cat, Clara used a lantern to detect the glow of the cat’s eyes.  She took aim, shot, and the animal tumbled to the ground.  The farmer was so pleased; he grabbed up the wildcat and threw it across his shoulders.  Suddenly, the wildcat awoke and started clawing the farmer.  Clara ran up and hit the cat with a club, shot it through its head, and saved the farmer from horrible lacerations.

Clara's daughters Clara and Bessie with their hunting dogs and photographer's stuff bear.
Clara's daughters Clara and Bessie with their hunting dogs and stuffed bear.

Clara is shown in the Sunset article wearing the actual pelt of the wildcat.  It was one of the biggest wildcats they had seen weighing 45 pounds.  While being interviewed for the Sunset article, Clara was on the hunt for three bears that were bold enough to come into the yard and at one time had even roughed up her hunting dogs.  Later, many family photos feature a stuffed cub.  I wonder if it was one of the three.

Life was good and all was going well at the farm.  Her daughters Bessie and Clara had grown and married in the 1920’s.  Sadly, Little Clara was tragically widowed in 1927 causing her to return home with her own two daughters Ladine (nick named “Chick”) and June.  Later, in the early 1930’s, Clara’s other daughter also returned with her own three sons.  Then, in 1934, John Jensen became very ill requiring additional care at home.  Their neighbor Catherine Nelson was a registered nurse and came over to give shots and other medical care to John Jensen.  Tragically, John did not heal and died in 1935.

Picture of Clara Jensen that appeared in Sunset Magazine. Pelt is of the 45-pound wildcat she took down.
Picture of Clara Jensen that appeared in Sunset Magazine. Pelt is of the 45-pound wildcat she took down.

The farm still required a lot of attention, so the Jensen family hired a man named Red Bray to work on the farm.  He was paid $15.00 plus room and board.  The grandchildren were a big help as they milked, hayed, fed, gardened, and cooked.

June Carney remembers following and aiding her grandmother with daily chores.  June was such a big help that Grandma Clara would say, “Someday, she will save my life.”  Those words were prophetic.  As Clara did many times, she jumped into the corral containing cows and a bull.  As June Carney recalls, “She made a fatal mistake.  She went into the corral with blood on her hand.  This enraged the usually gentle bull, and he attacked her.”  June screamed until Red Bray grabbed a pitchfork and subdued the bull.  June Carney wrote, “The bull had injured my grandmother quite a bit.  She had broken ribs and breast bone and many bruises.”

Clara lived out most of her days of that beautiful farm surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren.  She even enjoyed hunting well into her seventies.  Clara was an active member in the Eatonville Sportsmen’s Club, Silver Lake Club, and the Ohop Ladies Aid.

Eventually, the children grew, got married, and it was just Clara Jensen and her daughter Clara Acuff.  By 1957, the farm became too much, and they moved to a house in the town of Eatonville.  One day, as her great-grandson John Carney was visiting, Clara told John to come in.  Keeping her feet square and knees locked, Clara bent down and with both hands flat touched the floor exclaiming, “I must be still doing good!”  That night with daughter by her side, Clara Fiander Jensen died at age 82 on July 10, 1965.

Clara lived a very full life of a settler, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  She could shoot a wildcat in one moment and dress her two little girls up right with love and care in the next.  She was an all around woman of Eatonville.

I often think about Clara Jensen, her life, the hardships, and joys.  When I get too busy or life throws me curves, I stop and remember the lessons from her life.  Never be too busy for your family and tough it out when life gets hard.


14 responses to “Clara Fiander Jensen: True Eatonville Woman”

  1. Clara Jenson was my Great Grandmother. I am the son of Dale Neilson who is one of Bessie’s three sons. My dad had told me many stories of being raised on the farm, and how “Gram” taught the boys how to hunt and track. I have the same picture of gram wearing the wildcat pelt, along with many family pictures, one of Gram and her three grandsons, David, Daniel and Dale on a farm building reroofing it I was told at the time of the picture she was in her 70’s


    • Hi Danny,

      I am your cousin Kathi McConnell Henderson, “Chick” Mae Ladine Duffy McConnell and Zeke’s daughter. I know Mark and Nina who were very close to my Mom, haven’t seen them for a few years now. I really should call them. Do you live here in Washington? I live in Federal Way. I am at least 10 years older than Jay.

      Cousin Kathi


  2. I would be grateful for an obituary for Clara’s daughter Clara (Jensen) Duffy Acuff. She died on 15 April 2002 at the age of 94. All I have is a death notice about 10 words long. Thanks!
    Laura Perry
    keyesperry[insert “at” symbol here]


  3. Clara Jensen was my Great Great Grandmother. My Great Grandmother, Clara Acuff, used to tell me about the history of my family starting with Robert Fiander. She gave me some old family photos. I used them to give a report in high school for extra credit. The other students and my teacher found it fascinating. I miss spending time with Great Grandma Acuff. She was always so full of life.


    • Thanks. I would love to talk to you about some of the stories. And if you still have any of the pictures, we can post them up here. 🙂


      • Yes, that would be great. Can you contact me through my personal email to set a meeting. I will have my mom come as well.


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