Two versions explaining the many spellings are shown below. One is from a letter written by our founding fathers, Weyerhaeuser, and the other is from online historical research.
Both versions agree that in 1996, Harstine Island became the official legal name. After active effort by the islanders, the US Board of Geographic Names Decision List read: “Harstine Island, named for Henry Hartstene (deceased, 1868).” This decision was based upon common local usage.
Other details of the two accounts, however, differ. Weyerhaeuser credits Captain (never an Admiral) Vancouver with naming the island, but historical records indicate Henry Hartstene was born in 1801, three years after the death of Captain George Vancouver.
By Fiona Leslie
In 1970 Weyerhaeuser had difficulty, even after research, in knowing how to spell the name of the island. In a letter sent by one of the developers to L. Varnadus, alternatives were offered. He began by saying that if Admiral Vancouver had known the problems he had caused by naming the island after one of his crew, he would have thrown him off the ship. He finishes the letter with: “Take your choice. There is no official right spelling.”
The original name of the island was Idem Sonan’s Isle. This option was quickly dropped. Alternatives offered were:
On December, 1996, after a long drawn out effort by the islanders, the US Board of Geographic Names Decision List determined the name as follows: “Harstine Island, named for Henry Hartstene (deceased, 1868).”
Online Research Version
By Roger Ray
Lieutenant Henry J. Hartstene was an U.S. Navy officer and a member of an expedition commonly called the Wilkes Expedition that explored South Puget Sound in 1841. Captain Charles Wilkes, the commander, named “newly discovered” places after members of his crew. While Hartstene was still considered a member of the expedition, by the time South Sound was explored, he was on duty elsewhere.
In the first year of the expedition, Hartstene had performed a mission that nearly cost him his life. Wilkes honored him by naming this island for him, though it is likely Lt. Hartstene never visited or even sighted the island.
Henry J. Hartstene