Agate Passage an artist’s legacy | Island Road History

Streets of the Week: Agate Street; Agate Beach Lane; Agate Pass Road; and Agate Point Road

History: In 1841 Captain Charles Wilkes found himself on the Puget Sound, leading the United States Exploring Expedition.

The expedition was the result of more than a decade of political debates and personal conflicts. Finally, with the support of Congress, six U.S. Navy ships left Norfolk, Virginia, on August 18, 1838. On board: 424 crew members and nine scientists set to explore the South Pacific.

After almost three years of sailing, the expedition reached what is now Bainbridge Island. There, Captain Wilkes dubbed the waterway separating the island from the peninsula the Agate Passage.

The name was in honor of artist, Alfred T. Agate. Only 26 when the expedition set sail, Agate traveled around Cape Horn, throughout the South Pacific, to the Antarctic, and, of course, along the Pacific Northwest.

Agate’s contributions to the expedition extended beyound detailed drawings and portraits for the crew. He also documented shipboard life and scientific discoveries with much of his work still celebrated today.

After four years at sea, Agate returned home in 1842. Shortly after he married Elizabeth Hill Kennedy. Unfortunately, only four months after their marriage, Agate died. His health had suffered from his various expeditions and he eventually succumbed to tuberculosis on January 5, 1846. He was 33.

Agate’s name, however, is remembered throughout the island he first helped document all those years ago.

Sources: “Picture Bainbridge,” Jack Swanson. Bainbridge Historical Society, 2002.
“Bainbridge Through Bifocals,” Elsie Frankland Marriott. Gateway Printing Co., 1941.
“A History of Bainbridge Island,” Katy Warner. 1968.

This occasional Islander series explores the history of island street names, as compiled by Elinor Ringland and fellow Bainbridge Island Historical Society volunteers. If you have an island road story to share, email Ringland at elinorjoe@msn.com.