I’ve long wanted to add Washington’s San Juan County to my county counting list and maybe someday I’ll succeed. Pondering that eventuality I began to grow increasingly curious about its only incorporated town, Friday Harbor, specifically the story behind its name.

Friday Harbor, Washington, USA

It seemed unusual to name a settlement after a day of the week. What confluence of events could lead to something like that? Maybe an early explorer sailed into a harbor on a Friday, I figured, maybe even one of the original Spanish expeditions that charted the archipelago in the late 18th Century. Actually that wasn’t the case at all. The name referred to the day of the week although it happened decades later and indirectly.

View from Friday Harbor House by Jamie Campbell on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

According to the San Juan Historical Society:

Friday Harbor was named for a Kanaka — a Hawaiian named Joseph Poalie Friday, who was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company to tend sheep on the land overlooking the harbor. His was the only habitation to be seen for miles, and when sailors coming along the coast saw the smoke from his camp, they knew they had reached “Friday’s Harbor” … Poalie is a shortened form of “Poalima,” the Hawaiian word for Friday. Joe might have dropped his native surname in favor of Friday when he came to the Northwest.

That sounded a bit convenient, perhaps apocryphal. I examined the reference using a modern Hawaiian dictionary. It included the word Pō’alima and confirmed the definition Friday. The theory wasn’t completely out of the question. Thus Friday Harbor was likely named after a man either with the surname Pō’alima or Friday, in either case Friday.

Friday, Texas

Friday, Texas, USA

Texas included a small village named Friday. I love encountering Texas place names because I can almost always find an explanation in The Handbook of Texas, published by the Texas State Historical Association. That source noted,

FRIDAY, TEXAS… was established around the time of the Civil War and was originally known as Ellis Prairie… In 1903, when a post office was established, the name was changed to Friday. By 1914 the community had a general store, a cotton gin, and a gristmill… The post office continued to operate until 1955… The population in 1990 was forty-one. In 2000 it had grown to ninety-nine.

While the Handbook explained when Friday became Friday, it did not explain why that happened although it dangled a tantalizing clue. I speculated that there was already an Ellis elsewhere in Texas and the residents had to select an unused name in a hurry if they wanted a post office. The pages of 12MC record numerous instances where unusual names arose from similar circumstances.

Joe Friday Well

Jack Webb Harry Morgan Dragnet 1968
Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) on Dragnet
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain

I mentioned Joe Friday only a few weeks ago in Just the -fax, Ma’am when I wrote,

Police sergeant Joe Friday never actually said "just the facts ma’am" on the vintage television show Dragnet, according to Snopes. Rather, the character played by Jack Webb uttered different lines that were later confused with the classic phrase now erroneously attributed to the show.

Joe Friday Well, Arizona, USA

Nonetheless Joe Friday had his own well in Arizona. Or maybe it was Joe Friday for whom Friday Harbor was allegedly named? Seriously, what were the odds of three different Joe Fridays suddenly appearing in a matter of days on 12MC? I swear it wasn’t intentional. If it were I’d have created an entire Joe Friday article.

Friday Island, Queensland, Australia

Friday (and other day) Island, Queensland, Australia

Friday Island appeared off of the Cape York Peninsula at the far northern tip of Queensland, about as close as Australia could possibly get to New Guinea. I didn’t find anything unusual about the name as much as when it was combined with some of the neighboring islands including Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Islands. And what happened to Monday and Saturday, which didn’t seem to be present, and Sunday charted much farther down the peninsula (map)? Notable features included lighthouses on Tuesday and Wednesday, pearl farms on Friday, and a sizable population of about 3,500 residents on Thursday.

Black Friday Lake, British Columbia, Canada

I wondered about Black Friday Lake in British Columbia, Canada, too. Which Black Friday inspired the name? I assumed it wasn’t the 1945 riot at the Warner Bros. studios, or the 1910 suffrage protest in England, and certainly it wasn’t the day after Thanksgiving shopping event in the United States because that would make no sense at all in Canada. Perhaps it referred to the alternate name for Good Friday.

Best Avoided by Those With Delicate Sensibilities

Reader "Glenn" sent an email to 12MC with a map link, and a firm "no comment." I followed the link, chuckled, and noticed another geographic feature about a mile southwest of there. I replied, "apparently we have quite the, um, interesting theme going on there in Florida’s nether regions."

Keep those comments, ideas, and discoveries coming!

7 Replies to “TGIF”

  1. The Torres Strait islands were apparently named by Captain Bligh after he had been set adrift in a small boat following the Bounty mutiny ( He named each island after the day of the week on which he reached it.

    However, note this contradictory newspaper article from 1935:

    Thursday Island contains Australia’s northernmost town (also called Thursday Island).

  2. Thanks David – the link to captain Bligh is interesting.

    One point though – Thursday Island isn’t Australia’s northernmost town. There are a few further North – and Boigu Island will be of particular interest to Geophiles.,142.219723,778m/data=!3m1!1e3

    You will see the town of Boigu and its airport in this link. Zoom out a little and you’ll see a large land mass about 5Km to the North. That is PNG. The closest thing that Australia has to a land border! Apparently there is significant local community boat traffic across that little stretch of water.

    Maybe even more intriguingly you can see some uninhabited islands further North West – including Mata Kawa Island which is no more than 400m off the coast of PNG mainland. It is not clear whether this island is in PNG or Australia! There are references that claim since a treaty in 1978 that Mata Kawa is in PNG, yet here are some sites that claim Mata Kawa is in Australia

  3. This gets more interesting the more I look at it. There’s also the case of Kussa island – basically in the mud flats of the PNG shore.

    Is it in PNG or Australia?

    Mapcarta says PNG
    This Article in Eureka Street says Australia
    This online Atlas of Australia includes it – but puts it is a province of N/A off the coast of blank.

    You can even get prayer times and driving directions to Kussa Island Australia,%20Australia

  4. Well, here’s the “1978 treaty” referred to recently:

    It doesn’t actually include a map (or at least the linked version doesn’t), but I tried to follow the coordinates for the seabed dividing line (Annex 5) on FlashEarth. It doesn’t actually divide anything, as far as I can tell, but it gets pretty darn close to doing so at 9°33’S 143°9’E… and Deliverance Island is an exclave, apparently.

  5. San Juan might be the only county I’ve looked across an international border, but never entered. I drive to the top of Mount Douglas when I visited Victoria, British Columbia in 2010. From there you can see the San Juan islands as well as Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to the south. I guess that means Clallam County at the north end of the Peninsula also counted at the time, but I visited Port Angeles and Olympic National Park a few years later, so it no longer counts. Barring airplane travel, I can’t think of any other situations where I’ve been able to see such a great distance into another country, or for that matter state, without actually entering it.

Comments are closed.