South Kitsap teen collects community’s history for his Eagle Scout project

Austin Jackson, left, puts the finishing touches on the historical sign he created for Harper Park. - Justine Frederiksen/ Staff Photo
Austin Jackson, left, puts the finishing touches on the historical sign he created for Harper Park.
— image credit: Justine Frederiksen/ Staff Photo

Bits of Harper history buried in the sand for years are now proudly on display in Harper Park thanks to the Eagle Scout project of one local teen.

Austin Jackman, 15, said he got the idea to build a sign detailing some of Harper’s past from his grandfather, Frank Barker, whom he said has lived in the small community for six decades.

The sign, which Jackman officially completed Friday morning, tells the story of the brick factory that used to operate where the park and ballfield now stand.

“My grandfather has lived here since the 1940s, so he knew about the history of the area,” Jackman said, adding that another wealth of information for him was Cora Brinton, a 92-year-old lifelong resident of Southworth.

“Cora gave me a huge amount of information, along with the pictures (shown on the sign),” said the teen and member of Boy Scout Troop 1525.

To build the sign, Jackman said he began collecting pieces of the brick factory known as “clinkers,” which he said were the brick “duds” that were just tossed into the estuary nearby.

Enlisting the help of friends, family and neighbors, Jackman searched for whole bricks, carefully cleaning off the mud and barnacles before using them to make the base of the sign.

And what did he know of masonry beforehand?

“Nothing — I had no idea what to do,” Jackman said, explaining that his mother helped him find a local mason who showed him the basics by putting in the first couple of rows of bricks that now support the sign’s poles.

After that, Jackman and his team of helpers were mixing the mortar and laying bricks on their own, though they were never completely without help, as the community surrounding the park never stopped pitching in.

When the team couldn’t quite find enough fully formed bricks, a volunteer who cleans the park offered to give the boys some bricks from a walkway at his home. And when the boys arrived one day to find the water at the park turned off, the neighbor next door helped them get water to mix mortar.

To build the rest of the sign, Jackman received help and supplies from local companies such as Evergreen Lumber, Lowe’s and the Port Orchard Sign Company.

“They just charged me for the materials, not for their time and labor making it,” he said, referring to the sturdy sign that details the history of the brick factory with pictures and text.

Jackman, who will be a sophomore at South Kitsap High School this month, said he is the only one in his family so far that joined the Boy Scouts, which he became involved with through his church, the Olalla LDS.

And though he enjoyed building the sign, he isn’t sure he’ll make masonry or construction his career.

“I was thinking I might join the (U.S.) Coast Guard, then become a teacher,” he said.

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