"Let’s build a golf course"
It all started with this phrase as said by visionary developer, entrepreneur, and conservationist Sam Clarke Sr. when surveying the rolling hills of what had been the finest strawberry fields in the Northwest.
Samuel J. Clarke Sr.
May 8, 1901 - February 25, 1984
Prior to that prophetic statement by Sam Clarke Sr., the land destined to become Meadowmeer began long before with the clear-cutting of Bainbridge Island by the Port Madison and Port Blakely Mill companies, with Port Madison serving as the Kitsap County seat until 1895. With stunning views of the snow-capped Olympics to the west, the sprawling clear-cuts gave rise to homesteads and small plots of land tended to by Japanese and Filipino farmers.
Among these many farmers were Otohiko and Hatsuka Koura. In 1937, they acquired 80 acres of land and built a house for their family of 6 children where their two sons, Arthur and Noboru, helped on the farm.
Due to the unjust internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, in 1942 Otohiko was arrested by the FBI, detained in Seattle, and ultimately held at Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck, North Dakota. The Koura brothers were rounded up, along with the rest of the island’s Japanese inhabitants, and transferred off the island. They were wrongfully held at Manzanar Relocation Camp in California, and later sent to Minidoka Camp in Idaho.
The 80 acres that originally made up the Koura property was sold to Otohiko by neighbor Arthur Raber, considered a father figure by Arthur Koura. Raber emerged as an instrumental figure in the care and stewardship of the Koura farm during internment by purchasing the farm back from the family for $1. While the Koura family was held, Mr. Raber diligently maintained the harvests with the help of Filipino-American hands, before selling the farm back to the returning Koura brothers for $1, and delivering the profits from the harvests to them upon their return. Because of increased competition from California fruit growers, by the mid-60s the Koura brothers and their land were destined for exciting new chapters.
On December 31, 1967 a contract with the Koura brothers was filed, acquiring their 160 acres of farmland. The following year an additional 40 acres containing Bainbridge Island’s only airstrip, Raber Airfield and now the fairway of hole #5, completed the land needed to begin developing Meadowmeer.
The planting of 1,700 trees along the perimeter of the proposed golf course layout kicked off development in 1968. Sam Clarke Sr.’s vision of “Let’s build a golf course” and a dream to create “The Most Delightful Residential Park on Bainbridge Island” were ultimately fulfilled with the completion of the golf course in 1971.
*Many thanks to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum (bainbridgehistory.org) and one of our wonderful members, Kip Beelman, for their support of the Meadowneer history project.