McNeil Island Historical Society

a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity

We are running a Facebook Fundraiser for restoring our boat, Steilacoom. Click here to donate to the Steilacoom campaign.

Welcome to Our Island


McNeil Island Historical Society (MIHS) promotes preserving the rich history of McNeil Island, WA., through positive use of it's existing structures and wildlife sanctions for the benefit of current and future generations. America's largest island prison from 1875 until it's closure in 2011, McNeil Island held not only convicts but also a vibrant island community starting with famous Oregon Trail pioneer Ezra Meekers' arrival in 1853. Logging, farming, boating, bootlegging and brothels all occurred while the rugged pioneer settlers held sway. The Federal and State prison staff and their families, also enjoyed the mystique and serenity of scarcely populated, highly restricted McNeil, which now houses America's most Unwanted - civilly convicted Sexual offenders who have served out their criminal terms but are unfit to return to society.... All this drama against the breathtaking backdrops of the Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier, and the Cascade Range, is too unique and beautiful to belong to only a few. Much better use should be made of the buildings designed by National Register Architects and created by convict crews. The MIHS is about the past and the potential of McNeil Island. Enjoy our site!

Currently this site is under construction.  Updates will be published as the site is developed and the island archives grow.  Please check back again soon for the latest information.


  • ​Our book is now available at Amazon!  Authored by our own Ann Kane Burkly and Puget Sound journalist Steve W. Dunkelberger, and published as part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, McNeil Island presents a pictorial history of life on the island for residents and inmates alike, from the time of the original settlers through the era of the territorial, federal, and state prisons.