Site founded Sept. 1, 2000. We passed one million page views on Memorial Day, May 2006
These home pages remain free of any charge. We need donations or subscriptions/gifts.
Please pass on this website link to your family, relatives, friends and clients.

(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Home Page Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

(Click to send email)

Sheriff Ed Wells and Deputy J.B. Crane
— Letters about the 1914 Bank Robbery Posse

(Wixson Hotel)
      The Wixson Hotel (now the Gateway) at the northeastern corner of Metcalf and Ferry streets. The photo was taken circa 1916. This view and time is most intriguing. When the annex on the left (north) was the Wilson Club, a bright neon sign and marquee hung out from the front-top of the building. We know no details of James Wilson and when he left town. If this is a view from 1916, the business had been changed to a "pool room" and the neon sign is gone. We hope a reader will know more about the Wilsons, the business and the neighborhood in that time period. The First National Bank was in the ground-floor corner, at the right in the photo. Photo from a postcard, courtesy of the late Howard Miller.

Mount Vernon, Wash Aug. 16, 1922
To: J.B. Crane, Churchill County, Nevada
To Whom it may concern:
      This is to certify that Mr. J.B. Crane, who is a candidate for Sheriff of Churchill County, Nevada, was formerly a resident of Skagit County. During the year 1914, while I was sheriff of said county, Mr. Crane, as Deputy Sheriff, assisted me in running down a gang of bandits known as the Sedro-Woolley bank robbers, and remembering the courage and energy he displayed on that occasion, I can vouch for Mr. Crane's bravery and good judgment and I believe he will make good in the line of work connected with the sheriff office. Ed Wells Ex-Sheriff, Skagit County

Mt. Vernon, Was, Aug. 16, 1922
To: Mr. J.B. Crane, Fallon Nevada
Friend Jack
      I am very glad to hear from you and am not surprised to learn that you are a candidate for sheriff, as you know you liked that line of work and taking it for granted that you will be elected, I feel certain you will give the people of your county good service and they will know that they a real sheriff.
      Since quitting the Sheriff's office here, I have settled down to be a quiet old farmer. I have one of the best ranches on the LaConner Flats rented and like it fine. But often think of the old times when I was Sheriff of Skagit County and especially of that great chase we had after the bank robbers. They sure were a bad bunch that we cleaned them up in good shape. And I'll tell the world that you are some "goer after" that kind of crooks.
      I would like to vote for you for Sheriff but will have to take it out as well-wishing. I am enclosing a little endorsement, allowing that you were once a Deputy here while I hope may be of some assistance in your campaign.
      With best wishes for your success in the election. And Good Luck as Sheriff. I am your very friendly Ed Wells.

Mt. Vernon, Wn, Oct. 28, 1922
To: Mr. J.B. Crane, Fallon, Nevada
Dear Friend Jack
      Have just learned that you have tossed your hat into the Political Ring for Sheriff. Good, Old Boy! I'll count you for a winner. From my long experience in the Sheriff's Office here and our association together, I think you the right man for that job and here's wishing you success.
      Do you ever in your memories drift to our long hike after the notorious five Sedro-Woolley bank robbers and their capture. Those were the good old days. Nothing like it these days. Pretty tame up this way now. Well, so long, Jack, and here's good luck to you. Sincerely, Wm. Bardsley, Mt. Vernon, Wash, 129 Kincaid Street

Skagit River Journal research
      We received these three letters from Joy Markum, of Marysville, California, who is a granddaughter of Jack B. Crane and his wife, Sadie O'Keefe Crane. We are sharing them in advance of the annual Sedro-Woolley Founders Days, where the 1914 First National Bank Robbery is reenacted. We hope that other readers will send us information that they may have in their collections about the robbery itself, Mr. Crane, Sheriff Wells and the posse that successfully hunted down the robbers. The whole story of the robbery and apprehension of the robbers plays out like an old Western movie. The robbery is reenacted at noon on Saturday of Founders weekend and the Sedro-Woolley Museum presents a fine narrated slide-show from lantern slides that were recovered from a collection several years ago.
      We know at this point, after reading the Reno Evening Gazette of Nov. 10, 1922, that Mr. Crane won the election for Churchill County Sheriff, defeating the incumbent sheriff, K.M. North, in a close election. We are awaiting further information about his tenure as sheriff and a profile of the Cranes when they lived here in Skagit County
      You may find the links below to the Journal story of the robbery and other stories on the subject. The robbery occurred on Saturday evening, Oct. 27, 1914, at the eve of World War I and following a summer of various violent crimes in the county. As we know from the various stories, the robbers fled down Ferry street to the east and then turned north on Murdock, where they disappeared in the dark, leaving a trail of paper bills, which were bulky and apparently not as favored as the gold and silver coins. Witnesses conjectured that they stashed a car for their getaway but Sheriff Wells arrived within minutes and could not find a trace of the robbers' method of escape. Sedro-Woolley's small police force of two — Marshal Charles Villeneuve Jr. and Deputy Jasper Holman, decided to stay back just in case to guard the town while Wells quickly assembled a posse to comb the area; they were not involved with the posse. Nearly a hundred men searched the woods and the area all around the Northern Pacific railroad tracks leading north out of town.
      As Sheriff Wells of Skagit County and Sheriff L.A. Thomas of Whatcom county led a posse in their search from Sedro-Woolley north over the next couple of days, a hunter discovered a makeshift camp that the robbers apparently set up north of town near the railroad tracks. One of them carved out a sort of crow's nest in a tree so that he could see down the tracks and twigs were broken off the trees along the line for a ways to eliminate any obstructions to his view. When the police investigated, they found various evidence and maps that indicated some of the robbers had camped there for four to five weeks and that they planned to rob the Bingham Bank, too. Evidence also indicated that they met up back at the camp on the 17th to plan their final retreat. The police concluded that the men stayed in the camp until Monday before hopping the Great Northern train north to British Columbia through Blaine.
      On Friday afternoon, three men showed up at a farm north of Ferndale and demanded food from Otto Wilson's wife and then appeared at a Custer farm and asked directions to Custer, B.C. They were probably desperately hungry, but both choices were mistakes. Mrs. Wilson alerted Sheriff Thomas, as did a Custer man named McGee, who was formerly a U.S. Deputy Marshal for nine years in Mobile County, Alabama. Thomas then contacted Sheriff Wells and Wells implemented a clever plan. He had a hunch that the robbers would return south on the old Smuggler's Trail, used two decades before for smuggling contraband Chinese laborers. He attached his Model-T headlight to dry-cell batteries and attached it to a block building by the Great Northern Railway bridge over the Nooksack river through Ferndale. His hunch was correct and the robbers showed up on Friday night, crawling over the bridge. The light was switched on, the men were blinded and two men were shot and killed. Only one managed to escaped. This time they collected $3,088.10.
      Over the next two weeks, Sheriff Wells and Walter Thayer of the Burns Detective Agency pursued the last man and on November 9, they received a tip that a suspect was at a poolroom in Seattle. Two days later, Wells returned to Mount Vernon with Haig Kazansais, Russian-born Armenian, and Guddall quickly identified him. In closing, we want to thank Rusty Robertson and Lesley McConnell for their very detailed story of the robbery in the 1998 Sedro-Woolley Centennial issue of the Courier-Times for the letter they reprinted. The letter was presented to Sheriff Wells on News years Day, 1915, along with a souvenir sheriff's badge, when the First National Bank honored him. We also want to profile Sheriff Wells in a future issue and we hope that a descendant of the Wells family will read this story and respond.

Links, background reading and sources

      See this Journal website for a timeline of local, state, national and international events for years of the pioneer period.
      Search the entire Journal site.
      Due to continued popular demand, in the interest of furthering our "open source" policy, we are assembling a collection of CDs that will include MS Word files of our pioneer profiles and town profiles from years 1-5, so that you can print them individually at your convenience. Inquire for details today via email or see our site about the planned CDs offering.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the upkeep of this site at a time when we may be forced to cut it back for lack of funds. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which is about to enter its sixth year with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. If you like what you read, thank you in advance for whatever support you can provide. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research.

(bullet) Story posted on
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues until we eventually compile a book about Northwest history.
(bullet) Can you help? We welcome correction and criticism.
(bullet) Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. With more than 500 features, we depend on your report. Thank you.

Return to our home page anytime

You can read the history websites about our prime sponsors:
(bullet) Jones and Solveig Atterberry, NorthWest Properties Aiken & Associates: . . . See our website
Please let us show you residential and commercial property in Sedro-Woolley and Skagit County 2204 Riverside Drive, Mount Vernon, Washington . . . 360 708-8935 . . . 360 708-1729
(bullet) Schooner Tavern/Cocktails at 621 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, across from Hammer Square: web page . . . History of bar and building
(bullet) Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
(bullet) Joy's Sedro-Woolley Bakery-Cafe at 823 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) DelNagro Masonry Brick, block, stone — See our work at the new Hammer Heritage Square
See our website
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence? We may be able to assist. Email us for details.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley

Looking for something special on our site? Enter name, town or subject, then press "Find" Search this site powered by FreeFind
    Did you find what you were seeking? We have helped many people find individual names or places, so email if you have any difficulty.
    Tip: Put quotation marks around a specific name or item of two words or more, and then experiment with different combinations of the words without quote marks. We are currently researching some of the names most recently searched for — check the list here. Maybe you have searched for one of them?
Please sign our guestbook so our readers will know where you found out about us, or share something you know about the Skagit River or your memories or those of your family. Share your reactions or suggestions or comment on our Journal. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit our site.

View My Guestbook
Sign My Guestbook
Email us at:
(Click to send email)
Mail copies/documents to Street address: Skagit River Journal, 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284.