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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition 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

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Eulogy for David M. Donnelly
Sedro-Woolley pioneer

(David Donnelly)
      Journal ed. note: David M. Donnelly is being honored at the 2006 Founders Days weekend. He is one of the more intriguing pioneers of old Woolley and Wickersham, partly because he told Catherine that he had never attended school. He is one of those self-educated men, like Charles J. Wicker and Albert E. Holland, who became very successful businessmen without any formal training, except maybe in the school of hard knocks. I had the great pleasure of knowing and laughing with Catherine, who was one of my mother's dearest friends. She was one of the daughters of Skagit Steel magnate David G. McIntyre, and wife of druggist Wyman McClintock, and was known for her "teatime" pitcher of martinis or daiquiris, served at my old home as she chatted up her pals. The conversations were golden and they were the golden girls. Thanks to George Hass, her grandson for retaining this and several other biographies.

By Catherine McClintock, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, June 16, 1938

Congratulations to Carolyn Freeman and Lorraine Rothenbuhler of the Sedro-Woolley Museum for a fine program about the David Donnelly family. If you are a Donnelly descendant or are related to the extended family. We will have subsequent Donnelly features but they will be shared with Journal magazine-subscribers first. But if you email us, we will form a family email tree and share a link with you as soon as the stories are posted in the upcoming issue. And please attach any scans you have of Donnelly photos — people or businesses, especially those taken in Sedro-Woolley, Edison or Wickersham before 1942, or please mail copies of any documents or stories or a family tree. We do not need or request any originals. Thank you.

      Dave Donnelly, one of Sedro-Woolley's best known pioneer businessmen, died at his home on West Talcott street early Tuesday morning at the age of seventy-three years, after an illness of several months. Funeral services are to be held in St. Mary's Catholic church at 10 o'clock on Friday morning of this week with the Rev. Father M. Murtagh in charge and interment will be in the Union cemetery under direction of the Lemley Mortuary.
      William Cole, state traffic director, Ex-Governor Roland Hartley, Sheriff Pat McCarthy, Q. P. Reno, Harry Devin and W. H. Curry will serve as casketbearers.
      As chairman of the Skagit county Republican central committee, as commissioner from the third district, as president of the Skagit County Fair Association for eight years and as Sedro-Woolley postmaster for twelve years, Dave Donnelly became known throughout the Northwest as one of this city's most progressive and influential citizens. Up until about two months ago he was actively engaged in business, managing the Donnelly Motor company, the Hamilton Cheese company [Castrilli], which he bought a year ago, and a mill in Oregon, being assisted in these enterprises by his surviving sons, Norman, Cecil, David Jr. and Hubert Donnelly.

(Bay City mill)
      This is a photo of the Bay City, Michigan, sawmill from this background site.

Born in Michigan 1864
      Contrary to a general1y accepted belief, Dave Donnelly was not born with a big cigar in his mouth and a ten-quart Stetson hat on his head, but came into this world in conventional style, garbed in a cloud like all good babies. He was probably noisier and more active than the average, but as the third son of James C. and Esther Norman Donnelly, and one of six children, he quickly learned to conduct himself properly with a fine regard for the other members of his family. Dave was born on May 12, 1864, in St. Clair county, Mich. His father was a carpenter and millwright, and built Batchelor's [also spelled Bachelor's in some records] mill on the St. Clair river which was afterwards moved to Bay City, Michigan, rebuilt and renamed the McGraw mill, at that time the largest one in the United States.
      Dave lived at home and attended school like other boys and girls until he was 12, when he decided that it, was time for him to clear out and support himself, which he did by working on a farm 'where he earned $3 per month, in addition to room and board. During his second year on the farm, at harvest time, he earned 35 cents per day, a princely sum. Tiring of farm work, Dave went into the bakery business at the age of 14 and learned a good bit about that trade which later stood him in good stead when he went into the Michigan woods to have a fling at the lumber business. Starting as a roustabout, he was given a job as a helper in the cookhouse of which he eventually had complete charge. He worked in the woods until he was 23, and then decided that he would have a look at the wild and wooly West, and fulfill his urge to be a cowboy. After riding herd on the plains of Montana and Idaho for six months, Dave came to Skagit county, where once again he took for the woods, working as cook for Pat McCoy on the Samish Flats (McCoy also logged extensively on Bow Hill and owned businesses in Bow after 1902).

Marriage in 1894, then Wickersham and Woolley
(Donnelly home)
Donnelly home, Talcott Street 1902

      On September 17, 1894, Dave and Mary, the charming daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Pat Halloran of Edison, were married, and to them were born five children: a daughter, Esther who died in 1931; and four boys; Cecil and Hubert, who live in Sedro-Woolley, J. Norman of Seattle, and David M. Jr., of Oregon. Mrs. Donnelly died on September 19, 1928, after prolonged and painful illness [her burial record shows Sept. 19, 1926].
      Following their marriage, the Donnellys moved to Wickersham, where Dave went into the meat business, and in 1895 came to Sedro-Woolley to establish their home. Dave bought out Burmaster and his partner in the meat business and built a slaughter house, two years later selling a half interest in his business to Carstens. They built up a large trade here and in the surrounding country, supplying 53 shingle mi1ls, 11 sawmills and 15 or 16 logging camps with meat, and for . seven - years they averaged an annual volume of $147,000. They bought a 162-acre ranch on the Cook road from M.B. [Merritt] Holbrook, part of the old [Mortimer] Cook estate, and when Carstens and Donnelly sold out to Frye-Bruhn, Dave retained the Cook road place.
      He was elected county commissioner from the third district and during his term of office fought for and won the road to Clear Lake as it is now located. Various factions contended that this road should be built a couple of miles up the river above Hankin's mill, insisting that the Skagit could not be ferried successfully where the river bridge now is, and also that the slough trestle would be too costly. Such competition merely stiffened Dave's resolve and he proved that the road could be built by the simple process of getting it done.
      In his early days here, Dave bought real estate which he developed and sold, including the Bingham and Holland block, and the property on Metcalf from Britchford's to West's grocery, between Ferry and Woodworth.

Surprise: bankrolled the Skagit County Courier
(Donnelly house 1976)
Donnelly home 1976

      Unknown to many, Dave bought the [Burlington Journal]newspaper plant in Burlington from a Mr. Baumer [actually Bowmer, moved it to Sedro-Woolley, where he established it in a building at the rear of Condy's jewelry store, with U. E. Foster as editor, the transaction having been handled by Attorney J.H. Smith. He later sold out to Foster.
      As president of the Skagit county Republican central committee, Dave had some glorious political encounters, one of which particularly gives him much pleasure in retrospect and that was when he routed the Non-Partisan League, which had made great headway n the county. He was also the first chairman who ever won the county over in an off year.
      During his eight years of presidency of the Skagit County Fair association, Dave established the Skagit show as one of the leading exhibitions of its kind in the Northwest. Dave was postmaster of Sedro-Woolley for 12 years and four months] and since his retirement from that office has devoted himself to his various properties, including mill and timber interests-in Oregon, the Donnelly Motor company of Sedro-Woolley and the Donnelly Meat company of Lyman.
      Dave made his home on West Talcott street in the house where he and his family have lived for 38 years. Recently, he enjoyed a trip back to his old home in Michigan, where he had not visited for fifty years. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus lodge of Mount Vernon, - the local chamber of commerce, and was a charter member of the Sedro-Woolley Rotary club.
      Although he is not as young as he used to be, Dave is just as peppery and full of fight as ever. When he slaps the old Stetson on his head, and sets his cigar to windward, he is ready for come-what-may and can still take it in his stride. Always a hard-fighting, straight-hitting Republican, Dave at this writing, believes that it is time for all of us to submerge political bias and put on a united front for Americanism. [Journal ed. note: this last paragraph seems odd, as if it were written while Donnelly was still alive. We suspect that she had already interviewed him and planned a column before his death.]

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2006
Donnelly genealogy
(Donnelly home 2002)
Donnelly home 2002, with Kemmerich descendants Karen and Mark Halliday in front. Photo courtesy of Barbara Halliday.

      [From page 674, 1883 History of St Clair, Michigan] James C. Donnelly, carpenter and joiner, Section 4, Smith Creek, is a native of Canada, and was born in Toronto [on] November 1, 1830; his parents came to this county in 1883 [obvious typo, maybe 1823?] and settled at Fort Gratiot, and were among the early settlers there; he grew up and learned the trade of carpenter and joiner, and since reaching manhood has been engaged in building, and is one of the oldest builders here. In 1859, he married Miss Esther T. Norman, a native of Ireland, and since then they have lived in this town on his farm. They have six children-William J., Benjamin N., Ellen T., David M. [for Michael], Mary E. and Ida A.
      [From St. Clair County, Michigan Marriages 1857-1866 Book 2] Jan. 13, 1859, St. Stephen [Catholic Church], Port Huron, James C. Donnelly, 28, Williamsburgh Twp, St. Clair, and Esther Therese Norman, 22, Williamsburgh Twp, St. Clair. [Return]

J.A. Carstens
      From the Jan. 26, 1899, issue of the Sedro-Woolley Skagit County Times, we know that the "Carstens & Donnelly firm was dissolved by mutual consent and will be continued as Woolley Meat Market, David M. Donnelly, manager. Effective Jan. 1, 1899." The former partner was J.A. Carstens. He was a member of the Tacoma family that owned Carstens Packing plants in that city and Seattle, among others. After the turn of the century, they became leading packers of both meat and pork, having been given a boost by shipments to the Klondike during the gold rush of 1897-1900. "J.A. Carstens, formerly of the butchering firm of Carstens & Donnelly, has bought out the Central Meat Market from Parker & Preston. This change was rather a surprise all round, as Mr. Carstens had about completed arrangements to go into business in Seattle. Mr. Preston will go to work for Donnelly Bros., while Mr. Parker is undecided what he shall do next. The many friends of J.A. Carstens are glad he is not leaving town." In that same issue, the new butchering firm of Donnelly Bros. "is making extensive alterations and additions to the Woolley Meat Market on Northern Avenue. A large $400 refrigerator has been put in and the office accommodations improved." [Return]

Marcellus B. Holbrook
      Merritt Bruce Holbrook was a member of the family who moved out to Sedro-Woolley from Marengo, Iowa, the town that supplied the second-most total of old Sedro pioneers. His cousin, Merritt L. Holbook, came first, as the partner of Charles E. Bingham in the bank of old Sedro, which opened on July 30, 1890. M.B. became a partner with John Gould in the Skagit Commission business on Ferry Street. [Return]

Mortimer Cook Ranch, Cook Road
      Mortimer Cook was the founder of old Sedro by the Skagit River, originally naming it Bug sometime after arriving in June 1884. His family joined him in June 1885 after he built a store and a house where Riverfront Park stands today. In July 1886, he opened a shingle mill, which he sold at a profit on Oct. 30, 1888 to logging partners Mosher & McDonald. He probably sold the mill because he was more excited about the proposed Fairhaven & Southern Railroad (F&S), whose owner, Nelson Bennett, bought most of Cook's Sedro acreage and because he decided to become a pig farmer on a 600-acre farm five miles northwest of Woolley on the Olympia Marsh. The acreage was a combination of swamp land and peat bog, stretching over the Samish Flats to Puget Sound. The land was appraised at $20,000 by Albert G. Mosier, the man who platted the first town of Sedro and served as Skagit County surveyor and Sedro-Woolley engineer. Unfortunately, Cook financed much of the ranch and its clearing at high interest rates at the beginning of the Financial Depression that hit Washington hard in 1892-93. He liquidated his ranch in 1898 and headed off to the Philippines, where he died on Nov. 22, 1899. You can read about the ranch and Donnelly's ownership at this Journal website, a transcription of an autobiographical story by Sedro-Woolley historian Ray Jordan, who lived there with his family as a child in the early 1900s. [Return]

Frye-Bruhn Meats, Seattle & Woolley
      Brothers Charles and Frank Frye and a friend, Charles Bruhn, created the Frye-Bruhn Meat Packing Co. in Seattle in 1891. Built on 15 acres of tide flats located in South Seattle near the site of Safeco Field, the sprawling Frye businesses prospered, fed by the need for provisions by gold miners during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. During that time, the payroll grew from $500 a month to more than $1 million a year. The Frye business expanded to include cattle, sheep, hog, and chicken ranching in several western states and around the turn of the 20th century, the company expanded to include a large scale meat processing plant with retail sales outlets stretching from California to Alaska. In the next few years, the partners bought markets in Fairhaven, Lake Samish and the Donnelly business in Sedro-Woolley. Sometime after Charles Frye became the sole owner of the company, he founded Cudahy Bar-S Brand Meats, which became a long-running brand name.
      Back in 1893, Charles and his wife, Emma, attended the World's Fair in Chicago and bought their first art. They willed their fortune to an endowment that resulted in the Frye Art Museum on First Hill in Seattle, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002.
      The 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, has a slightly different story: Donnelly bought out the Grethus & (Herman) Burmaster meat market, sold it in 1900 to Philips & Carstens, repurchased it in 1902 and sold it again in 1904.
      We hope that a reader will know more about the Frye-Bruhn company. We have not yet determined when Charles Frye purchased the shares of his brother and Charles Bruhn. We know that from photos and directories in Washington and Alaska that the Frye-Bruhn name continued until at least 1907, but by about 1915, the business name changed to Frye Company. Charles and Emma's name lives on in the endowment and legacy they left for the Frye Museum. As this HistoryLink website explains:

      The Fryes, who had no children, directed that their estate be used to build and maintain a free public art museum to display their beloved collection. In his will, Charles, who died in 1940, specified that admission be free (to encourage the public to visit the museum); that natural light be used to illuminate the galleries; and that no abstract art be displayed. In the Frye Art Museum, realism would rule.
      Walser S. Greathouse, Charles's friend, attorney, and executor, worked for 12 years after Charles's death to assemble the museum and its collection. The opening unfortunately coincided with the period in the 1950s when modernism and abstraction took hold in most U.S. art museums. The museum grew slowly but surely in stature as Walter and his wife, Ida Kay Greathouse, made major acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe and Ida continued as a guiding hand after his death in 1966, serving as administrator until just before her death in 1994. [Return]

Hankin Mill and Thompson Bridge
      Mill. Although Catherine McClintock called it the Hankin Mill, she was confusing the owners of that time period. Back in the Teen years when Donnelly proposed the bridge, the mill that was just northeast of Cook's old-Sedro townsite was still the Sedro Box & Veneer Co., which opened on March 23, 1905. It was partially owned by W.J. "Cottonwood Bill" Royse (sometimes spelled Royce) and in 1919 — after financial troubles in the post-war recession, he took on a partner, Delbert Hankin, in the newly named Royse-Hankin Mill.
      Bridge. The critics were proven wrong and the bridge was built, pretty much as Donnelly proposed. The Sedro-Woolley Skagit County Times reported on March 9, 1911, that the Clear Lake bridge contract was let for $56,638 and that it would take place of the one-horse ferry, open up a trade territory; a contractor named Quigg was the winning bidder. It also noted that the original Albert E. Holland ferry crossed the Skagit near the site of the Sedro Box plant, as you can read about in this Journal profile of Holland. The wooden drawbridge was completed and opened on Jan. 21, 1912, and it was dedicated by Sedro-Woolley Mayor Willim J. Thompson, who fought for it along with Donnelly. Miss Margaret Thompson, his daughter, was bridge queen and she broke a champagne bottle over the end of the draw. Thompson died in a car wreck on Aug. 18, 1914, and afterwards, the bridge to Clear Lake was often called the Thompson Bridge. [Return]

Bingham-Holland block
      Because the Bingham-Holland building still stands on Metcalf Street at the corner of Woodworth Street, some readers assume that is the building that Donnelly owned. Actually, sometime around the turn of the 20th century, David M. Donnelly moved his butchering business into another Bingham-Holland block, which was then a large three-story building, located at the northeast corner of Ferry at Metcalfe streets. Bingham and Holland apparently developed and financed the property. That building burned spectacularly to the ground in the July 24, 1911, downtown Woolley fire. [Return]

Burlington Journal, H.L. Bowmer
      This is really news about Donnelly being a financial back for the new Sedro-Woolly Skagit County Courier, but not surprising. From the Sebring's Skagit County Illustrated magazine, December 1902: The Burlington Journal was established on June 1, 1899, by H.L. Bowmer, who recognized the central position of Burlington with regard to railroad accommodation by the Great Northern company and its advantages as a shipping and trading point for the vast agricultural community surrounding. From a small 8-column paper The Journal has increased to a 24-column representative newspaper and takes special interest in local events and aiding in the growth and upbuilding at Burlington.
      In June 1902, Mr. Bowmer entered into co-partnership with I.J. Howe of Nebraska, in the real estate business in connection with the newspaper and this firm takes pleasure in giving any desired information regarding Skagit county and opportunities for investment. Messrs. Bowmer & Howe have a large list of improved and unimproved lands and are also agents for the Burlington Townsite company, who have for sale choice business locations, residence lots, etc. at a very low figure and on terms within reach of all. [Return]

Attorney J.H. Smith?
      Catherine confused James H. Smith, the famed Hamilton druggist and bank owner, with his brother, the attorney Tom Smith, who started his practice in old Sedro in 1888 and moved his office to Mount Vernon in 1890.
Tom Smith
By H. James Boswell. American Blue Book Western Washington. Seattle, Lowman and Hanford Co., 1922
      There is no better capacitated member of the bar of Washington than Tom Smith, of Mt. Vernon. Mr. Smith is a native of Canada, and was born in 1863. His academic education was had in both private and public schools. He was admitted to the bar in 1888, and located in Mr. Vernon in 1890. Mr. Smith is a lawyer who prefers keeping clients out of litigation when possible, but when he enters trial he neither asks nor gives quarter, maintaining the rights of his client. Mr. Smith as a result of painstaking effort and hard, conscientious work has succeeded in building up a clientele of which he as every just reason for feeling proud. He appears quite frequently in the courts and the records indicate clearly the splendid success with which he meets. The high standard by which he abided throughout the years of active practice of law won for him scores of friends throughout the Northwest, not only among the members of the bench and bar, but in all avenues of life. He married Miss Minnie M. Graham. in 1892, and the couple have four children, two boys and two girls. He is a member of the Elks, Knights of Columbus and the county and state bar associations. (Thanks to Judy Bivens and Jenny Tenlen and their wonderful WA Bios Project)
      In 1926, Tom Smith's daughter, Harriet Graham Smith, married Floyd Kamb in Seattle. Tom Smith was born in Ontario, Canada, and emigrated to Chatfield, Minnesota in 1867. Floyd and Harriet had three children. John Graham, the eldest, born in 1929, is a graduate of the University of Washington and Gonzaga Law School. He practices with his son John in the Mount Vernon law firm, Kamb and Kamb. [Return]

Donnelly Motor Co.
      See the Journal website about the late Lloyd Palmer for more information on this Donnelly company In 1932, the Donnelly Motor Co. bought the Palmer Transfer building that Lloyd Palmer Sr. built at the northeast corner of Ferry and Murdock streets in 1929 to house his construction trucks and garbage-collection business. David Donnelly and his son, Dave Jr., sold Chryslers, Plymouths and Dodges among other cars. Donnelly also had a Gilmore service station (remember those — emphasis on the service?). Vic Barr continued running the garage and Alsie (unsure of the spelling) Eikleberry ran the body shop. Future mayor Puss Stendal worked at the Donnelly service station after the Union Mercantile department store on Metcalf Street went bankrupt in 1932. Coffland Motors replaced Donnelly's operation during the World War II years. It was on the present-day site of the Skagit State Bank. We hope that a reader will have more details about both the Donnelly company and the Coffland company and family. [Return]

Knights of Columbus
      Knights of ColumbusMsgr. Boulet Council 2126 was instituted in Mount Vernon on April 25, 1920 by District Deputy S A Keenan of Seattle. David M. Donnelly was one of 35 charter members that evening and was elected as one of the first officers. Father (later Monsignor) Jean-Baptiste Boulet (sometimes spelled John) was known as the "walking priest" for his habit of walking tens of miles between ten or more parishes in every region where he served. He was first assigned in Washington Territory in 1866 to the revived St. Joseph's Mission in the Yakima Valley. In 1878, Rev. Boulet arrived at the Tulalip Reservation in Snohomish County to replace Father Chirouse; he was 43. Father Boulet brought a printing press with him, on which he printed many items in Snohomish and English. In 1889, he began covering the Whatcom and Skagit County area out of his base at the town of Whatcom and in 1893 he dedicated the St. Peter's Church at Columbia Valley in Whatcom County. One of the parishes that Father Boulet reached on foot was at the town of Sedro, where hardware merchant first hosted Catholic services in his home in 1889 and a church was dedicated in 1900. In 1906, Father Boulet launched the Good Tidings newspaper as an educational aid to Catholics in northwestern Washington state, but from the records we researched, he had apparently left the Whatcom parish by 1905. [Return]

Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce
      See this Journal website for the history of the Chamber [Return]

Sedro-Woolley Rotary Club
      See the history of the Rotary Club — launched in 1921, at this Journal website [Return]

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.
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      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.

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