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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. An evolving history dedicated to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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From Jessie Odlin's Sedro Poem
to Ivar's Acres of Clams
With a couple more songs and stories in between

And how we tie a whole ball of pioneer strings together

The Tale of Two Cities
By Jessie Lee Odlin, 1898
On the banks of the Mighty Skagit,
      In the haunts of the Siwash and slug.
Some time in the early eighties,
      Rose a brisk little town, called Bug.

There are tales of the valor and prowess,
      Of these knights of the saw and the ax,
Who made through the forest primeval,
      The first irretraceable tracks,

There are tales of soul-stirring adventure;
      Of bears that were bigger than barns;
Of salmon of whalelike proportions??
      But I cannot spin all of these yarns.

And the little town grew so pretentious,
      That it no longer fitted its name;
So out of regard for the cedars,
      It finally Sedro became

Now, to the northeastward of Sedro,
      Rose Woolley; and lo! there began,
A strife that was long and unhappy??
      Raging fiercely, as clan against clan

But Woolley kept creeping southeastward,
      And Sedro kept creeping northwest
Until it grew plain to all people
      That peaceable union was best.

So they formally buried the hatchet
      And all was henceforward serene;
For the two became Sedro-Woolley,
      With only a hyphen between.

And I sing of a glorious future,
      Well worthy the deeds of the past:
Here's 3 cheers for our own Sedro-Woolley,
      Long may its prosperity last!

The Odlins of the Alexander Honeymoon Cottage
      Jessie Reno Odlin wrote this poem in honor of the merger of Sedro and Woolley, which was finalized on Dec. 19, 1898. We note that Jessie lived south of State street in the Sedro part of town and her grandson Reno Spike Odlin reports that she continued to refer to Sedro for the rest of her life, not Sedro-Woolley. Somehow she confused her geography, however, as you will note in the fifth stanza of her poem: "Now, to the northeastward of Sedro, Rose Woolley; and lo! there began . . . " We know, of course, that the town of Woolley was northwest of Sedro, or more specifically, north-northwest.
      She was certainly present for the many fights over the name of the merged town, a subject we plan to cover in early 2005. In a letter to her aunt in Illinois, dated Nov. 5, 1898, she supplies the only first-hand, personal account of the fights over the town name. We know that there were more than one elections from 1896-98 and that P.A. Woolley refused each time to accept the name of Sedro: "The two towns are still fighting over the name. I suppose they'll keep it up indefinitely, as Woolley refuses to accept its defeat."
      Elsewhere in Issue 24 of the Subscribers Edition Online, you can read more about the honeymoon cottage where she and William T. Odlin started their family, the beautiful house at the northwest corner of Fifth and Talcott streets, which was built by Sedro pioneer J.B. Alexander in 1892.

Can the poem be sung?
      More than one reader has asked this over the years. The answer is "Yes." Judy Johnson, who graduated from Sedro-Woolley High School in 1969, is the daughter of one of my late mother's dearest friends, Bea Johnson, who still lives in the Barney Mansion at the corner of Ferry and Puget. Judy emailed to us three years ago:
      Also, FYI, I'm the person who "discovered" that the poem about SW by Mrs. WT Odlin ("On the banks of the mighty Skagit...") was in the same meter as the song "Acres of Clams". I found it when I was in Junior High and started singing it as part of my folk repertoire. Jerry Sommerseth picked it up and started teaching it in elementary school music, and I think the kids are still singing it now. That's my claim to fame, but nobody remembers it but Jerry and me.
      Then we received this email from a transplanted county resident and we were happy to connect them. Andrew Jacobsen wrote:
      I'm wondering if anybody's ever set the Jessie Odlin poem that starts "On the banks of the mighty Skagit" to music, if so what? My mother spent her childhood on a farm several miles north of town (2 miles, I believe, from Prairie), moved to Seattle in 1934 when her father, Andrew Jacobsen, Sr., died. The poem has been part of our family's oral (and written) tradition as long as I can remember, and probably since they lived there. However, we never had (to my knowledge) the final stanza.
      And then we explored the connection between Ivar Haglund's wonderful song, "Ivar's Acres of Clams," which he penned in 1940 and which became the theme song for his empire of restaurants and fun times in Seattle from World War II on. Jacobsen reminded us that Ivar's song is sung to the same tune as the old Irish air, "Old Rosin, the Beau," which we had misnamed, as many do, as "Rosin the Bow." As Jacobsen noted, "Rosin's a feller, not a fiddle accessory, though of course the pun is intentional.
      But there was another old pioneer connection yet to be made between all these loose strings. The lyrics of Ivar's song were based on a poem written by Seattle police court judge, Judge Francis D. Henry. The text first appeared in the Washington Standard magazine on April 11, 1877. We present it below and then tie it to our own county pioneers and Ivar:

The Old Settler
Anthem of the Washington Pioneers
By Francis Henry
I've wandered all over the country,
Prospecting and digging for gold-
I've tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled
, And I had been frequently sold-

And I had been frequently sold,
And I had been frequently sold
I've tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled,
And I had been frequently sold.

For one who gained riches by mining,
Perceiving that hundreds grew poor
I made up my mind to try farming,
The only pursuit that was sure-

The only pursuit that was sure,

So rolling my grub in my blanket,
I left all my tools on the ground
And started next morning to shank it
For a country they call Puget Sound.

Arriving flat broke in mid-winter,
I found it enveloped in fog,
And covered all over with timber
Thick as hair on the back of a dog.

As I looked on the prospect so gloomy
The tears trickled over my face
For I felt that my travels had brought me
To the edge of the jumping-off place.

I took up a claim in the forest
And sat myself down to hard boil
For two years I chopped and I labored,
But I never got down to the soil.

I tried to get out of the country,
But poverty forced me to stay:
Until I became an old settler,
Then nothing could drive me away.

And now that I'm used to the climate,
I think that if man ever found
A spot to live easy and happy,
That place is on Puget Sound.

No longer the slave of ambition,
I laugh at the world and its shams,
As I think of my pleasant condition
Surrounded by acres of clams.

      By the way, many people ask, what did he mean by "frequently sold?" The consensus answer is that he talking from the point of view of a gold miner who had experienced the many rushes from 1849 California through 1858 Fraser River in British Columbia and was bemoaning being sold out, fleeced, flummoxed and gypped.
      Journal reader Marilyn Morrison brought this poem home to us earlier this year when she and I and other descendants of the Kalloch family were researching the series we will also present in this issue about how the Kallochs left quite a mark from Maine to San Francisco to Prairie, the small community north of Sedro-Woolley. One of the most famous members of that family was Amariah Kalloch III, who homesteaded south of Prairie at Cranberry Lake in 1883. He was the namesake of Kalloch road, which is now a short road in the Prairie district, but was originally the trail that eventually became the Skagit county portion of Highway 9.
      Kalloch died as the result of an accident at Yesler's Wharf in Seattle in November 1889. He stepped onto a gangplank to board the sternwheeler Cascade, but fell off and struck his head on a nearby piling. Morrison found the Nov. 17, 1889, edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that reported his death and noted that he later died at the relatively new Providence Hospital in Seattle. Printed in that same issue was Henry's "Old Settler" poem. Although Morrision did not see any connection between the items, we read elsewhere that the poem was read at Kalloch's IOOF funeral ceremony at the Bow cemetery.
      So, how does help tie all the strings into a semi-tidy ball? Well, Ivar Haglund's original Acre of Clams was located at Pier 54, just a stone's throw north from where Henry Yesler originally built his wharf, the one where Old Settler Kalloch fell. See how much fun we historians have making connections and tying people and events together?

      P.S. Mr. Jacobsen is fluent in many languages, not the least of which is Esperanto. He has prepared two special websites regarding the Odlin poem: in English: and in Esperanto:

Story posted on Nov. 14, 2004
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