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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 (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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Over the river and through the woods . . .

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, and Alice Harrison
(Lake home 1)
      To Grandmothers house we go. We baby boomers have those lines imprinted on our brains from the time we were five or six back in the The Bomb years. Were you lucky enough to have a special place like that to visit in the summers of your youth, where grandma always had a pie about to happen or grandpa taught you to fish or tell one tree from another? I sure did: my grandparents' house near Middletown, Missouri, where I was born. After we moved out here in 1948, my mother used to take my brother and me back to that halcyon place every couple of years on the Great Northern Empire Builder out of Everett.
      So, in 2003, when I was researching on the web, I was delighted to find Alice Harrison's wonderful website on this theme and especially when I discovered that it was about her childhood near Big Lake. I'll give you the link in a minute so you can read for yourself, but here is a taste of it for you.

      Blackberries, cocoa, Velveeta cheese, and fudge. Puppies, kitties, flowers and birds. Foot-loose and fancy free on forty-some acres of woods with a Grandmother who believed children were perfect. What more could a kid want?
      The furthest back I can remember of Grandmother, Granddaddy, Uncle Michael, and Mt. Vernon is being out in the woods on a hot sunshiny day sitting on a blanket with my sister, Carol, while the bigger people all around us were busy picking berries. Also on the blanket, was a quart-jar of water for the thirsty and a pile of pots and pans out of Grandmother's kitchen waiting to be filled with ripe blackberries. That's when we were too little to pick. Later, as we grew older, we joined the ranks, eventually picking berries for Mom or Grandmother and as teenagers, to help pay room and board during our summer stays. After putting an ad in the newspaper, Grandmother would sell the berries by the gallon to people in the city who would come for miles to get them. Last price I remember her getting for them was $8.00 a gallon. I was a teenager then. Today you could probably get over $20.00 a gallon from a restaurant owner for a gallon of those mountain blackberries. Grandmother also made a few extra bucks by harvesting and selling cascara bark. There were a few cascara trees on the east side of the garden below the house. We went there with Michael and he showed us how to take the bark without killing the tree.
      I remember the long ride up to Grandmother's by way of old Hwy 99. We went through towns like Woodinville, Snohomish, and Marysville and it took us a good two hours to get there from Seattle. I might get carsick or Carol or our brother Johnny might get a bloody nose. Our favorite landmarks along the way assured us we weren't on a never-ending journey, but were on the right road and getting closer to Grandmother's house. There was the Paul Bunyan sign (not sure what kind of business that was,) the big tree you could drive through, the monkey tree in Snohomish or Marysville, and the Rip Van Winkle furniture store. There was the honey stand we occasionally stopped at before turning off the highway. It eventually made it big, selling its honey in the supermarkets. Sometimes there was a stop at Grandmother's neighbor's house to fill up bottles with spring water.
      My grandparents lived up on Devil's Mountain, above Big Lake back in the fifties through the seventies. My uncle, Michael Mitchell was raised there. I just finished writing up a short history for my kids and cousins that you might enjoy reading, also. My siblings, and my cousins spent our summer vacations at our grandparents place. It was our paradise.

      So, I wrote to Alice and asked her about what inspired her to create such a wonderful paean to her grandparents and the berry-stained days near Big Lake. She answered:
      I live in Renton, Washington [the town just south of Seattle that was a historic coal-mining district]. I was instant messaging with this cousin, Candie, who is mentioned in the story and we got to talking over old times. Then it came to me. We should contact all the cousins and have us all write up our memories of Grandmother, Granddaddy, Michael and the place up there. Then in April, the month of our grandmother's birthday, we could all exchange them with each other in remembrance of them all. So, I decided to write mine up on a webpage so I could send it out to all that way and share it with my kids and granddads.
      But then she blew my mind, as Mick Jagger used to say in those bygone days, by telling me that she was directly related to two of the earliest pioneer families of the Northwest — the Broshears and the Simmons families who trekked out to the West by covered wagon in the 1840s — and that she has spent years of research into their story:

(Sisters and cousins)
1=Alice Harrison, 7th grade; sister Carol; sister Barbara; cousin Glenna.

      The time period talked about in the story was from 1950 through 1980. I found that my grandparents bought their place in 1951. My Grandmother came from Roy, Washington. Her ancestors on her mothers side were in the very first group of Americans to come north of the Columbia River back in the 1840s. Their names are inscribed on a granite memorial below the falls in Tumwater. Her ancestors on her fathers side were here to meet and help those American pioneers. They were a Cowlitz Indian and a French Canadian working at Fort Nisqually. Grandmother was a direct descendant of Chief Skanewa. Granddaddy was a Texan and was stationed at Fort Lewis when they met and married. He retired from the Army and they went into a smalltime gladiola business.
      Michael James Mitchell was their youngest son. He was born in 1943. After two years in the service he went to work in 1965 at the Lone Star factory in Concrete, WA and was in a terrible accident, shoveling coal into a furnace. It back-flashed and he was burned over fifty percent of his body. He died soon after at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. He is much missed. My grandfather died a few after, and Grandmother had a stroke at her place up there, lived many more years in the care of my Mom (I can find you the dates if you want) and died in 1992.
      Yes, Michael T. Simmons. My Gabriel and Keziah Jones were in that group. They all went together on the first saw mill. Did you know that Leschi and his Nisquallys met them when they got here and gave them much needed aid. They gave them food and a dry place to sleep, and then helped them build their houses. Michael Simmon's sister, Catherine was married to my other great, namely Israel Broshears. She and Israel came out on a later wagon train along with Catherine's mother, sister, brother-in-law , Doc Maynard and others of the Broshears family. Israel, and some other Broshears, and Catherine's mother, all died of cholera along the way. Catherine later married the Doc [Maynard].

      As we continued our correspondence, she began sending photos of the old days at her paradise and began mentioning the friends who hung out there and swam in the lake. My mind was blown once again when she mentioned Jerry Jarvis from Big Lake, my schoolmate at Sedro-Woolley High School.

(Lake Home 2)
      A few years ago I got up enough courage to go up there. I was so afraid that the place would be covered with housing developments. It wasn't too bad. there are a couple of houses down by the mail box, but from there up it is still the same driveway. The house is remodeled and a big shop or garage is where the chicken house used to be. It's cleared off quite a bit right around the house, but other than that it's still the same setting. I am going to go up there before too long and give the current residents a copy of this story. I always love watching "If Walls Could Talk" on HGTV. These people would probably love to know what kind of place it used to be.
      But now it is time for you to enjoy Alice's website yourself. [Link updated March 2005.] This summer, we will update this site with her story of what she and her family felt to revisit their paradise in 2004 and what she found in place of Grannie's place. And we also plan to post other features from the Lakes area, Clear Lake, Big Lake, Lake Cavanaugh, Lake McMurray. Can you help us, with your family memories and copies of old newspapers and documents and scans or copies of photos. We do not need your originals, but we do your help.

      In August we will feature in our separate Subscribers Edition Online, chapter one of an old manuscript with minute details of the settlement of Big Lake and Montborne, which includes genealogy of many of the earliest families who settled there.

Story posted on July 15, 2004
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