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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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Bottomless Lake, a Duke's Jewel

Part two of three-part series

(Panorama of Bottomless Lake)
      This panoramic photo is of Bottomless Lake, which is invisible unless you know where to look, shows how it is framed by trees, hills and clouds. The 7 1/2-acre volcanic lake is fed by several glacial springs that originate in the glacial field at Mount Baker. A biologist, using electrical gear, determined the average depth of the lake at 350 feet. A 1958 Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times article said that it was stocked with fighting fish.

By Ray Jordan, Yarns of the Skagit Country,
      Where is Bottomless Lake? Most of the old-timers in the vicinity of Sedro Woolley know, but oddly enough, some who have lived close to it all their lives do not. These and newer comers have passed it, about one mile north of Sedro Woolley, countless times without being aware of its existence.
      But if you penetrate the green curtain a stone's throw west of Highway 9 (the Wickersham Road) just north of the Bassett Road, you will find this lovely, mysterious lake, secluded from the public by a cloak of sylvan glory, once the hearthstone of Duke Frederick George of Bavaria, for whom Duke's Hill was named. It is presently the home of the Earl K. Everetts.
      The guard of sturdy second growth evergreens rearing from a carpet of ferns and moss represents almost every variety of tree that grows locally and shades many venerable stumps, ghostly reminders of the lusty giants logged back in 1890.
      The first owner of this tract surrounding the five-acre lake was one Andrew Johnson who filed on a quarter section here in 1884. Afterward, it was owned successively by Mortimer Cook, Wm. A. McDonald, Alfred Mosher, The Western Land and Logging Company, and the Wolverine Company. It was purchased by the Duke, perhaps its most colorful owner, and a local legend, on April 19, 1905.
      A letter to this writer (Ray Jordan) in 1958, from a member of a pioneer Sedro Woolley family gives his impressions of the short but historic stay of the royal outcast, and the early Day Lake:

      As close as I can remember, the Duke purchased the Bottomless Lake property around 1905. A carpenter whose name I cannot remember built the home for Duke Fredrich [this is still another spelling; on his burial papers it was Fredrick von George]. He had as helper my mother's cousin, Frank Pierce. When the work was done, the two boys stayed in a cabin east of the Duke's cottage until they could find someone to take care of the Duke.
      Mother's cousin contacted my uncle (mother's brother), Harry White, and he promised to stay with the Duke until he could get a permanent helper. During this time I went up to stay with Harry White as he wanted company.
      We stayed in the little cabin and he kept the Duke's cottage cleaned and fed him. His diet consisted of whiskey and milk only. In order to get the whiskey he had to drive the Duke to town with his horse and buckboard.
      At that time, I think we got the milk at my grandfather's, Edward White. The Duke stayed in bed and drank whiskey and milk, except when he had to go to town for more whiskey.
      Duke Fredrich was a very attractive man, about six feet one inch, and as straight as a ramrod. He had a perfect military bearing. My uncle had him to dinner at my grandparent's the White's house, and we were all impressed with his polite manner. Incidentally, he did eat dinner.
      We spent many hours a day with the Duke, as he seemed lonely and wanted someone to visit with, even though we were only teenagers and he was about thirty.
      He talked to us about India and Africa, his hunting trips there, and he had on the floors tiger, leopard skins and other skins that were trophies of his hunting trips and many mounted heads on the walls.
      He had several of the finest guns that I ever hope to see, inlaid with silver, gold and ivory and handsomely carved.
      He was a wonderful violinist and the reason he got kicked out of Bavaria was that his uncle, the ruler of Bavaria at the time, had a party and it seems he disliked one of the guests at the banquet— evidently this guest insulted the Duke, so he took his fiddle and busted it over they guy's head and knocked him cuckoo, causing his uncle to banish him on a pension. He never told us how he happened to come to Sedro Woolley.
      I remember his beautiful wardrobe as well as the solid silver table service he had in his house. Everything he had was plenty good!
      As I remember, we were there about three months when he arranged for the Jap servant who stayed with him until he went to the hospital and finally died.
      The picture of the Everetts taken looking at the burl (Courier-Times Tella-Pix, August 1958) on what I think was a cedar stump close to the Duke's cottage, was one that had a hole in one side where we put the Duke's milk with ice. And also our food. It was a very good refrigerator.
      The surroundings of the lake at that time consisted of logged-off land that had burned over, and I would not have recognized the present picture with its growth of beautiful trees.
      I believe Wayne Bronson and I were the first two Sedro Woolley boys to ever swim in Bottomless Lake. The logged-off, burned-over land on Duke's Hill produced probably the best wild blackberry patches in Skagit County, and Wayne and I went there almost every day during the blackberry season— filled our buckets and went swimming.
      At that time, the lake was surrounded at the shore line with moss nobody knows how thick. There was a windfall tree that extended out beyond the moss so that we could get out to the water and dive in.
      At that time there was no canoe sawed in two, but there was a square-nosed flat-bottomed boat that we enjoyed very much. This boat was the same width at both ends— made of boards. Leaked like heck.
      Wayne and I learned to swim in the Skagit River, so you can imagine how that warm water appealed to us. As we started to spread the news around there was many more of the Sedro Woolley boys who went up with us to swim, and I remember a few— Grant Todd, his brother Wallace, Tim Devner [maybe Devener?], Pete Olson, Oscar and Auburn Cooper, and probably every boy born around 1894 in Sedro Woolley, or after.
      There is no doubt in my mind, and never has been, that somebody burned the Duke's house down after they had ransacked it of all his beautiful possessions.
      I wish the Everetts a wonderful life there. I only wish that I had their set-up and owned the property.

      —Signed: Wm. E. McCarty, Hill Billy Ranch, Campo, California
      Many stories are told about the Duke who built the first home on the lake. But less than two years passed before he took sick and was transferred to the Old Saint Elizabeth Hospital that stood at Fidalgo and Township Streets in Sedro Woolley.
      On the second day of the year of 1907, the Duke's house burned down (it is thought to cover the looting of his valuables) while he was still in the hospital.
      He died about a month later, February 5, 1907, at the age of 33 and was buried in the Union Cemetery at Sedro Woolley, where his impressive tombstone still stands.
      For over forty years the lonely lake had no friendly roof on its shores, though often visited by swimmers during earlier years. The Duke left the property to Paul Werner. It was sold in turn to Paul Pawlaski, George G. Fellows, Jr., I.H. Jennings, C.J. Wicker, Skagit Reality, C.A. Wicker and C.J. Wicker, J.W. Hammond and R.C. Reynolds, and P.M. Lang.
      Finally, on April 25, 1951, the original tract now reduced to a little over the forty acres containing the lake, was purchased by the E.K. Everetts.
      The couple started to build their own home, and strangely enough, when they began bulldozing for the basement they found that they had chosen the exact spot on which the Duke had built his house.
      They found a pile of bricks along with an old iron stove, a glass candlewick and other household articles that had lain there since the fire destroyed the Duke's home so many years ago. I find single shot pistol, bearing a German proof mark, was found later in a stump, carefully wrapped in a waterproof fabric.
      Earl and Mary Ann Everett are deeply in love with Bottomless Lake and the encircling woodlands, and that affection is written on the ground. They have cleared the brush away from the original path used by the kids on their way to the "Old Swimmin' Hole." With much toil they have removed the weed trees and dead timber giving the evergreens a chance to breathe, and in so doing have salvaged hundreds of weird burls and roots left from the virgin Stands.
      The lake itself has been cleared of water-soaked debris and the muskeg that used to overlap the water so far from the banks has been removed causing the surface to appear much greater than it formerly did. Three lagoons have been formed, one of which creates a photogenic segment, which the Everetts call "Paradise Island." One lagoon has a fine sandy beach where youngsters can wade with safety.
      In the old days when the lake lay open to the sun, the water on summer days grew as warm as new milk. Shade from the new, lush forest circling the water has reversed this, providing an ideal home for the big rainbow and cutthroat trout, stocked by the Everetts, that may be seen leaping for flies or rolling in the cold depths.
      On the bank, among other antiques, is an old wagon though to have been the first one used in this vicinity to carry farmers' milk to a processing plant. This ancient, narrow-tired conveyance is now loaded with a most unusual cargo, and old Indian dugout canoe that once floated on Bottomless Lake, found on a farm several miles away.
      So far as known, since the time of the Indians, only four people have lived on the lake: The Duke, his Japanese servant, and the Everetts.
      Bottomless Lake has always been shrouded by an aura of fascination and mystery because of its seclusion and repute depth. In the days of "away back when" it was really thought to be "bottomless."
      To mothers the very name had a sinister meaning and it is doubtful if one ever granted her offspring permission to swim here. But boys and unknown numbers from the locality of Sedro Woolley succumbed to temptation, such sin being perhaps the best-kept secret in history.
      This writer was one, but rather a Johnny-come-lately for he never wet his epidermis here until 1911. He used to visit Dewey and Lewis Jordan who lived on a near-by stump ranch and we spent many happy hours in the warm, forbidden waters. There was a thrill in the challenge of such depths.
      Some days there would be just the three of us, and other times there might be a dozen boys, all innocent of bathing suits, having the time of their lives spiced with doing something that they were not supposed to do.
      The Everett have compiled a list of more than 150 men, among whom was the late Edward R. Morrow of broadcasting fame, who used to swim here as youngsters.
      And there is no known record of anyone having drowned here. You went in with the threat that you had to swim. But if a girl had ever unexpectedly appeared, the statistics might not be so cheerful.
      This lake, somewhat of a geological oddity, is thought to be of volcanic origin. Crude measurements in the past gave rise to the theory that it had no bottom, but modern electric soundings indicate depths ranging from only ten to seventy feet.
      Why the lake maintains an almost constant level since there is an outlet, but no steam running in, has been a subject of much conjecture over the years. But more recently, it has been learned by close observation that it is fed from below by seven springs.
      Since it does have a bottom, it is felt that the name "Bottomless" is no longer appropriate, so it has been re-christened "Lake Fascination." Why, is perfectly obvious when you see it. But old-timers will no doubt refer to its legendary name for years to come.
      Within the forty-acre tract protected from trespass by a cyclone fence, nature has rapidly repaired much man-made damage.
      Under the canopy of new forest, delicate trilliums bloom profusely, their white pedals contrasting with the pinkish-red of the wild current.
      The squawberry (local name) vies with the wild cherry in an early heralding of spring with a cloud of white blossoms. Later, here and there, a stately dogwood proudly opens its lovely four-petal faces to the world.
      In the low places thrive the fragile maidenhair fern along with the modest wild violet. The beautiful sword fern and other varieties decorate the ground. The roll call of flora is too long to put down here.
      In short, it is a museum of nature with a tranquil five-acre body of water for a centerpiece, where the voice of the forest speaks. Add to this, a happy little creek chuckling its way through the untouched woods.
      What an ideal place for a park, where future generations could come and observe nature's workshop. Old-timers would like this too, safe in the knowledge that the "Old Swimmin' Hole" would be preserved.
      We think perhaps the Everetts might be happy with such an arrangement too. They could then view the enchanting scene below, framed in the picture window of their living room, and rest content with the thoughts of a labor of love well done.
      Where else can you find such a fascinating lake, so near in miles, yet so far away from a rushing world? Where with luck, you might encounter the ghost of a royal duke strolling among the trees.
      Tenas chuck hiyu knoshe (little water much good).

Story posted on May 10, 2003
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