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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition Stories & Photos
(Seattle & Northern 1890)
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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Skagit valley settlers from
New Brunswick, Grand Manan and Maine

      A significant percentage of the very early settlers of mainland Skagit county were born in New Brunswick, Grand Manan Isle off the coast of Maine or the state of Maine itself. When you look at the geography of that region, you can understand why they felt right at home. The marshy river deltas presented the same challenges that those settlers' families had encountered and overcome back home. The forests of Maine were also the home of Andrew Jackson Pope and Frederic Talbot, two young men from East Machias, Maine, who had a tremendous impact on the region with their Puget Mill Co. in Port Gamble on the Olympic peninsula and then at Utsalady on the north shore of Camano island.
      The first settler from New Brunswick was Sam Calhoun, who first diked and farmed on the Swinomish flats, starting in 1863, along with Michael Sullivan from Massachusetts. The maze of sloughs and the Skagit river delta must have seemed like home to him. He was later joined by his brother Tom in 1870 and his brother, Dr. George V. Calhoun in 1879, and other members of the family. A member of the Calhoun family was the mother of Mrs. Susan Peck, who came here from New Brunswick with her husband Harris Peck in 1879 and they homesteaded at Beaver Marsh. Newton Turner another Swinomish area settler, also came from Albert county, New Brunswick, the same home area of Sam Calhoun, as did Hiram E. Wells, who squatted on a homestead as the first settler of Ridgeway in 1877. Fletcher and Margaret Stiles also homesteaded at Beaver Marsh after moving here from New Brunswick in 1887.
      Samuel Shea from Woodstock, New Brunswick, settled on the south fork of the Skagit and later homesteaded the upriver acreage that became Rockport in 1900. Joe Hoyt of the Prairie district and Henry and Katherine Martin [see our three-part family story], who homesteaded between Illabot creek and the Sauk river, were from Kings county. John Warner , the Edison and Prairie pioneer and Hoyt's neighbor, was also from New Brunswick and came here via the Great Lakes, Gold Rush California and British Columbia.
      Kate Morrison Decatur, wife of Mount Vernon pioneer Capt. David Decatur, was from New Brunswick and George Reay, who became Skagit county sheriff during the Prohibition era, was from Grand Manan isle off the coast of Maine. Also from Grand Manan was Helen Parker, who owned a log-towing tugboat operation on the river and then Parker's Men's Store in Mount Vernon with her husband Joe. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. McLean [first names unknown], who came to the valley in 1882 from Grand Manan.
      Other upriver pioneers from New Brunswick include Mima Porter, wife of Sauk pioneer Tom Porter; William Murdock, pioneer of Mount Vernon and Woolley; the Royals of Birdsview [see these websites for Royal info and here], and Jessie (Smith) White of Concrete who was born on April 8, 1877, on her father's sailing ship off the coast of Peru. Her father was Capt. David Smith and the family had just rounded Cape Horn en route from their home in St. Martins, New Brunswick. Jessie married George White after growing up in Everett, White had a variety store in Sedro-Woolley, and the couple moved upriver at the turn of century.
      Another Skagit county pioneer from the Northeast had roots in the Northwest dating back to the earliest settlement of the Seattle region as early as 1850. Lillie May Anderson Reay of Avon, arrived here as a bride in 1898, but her family may have been one of the first from Maine to settle in Washington. She was born at 2nd and Pine in Seattle and her grandfather Edmund Carr emigrated from Maine to Seattle in 1854. Talk about historical bona fides: Mrs. Carr's mother was Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Holgate, the widow of John Holgate, who filed claim in Georgetown area in 1850 and she may have been the first white woman to ever appear on Elliott Bay. Lillie May's father, Matthew Anderson was a boat builder, and his last project, the Virginia V is still docked in Seattle. Lillie May married George Reay, mentioned above as a Grand Manan Isle native. Maine was the home of several more early settlers, including Samuel S. Tingley. Tingley, who settled first in the late 1860s on the south fork of the Skagit and then in the 1880s in the Day Creek-Happy Valley area, came from Aroostook county, Maine to the Olympia peninsula as an employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1859 to build the revenue cutter, I.I. Stevens. He returned to Maine to enlist for the Civil War and then returned to Washington territory aboard a ship with the Mercer Girls in 1866. He met one of the girls, Maria McKinney, on board, and after he found a homestead on the south fork of the Skagit, they married and set up house there in 1867. In 1873, another man came from Aroostook county to the Skagit: Amasa "Peg-Leg" Everett, who found coal near Hamilton in 1874 and later found the limestone deposits that led to the formation of the town of Concrete. Oliver D. Currier emigrated from Maine in 1876 to Dodge Valley and Dr. John S. Church came from Maine in 1870 to the Olympic Peninsula and later in the 1870s to LaConner. This block of settlers from the Northeast is an ongoing subject of study as we link them together. We would like to eventually answer the question of who started the emigration from there to the Skagit Valley and who convinced others to follow? Was it Sam Calhoun, who worked at Utsalady as early as 1863 or his older brother Rufus, a sea captain who sailed to the Puget sound as early as the 1850s? Or was it Samuel Tingley, who was engaged in ship building on the Olympic peninsula in 1859 or Edmund Carr, the Seattle-area pioneer who was a prime supporter of the territorial university? Or was it someone else; did someone have some kind of emigrant bureau and direct settlers to the Puget sound and the Skagit valley? Maybe you have a family memory that can help answer the question? We also hope that if you are a descendant of any of these families that you will consider emailing us scans you may have of the family or mailing us photo copies. We never ask for your originals.

Story posted on Aug. 1, 2004
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