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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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John Conrad's obituary notes for the
Aug. 13, 1949, Skagit County Pioneer Picnic.

The first year of his voluntary assignment
Including pioneers and their descendants who passed away
from August 1948 to August 1949

      These files are derived from notes that John Conrad compiled annually from 1949-73 and then read in condensed form at the picnic itself and published with collected photographs in the Puget Sound Mail newspaper, which is no longer published. [See Conrad's biography at: this Journal website.] The Mail published a special Pioneer Edition annually for the August picnic. Many can be viewed on microfilm at the Suzallo Library at the University of Washington, but many burned in various LaConner fires. If you have copies of any of them, please email us. We would like to read the issues and include the pioneer profiles that were included each year with the lists. This section will eventually have more than a thousand names of pioneers and descendants. We would appreciate it if you would pass it along to friends and family who are genealogists so that they can consider subscribing and eventually read Conrad's notes of all 25 years when he served as memorialist. Thank you.
      These are Conrad's handwritten notes, which we have transcribed and only lightly edited for clarity and spelling before being coded into web language. The list is organized by general area of the county. The names of those who passed away from the picnic of August 1948 to that of August 1949 are in bold. Information in [ ] is for clarification, correction or research of the individuals, towns or families that has been conducted by the Skagit River Journal. Some of the latter information in brackets is from the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society Index to Funeral Home Records, a most valuable aid. [See this web link for how to obtain it]. If we post burial information, you can assume the person died in 1949 unless we specifically state 1948 inside the brackets. Blue underlined links indicate stories about the pioneers elsewhere in our webpages. One of the most valuable aspects of Conrad's research is that he includes Indian families who were here at the time of the pioneers and emphasizes their impact on the county. We would appreciate it if you would pass it along to friends and family who are genealogists so that they can consider subscribing and eventually read Conrad's notes of all 25 years when he served as memorialist. Thank you.

Sedro-Woolley area including Prairie and north,
Sterling and the Lakes area south of the Skagit
      Grover [Cleveland] Duvall, [62, born in North Carolina], of Sedro-Woolley after a long life of service in many activities, often unsung but really appreciated.
      John Nelson of Montborne [72, born Minnesota], whose father had a shingle mill in Anacortes 65 years ago. Nelson addition and school in Anacortes is named for his father. John continued to saw shingles all his life, even built a small mill right on his home farm and ran it until the day of his death.

Upper Skagit river area from Skiyou to the Cascades
and the south-river area east of Clear Lake
      Garnet Thompson, [64, born Canada] of Sauk, who has been merchant at one time or another to every resident above Concrete [You can read more about Garnet Thompson in our three-part exclusive history of Sauk City and Sauk: http://www.geocities.com/skagitjournalupriver/Sauk1.html and in Will D. Jenkin's fine book, Last Frontier in the North Cascades.]

Mount Vernon and southwest Skagit county
      John Tellesbo, merchant in the Fir delta country [74, born Norway]. Down Conway-Fir way, an outstanding craftsman in house building has built his last edifice. John Berkness, [68, born Norway], it is safe to say, besides planning and erecting the large local church and the community hall, has perhaps constructed over half of the fine homes and other buildings in that locality in the last 40 years and no doubt these will serve as material monuments to his memory.
      Old Doc Osterman of Mount Vernon typified the old generation of doctors. Adolph J. Osterman, [80, born Baltic provinces, Germany, died in 1948], was a lieutenant in the Marine Corps in World War I.
      Occasionally both life partners are taken, as for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Hansen of North Fork. The latter was a daughter of the Charles Tollber family and preceded her husband [80, born Norway, died 1948] by only 41 days. A few months later, her brother Albert Tollber was summoned.
      Mrs. Gus Wersen of Mount Vernon, wife of the shoe man who fitted my first pair of shoes. We believe that in the burial records she is Trina Gjertina Wersen, 71, born in Norway.] Bessie Larson, 93, oldest deceased pioneer of the year. Edward Jones came to North Fork 79 years ago, but died in Snohomish after living there several years.

LaConner, the Flats, Pleasant Ridge, Swinomish reservation
      F.L. Carter, [84, born in Iowa], grand old man of the Puget Sound Mail newspaper, recorded these obituaries for many years until last year's meeting, when I took over.
      Down in Long Beach, California, the great umpire above called the strikes on Louis A. Silex, former grocer of old LaConner. I can recall his clerking for Nelson and Pearson, later his own store with Eric Anderson and he and F.L. Carter really were dyed-in-the-wool baseball fans.
      George Gaches, [68, born in LaConner in 1881], of LaConner, whose father and uncle owned the early merchandise store here in LaConner. [The mansion George grew up in is now the LaConner Quilt Museum.]
      Charley Nelson [see his extended notes at the end of this article]. Charlie Edwards, born on the Swinomish Reservation 90 years ago, most years of Skagit county residence of the deceased pioneers this year. Fred Watkins of Dodge Valley lived in the county for 74 years.

Anacortes, Fidalgo Island, Padilla and Bay View area

(Fred Abbey's Alger Homestead)
Fred Abbey's Alger homestead.

      Pioneer milk hauler Frank Lipp of Bay View [78, born Denmark]. Pioneer tugboat man of 45 years ago on Swinomish Slough, Capt. Fred McGill, [78, born Iowa], of Anacortes and his tugboat Spider.
      I remember our beloved old secretary Fred Abbey, [89, born Oct 15, 1859, in Pelham, Massachusetts], whose flowery recordings of our annual meetings were really classics, how he finally retired several years ago. Last year he was too poorly to come and sent his greetings, now he has answered the call. [Judge Fred Abbey was a very early pioneer who homesteaded near Alger. See our website about him and his family.]
      Edgar Van Buren, old county commissioner [74, born Indiana]. One of the surviving old dentists, Dr. [no first name] Barnett, formerly of Anacortes. James Allen Murrow, 92, of Guemes, second oldest deceased pioneer.

Burlington and northwest Skagit county
      Mrs. Elizabeth Kane, who taught school at Edison in 1890, paddling a dugout canoe a half mile to get to the wooden one-room schoolhouse. [Age 87 at death, she was born Elizabeth Duffy in Canada, and married pioneer saloon and hotel-owner Tom Cain, one of the first pioneers of Edison. After their divorce, very rare for Irish Catholics at the turn of the century, she changed her name and her children's names to Kane.]

      Charles A. "Charley" Nelson, [88, born in Sweden, died in 1948], never had a college education — only a fortunate few could obtain one in those pioneer days — but he did have a very generous amount of good old fashioned practical sense in his knowledge of planning and getting things done. My folks farmed in early days on LaConner Flats in about the same period as Mr. Nelson did and they were closest of friends. Father hardly ever made an important deal or sale but what he sought the advice of this level headed and clear thinking farmer friend. Sometimes if hasty judgement on a deal turned out to be unwise he would comment, "I wish I had asked Charley Nelson about this."
      This reliance on his keen judgment was universal among scores of early settlers in the Pleasant Ridge and LaConner area and his valued knowledge, born of experience, was drawn on by many more as the years went on. Laying out and grading pioneer roads, with a minimum of engineering but with a maximum of value, was taken for granted under his supervision. When the Skagit river threatened soggy dikes at flood stages, if Charley Nelson was out with the sand bag patrol, the situation could be considered under control.

Story posted on April 1, 2004, and updated on August 1, 2004
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