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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to 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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Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times
Dec. 1, 1949

(Floyd Maxwell)
This copy of the faded newspaper photo shows Floyd Maxwell's phenomenal feat. Please accept our apology for the graininess many of the photos on this page and the problems presented by halftones. We scanned them from a Xeroxed copy of a faded newspaper. Perhaps a graphics/photo whiz can volunteer to help us clean these up?

      One of the newspapers that Larry and Josef Kunzler copied for their recent flood project was especially chock full of news that we wanted to share with you. This Dec. 1, 1949, issue of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times featured prominently the flood rampage of the Skagit River the week before, along with the inspirational story of Floyd Maxwell, who bagged another deer despite physical handicaps that would have confined most people for their whole lives.
      Most of the stories we transcribed were based on the flood rampage of the week before, the worst one for the Skagit River since the Big One of 1921. Only the one in between in 1932 prepared anyone for the mess of November 1949. Readers then did not know it but they were about to experience three years of Mother Nature upsetting the apple court. Floods in 1949 and 1951 challenged those who were experimenting with flood control throughout the valley and upriver, and snowstorms of the winters of 1949-50 and 1950-51 shut down travel on roads and damage some of the oldest paved roads that were not designed with the extremes of climate in mind. I especially remember this period because my family had just moved to the Utopia area, east of Sedro-Woolley and southwest of Minkler Lake, in 1948. At one time when I was in the first grade, snow drifted five feet high for more than a week on Atwell Lane, where we lived. That was the answer to a schoolkid's prayer but the sudden changes of weather drove the adults crazy. We do not yet have the complete issue. Maybe a reader saved this one and can send us copies of the pages.
      You will also read about affairs of the town of Sedro-Woolley and the arrival of the first passenger on a railroad train in nine years.

Floyd Maxwell with no legs, one arm, gets fifth deer in five years
      Right-handed Floyd Maxwell, who no longer has a right hand or wrist and who has had both legs amputated at the knee, doesn't let such handicaps bother him when he goes deer hunting Maxwell shot his 1949 deer within half a hour after he started hunting. He has bagged a deer every season for the last five. Some seasons he has been tied on a horse and hunted and he always gets his deer.
      This year he shot his deer on Whidbey Island near Dugualla Bay, dragged the 85 pound animal back to the road, and was waiting triumphantly when the others in his hunting party returned.
      A violinist for 25 years, Max- well is no longer able to play, but he goes hunting every fall, fishes and cares for a flower garden. He also dug a drainage ditch at his home at 333 Central avenue.

Frank Evans had been publisher of the Courier-Times since Jan. 31, 1918

      Maxwell became ill in 1937 with Buerger's disease started in his foot. In 1938 he had the first of 15 major operations which have taken both legs at the knee and his right hand and wrist.
      Well known in Skagit county musical circles, Floyd has been made a life member of the Musicians' Union His wife Mabel works at the Central Grade school lunchroom.. Maxwell manages to do more than many people with two arms and two legs. But after the operation which took his right hand and wrist, Maxwell had trouble in trying to fry an egg. For a while he had difficulty breaking the egg with his left hand and getting it in the frying pan. But with his usual perseverance, he has solved this problem and many others.

(Sedro-Woolley floodplain)

Orientation of the photo above
      This aerial photo by Boyd Ellis of Arlington was taken on Nov. 28, looking southwest from a spot somewhere above East State Street, probably above the old Hewitt Auction Barn and the Oasis Tavern. Here is the original caption with this scan, which is again a copy of the original photo:
      "At 2:30 p.m. Monday when this picture was taken flood waters had receded several feet from the crest which had been reached early Monday morning. Sunday night, water covered the lower end of Township street which connects with the river road, and also highway 1-A [Third Street], between the Skagit river bridge [the old Third Street bridge] and to within two blocks of the Union Oil bulk station on Third street. The lowest part of Lower Sedro between Dunlop street and the River road was a big lake by Sunday afternoon. The water in the foreground is the old Sedro Veneer company millpond. Water in the background from both the Skagit and Nookachamps, which flooded a large area between Sedro-Woolley and Mount Vernon."
      The millpond mentioned above is in the lower left section and combined with the other water features, it brings up a good question: "Does this arrangement of the water after the flood indicate an ancient channel of the river. The river apparently used the old Batey Slough, which is usually just a large trickle on a diagonal towards the northwest, as an overflow channel. Was that the original channel? We do know that David Batey specifically chose the bluff west of town — above what he called the "ancient channel of the river," as the safest place to build his own house in 1880. Mortimer Cook placed Bug/Sedro right on the riverbank two miles east and came to regret his decision when the series of floods in the 1890s resulted in his store nearly being swept away in 1896.
      Just so you can understand the features of the photo, here are the main arterials. In the upper section, you can see a dark ribbon on a slight slant to the east. That was the Northern Pacific Railroad's north-south tracks. There was no bridge to Clearlake in the present location. Instead, the original 1912 Thompson steel-bridge was east of the railroad trestle, crossing the river and entering the town at Third Street, which was then part of Highway 1A from Snohomish County to Whatcom County. Almost exactly parallel to the NP tracks, in the lower left of the photo, is Township Street, which is raised above the water just barely, as opposed to all the original streets of old Sedro, which are submerged.

(Wiseman Creek overflows)
Original caption: "Looking east, the photographer took this picture of the road which travels through the Utopia district east of Sedro-Woolley. The bridge in the foreground is just east of the Frank Goodyear residence. Water in this district spread out over several farms and hundreds of acres, drowning several head of cattle. (Photo by Vern Heaven, Sedro-Woolley.)" I remember this scene well because it was just a half mile from my house. The bowl and slope east of the bridge over Wiseman Creek [correct name of stream?] was Fred and Earl Silverthorn's hayfield; their houses are to the left on the ridge in the background, and the Neble farm across the road, beside the site of the original Utopia School. The river continued eating away at the riverbank just to the east, around the Betchart farm.

      Another interesting feature is the millpond itself in the lower left, which appears in this photo to have been based on an original "ox-bow" of the river similar to the meanders that you can still see at Skiyou and at Hart's Island, the latter at the top right of this photo. Also, when you look at the lower right of the photo, you will see one street that is wider than any of the others, running perpendicular to the NP tracks. That is Jameson Avenue, which Albert G. Mosier platted wider than any street in town. Why? Because it was originally part of the "county highway" in 1889, in actuality just a slightly wider sea of mud most of the year.

Pair Float on Mattress as House Breaks Up
      Mrs. Albert L. Watson yesterday described a hectic night which she and her three-year-old son, David Allen, spent floating on mattresses and finally hanging onto the rafters of their small frame house near Rockport in the raging flood of Saturday and Sun¬day.
      The Red Cross today was car¬ing for the Watson family who lost most of their possessions in the flood. The baby and I were alone as my husband, A. L. Watson, and our grown son had been away working arid couldn't get back across the river, Mrs. Watson said. "When the water backed up in Mosquito Slough Saturday night and started to come in our house, I was scared," the woman continued.
      "I got up on a chair and then then baby and I stood on a dresser. Then I piled one mattress on top of the other and we floated on them." Mrs. Watson said there were three rooms in the house, nailed loosely together, and they broke apart as the flood rose. The room I she and the boy were in floated a short distance until it was held, tilted at an angle, by a tree.
      The pair poked their heads through a hole into the attic, and Mrs. Watson had a bed slat so she could push out the shingles if they needed to climb to the roof. Jack Smith and Harvey Sopher, who were out in a light skiff with an outboard motor, rescued the pair by kicking out the roof. Smith and Sopher also rescued Mr. and Mrs. Herman C. Merten who stood waist-deep in water all night. Neither the Mertens or Watsons were in grave danger when they were rescued.
      Mr. and Mrs. George Moses and their children, also residents of Mosquito Flat, climbed into two dugout canoes, paddled into some trees where they tied up, and spent the night with blankets over their heads. The Turk house and the Moses house were both badly damaged by water that covered the flats across the river from Rockport. Turk is a mill operator.

(Hopke amphibious Duck)
Original caption: "Amphibious Duck owned by Dr. Harold Hopke of this city was temporarily stranded on a bridge on the main highway between Lyman and Hamilton Sunday afternoon. Later the duck was freed and made possible the rescue of the Snell family on the ''[Cockreham] Island,'' a. peninsu1a south of the upriver road. The George Vik residence surrounded by water can be seen in the background. (Photo by Hal Zimmerman.)"

      Mrs. Jack Smith said this morning that some of the stories of the flood anti rescues at Rockport had been exaggerated, and that although there had been high waters and danger for a tine, that the crisis was passed by Sunday noon.

Flood Wrecks Steelhead Club Picnic Grounds
      Flood waters left only the hoist at the Wildcat Steelhead Club's brand new picnic grounds and boat loading site on the Skagit river near the mouth of Hansen Creek. The hoist may even be damaged, Harold Renfro reports, but it was not undermined.
      Tables, benches, the cook shack, stoves and outside toilets were all swept away by the swift waters. The nearby property of Floyd Gear also was flooded to a depth of several feet.

Steelhead Club to hold dinner
      Members of the Wildcat Steelhead club will hold their thirteenth anniversary banquet at the American Legion hall Friday, Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m. Harold Renfro is in charge of dinner arrangements and James Bassett has arranged the program. Hubert O. Wilson of the Mount Baker National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, will be the main speaker. Wilson, a graduate of Hamilton High School and the University of Washington, gained much of his forestry experience in the upper Skagit Valley. His talk will be illustrated with picture slides. The high school boys quartet will sing.

Damage high in Hamilton, Utopia districts
      Total loss caused by the flood has not been determined but a partial list of estimated damages and loss in Hamilton, the surrounding area and in the Utopia district indicates the final totals will run into high figures. Mrs. Bessie Luton and her son Bruce obtained this list of estimated loss given for some of the stores and residences in Hamilton.

(1949 Hamilton Flood)
      Damage high in Hamilton — Georganne Wilkinson Robertson sent this scan of the 1949 flood in Hamilton, showing how high the water was at the Hamilton Hotel, on the west side of Cumberland Street [old hwy 17-A], north of Michigan Street. Georganne lived in the hotel as a child. She has a request of readers:
      "My father was Les Wilkinson who bought Cascade Market in the late 40's. Our 'upriver' residences include the home my parents had built in Birdsview and a former hotel in Lyman. I am interested in learning more about the history of the hotels. I searched your website and am not sure that the hotel references there for Hamilton and Lyman include the places we lived. I am also interested in learning more about the early life of these hotels."

(Stanwood Road)
In this photo, a photographer was looking north on the road from Stanwood to Mount Vernon.

Beans and mud
This article is from the Seattle Times, Nov. 30, 1949, By Robert Barr
(Grocery store)
Original caption: "Post-flood hash: Mrs. Verna Collette, Hamilton grocer, shoveled water-soaked beans and other food and flood debris from the floor of her grocery. She estimated flood damage to her place totaled $4,000.

      HAMILTON, Nov. 29 — Like Noah's children who went forth from the ark into a cleansed world when waters receded, resi¬dents of this flood-swept little Skagit Valley community were moving back into their homes today.
      But Hamilton's world was anything but clean. It was the darndest mess you ever saw. The town was washed and soaked by raging flood waters of the Skagit, which carried with them countless tons of river silt, which left a blanket of mud and slime wherever they flowed.
      Everywhere was evidence of the fury of the swift flowing f1ood waters that left dead livestock and chickens in their wake and forced a wholesale evacuation of nearly all the population when the flood struck with stunning swiftness Sunday.
      It will be weeks, perhaps months before the flood flotsam can be cleared and damage repaired, residents believe. It was the worst flood in 28 years. But despite the havoc, weary, mud-spattered residents wearing rubber boots, traditional footgear of flood country, today had made substantial headway in clearing out their oozing homes with shovels, mops, brooms and gar¬den hoses.
      In many of the homes, fires already were bringing back warmth to numbed hands and feet, and drying out freshly scrubbed f1oors that smelled strongly of disinfectant. In others there was the scrape of shovel and the spatter of running water, followed by brooms.
      Wearily, Mrs. Verna Collette shoveled up a scoop of .water-soaked beans in a storeroom of her grocery store while volunteers cleared away debris and mud in the front of the building. She estimated her loss at $4.000. Neighbors helped neighor in this closely knit community. Helping Mrs. Colette were Guy. Parker, David Morgan, Bill Sell and Roy Parker.
      There was the same kind of spirit in the. home of Boyce Nor¬ris, who is visiting friends in the East. Through a. doorway trudged Jess Moore, one of his neighbors, who was carrying a box of clothes. "Somebody's got to' save the Jess's belongings," he grinned. "Up to me, I guess."
      Up the street, 12-year-old Tommy Hooper played in a row¬boat which looked strangely out of place so needlessly tied to a utility pole and resting on dry ground.
      Across the way, Bill Lundy, a cook in a cafe - was removing chair and stools. He pointed to the water leve1 on the side of the building. "Not as bad as it might have been, but it came awful fast," Lundy said: "River was rising a foot an hour when it hit the town. It was bad but we've had 'em before. Everybody helps everybody and that's a big help.
      "The one in 1921 was worse. It was 21 inches eeep in the drug store. This time it was only 14 inches. The one in 1909 was the worst of all." Inside, six or seven men worked at the clean-up. Everywhere was evidence that the people of Hami1ton know how to be good neighbors.

Metcalf Street Repairs
(Metcalf Street)
Click on the thumbnail photo above to see the full panoramic photo of Metcalf Street that was featured in a special rotogravure section of the Seattle Times on Sept. 5, 1948

      Repairing the curbing, raising the gutters and installing brighter lights along Metcalf street are projects still on the minds of city .councilmen and officials. Joe Hamel, like other councilmen before him, reminded councilmen Monday night that the city has not yet taken an action on the Metcalf street problem.
      Hamel said he came across a copy of the Courier-Times in the Denver, Colorado, public library during one of his recent trips and he read about Henry Fellows bringing to the attention of the council that they have not yet done anything about the Metcalf Sreet curbs. Mentioned only casually, Hamel's remark brought attention of Mayor P.A. Stendal, councilman, arid Chamber of Commerce President George Rundquist.
      "It behooves the city to do something," asserted the mayor. "I don't think it would be too much of a job to break out the curb, put in new cement and raise the level of the street"
      Councilman S. S. McIntyre suggested that the Chamber of Commerce have the businessmen in town tell what they want done to the street, so that an improvement district or some means of financing the job can be set up, with the city paying for some of the work and the property owners on the Main Street financing the rest.
      "Local businessmen should get together and decide what they want and let the council know," Rundquist said. "One man at a time doesn't work — they must get together first and agree on what they expect and how it should be financed."
      Several other local residents attended the meeting- to bring matters to the attention of the council. Sig Berglund, local automobile dealer, presented the council with [story cut off there].

Highway I-A to be Repaired Near Here
      The state Highway department intends to widen several parts of Highway 1-A, State Senator Jess Sapp learned week from George Shearer, district highway engineer. The road between Sedro-Woolley and Acme is scheduled for repairs, especially between Wickersham and Acme. The work is to proceed as soon as possible and weather will permit. Blacktopping will be done next spring after the widening is completed this winter.
      The state also intends to repair and widen the road from McMurray to north of Big Lake.

(Northern Pacific depot)
      This is a circa-1920s photo of the Northern Pacific depot, which stood on the immediate west side of the north-south tracks in Sedro-Woolley. In 1901, as Great Northern's James J. Hill gained effective control over both transcontinental rail lines, the depot was moved from its original location in the triangle north of Northern Avenue, which was formed where the original three railroads crossed. To the left (west) was the Skagit Commission Co., which evolved into Lentz and Nelson Feed and Seed; and to the right were the Pioneer boarding house on the north side of Ferry Street and the Vendome Hotel on the south side.

Great Northern unloads passenger
first time in almost 20 years
Great Northern unloads a passenger
for the first time in almost 20 years
      Mrs. Edith Davis stepped from the Northern train here and earned the distinction of being probably the first and only to arrive in Sedro-Woolley by train in more than a decade To add to this affair she rode the Great Northern train on the Northern Pacific tracks and hasn't carried passengers for 19 years [actually since 1932]. Returning from California, Mrs. Davis, mother of Policeman Maurice Davis, read in a newspaper of the Skagit River flood. She remarked to the conductor that her destination was to Sedro-Woolley, so the conductor allowed her to get off the train here, although her ticket was to Burlington.
      The Great Northern discontinued passenger service to Sedro-Woolley years ago. The. Northern Pacific has been carrying only freight here for the past 10 years [discontinued since June 1940; see the companion Journal . . . according to the late Bessie Porter, the last passenger service on the Great Northern from Rockport was in 1932]. Neither station agent knew when passenger service on their line was discontinued.
      Regular train service has been resumed, but the early part of this week Streamliners and other Great- Northern passenger trains and freight trains were highballing through town [Sedro-Woolley]. The G.N. tracks, which run along the top of a dike, had been washed out in the Stanwood area, and the G.N. trains had been re-routed on the Northern Pacific tracks from Kruse Junction to Sedro-Woolley and then were switched back onto the G.N. tracks to Burlington [after turning west from here].
      A span has been built where the dike was washed out, although diking officials hoped to have the main route repaired soon.
      Ed. note: We want to especially thank Heather Muller at the Ask-A-Librarian section of the Washington State Library. The clipping we originally worked from had the left-hand column partially clipped off, so Heather provided us a copy of that page. This is a very valuable service to those of you searching for genealogy and family or business history.

Winds bring weekend damage
      Strong warm winds not only melted snow in the hills over the weekend, but also blew down power lines. telephone poles and loosened house foundations throughout the Sedro-Woolley district.
      Four poles were knocked down on Pacific street between Haines and Central avenue, Police Chief Neil McLeod reported. Another was down on Fidalgo between Fourth and Fifth streets. Wires were down on Sixth arid Jameson and Sixth, and Bennett streets. A pole also was down at Township rind Sterling streets.
      Several pole were bent down, and wires were touching the road two miles east of town. Mrs. Barr's home on Seventh and Sterling streets was jarred from its foundation, with the west end being swung around to the north. A play shed was blown flat at Day Creek.
      A large window in Nelson Motor garage was blown out and the Liberty Café sign was being blown Saturday until wired more securely. Winds also damaged roofs, docks, boats and boomed logs at Big Lake and tangled up telephone lines.

Hanson & Browne show television sets
(Hoffman TV set)
Hoffman TV set 1950

      Hanson & Browne will demonstrate their new Hoffman television sets at their store any evening by appointment.
      Ed. note: We assumed that the first television sets sold here were the Sylvania brand, but this tiny story in the Dec. 1 issue proves that assumption wrong. The Hoffman Company was founded in 1946, and began by making radios in Los Angeles, then introducing TV sets in 1948. The above model is one of their 1950 color sets. In 1949 they sold five models that were TV only tabletop, wood color-tone and blonde; four TV-radio combination; and two radio, TV and phonograph combinations. The company's last year of production was 1970. We welcome readers to share their memories of their family's first TV set and any memories you have of the first sets for sale here. Further, we note our old friends who sold TVs to our families and hundreds of others, and who have passed away: Al Armstrong and Jack Holt.

William Hall Wins High Honor from National FFA
      William A. Hall, former Sedro-Woolley High School graduate, has brought honor to himself, his state and to his home town according to word just received of an announcement recently made at the National Future Farmers of America convention in Kansas City. At this convention, Hall was named to membership in the organization's highest degree, and his F.F.A. chapter to Gold Emblem, the highest recognition given to chapters of the nation.
      This is the first time during the 21 years that F.F.A. has been in the high schools of this state that a chapter has received this highest national rating. Hall is the first adult in this state ever to receive the honorary Amencan Farmer degree, which is given to advisers of Gold Emblem chapters as recognition for the outstanding personal contribution made in behalf of rural youth. Hall is now instructor of vocational agriculture and chapter adviser in the Ridgefield high school in Clark county.
      The chapter award is based on accomplishment in supervised farming, cooperative activities, earnings and savings, conduct of meetings, scholarship, recreation and other general activities.
      There were approximately 7,5000 chapters through the nation vying for the degree. It was made to 32 of them.
      Mr. Hall was graduated from the Union High School in Sedro-Woolley in 1930 and has taught vocational agriculture since his graduation from Washington State College in 1935. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lyman Sylvester Hall of Prairie, and brother of Glen Hall, science instructor at the Sedro-Woolley high school, and uncle of David Sexton, recently announced winner of the highest annual award open to 4-H club members in Washington state, a trip to the National 4-H club camp in Washington, D. C., next June.

Christmas tree put up, city prepares for holiday
Fred Howell's crew erects Harry Pulsipher tree downtown for Christmas
      A 50-foot evergreen tree sawed down on the Harry Pulsipher place on East State street now stands at the middle of the intersection of Metcalf and Woodworth streets Sedro-Woolley's huge Christmas tree was raised Tuesday by Fred Howell and his house-moving crew. Four strong guy-lines hold the tree in place.
      Several hundred colored lights were strung on the tree yesterday and today by Tom Dinkin's electrical crew, who have also put up five more strings of colored lights on Metcalf Street and two or three new strings on Third Street.
      Last weekend Lions club members put an evergreen trees around light-posts throughout the downtown business area as their part in the annual decoration for tin' Christmas season.
      Many of the downtown merchants have their windows decorated for the Christmas season and have colorful displays of Christmas gift selections.

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Story posted on Jan. 24, 2005, last updated Oct. 8, 2007 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 31 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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