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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Resources 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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Hugo Bauman and Will D. "Bob" Jenkins
(Bob and Mildred Jenkins)
Bob and Mildred Jenkins

      If you have read our extended history of old Sauk City, you know how much we revere Will D. "Bob" Jenkins Sr., who wrote in 1984 what is one of the very best books on the mountains he loved for 90 years, Last Frontier in the North Cascades. In that book, Jenkins also provided extensive details about one of Skagit county's pioneer hoteliers, Hugo Bauman. When I first began researching Hugo Bauman's life, I was frustrated that so little was written of the man's character. Almost all of the stories were superficial or focused on his politics, without probing the man's depth. Yet old timers mentioned what a fascinating character he was and showed true admiration for how he had adapted his eastern training so that he could become the most famous homelier of the upper Skagit in the first half of the twentieth century. Only Sadie Silverling Cudworth in Marblemount was as colorful.
      Finally I looked in Bob's book and hit the mother lode. I sometimes get the impression that Bob liked to leave nuggets along his trail, hoping that writers would pick them up and head towards his diggings. Bob knew character because he was quite a character himself. Born on the eve of the century in Olympia, Bob was in diapers when his father took his young family to Myers Creek near Chesaw in Okanogan county and launched a miners newspaper called the Bolster Drill. One of Bob's first experiences there was being stuffed underneath a wagon box by his 17-year-old mother when Colville Indians rode into town to party hearty. He was the fourth in a long series of Will D's in the family, dating back to his great grandfather, Will #2, who hauled his family out of Tennessee and Kentucky and transported them to the plains where he published a tabloid called The Little Blue on the river of the same name in Nebraska Territory right after the civil war. His grandfather of the same name established the Whatcom Reveille in 1883 on Bellingham Bay, the parent of today's Herald. After the diggings at Myers Creek played out in 1903, Bob was brought back to Lake Whatcom and he spent the summers of his teen years packing and logging in the upper Cascades and clearing a claim in the Cascades with his mother. Those experiences are the backbone of Last Frontier and Bauman was one of the many unique people that Bob described before they faded into history's vault. Here are a few glimpses that Bob provided of Hugo and the hotel back during the days when Dan Currie's store and the GN depot joined the hotel as the social center in the town where the rail line ended at the foothills of the Cascades.

Last Frontier page 51
      Several claims on Sauk river were jumped that year [1917], opportunists taking advantage of the absence of squatters who had gone Outside for the winter, apparently thinking their claims were safe. In our area there had been only one instance of this kind, probably because with few exceptions the claim holders were remaining as we were, in their cabins.
      Hugo Bauman, who ran the Rockport Hotel, jumped the Hamer claim in the high valley between Porter Mountain and Saddleback. I remember a day just before freeze-up in December, I was back-packing a load of grub when Hugo caught up with me on the Martin Ranch road about a mile east of Rod O'Connor's homestead. Hugo was driving an old plug of a horse hitced to a little rubber tired sulky. He invited me to lash my heavy pack back of the little bucket seat of the sulky, which I was happy to do. there was no room for me in the sulky but I had the load off my back, anyway. I walked along then, visiting with Hugo as his old nag plodded over the muddy road, and it was then that Hugo said he was going up the Porter Mountain trail. I supposed he was probably heading for Frank Felch's claim or maybe Sam Walls's on Scatter Creek as they were friends of Hugo, and I knew they were both at home.
      Where the high valley trail left the Martin Ranch road Hogo hitched his horse to a tree, tucked a little haversack under one arm and headed for the pack trail switchbacks as we said our so-longs, and I went on east with my load of grub.
      It was not until the following spring that I learned what Hugo's trip in to the high valley was all about. I was eating dinner one day in Matey Rose's family style dining room in the Rockport Hotel when in came Hugo smiling in great elation and showing everybody a check he had just received in the day's mail. It was for $700 and it bore the signature of Frank Hamer.
      Hamer had paid Bauman to get off Hamer's claim!
      I learned in time that Hugo had hired Happy Albert the Finn to build a cedar shake cabin on the Hamer quarter-section. The $700, according to Hugo, was simply just compensation to defray the "legal" expenses of "making location" which was a polite way of describing what was more generally referred to in our hills as claim jumping.
      Funny thing about it was, Hugo and Hamer had always been pretty good friends "kloshe tillicums" as the Skagits would say. Hamer had never built a cabin. In fact, as an official in a high ranking federal government position at the time, Hamer was not qualified to hold a claim under the residence laws. And Hugo was in the same boat. Because he was running a hotel in Rockport, at least seven miles from the big stand of virgin timber that was known as "the Hamer homestead."
      I guess you could say it was just one of those things that made life interesting for homesteaders on the upper Skagit, including a little legal larceny. As it turned out, neither Hamer nor Hugo could have held the claim in any event. When the loggers came to our hills they bought the quarter section from the Northern Pacific Railroad. The N.P.'s scrip covered the entire area under an old federal grant, as it did so many others in those days of highly speculative ownership.

Last Frontier page 69
      Twice a day Rockport stirred with a brief burst of activity at the depot, in the early morning departure of the train and its evening return. Near dawn you heard the impatient hissing of the great Northern's locy, standing with its cars lined at the station. Building up its head of steam over the coal fire on its grates, the engine sang the song of its expanding power for an hour as the train crew made ready. The hiss and sigh of steam passing through the exhaust ports of its chests was a live and urgent thing to listen to. And then there was the rhythmic, rolling music of the heavy brass bell.
      It ran for a full five minutes; it seemed to make everybody hurry before Conductor Ted Kibble bawled "B-o-a-r-d!", pocketed his chained watch, and waved the train outward-bound under a short blast of the whistle. With a chug and a jerk, and another and another, the train moved out, building up speed. Rocking around the long curves below Sauk Mountain, the train's growing distance could be measured by the fading echoes of its whistle. The beautiful wailing harmony of the brass tubes swelled and moaned, filling the valleys of the Skagit. It rolled from mountain to mountain and came back to your ears as the sweetest hum our hills ever heard.
      Then there was the evening return from "the Flats," and Hugo Bauman would be on the depot platform to glad-hand new arrivals needing hotel accommodation, and drummers would check their baggage in the dim light of the station's coal oil lamps. You knew the train was being put away for the night when you heard its wheel flanges squealing around the "Y" at the end of the line. the turnaround that reversed the Baldwin and its mail car and day coach on the tracks so the train would be properly headed out again, come morning.

Last Frontier page 71
      Otherwise there was seldom much to get excited about in Rockport during its early times. Most activities centered around the GN depot at train time, or the post office in Currie's store when the mail bags were opened. and there was the friendly lobby of the Rockport Hotel where any new arrival would be regarded with polite curiosity until Hugo Bauman condescended to reveal whatever he thought to be of importance. He was an accomplished greeter and obviously enjoyed the hosting of newcomers to the Upper Skagit.

      After enlisting during World War I, Bob spent a few more years in the Cascades and then gravitated back to Whatcom county, where his grandfather platted Lake Padden years before and his father was once postmaster. He then spent a few years establishing himself as a journalist in both newspapers and radio, and then Bob found his soulmate in Mildred Hunley Jenkins, who was quite an author and researcher herself, focusing on the Northwest Indian tribes, pre-white man. They spent many years hiking the North Cascades in both Washington and British Columbia. One day in 1937 he returned home to Lake Whatcom and found her knee deep in a huge map of the B.C. mainland interior, and they were soon on their way to the Chilcotin area, where they spent the second half of their lives and where he wrote another wonderful book, Chilcotin Diary. We hope that a reader will know more about the characters of old-time Rockport and about Bob's and Mildred's later years, as well as where their children Will D. Jr. (5th in the line) and Sidney Charles and their descendants are. 2004 update: Jim Harris of Marblemount recently told us that Bob lived with his son Chuck and wife Wilma near the Sauk river in his last years. He died on Oct. 17, 1997, at the Skagit Valley Convalescent Center in Sedro-Woolley at age 98. In July 2004, you will find our profile of this fine man at our website.

Story posted on Aug. 22, 2003 and last updated on July 5, 2004
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