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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, 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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Memories of Rockport, Washington
and the von Pressentin family

(Skagit Bill)
William "Skagit Bill" Pressentin, from Will D. Jenkins's fine book, Last Frontier in the North Cascades. Jenkins described him as "one of the early packers in our hills and renowned as a story teller". Bill is the subject of many stories that illustrate how pioneers like him knew how to live off the land, and he and his wife, Rona (Clark) were among the most beloved of upper Skagit characters. We hope that a relative will have a photo of Rona and their daughter, Myra.

      Journal ed. note: some of the best stories we receive from readers are the family stories that have been passed down to them through the generations. The story below is a splendid example of that. Tom Benton has sent us another story from the von Pressentin pioneers, the family that is the subject of more stories — 17 now — in the Journal than any other. We were honored to be invited to the family's U.S. reunion in 2001, where we met the German coordinators of the family association, which has kept records going back to the 12th century. Although the records are oriented towards the male patriarchs of various lines, the most active researchers in the U.S. are three women descendants, sisters Lea and Denise von Pressentin and Barbara Halliday, who is a descendant of both this family and the Kemmerich family, also pioneers of Birdsview. Denise suggested Tom's story and we thank them for adding this one to the Journal collection about A.V. Pressentin and Ed Pressentin, who were most responsible for Rockport growing as a town and maintaining its identity while many towns faded. See the links to the other stories at the end. We have also added annotated endnotes to the story; just click on the underscored links.

By Tom Benton, descendant of the Rockport pioneer von Pressentins
      The community of Rockport was homesteaded by Leonard Graves, about 1885. Mr. Graves later moved to Edison.
      Albert von Pressentin, always known as A.V., came from Michigan and operated store at Hamilton before he came up the Skagit River to Sauk City in 1890. Sauk City was located down the river one mile west of Rockport and across the river was called South Sauk. A.V. operated a store at Sauk. He did a lot of business with Monte Cristo Mine, near Darrington. The goods were carried into the mine by pack trains. The gold rush was on at Monte Cristo at that time.
      A.V. overheard two strangers in the store discussing the route for the new railroad to Rockport. A.V. immediately left his store and rode his horse all night to get to Edison by day break, so he could find Mr. Graves, in order to purchase his homestead at Rockport. On the way back A.V. stopped at the court house and had the deed recorded. He wasn't taking any chances on Mr. Graves getting word about the railroad and backing out on selling to him.

(A.V. and wife)
A.V. and Christine Pressentin

      He could see a new town springing up and all the possibilities to make money. The von Pressentin family moved to Rockport in 1891 by canoe. They moved into a log house. A.V. built a store and continued to operate the store at [old] Sauk City until it burned down.
      Mr. Price, who now lives in Arlington, was the messenger boy between the stores. At that time he was called a runner. The goods for the store were brought up the river from Hamilton by four canoes, operated by the Skagit Indians. The Skagit Indians also helped A.V. to clear his homestead. Von Pressentin was bought out in 1908 by Johnson and Jensen.
      Ab Clark remodeled the first pool hall in Rockport into a store building in 1914. He operated it for 27 years until 1941. It was located at that time across from the train depot.
      The early settlers around Rockport from 1885 to the early 1900's were: Tom Porter, Ed O'Brien (1885), Hank Stafford, Alec Stafford, Henry Martin, Mr. Littlefield, John Sutter, and George Perrault].
      The town of Rockport was named by the Great Northern Railroad in 1902. The freight and passenger train (mixed) hauled lumber, shingles, and cattle. The heavy mining equipment was hauled into Rockport by train and then taken by wagons and sleds to the mines. The train came to Rockport three times a day from Burlington. The morning train departed from Rockport at 6 a.m. and returned at noon; the afternoon train left at 1 p.m. and returned at 9 p.m. The railroad owned a depot, a section foreman's house, and a house for the section crew. The section foreman's house is now occupied by the Robbins family of Rockport. The first section foreman was Mr. Healy in 1902.
      Seattle City Light built a gas-powered railroad called the Skagit River Railway into Newhalem, which began to run on a temporary basis in 1920 and was later expanded with an electrified extension to Diablo. The Toonerville Trolley touring railcars became a major tourist attraction. The City Light train met the other train at the depot in Rockport. Seattle City Light started an excursion train, and many people came to Rockport to start the tour. Automobiles were parked on all the streets, in the yards, and in the garages. The City Light later built a depot of their own and had beautiful landscaped grounds, and places to park cars on the east end of Rockport. A large building was erected for the passengers and tourists so that they would have shelter while waiting for the train. Donuts and coffee were served during the wait. These tours were discontinued just before World War II started, but were revived after the War until 1954.
      There were ten to twelve large ferry boats [and sternwheelers] on the Skagit River during the early 1900's. Some of their names were: Nellie, Josephine, Fanny Lake, Chehalis, Lilly, Mamie, Henry Bailey, Indiana, Monte Cristo, and Bob Irving. There were three that hauled talc down the river to Rockport from above Marblemount. They were the Talo, Talco, and the Black Prince.

(Rockport Hand Ferry)
      Rockport's original hand ferry, circa 1916, from the Jenkins book. The caption reads: "Ferries such as this served foot traffic, and , like the big scows on which horse-drawn wagons crossed the Skagit, were operated by the current of the river, flowing diagonally against the hull. The woman wearing a hat is my mother. The Indian lad with the pole is Andy Tom, whose father, Frank, was a renowned crafter of canoes. Jenkins was from a long line of newspapermen and his grandfather moved the family to Fairhaven from Kansas in 1883. Will and his mother homesteaded land near the Sauk River and he knew and worked with many of the Pressentins and other upriver pioneers. The Jenkins book is still for sale at the LaConner Museum.

A bridge replaces the old ferry in 1961
      The first ferry to cross the Skagit River at Rockport was built by Ed Carnicle, a valley carpenter, in 1903. It was operated by Skagit Bill Pressentin. His salary was $12 a month. The ferry was only large enough for passengers. Later this ferry was replaced by a cable ferry that had a cable to swing on, for guidance. This ferry had hand wheels which were used to roll in the cable. The hand-wheeled ferry was replaced by a motor driven ferry later. The man who held the ferry job longest was Skagit Indian Tom. He had this job steady for 40 years. The last operators on the ferry were Hobe Clark and Joe Holbrook. The ferry is now a memorial near the Rockport Bridge.
      In October 1961, the new bridge was dedicated with Rona Pressentin, wife of Skagit Bill, having the honor of cutting the ribbon. The new bridge linked Rockport with Darrington, and thus created a shorter route to Seattle. This is a day that will long be remembered.
      Two thousand people were fed in the Rockport Gymnasium. Brown Wiseman, then Third District County Commissioner, and a former Rockport school teacher, was commended on his hard work and planning to bring true a dream of the past. He received a bronze plaque from the people of Rockport. Balloons flew over the town which read, "Our Own Brown Wiseman." Some of the earlier settlers of Rockport and some who still lived in Rockport were asked to come to the speaker's stand and give a presentation of how it was in the "old days" to cross the Skagit River. The Concrete High School Band was on hand to provide the music.
      The opening of traffic across the bridge ended an era that once saw eighteen current operated ferries. There were crossings at: Skagit City, Mt.Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Skiyou, Lyman, Day Creek, Hamilton, Birdsview, Concrete, East Concrete, Van Horn, Faber, Sauk City, Rockport, O'Brien's Crossing [Illabot Creek], and Marblemount.
      The first stage and livery barn was owned by Bill Perry in 1905. The stage started at the Rockport depot and operated to Marblemount. Jack Hauk was the first driver. The first power driven state was driven by Mr. Eldridge, in 1907. It had a kerosene motor and lights. Harry Wainright [see this Journal website], the Game Warden, owned the first car in Rockport. The car was a Ford.
      Before the school was built in 1903, the children walked to Sauk City to go to school. Rudalph [Rudolph] Johnson, taught the first school in a one room building. The second year was taught by Miss Grace Norris. Mr. Johnson was back for the third term. In 1909 or 1910, a new two room school was built where the school land is now and the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department is housed. The school was the social center at that time. Skating parties, pie socials, and dances were held there. Across the Skagit River at South Rockport, a one room school house was built, near the present Wilson home. The O'Brien, O'Connell, Stafford, and Henry Martin children attended there. At Rocky Creek, which is six miles above Rockport, another school was operated.

(Morris the tailor)
This photo from the Jenkins book shows one of the typical buildings in the young village of Rockport. The caption reads: "The Law in Rockport. Mountain country justice was meted out to law violators by E.A. Morris, the big man on the right, who was Rockport's Justice of the Peace. Morris raised chickens as a sideline to his trade as a tailor. That's Mrs. Morris on the balcony."

      There were three shingle mills operating in town in the early years of 1900. The Lemphie Brothers owned a lumber and shingle mill in Rockport. They had cook houses and bunk houses for their crew. Where Highway 20 is located on the hill above Rockport was previously called Goat Hill. The lumber mill was built at the top of the hill. There was a skid road near the present Banger home. The timbers or skids were greased so the lumber sleds would slide down.
      Across the Skagit River near the old Moran home, Joe Kahen logged with oxen in the 1890's. The Jackman Logging Company logged between Van Horn and Rockport. Jackman creek that crosses the road, Highway 20, in Van Horn is named for Andrew Jackson Jackman. Hank Stafford owned the island between South Sauk and Rockport and logged it with oxen.
      High Rock Lumber Company was a large lumber mill two miles down the Skagit River from Rockport. The Reebers operated the cook house for the mill. Mrs. Reeber's granddaughter is now Mrs. Sam Barker of Concrete.
      Sound View Logging Company in 1930 had a large camp five miles south of Rockport. This company was one of the larger and employed several hundred men. In the early part of 1900, all the shingle bolts were driven down the Skagit River by Indians in canoes to the larger mills.
      Rockport was not plotted into lots until Albert von Pressentin sold out to Johnson and Jensen in 1908. The first cattle were brought to Rockport by Mr. John Sutter. Leonard Bacon helped him drive them from one side of the Skagit River to the other. John Sutter owned the present Ray Johnson Sr. farm and the house is the original house built by Mr. Sutter. The story of his Indian wife has long been told. Mr. Sutter went to Sedro-Woolley to buy a cook stove for his new home, and when he got back with it, his wife took a stick of wood and tried to break it up.
      The first telephone line was put into Rockport by the Quackenbush sisters, Mrs. Kate Glover and Mrs. Nell Wheelock, in 1905. Mrs. Wheelock is now living in Birdsview. Mr. S. Eichhaltz was their line man. The sisters were musicians and played the violin and drums for the Saturday night dances. John Chickee, a mill sawyer, played the concertina.

Early Rockport businesses
      The first light plant was put in by Hugo Bauman and Mrs. Tose. They did this when they purchased the Rockport Hotel from Johnson and Jensen about 1913. Charley Wiseman was their care taker. The homes of Rockport paid a flat rate for power, but only for lighting initially; no electric appliances could be used.
      Mr. Clayborn was the first saloon operator. Later there were three operating saloons and one was opened in the Rockport Hotel in 1908. The first barber shop was operated in 1908 and owned by Mr. Long. In 1909, a tailor shop was opened by Ed Morse.
      Later Mr. Morse became Postmaster. The first postmistress was Mrs. Ladell, and the Post Office was located across from the present John Snyder home. The first butcher shop was operated near the present Jack Smith home.
      Mr. Cornforths opened the first restaurant in 1905, near the present location of the Steelhead Park. The restaurant burned down the same year and the only place left to eat was in the dining room of the Rockport Hotel. Mr. LaFleur opened the second restaurant.
      All the weddings in Rockport were performed by Albert von Pressentin, who was Justice of the Peace. A mayonnaise factory opened in 1925 and was located near the present Martin's Store, owned by Martin Pressentin. Snyder's mayonnaise was sold throughout the Northwest. Earl Olson operated the first dairy which was started in the early years of 1930's.
      The price of property was very reasonable in those days. When Albert von Pressentin sold his property, it included all of Rockport and all the land south of Rockport as far as the present Harris farm, and the selling price was $1,500. Those lots include the following property owners of today: Cowden farm and house; Dillinger Farm; Clark farm; Olson farm; Seemyer farm; Buchanan farm; Wilson farm. On all this land there were two houses which are still standing: the Cowden house and the old Tom Porter house which stands in the Harris field.
      Many families depended on trapping for their living. A trap line was set and small cabins were built for overnight shelter. Fox, Martin, Otter, and Mink were the most plentiful. Bounty on cougars was fifty dollars ($50.00) in the early 1920's. Mack Gillvery was a trapper that was famous for his poetry and stories. In 1915, Jasper [also spelled Gaspar] Petta was known as one of the best trappers in the community. He now lives at Marblemount.
      In the late 1930's, Bullerville dances were the popular recreation. Bullerville was located 6 miles above Rockport, [where the Clark Cabins and Eatery are located in 2006]. After the dances there was usually a large meal served by the Buller family.
      The Buller Brothers operated a lumber mill near the present dance hall. The dance hall was built out of rough lumber and two big pot bellied stoves heated it. The people with children put them in a special room, and put their babies in cradles where had been made for the dance occasions. There was no baby sitting problem in those days.
      About 1950, the Rockport Fire Department was started. The truck was purchased from the dividends of basket socials, dances, and dinners along with donations. As of 1965, the county commissioner plans on purchasing the City Light land where the old depot used to be for a large park. A boat launch is planned by the Fisheries Department in the near future.
      Let's hope there will always be a community called Rockport, and that we can preserve the old memories of the past.

      Author's notes: This paper was written as a Concrete High School project by Tom Benton in May of 1965. His mother is Myra Benton, and his grandfather was Skagit Bill Pressentin. His grandmother was Rona Clark Pressentin and she, along with Myra, provided part of the information for this project. Other contributors were John Price of Arlington, and Brown Wiseman of Sedro-Woolley.

Leonard Graves
      Mr. Graves did not leave much of a paper trail either upriver or in Edison. From another story we learned that Samuel Shea's homestead included part of the eventual town of Rockport. We hope that a member of the Graves or Shea families or a descendant Rockport pioneers will share information or copies of photos with us. [Return]

Monte Cristo mines
      We have an extensive section on Monte Cristo and the mines area, which boomed in 1889 and began fading after the Depression set in across the country in 1893 and hung on in a more abbreviated version until World War I. The original town of Sauk City on the south side of the Skagit River began as a shipping point and wharf for sternwheelers, which offloaded food, supplies and machinery to be taken up the Sauk River and Trail. See: Photos and introduction to the railroad and mines of the Monte Cristo district. [Return]

Old Sauk City
      We point out here that the original Sauk City was on the southwest corner of the junction of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers, near what is now called Sauk Prairie. The town rose in the mid-1880s as a market crossroads for settlers south of the river, experienced a crushing fire in 1889, immediately rebuilt, then stalled during the Depression that started in 1893, and finally was almost completely swept away by the monster flood of 1897. After the turn of the century, the town of Sauk was relocated to the location of the new depot on the Great Northern railroad line, and readers are often confused because that newer town was also often called Sauk City, named for nearby Sauk Mountain, not the river. You can read the full Journal history of both those towns at this website . . . you can also see the whole list of Monte Cristo and Sauk stories at this site . . . We are especially eager to see photos of the old Sauk store and any of the buildings in Sauk on the north shore, along with stories about the McGovern family, who owned the store for years. It is beyond our wildest hopes to find photos of old Sauk City or copies of the old Sauk City Star newspaper of the 1880s. [Return]

Rockport Great Northern depot
      We are seeking photos of the Rockport depot and rail yards. In 1998, the late Howard Miller showed us the location of the old spur that extended a half mile south to the river from the GN line. You can still see the elevated rail bed. It was constructed so that the trains could turn around and head back downriver from the terminus at Rockport. We hope that a reader will share copies of such photos. And we would like to know more about the Clark family.[Return]

Stafford family
      You can read stories about members of the pioneer Stafford family in all four parts of our comprehensive history of Sauk that begins at this website . . . The Stafford brothers packed in much of the original machinery and supplies for the old Monte Cristo mines. We hope that a family member has a scrapbook and photos. [Return].

Henry Martin family
      Read the three-part history of the Henry and Katharine Martin family of Illabot Creek, south of the Skagit Rvier, at this website This series is from our old domain, where the links may not work. It is due for an update on the new domain in fall 2006. [Return]

John Sutter
      John Sutter was one of the earliest upriver pioneers, ranging from Lyman to the Sauk River, including his early homestead at the Baker River. You can read about him and see his photo at this site and if you put his name in the search box, you will find nearly a dozen sites with stories about him. [Return]

John G. and Catherine Perrault
      You can read about these pioneers, who settled first at Sterling in the 1870s, at this site [Return]

Skagit River Railway and Toonerville
(Touring Train)
Seattle City Light touring train leaves for Newhalem from Rockport, circa 1950.

      Writer Richard Wilkens has a terrific web section on the Skagit River Railway, which includes many photos, at this external site [Return]

Rockport Ferry and Bridge
      We would like to know more about these operators of the Rockport Ferry. We have a new feature planned about the ferry and replacement bridge and we hope that readers will contribute to it. [Return]

Brown Wiseman
      You can read a tribute to Brown Wiseman and his contributions as coach and when he planted fish in upland lakes at this site . . . Also includes his childhood in the Utopia district experience with the True-Love Bandit in 1914. We hope that readers will share memories of Brown and Hobe and their siblings and parents. [Return]

Andrew Jackson Jackman
      See this Journal website for the story of Mr. Jackman, the namesake at his creek near Van Horn and early Marblemount settler. Includes the story of his Indian wife and her relatives [Return]

Quackenbush sisters
      Nellie Quackenbush Wheelock and Katherine Quackenbush Glover were sisters who moved to the upper Skagit River from their native New York. Katherine was older by ten years. After owning the first telephone company upriver, they owned a tugboat company on Lake Shannon following when it was flooded for the Baker River Dam. Nellie died in 1969 and Kate died in 1944. [Return]

Rockport businesses
      We hope that a reader can tell us more about these early businesses and their owners. We would also like to see photos of the various streets in town and the buildings and sawmills. [Return]

Links, background reading and sources
      The von Pressentin is the most extensive family section we have on the website as of 2006. Out of roughly 500 story files, 14 are now about various members of this family and many more will follow, with cross-links between them. Here are some links we particularly suggest:

      See this Journal website for a timeline of local, state, national and international events for years of the pioneer period.
      Search the entire Journal site.
      Due to continued popular demand, in the interest of furthering our "open source" policy, we are assembling a collection of CDs that will include hard copy of our pioneer profiles and town profiles from years 1-5, so that you can print them individually at your convenience. Inquire for details today via email.

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