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(2 girls and logger)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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James Bedal, Susie Wawetkin and family
Sauk river pioneers in the 1890s

      Ed. note: You will find below several profiles of family members as well as obituaries.

(Edith Bedal)
Edith Bedal and one of her famed baskets
Edith Bedal
Mount Baker Almanac, 1950
      Edith was of the Valley, just as the falls of the North Fork [of the Sauk river] and the giant firs at Sloan creek. She belongs to the country. Little wonder she guarded it so well.
      When her father, James Bedal, a French Canadian trapper [incorrect, as noted below], with his wife, an Indian maiden from a local tribe, entered the Sauk river valley to make their home bout 1891, the virgin fir forests extended from the immediate shores of Puget sound to the base of the lofty crags which mark the backbone of the Cascade range in northern Washington.
      The way to the forks of the Sauk was by bull trail built by early day Monte Cristo miners. Aside from this single primitive and tortuous trail the mark of man was not to be found in the wilderness which extended virtually unbroken from the Bedal homestead downstream for 40 miles. Edith was born and reared in this environment. She learned the ways of the woods from infancy. Resourcefulness and self-sufficiency were requisites of life.
      In the period which has intervened, vast changes have been wrought in the valley. The bull trail was succeeded in time by a logging railroad which in turn has been replaced by a highway. The virgin forest has moved back ahead of the woodsman, but Edith and her mother remained the first and last of the pioneers of the upper valley.
      For several seasons during World War II, Edith worked for the Forest Service as a fire guard in the upper Sauk area. Manning a lookout station part of the time, running a pack string of six horses to supply crews of fire fighters or lookouts in the remote back country, cooking for fire crews and single-handedly combating small fires are some of the jobs she has done and she has performed them exceedingly well, for by training and experience they were not extra-strenuous or out of the ordinary for her. She was proud to be able to contribute in this very tangible way to the nation's war effort for she was directing her talents to the protection of her home from the very local and personal enemy — fire. By so doing she was released a man to carry the fight to our enemy overseas.
      Ed. note: Edith's mother was given short shrift in this biography, but she was a very important member of the Indian community before marrying James Bedal. The Women's Legacy Project of Snohomish County, in partnership with Snohomish County Heritage 2000.

Susie Wahwetkin and daughters
      The daughter of the last chief of the Sauk Indian people, Susie Wahwetkin, married a Scotsman [incorrect, as noted below], James Bedal, and proceeded to raise three daughters and two sons with very little help from her husband. Daughter Lucy died in 1916 of influenza. Daughters Edith and Jean lived to become famed horse-packers, elders of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, and recorders of the Sauk language and history. Their organizational skills and ability to remember the history of the Sauk people were crucial in the successful effort to have the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe recognized by the federal government. Edith Bedal was honored in 1989 by the State of Washington as one of a hundred "State Centennial Artists," chosen for her artistry in basket weaving. Ed. note: in the 1910 federal census of the Monte Cristo district, she is listed with the first name of Susanna, nine years younger than her husband. We wish that we had death dates for both Edith and Jane

Corrections about the Bedal family
By Stephen Handorf
      There are a few corrections that need to be made to the record of the Bedal family, mainly because I don't think the Bedal sisters were too clear on their father's family history. Their father James Howard Bedal was neither a French Canadian trapper nor a Scotsman. He was born and raised on farms in Minnesota and went by the name Howard before he left home at 18. In fact, he spent his adolescence in Walnut Grove, the town that his brother and father founded, where Laura Ingalls Wilder was living at the time. The "Beadles" she mentions in her book are family members of James.
      James's father Elias was born in Canada but he was no French Canadian and no trapper either--Elias's father's family was of English stock and had moved to Ontario from Dutchess County, New York, after the American Revolution. Elias's mother's family was also from New York, but they were Loyalists who fled to New Brunswick at the close of the war. Her ancestors were French Huguenots, but many generations back. Elias was a farmer as a young man and later a successful grain dealer. James's mother Maria Clarkwas from Onondaga County, New York, also of English stock. Her grandfather fought in the Revolution. James's daughter did die of the flu, which led to brain fever and then spinal meningitis, but she died February 2, 1916, so it was not part of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.
      James Bedal was my great-great-great-uncle who moved from Minnesota to Washington in 1880s/1890s.

More Bedal updates and Little House on the Prairie
      Subsequent to our initial posting of this story, we discovered a story about James Bedal's later life that illuminates his profile even more. Earlier this year, Stephen Handorf shared this information below with Margaret Robe Summitt, the editor of Sounder magazine for the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society, another fine organization that conducts meticulous research. You fans of Little House on the Prairie will be especially tantalized. Stephen wrote: "James Bedal was the brother of my great-great grandfather, Lafayette Bedal, one of the co-founders of Walnut Grove, Minnesota. James (or Howard, as his family called him) left Walnut Grove around 1880 and headed west. The discussion of whether James Bedal was a Scotsman or a Frenchman is interesting to me-he was neither. He was born in Olmsted County, Minnesota. His father, Elias Bedal, was born in Canada (and his ancestors had been in the U. S. for generations). His mother, Maria (Clark) Bedal, was born in upstate New York.
(James before death)
Descendant Stephen Handorf: "Howard/James on his 1915 visit to Los Angeles (when the L.A. Times article was written) with his sister Lucy Webber, and two of her children (Lu Lu and Howard Webber). Note the contrast between the pictures of James taken at home in Washington and the ones taken in California. His sister was quite wealthy, and it looks as if he lived more of a high life while he was down there."
      "Unfortunately, I never knew James's daughters, but from their writings, I do not believe James abandoned his wife and children. He reconnected with his last surviving sibling in 1915, and it does not appear that he ever told her family the whole story of his life and family in Washington. Here is the transcription of a newspaper article that appeared in 1915:"
"Dead" Brother Returns
Missing Thirty-four Years,
Call of Blood Heard in Alaska
Finds Sister Here

Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1915:
      Returning after an absence of thirty-four years, during which his relatives believed him dead, Howard Bebal [sic] walked in on his sister, Mrs. Lucy Webber, No. 1825 North Vermont avenue, yesterday morning as she was washing the breakfast dishes, and announced himself. When he was 19 years of age the call of adventure sounded on the little farm back in Minnesota and the youth responded. The first few months the family received letters at regular intervals, but in less than a year they lost track of him. Mr. Bebal [sic] gradually migrated West and twenty-two years ago, when rumors of the gold strike in Alaska first reached the country, he was in the first party of prospectors who went north.
      Twenty-two years Mr. Bebal [sic] lived in Alaska. He made and lost several fortunes. The rough-and-ready life of the prospector appealed to him and in his love for it he forgot all about the comforts of civilization. A few months ago the desire to see some of his relatives or to know what had become of them became strong. He wrote the postmaster in the little town in Minnesota for news of his family, and discovered only he and his sister, Mrs. Webber, were left. The address of Mrs. Webber was sent him, and yesterday, after a continuous trip of almost three weeks, he arrived. He is at the Baltimore Hotel.

      Stephen continues: "In actuality, however, it appears that Howard was mining in Colorado in 1880 and not long after went to Washington State, where he had been living under the name James. Although he made several trips to visit his sister Lucy, none of his children ever met their aunt. James (Howard) had a stroke in 1917 and died in 1932.
      "I should add that Lafayette Bedal, James/Howard's brother, started the first school in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and probably had Laura Ingalls Wilder among his pupils. The Beadles in On the Banks of Plum Creek (and the TV show Little House on the Prairie) were actually Bedals. Laura writes of Miss Eva Beadle as her teacher-it was perhaps Lafayette's wife Clementia Bedal. The only Eva Bedal in Walnut Grove was the daughter of Lafayette and Clementia, and she was just a child."

James Bedal, Sauk pioneer, passes on
Arlington Times, Sept. 15, 1932
      James Bedal, one of the earliest settlers on the Sauk river and who gave his name to the hamlet of Bedal, 18 miles above Darrington, passed away at the county hospital, Monroe, Wednesday morning, Sept. 14. Funeral services were held at Moll's chapel, Arlington on Saturday with Rev. F.R. Gillett officiating.
      Deceased is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son; Miss Edith Bedal at home; Mrs. Jean Fish of Monte Cristo, and Harry Bedal, an employee of the Snoqualmie National Forest. Mr. Bedal was born at Springfield, Illinois, Jan. 19, 1862, and thus had reached the age of 70 years, 7 months and 26 days.

(Bedal pack train)
      The Bedal sisters are shown with their pack mules and horses. The writing on the photo, barely legible, indicates that this was for the Peth Mining Co.

Death claims Mrs. James Bedal
(James and nurse)
Handorf: "James and his nurse in later years, presumably on a later visit to California after his stroke with a nurse, whom I'm also presuming his sister hired for him. She appears in at least two studio photographs with him and also in a group tourist picture taken in San Francisco."
Arlington Times, Dec. 18, 1947
      Darrington, Wash., Dec. 18 — The passing away of some folks affect their immediate family and a moderate circle of friends. Others, by the fine life they lived, by the fine children they have raised, by their kindly deeds, their friendliness, have endeared themselves to a great many folks and when death takes them away from us we feel deeply. Such a one was Susie Bedal.
      We got word from Cushman Hospital, Tacoma, that she had passed away Sunday, Dec. 15. It didn't take long for the report to spread all over town and out into the countryside. We had kind of hoped she would come home and be with us for a few more years, but also figured perhaps not. Her age, well over the three score and ten — of course lessened her chance for recovery.
      Mrs. Bedal will in our memories be living with us for a long time. We shall treasure the Indian baskets she made for us. When we pass the Bedal ranch we shall remember friendly greetings and visits and think what a fine story could be written around her life. Mrs. Bedal was one of our Grand Old Ladies. Mrs. Bedal was the daughter of chief Wawatkin of the Sauk tribe. Signed — N.B.

Local Brevities, Miss Lucy Bedal
Arlington Times, Feb. 10, 1916
      Miss Lucy Bedal died at Everett on Feb. 2, after a brief illness from la grippe, which later developed into brain fever, followed with spinal meningitis. Deceased is the eldest daughter of James Bedal and was 18 years old at the time of her death. She spent practically all of her young life at the home of her parents, which is located 16 miles from Darrington on the Sauk river. The remains were brought from Everett Monday and funeral services were held Thursday when the body was laid to rest in the Arlington cemetery.
      Deceased leaves to mourn her departure her father and mother, sisters and one brother. The sympathy of the community is extended to the sorrowing family. The remains of Miss Lucy Bedal, whose death is recorded elsewhere in this issue, were interred in Harwood cemetery today at 11 a.m., under direction of A.H. Moll, in the presence of the family and several Arlington friends, who mourned with the bereaved as the white casket disappeared below the bleak, snow-covered earth bearing the remains of a loved one taken away in the springtime of life.

Eulogy poem
Dear Lucy, we believe your life
      Is better far, than in earth's strife;
And that your new and higher birth
      Is grander than the best on earth
To part with our dear one,
      So young and fair,
Is almost more than one can bear;
      But our Lord has taught us everyone
To learn to say, "Thy will be done."

(Harry Bedal's cabin)
These are the remains of Harry Bedal's cabin
Harry Bedal passes at San Francisco
Arlington Times, March 1, 1945
      Harry Bedal, 54, born at Darrington, May 2, 1890, and a resident of that place until recent months, died suddenly at the family home at 1201 17th Ave., San Francisco, California., Feb. 20. Advices from his wife reveal that he had a cold when he left Darrington and, working on tankers at the Marine shipyards, he inhaled considerable metal dust, resulting in an attack of pneumonia. a physician was called and administered medicines, he seemed to revive, but shortly thereafter breathed his last, liver complications having developed.
      A military funeral was planned with American Legion men as pallbearers, burial to be in the National cemetery at San Francisco. Mrs. Bedal states that Harry liked his work at the shipyards and was proud to wear the "tin hat" of a war worker. A logger, trapper and prospector, Mr. Bedal is survived by his wife, Lu; his mother, Mrs. James Bedal, and by two sisters, Edith and Jean.

Ed. note re: Harry Bedal
      A Seattle Post-Intelligencer article in 2000 is the source of this photo and it notes:
      Not much remains of the cabin that was built on the basin by legendary mountain man Harry. Harry's sisters, Edith and Jean, worked as mountain guides when they were young. Harry worked with renowned Darrington ranger, Harold Engles, and was with Harold when they hiked up to Three Fingers mountain in search of a lookout site.
      Not much is left of the cabin — only a few foundation timbers, a few rusting cans and some shards of glass. Though Bedal was wise enough to put the small cabin on the forested side of the basin to protect it from avalanches, it eventually collapsed under the weight of winter snows. The site of the old cabin is a special place, situated between giant boulders and clumps of sub-alpine trees, surrounded by meadows, with a small stream nearby. Sloan Peak stands guard over the place, occasionally hurling down boulders. On a clear day you will get views of Bedal Peak, Mount Pugh and White Chuck . . . .
      Harry Bedal, for whom the basin is named, built a cabin here to access an asbestos mine in this basin, which sits beneath the jagged monster that is Sloan Peak. His family homesteaded on the Sauk River and Harry was born here in 1890. His mother was the daughter of a Suiattle chief.

(Bedal sisters pack team)
The Bedal pack team gingerly crosses a crude cedar-puncheon bridge over a gully or river in the North Cascades near Mount Index.
Jean Bedal
      Ed. note: We do not yet have an obituary for Jean Bedal, but we do have this short profile from Philip R. Woodhouse's fine book, Monte Cristo, which was published by the Mountaineers club in 1979:
      In the spring of 1925, Estella Fish arrived on the Ruckers' gas [railroad] car. The new cook was a strong, gentle woman who competently set about tasks at hand. John Andrews looked upon her as more than a cook and hostess; she was the woman for whom he had been searching. [Andrews was a mining engineer who returned to the North Cascades and bought the Monte Cristo Inn/Royal Hotel.] At their wedding the minister asked Andrews why he had waited so long to escort the charming lady to the altar. He answered with his characteristic good humor and quick wit: "If it turns out that she is the right one, she was worth waiting for, and if she isn't the right one, I won't have so long to live with her." As it turned out, she was the right one, and they lived together until both were in their 90s, just short of their golden anniversary.
      Estella also brought to Monte Cristo an adult son. Like those around him, Russell Fish was enchanted by the splendor of his new surroundings. He became acquainted with Jean and Edith Bedal, who operated a pack train in the Sauk river district and occasionally made their way into Monte Cristo. They had been raised at Orient, where the two forks of the Sauk joined, and had attended school at Monte Cristo during their younger years. Their mother, a Suiattle Indian, had taught the girls a deep respect for the land; their father, a Frenchman, had instilled in them a keen business sense. As a result the sisters were among the leading pack train operators in the area. Fish became engaged to Jean Bedal and marriage soon followed. In the early 1930s they ran the old Boston-American cookhouse as a lodge for tourists, miners and other travelers. . . .
      Except for an occasional speeder [light self-propelled rail car], Monte Cristo saw no traffic on the line. The pack train was the main source of transportation into and out of the resort. Russell and Jean Fish remained at Monte Cristo, using their pack train to haul in supplies from time to time and to transport visitors to their lodge in the old Boston-American cookhouse. The Fishes served as Monte Cristo's caretakers, hotel operators and suppliers. The true Monte Cristo buffs blithely disregarded the isolation and spent a great deal of time in town during the summers.

      During World War II, the old buildings of Monte Cristo crumbled and the tourist visits dried up; the Monte Cristo/Royal Hotel burned to the ground in 1945.. In 1948, Del Wilkie began negotiating with the John Andrewses and bought the old Boston-American cookhouse. After buying the structure and land around it, Wilkie and his wife, Rosemary, operated the building as a lodge through the mid-1950s. We recount this because Rosemary — who lived at Monte Cristo with her husband in Monte Cristo from 1951 on, wrote a wonderful little sliver of a book called A Broad Bold Ledge of Gold, Historical Facts of Monte Cristo in 1958. This personal testament is long out of print but you can find it in some regional libraries.

(Monte Cristo)
This photo of Upper Dumas street, at the turn of the 20th century, shows what the mining town of Monte Cristo looked like when the Bedal girls were growing up and buying their staples there.
Chief Wawetkin
      You may want to read about Susie Bedal's father, Chief Wawetkin — Americanized name, John Sauk — his leadership of Sauk-Suiattle Indians, and his historic role in the Upper Skagit land dispute. If you are a paid subscriber to our separate Subscribers Edition, you will find the story in Issue 24, or if you are reading this after Novermber 2004, look in the Issue 24 archives. You can read more about how and why you may want to subscribe at this link. His Indian name has also been anglicized to Wawitkin and several other spellings, with various placement of hyphens.

Astrida R. Blukis Onat and her Bedal research
      After we completed our initial mini-profile of the family, we found information on the internet about Ms. Onat and her field class through Earthwatch Expeditions that was focused on the Bedals. Called "Traditions of Cedar, Salmon and Gold", the research mission was about: "Documenting cultural transitions in historic resource use in the Pacific Northwest to guide future management. You can help Dr. Astrida Blukis Onat (BOAS, Inc.) conduct archaeological investigations of historic homesteads and other settlements in the region to chart the transition from Native American forest life to modern forest use. This year, teams will map, survey, and excavate the historic homestead of Sauk-Suiattle elder Susan Wawatkin and pioneer James Bedal, who established a small community around his cedar shingle business." One result of her project was the book, Two Voices, written by Jean Bedal Fish and Edith Bedal. As she explains, "I helped assemble their writings and first published it in 2000 as a private publication (with color photos). I had a few extra copies run this spring for my project at Bedal. The 2004 reissue has a new Preface and all photos are black and white." If you would like to purchase a copy, Ms. Onat wants to keep her email confidential, but if you send an email, we will forward it to her and she can send you details.

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