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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. 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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The villages of Bedal and Orient

(Bedal Basin)
Bedal Basin, courtesy of the Seattle P-I

      The Bedal name is attached to four different places near the headwaters of the Sauk river. All of them are located in Township 30 North, Range 11 East. The main place that you can still find on maps is the remains of Bedal Camp, located on the south fork of the Sauk river, 14 miles southeast of Darrington and east of Silverton.
      The Place Names site of the Northwest Room of the Tacoma Public library [see ] notes that the camp was "popular in early mining days as an overnight stop on the Tote Road between Sauk City and the Monte Cristo mines." In the early days of the Monte Cristo mines excitement of the late 1880s, most freight and prospectors passed by there on the way and it was natural for the family to provide pack teams as well as overnight lodging. The trail and river were both treacherous at times, nothing like whizzing down the Mountain Loop highway that now passes nearby.
      Bedal Creek in Section 21 rises in the hills above Bedal Camp and flows northwest to join the south fork of the Sauk. Bedal Peak is 6,250 feet high and is located in Section 23, 11 miles southwest of the summit of Glacier Peak and a mile and a half north of Bedal Camp. Bedal Lake covers three acres at an elevation of 3,500 feet and is a tributary of the north fork of the Sauk River, a mile north of Bedal Peak. It was named for Bedal Peak. An alternative name is Nels Lake.

Town of China/Orient
      And that brings us to Orient, which was north of Bedal Camp, right at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Sauk. The original name was China and you'll find as many variations about the naming process as you will find stories about it. I have two favorites. One is from Chechacos All, published by the Skagit County Historical Series in 1973:
      The country along the Sauk and its tributary, the Suiattle, was the last refuge of the Indians, but with the trail established [from Sauk City to the north], homesteads and timber claims were soon taken up along its route, some 20 between the north fork of the Sauk and Whitechuck [the confluence of the river of that name]. According to Mrs. Morehouse [also spelled Moorehouse], one of a group of five families moving in to the wild new country, the going was so rough that the party had to stop at Bedal's, just below the north fork of the Sauk. There, one of the women threw herself down, exhausted, and exclaimed, "This must be China. I can't go any farther!"
      Another version was published in Charles Dwelley's 50th anniversary edition of the Concrete Herald on June 21, 1951:
      It was Fred and Jack Wilmans who discovered the Monte Cristo gold in 1889 in an area so inaccessible that it seemed that it would be impossible to get a railroad into their claim. They finally started down the Sauk river and established a trail as far as Sauk City, the then promising community at the confluence of the Skagit and Sauk [rivers]. They tried for some time to interest either Skagit or Snohomish county in a railroad from Sauk City to Monte Cristo, but finally had to form a private company (Ewing-Wilmans) to build the road themselves. The wagon road covered a distance of 60 miles and the entire cost was born by the mining men. The road was completed in 1891 and many homesteads were set up along the route [the same year that James Bedal homesteaded there]. By 1885 no less than 20 homesteaders had settled between the Whitechuck and the North Fork of the Sauk.
      A trading post along the route was called China. The story behind the name was that Mrs. Moorehouse, one of the five women settlers there, came in over the road from the Skagit with her husband. Finally, just below the Forks, she stopped, exhausted, and exclaimed: "This must be China. I can't go any farther."

      The Tacoma Public Library Place Names website includes this short explanation of the town:
      Orient is a former mining town near Bedal Camp on the Sauk River near the confluence with its North Fork in northeast Snohomish County. The town had a store and a small population in 1895. It was named by Mrs. Moorehouse, when she and her husband founded the settlement. She exclaimed, "I can't go any farther; this must be China! " Hence, the name.
      Finally, in this case we have one of those pleasant occasions when loose ends do indeed try to tie themselves. With the help of Diane McMurdie, we have been researching the lives of her ancestors, the Hunziker and Morehouse families, who lived at Newhalem in the 1920s. George Morehouse married Ozena Denny, the daughter of Samuel T. Denny, Joshua Green's partner in the LaConner Transportation/Steamboats concern. Could his mother or another relative have been the famous Mrs. Morehouse from "China?" Stay tuned.
      For more information about the development of the Sauk City-Monte Cristo time, you can read our four-part Journal website. These stories are from our old domain, so most of the click-links will not work; they are being updated.

Story posted on Nov. 29, 2004
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