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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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Birth of a Pioneer Baby

By Mollie Dowdle from her book, My Best Loved Stories, written in 1974
(Gar in the early 1960s)
Gar in the early 1960s

      This is a story told to me by my friend, Gar Green, birth of a pioneer baby. The Mrs. Tingley he refers to was an old pioneer, well-known along the Skagit. Gar is now 82. I feel it a great honor to be one of his best friends. He now lives on the old homestead between Hamilton and Birdsview, where he was born. Here is his story:

Gar Green learns the facts of life
      I wasn't very old, oh, maybe six or seven years old in the spring of the year 1898-99]. Things were warming up, the sun was out, awfully pretty that day and my brother, the one next to me, and I were planning a little jaunt to the back of the place to play in the lake. (The lake is the pond along the road, between Hamilton and Birdsview.) Fishing was good back there, and it was warm us enough so we could take off our shoes and work the mud between our toes. It also was the time of year when there would be little ducks around in the marsh weeds.

Started on the run
      Up the road, coming along in kind of a hurry, was our neighbor Mrs. McClure. My brother seen her coming and said, "Come on Gar, let's beat it out of here." So we started on the run but our mother seen us and yelled: "Come back here, you kids may have to go after Mrs. Tingley." We knew what it meant to go after Mrs. Tingley, or my brother did. I was too small to be acquainted with the facts of life. We'd been sent after her before.
      Mrs. Tingley was the Valley baby doctor, or the midwife, granny woman or whatever she was called. She brought about all the babies into the world. She lived over on Day Creek on what is called "Happy Valley," and people always had to go after her. Sometimes in the dead of night.
      Mrs. McClure was in need of help and my brother and I were going to be sent after her. I guess you'd call it an emergency because we were instructed to hurry.

Buggy hitched
      We got the old horse and buggy hitched up and since neither of us were very big that took awhile. We started down the old cow trail road along the river, across the Hamilton ferry, then towards Day Creek with the horse in a lope. It was about the prettiest spring day I can ever remember. The birds were singing, the frogs a chirping, everything around. I us was blooming into new life. Even the air breathed of spring. We sure would have loved to go fishing, my brother and me.
      Finally we came in sight of Mrs. Tingley's home. I think she must have been watching for us. She had on a big white apron over her long dress and had it caught up and full of chicken feed. "Come chick, chick," she was calling and scattering the scratch to her flock of red hens. When we got almost there she opened apron and swished out the feed as quickly as she could. She hurried into the house, calling back: "Turn the buggy around, boys." It was sure a pretty day. A robin hopped up on a limb our heads and started to sing.

On the run
      Out of the door came Mrs. Tingley in a run with her little bag and she was tying a sunbonnet on her head. We gave her the reins. Squatting on the floor behind the dashboard she began to whip that old horse into a run and yelled "Git up, git up," (and Gar demonstrated). Whipptilash down the road we went.
      I whispered to my brother, "What's she got in the bag?"
      "The baby, I guess," he said. "Just hang on." When we came to Loretta Creek there was old puncheon on the floor on the bridge and as rough as it could be. The old horse hit it in high gear, up we went in the air, and when we came down the buggy was loose fro harness and fell down to the ground. Mrs. Tingley gave a long sigh, jumped out, took a look, grabbed up the baby bag and down the road she went with her black skirt billowing around her.
      "Fix it boys and catch up me if you can. I'll go on ahead," she called back. I asked my brother, "What's she hurrying so fast for anyway?"
      "To get there, she gets six dollars for bringing the baby, said.
      "Well if it's in the bag - ?" We got out and I took off my shoes. We cobbled up the hr part and started out again. We weren't in much of a hurry as I remember. Walking along the road was J.J. Connor going to see a neighbor. We stopped and picked him up and he took the reins from my brother. After a bit, one of us mentioned that Tingley had gone ahead walking, and holy gee you should'a seen him start laying it on that old horse. (And Gar demonstrated again. His feet up on the kitchen table, surrounding his wife Clara's Christmas delicacies and his chair pushed far back and tottering on its back legs.) Old J.J. knew what Mrs. Tingley carried around in that black bag.

Reaches Ferry
      It didn't take us long to get to the Hamilton ferry. It was slowly drifting to the opposite side of the river. The old ferry man very calmly standing over by the apparatus that pulled it across, with his corn cob pipe hanging between his lips. But Mrs. Tingley wasn't calm and she was still in a hurry.
      When the ferry had almost reached the landing she grabbed a pike pole and lunging it downward, she gave a big push as the ferry grated against the gravel bar. Grabbing the black bag and holding her long skirts to the top of her button shoes, she ran off the gang plank and headed up the river road.
      Taking his own sweet time, the ferry man came back after us and we crossed. We did kinda hurry then and overtook Mrs. Tingley, running as fast as she could go. Her sunbonnet was pushed back off her head and her long hair had come down in the back. She climbed into the buggy all out of breath. Pretty soon we got to the McClures. My mother was there and she came out and said the baby was already there and everything was fine and dandy.
      My brother and I stuck around for a while. There were some questions a curious little boy wanted straightened out. like how come my mother said the baby was already there and Mrs. Tingley was in the buggy with it in the bag? My brother was older and all he asked was, "Do you think Mrs. Tingley will get her six dollars?"
      And then we went fishing.

Characters in Gar's story
      As part of our long-running research into the history of Hamilton, we researched the people Gar talks about. Here are some capsule descriptions.
      Mollie Dowdle, one of the most beloved upriver pioneers, passed away on Jan. 13, 2003. You can read more of her stories in the upriver section.
      John M.G. (Garfield) Green died Monday Feb 20, 1978 at Skagit Valley Hospital following a lengthy illness. He was born in Seattle on January 22, 1892, and brought to the family home east of Hamilton on the Skagit River as a two week old infant. Mr. Green's home in recent years, 832 Pinelli Road, was part of the original property homesteaded by his father, Captain Peter Leander Green, in 1883. The homestead included territory from Pinelli Road to the river and west to the Steen Farm. A forester, logger and horseman, for many years he led pack trains into the North Cascades. He was always known as one of the most colorful and beloved characters of Hamilton, and joined the Seabees during World War II when he was in his 50s.
      Mrs. Samuel S. Tingley of Happy Valley-Day Creek was the second wife of the pioneer. She was born Elizabeth Knapp, the daughter of Dr. Hiram L. Knapp of Pennsylvania. She had a thorough knowledge of the use of drugs and medicine. Like Maggie Barratt of Marblemount, she came on the run whenever a pioneer wife needed the services of a midwife. Their daughter Lillian trained to be a nurse and daughter Martha later became the matron of Valley Hospital and then Memorial Hospital in Sedro-Woolley.
      Mrs. McCLure was Harriet, the wife of Ed V. McClure. According to census records, they, along with Jake Woodring (later the marshal of Hamilton) and Charles McDowell were the first people to move here from North Carolina. She and her husband and eventually at least six children lived here from sometime before 1890. Matt Snider, the famous railroad engineer, was her brother, and he joined them in 1897.
      We are looking for more information and especially photos about all these folks. If you have information about them or any other pioneers and descendants, we encourage you to email us at the address below or write to the street address.
      In her time, Mollie Dowdle was the biographer of note in the upper river area. Her book was long out of print, but you can find first editions in used book stores and it has recently been reprinted and is for sale at the LaConner Museum. I bought mine at a used book sale, which is a great place to thumb through non-fiction while everyone dives into the romance novels.

Links, background reading and sources

      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 MS Word files 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 or see our site about the planned CDs offering.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the upkeep of this site at a time when we may be forced to cut it back for lack of funds. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which is about to enter its sixth year with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. If you like what you read, thank you in advance for whatever support you can provide. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research.

(bullet) Story posted on Feb. 20, 2003, and last updated Aug. 22, 2006
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues until we eventually compile a book about Northwest history.
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