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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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Mary Belle "Matie" Minkler Bratlie
and Hans Jarvis Bratlie

(Mary Matie Minkler Bratlie)
Mary "Matie" Minkler Bratlie is honored at the Washington state legislature for her father's terms in the legislature, as a representative in the first session of 1889-90 and later as a state senator. She and her husband Hans owned the Hamilton Herald, which later became the Concrete Herald
      Mary Belle "Matie" Bratlie, daughter of Birdsview and Lyman pioneer Birdsey D. Minkler, outlived all seven of her siblings and all her childhood friends and her adult peers, dying in 1994 at age 109. She and her husband, Hans Bratlie, were themselves pioneers who made quite a mark on two different areas of Washington state. With the help of Minkler descendants, we have tracked her life from the year she was born on her parents' Birdsview homestead, eight years after Birdsey became one of the earliest pioneers on the upper Skagit river. She helped Hans publish one of the upper river's first newspapers, in both Hamilton and Concrete. After the famous 1915 fire that leveled much of downtown Concrete, they sold the newspaper and went on to become the owners of a famous cedar mill in Ridgefield, Washington, a few miles north of Vancouver, on the Columbia river. We only wish that she kept a journal or was a prolific letter writer. Maybe she was and a reader can provide copies.


Unknown newspaper
      Mary Belle "Matie" (Minkler) Bratlie, aged 109 years, eight months, died of old age on Oct. 14, 1994, at the Lakeview Senior Family Home in Lacey, Washington. Mrs. Bratlie had been a resident of the Olympia area since 1983 when she moved from her long-time residence in Ridgefield, Washington, to the residence of her granddaughter, Valerie Pittman.
      Mary was born at Birdsview, Skagit county, Washington territory on Feb. 7, 1885, the [fifth of eight] children of the union of Birdsey Dwight Minkler and his wife, Hannah Belle (Chisholm) Minkler. Mr. Minkler was a lumberman and merchant in the area and also served as a representative in the territorial and state legislatures. He had been elected state senator shortly before his death in [1911].
      Mary grew up in Lyman, Washington, where the family had moved from Birdsview into the new home that even today remains occupied by relatives. She attended local schools until enrolled in the Annie B. Wright Seminary in Tacoma, where she completed her finishing school education.
      On April 10, 1907, Mrs. Bratlie and her husband, Hans Jarvis Bratlie, were married in her family home. They settled in Hamilton, Washington, where Mr. Bratlie owned and operated the Hamilton Herald-Recorder newspaper until he moved it to Concrete, renaming the newspaper, the Concrete Herald. Their only child, James Hosmer, was born in Hamilton on April 27, 1909. In 1915, the Bratlie family moved again, this time to Ridgefield, Washington, where Mr. Bratlie joined his brother in the purchase and operation of a cedar mill on Lake river, producing a full line of Western red cedar products including shingles, siding and dimension lumber.
      Mary always cared about people. She was socially active and made long-lasting friendships with everyone in the small community. Her friends could always depend on her support, sympathy and assistance when in need. Her love of poetry was indicative of her sensitivity; her library displayed both this love and her vulnerability.
      Mary was a dedicated member of the United Methodist church of Ridgefield and of the Eastern Star, bridge and garden clubs while in Ridgefield. She was also an avid golfer and president of the Southwest Washington Golf Association in the 1920s. She made a hole-in-one in 1927. The Bratlies were members of the Columbia Golf and Country Club and subsequently she was also a member of the Royal Oaks Golf and Country Club.
      During World War II, she worked briefly in the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington. In later years, she has been known to belie this when asked, "To what do you owe your long life, Matie?" by responding, "It's because I never worked a day in my life!" [Her husband died in 1945 or 1951.]

      A short obituary in the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times provides this additional information. Survivors included a niece, Eleanor Aiken [still living in Mount Vernon in 2003]; and two granddaughters, Valerie and Karen. She was preceded in death by her husband, Hans, and by a son, Jim.

Ridgefield centenarian still walking

By Bruce Westfall, Vancouver Columbian, Feb. 3, 1985
(Mary and Hans Bratlie)
Mary Bratlie walks around Ridgeway at age 99
Photo courtesy of Columbian and Mary Lynne Ball

      One of this town's most compulsive walkers is going for 100 years, not miles.
      Mary Belle Bratlie, 99, plants to celebrate her 100th birthday today with friends, a birthday cake and most likely a walk. The party is planned from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Ridgefield. The Women's Society and Garden Club will serve a birthday cake in her honor.
      A roving landmark in Ridgefield, she has been seen almost daily for 72 years enjoying hikes of three miles or more around town.
      "Three miles used to be a short walk for me," Mary Belle said. Today she settles for a mile or less. In fact, she credits her walking and a gentle life with being able to reach her personal centennial. "I think it's those things that have kept me alive," she said. In fact, Mary Belle speculates that "more women would live longer if they got out more with other people." She describes herself as "not very bashful" and frequently finds friends and fellowship during her strolls.
      "Everybody knows her," said her Ridgefield friend Phyllis Potter. They say "there goes Matie (her lifelong nickname)." She walked to the altar to marry her husband, Hans Bratlie, in 1906. But her interest in walking began well before that. "I've always been a wandered," she said. "Where I was raised I used to walk up hills just to run down."
      At nearly 100 there's no more running. But she still strolls downtown, accompanied by handbag and cane, or the opposite direction toward the home she and her husband occupied. The town's sidewalks are like old friends, and equally considerate. " I know the streets so well," she said. "I've never had an accident."
      She stays inside only when the weather turns sour. Spring, she said, is her favorite walking season because many of its days dawn sweet and clear.
      She has outlived [all her siblings], four sisters [Maude, Birdsey, Edith and Elsie], three brothers [John, Garfield and Elmer] and her husband. He died in 1943 [actually 1945 or 1951].

Bratlie Brothers mill

By Bruce Westfall, Vancouver Columbian, 1989,
      Bratlie BrothersA big mill operated by the Bratlie Brothers provided a major impetus for the Ridgefield economy for more than a quarter of a century. One of the brothers, John Louis Bratlie, also entered the banking business at Ridgefield and Battle Ground.
      John Bratlie, a native of Minneapolis, Minn., left Skagit County for Alaska, where he built a mill. He returned to Skagit County in the early 1900s, and was in the mill business there. In 1913, seeking more lucrative fields, Bratlie went into partnership with Walter McClelland in a shingle mill in Ridgefield. His brother Hans, who had operated a newspaper in Concrete, joined as John Bratlie's partner about 1916 at the mill at Ridgefield.
      The plant, valued at $200,000, burned in the early 1920s but was rebuilt. Nearly a hundred persons worked there at the time. A 1927 magazine article reported that the Bratlies operated the largest exclusive cedar lumber manufacturing facility in the Columbia River area. The electrically operated plant provided bungalow siding and shingles. John Bratlie specialized in the mill machinery, and his brother had charge of outside activities, including sales.
      When the Ridgefield State Bank closed in the 1930s, John Bratlie bought the business. His daughter, Marjorie Ingels of Beaverton, Ore., said her father purchased the bank "just to keep it open; he needed a place to bank." Later he also purchased banks at Battle Ground and in Oregon. Mrs. Ingels was a director of all the banks, and worked at the Ridgefield bank.
      Hans Bratlie died about 1942 [actually 1945 or 1951]. A fire in July 1943 destroyed six dry kilns and the planing mill plus stockpiles at the Bratlie plant. John Bratlie, who was not in good health at the time and spending winters in California, decided not to rebuild. He also sold his interest in the banks.

Robert A. Minkler letter to David J. Van Meer, curator,
Skagit County Historical Museum, LaConner, late 1960s
      Mary Belle Minkler married Hans Jarvis Bratlie 1907 at the Minkler home Lyman. Born in Norway in 1878, he had come to Hamilton in 1899 to find his father who had left him and his brother in Minneapolis and "gone west" during 1890s depression. Father Julius was a blacksmith mainly for John Hightower. He bought the Hamilton Herald in 1910 , moved it to Concrete 1912. After fire on Feb. 16, 1915, that burned much of downtown Concrete, he sold the paper [first of many transient publishers until Charles Dwelley in 1929] and moved his family to Ridgefield, Clark county, where brother John had bought a mill manufacturing a full line of western red cedar products. They were partners until the 1945 death of Hans Jarvis Bratlie. Hans early on trained in leaded glass and designed one for the community church in Ridgefield three years before his death, which is now the community center building.

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