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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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Up the Skagit river, 1877

By Eldridge Morse Jr., Publisher, The Northern Star, Snohomish, Saturday, April 9, 1877
(Skagit River Journal editor's notes, clarifications and results of research in brackets: [ ])

      Leaving Centreville on Tuesday evening of last week, we rowed down the [Hatt's] Slough to the Skagit river channel, thence with the incoming tide up to the river. Making a short call on the free-hearted Robert Freeman, then going upriver to Mr. Prichard's place, where we stopped for the night; finding a cordial welcome from Porter Prichard, who resides with his parents; and who now is taking care of his father, Jackson P. Prichard, a venerable gentleman, some sixty-eight years old, who has led and active and useful life; but who now is suffering from disease of the brain, which seems rapidly to weaken his mental powers, so that he is but a wreck of his former self. He is failing so fast, and has reached that time of his life when it is quite doubtful if he ever fully recovers again. [Ed. note: the proper spelling for the town of Stanwood was Centerville in most records; we do not know why Morse used the anglicized version. Was it spelled both ways? We will need a Snohomish expert to answer that. Centerville was renamed Stanwood by Daniel Pearson in 1878. Centerville was renamed Stanwood by Daniel Pearson in 1878. J.P. Prichard died on Nov. 11, 1892.]
      Across the river, nearly opposite from his [Prichard's] residence, Mr. [Charles] Villeneuve lies very low. It is feared that it may be his last sickness. [Actually, Villeneuve (see this Journal website: ) lived several more decades, became the postmaster of Conway and then built the Royal Hotel in Sedro-Woolley, where his son was also city marshal.] A large two-masted scow was anchored in front of Mr. [Prichard's] residence, containing a party of settlers just moving down from Olympia, and locating in the valley. [You will also notice in Morse's columns that he describes visiting Olympia, Seattle, etc. as going "up sound," which seems odd since he was going south, but that was a saying of those days. Conversely, the settlers moved "down" from Olympia, even though they were moving north.]

The new town of Skagit City
      On Wednesday morning, leaving Mr. [Prichard's] residence, we turned our double-ender skiff up stream, towards Skagit City, visiting the different settlers on the way; stopping at the residences of [Joe] Lisk [who died a few years later and his widow married Jesse Beriah Ball, who founded Sterling]; W.H. Sartwell [the first settler on the fork, Sartwell was set back when his infant child died that month]; C. Thompson; J.V. Abbott; Joseph Wilson [who later became the prime settler of the Skiyou district upriver and the namesake of the early school district there]; A.G. Kelly and L. Sweet. Each and all making our visit pleasant and agreeable, and furnishing much information about the crops, etc., as well as the wonderfully rapid development of the resources of the river in all its business interests; to say nothing of its extraordinary rapid increase in population, caused by the great number of new settlers, coming into the valley for homes on each trip of the Fanny Lake.
      At Mr. Thompson's place we met a number of people [this was not the famous Dr. Thompson who became a mainstay of Skagit City after he moved there from Missouri later in 1882-3. But we wonder if this Thompson was a relative.] here also we took time to examine carefully the beautiful new dwelling house Mr. T is building. The building is two stories high, fronting the river, and is well-proportioned. The ell [?] runs back from the main part, and will be one and one half stories in height. A well and pump is so arranged with connecting pipes that water will be carried to all the lower part of the house where desired. The work is being very carefully performed by Mr. L. Kelly, an experienced workman. The house when finished will be the best [of] any dwelling on the river.
      At Skagit City we found Mr. [Edward] McAlpine was getting his new house fitted up very nicely, and his lady makes it very pleasant for all who call there. Mr. [Daniel E.] Gage is doing a prosperous business and getting well settled down to domestic life. He carries a large and well selected stock of goods. His dealing is always considered honorable and he has done in the past few years as much or more than one man else resident in the Skagit valley for the growth of that river. Despite the fact that other stores will come, and improved means of communication, with competition in business will gradually necessitate a reduction of prices in some things sold, yet Mr. Gage is a man who always will command a very large, perhaps the leading trade of that river. The large building erected by him, containing store, residence and large public hall would be an acquisition to any community. Adjoining the store of [Daniel] E. Gage, the commodious two-story hotel building of Horan Bros. is fast approaching completion. It is now in condition to receive guests, and opens out with a good patronage. Its location is very convenient, and these gentlemen cannot fail to do well. [The National Register of Historic Places shows a hotel in Chelan that is still standing, which was built by and for a Michael Horan.]

North fork of the Skagit river
      On Thursday morning we left this hotel to go down the north fork. It had been our intention to go up to the jam about three miles above Skagit City, then down in a small boat to LaConner, but learning that the drift from the jam had temporarily stopped up the upper end of this branch of the river, we left the boat at the store, and walked down to Mr. Tollbar's and back; visiting the residences of J. Gainey, T.J.V. Clark, W. Oughton [this must have been William Houghton], [Joseph] L. Maddox, or Esq. Maddox, as he is more familiarly known. [Ed. note: The Tollbar he mentions was actually a Finnish immigrant named Charles Tollber, sometimes also misspelled as Tolber, who arrived on the north fork in the very early 1870s and took up a claim and then bought other land nearby. Tollber married a sister of Magnus Anderson, who was the pioneer of the north fork of the Skagit, and — like Anderson, he was a ship's carpenter; he built the first ferry across the north fork. At Mr. T place we met Sheriff Allen assessing, with whom we had a very pleasant chat. Mr. A. is a very courteous gentleman, who has rendered us a great many favors and is well spoken [of] all over Whatcom county. [Ed. note: that was G.W. Allen, an early pioneer of the Skagit river area who was elected sheriff of Whatcom county when the Skagit valley was still the southern part. Allen later platted the village of Atlanta, a short-lived village on the north shore of Samish island.]

The logjams
      After returning from the north fork, we started from the [Gage] store to visit the jam, the venerable Mr. [Augustus] Hartson accompanying until opposite his residence, near the former commencement of the lower jam. At present all the lower jam is out, and it is between one and two miles to the upper jam; or that portion of it not yet removed from what was once the crossing point below the lower jam.
      We first visited Mr. Hanson's logging camp, where we met a number of men formerly residents of this [Snohomish] valley or who had worked in camps on the Snohomish. [This logging camp could have been owned by John Hanson, a very early pioneer of the Beaver marsh area, or maybe the man who owned Hanson & Co., which outfitted loggers in the early 1880s]. Among these men was Mr. H. Davis, who worked last year with Bennet & Flatteau [we suspect that this is Harvey Davis, brother of the Baptist minister of Riverside, B.N.L. Davis]. Having some business to transact with him, we found him skidding for a logging road. Mr. [Hanson] is hauling an extra fine lot of spruce logs, almost clear stuff. To get to where Mr. Davis was at work, we had to climb over several trees just cut down, and neither sawed nor swamped out, one in particular was perfectly straight, without a crook or any considerable knot. Just as we climbed over it, on our way tot he camp, we saw measured off four, twenty-four-feet cuts. Except for the inconvenience of hauling so long and heavy a stick, it could just as well have been hauled in one stick, ninety-six feet long, which would have scaled upwards of 6,000 feet of clear stuff from one tree.
      About one-third of a mile above Mr. Hanson's camp is the camp of William Gage, this being situate directly opposite the camp of the jam loggers, the gentlemen who have done so effectual work for the public in removing the Skagit jams. It is [solely] by their work, Mr. Gage and Mr. Hanson are able to get at the fine timber each were hauling.

The new town of Mount Vernon forms
      It is only about one year, or little more since our first visit to the jam. Then there was nothing above the lower jam, near these jams, besides the loggers camp that a person would notice in the shape of business. Now just adjoining Mr. Gage's logging works we found a town starting into life with all the various institutions incident to a business centre [we see from this that he always spells center with the anglicized version]. Messrs. Clothier & English had just erected a two-story building, the lower story for a general merchandise store, while above was a public hall. Only a short distance from this store was Mr. Shott's new hotel, also two stories in height and well fitted to accommodate those likely to visit it there. [The Shotts divorced five years later and researcher Tom Robinson discovered the court records where Minerva Kimble swore that she had known Mrs. Shott since they were little girls, so the wife could have also been from Missouri.] Chas. [actually David E.] Kimble's residence is close by. Mr. Cottenbaugh is putting up a very tasty house. We also met Mr. [John] Cornelius of the Swinomish, who was up there to survey the new townsite and plat it, so that each one would know their boundaries. Others are preparing to build. For the present at least until after the removal of the jam and the starting of a town higher up the river, it will be quite a business centre catching a good deal of up river trade; but the largest permanent town will in time be built above the jam.
      Near by the townsite is a very commanding ridge, from which the town derives its patriotic name of Mount Vernon, recalling the sentiment felt by every American:

      The soul of yore! The soul that gave
      Their glory to our soil and wave
      From Vernon's mount to Ashland's grave,
      Still lightens through the sky.

[See this Journal website about the founding of Mount Vernon: l ]
      That evening we crossed the river to the camp of the jam loggers. They informed us that about three-fourths of the work was done in getting the upper jam out. At present the river is [too] low to work efficiently. On the 14th of March, a freshet started about twenty acres of surface of the jam loose. This choked up most all the lower part of the river so that since that date much of their time has been occupied in reopening these channels and saving the logs found in this drift. After a short visit with them, we went to Mr. ]Hartson's] house, with whom we stopped for the night. Mr. Hartson was the first settler above the forks. He took his claim in 1873. [Ed. note: Morse is mistaken about this. Jasper Gates and Joseph F. Dwelley both staked claims on what is now Mount Vernon proper in 1870 and David E. Kimble staked a claim at Kimble's Bend, the last point a boat could reach before the lower logjam, a few dozen yards to the north, could be removed. Kimble apparently bought the lots from Gates where the house mentioned above was located, or traded him for property somewhere on his own claim to the south. This reference could have been to either the patriarch, Augustus Hartson, or his son, George Hartson.]
      The first white [woman] ever settled on the north fork was Mrs. [Thomas R.] Jones, who came there in the fall of 1870. Mrs. Hartson and her daughter, now Mrs. William Gage [Emily], and Mrs. [Isaac] Lanning and her daughter [Ida] were the first white women who ever slept in the Skagit river valley. This was in the summer of 1870. Mrs. Hartson moved to the river, to live there the year after. They have opened themselves out a fine place on a very high bench of bottom land above all freshets or trouble of that kind. [Ed. note: actually there were others who migrated over to the river area from Whidbey Island that year of 1870. You can read about them in this Journal website of memories of David E. Kimble and Mrs. S.C. Washburn: and this Journal website that is a transcription of pages 100-105 of the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties. Morse also left out the wife of John Cornelius, Bessie, who slept on their claim near Pleasant Ridge as early as 1867 and that is certainly within Skagit valley. See other Hartson notes at the end of this story.]

Other Skagit valley notes
      On Friday morning, leaving Mr. [Hartson's] kindly care, walked down to Skagit City, crossing the north fork on the jam, there temporarily formed by the drift from above; thence by skiff to Centerville, and on last week Saturday, pulling a heavily loaded boat from Centerville to Snohomish City, missing the steamers on the way.
      It is only a few months since we carefully went over this whole ground, yet the progress had been so great that it was noticeable on every hand. Thus last December, Nooka Charmish, Nooka Champs or Nooka Samish as it is variously pronounced, a stream flowing into the Skagit about six miles above the jam, was just being spoken of [now spelled Nookachamps]. some few having located claims there, now there is about twenty or more claims taken. Seven years ago there was hardly a score of claims in the whole Skagit valley, and no white woman living there; yet there are [now] some 700 settlers in the valley, now with an extraordinary number of families — probably between one or two hundred white women there. [That is a surprising figure. Perhaps someone who has consulted various censuses, 1871 or 1880 or other population figures, can provide such figures.]

      Ralph C. Hartson, grandson of Augustus and Rebecca [Meloney] Hartson, and son of George and Matilda [Gates] Hartson, and later the editor of the Skagit News newspaper of Mount Vernon, was quoted in the 1979 book, Skagit Memories, as saying that his grandfather built his home and barn and eventually expanded the acreage for farming. He recalled that that their "nearby neighbors were Frank Buck, [William] Gage, Isaac Lanning, Denny Storrs, and Rudolph Pulver. Mr. Pulver sold out to Charles Penn and moved to the Olympia marsh.] An interesting bit of trivia is that Dennis Storrs settled on the west bank of the Skagit in 1875 after moving here from Mount Vernon, Iowa. No, the town wasn't named for that reason; it was named in honor of George Washington's Virginia home of Mount Vernon.

Two other stories of note in this issue
Local Agents for The Northern Star
Sheriff G.W.L. Allen for Whatcom county
B.L. Martin for LaConner
D.E. Gage for Skagit City
Maj. G.O. Haller for Coupeville, Island county
G.M. Haller for Port Townsend, the Major's son
      [See this Journal website: xx the introduction to Eldridge Morse for the connection between Morse and the Haller family]
A.B. Woodard for Olympia
T.P. Woodard for Port Gamble
John M. Izett for Oak Harbor, Island county
Henry Oliver for Centreville
      [Henry Oliver was a very early settler of the area around Centerville — now Stanwood — and a large landowner there. He was also the father of Mrs. Fannie Morse, listed on the masthead of this issue as an associate editor. She was the second wife of Morse. His first wife died in 1876.]

International news
      Russia's objects in making war upon Turkey are to gain the right of way to China and obtain the freedom of Bulgaria, Herzagovinia, Roumania, Servia and Bosnia. [As Yogi Berra would say: D??j?? vu all over again.]

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.

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