Site founded September 1, 2000, passing a half million page views in July 2005
These home pages remain free of any charge. We need donations or subscriptions/gifts for students, military and family. Please pass on this website link to your family, relatives, friends and clients.

(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 (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

(Click to send email)

Capt. Henry Roeder and Elizabeth Austin Roeder
Whatcom pioneers and founders

(Henry Roeder)
Henry Roeder. We hope that a reader will have more photos of him, his wife or their various homes

      In order to understand the lead-up to the settlement of Skagit county, we must study the settlement of Whatcom county, the mother of Skagit. And the first person you need to study is German immigrant Henry Roeder. Just as the towns of Marengo, Iowa, and Lincoln Center, Kansas, were the cradle for early Sedro pioneers, and as Ottumwa, Iowa, was the cradle for Swedish pioneers of both the Swinomish flats and Sedro, Vermilion, Ohio, was the cradle for many of the small band of settlers at the original village of Whatcom on Bellingham Bay in the 1850s. [Also see the Capsule Bios section for the background story on Vermilion.] We will eventually profile all the families who came west by wagon train from that town and make some connections between these settlers and both Skagit and Whatcom county that have not yet been established in various histories. And over the next few months, we will add more biographies of Henry Roeder, himself, from various other sources.

Biography of Henry Roeder and family

Published in History Of The Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington,
Elwood Evans, 1889

      In this veteran of the early times, as well as of the war of 1856, we have a representative of the men who first opened business on the Sound. As such he merits somewhat extended notice. He was born in Germany on July 4, 1824, his parents being John and Martha Roeder. He is connected by family ties with the great European events of the early part of the century, his father having been a soldier under Napoleon, and having fought in the battle of Waterloo. Not wishing to bear arms for Louis, nor rear his son to fight his battles, he with his family came to America when Henry was but seven years of age, and settled at Vermilion, Ohio. The nautical experience of the young man began on Lake Erie; and before he was twenty he was master of a schooner. In 1849 the gold fever of California reached his locality; and he made up his mind to take a run out to the mines, and be back in a year's time and take charge of a fine vessel in process of construction on the Vermilion river. It was twenty-two years before he had seen enough of the West to think of looking back again to life on the lake.
      The journey was begun February 23, 1850. The two six-mules teams, two wagons and camp outfit were secured at St. Louis; and the party of adventurers to which he belonged reached Salt Lake in time to hear Brigham Young deliver his first Fourth of July oration, in which he stated that the Saints would set up a government of their own. While there they disposed of their wagons for twenty-five dollars each in Mormon money, known as "Holiness to the Lord," which was worth in California about seventy-five cents on the dollar. Riding mule-back into California, they were pestered more or less by the Indians; and once in the Golden state Mr. Roeder had about the usual hard luck of the miner. In going from Ophir Flat, where his party were mining, to Sacramento City for supplies and mail, he had an attack of cholera, and was also three months on his back with typhoid fever. He mined, packed to the mines, and at length ran a store which he purchased of a lady who, previous to selling out, used to send down her half-gallon jars of dust to Sacramento as her profits. The business was not so profitable to young Roeder. He lost too much by selling on credit. There were too many "good fellows."
      In a fishing scheme on the Sacramento he made one hundred dollars per day. The money thus made he loaned to a friend; and that was the last of his six thousand dollars; for it was all lost through the great Sacramento fire. This success in the fishing line led him to try the same business on a more extended scale in the waters of the Columbia. Reaching Portland in the fall of 1852, news came that San Francisco had been burned, and that lumber was four hundred dollars per thousand. Mr. Peabody, the first owner of Whatcom, had come with him from below. The two men now changed their plan from fishing on the Columbia to lumbering on the Sound. With a canoe from St. Helens, they took the time-honored old Indian route to the Cowlitz, footing it from the Cowlitz landing across the Olympia, on company with Andrew Chambers and wife, Doctor Latham, and Honorable Charles M. Bradshaw. Here they must travel once more in a primitive canoe to North Bay; and, hauling the craft across the neck to Hood's Canal, they passed down that body of water to Port Townsend.
      Now, in search of the water-power and coal, the three explorers — for John Heath had joined the party — came to the Whatcom country, arriving there on December 14, 1852. Roeder taking one hundred and sixty acres as a Donation claim on the present site of Sehome, and Peabody on Whatcom, securing permission of the Indians to locate there. Roeder returned to Port Townsend for men and a carpenter, but on account of high water found no one willing to undertake the journey. In those days the good old German adage, "Find a way or make one, " had the emphasis on the latter clause. The ways and means to do things had to be made. In pursuance of this end, Roeder bought a sloop and sailed off for Victoria, securing there the supplies and men necessary; and upon his return to Whatcom he began building the mill. The next step was to secure the machinery which could be found only in California. Taking passage on a bark, he made the necessary purchase at the Sutter Iron Works, paying twenty-five cents per pound. The mill was thus brought to completion; but by this time the San Francisco market was glutted; and it was useless to endeavor to effect any sales there. The first lumber from Puget Sound that reached the Victoria market came from this mill. The first Church of England was constructed with it, also the barracks located at Esquimalt during the Crimean war.
      A second enterprise begun about that time was the opening of the Sehome coal mines, which were discovered after the Captain changed his claim to where he is now living by the uprooting of a large tree in a gale of wind. With Brown and Hewitt, however, he began to develop the vein, and they afterwards sold it for eighteen thousand, five hundred dollars, the whole of which Brown ran away with; and his partners never could either find him nor recover their shares. In the year 1854, together with two others, he built the schooner H.C. Page, the third of Puget Sound register [named for Henry Page, an original partner in Roeder's sawmill]. She was used for coasting and lumber export. In 1855 the same company of men laid out the road to British Columbia, passing across the Cascades to the Colville mines and thence north. Roeder himself viewed the road and blazed a way back from Frazer river. This was about a hundred and fifty miles of very rough country. In 1856, as the Indian war broke out, the settlers of the mill constructed a fort and stockade in the town; and thus, having their families barricaded, many of the men went off to the war east of the mountains. The year 1860 saw the Captains till prospering insomuch that he was owner of the bark Glimpse, and was engaged in coasting to San Francisco, thus returning his nautical life.
      The opening of the Caribou [actually Cariboo, north of the Fraser and Thompson river systems in central British Columbia] mines, however, drew him again to the mountains and gulches, this time as hotel keeper at Beaver Pass. Those were lively times. Meals were two dollars each, hay twenty cents per pound, barley seventy-five cents. Two very successful summers were spent at that rendezvous. Returning to his farm, he now endeavored to live quietly, but soon found it necessary to buy and run a schooner; and in 1866 he opened out the stone quarry at Chuckamet [actually Chuckanut].. The first stone went to build a lighthouse at new Dungeness. The quarry is now a bonanza.
      In a political way the Captain has kept his end up, having served one term in the territorial council, and eight sessions of the house, and as county commissioner of Whatcom county four terms. He is a Democrat, but has turned a regular majority of twenty-eight hundred on the opposite ticket by one hundred and twenty-one. His surplus money he has invested in real estate at Whatcom, and on Whidby [originally and now spelled Whidbey] Island. His wife, formerly Miss Elizabeth Austin, came to Washington in 1854, and to Whatcom in 1855, and is the daughter of Mrs. Charlotte Austin, who kept a hospital at Vermilion [Vermilion] for the sick and wounded from Perry's great victory on Lake Erie. They have two children living: Victor, now in business at Roeder in the Mohawk valley; and Lotta [Lottie] C Roeder Roth., wife of C.I. Roth, an attorney of Whatcom. Both the Captain and his wife are members of the Washington Pioneer Society.
      Ed. note: This biography is courtesy of this website, a transcription of the vital resource, History Of The Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington, by Elwood Evans, 1889. Janine Bork and Marjorie Rundall Campbell have painstakingly transcribed almost all of the two volumes of this 1889 book, for which all we researchers should be eternally grateful. They share the information in hopes that family researchers and students will learn from it. Please thank them personally: Bork and Campbell. Ms. Bork has authorized us since 2000 to use excerpts for educational purposes; please be very careful how you share this information and please request permission to re-publish it.

Links and further reading

Story posted on xx
Did you enjoy this story? Please consider subscribing to the optional Subscribers Edition. That is how we fund this grand project.
Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. Thank you.

Return to our home page anytime
You can read about our prime sponsors:
(bullet) Allelujah Business Systems/Copies/Mailbox, 133-B State St., Sedro-Woolley, 360 855-1157
Preserve your family keepsakes . . . allcopiersystems web page
(bullet) Schooner Tavern/Cocktails at 621 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, across from Hammer Square: web page . . . History of bar and building
(bullet) Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
(bullet) Joy's Sedro-Woolley Bakery-Cafe at 823 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
(bullet) Heirloom Gardens Natural Foods at 805B Metcalf street, the original home of Oliver Hammer.
(bullet) Bus Jungquist Furniture at 829 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 36 years.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.

Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit river, just a short driver from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley.

Would you like to buy a country church, pews, belfry, bell, pastor's quarters and all? Email us for details.
Looking for something special on our site? Enter name, town or subject, then press "Find"
Search this site powered by FreeFind
Did you find what you were looking for? If not, please email us and tell us what you seek and we will put it on our list to research. The more details, the better.
Please sign our guestbook so our readers will know where you found out about us, or share something you know about the Skagit River or your memories or those of your family. Share your reactions or suggestions or comment on our Journal. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit our site.
Sign Our Guestbook Get your own FREE Guestbook from htmlGEAR
View Our Guestbook
Remember, we welcome correction and criticism. Please click on the email slot at the right to report any problems with these pages or to suggest ideas for future stories. This is a completely free site. We fund it by providing an online magazine for paid subscribers. If you are not already a subscriber and you would like to help support our considerable research costs, you can subscribe for just $20.00 per year. As a paid subscriber, you will receive eight yearly issues plus many rare treats between times, including scans of photos and documents that illustrate local history, before they are shared with anyone else. You can go here for Subscription details and you can read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research. You may also order gift subscriptions for friends, family or clients who are interested in local history or students or military people who are away from home. Or you can email us for more details. Do you have scanned photos to share? Or you can mail us copies. See addresses to right.
Email us at:
(Click to send email)
Mail copies/documents to street address: Skagit River Journal, 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284.