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Skagit River Journal

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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
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Early and historic Anacortes photos
Chapter 2 of the Paul Dorpat series

      Paul Dorpat, author of the very popular Seattle Now & Then series of books along with articles in the Seattle Times, is working on a new book that will include historic photographs taken all over Washington state. For years now, he has been fascinating us with an historic photo placed side by side with another that shows the present site. The new book will be titled Washington State Then and Now, and the photographer of the "Now" photos will be Jean Sherrard. As we discussed his newest project, he asked me if I knew of photographs he should consider including, and then he shared with me some photos that almost made the cut. This is the second chapter of this series of features, specifically focusing on historic photographs of Anacortes and Ship Harbor. You will find a whole series of our exclusive stories about the Samish River Valley towns in five issues of our optional Subscribers Edition. The first chapter included photographs of Chuckanut Drive, the Great Northern railroad route in that area and the Pacific Northwest Interurban. Five of the photos on this page are ones that Dorpat shared.
      After discussion, I thought it would be a good idea to ask our readers to look at the photos and see if they can help with the provenance, i.e. the photographer, when it was taken and exactly where, the subject; names of people, towns and/or buildings; and any other details they might recognize. We prefer to credit photographers and collectors whenever possible. In addition, we hope that readers will submit sample scans of photos in their collections. Paul looks both at traditional photographs and postcards, as well as promotional brochures and maps with photos. If you have one or more you would like considered, please email us and attach the photo, preferably in .jpg format. We prefer low resolution to begin with and please keep the file size to less than 500 megabytes, 200 or less if you can edit the photo in your own program.
      We start with the 11 photos below, all of them involving Anacortes and/or Fidalgo Island. Your help with the photos will make the story even more informative and interesting. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide. Issue 34 of the optional Subscribers Edition will include an exclusive five-part series of our own extensive research about Anacortes and the Bowman family, along with transcriptions of old articles and book sections.

(Bowman store)
      The photo above is of the first general store and post office that was built by Amos Bowman, civil engineer and town founder. The Anacortes Story, a book compiled by Dan Wollam and published by the Anacortes Museum of History and Art in 1965, explains: "Bowman was the community's first postmaster. City was established on 160-acre tract on the northeast shore of Fidalgo island and expanded to its present limits as rival factions pressed its development in the turbulent months of 1890. Bowman's early dream was to see Anacortes, with railroads leading the way, emerge as the foremost Pacific Coast link with the orient. He died in 1894, when the boom had gone bust during the nationwide Depression, believing that his intense efforts had met with failure. The store was east of Commercial in the vicinity of Q. Among those pictured is pioneer settler William Allard in the wagon." Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives.

Bowman Hall
By W.V. Wells, Anacortes American newspaper, Dec. 15, 1927
      In some respects buildings are like people. some figure more or less prominently in their respective communities; while others are less conspicuous. Some get into the habit of moving about while others remain in the same place as long as they live. To some the elements are kind and they live a long time; to others fate is not so kind and they are soon gone.
      The one building that has more of a touch of romance and around which cluster more events of historic interest than any other building in Anacortes is a little dwelling house situated on the north side of Fourth street and about midway in the block between T and U avenues. This house faced to the west and nestled with a group of cedars and maples a rod or two to the south of it s present location, and was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Amos Bowman.
      The Bowmans came to Fidalgo island in 1875, and in 1877, when practically all of Fidalgo island was a wilderness, they purchase the land which now comprises Cap Sante and that portion of the original townsite north of Eleventh street and east of O avenue. The Cap Sante home of the Bowmans from the time of its construction in 1877 to the time of the platting of the city of Anacortes in January 1880, was known as the "Hall." Because of the convenience of the home and the hospitality of its owners, the early settlers of Fidalgo and Guemes islands made the Bowman residence their meeting place for religious and other public gathering.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Stumps in 1890)

Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives.
(Brown building)

Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives.
(Anacortes wharf)
Far left: This is future Anacortes at the northern tip of Fidalgo island in the winter of 1890, just as the big real estate boom started based on the construction of the Seattle & Northern railroad east to the town of Woolley. The photographer was standing at what would later become the corner of 8th and I streets, looking east. Guemes island is to the left and the Anacortes Hotel is under construction at the right. Cap Sante is in the far background and you can see Amos Bowman's hotel/store at the northern tip. It burned in 1891.. Center: Brown's Land and Engineering office was one of several such businesses that sprung up overnight to accommodate the real estate boom speculators and developers. Can a reader tell us more about Mr. Brown? . Right: This view is north from Anacortes to the Seattle & Northern railroad dock. It was taken on Nov. 25, 1890 when the first through train from Seattle arrived in town, via Woolley. Passengers could transfer to Puget sound steamboats there and grain, logs, coal and various ores were transferred to ocean-going steamers and ships. Manufactured goods and other products returned on the train to Woolley and later to Hamilton and Rockport, which became the upriver terminus. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives.

Click on these thumbnail photos to see the full-sized photos
(Anacortes Mills)
(Mt. Erie)
Far left. In this photo we are looking west from Cap Sante to mills along the eastern shore of the Anacortes peninsula where shingle and lumber mills and box factories were located side by side after the turn of the century and the waterway was used for log booms.
Center: This is Mount Erie at the south central part of Fidalgo island. Lake Erie is to the southwest of the hill. Lake Campbell is in the foreground. This scene, looking north, is what you will see today as you travel south on Hwy 20 around the eastern end of Lake Campbell.

Click on these thumbnail photos to see the full-sized photos
(Ferry Dock 1)
(Ferry Dock 2)
These two photographs are of the Anacortes Ferry dock, both taken in about 1940. The dock is close to where the international ferry dock is located today. The site was where the original village of Ship Harbor rose in the 1870s. In most cases up until 1890, Ship Harbor was the preferred map name for the whole region including what is now Anacortes; for a few years both names were used and by the early 1890s, Anacortes became the correct spelling, in honor of Amos Bowman's wife, Annie.

(Amos Bowman)
Amos Bowman. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives.

Amos Bowman, Dec. 15, 1839-June 18, 1894
By John Conrad, Puget Sound Mail newspaper, LaConner, Aug. 4, 1966
      [Ed. note: this profile of Amos Bowman was featured in the annual Pioneer Picnic edition. We will feature full biographies of the Bowmans in the upcoming Anacortes series in the separate Subscribers Edition, Issue 34. John Conrad was the memorialist for the Skagit County Pioneers Association from 1949-73.]
      When Amos Bowman came in Anacortes in 1875 the north side of Fidalgo island was practically a dense forest. He came to Anacortes directly [following] the results of the Canadian Pacific [railroad] explorations when it was [planned] that the road would take the course of the Fraser valley and Anacortes was the direct outlet and commercial terminus. Mr. Bowman bought 168 acres and [Bowman] at once started building a town. He built a wharf and a store, established a post office, newspaper and was instrumental in having, inside and outside, steamboat routes established from Port Townsend via Anacortes and the islands to Whatcom. He built warehouses for Swinomish grain and arranged for ocean steamers to stop at Anacortes docks. At this time he published a railroad map showing the future of Anacortes and western Washington. By 1882 he realized he would have to wait the coming of more people, and reentered the service of the Canadian government.
      In 1888 he sensed it was time for progress to move forward again, returned to Anacortes, helped raise a subsidy for the building of a road from Anacortes 30 miles to the coal mines [near Woolley and Hamilton] and deeded 50 acres of land to the Oregon Improvement Company to aid the development of the city. In the winter of 1889-90 the railroad excitement became intense and population began to flock to the town, streets were laid out, wharves built, the land cleared, a station erected, and in a year and a half from the time the best restaurant was under a tent, there were — a number of good hotels (two of them were brick), one state bank and one national bank, several churches, a public grammar school and a high school in a $40,000 building, iron works, two saw mills, a sash and door factory, a brewery, six large ocean docks with terminal tracks, and electric lights, an electric motor line running the full length of the island, a fine opera house, a daily newspaper and a connection with the Northern Pacific, Union and Canadian Pacific Railroads. The people thought so much of Mr. Bowman's efforts (and those of his wife) that they named the city after his wife, Anne Curtis Bowman.

Anne Curtis Bowman, Jan. 28, 1846-April 7, 1906
Partly based on details from an unpublished manuscript by Eunice Darvill
(Annie Curtis Bowman)
Annie Curtis Bowman. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives.

      Anne Bondfield Curtis was born on Jan. 28, 1846, in Belleville, New jersey, the second youngest of six children. Her parents were M. Mellville Curtis, mill owner, and Sophia Louisa Allsopp, daughter of Robert Allsopp, Commissary General and prominent landowner at Quebec, Canada. Around 1862, life changed greatly for all the Curtis children with the death of their father after a lingering illness, which diminished their financial resources.
      In 1868, Annie traveled west with her mother and her sister Sallie, with whom she would remain close the ret of her life. They joined her older brother and sister. Brother Allen was a mining superintendent in Austin, Nevada. The younger sisters settled with sister Lucretia and her husband, William Carpenter, near Marysville, California. Annie soon met Amos Bowman there through her brother-in-law. Annie and Sallie later moved to Austin to join their brother but she returned in April 1871 to marry Amos Bowman in Smartsville, California. Soon after their marriage, Annie traveled back to the northeast with family and visited Amos's parents along with her own relatives. Those visits also included itinerary to Canada and Cap Sante near Quebec especially impressed her, a name that she tucked away for future reference.
      After returning home to Amos at their San Francisco home, Annie gave birth to Wendell Cortez Bowman in 1873, so we can see the early favor of the Spanish Cortez name, possibly due to friendship with Spaniards on the sailing trip back east. He was followed by Clytie Lucretia in 1874. After work with the geological survey in California, Amos traveled to Seattle for another geological survey for railroad interests in Washington territory. While there, Amos combed through the archives of Northern Pacific and discovered the company's interest in Fidalgo island as a possible West Coast terminus. Annie joined Amos in time for Bondfield (Ben) to be born in Seattle on Dec. 4, 1876. In the following year they all moved to a small village named Ship Harbor on Fidalgo island. Annie quickly impressed the handful of families living around the island and they agreed with her husband who named a new town Anacortes, derived from her name and Cortez, which fit in with the original Spanish names for landmarks in the area. They named their new home Cap Sante from Annie's contact in Quebec.
      Although Anacortes was largely wilderness and remote, the cosmopolitan and educated Annie set about to support her husband's plan for a future metropolis. They were soon joined by her sister Sallie, who married Dr. T.B. Childs. The honeymooners moved back to Austin, Nevada for a few years but later returned to Fidalgo. Annie's younger brother Melville also joined them in the late 1880s when Anacortes was planning for the railroad and boom times. Annie tended to the family during the 1880s when the local economy lagged and Amos was called away often for geological contracts south of the border and in British Columbia and when he traveled and researched with author Hubert Howe Bancroft.
      Finally, after 12 years of patient waiting and preparation, the Bowmans' vision finally blossomed in 1889-91 as the Seattle & Northern railroad was built from Ship Harbor to Woolley and various railroad interests boomed Anacortes as a classic example of frontier railroad/real estate promotion. Original settlers made small fortunes from their original homesteads and dozens of substantial buildings and homes sprung up on more than two-dozen plats. But, as with Sedro and Woolley to the east, the railroad boom was brief. James J. Hill of the Great Northern railroad overtook Northern Pacific and built the main north-south rail line and S&N became a spur line. Then a depressed economy began setting in locally in 1892 and a full-blown nationwide depression dried up capital from 1893-96. But worse for Annie was the death of Amos on June 18, 1894, and his doubts in his own success in his last years. Annie's brothers proved to be better businessmen.
      Annie could no longer live in Anacortes. She soon moved the children to Sumas, Washington, on the Canadian border, and although they returned for visits with family and friends, Anacortes — her namesake city, would never be home again. As if grief over Amos wasn't bad enough, Annie's son Ben attended the University of California at Berkeley to study mining engineering with his cousin Harold Childs and while there he contracted a spinal illness and Annie went to California to care for him. After Annie died from a heart attack in California in April 1906, with Sallie by her side, her body was returned to Anacortes and she was buried next to Amos.

Click on these thumbnail photos to see the full-sized photos
(Anacortes from Cypress island)
(Anacortes waterfront)
Far left. This photo was taken from Cypress island and the photographer was looking southeast, with Guemes island to the left and the Anacortes peninsula at the northern end of Fidalgo island in the center. You can also see how extensively this area was oriented to the waterways all around. This photo is from the Mike Aiken postcard collection.
Center: This oil painting is by an unnamed artist from 1891, who was looking north towards the tip of Cap Sante and the tip of March's point peninsula. The painting was given to the Anacortes Museum by the Moyers family several decades ago and this photo of it is courtesy of Puget Sound Mail archives..

Links, background reading and sources
      Update: April 2006: A reader has complained that we should have taken more care to determine the provenance of the collected photos before posting this site. We are working to determine the photographers of each photo and other details of provenance. We want to point out that we have assembled scans of Anacortes from many sources. Those include descendants and others readers who wrote to us in response to various Anacortes articles; copies we made from the files of the Puget Sound Mail when we negotiated buying that newspaper in 1982; gifts from readers and friends and rare old issues of newspapers and magazines, and rare books that we own or that have been loaned to us. We also want to remind readers that the most comprehensive collection of such photos are from Wallie Funk, third-generation Anacortes pioneer descendant and publisher of the Anacortes American. The mass of photos was carefully catalogued by Theresa Trebon and a representative exhibit opens at the Anacortes Museum in the old Carnegie Library on April 29, 2006. We strongly urge you to visit the museum gallery for the show — call for hours. We also refer you to Trebon's excellent book, First Views, An Early History of Skagit County 1850-1899, volume two in the Skagit Valley Herald book series, which features dozens of photos from the Funk collection.

Story posted on Story posted on June 25, 2005, and last updated on April 18, 2006
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This article originally appeared in Issue xx of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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