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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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Capsule profiles of Anacortes and
Fidalgo Island pioneers, businesses and place names
Part 2: M-R

(Anacortes Mercantile)
      This photo of the Very Big Snow in February 1916 is a view looking north-northeast on Commercial Street. That snow completely inundated Skagit County, the Skagit River froze completely over for about three weeks and communication with the outside world was catch as catch can, as they said back then. The white wonderland was of course every child's dream, the answer to boredom and prayers mid-winter that something, anything, would close school for the day, except that in this case they closed for a week or two. Claudia Lowman supplied the photo and she notes that the store across the street was Dodge's Clothes Shop; the Bon Ton Bakery was just up the street from the Mercantile, which was the major retail store of town. The building itself was born as the McNaught building (see below), erected in 1890-91, located seven blocks to the west when attorney James McNaught and his associates were attempting to set up an alternate downtown at what was then referred to as the "West End." After the turn of the 20th century, R. Lee Bradley bought the building and moved it on log rollers to Commercial. We hope someone will find photos of this move because it must have been a phenomenal effort and sight in those early days. The building still stands on Commercial, but you would never know it was the same one. It is now the toney Majestic Hotel, which reopened in 2005 after nearly two years of total remodel following the fire that gutted the original structure in 2001.

      This multi-part section offers the reader brief capsulized profiles that may be expanded into full stories in the future. It was set up as a collection of end notes to our feature on the intriguing twin stories that Anacortes pioneer Amos Bowman wrote, Eleven Years Hence, 1879 and 1890. You will find a click link in each capsule that will lead you back to the place in the story where you were reading. This section will be expanded in future issues. The capsules are alphabetized, using the first letter of the person's last name or the first letter of the business, building or place name.

James M. McNaught (1842-1919)
      James D. McNaught will be profiled at length in the future. For a man who had such an influence on Washington Territory and a family that had such influence on several towns of Skagit County — Anacortes, Mount Vernon and Hamilton, they have oddly not been profiled in detail. James Marston McNaught was born on Sept. 9, 1842, in McLean, Illinois, to George and Nancy (Franklin) McNaught. He graduated from a law school in Chicago in 1864 and then lived elsewhere in the Midwest until about 1869 (Theresa Trebon says 1867) when he lived briefly in Portland and then soon settled in Olympia, where he practiced law with Selucius Garfield, a territorial delegate to the Congress.
      Later that year he moved to the young city of Seattle and practiced briefly with John J. McGilvra and then spent seven years in a practice with John Leary. Then he formed the McNaught Brothers law firm after his brothers, John Franklin McNaught and then Joseph McNaught, joined him in 1878. In the 1880s they were joined by former Washington Territory Governor Elisha P. Ferry (1872-80). Another partner was Thomas S. Reed Jr. who was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889 to be Register of the Land Office in Olympia.
      James invested in Seattle real estate, starting in 1871, and he later built a striking mansion at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Spring Street, which eventually became the home of the Rainier Club and still later was moved across the street when replaced by the Seattle Carnegie Library. In 1869, McNaught became a director of and attorney for the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad, which was planned to connect with steamboat traffic at Wallula. From 1880-87, he was retained as counsel for the Northern Pacific at various times and in 1883 he invested in the Anacortes townsite as a front man for the railroad (see M.V.B. Stacy). Although various sources noted that McNaught arrived in Seattle nearly broke — just like his attorney contemporary and future Judge Thomas Burke, Trebon notes that by 1883, the McNaught partnership was referred to as the "Boss Law Firm of the territory." In that same year, when NP finally completed its true transcontinental line to Tacoma, McNaught was involved with interests that invested in speculation on Fidalgo Island, but then NP encountered financial troubles again and Fidalgo excitement once again cooled.
      By 1889, McNaught once again invested heavily in Anacortes as a principal in the "West End" group that tried to establish a city center along I and J avenues. He built his flagship building there and also erected a mansion and a wharf. At Burrows Bay, about four miles southwest of Anacortes and on the west side of Fidalgo Island, the McNaught Northern Pacific Syndicate improved upon the initial sawmill that Messrs. Edward L. Shannon and T. Henry Havekost originally set up nearly two decades before. A spur of the railroad was extended there early in the boom period, where an oatmeal factory mill was set up by J.M. Moore and turned out 100 barrels of oatmeal a day; the Puget Sound Lime Company erected a barrel-making mill, the syndicate built a new sawmill and Havekost built a hotel.
      We are unsure, however, how much of his time McNaught spent here because in 1887 he was named general attorney for NP, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He became general counsel for NP in 1889 and then moved to New York, where he represented the railroad until 1896 and then established a private practice there until 1903. He branched out his rail interests to include the Great Northern Railway of Canada and in Guatemala. Back in 1888, he was also a principal of the Manitoba Railway Co. and in 1900 that line experienced considerable losses, some of which was blamed on McNaught siphoning money out for his personal use. When Railroad Barons are referred to, his name often crops up.
      Another brother, N.F. McNaught, invested in mining operations in Silverton, Snohomish County, and then invested in the Anacortes and Hamilton townsite booms in 1890. His base remained in Silverton, where he died in 1911. His obituary mentions that brother Joseph was involved in a government project in Hermiston, Oregon. One of the McNaught brothers — whose first name we have not yet determined, advertised in the first 1884 issues of the Mount Vernon Skagit News as an attorney in partnership with W.W. Tinkham. You can read more about the brothers at these Journal websites: here (re: Huntoon brothers and building) and here and here and here and here and you can read a biography of James at this external website [Return to Eleven Years Hence

Humphrey P. O'Bryant
      Humphrey P. O'Bryant was a very early settler on Guemes Island and he had one of the first claims there along with James Matthews and Alan Kettles. O'Bryant bought his original land from an itinerant French trapper in 1866 and he became the postmaster for the growing group of residents there. In 1876 he sent samples of mineral ore from his island claim to San Francisco and although the samples were tested and determined to crystallized with gold and copper ore, his mine did not prosper; it did reopen briefly when interest was revived in the 1880s. He tramped all over Fidalgo and Guemes Island seeking land parcels along with M.V.B. Stacy and others for the 3,000 acres needed as an inducement for the Seattle & Northern Railroad. [Return to Eleven Years Hence]

Opera House
      The Opera House that Amos Bowman predicted in his 1879 letter to the Bellingham Bay Mail did indeed become a fact, erected in 1890-91, with financial backing from Bowman. Once again we rely on the memory and research of Claudia Lowman, descendant of the Bill Lowman family, who has conducted considerable research of Fidalgo Island history, and Larry LaRue of Anacortes. Lowman says she has found a booklet that advertised an Anacortes Musical Club musical program there on Dec. 2, 1919, at what was by the time the IOOF (Odd Fellows) Opera House. She also found an article about a Jan. 16, 1913, concert, which calls the building the "IOOF opera house," in lower case. LaRue recalls that the building stood at about 1105 6th Street, about a block and a half west of Commercial Avenue. We do not yet know when the IOOF bought the building. Lowman recalls that when she was a child growing up in Anacortes in the 1950s, the building was already boarded up. LaRue recalls that the building burned sometime in August 1981. [Return to Eleven Years Hence]

Panther Hill
      The Chuckanut stone Seminary was just a dream, but there may have been a landmark called Panther Hill in the 1870s. We just have not yet found it. Do you know what the name may have referenced? [Return to Eleven Years Hence]

      See this Journal website for a timeline of local, state, national and international events for years of the pioneer period.
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Story posted on June 30, 2006
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