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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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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
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Early History of Burlington, the Hub City

(Weideman store in Burlington)
F.W. Weideman's pioneer store in Burlington. He was the first mayor in 1902. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Harnden Jr.

      Ed. note: We share this version of the early history of Burlington because George Cressey was one of the few writers who was there in the very early days of 1890 when the little village began, hunkered around the Seattle & Northern depot at Anacortes avenue. The latter was actually a mere path that continued south from the depot, crossed Gage's slough, turned west at what is now the Pease road and then quickly turned south to the area we now call Riverside. It probably followed a centuries-old Indian trail and was soon widened enough that a horse could pull a freight wagon for the logging camps. Cressey gives us a first-hand description of how the center of the town moved over to the junction of the two railroads that soon defined Burlington. He started as a general factotum for early merchant Tom Wilson and later became a key member of the incorporation promoters, who failed the first time in 1896 and succeeded in 1902. We especially enjoy his intricate details about Anacortes avenue. We know that T.W. Soule named the town for his native Burlington, Vermont, but we are intrigued about how the city fathers named their initial main street after the town on Fidalgo island, many miles west, that boomed meteorically in early 1890 and then fell to earth just as fast a year later. We will share other memories of Mr. Cressey in future issues. Although his memory was sharp, his writing skills were a bit shaky and he apparently never proofread the typed document. So we have included information in [ ] that corrects spelling, gives background or edits the document lightly so that the reader can understand.

Memoirs by George G. Cressey
July 22, 1910

      Gentle reader: as we sit here under our own fig tree and gaze upon nature's beautiful handiwork, with the sparkling waters of Puget Sound at our feet, and the towering snow capped, Olympic mountains towering high in their majestic beauty away westward, causes our thoughts to revert back to the old homestead near the banks of the mighty Skagit where we lived so many eventful years, shoulder to shoulder, working together for the commonwealth.
      How similar to this view is that looking eastward and southeastward from Burlington where sloping gently back apparently touching the eastern skies, the foothills rise in their picturesque splendor and revel to the artistic eye their ever-changing beauty, covered with a wealth of virgin timber and undeveloped mineral deposits.
      It was the winter of 1890 and '91 that Messrs. [T.G] Wilson and [Thomas] Shaughnessy came from Anacortes to Burlington, followed soon after by the writer and his brother Will. The former gentleman had secured the contract of opening and planking Anacortes and Orange streets and slashing the brush and timber adjoining. At that time, activity centered at the intersection of Fairhaven and Anacortes streets where tents were pitched for the accommodation of their employees.
      [Ed. note: in 2003, Fairhaven avenue is the main street of old, downtown Burlington, running west to east with a dead-end at Burlington Boulevard, or old Highway 99. Anacortes avenue runs north and south and is the connector arterial to Pease road, where the thoroughfare crosses the old Great Northern roadbed. Orange avenue runs parallel to Fairhaven, four blocks to the south, and is now cut off by the tracks as a result of construction of the new Great Northern depot complex in 1909. On Orange, there is just one building that appears to date from the turn of the 19th century or before, now a private home at the northwest corner of Cherry street. It has a handsome balcony that stretches across the front of the second story in the style of that time.]

The center of very early Burlington, 1890-91
(World's Fair Hotel and Saloon)
World's Fair Hotel and Saloon. This photo and the one below from December 1902 Sebring's Skagit County Illustrated magazine

      The grade of the main line of the Great Northern having just been completed, a rude depot of rough boards was erected upon the site where the new and commodious depot now stands. About this time [late 1890] the Oregon Improvement Company had completed the Seattle & Northern roadbed to Hamilton, building a rough depot similar to the above, the south side of the track on Anacortes street [about where the fire extinguisher company stands today on the longtime site of Joe Krause's Skagit Northwest Distributing].
      Walter Burton had already opened a small grocery opposite the [W.A.] Gould Hotel, the latter hostelry afterwards coming under the management of Zachariah Warfield, where his son Silas now resides with his family. Immediately adjoining Mr. Gould's store on the north side the first and only saloon was doing business [judging from all sources, we place those buildings on the south side of tracks across from the depot on Anacortes avenue]. It was at this point that the first scene was enacted in the early history of Burlington.
      Wilson and Shaughnessy, having fulfilled their contract of grading and clearing, both having an eye to business, were inspired with greater and higher ambitions. The first victim to come under this observation was our friend Walter Burton. Wilson, soon convincing Walter that farming was the most congenial occupation for him, and that his health was perceptibly impaired by the indoor confinement, a deal was agreed upon and Wilson acquired possession by purchase for a liberal consideration. As was Tom's custom the premises were enlarged, the stock increased and a large business built up.
      Wilson then received his commission as first postmaster of Burlington, our mail having previously been received at the office of Mount Vernon's general delivery. He was next appointed ticket agent for the Seattle & Northern [S&N], with offices at the store. He was then commissioned deputy U.S. customs officer and the first notary public. He was elected first Justice of the Peace for Burlington precinct and acknowledged general advisor for all things pertaining to affairs conducive to the well being and upbuilding of the town of Burlington.
      Your humble servant, being at that time in his employ, was chosen constable, notary public, school director, road supervisor and deputy of all arts under the chief. George Gould catered to the public in a culinary way across the street, being a few months later by the late Z. Warfield. Then came the King of Swedes, our most estimable friend Albert Lundin, who opened the Lundin Hotel and Saloon farther up the street and ruled as all kings rule, with a mighty hand.
      The trend of business now began to set in toward the south of the central part of the townsite. The building now owned and occupied by Mr. Wilson on the corner of Fairhaven and Cherry street and afterwards moved, was built by Joe Woods on the corner of Anacortes and Orange and was first occupied by Louis Hoiby [also spelled Hoibie] as a general merchandise store.

Commercial competition ensues
      Here openeth the first chapter in the annals of commercial competition in Burlington, when Emerson Hammer, now the leading merchant of Sedro-Woolley (and the next senator from Skagit county) purchased Hoibie's interests and in partnership with George Snider, now a retired capitalist of Burlington, commenced to do business.
      Then came the man who proved to be one of the most stable and worthy citizens of the town, F.W. [Fred] Weideman. Without pomp or ceremony, Fred proceeded at once to erect a store building fronting on Orange street near where now stands his handsome residence. Along with Fred, from the summit of the Cascade mountains, came one of Fred's friends, a Mr. Luce, who with Fred's assistance financially and otherwise built on the corner of Anacortes and Orange streets what is now the building used by Peter Bergman as a saloon. In this building Mr. Luce opened the first real drug store. What became of Mr. Luce and a considerable amount of Fred's cash, we leave Fred to relate. Suffice to say, the Luce man departed for parts unknown, leaving Fred a wiser but not a wealthier man. Thus for a time business thrived at Wilson's [and] likewise at the corners.
      Odd Fellows [IOOF] hall was completed on Anacortes [avenue], into which Wilson moved his stock of goods, then disposing of the same to C.B. Riggs, who hailed from Birdsview, and later to J.F. Shidler, who is now listed among the most honorable and successful merchants on Burlington's main thoroughfare.

Wilson becomes commercial leader
      During this stage in the growth of Burlington, Tom Wilson conceived the idea of shifting the business center of the town. Opportunity was knocking at his door. Tom promptly answered the summons. The World's Fair Hotel and saloon at the junction of the two railroads was the crowning point in his life's work. Had he struck to this winning strike, but the angels had also whispered wonderful things in Shaughnessy's ear and Tom, like most of the sons of Erin, answered, "Ill stay with it," and he did. And the fruits of his honest efforts are shown in his works, which will be everlasting monuments to his memory when life's work is done. Wilson was first to realize the necessity of the dinner pail brigade and was the first to confer with others. He finally succeeded in interesting such men as William Dale, Mr. Wismolke, Pat Halloran and others who established and operated the first shingle mill on the share the Burlington mill now stands [approximately the later cannery site]. Wilson was the initial manager; the mill was afterwards operated by Gus Larson, George Reed, Reed and [George] Green, and in recent years managed by David Bennett.
      Then came the strenuous K. Fox with his combined saw and shingle mills, which plant was located on the property north of the old depot [Anacortes avenue] where Mr. Fritz has his home and market gardens and afterwards taken over and conducted by [George] Green and [Emerson] Hammer. The latter men removed the mill a few later to Skyou slough [usually spelled Skiyou], east of Sedro-Woolley.
      It may appear to the reader of this narrative that T.G. Wilson was the prime member and leading spirit in all fundamental affairs relating to the present status of the town's topography. This fact we must admit. This is not intended as a biographical sketch of the life of Mr. Wilson but we are compelled to incidentally refer to his name when writing the story of those good old days.

Business center moves from Anacortes avenue depot to junction of railroads
      The placing of the new depot and building of the World's Fair Saloon and the hotel at the junction of the two railroads meant the passing forever of the old business district uptown. It was only a matter of a brief time until most of the old buildings were moved to Fairhaven avenue and this street soon transformed from a bridle path to a busy business boulevard.
      [Ed. note: the two railroads mentioned were the Seattle & Northern, which ran west to east from Ship Harbor [now west Anacortes] and Hamilton at the time, and the Great Northern, which ran south to north from Seattle to British Columbia, originally connecting with the Fairhaven & Southern Railway north of town near Belfast. The depot and Wilson's hotel were located south of the original city hall, which still stands today on the south side of Fairhaven and the east side of the tracks. This second depot in town was the subject of one of the most humorous shenanigans pulled in town and told in variations in other Burlington chapters. Briefly, it was originally built on the property of Sam Bell, north of town, as part of a deal whereby he dedicated part of his homestead to the Great Northern right of way sometime in 1890-91. As he would with others in Fairhaven and Everett, GN's owner James J. Hill gave with one hand and took away with the other. Sometime in 1892, Hill came to town to be feted at a dinner, to which Bell was invited. During the merriment, Hill's crew jacked up the depot at Belleville, put it on a flat wagon and carried it two miles south to Burlington. Unfortunately we have not found a record of the exact date or court records, if any suit ensued. Hill was the 800-pound gorilla of railroads and he probably either: 1. had his legion of lawyers insert a clause into the contract or 2. "forgot" a handshake deal or 3. bought off Bell through his general manager, Col. W. P. Clough. The second depot was replaced in 1910 by a much larger one that served the Great Northern.]
      To Jack Whitney, son of Mrs. Ed Whitney, residing on east Rio Vista avenue, is accorded the distinction of being the first born in Burlington. Jack first saw the light of day 20 years ago [1890] in a wigwam built of shakes near the intersection of Orange and Cherry streets at a time when the birds were warbling a welcoming melody, and the tall stately fir and cedars were gently swaying to and fro, and the wild berry buds were bursting sweetly into bloom, when the owl was hooting loudly in the distance, and the stealthy tread of the cougar fell distinctly upon the infant's little ear.

Burlington tries to wrest away the county seat, round one
      In the year 1892 the question to remove the county seat from Mount Vernon was submitted to the people. Anacortes was the first to aspire for the honors, then came Sedro and Burlington in that order. This writer, Charles Vance and Harry Badger were the three chosen from Burlington to try and coax the voters to send the county records to the most centrally located town in the county. They were instructed to go out into the world and convince the people that Burlington was the only point to which the county seat could be removed. They proceeded at once to show the voters that our claims were just and indisputable and respectfully asked them to look at the map and consider the lay of the railroads and the beauty and practical benefits of our location.
      That the county seat would be where it would benefit the most people, this committee had no trouble in convincing them. The hundreds of names appearing upon our petitions, proving the fact conclusively. It required a three-fifths majority to remove the seat of government. The people, thinking the scheme a little too premature, voted to retain the records where they were. It is our honest belief that the time is now ripe for this question to be again placed before the people and that Burlington would receive the necessary majority goes without further comment. [Ed. note: Cressey does not mention the second attempt to obtain the county seat, which was conducted the year before in 1909. In a mighty battle, the Burlington interests were defeated by the behemoths of Mount Vernon after the latter ridiculed the idea by producing a widely distributed broadside that warned voters of Burlington's unfortunate place on the floodplain. Sure enough, a violent flood that year nearly floated the old town of Burlington away. You can read about that battle and see photos at our website: — the new site will be:]

Incorporation attempt causes civil strife and packing of bags
(First officers of Burlington, 1902)
In the first municipal election in 1902, these were the first elected officers. On the left in the front row is George Knutzen, treasurer; middle is Fred Weideman, mayor; right is David Koch, councilman. In the back row, l. to r., are councilmen, Zachariah Warfield, Orson Pease (namesake of the present road), Mike Hogan and William Hurley.

      Next of importance to occupy the attention of the Burlington citizens was a movement to incorporate the town. T.G. Wilson, T.W. Soule and I [Wilson's clerk] appointed each other a committee of one or more to petition the county commissioners to call an election, stir up discord, agitate the people, define city boundaries, canvas the people, take the census and argue with the opposition. The leaders of the opposition consisted of Zachariah Warfield, George Green, George D. McLean and everybody else. The boundary lines when drawn included every resident within a radius of a mile or two of the depot, sometimes extending a mile or more east or west, depending upon how far distant some bold cutter or stump rancher may happen to reside. For instance, in order to include B.C. Ranous, then occupying the [present] Black farm on the Sedro-Woolley road out near Bill Miller's, the committee would measure 120 rods northeast, the width of a five-acre tract west, thence back to the place of beginning.
      This petition was presented to the commissioners [apparently in 1896], and at the regular meeting of that august body and at the solicitation of McLean — the agent for Roswell Skeel of New York, they decided to not declare an election for incorporation, claiming the boundaries were irregular and not well defined. This most mortifying conclusion of this most worthy enterprise incensed the enterprising promoters of the scheme. Justly believing that the progressive citizens of the town did not desire to progress, Mr. Soule, in a fit of despair, packed his belongings and fled from the city, taking refuge down the river [village unnamed, presumed to be Mount Vernon, although he later established a dominant retail store in Anacortes]. Mr. Wilson lingered on for awhile longer, then finding his chances to become mayor of our prosperous little city ruthlessly torn away from him, he too packed his baggage and departed via Seattle for the golden north.
      What was left of this committee concluded to remain upon the ground where this memorable conflict had been waged and to renew hostilities as soon as the smoke rolled away. This opportunity came with the passing of the last century, when a public meeting was called with Fred Weideman acting as chairman. At this meeting your humble servant was again placed in commission, along with four others: Beecher Koch, H.L. Bowmer [publisher of the Burlington Journal, E.E. Spear and Harold Umbarger. We were charged with the mission of outlining new boundaries, petitioning the voters, taking the census, etc. The petition was duly presented, the required 300 souls found within the borders and an election was called [in June 1902], resulting in a good majority in favor of home government.
      F.W. Weideman was elected mayor, David Koch, Zachariah Warfield, Mike Hogan, William Hurley and Orson Pease were elected to the council and William Cressey Jr. became city clerk. Sometime previous [about 1901], Bowmer had set up a print shop in the building on the corner of Anacortes and Orange streets, where the first copy of the Journal was printed, it being the first publication to appear in the town. To H.L. Bowmer, editor, much credit is due, he having worked long and diligently for the good of humanity and upbuilding of Burlington. His name should be listed high amongst those to whom Burlington owes an everlasting debt of gratitude for faithful and indispensable public service.

Cowardly murder of an Indian
      Then to B.N. [Barney] Albertson, for his splendid and unremitting labors for the welfare of all, is great honor due. Barney has made his mark in the sands of time and only lack of space prevents us paying proper tribute to this public worth. Many reminiscences could be written of him that would be of interest to the readers of this paper. It as during the [nationwide financial] panic of 1893-97 that Barney was manufacturing shingles a few miles north of town.
      The story goes that a shiftless character of the dusty way was then engaged in Mr. Albertson's employ. He was informed by some disreputable fiend that his discharge was imminent and his walking papers ready. This so excited the wrath of this old relic of antiquity that he borrowed a gun and took a trip down to Burlington in search of gore. He finally found a Siwash Indian asleep in the sun next to Mr. Albertson's commodious residence and opened fire on him from a distance of four feet. He did not even wake the Siwash up, and Barney, who objected to so much noise around his house, went out and drove the poor demented man away with a broom. Mr. Albertson afterwards said it was his sincere belief that no such characters should be permitted to come to Puget sound. That they were a class of people who came to Burlington to evade arrest for bigamy and horse-stealing, and should be sent somewhere via Pasco, and that if ever he became mayor of the city of Burlington, he would hang every one of this class to the nearest tree. In later years Barney was invested with that most high office, and whether or not he executed that thread, the records fail to show. [Ed. note: we cannot tell if Mr. Albertson was most disturbed by the murder of the Indian or the noise that ensued, but we do know that Siwash was the universal term that settlers attached to every Indian on the river. That was not an Indian word, however; rather, it was a corruption of the French word, sauvage, that trappers used to describe the original inhabitants of the Northwest. The Indians, in turn, in the early days referred to all settlers as "Bostons," apparently because that was the answer when early Indians asked the first white men from whence they came.]

Abraham Garl
      One of the first families to settle in Burlington at the platting of the townsite [on December 31, 1890] was Abraham Garl, who built the home now owned by George Drown at the foot of Fairhaven avenue [located in 2003 a block west of the I-5 freeway]. To Mr. Garl's daughter Clara V., now Mrs. B.R. Morrison of Seattle, at that time one of Burlington's most estimable young ladies, is due the distinction of teaching the first school. The building now standing on the corner of Fairhaven and Anacortes streets, formerly known as Maccabees Hall, which was moved [from its original location at] the south side of Orange, was first used as a school house, presided over by Miss Garl. Here it was, about 18 years ago, the IOOF [Odd Fellows] Lodge of Burlington was instituted. The first church services were conducted by the Rev. Charles McDermoth in the old building next door north of the home of Silas Warfield, who later solicited the ways and means and superintended the construction of the original Methodist church on the ground where now stands the beautiful edifice of that denomination.
      Messrs. David Koch and J.L. Hutchinson were the leading contractors and builders of those olden times, and all of the structures erected then were designed and built by them, notably the old Methodist church, the Episcopal church and what was then the Burlington High School, built in the early 1890s. About the time of the second campaign to incorporate the town [1902], Mr. I.J. Howe, accompanied by his family, arrived in Burlington from Nebraska. Mr. Howe forthwith settled down to business and soon became a leading factor in the affairs of the town. He purchased considerable property, northeast of the schoolhouse and inside of the town limits, where he now resides. He acquired possession of the Journal from Mr. Bowmer and became its editor-in-chief. He was elected to the city council, served several terms as director, was twice elected mayor and then retired with a brilliant record, a record that any man should justly feel proud.
      We regret that we are obliged at this time to omit the names of so many who have worked so faithfully and well for the upbuilding in its infancy of a town that stands second to none for its varied resources, for its natural beauty, and for the citizens' unexcelled hospitality, for their high standards of morality, civic righteousness and the ladies' feminine loveliness.

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Story posted on May 14, 2003, and last updated on July 29, 2005
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