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Skagit River Journal

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William Henry Harrison Cressey and Rachel
P. Cressey family, 1890 Burlington Pioneers

(Rachel P. Cressey)
Rachel P. Cressey. All photos courtesy of Shirley Wetmore

Skagit River Journal research
      The Cressey family is especially fascinating because they were very representative of the families for whom the railroad lines in 1890 determined their fortune, and also for their move on from Anacortes to Burlington soon after arriving at the former town. They arrived by boat from Seattle, along with future Superior Court Judge George Joiner. The father, William Henry Harrison Cressey, followed construction of the Seattle & Northern Railroad eastwards, where the prospects of a new town were promising below the hill that the Indians called Tinas Comas.
      William Cressey was born in Philadelphia in 1839, as was his wife, Rachel P. (Walton) in 1843. They married there on March 12, 1865, after William served with Pennsylvania volunteers in the Civil War. He was a longtime member of Russell Post 35, of the Mount Vernon GAR [Grand Army of the Republic]. We know little about the Cresseys before they arrived in Anacortes sometime during the boom year of 1890, which dawned with a frenzy of building, plans and hopes, but ran out of steam by late that fall. William Cressey Sr. hired on with Oregon Improvement Company to load and unload rails at the new Burlington townsite, which New Englander Thomas W. Soules named for his favorite town in Vermont. Soules and George McLean were based in Mount Vernon that year and soon bought the acreage they planned for the town site from William McKay, who had been logging there for about eight years and had platted part of the forest in early 1890.
      Soules planned to center the town at the projected point where the Seattle & Montana railroad would likely cross the Seattle & Northern tracks, which construction crews were laying west to East. Both those lines later became part of the Great Northern. William's wife Rachel also had a big job, feeding and carrying for six children, at least three of whom were strapping young men working alongside their father. Just a year before she was a member of Philadelphia middle-class society, with all the amenities of an urban metropolis, but now she was surrounding by trees up to 200 feet or more high, in every direction. The family chose a plot of land on the north shore of the Skagit River, just below a wagon road that would soon become the arterial along the river and would be named Rio Vista. The only woman living the area up until then was the wife of McKay's logging partner, John P. Millett.
      The Cresseys had come to the planned townsite along with two men who became leaders in the new community. Thomas Shaughnessy was an immigrant Irishman who took a contact to clear the timber from the townsite and then opened a meat market and a restaurant, located across the muddy road from the Burlington House hotel and the depot on Anacortes Avenue. His partner was Thomas G. Wilson, who secured the contract for planking the first streets in Burlington and opened a store along with invested in the hotel and other businesses and soon became the first postmaster, the depot agent and Justice of the Peace. Wilson took on 21-year-old George G. Cressey as his assistant and general factotum and in 1910, George noted that he became the constable, notary public, school director, road supervisor and "deputy of all arts" for Wilson. George's wife was the first secretary of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) when it was organized in Burlington in 1900 to fight the saloon menace. William Cressey helped clear the townsite and also helped promote and build Burlington Park. On a 1925 Metsker's map we see that Victor Cressey still owned at least part of the original farm. Victor was born in Pennsylvania in 1883 and died in 1969 at age 86, apparently the last of the children to pass on.

(W.H.H. Cressey)
W.H.H. Cressey

      We have many gaps to fill in for the Cressey story as well as the first 15 years of Burlington history. Along came Richard Terwilliger and Shirley Wetmore, who read the original Journal series we started in 2003 about Burlington. They wrote to us and identified Beulah Cressey Terwilliger, the author of one of our transcribed articles. She was Shirley's mother and Shirley shared with us the obituaries below and the photos on this page, which have helped fill out this profile of one of the key Burlington families. We are still researching to fill in the gaps of this evolving story and we hope that other descendants of Burlington families will share memories and copies of documents and photos with us. We are right now working on profiles of Woodman "Granny" Matthews Abraham and John Garl, Thomas W. Soules, Roswell Skeel, T. Nelson Ovenell, Orson Pease, James and Shorty Norris and Walter S. Burton, among several others.

Rachel P. Cressey Obituary 1
Burlington Journal, Sept. 7, 1906
      Mrs. Rachel P. Cressey passed away suddenly at her home in Burlington, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 1906, at one o'clock a.m., age 63 years. The deceased was born in Philadelphia, Pa., Dec. 11, 1843, was married to William Henry Harrison Cressey in that city, March 12, 1865. She, with her husband and family came to Burlington fifteen years a go.
      Mrs Cressey was the mother of nine children, of whom a daughter, Mrs. Madge F. Warfield, and five sons, George, William, Robert and Victor, of Burlington, and Lewis of Everett, survive her, all of whorn, including her husband, three daughter-in-laws, and a number of grandchildren were present to attend the last sad rites which could be rendered on this earth, to a fond and loving wife and mother.
      On Friday evening, she was apparently in the best of health and enjoyed the evening with the family. Near one o'clock in the morning, she came to the bedside of her daughter whom she awakened with the announcement of her serious condition. The family gathered at once, but it was for only a moment, one short struggle, and the soul passed peacefully away, leaving the frail body clasped in the arms of her loving daughter. So sudden and quiet had been the change, that it required sonic time for those present to fully realize that the loving wife and devoted mother had passed into the realms of the great beyond.
      Mrs. Cressey was a dutiful wife, a mother who worshiped at the shrine of her children. Her whole life had been devoted to those she loved. There was no work so difficult; no time so precious; as to attract her attention from her duties to her family.
      While perhaps not a woman of society in the strict sense of the word, she was always a central figure in gatherings of friends where she was present. Her immediate neighbors more then others knew her true worth. She was always sociable, pleasant, and kind to everyone. A woman who could smile in her own sorrows, and weep for joy at the happiness of others. While not connected with any denominational church, she was beyond question a good member of the true church, the invisible church of Christ. The church whose members meet their God in prayer in the secret closet, in the dark hours of the night, continually but silently through every hour of the day. Who do unto others as they would have others do unto them.
      A good neighbor, a loving wife, and a fond mother, has passed to the great beyond. No more, that pleasant smile will light the evening circle. No more those words of motherly council and advice, will be a lamp unto the weary feet, nor those words of sympathy soothe that aching heart. It- is only sweet memories of the past, that reflects back beautiful shadows of those golden moments, from the spirit that has gone above.

(Victor Cressey)
Victor Hugo Cressey and a strawberry picker at the old homestead

Obituary 2: Mrs. Rachel P. Cressey, beloved wife of W.H.H. Cressey, aged 63 years
Burlington Tribune, Sept. 7, 1906 (we know of no such newspaper;
this could have been a church bulletin
      , Sept. 7, 1906 (we know of no such newspaper, this could have been a church bulletinThe death of Mrs. Cressey was un expected and came as a sad affliction upon the husband and children who had no intimation that the end was so near. At the time of retiring on Friday evening Mrs. Cressey was in usual health, although of late years she had been declining, and was in good spirits, laughing and playing with her little grandson, and in the afternoon had enjoyed a good dinner with the family of Mr. and Mrs. George Cressey.
      About 1:30 o'clock Saturday morning she arose from her bed and called her daughter, Mrs. Madge Warfield, stating that she was ill, and Dr. Schacht was sent for, but before he arrived she passed quietly away without perceptible pain, and, as she had always expressed a wish, without being a burden to anyone and with her family gathered around her. Heart failure was the cause. For a number of years past, deceased had suffered from rheumatism and at times was very weak.
      Mrs. Cressey was born in Philadelphia, where, on March 12, 1865, at the close of the civil war, she was married to W.H.H. Cressey after he was mustered out of service. Her maiden name was Rachel P. Walton. In 1890, Mr. and Mrs. Cressey arrived at Anacortes from Philadelphia and the following year settled in Burlington. During the years of her married life Mrs. Cressey has been a faithful, patient and loving wife and mother, and although of a quiet, retiring nature, she bad many close and admiring friends in this community. Her loss will be most deeply felt by the husband and children, to whom she was ever kind and sympathetic through all her sufferings. Many friends throughout Skagit county will extend heartfelt sympathy to them in this hour of affliction. To Mr. and Mrs. Cressey were born nine children, six of whom are living, viz: Robert R.S.Y. Cressey, George G. Cressey, William Cressey, Victor H. [Victor Hugo] Cressey, Mrs. Madge F. Warfield, all of Burlington, and Lewis W. Cressey, of Marysville, Wash., and B.C. True Cressey, Amos H.W. Cressey, and John J. Cressey deceased. The funeral services occurred at the Episcopal church in Burlington on Sunday, September 2nd, Rev. H. Ferguson officiating. A large number of friends of deceased and members of the G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic — her husband was a Civil War U.S. Army veteran] and Masonic orders were present and attended the last rites at the Burlington cemetery.

Obituary 3: Mrs. Rachel P. Cressey
From Skagit News-Herald, Mt. Vernon, WA, Sept. 10, 1906
      Many friends of the deceased and family will be pained to hear of the sad end of a useful life when they hear of the sudden taking away of Mrs. W.H.H. Cressey at her home near Burlington. She had been troubled for some time with rheumatism and in the early hours Saturday morning, September 1st, it affected her heart and she breathed her last.
      She was buried Sunday from the Episcopal church at Burlington, Rev. J. Harry Ferguson officiating, interment being in the K.O.T.M. [Knights of the Maccabees] cemetery. She was 63 years old, was born in 1843, in Penn. She married the soldier boy to whom she had plighted her troth immediately after the close of the war, the ceremony taking place March 12, 1865, at her home in Philadelphia.
      To this union rime children were born, six of whom are living. They are Robert, George G., William., Lewis W. and Victor H.. an(l Mrs. Madge F. Warfield. The children all are living at Burlington with the exception of Lewis, who lives in Marysville. The sympathy of a host of friends is with the sorrowirig husband and children.

(Beulah Terwilliger)
Beulah Terwilliger

Cressey family reunion
Burlington Journal, July 7, 1905
      On July 4th a reunion of the William Henry Harrison Cressey family was held, and celebrated with a picnic on the shady banks of the beautiful Skagit river. The pleasant event was greatly enjoyed and will perhaps be retained in the memory of those present as one of the refreshing showers, which bring seasons of happiness along the journey of life.
      Those present were: Mr. and Mrs. W.H.H. Cressey, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cressey, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. G. Cressey, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Cressey Jr., Mr. Victor Cressey, Mrs. Madge Warfield, of Burlington, and Lewis Cressey of Marysville. The grandchildren were, Lillian, May, Beulah, Harry, Rose, Jefferson, George, Don and Madge Cressey, and Georgie Warfield. Mr. David Koch, the father of Mrs. Geo. G. Cressey, was also present.

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