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The Proud Old Bow General Store
Over a century old and still kicking

(Bow General Store)
This building that housed the Bow Department Store still stands in town. Update June 18, 2006: we had a marvelous turnout of 30 people who shared their memories of Bow history and photographs and documents. We were thrilled to learn in the interim that the store-building owner has no plans to sell the property or tear down the store, and her daughters attended the meeting and expressed their personal interest and knowledge of Bow history. 2011 Update:So the store does need to be saved, as we originally posted. But since it is in private hands, touring cannot be arranged because of insurance concerns. This story below was written in 2006, so the dates do not apply. But the Bow History Society is alive and well and hosts a picnic reunion every summer. Watch for the date in our calendar.

(Original Bow General Store)
This photo of the original Cleary Family General Store in Bow was taken sometime not long after the turn of the century. As you can see, only the left two sections have been retained over the years. Photo courtesy of John Ross.
(Bow General Store 2)
      Dan Miller, a resident of Bow for the past 26 years, read our series on the town in April 2006 and wrote to us about the last existing example of Bow's pioneer stores, which still stands. He needs your help in preserving Bow's history and he and his fellow Bow history researcher Diz Schimke welcomed readers to a meeting about Bow history on June 17 in the Bow Community Church, where 30 people attended. The enthusiastic guests shared photos, documents and stories about their own families and businesses in the Bow area and we set a tentative date for a Bow History Potluck Picnic at the church, starting at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 20, depending on feedback from readers. Would you like to attend or help plan the event? Find out how below.
      Bow is not exactly a ghost town. Rather, it is a town that time passed by. Originally an important market crossroads, Bow faded in importance as arterial roads were dug out away from the town itself. When the Great Northern Railway laid out its Chuckanut Cut-off in 1902, the tracks were laid to pass the town just a hundred yards to the east, running south to north. The impressive depot is long gone, but a railroad siding is still busy. Chuckanut Drive also ran south to north, a mile to the west, and was opened in the late Teen years and was paved in the 1920s. The Bow Hill Road ran west to east, connecting Edison on the west with the logging area of Bow Hill to the east and Belfast and Jarman's Prairie, further east. Traffic now whizzes by, just the length of a football field or so to the south of Bow's original main street and north of where sawmills buzzed away day and night a century ago.

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We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds & duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      The north fork of the Samish River used to form a horseshoe alongside the wagon road that became the paved Bow Hill Road, but the river was diverted in a few places and a slough was created south of town, part of which has been filled in. Low-lying areas still stand underwater during the rainy seasons. Schimke explains that freshly plowed fields to the north used to grow peas but are now planted in potatoes. The original route of the Bow Hill Road made a bow north to where the Dan's house and the old Bow General Store stood, but for the past few decades, the road cuts straight through, south of the church. This is now a sleepy area where dogs still trot, without fear of traffic and children ride their tricycles past modest homes. The business district was just two blocks long and the general store is the last frontier business building that remains. Miller explains his quest.
      "I received a notice from the Skagit County Planning and Development Services that the property where the old general store stands is being rezoned to residential development. That rezone passed in May 2006, but I have spoken to the owner since then. She has no immediate plans to sell the property and she is enthusiastic about our history project. This is the last remaining business-type building from the original town and is featured in many stories of old Bow," Miller explained. "It was built in 1901 but was used for storage for decades, before I moved to the valley in 1975." He then asked, "where can I go to find information and help on how to get this store declared a historic landmark and save it from demolition, and to arrange for possible restoration?" We hope that a reader who is experienced in saving and restoring historic buildings will help answer Dan's question, and an attorney with such experience could be especially helpful.
      We visited Dan recently and walked the route that farmers would have trod when they "went to market" in their wagons. The old grocery, which added a service station, at the corner is long gone. That was originally Crenshaw's Department store, which is oddly spelled Cranshaw on many old photos. Dan's house that he built by hand stands where the stately Bow Hotel stood on the north side of the street. The boarded-up general store is at 5859 Bow Street, where McCaskill Street intersects. Dan was very pleased, after meeting with the family who owns the building, that they are also very interested in Bow history and have no plans to remove it.
      Dan's friend Diz Schimke has lived here all his life, a descendant of the Pocock family on his mother's side. His grandfather on that side, Claude Pocock, is still living and recently turned 98, along with his great-great uncle, Homer Allwood, who is a few months later. Diz owns property on Bow Hill and just east of the railroad tracks on Cattail Lane, and he has tramped across almost every acre of the environs, both as a child and as an adult. He also carved out a narrow gauge railroad that runs around the perimeter of the beautiful ranch off Colony Road that he and his wife Vicky cleared from second-growth forest and brush land, but that is for an upcoming story. We especially appreciated his keen eye last weekend when he pulled over on the side of the road due north of Bow, on the way to Blanchard and pointed to a lone Holly tree on the east side of the tracks. "When I was a kid," he said with a smile, "a bunch of us would follow the old paved road that was almost overgrown with briars and blackberries and play around that holly tree where ancient headstones marked the early cemetery where local families and Equality Colony residents buried their dead even before the Bow Cemetery was opened."
      While sharing this information with our readers, we strongly urge you to contact Dan if you have suggestions or if you can help and so that you and your family can observe how just plain folks can discover and record their local history and keep landmarks away from the grim reaper. You will find contact information below. Meanwhile, Miller describes the original building. At the top of the story and below, you will see the photos that he references. The top photo and the one to the left are two views of how the general store building looks today. The third photo of the Shadle Meat Market shows part of the original general-store building to the left. The fourth photo of Bow's very early days shows the building on the right. The bottom photo shows the interior of the building.
      "The general store dates from about 1900 and it used to be two stories high with a big facade, but the last owner took off the second floor and put on the shed-roof in about 1970," Miller explains. "It has a foundation and needs windows and cosmetic work but is structurally sound. I Don't know of any old photos of the store but in the Northwest Skagit Advocate article on Bow in the exterior picture of the Shadle Brothers Meat Market. (Photo 3 below). You can also read more about the buildings in our four-part article about the Northwest Skagit Advocate, Bow's 1908 newspaper, in Issue 33 of our Subscribers Edition). .It is just visible on the left. Also in the old Roger Fox picture of Bow, it is the tallest building on the right side of the street behind Shadle's Meat Market (Photo 4 below). Also; in the (bottom photo) is an interior picture of the store. It would be a shame to see the old store torn down since it is the last remaining original store in Bow. I will keep working on finding a way to keep it from being torn down."
      Diz Schimke has collected maps and documents and photos that tell a complete story of the town. He and Dan and I walked over to the single remaining building that still ties the community together, a church that was built in the Teen years of the last century. An addition was built onto the south side about three decades ago. That is where Dan and Diz will host a community meeting starting at noon on June 17 and lasting as long as anyone wants to discuss Bow and Bow Hill history or plans for preserving the store building. They plan to bring many photos and exhibits of their own and they encourage people attending to do the same. Diz can still remember when he was a young child in about 1965, when the house belonging to a daughter of town founder William J. Brown burned to the grown a block or so south of downtown Bow. So he hopes that other people will have documents, maps or stories about Brown and his towns of Brownsville and Bow. Can you help Dan in his efforts or can you suggest someone who can? Dan's U.S. mail address is: 5838 Bow Street, Bow, WA 98232. His phone number is (360) 766-6339 and Diz's number is 360 766-6070. Dan's email address is: Meanwhile, we are also seeking information for the Journal about the store and how it functioned as a business through the years. We especially hope to find a photo of the building when it still stood two stories tall and any photos of the Browns and their towns, especially his original town of Brownsville — which has not yet been seen, and photos of the saloons that are long gone. We also seek a photo of the old Bow school. Maybe a reader can help?

The Shadle Meat Market on the right with part of the general store to the left
(View at turn of the 20th Century)
      This Paul Shadle photo of Lou Shadle's meat market appears to be from the very early days after 1902, when buildings literally rose between the stumps in Bow. Lou Shadle is in front of the doorway, then an unknown man and then Charlie Smith on the right; the man in the wagon is not identified and neither is the horse.

Bow in the late 1900s
(Bow in late 1900s)
      This very old and faded photo from the Roger Fox collection shows what the Bow downtown looked like in the very early days, when old-growth timber still stood on Bow Hill to the east. Probably taken from a postcard.

The Shadle Meat Market on the right with part of the general store to the left
(Interior of general store)
      This photo of the interior of the Bow General Store was from the collection of the late Roger Fox and the original was submitted by Lucille Henry Wright. In a 2003 special magazine from the Skagit County Argus, the caption reads: "A typical scene from inside a country store in 1909 might include an assortment of itmes needed to survive for several weeks at a time. Besides food and bolts of cloth for sewing clothes by hand (on shelves to the right), stores carried a wide range of other necessities, such as boxes of wooden matches, sugar, salt, spices and, of coruse, cigars. This particular store was the Bow General Store, which served most of the communities of Edison, Bow, Blanchard and early on, the Equality Colony [from about 1897-1906].

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Story posted on April 13, 2006, and last updated on June 18, 2006, restored on April 21, 2011
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