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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. An evolving history dedicated to the principle of 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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Alexander R. Underwood
Was he the first settler on Skagit mainland?

Transcribed from the partially burned copy of May 28, 1891, Puget Sound Mail, LaConner
      Alexander R. Underwood, the first settler of the Swinomish flats was a visitor in LaConner on Monday, with his prospectors kit and hunting equipment slung across his back and his trusty rifle in his hand. He is known by old settlers from the Frazer [Fraser river] to the Columbia and from the Cascades to the sea.
      Mr. Underwood was born in East Tennessee in 1828. At the age of 10 he was taken to Missouri where some of his family still live. He served during the Mexican War from which having reached the age of 63 he is now drawing a pension. He then worked his way across the plains and mountains and arrived in Olympia in 1854. He served faithfully in the Indian war of 1855-56, and was at the battle of Grand Ronde Valley and the battle of the blockhouse in Seattle. He arrived at Conley's Prairie too late to witness that fight.
      In 1864, Mr. Underwood built the first white man's cabin on the Swinomish flats, on the east side of Sullivan's slough. [Part of the story burned here] A few months later Michael Sullivan and Samuel Calhoun arrived and began the reclamation of tide marsh lands, and though they were the first to actively engage in farming, Mr. Underwood was the first white man to raise garden truck on the flats, having raised onions and potatoes that year on a slight rise of ground that formerly — perhaps centuries ago — a favorite landing of the Indians, their old platforms being covered with sedimentary deposits to a depth of several feet.
      Mr. Underwood also at the same time had a claim at Dugualla Bay on Whidby [Whidbey] island but lost it by non-residence. He used to go between the island and the flats in a sloop and spent most of his time hunting, trapping and fishing. He also lost his donation claim on the present site of Whatcom, which is now worth many thousands of dollars.
      After leaving the Manchester place, he lived for awhile on the Christianson place and afterward on the Porter place, where he injured his knee with an adz while hewing knees for a boat. He then left the flats in disgust.
      Ed. note: for you landlubbers, he was not hewing his own knees. Knees on a boat are supporting braces. This story is quoted in the book, Skagit Memories, but the wrong year of 1893 is given. We found the story in the actual newspaper, which is on microfilm in the Suzallo Library at the University of Washington.
      The only reference to Underwood in the authoritative 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties is this brief mention: "It is said by some that Mr. Underwood was the first settler on the north fork, locating in or before 1865 on the place afterward taken up by Peter Vander Kuyl."

Story posted on Jan. 3, 2005
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