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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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Dr. Horace P. Downs and family

Dr. Horace P. Downs profile
History Of The Pacific Northwest, by Elwood Evans, 1889,
courtesy of Janine Bork and Marjorie Rundall Campbell
      Dr. Horace P. Downs is one of those highly educated gentlemen who have deliberately chosen a new country in which to exercise abilities that are ever in demand in the older communities. He was born in Freedom, New Hampshire, in 1840. The family made a number of removals. It was at great Falls that he received his first comprehensive instructions; and at Exeter he pursued his academic course, and graduated from the medical department of Bowdoin College in 1865. Entering at once upon the practice of his profession, he chose a location at Tansworth, New Hampshire, and three years later secured a lucrative practice at Charlestown, which has since been incorporated with Boston, Massachusetts.
      In 1878 he determined to transfer his interests to the Pacific coast, and selected a home in that part of Whatcom county which has now been delimitated and named Skagit. In 1880 he was elected commissioner of the old county, and in the autumn of 1883 was appointed by the legislature as one of the three commissioners to segregate and organize the new county. At the special election following, he was chosen auditor, and by re-election still holds this office. He also served on the committee to make a settlement of affairs relating to the two counties. He is a Republican in politics. In business relations Doctor Downs has been prosperous, and has become a large holder of town property, and of some five hundred and twenty acres of land adjoining. He is one of the representative citizens of Skagit county, and indeed of the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. John Conrad's obituary notes from 1970 and 1951
      Ed. note: This brief story is from the 1970 obituary notes that John Conrad prepared for the annual Skagit county Historical Society August picnic. Conrad prepared the profiles from 1949-73 and we have transcribed them at this portal website:
      1970: Two sisters of an old family passed on during the past year, Mrs. Mable Downs Norris, 80, of Mount Vernon, and Mrs. Agnes Downs Horn, 76, of Snee-Oosh, both daughters of John and Leona Downs. Their father [John Downs] came to Skagit county with his parents, Dr. Horace P. and Sylvia Downs, in 1878, when John, an only child, was 13 years old. In 1891, John married Leona Moore of Skagit city, sister of George Moore, who was a well known, highly respected citizen around the county for many years [their last name has sometimes been listed as Moores]. Both George and his sister died 20 years ago. The sisters' mother, Leona Downs, originally came to Washington territory in 1866 with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Moores, by sailing vessel around Cape Horn. Leona was born at Port Discovery in Clallam county in 1872. She moved on with her parents to Skagit county when only six months old.
      The sisters' paternal grandfather, Dr. Horace P. Downs, graduated [with a medical degree] in medicine from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 1863. After 15 years of practice in Boston, he longed for the West and came to Skagit county in 1878. An unusual chain of migration brought him and his family to this particular valley. His wife, Sylvia, had taken a trip to California and with her spirit of adventure, sailed up on a ship to Puget sound and was directed to the Skagit flats delta where land could be taken by homestead near the mouth of Dry Slough. She fell in love with the beautiful view of Mount Baker and surrounding areas and could foresee the rich farms that would ultimately be developed from this un-diked, foreboding, wet, muddy clay tidelands, swept by raw winds off Skagit Bay in the winter. Yet she loved the surroundings and wrote to the Doctor back in Boston to come out here for his future life and promptly filed at [the state] land office for power of attorney for her husband. The tract of land involved was that known today as the "Wylie place," but to all of us old timers, we have heard our parents so often mention the "Downs place."
      Back to 1878, the newly transplanted doctor entered into the pioneer spirit of his new homeland and soon after his arrival he was appointed as tideland appraiser by the [state] legislature. In 1883 he was also called on as a member of the Whatcom county commissioners board to effect the reorganization of the new Skagit county from the south half of Whatcom county. He was also asked to help complete the details of setting up the new county government in 1884 and at the first election he was chosen as the first county auditor. He was reelected to two more terms. Moving into Mount Vernon after renting out his farm to his son John, he was twice elected Mayor of the town. He also served three terms as Deputy County Assessor.
      John Downs's hobby in life, besides farming, was boat building and cruising and many early day neighbors and businessmen from Mount Vernon were frequent guests on his launches for cruises to British Columbia and Alaska waters. He was known as a very gracious host. In his later life, he retired to live at Snee Oosh beach, near LaConner, where he met a tragic death. Driving his car on a narrow road that led to his home, the motor stalled. John, driving alone, leaped out as the car coasted backward, pushed the car to hold it, but was crushed to death against a stump of a tree. Agnes Downs Horn spent her later years at the old Snee Oosh home. 1951 The oldest white woman in years of residence, Mrs. Leona [Moore] Downs, followed her brother George [Moore] in death by less than a year and came to Skagit county 80 years ago when only a child of six months. Her parents Thomas J. and Mary Moore came to the Northwest by sailing vessel around Cape Horn in 1866, settling first at Port Discovery where she was born in 1872. Her death also recalls the history of her father-in-law, Dr. H.P. Downs, physician an early day reclaimer of Skagit tide lands. In 1883 he was appointed a member of the board of county commissioners by the legislature to effect the organization of the new Skagit county, then served three terms as its first auditor, three terms as deputy assessor and was elected twice as mayor of Mount Vernon. [George Moore farmed at old Skagit City.]

Journal research:
      We add to this Conrad account some comments from researcher and author Tom Robinson, whose aunt Isabel was the third daughter of John and Leona (Moore) Downs. First, he insists that she was Isabel, not Isabella, as some histories have written. He also points out that the girls' grandmother Sylvia Downs was not just gallivanting about the west when she discovered the Skagit valley. She was visiting her father, William N. Guptill, who was also a practicing physician in Boston before her husband practiced there. The gold bug bit Dr. Guptill and soon after the 49er discovries he boarded a ship for a voyage around the horn when his daughter was barely in elementary school. She was visiting him in California, where he had stayed and continued his practice, when she heard about what was then the southern part of Skagit county. She was 35 when she visited him and we are uncertain if he had ever returned to Boston in the interim. Tom also remembers Horace Downs's diploma from Bowdoin because it was framed and hanging in Isabel's bedroom when Tom was young.

Story posted on August 13, 2004
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