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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Resources Stories & Photos
(Seattle & 

Northern 1890)
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 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Fire Sparks some memories
of Rexville River Rats

By Peggy Gates, in Skagit Valley Herald, March 13, 1963
(North Fork Bridge)
The original North Fork bridge from a 1910-era postcard loaned by Mike Aiken

      The Herald newspaper account of the roaring blaze that destroyed the old Rexville School the night of Feb. 6th may have attracted no great attention outside of the Skagit Valley, except to former Rexville River Rats like myself. As I read the words describing the fiery end of the little country school which gave me my first seven years of learning, memories flooded over me, filling my heart with laughter and tears.
      We moved into the Rexville District in 1926, at which time my Dad became bridge tender of the North Fork Bridge. Our home was across the road and "fifty scissors" toward the river from the school. Fifty scissors being, as anyone knows who has played "prove it" at recess, 50 sideways jumps. Living so near, I could tarry at home in the morning until the resounding peal of the huge bell in its gable atop the school told me that I had five minutes. When the Seth Thomas clock in the schoolhouse said nine o"clock, the bell would again toll, and we would line up in two rows at the bottom of the wide school steps. Then up the stairs we marched, through the cloak room, and to our desks - not the little tables children have today, but heavy oak desks sitting solidly on the oiled floor
      Although the two rooms at Rexville were the same size, they were known as the "little room" and the "big room." It was during my first year in the big room, the year I entered the fifth grade, that we decided to adopt a name. Because the Skagit River eddied by a few hundred yards away, we resolved that henceforth all pupils in our school would be known as Resville River Rats. Students automatically became Rats, usually at the tender age of five, if they were entering the first grade. We had no kindergarten, and the only test that had to be passed to enter the first grade was permission from Mr. Hastie, head of the school board. He was a black mustached, fierce-looking man with a voice like the rumble of thunder. I was afrad of him until the summer my elder brother and I worked for him, pulling cabbage plants, and found him quite human beneath his grumble, as well as generous - twenty-five cents an hour he paid us was above average.
      In winter when we had snow we brought our sleds to school, and our skates when the slough at the bottom of the hill froze. This slough wsa deep in spots and our teacher was the judge as to whether the ice was safe. This was just one of her many extra-curricular activities. Like the other schoolmaams of the day, she was also nurse, music director, piano accompanist, program director, janitor, umpire at our ball games, and the final word on who was old enough to wear lipstick
      In the spring our school played baseball with the neighboring schools - Fir, Ridgeway, Skagit City and Harmony. When playing a home game, those not old enough to participate sat on the hillside, eating the sweet young sprouts from the salmonberry bushes growing nearby, while urging on their team. My folks usually supplied a car when we had a game at one of the other schools, packing in as many as seventeen in our 1932 Buick.
      The year I entered the eight grade, our class was sent into town. This was the beginning of the end and in a few short years all of the students from our district were being sent to consolidated schools. The schoolhouse was sold and converted into apartments, but it was still always referred to as the old Rexville School."
      I haven't been back often since our old home was sold in 1947 but a week after the fire I made a trip to the scene and looked with sadness at the charred remains. Nothing is left of my old school - nothing, that is except the memories it gave to all of us who were fortunate enough to receive our introduction to the three R's in Rexville District No. 11.

      We are not sure who Peggy Gates is or was. We are checking with the Gates descendants. We have a Gates family tree going back several generations and we found a Margaret Eubank, born May 15, 1914, who was the second wife of Orval Gates, the fifth child of James and Elizabeth Grissom Gates. Peggy is often a nickname for Margaret and the age is just about right. We hope that a Gates family member reads this and can share more about Peggy, who shared this wonderful story of how it was to grow up during the Depression and find happiness amongst the hardship. Rexville is at the southern edge of Pleasant Ridge, which is north of the North Fork of the Skagit river, across from Fir Island. The present North Fork bridge is just a little ways from the original. Maybe a reader can supply a photo of the old Rexville school or other memories of that village? Meanwhile, you can read the story of how Jasper Gates settled on the present site of Mount Vernon in 1870.

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You can read about our prime sponsors:
Vern Sims Ford Ranch, either on the Sedro-Woolley page or directly at www.vernsimsford.com
DelNagro Masonry Brick, block, stone — See our work at the new Hammer Heritage Square
See our website www.4bricklayers.com
33 years experience — 15 years as a bonded, licensed contractor in the valley
Free estimates, reference, member of Sedro-Woolley Chamber (360) 856-0101

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