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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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Reviews of suggested history books to read, Part 1

(Mount Vernon Waterfront)
      Paul Dorpat found this photo of the Mount Vernon waterfront, circa 1910-20 period. The photographer stood on the old bridge to West Mount Vernon, looking south, and you can see the original revetment and buildings that then fronted on Main Street. Can you help us identify the buildings or nail down the year this photo may have taken? For the new Washington Then & Now book, Jean Sherrard took a photo showing what the waterfront looks like now. That could possibly become a Then photo, itself, if the proposed waterfront development plan comes to fruition. Click on this photo for a much larger panoramic version of the photo. The book is now available in bookstores everywhere or it can be ordered at your favorite store or online.

Washington Then & Now, Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard
Denver, Colorado: Westcliffe Publishers, 2007. Website
      Paul Dorpat does not write and publish coffee-table books — those beautiful, slick oversize photo spectaculars that look pretty for your guests but which are rarely read. Dorpat's newest creation, Washington Then & Now is beautiful and it is oversized but it is destined to be read, cover to cover, and shared before it may find its way to coffee tables. I enjoyed very much helping provide research and caption material for the book and helping Paul and his photographer partner Jean Sherrard find the exact or nearest-possible angle from which to photograph Now scenes that match Then photos and postcards from across the state that Paul has collected over the years.
      Our local favorite is based on a panoramic shot from July 4, 1910, looking west on McTaggart Street as a uniformed brass band leads a patriotic parade east from downtown to the school where stemwinder speeches were sure to follow. We contacted Dana and Toni Rust, owners of the Edison Eye Gallery in the old Watkinson Bros. Dry Goods building, to help us coordinate a modern version, and Nancy Williams, who lives on the parade route, showed Jean the exact spot where the photographer, a Mr. Hall, stood in 1910. The Fourth of July parades have moved to other nearby cities over the years, but Halloween 2005 brought out ghosts and goblins in modern uniforms. A motley lot led by Carmen Miranda in her fruity hat paused before trick-or-treating the locals and assembled in the Now photo.
      Other local scenes include: Capt. George E. Pickett's 1850s bridge in Whatcom; Old Main on Western's campus; Chuckanut Drive and Samish Bay; LaConner's waterfront; Hotel Stanwood; Mount Vernon waterfront; the old white church at Silvana, among others. Other statewide photos that especially caught my eye include the dramatic photo of "Historic Dayton" in southeastern Washington; Steptoe Butte, showing the landscape where Lake Missoula rushed across about 15,000 years ago to create the Columbia River; Steamboat Rock, which survived that deluge; the Vantage Bridge over the Columbia, which is no more; the Moclips Beach Hotel bending into the ocean like an accordion during the storm of February 1911; Spirit Lake at Mount St. Helens; Sam Hill's Maryhill memorial; the Tolt River Watershed; and Old St Peter's Church in Tacoma, with its unique Douglas fir bell tower.
      Those of you who are as old as this editor may remember Dorpat for his Helix newspaper, which provided an alternative voice for Seattle in the 1960s. Since then he has become the historian of record of Seattle with his Seattle Times series and in recent years he has ventured forth all over the state. He explains in the book:

      The pleasures of repeat photography have been a weekly routine for me for nearly a quarter of a century. My early forays into publishing repeat photography include the "Seattle Now and Then" feature for Pacific Northwest Magazine in the Seattle Times and later, several books. For Washington Then & Now, I had imagined doing another book of Washington "repeats," but increasingly suspected that I could not accomplish the tasks alone. However, once Westcliffe asked, the solution was at hand: author, thespian, teacher and parent Jean Sherrard. Jean and I have worked together on several stimulating projects, and, I reasoned, he wouldn't likely refuse the chance to explore the state for historical scenes, with the Nikon in hand to repeat them.
      It also helped that Jean was much younger and braver than I, and prepared to reconnoiter the state's byways whenever the light was right. The fact that Jean stands 6'7", the better to see above the trees, helped, too. Although I joined him on a few of these adventures, ordinarily I stayed near my desk, the library and the Internet, ready to respond when Jean checked in for one of our frequent telephone "reports and advisories." In effect, through much of this production, I was Jean's travel agent. Consequently, I dedicate this book — or my part in it — to the coauthor.

The Nooksacht's Trail and Crossing
By James Berg, Everson, WA: Tuxedo Publishing, 2003

(Harkness Ferry)
      This scow ferry at The Crossing was known as the Harkness Ferry. According to Percival R. Jeffcott in his book, Nooksack Tales and Trails, the ferry was authorized by Whatcom County following the 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush

    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

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.

      I was directed to James Berg many years ago when I was curious about "The Crossing," a ford of the Nooksack River, near the present town of Nooksack, that became the center of commerce and communication for settlers in the Nooksack River region northeast of the village of Whatcom. That crossing was where the Ostermans came from before they operated the old hotel that stood in the place of the present Gateway Hotel in Sedro-Woolley. William H. Osterman was the telegrapher there, close to the military road that once linked Steilacoom and Whatcom County in Washington Territory days. Those who want to study this important period in Northwest history will seek out Berg's book.
      "It was the only fording place on the Nooksack and had been used for centuries," Berg explains. "The first known white man's use of it was the Hudson Bay Fur traders who came down "The Trail" to collect pelts from the Nooksacks in 1828 or thereabouts as Fort Langley was established in 1827 from which the pelts were shipped to England."
      Berg is a conscientious researcher. He notes in the inscription to the book that the proper historical spelling of the Indian tribe is Nooksachk. He has been studying the area since he was a young man, part of his heritage as the descendant of the Berg family who homesteaded there. The Berg brothers, David and Fred, arrived at Whatcom in 1883 to scout the area for their father, Sam — James's great-grandfather. This book begins as the brothers land on the dock and then ascend the Nooksack trail, finding a land just a bit different than the billing of the railroad advertisements that were plastered all over the Minnesota newspapers that spring. The wilderness was quite sobering to people not prepared for it, covered by dense stands of forest and dotted by beaver ponds, sometimes inundated by the river that often leapt out of its banks and changed channels. Berg recreates conversations that his ancestors may have had with such pioneer notables as Dan Harris, Edward Eldridge and others, and his introductory chapters cover the early history of Whatcom settlement, with maps of the early homesteads and towns.
      The Bergs were lured here by Samuel's first cousin, their former Pennsylvania neighbor Elizabeth Pritts, who had moved there with her husband Samuel and their young children. One daughter, Tabitha, was destined to marry famed Sedro-Woolley photographer Darius Kinsey. The settlement of Everson (named for homesteader Ever Everson) straddled the river and the crossing but the Bergs settled nearer the town of Nooksack, a couple of miles to the northeast. Samuel brought the rest of the family out on the railroad in October 1883, including his 13-year-old son, Jake, who was James's grandfather. The Bergs originally had to walk two miles to The Crossing for their mail and Sam Berg soon applied for a post office, naming his settlement Tuxedo after a place name near their home in Pennsylvania.
      Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the book for students, researchers and genealogists is the collection of maps, both historical and those created by Berg for his project. For instance, James proudly points out that his maps of the Telegraph Trail and Road are the most accurate in print. I personally marveled at the tide lines that became so important later that decade when the territory turned into a state and commissions were set up to determine who owned what and where and why near the water. Other hand-drawn maps detail the old trail carved out for miners to trek up to the Fraser River during the 1858 gold rush and a terrific view of how people walked through the brush and trees between the villages of Sehome and Whatcom in 1883. An additional treat is Samuel Berg's description of how the family traveled west on the Northern Pacific to Goble, Oregon, where the whole train of cars was loaded on a ferry over to Kalama, Washington, where another locomotive pulled them up to Tacoma.
      To purchase the book you can email Berg at: tuxedowa@earthlink.net or you can write to him at: Tuxedo Publishing, 3200 Massey Road, Everson, WA 98247. He has a whole series that will soon include a book on the towns of Tuxedo, Nooksack and Everson. His most recent book from 2006 is Glen Echo School Centennial Edition about the settlement east of Nooksack and Everson. This book is a goldmine for genealogists, with chapters on many of the earliest Whatcom County families and 41 of their homesteads. He also included 197 illustrations of individual students, their families and classes at the school. His wife, the former Inez Askland, graduated from the eighth grade there and she and her sister, Ora Mae, organized the reunions for former students.
      Inez Sorenson Berg is an author in her own right, with a book that will be of interest to those students at Western Washington State College who lived in boarding houses. Adventures of a College Housemother (2001) is about her years at Western Manor, 805 N. Garden Street, from 1959-2001. She and her first husband, Helmer Sorenson, converted a beautiful old single-family home, owned by Dr. Edward K. Stimpson, into a boarding house for girls and the stories of those times seem quaint by today's college standards, but they will be especially endearing to women who attended Western in the turbulent decades of the 1960s and '70s. Inez includes stories of individual students and their lives, lists of the girls who boarded there, as well as anecdotes that explain in detail how college life differed so much just four decades ago. You can also email or write to Berg to purchase her book.

Lake Chelan in the 1890s (revised and expanded)
By Robert Byrd (1972), reprinted by his daughters Annette and Christina in 1992
(Field Hotel)
The Field Hotel in 1911. This location was covered by the lake when a dam was constructed in 1926 and lumber from the hotel was used for the Golden West Lodge, which hosted visitors until 1971 and is now used as a visitor and information center.

      When I researched Frank Wilkeson's 1892 mining store at Bridge Creek near Lake Chelan many years ago, I found a goldmine of a book, Lake Chelan in the 1890s, which Chelan writer Robert Byrd published in 1972. Byrd based his book on a booklet and stories from the 1892 period, adding his own carefully researched annotations to explain the names and places that may have been lost in history.
      As with many Washington frontier towns, the early 1890s seemed to present limitless possibilities for boom and profit for those entrepreneurs around the lake who were brave enough to take a risk. That all came crashing down when the Depression that started nationwide in 1893 dried up capital and eastern investors drew in their horns until 1898, when the Klondike Gold Rush rescued the new state from near bankruptcy.
      As Byrd explained, the kernel of his book was an account of a steamboat trip up Lake Chelan in May 1891 aboard the lake's first steamboat, the Belle of Chelan, presumably chronicled by Spokane editor N.W. Durham. Durham edited the Review newspaper at the time, progenitor of the Spokesman-Review and he went on to write History of the City of Spokane and Spokane Country Washington From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time in three volumes in 1912.
      As I read his original book, I was fascinated with the marvelous photographs of the old hotels that catered to the wealthy families who summered on the lake: the Lakeview House and M.E. Field's Argonaut Hotel; the trails and transportation of the time; the lake itself and pioneers themselves. Merritt Field's hotel was at the head of the lake, where argonauts descended in search for gold after crossing the Cascade Pass from Marblemount. When a dam downlake raised the level in the 1920s much of the land at the head of the lake was flooded including Field's homestead and hotel site. Byrd's photos are of those halcyon days when guests took a boat up the lake to stay a month or so in the various incarnations of Field's hotel as it grew and grew from the kernel of the Argonaut.
      You also see and read about Weaver Point, which would be immortalized decades later when Daisy Weaver's homestead became the setting for the sheep ranch in the 1944 Elizabeth Taylor movie, The Courage of Lassie. Nearby, hunchbacked packer and homesteader Dan Devore, had a ranch where he raised pack animals for tours by writers such as Mary Roberts Rinehart and to deliver goods and supplies to the mining store of Frank Wilkeson and son Bayard on Bridge Creek on the north side of the lake.
      Byrd also included the article, "Prospecting behind trapper lake," written in 1892 by Jim Scheuyeaulle, who had a log cabin near the head of the lake near the later Stehekin River Resort. Finally, he included a most interesting piece called "The Stehekin Sightseer," also from 1892, written by Frank Keller, who originally homesteaded at the upper end of the lake and later was elected the first sheriff of Chelan County. Those who research Chelan history will especially appreciate Byrd's discover of the old 1891 county highway on the south side of the lake, which has nearly completely disappeared. He found a map drawn to scale on a four-foot piece of linen paper.
      Robert Byrd was born in Chelan County in 1925, where his great-grandfather, John Robert Moore, was an early settler who took most of the photos featured in the original 1972 book, with most included in the 1992 reprint. His parents homesteaded in the Stehekin Valley and he was raised there, attending a one-room log school through the eighth grade, which his father helped construct. He hosted commercial raft float trips down the Stehekin River and in 1972 he became the National Park Service Concessionaire in Stehekin. He also operated the North Cascade Lodge and Restaurant for five years with his wife and four daughters. He died in August 1989. We are very grateful to his daughter Annette for contacting us by email and sharing the reprint that she and her sister prepared of her father's book. They are also preparing a new book on the Field Hotel and other landmarks of the Chelan area. They have a collection of other reprints that they prepared from their father's research. For details and ordering, you can contact them at email: buchvogel@yahoo.com or write to: Annette Byrd, 73935 Yarrington Rd., Elgin, OR 97827. You can also obtain a copy if you visit the Lake Chelan Historical Society.

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Story posted on May 20, 2007, last updated Oct. 26, 2011
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