(Hoogdal School)

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The hard fight to win Hoogdal

(Hoogdal Road about 1912)
      It may seem unusual seeing a family show up for the groundbreaking of the Hoogdal road. But this first step in about 1912 was the best news possible for kids who had to troop through the mud every day to a school miles away. The people in the road-groundbreaking photo include: Signa Hanson as the tallest girl at the left. The settlers with shovels are (l. to r.): Hans Hanson, P.O. Ostlund, John Grip and Peter Ostlund. Now you know the significance of the Grip road.

By Ray Jordan, author of Ray's Writin's, Yarns of the Skagit Country
      You don't have to go back a hundred years to find an example of fairly rugged pioneering. The sylvan-bordered community of Hoogdal is living proof.
      In 1909, P.O. Ostlund, Jonas Johnson, Hans Hanson and Halvor Pearson, [Swedish immigrants who were] then residing in Canada, visited the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. There they learned of and made arrangements to purchase 530 acres of logged-off land on which their future homes would be, from the Belfast Manufacturing Company at a price of $20 an acre.
      Discouraged when he learned later that there was no road to the property, Halvor Pearson never built on his land. Charter members of the settlement from Canada were Hanson, Johnson, Ostlund and Marcus Sjokin. The fifth member, who had been residing at Avon for five years, was John Grip, a carpenter.
      Since there were no improvements of any kind on their land, part of this determined group moved in 1910 to temporary quarters in the abandoned shacks of the Moody Bros. logging camp on what is now the A.B. Johnson farm at the foot of the hill on the road from the Samish River to Hoogdal.
      The brave new pioneering life in their adopted land had begun. Children of school age had the pleasure of trudging the seven-mile round trip daily to the nearest school at Belfast. Many times this writer has seen those kids partially stripped, drying out around the big wood heater in the schoolroom after making that trip in a soaking rain, but they never complained.
      During 1911, development of the wilderness started in earnest. Visualize if you can, the difficulties. No houses, no clearings, no wells, just 550 acres of cut-over land buried in debris and thickets of brush dotted with hundreds of huge, healthy stumps, and the whole surrounded by a towering stand of virgin timber. The nearest roads were a mile and a half to two miles away. Lumber for the first houses was hauled up the hill on sleds by horses over an old logging skid road from the county road.
      To Hans Hanson goes the honor of building the first house in Hoogdal, a small building with single walls of rough one-by-twelves set up vertically, but a home nevertheless.
      Marcus Sjodin led off with the second, using split cedar logs for his snug cabin. Then John Grip built a modest home for this family and gave P.O. Ostlund a hand in erecting his. Soon all of the original families were living their new dwellings on the hill. Others, too numerous to name here, soon started moving in.
      The years from 1911 to 1914 found the Hoogdal youngsters making the three-mile round trip to the new school at Hickson over an old logging road, of which the [fore]-and-aft section coming down the hill was so steep that steps had to be chopped in the logs for safety.
      Though the distance was shorter to this school the kids had additional duties to make up for it. Groceries were delivered from town to the Woodman [Granny] Mathews place near the school on certain days, and on these days each boy and girl carried his share back to his home on the hill.
      And sometimes each would be seen struggling along the trail with a flake of baled hay under his arm for the few cows that the settlers found necessary for existence. As yet, not enough land had been cleared for the raising of hay. And a cow, as any old-timer those days would tell you, was half the living for a family.
      John Grip smiled reminiscently as he once told us of packing a whole ton of hay up the hill on his back, but not all at once, he hastily added.
      Strenuous efforts to secure a school for the settlement resulted in an agreement whereby Hans Hanson built another house which rented to the country for the next two school terms (1914-15 and 1915-16), which was a godsend to the Hoogdal youngsters.

Railroad to the rescue
(Hoogdal train 1914)
Northern Pacific train arrives 1914. Photos from a 1960 special issue of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times

      Then in 1914, the sun broke through. The Northern Pacific, to shorten its line, built a cutoff through the settlement, which greatly facilitated the delivery of supplies, a welcome relief to many overworked backs. Ole Okerstrum's store served as a flag stop for the passenger train.
      During 1916, bonds were voted for a permanent school and gymnasium, which John Grip contracted for at a cost of $1,585, furnishing the material himself! The necessary lumber was moved in over the new railroad. This provided a gathering place for the community and many were the times when we enjoyed the Swedish hospitality there.
      It was about 1917 before they had a road that could be negotiated by an automobile, though, and a log time after that before it could be called really improved.
      In case you are curious, the name "Hoogdal" is derived from that of the original settlers' hometown in Sweden, "Ytterhogdal," by shortening it and adding an "O."
      It looked as if those Swedes were whipped before they ever started the Hoogdal project, but with the tenacity of buildings they kept chewing on the enemy until they won.

(Hoogdal mean and car)
(Hoogdal school)
      Above: We hope that a reader will have memories of the Hoogdal school

      Left: Hoogdal settlers pose in a car at the 1909 Exposition; there were no roads for it in Hoogdal. Does anyone know the details of this car?
Hoogdahl settlers in the car above at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition are (l. to r.): P.O. Ostlund, Jonas Johnson, Hans Hanson, Harold Regnander.

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Story posted on Dec. 15, 2007 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
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