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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

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
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Rotten Joints and John Barleycorn
in Wild Ole Woolley

The Truth anonymous newsletter; ca 1900; donated by Jean Austin, Harbaugh granddaughter
(Northern Avenue)
      The Keystone Hotel and Saloon, the most iniquitous place of sin, degradation and liquor, is at the far right on Northern Avenue, which was planked when Darius Kinsey took this photo in 1899. James Gray's Palace Tavern was later located in the middle of the block.

Rotten Row
Moral Leprosy in this fair young City
The Grewsome [sic] Spectacle Stands with its Withering and Blighting Disease
Where Women and Children must Breathe its deadly Germs
Public Officials Powerless To Prevent The Dread Spectre

      One of the most aggressive and prosperous little cities in the Puget Sound country is Sedro-Woolley. Quick in its action; rich in its charities; generous in its schools; magnanimous in its public improvements, with a helpful water and light system adapted to the place; homes to be proud of and native artistic conceptions of its people shown in the individuality of the furnishings; business houses with unlimited credit, and all carrying movable stocks, banks with vaults laden with money; the workingman in demand at union wages; the hum of industry on every side; God merciful and generous, with his beautiful hills surrounding the valley; moistened by the quick flowing Skagit river.
      But stop for a thought!. The place is morally diseased. Saloons, Gambling, and Bawdy houses are bunched like a rotten cancer in its very heart. Go to its homes, schools, churches or theatre and you must drink in the foulness of the "row." Go to its business houses, and you smell its stench as you walk down its main street.
      This is the tone of expression of those who visit the town. Is there no balm in Gilead? Must Science be called in to discover a remedy to cure this disease? Must pure, innocent children, and women, be infected with this moral pollution?
      Read the following extract and then ask yourself the question: Has this condition of things a right to spread its death dealing influence? Newell Dwight Hills, in his The Science of Living With Me says: Smooth living with men is difficult because of the continual conflict with evil.
      Integrity can never be good friends with iniquity, nor liberty with tyranny, nor purity and sweetness with filth and foulness. When doves learn to live with hawks, and lambs learn how to get along with wolves, good men and true will learn how to live in peace with vice and crime. Wickedness means warfare, not peace. Deviltry cannot be overcome by diplomacy.
      Men of integrity and refinement can have but one attitude toward corruption, drunkenness, gilded iniquity[ — the attitude of uncompromising hostility. Languorous, emasculated manhood may endure great wrongs for the sake of peace and quiet; but robust manhood never. One of the dangers of our age and nation is a tendency to conciliate wrong and smooth over wickedness through a spur ious sense of charity.
      To become accustomed to evil, to garnish sin, to dim and deaden sensibility to what is right and beautiful, is to extirpate manhood and become a mere lump of flesh. No man has a right to be friends with iniquity. In a wicked world the only people who are justified in peaceable living are the people in grave yards. In an age and land like ours only men of mush and moonshine can be friends with everybody. In view of the crime, poverty and ignorance of our age, for a man to live so that his friends can truthfully write on his tombstone, "He never had an enemy," is for him to be eternally disgraced. Men, real men, men who are not afraid to oppose the "gang rule of our town, arise and put an end to it. Wipe the moral leprosy out.
      Jim Gray fixed Bronson's petition up at Coleman's] office and will pull the rope for the deluded voter of the third ward to follow the first ward leader. Shame on you, third ward dupes.

Hill's Rotten Joint.
The Keystone Hotel a nest of vice and crime
Lewd men and women have full license in naked debauches. Other houses like it.
Marshall Holman kicks the Dirty Gang Into The Street.
Young Girls allowed rooms in the place.

      City Prosecutor Seabury files charges against Hill and day Marshall Munroe swears to the truth of it. Hill calls at Seabury's office and tries to bribe him into not prosecuting the case ut the attorney indignantly puts him out of his office and pushes the matter. Mayor Bingham goes to the hotel and matters are quieted. The disgraceful affair is brought up in the Council but some members of that body want it kept quiet.
      Why is it necessary to have secret meeting to find out the truth of this affair? Charley Hill's Keystone dive is not the only place of its kind in our town. Let the official tell the whole thing and clean it up once and for all.
      Sedro-Woolley men and women, in God's name put a stop to this kind of life in our city. The gang that controls the city will not do it for you. Honest men who want to do their duty are sandbagged by connivery of those officials who defeat justice. Rise up, honest voter, and cast your vote for a clean town and an incorruptible government. Is there a man so like a cur as to sell his citizenship for a drink of whiskey or a bit of dirty money?

To the Saloon-Keeper in Sedro-Woolley
Howard's Fearful Arraignment of Your Business.
      Extract from speech of Clinton N. Howard, at a great Rochester mass meeting attended by a committee from the local liquor dealers' association by appointment of their craftsmen to report the character of meeting and the men attending or contributing, intending to organize a boycott. Howard took the committee for his text.
      Men in the liquor business, do you wonder that we men who are trying to serve God in the highest sense by serving Humanity, do you wonder that we hate it? Do you wonder that at great cost in time and money, without gain to ourselves, or hope of reward, we fight it? Do you wonder that for our own sake, the people's sake, the boys' sake, the mothers' sake, the city's sake, we ask you to stop it?
      On May 1st. your liquor tax expires. We ask you in the name of your own manhood, and for the sake of everything good and pure on earth, dent renew it. We want you to understand us. We are not fighting individuals. We have no issue with you as men. But we are the enemy of your business. We hate it.
      We are not alone in this. You hate it. Ask yourself the question. It is a bad business. You know that better than we do. Any service that we can do you as brother men we would most gladly do. Anything we can do to destroy your business as the worst enemy of man, we will do — cost what it may. We will leave nothing undone. We will suffer any hardship, make any sacrifice, pay any price, that will rid this city of this fearful curse. We ask every individual saloon-keeper; we ask you to stop it now
      Wash your hands clean of this iniquity. Find some honorable employment. Don't be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth any longer. The curse of God Almighty is on your business. You know it. Your coffers drip with human blood You know it. You are barred out from all decent society. You know it. The Masonic Fraternity have kicked you out. The Knights of Pythias have kicked you out. The Odd Fellows have kicked you out. Catholic Benevolent Societies have kicked you out. The great Insurance Companies have kicked you out. The railroads of America, employing more men than the vast standing armies of England and Germany put together won't employ your patrons. The churches reject men for membership who rent you property.
      Only a few places like the penitentiary, the poor house, and the potters field are open to your graduates. Of all men you are regarded as the scum of the earth in this world and face a fearful destiny in the next. Are you blind to all these facts? Are you dumb to all appeals? We implore you for your own sake, for your families' sake, for humanity's sake, quit the saloon business. Your license expires May first. If rum-selling goes on after that date let some imp of perdition continue to destroy his life and damn his soul — don't you. God bless every saloon keeper who turns his back on this traffic in human blood and gets out on the first of May.
      And may the lightning of his wrath strike down every saloon that will continue to insult His love and damn His people after that date.

Charles Edward Bingham, Banker and Politician.
The Shrewed Politician and Financier, Wants To Succeed Himself to The Front Office.
Sat in chair so long that it fits his Form.
      Mayor Bingham has cast his political net for another draught of fishes. With his maany "Aides" and his own powerful influence over certain elements in our city this smooth politician has ordered his name permanently engraved on the Mayor's desk in the City hall.
      With the Hon. James Holbrook of Bellingham, better known to the "good fellows" as " Jim and Mr. H. Shrewsbury, with their willing helpers for [illegible], no fish is too small to be drawn ashore and kept on the string till needed.
      Had Mayor Bingham shown in the past year that the had the interest of the whole community at heart and was willing to use his natural gifts and influence for greater moral improvement of the place, he would have beyond a question been returned to the Mayor's chair with the blessings of mothers and fathers surrounding him.
      As he has seen fit to cast his anchor with the saloons and the element following them, he will feel the loss, sooner or later, by the misstep. That open immorality in Sedro-Woolley is doomed to a foregone conclusion. Fathers and Mothers, School Teachers, Physicians and Clergy all realize the evil sown in the minds of children, destroying them for good citizens of the future.
      If Mr. Bingham has aspirations for Senator Hammer's honored, and deservedly kept seat at Olympia, let him show his ability to enforce. the laws in a country town before he asks the great privilege of helping to make laws for a sovereign State. There is no honor left for him in the ''front office" of the City Hall, while political itch saps his better self.
      Naturally talented and energetic, yet, he has to learn the great fundamental truth, that patriotic citizens are not itching for office but are ready to serve their fellow men if called. The petitions circulated by his lieutenants have his sanction and are with his knowledge, is believed by all reasonable people. Voters may well ask the question: What is my vote?

Charles Carleton Harbaugh
Christian Gentleman and Benefactor
The Promising Physician heeds the importunities of his fellow citizens to become the public's Servant.
Will abide by the law and give all a "square deal."
      Sedro-Woolley's representative citizens have chosen wisely in their candidate for the Mayoral Chair. No man is better qualified in temperament, learning and character than Dr. Harbaugh. Having a mind of his own, and a firm, yet kindly will, lie will govern all with impartiality and justice.
      Dr. Harbaugh is a child of the great state of Pennsylvania. where his early boyhood was ingrafted with the sterling qualities of modesty and unselfishness. Coming west prepared for service in public instruction, he served the high schools of Tacoma .with honor, until stirred to greater service for his fellow-man in his chosen profession. By his own indomitable courage and perseverance he has risen to the front ranks of medicine. For what he is, and what his principles are is he desired for the head office of this municipality.
      The voters of Sedro Woolley may have no fear of casting their votes for him, for they may rest assured lie will do all that lies in his power to make our city a model of American liberty and spirit, progression and equity.


Balm in Gilead
      This phrase is found in the bible, in old spiritual songs and Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, among other places. Literally the balm is the resinous gum found in a tree indigenous to the Middle East and that balm had medicinal properties. Poe referred to the "balm in Gilead" as being able to heal his broken heart, because he is lamenting for the death of his love, Lenore. In Ken Kesey's book, Sometimes a Great Notion, Balm of Gilead appears usually as a euphemism for alcohol. In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, set in a post-apocalyptic United States now called the "Republic of Gilead" a rebellious character twists the biblical line into the pun "there is a bomb in Gilead." [Return]

Jim Gray
      Gray was an Englishman who landed in old Sedro in 1889 after sailing around the world on merchant ships. After a few years of logging, Gray decided to sell whiskey to the loggers instead and he spent the next six decades as the owner of a succession of saloons, before and after Prohibition, with the last one being The Palace, just west of the brick bowling alley building. His wife, Blanche was the impetus for the public library. Gray later served on the city council. [Return]

      Wilbra Coleman was the senior member of the Sedro-Woolley law practice, Coleman and Gable. He was admitted to the bar in 1894. [Return]

      Howard Seabury was the son of a family who moved here from Plainview, Nebraska at the turn of the 20th century and bought Charles J. Wicker Sr.'s homestead. He was hired as Sedro-Woolley city attorney in 1901 by David Donnelly, the local Republican powerhouse. He kept an office on Ferry Street until he moved to Bellingham later to enter the insurance business. [Return]

Charley Hill
      Hill found himself in one scrape after another as bartender and bar owner in Woolley from the 1890s to the 1930s when he was arrested for breaking the law of Prohibition. [Return]

James Holbrook
      Holbrook moved to Woolley in 1899, following his brother Merritt, who was Charles Bingham's original partner in the bank of Sedro and then Woolley. After the turn of the century, he became a partner with Norris Ormsby in the Skagit Commission granary and feed store that was located where the Ford dealership is today, north of Ferry Street. [Return]

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Story posted June 13, 2009 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 49 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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