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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
600 of 700 total Free Home Page Stories & Photos
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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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History of Sedro-Woolley Rotary
and their legendary philanthropy

      Journal ed. note: In 2011, as back in 1992, I still credit the Sedro-Woolley Rotary Club as kick-starting this research project nearly 20 years ago, which led to some of our most important early discoveries. Especially the late Messrs. Bob Wilcox and Win McLean, and the club historian, John Ward, encouraged our project in its infant stages. And the club chose in 1993 to help underwrite our research trip around the country to find the families of our pioneers, including the descendants of Mortimer Cook. That in turn led to inviting the Cook family from various parts of the U.S. to attend the first Founders Days, in 1994, and be featured in the Loggerodeo Grand Parade. It is therefore fitting that when the Rotary decided to erect its most elaborate structure so far, it built a fine outdoor theater, out of native rock and wood, at nearly the exact spot where Cook hired fellow-pioneer David Batey to build the cottage for Cook's family back in 1885 at the crook of the Skagit river and Batey slough. We hope that the Club will consider, when they officially name the theater, honoring Mortimer by naming the theater for him. Meanwhile, we offer our extended thanks for their generosity.

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2003
      Twenty-five business and professional men started the Sedro-Woolley Rotary Club with an inaugural meeting on April 10, 1922. In some ways this was a key date for the young community as the rough and tough town became even more civilized, just as the post-World War I boom was peaking.
      Lawyer Paul P. Harris started Rotary in Chicago, Illinois, on Feb. 23, 1905, with three friends, a merchant, coal deal and mining engineer. Harris and his friends wanted to transfer the small-town spirit of the area where they grew up to the impersonal big city and he coined the name, Rotary, from the early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of members. In general, the early members of clubs across the country were business owners and men and they dedicated themselves to humanitarian service and high ethical standards in all vocations. They adopted the motto, "Service Above Self."
      A second club was formed in San Francisco in 1908 and the first national convention for 16 clubs was staged in Chicago in August 1910. In the 1911-12 Rotary year, the first club was formed outside the U.S. in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, followed soon thereafter by clubs in England, Ireland and Northern Ireland, then Manilla in the Philippines in 1919 and clubs in continental Europe, Africa and Australia in 1921. The year that the Sedro-Woolley club formed, the growing association of clubs worldwide formed the Rotary International as their parent agency.

First meeting in Sedro-Woolley in 1922
(Rotary 1947)
      When the Sedro-Woolley Rotary club celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1947, these five businessman were the surviving charter members still in town (l. to r.): Paul Rhodius, the first president; Frank Evans, the first secretary; Hugh Ridgway, charter director; S.S. McIntyre Sr. , charter director; and A. Bingham, the first treasurer.

      That first meeting on April 10, 1922, was actually attended by 25 charter members. They included the elite of the town, including: Q.R. Donnelly, C.T. Mescher, Horace Condy, Ted Jungmeyer, Hazen T. Murray, minister; W.R. Morgan, water company owner; Joseph Oliver, tailor; Harry L. Devin, real estate; C.P. Gable, attorney; Cornelius T. Richardson, Carnation Milk; Marcellus B. Holbrook, feed and grain dealer; W.H. Curry, furniture; David G. McIntyre, Skagit Steel; F.A. Hegg, grocer; C.J. White, George White, dime store; Merle Niece Sr., insurance agent; and Charles Wuest, hardware. The host member was H.J. Nibbelink, who owned the Wixson Hotel (now the Gateway), where the club met for the first couple of decades. The first officers were Paul Rhodius, president, a noted early druggist who came here from St. Louis in 1900; Frank S. Evans, secretary, the publisher of the Courier-Times, who arrived on Jan. 31, 1918; Albert "A" Bingham, treasurer and son of the pioneer banker, C.E. Bingham, and born in Sedro in 1895; and directors, Dr. H.R. Ridgway, dentist; S.S. McIntyre Sr., son of Skagit Steel founder David G. McIntyre and born in Superior, Wisconsin, in 1892; and Merle Niece Sr., an insurance agent born in Iowa in 1899.
      Only one man per business category was allowed to be a member, with only an occasional exception in the early decades. Over the first few years, membership was opened up to clergy, school administrators and government officials. An article in the Sept. 24, 1953, Courier-Times listed the presidents of the club from 1922-1953 including: Rhodius; Charles Wuest; W.R. Morgan; Paine Shangle, school superintendent; Horace Condy, jeweler; Hugh Moore; Dr. Ridgway; David G. McIntyre; Frank S. Evans; Gaylord Greene; Fred Stroh; Arthur Stevenson; Floyd Walker; Wyman McClintock, druggist; Ted Muncaster; Art Ward, attorney; Harold Lemley, mortician; Winfield McLean, banker; Harold Ely, Ernie Johnson, feed store; Elmer Isvick; George Johnson; Stanley Front; Bob Parker, grocer; Jim Bassett; Ernie Jensen, petroleum dealer; Chet Coryell; and Walt Deierlein, farmer.
      That year of 1953 was a banner one for Sedro-Woolley after people in town were initially forced to ride an emotional roller coaster earlier in the year. Skagit Steel had outgrown its plant area on the old P.A. Woolley mill site west of Metcalf, near Gibson street and then the U.S. Army granted a huge $3 million contract for the plant to supply recoilless shells for artillery. The McIntyre family began looking for another site where they could grow, and Bellingham, Burlington and other towns began courting them. The Rotary Club stepped up to the plate and fashioned an audacious plan to double the plant property by buying four whole blocks to the north and moving off the homes there, some of which dated back to before the turn of the century. A Rotary committee headed by Frank S. Evans; Stan Nelson, owner of Nelson Chevrolet; George Hammer of Oliver-Hammer Clothing; Sig Berglund of Berglund Ford; L.E. Gruver of Mt. Baker Hardware; and Fred Fellows of Skagit Valley State Bank went on to raise the handsome total of $300,000, which was enough to assure completion of the expansion. All those gentlemen have passed away, including Stan Nelson, less than a year ago, but one of the hardest workers was Fred Vochatzer of Equals Variety, who is still very much alive and still an active Rotarian.
      Women were admitted to Rotary in 1987 and the first woman in the Sedro-Woolley club, Annie Simmons, was admitted in 1994. Membership has grown to 98 in 2002, according to current president Louis Requa. Locally, Rotary is perhaps best known for its legendary philanthropy and the annual May auction, which started on a small scale in 1973 and grew rapidly in the 1990s until club members now raise well over $100,000 annually for their varied project list. During World War II, the club became famous for providing a cool benefit for folks on the home front by buying land at the southwest corner of Clear Lake for a swimming beach that was donated to the city of Sedro-Woolley and has been enjoyed by three more generations of swimmers since then. You can also read about this year's major project &— Hammer Heritage Square.

Philanthropy projects from 1973-2000
    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 bedding. See our Journal feature on this local business and learn more details and how to order items at their website.

      Schools and Youth: Sedro-Woolley High School [S-WHS], S-WHS Annual Scholarship Fund, S-WHS Concession Stand Loan [repaid], S-WHS Tennis Court Lighting, S-WHS Foreign Exchange Students, S-WHS Boy and Girl of the Month, S-WHS Weight Room, S-WHS Band Uniforms, S-WHS New Weight Room Floor, S-WHS Main Entrance Renovation, S-WHS Performing Arts Center Entrance. Annual Contributions to Various School Sport Programs, District 101 Levy Promotion, SPARC Preschool Program, Grant towards Development of Alternative School Program, Evergreen Elementary Playground Equipment and Gravel, Central Elementary Playground Enhancement, Samish Elementary Playground Enhancement.
Youth Service Program, Donation to Make-a-Wish Foundation of Washington, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boys and Girls State Students.
      Recreation: Purchase Clear Lake Swim Beach, Northern State Recreational Area Task Force Committee Liaison and Volunteer Help, City-wide Bicycle Safety, Swimming Pool Feasibility Study, Babe Ruth Baseball League, Skagit Mountain Rescue Unit/Communications Equipment Loan [repaid], Summer Recreation Program, Sedro-Woolley Recreational Park, George Johnson Memorial Tennis Court Renovation (Talcott Street), Wildcat Steelhead Club Fish Counter, Grant to purchase Outdoor Basketball Hoops, Backboards and Pole Supports Parking Lot (corner of State and Murdock), S-W American Legion Baseball, S-W Little League Scoreboard at Erik Tesarik Memorial Field, S-W Fire Department Jaws of Life [update], Janicki Fields Design and Construction.
      City: Purchase Property for Riverfront Park and Development of the Park, Covered Picnic Shelter at Riverfront Park, Lights for Riverfront Park, Sedro-Woolley Community Center Project Renovation, Downtown Beautification Program, Entry Sign for City, S-W Police Department Video Camera Equipment, S-W Town Clock Restoration, Contributed to Renovation of Caboose and Platform at Harry Osborne Park, Grant to S-W Parks, Department for Playground Equipment for Bingham Park, Grant to Chamber for Economic Development, Air Pack for S-W Fire Department, Grant to Sedro-Woolley Library — Construction Fund/Library Desk and Work Center, Wood Carvings for Downtown S-W, Infrared Goggles for S-W Fire Department.
      History: Skagit County Historical Society, Grant to Remodel Sedro-Woolley Museum, Skagit River Journal — Sedro-Woolley History.
      Health: Food Bank Contributions, United General Hospital Campaign, DARE Program Grant, Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation Kidney Dialysis, North Cascades Health Council Computer, Home Emergency Light Phlasher, Exercise Equipment for Affiliated Health Services, Heart Monitoring Equipment for Cardio Rehab at UGH.
      Seniors: Senior Citizens Bus Contribution, Contribution to Senior Citizen Van Renovation, Thanksgiving and Christmas Flowers and Dinners.
      Miscellaneous: International Rotary Foundation Scholarships and Exchanges, Master Gardener Fence.
      Outside Sedro-Woolley: Contributed Money to Purchase Drug Dog for the Sheriff's Department, Burlington-Edison Track, Pacific Northwest Trail.

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(bullet) Our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, 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 andduvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.
(bullet) Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 90 years continually in business.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20, day, week or month, perfect for hunting or fishing. Park your RV or pitch a tent — for as little as $5 per night — by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley. Alpine is doubling in capacity for RVs and camping in 2011.
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