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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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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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Snow in June? Never happens, right?
More short stories in Chapter 2 of Odds & Ends

Local man photographs snow field near here
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, June 9, 1932

(Snow 1)
(Snow 2)
      Original captionThese two views show from ten to fifteen feet of snow riot ten miles from Sedro-Woolley in Montborne prairie [southeast of the present town of Big Lake and the old town of Montborne]. They were brought here by Norman Fladebo and show him and John Fladebo. The upper view shows snow almost fifteen feet deep, covering thousands of acres, and the other shows Fladebo, at the edge of the prairie snow field, with rifle outstretched, to show the depth of the snow. The pictures were taken a few days ago. Fladebo reports the snow deeper than in the big snow year of 1916, as he walked completely over the top of a tree, which he had notched then. Thar's snow in them thar hills.

The Sterling Cut-off
Meeting at Commercial Club Last Tuesday
Some Opposition Met With by Property Owners in That Locality

Skagit County Times, Sedro-Woolley, Dec. 22, 1904
(Sterling Bend)
This is excerpted from the 1897 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map that shows the original double-horseshoe bend between old Sedro and Sterling. You can find a larger part of the map and the full story at the Early Sterling site.

      The meeting held on Tuesday afternoon at the Commercial Club rooms to consider the matter of securing the right-of-way for the Sterling Bend Cut-off in the Skagit river was largely attended by the owners of property adjacent to the proposed cut-off, and the owners of property which is being damaged by the present erratic course of the river.
      The urgent necessity for action in securing an appropriation as soon as possible in order to prevent the great amount of further damage threatened, seemed to be thoroughly appreciated by all who have seen the effects of the high floods during a long residence along the river, but it developed that parties who have recently settled on the river and have not had any experience of extreme high waters were unable to appreciate the possible consequences to their property should the cut-off fail to be secured.
      The owner of the Ed West place declared himself to be opposed to the cutoff, which would take a considerable part of his land, unless his whole farm was purchased at once, and as he seemed unwilling to make any agreement to sell contingent upon the appropriation being made for the work by the government, the committee, after discussing the matter with the owners of property present, and finding that in practically every case it would be possible to secure waivers of any possible damages because of the making of the cut-off, and that the meeting was emphatically and urgently in favor of the work being done, adjourned to consider plans for the securing of the right-of-way by condemnation proceedings prosecuted by the county, if possible. It is deemed unlikely that it will be possible to secure the necessary right-of-way in time to secure an appropriation from the present congress, but it is hoped that all the necessary steps for securing the right-of-way can be taken, during the two years it will be necessary to wait for the passage of the next river and harbor bill, and the committee, it is understood, will shortly hold another meeting to lay out a plan for overcoming the difficulties encountered at the meeting on Tuesday.

Journal editor research
      As with all stories of this time period, the newspapers of that era burned in various fires or have been lost decades ago. Therefore we have to consult our sources and then try to connect the dots. In this case, we have three sources. If you go to this Journal website, you will find the story of the early days of Sterling after it was initially established as a mill site by Jesse B. Ball. There you will find the map drawn by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the flood of 1897, which shows the double horseshoe bend at Sterling. The north oxbow, or meander, looped north around "Hart's Island," as the slough does today, and the south ox-bow looped south around the farm of Joseph DeBay (see the Debay story at this Journal website). The cut-off was designed to straighten the river channel on a westerly course as it flows today. Our second source is the diary of Harry L. Devin, who was one of the earliest old-Sedro pioneers and kept historical records of the town for 50 years. Those records, plus his 50-year record of weather observation, were all lost after his death in July 1943 and we desperately want to find them, but that is another story. In his diary that he was keeping in 1926, this is the last entry, which he unfortunately never finished:
Act of God
      In the early nineties there was a horseshoe bend in the Skagit River a couple of miles west of town which was so rapidly cutting away the bank and approaching Great Northern railroad tracks. After considerable work in 1897 we secured an appropriation of $25,000 from Congress, the cost estimates by the Army engineers, of a channel through the neck of the peninsula, but with a rider attached, requiring us to secure waivers of damage from all owners of property abutting on the river for five miles down the river below the proposed cut-off. It was impossible to do this so the appropriation lapsed. The river continued cutting deeper in the bend and by 1908, had washed away hundreds of acres of good farming land and reached the GN Railway, which had to [diary ends at that point] . . .
. . . and there it unfortunately ends. Flash forward nearly a century to when Larry Kunzler began researching surviving local newspapers for stories about flood control. He discovered a 1923 report on Skagit floods by hydraulic engineer James E. Stewart that documented the eventual solution. Following a severe flood in 1909, farmers in the area between the Northern Pacific railroad trestle and the mouth of the Nookachamps River bought their own dynamite and began the process of creating the Sterling Cut-off. Log jams clogged the resulting channel but the floods of 1921 and 1932 eventually swept them away.

(Franklin school)
      This is a photo of Sedro Graded School (later renamed Franklin) in 1906, looking north at Talcott Street. Note the outside fire escape on the annex building to the right, the structure that is the subject of the story below. At the far left in the lower half of the photo is principal J.C. Roe, who left soon afterwards to be principal at Lyman. Note Irving School, the second school building, which is in the background — the site of tennis courts today. You can read more about these schools at this Journal website. Please note: this story is on our old domain and has not yet been updated, so many of the links there will not work.

Carpenters buy old Franklin School; to move it
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, July 29, 1926
      Sedro-Woolley carpenters have purchased the old wing of the Franklin school, which has been left standing near the new Central School building. The carpenters also purchased two lots on Third and Jarneson from Charles Lederle and will have the building moved to this location and remodeled as a hall and meeting place for the carpenters union.
      The building was purchased for half what had been asked the committee from the Commercial Club and Woman's club, which had been considering the matter of buying it for a hall. The carpenters arranged for financing the deal by not having to pay much more on both the principal and interest of the investment, than they, are now paying rent for a meeting place.
      The men will remodel the building for use as a hall and plan to rent it to various organizations. It will be moved to its new location south of the Valley Dairy in the near future.
      Ed. note: Next month we will feature a whole series of photographs about the early schools in Sedro and Woolley. Franklin began as the Sedro Graded School in 1892. In the late 1890s the school was bursting at the seams as population here exploded, so an annex was added east of the original building, with a covered walkway connecting them. In 1926, as plans were drawn up for the new brick Central Grade School, an ambitious building schedule was arranged so that the original Franklin building could be torn down as soon as the spring term ended and the new school could be erected during the summer in time for the fall term to open. If you have ever wondered why Central is shaped like an "L," the original school was set back on the block, so the new school was built around it. Meanwhile, the annex was left standing and that is what the Carpenters Union wound up buying.

City to vote on change of name, Nov. 10, 1936
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Oct. 29, 1936
      The city of Sedro-Woolley will hold its primary city election on November 10, one week after the general election next Tuesday. At the city election, the voters will vote on the question of whether to change the name of Sedro-Woolley or not. If the vote against changing the name, the matter will be dropped. If the vote favors a change, any twenty-five citizens can submit a new name to be placed on the ballot in December.
      Candidates for city offices are to be voted on at this primary election. With the closing of the filing, no candidate is opposed for reelection except City Attorney Art H. Ward [father of John Ward]. Charles F. Abbott has filed against him.
      Mayor G. A. Jones is unopposed for nomination, as are City Clerk William Thomsen, City Treasurer Q.P. Reno and councilman-at large, George Cockreham. In the first ward, Councilman Ray Leeman is unopposed; Councilman S.S. McIntyre is unopposed in the third ward and Councilman Charles Lederle in the third ward.
      The following are some more letters received concerning changing the name of the town; practically all writers opposing the proposed change.
      Ed. note: you can read all the letters, plus a full history of the attempts to change the name of the town in the 1920s and '30s, in Issue 33 of the optional Subscribers Journal online.

Heggs abandon car, wade to high land
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, March 3, 1932
      A Sedro-Woolley party, returning from Seattle Sunday evening, had a thrilling experience on the Avon-Allen road near the Country Club when they were forced to abandon their car and wade in swift water almost to their waists. The party included Mr. and Mrs. F.A. Hegg, P. A. "Puss" Stendal and his mother, Mrs. Mary Stendal. When they reached Mt. Vernon they were told they should go by way of Avon, and everything seemed all right, until they came near the hills.
      F.A. Hegg, in telling of the experience, said the water kept getting deeper and deeper until finally it killed the motor. By this time there was considerable current. Stendal carried his mother to dry land, and Mrs. Hegg managed to wade out, but by the time Hegg fixed the blankets and other things in the car and started out, the water almost swept him off his feet, so he went back to the car and honked the horn. Stendal came back and helped him to dry ground.
      Right back of the Hegg car was Mr. and Mrs. George White. They had to leave their car, but were topped out of the deepest water by the stage, which had come that far, and took the water-soaked Heggs in to Mt. Vernon where they were told they could get through by Whitney and started out again, only to find it impossible to come through. They returned to the hotel at Mt. Vernon and came home Monday morning. The experience was quite terrifying, after dark, with the swift waters, arid the fear of going off the road into a ditch. All are none the worse for their experience, and the car was not damaged by its bath.

Open House at Bowling Alley This Saturday
Recreation Center to Be Opened, Free Bowling and Coffee

Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Sept. 18, 1941
      The Sedro-Woolley Recreation, Sedro-Woolley's new bowling alleys, will be thrown open to the public on Saturday of this week, by Dale Mercer, owner. Every person coming to the alleys on Saturday, will be given one free game of bowling, and will be served free coffee by Mary's Lunch, which is being established in the bowling alley room by Mary Stiles and Betty Wulff. The new alleys are among the finest in the state, with four full sized alleys, with every modern convenience and installation, including automatic pinsetters.
      The building on Metcalf street, which was formerly occupied by the post office, and last year by the duck pin alleys, has been completely remodeled and enlarged by he owners, the Skagit Realty Co., at an expense of several thousand dollars, and Mercer has spent many thousands more, installing the alleys and their accompanying conveniences, such as a fine spectator's gallery with raised seats.
      The front of the building was extended several feet to make room for the longer alleys [story continued on page 6 but we do not have access].
      Ed. note: I started setting pins at Rollie Gaines's Bowling Alley at the corner of Metcalf Street and the Great Northern railroad tracks in the fall of 1956 while I was in Cascade Junior High. He had semi-automatic pinsetters that required we agile young squirts to gather the pins and load them into the top of the machine.
      When I interviewed Rollie before his death in 2003, he could not recall when the Bowling Center, which he and his brother took over in 1956, first opened in that location. We hope that a reader will have further information. We do know that the original business there had four alleys and that Rollie expanded the total to ten.
      When we researched early Sanford fire-insurance maps for the city, we found an 1899 version that clearly showed the first bowling alley, on State Street, in a long, narrow building on or just west of the lot where the Old Timers lounge is located today. The lots to the east were vacant until a small building located where Loggers Supply now stands, then the real estate office of Harry L. Devin, three years before he and Charles J. Wicker joined to form Skagit Realty. To the west was a cigar and confectionery shop and then the Michigan Saloon. Old-timers have stated that this could very well have been the first bowling alley in Skagit County. We are unsure if that was the location of the Bigelow Alley, as described in the story below. The late Maurice "Pappy" Splane said before his death that he started bowling on State Street, but he also referred to an unnamed alley at an unknown location on Ferry Street. Meanwhile, the bowling alley has been closed for five years.

Condy challenges Bingham to Bowl
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Oct. 22, 1925
      Horace Condy has issued a challenge to C. E. Bingham to bowl the first game at the opening of the Bigelow bowling alleys on Saturday afternoon of this week at 2 o'clock, arid the challenge has been accepted. Both men were bowling enthusiasts years ago, and are among the boosters for the new alleys. Their many friends are planning to be present to see this contest.
      There are a lot of old-time bowlers who are itching to get started again at the old game. There used to be four or five teams around town. One of the best known teams was the Bingham bank team, known as the Gold Bricks. This aggregation of crack-shots included C. E. Bingharn, Bill West, Bill Odlin, Q. P. Reno, Q. Bingham and Butler Pigg. Frank Fritsch is another old timer who used to bowl a lot.

Obituary for Roland Henry "Rollie" Gaines, Sedro-Woolley
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, May 28, 2003
      Roland Henry "Rollie" Gaines, 86, a longtime Sedro-Woolley resident, passed away Tuesday, May 20, 2003, at the Sehome Park Care Center in Bellingham. He was born Aug. 22, 1916, in Blackduck, Minnesota, the oldest of 12 children of James and Gwendolyn (Feenendahl) Gaines.
      Rollie was raised and attended school in Minnesota until 17, leaving there and coming to Everett by "riding the rails." He then went to Los Angeles to aircraft mechanic school and worked as an airplane mechanic in San Diego and in Seattle for Boeing. He was united in marriage to Mildred Pillsbury Aug. 14, 1942, in Everett. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II he returned to Everett where he worked for the Scott Paper Co. He later owned a sawmill near Oso and in 1956 moved to Sedro-Woolley to assume ownership of the Sedro-Woolley Bowling Center, later called Fairweather Lanes.
      Rollie was a successful and well liked businessman in Sedro-Woolley for over 25 years. During that time he expanded the bowling center from four to ten lanes. He was inducted into the Skagit Valley Bowling Hall of Fame and after retiring in 1979 continued his love of bowling while developing his fondness for a daily round of golf.
      Ed. note: you can read Rollie's full obituary at this Journal website. We also learned in another obituary that the first bowling alley in Burlington was built by Charles A. Cramer in an unknown year.

Royse-Hankin mill burns, $75,000 loss; intend to rebuild
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, July 29, 1926
      Fire, starting from an unknown cause, destroyed the Royse-Hankin mill in lower Sedro early Wednesday evening. The mill and most of the lumber piled in the yard was burned. It is thought the blaze started in the boiler room. When the alarm was turned in, the plant was a mass of flames. The firemen, handicapped by the lack of hydrants, made a hard fight to save one corner of the millyard, and finally succeeded. The loss estimated at about $75,000, is partially covered by insurance.
      Delbert Hankin, general manager of the Royse-Hankin Lumber company, said today that he planned to rebuild, but could say nothing definite, .until William. J. Royse, president of the company, returned to .the city. The alarm and the light of the flames attracted hundreds of people, many of whom helped the firemen by moving lumber out of danger. Two partially loaded boxcars were pushed out of the millyard to safety, but one car, completely loaded and ready for shipment, could not be moved and. was completely consumed. It contained timbers for a school in Des Moines, Iowa.
      Harry Osborne and Duncan McKay and a crew with one of the little pumps used by the forest fire fighters, had two small lines of hose, coming from the mill pond, and it was the help from this gasoline pump, that made it possible for the firemen to save the lumber that still remains, Fire Chief Ropes said today. The mill hydrants, with their smaller size threads, could not be used by the fire department, and most of them were in the heart of the flames.
      No city hydrant is located at the mill, and the old, rusted hydrant, at the site of. the burned remains of the veneer plant, a few hundred feet a way, was used. One of the connections was so rusted that. the hose could not be fastened to, it [story continued inside the paper but we do not have access to it].

(Sedro Box & Veneer Plant)
      This was Royse's Sedro Box & Veneer plant before it burned two years earlier in 1924. It was quite an extensive complex that was located alongside a mill pond that was part of Hansen Creek. The mill complex stood on the three blocks of old Sedro that centered on the original depot grounds of the Fairhaven & Southern railroad.

      Ed. note: This fire, which followed the one at the Sedro Box and Veneer factory, joined with the fire and bankruptcy of the Clear Lake mill and the end of coal mining at Cokedale to put a damper on the economic boom in Sedro-Woolley that peaked in 1923. This combination of business reversals led to the decision by the Sedro-Woolley Masonic Lodge against adding another story to the new building at the northeast corner of Metcalf and State streets, which now houses Bus Jungquist Furniture. See the story of that building in chapter one of the Sedro-Woolley Odds and Ends. Royse was also a partner in the veneer company, which started right after the turn of 20th century as a mill for excelsior, packing material, which was shaved from the ubiquitous cottonwoods that lined the banks of the Skagit River. You can read more about him in Ray Jordan's book, Yarns of the Skagit country. Jordan called him "Cottonwood Bill." Some old-timers have claimed that the fire was the result of arson for the insurance money, but we have not found any follow-up information that substantiates that claim.

Local man's niece is first woman
in Canuck Parliament

Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Jan. 19, 1922
      Miss Agnes McPhail, who lives near Toronto, and is a niece of A. [Archibald] McPhail of this city, is the first woman to be elected as a member of the parliament of the Dominion of Canada,. The following item is taken from the Mt. Forest Confederated-Rep.
      "Miss McPhail was the only one of four women candidates to receive the people's call. Her vote was remarkable, a plurality of 2598. The campaign waged by Miss McPhail was a very vigorous and well organized one. There was, of course, a fine organization of farmers' clubs to provide facilities, but the candidate herself, was resourceful and judicious.
      Her reputation as a platform speaker was. well sustained. and aroused much enthusiasm. Miss McPhail will occupy a unique place in parliament. She will be for this parliament the cynosure of all eyes. Some one has proposed. that she be made speaker, but it is objected that this would be a severe penalty for success — the speaker is the only one in the house that is not free to talk.

Only woman ever in Canada's Parliament visits here
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Sept. 27, 1923
      Miss Agnes McPhail is the first and inly woman ever elected to the parliament of Canada, is in Sedro-Woolley his week, visiting her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. A. McPhail. Miss McPhail has been in parliament for two years as the member from Ottawa. She is a national figure in Canada and has also attracted much attention in England.
      Miss McPhail addressed a gathering of citizens at the high school last night under the auspices of the Woman's club and will speak at the Rotary club luncheon on Friday noon.
      She is retiring and unassuming, but is a fine talker and well posted on political affairs. She takes little credit for being the first member of her sex to be elected to the parliament of Canada.

Journal editor's research
      Agnes McPhail was born on March 24, 1890, on a farm in Proton Township, Ontario. She graduated from Stratford Normal School in 1910 with a teacher's certificate. Early on in her teaching career, she gained the backing of her father's chapter of the United Farmers of Canada and she became one of the first two women to be elected to the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
      In 1918, Canadian women who were allowed to vote in provincial elections were also granted the right to vote in federal elections. In 1921 she was elected to her first term in the House of Commons of the Canadian Federal Parliament as a member of the Progressive party, at the same time that MacKenzie King began his first term as prime minister. This was shortly after Jeanette Rankin was the first women elected to the U.S. Congress. In 1922 she visited her family's ancestral home at Euroch in Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland, and she changed the spelling of her surname back to the original spelling of Macphail. Agnes continued being reelected every time a new election was called, and she served as a Canadian delegate to the League of Nations in 1929, just before the U.S. stock market crashed. She was elected to her fifth term in 1935, but was defeated for reelection in 1940. She died in 1954 at age 63.

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