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Marengo, Iowa, transplants to Sedro and Woolley

(Bingham Mansion)
This was the Bingham Mansion at the height of its glory, circa 1910. It was Grand Central Station for an extended family of many kids from the Marengo families.

      Assuming you were directed here by our Bingham famiy Portal section, this story addresses the residents of Marengo, Iowa, who joined Charlie and Julia Bingham in Sedro after 1890, including members of their families. By the time Charlie moved the bank to Woolley, Julia was very busy at home with three children, both babies and toddlers. Charles Saxton [for his grandmother's New York family] Bingham was born in 1894 and Albert Holbrook Bingham followed on November 8, 1895. As adults, the boys were almost universally addressed by their first initials, Q., C. or A. This growing family was not enough for Julia, however, because she wanted to recreate what sister Jessie remembered as "an island [in Marengo] surrounded by relatives and the relatives of relatives." She had beautiful sisters and a female cousin back home and there was a definite shortage of marriageable women in Sedro for the burgeoning middle class, so she was determined to move them out here and get some baby-sitters in the bargain. Her Herculean efforts led to the largest migration from any city, until the Greens, Parkers and Hammers brought at least 30 people from Lincoln, Kansas.
      She started the process by enticing her next youngest sister to join her here in 1891-92. Bessie was an old maid in that day's parlance and Julia probably assured her that her odds were better in Sedro where men did not care that much about age as long as the woman was Caucasian and could cook. Many men had taken Indian wives but as civilization and culture were introduced to the town, a white wife was necessary to be accepted socially. To sweeten the deal, Julia persuaded Charlie to hire Bessie as the first employee of the bank. Bessie's role there was an added benefit because Charlie could delegate the bookkeeping chores to her and be home more often, maybe even take a day off now and then. But who was the best beau? Albert G. Mosier explained the selection process in 1940:

      M.L. Holbrook's wife May was a friend of my sisters in high [school] days in Des Moines, and it was easy to form a friendship with Charley Bingham and his estimable wife. It was not long until her sister Bessie arrived from Marengo, Iowa, and Albert Holland, then a clerk at Cook's store, and myself were invited to spend the evening with the bankers to meet the new arrival. It was the beginning of a friendship that ended in our marriage at the Bingham cottage on Talcott street, now grown into the Bingham apartments.
      Bessie and Albert married on June 20, 1893 after a proper period of courtship. They were both 27, having been born two weeks apart in Iowa in January 1866. They lived in Montborne on the east side of Big Lake for the first two years and she eventually joined him in Alaska at the turn of the century after the Klondike gold rush lured him in 1898.

(Bingham Gardens)
Julia Bingham was known for her rose garden, which spread out over half a block, on the north side of Talcott street, and west across the street from the mansion. We think this is photo, from the late Reno "Spike" Odlin (grandson), is dated circa 1920 so this would not be the Bingham boys but grandsons. They are playing in what is now Glenn Allen's yard.

Wedding of the decade and even more Renos emigrate
      Next on Julia's prospective bride list was her next youngest sister, Jesse Lee Reno, named for their Civil War uncle but she preferred the spelling of Jessie. After graduating from Marengo High School, Jessie trained as a teacher and moved to Morgan Park, a suburb of Chicago, where she taught for several years. Julia sent for her mother, Amelia, in the winter of 1895, who had been a widow for 23 years and had no children left living at home in Marengo. She maneuvered to get Jesse to accompany Amelia on the train. Once mother and sister were here, Julia figured that William T. Odlin was the best husband material. Besides, he was part of the bank family, having replaced Bessie as bookkeeper and sole employee in March 1893, when she left to prepare for her marriage. All she had to do was set up a dazzling dinner party at the growing cottage, get Charlie to install a loveseat swing on the porch, gently push Jessie and William out towards it, lower the lamplight and let nature take its course. When Jessie left in mid-March to finish her teaching year, sparks had flown but there was no proposal. Jessie was no pushover, so Julia backed off. Finally, William proposed by mail after New Year's 1896 and Jessie accepted exactly a year after she left.
      Julia saw to it that this wedding was a doozy. Unlike the Mosier nuptials, the Odlin marriage was the social affair of the decade and Charlie probably paid dearly to gussy up the cottage and add onto it, too. Julia also persuaded their nearest neighbor to sell his house to the new couple. Junius B. Alexander built a larger house back in 1891, east on Talcott at the end of the block at the crossing of 5th street, as a gift for his bride from Staten Island, New York. She unfortunately took ill after the birth of their first child and moved back home to recuperate, never returning to Sedro. The house on two lots soon became known as the Honeymoon Cottage and certainly was fertile since both brides became pregnant there within the first year. We are especially indebted to William and Jessie Odlin's grandson, Reno "Spike" Odlin, who has helped us unearth a good share of this material on the Binghams and their extended family.

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      Julia's work was nearly done. There were no unmarried sisters left. Her oldest sister, Louise, was the only one to marry a man from back home, namely Richard Vaeth, who was a jeweler in Marengo when they married in Marengo on Jan. 10, 1882. She was very pleased that her former neighbor, L.E. "Ted" Alverson, also emigrated to Belfast, north of Burlington, with his widowed mother, Lucy, at the same time that Amelia and Jessie originally arrived. He spent a lot of time at the Bingham house and eventually met the deb of Woolley, Susie Osterman, whose parents moved here from Nooksack in 1895 to take over the hotel that preceded the Gateway on Ferry street. They courted off and on for years and finally married in 1906. Susie maintained vital statistics here for decades and operated a music store in downtown Woolley. Ted managed the local Interurban depot, was bookkeeper for George Green's Shingle Company and then acted as city clerk for more than a decade.
      Flushed with success after her matchmaking, she realized that she had a cousin who might be persuaded to move out to Sedro. Mary Theresa "Marie" LaPlant was a daughter of Uncle Ben back in Marengo. She was a teacher there and assistant principal of the high school. She consented and moved here in the late 1890s, where she soon met J.C. "Baldy" LaPlant, who had evaded Cupid and played the field here for years. His name was constantly in the society column as the area's favorite bachelor, but Marie soon hooked him and they married in Seattle on the eve of the turn of the turn of the century — Dec. 26, 1899. He was doing very well by then, having owned a successful business in the Klondike and then representing the Nicola Bros. of Pittsburgh in the timber business. Marie was librarian at Sedro-Woolley's Carnegie Library for many years. J.C. LaPlant became an invalid after an illness at the turn of the century but trained a pair of ponies to take him everywhere and he went on to help his brothers run a dairy at the foot of Duke's Hill and act as foreman for road crews hired by the family's road-building business.
      Just when Julia thought that she had enticed all the family members she could, her cousin Q.P. Quimby Reno was widowed back in Marengo in the late 1890s. He had visited his cousins in Sedro several times in 1890s, accompanying the Reno girls on their way to meet beaux here. His father gave him the name with the spelling of Quimby, but he was always addressed professionally as Q.P. He took over Charlie's job as bank cashier back in Marengo when the Binghams moved out here and Charlie offered him the same position here. He arrived in Sedro-Woolley in 1901 and spent 20 years at the bank as cashier, also serving as treasurer for the city for 35 years, even after his stint at the bank, and doubling as accountant for the new Memorial Hospital in 1929. Along the way, he married Lena Soules, another employee at Charlie's bank, and built a house on Warner street, just a block away from the Binghams.
      A year after Q.P. arrived and settled in, he returned to Marengo and talked his father, Col. Benjamin Reno, into moving to Sedro-Woolley. Back in 1870, Ben had moved his family to Marengo and opened a grocery store. When he moved out here in 1902, he brought most of his surviving children with him and most of them married here in Washington. Is it any wonder that the Bingham mansion seemed to add another room every couple of years? As it expanded, rooms were devoted to both arts and leisure: a library mainly for the children, a sewing-room with room for a loom and a kiln, a breakfast nook, a solarium, a billiards room and an enormous attic. When the large extension on the west side was added in early years of the century, a bedroom upstairs became the permanent home of Julia's mother, Amelia Reno, until she died in 1915. In another bedroom was Charlie's mother, Esther Brooks Bingham, who was widowed in 1903 after his father moved to California to take a school administrator's post. Esther died at the mansion in December 1923 at age 88 after living there for 20 years. After the war, the late Wayne "Pete" Peters owned the mansion and then later attorney William Stiles owned it, among several owners. Starting in the late 1880s, the Shannon family started a restoration job, which has been continued meticulously by the Bishop family. The house that is located north across the alley was designed for Harry L. Devin sometime before the turn of the century by the same architect that expanded Charlie's mansion. It is also being restored.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on Nov. 7, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 58 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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