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Frank Bradsberry, logger &
character of early Sedro-Woolley

(Oxen logging)
We unfortunately have never found a photo of Bradsberry or his logging camps. But this one from Jesse B. Ball's camp in Sterling will certainly illustrate what logging was like when Frank arrived in 1884 and soon went to work for Ball. Oxen were used for logging then and fetched as much as $2,000 for a yoke, at least well into the hundreds. Many of the best logs along the shore of the Skagit river had been felled already, so camps were moving inland. The raw logs, some 70 feet long and longer, needed to be dragged to the river shore where they could be rafted downriver or pulled by sternwheeler steamboats, such as the Black Prince. When the distances were too far or when they wanted more speed, loggers would switch to horses. All this meant a large market for feed for the animals of burden, so agriculture in the county grew along with logging. We hope a reader can share a scan or copy of the family or logging photos that will help illustrate this article and others.

Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, 1906
      Frank Bradsberry, logger of Sedro-Woolley, has firmly established himself in the business community of Skagit county in a little more than twenty years and has formed for himself a large place in the estimation of the public as a man of spirit and energy. He was born in Missouri in 1860, the son of John B. Bradsberry, a native of Pennsylvania of Dutch descent who began life as a shoemaker and later went to Missouri and became a farmer. Mrs. Nancy (Tucker) Bradsberry, the mother, was born in Indiana, but died in Missouri in 1896.
      Young Bradsberry was trained and brought up by his mother, the father having died when he was but a year old. He attended the schools at home and remained on the farm with his mother until he was fourteen years old, at which time he went to Kansas. A year later he engaged to accompany a man who was taking a band of horses and mules to Texas, and so well did the young man carry himself in his part of this work that the owner gave him entire charge of the expedition and left the outfit in western Kansas.
      Young Bradsberrv delivered the stock at Stevensville, Texas, without a mishap. He then made a trip across the international border into Mexico, but remained there only a short time, returning home by horseback from Alma, Texas, to Wichita, Kansas, a distance of about a thousand miles, and at one time experiencing the unpleasant predicament of having his horse stolen at night while he slept. lie spent a year at the old Missouri home and in 1879 went to Colorado, where for a year he operated a logging camp for Joseph Lamb.
      The mining excitement was running high, and Mr. Bradsberry put in two years at prospecting in Utah and Arizona. In 1881 he passed five months in California, but went back to Colorado to work in a sawmill. He was there a year this time, then returned to California for what proved to be a short stay before coming to Washington in 1884.
      In March of that year Mr. Bradsberry located in the Skagit valley, and began working in a logging camp at Sterling. After three years of this he engaged in logging on his own account in the Sank valley and lie has since been in the logging business in this county, forming the Bradsberry Logging Company in 1901.
      March 30, 1890, Mr. Bradsberry married Miss Marinda Kelley, daughter of Leander Kelley, who came from Ireland to the sound country in 1865 and has since died near Fir. Mrs. Bradsberry is a native of Skagit county, born in 1873, and educated in the local schools. Three children have been born of this union, Emerson, George and Ernest Q. In fraternal circles Mr. Bradsberry is a member of the Knights of Pythias and of the Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo.
      A Republican in politics and active in the councils of that party, he has even been called upon to attend some of its state conventions. The Bradsberry Logging Company, of which he is the president and manager, owns four thousand acres of timber land, which is rapidly being converted into farms as the forest is removed, also the mill which it operates in Sedro-Woolley. Mr. Bradsberry is a very public-spirited man, a hard worker at anything he undertakes and one of the substantial citizens of the community.

The Frank Bradsberry file: another
in the cast of unique characters

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore ©2011
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      Like every other frontier boom town that welcomed those who could live and rise by their wits as well as their brains or brawn, Sedro and Woolley was graced with characters overflowing. From Norman R. Kelley, who carved out new Sedro while drinking champagne with nearly every meal, to Homer H. Shrewsbury and his menagerie of animals at his hardware store, only rare days passed when townsfolk could not be inspired to chuckle about their brothers and sisters. Frank Bradsberry is our latest addition to the cast. He was also written about as Frank Bradsbury, almost interchangeably with the proper spelling.
      I remember one day when I walked into Norm's barber shop on Metcalf and William "Billy Ray" Stendal, former school principal and mayor, was getting his ears lowered. I asked him if he remembered the name, Frank Bradsberry, and his face brightened up. "My dad used to say, any time he heard of a deal that was a "sure thing" but was possibly too good to be true, he'd say 'put it in the Bradsberry file!' Indeed, the Bingham Bank had such a file, risky ventures but worth taking a shot at. After Frank had overdrawn his account with his logging ventures way too many times, the bank gently suggested that he should sign over what collateral he still had of value, and let Laurence LaPlant manage his account for him as a portfolio for the bank. But that was nearly 35 years after he arrived here, in Sterling, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the same year that Mortimer Cook climbed out of the canoe and landed at old Sedro, by the river. Frank spent almost three good decades skating on thin ice but having a good time.
      Frank was born in Missouri just before the Civil War broke out, in June 1860, the son of John B. Bradsberry, a native of Pennsylvania of Dutch descent who was a shoemaker until he went to Missouri and became a farmer. Frank's mother, Nancy (Tucker) Bradsberry, was born in Indiana. He was raised by a single mother, a tough life in those days — the father having died when he was but a year old. He attended the schools at home and remained on the farm with his mother until he was fourteen years old, at which time he went to Kansas. We have never read any articles where he talked about his days before he arrived here. Perhaps he was running away from something, or, like his father, felt stultified wherever he lived, unable to rise on his own abilities.
      According to his paid biography in the 1906 book, Illustrated History, and his 1921 obituary, he became a peripatetic wanderer, trekking from Kansas to Texas to Mexico before heading north to Washington Territory for unknown reasons.

Arrives in Skagit area 1884
      He learned the rudiments of logging along the way. As his paid biography notes, at 15 he was given the responsibility of teams of horses and stock and delivering them long distances on time. He even had his horse stolen while living in Kansas and then operated a logging camp for a Joseph Lamb in Colorado in 1879 at age 19. He even prospected until 1881 when he returned to Colorado to work in a sawmill. He was literally learning the business from the ground up.
      We know that he arrived in Sterling in 1884 and logged for Jesse B. Ball, whose camp was at the double-horseshoe bend of the Skagit river that then formed a mile west of where Mortimer Cook arrived in June that year and planted the seed for old Sedro.
      Five years later he had a most propitious meeting with a young man who was on the rise and would eventually become one of the most important figures in Sedro-Woolley. Young Emerson Hammer came to Sterling in 1889 and clerked for Mortimer Cook's satellite general store there while he got the lay of the land as a scout for his father-in-law, George Green, back in Lincoln Center, Kansas.
      By then, Frank was building a sawmill at old Sauk City, about 30 miles upriver at the junction of the Skagit and Sauk rivers. The original town had burned down in a fire, but it was rebuilding fast on the strength that it was the site where sternwheelers deposited good and equipment for the Monte Cristo mines, much further south down the river. Hammer and Bradsberry would continue in business together, off and on for two more decades, even after Sauk City flooded in 1897 and the new town of Sauk Depot rose on the northern shore of the Skagit in anticipation of the Great Northern Railroad. Frank taught young Emerson the ins and outs of the business and they attracted other young entrepreneurs, like F.A. Hegg, the grocer and investor in the Sauk logging.
      Frank had proven to be a good citizen in the first act of his eventual political career. At the first election for the new local school district held at the Batey ranch in 1885, he became a director along with other pioneers such as Mortimer Cook, Henry H. Dreyer, William Dunlap, V.A. Marshall, August Polte, William Woods and Emmett Van Fleet, among others.
      He further insured his role in frontier society in Woolley on March 30, 1890, when he married Miss Marinda Kelley, daughter of Leander Kelley, who came from Ireland to the Puget sound in 1865 and then farmed near Fir, where Marinda was born in 1874. They had three sons together and Frank named his only surviving son, Emerson, for his partner, who was already the 800-pound political gorilla in Woolley. For a secret society, Frank chose the Knights of Pythias and he assured us of his wit and good sense by becoming a member of the Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo of Sedro-Woolley.

From Logging to politics
      Just a month before the November 1897 flood that inundated the towns along the upper Skagit river especially, Bradsberry was advertising in the Mount Vernon Record for his logging company in Woolley. In 1901 he established the Bradsberry Logging Co. and eventually logged off as many as 4,000 acres of timberland, including a substantial percentage of the forests between Bacon Creek and Newhalem. In 1904 he and his wife were charter members at the inaugural meeting of the reorganized Pioneer Association, which met that August at Bingham Park on Cook Road.
      When his friend Emerson Hammer returned to Sedro-Woolley from his first state senate term in 1906, Frank ran for his first elective office and was elected representative from Skagit county to the state legislature. He was soon the chairman of the committee that oversaw school timberlands, a prime interest for both himself and his natural base of supporters.
      As a good Republican, he joined his fellows, including Hammer, Dave Donnelly and William Coleman, as a principal in obtaining approval of Sedro-Woolley as the sight for the new Northwest Washington insane asylum. Their labors were rewarded handsomely when the organizing site-commission gave their final approval in September 1909. But before then, his opposition had stirred up over in Mount Vernon in 1908 during his reelection campaign, especially among the prohibitionists. He was a prime mover, along with Rep. T. J. Bell, a Tacoma Republican, who also published the Tacoma News Herald for the wet forces. So the "Civic League" recruited David Hammack to oppose Frank. That soon provoked what we proudly share with you as one of the most unusual campaign stunts we have yet seen. Judge for yourself whether Frank should get an A for creativity in this challenge that he posed to Hammack in a Mount Vernon newspaper. Another one of those lovely stories we found while looking for something else:

F. Bradsberry replies to talks
Defends his position on the law,
speaks of promises made-to-drop tactics.
Promises that were not kept.

Skagit News-Herald, Oct. 26, 1908
      Hon. Frank Bradsberry, candidate for renomination for state representative, was a business visitor to Mt. Vernon Monday afternoon. Mr. Bradsberry was interviewed by a News-Herald reporter in regard to the truth or falsity of Dave Hammack's allegations regarding the representative's connection with the "corroborative evidence" bill, a document upon the passage of which the democrats are laying great stress.
      Mr. Bradsberry stated that he had intended allowing Mr. Hammack to make his remarks unchallenged, but that matters had now come to such a point and the democratic candidate's statements so recklessly devoid of the truth, that in justice to himself, and his friends, he could no longer remain silent.

      I wish to make a complete statement in regard to the matter to your paper," said Mr. Bradsberry, "and wish that you would take careful notes so that what I have to say will be presented accurately to the public.
      Hammack's first public speech against me was made at the Beaver school house. In his talk, which was very bitter, he accused me of being the father of the corroborative evidence bill and working for it, voting for it, and doing everything possible to assist its passage. A few days after making the speech, Hammack came to me in Sedro-Woolley of his volition and stated that he was sorry that he had said what he had, and that he would fight me no longer.
      Of his own free will he admitted that he knew he had misrepresented me, knowing as he did that I had neither worked nor voted for the bill, and said that he wanted to shake hands and 'call it off.' He stated that he had been forced into the fight against me by the Civic League, which, he said, and told him that he could not look for its support if he did not speak against me. To stand in the good graces of the League, he had made the untruthful remarks, but excused himself on the grounds that he was not in a position to do otherwise.
      I told Mr. Hammack that he could go ahead and say anything he liked; that I would prefer to have him tell the truth, but that he could lie if he liked to. I said, furthermore, that I did not believe that the Civic League or any other body of supposedly honorable men would ask him to make use of falsehoods in an attempt to defeat a candidate of opposite political belief.
      I asked him what his position on the corroboratory evidence bill was and he replied that "as a whole" he thought the bill was 'all right for the public, but not a good one for the lawyers, as under it there could not be so many damage cases.' after some further talk he reiterated his willingness to say nothing more against me in the campaign.
      Since then Hammack has made speeches at both Edison and Anacortes more bitter, if anything, against me, and more untruthful, than the Beaver speech. After he had spoken at the latter place I met him and said, "Well, you raked me over, didn't you?" 'Yes,' he said, 'I had to do it! You didn't use me right. You told the people of the promise I had made not to fight you any more, and when the committee heard of it they forced me to go back on what I had said.' I do not know what committee he referred to, but those are substantially his exact words.
      Now, I have just this to say in regard to the corroborative evidence bill: I introduced the document at the request of Judge Loomis of Bellingham, but neither worked for it, nor voted for it. As everyone is aware that knows anything about the legislature, it is a common thing to introduce a bill, 'by request,' without, however, giving it your support. The bill in question was championed in the house by Rev. Lee Johnson of Yakima, who made the speech for it and it was passed by a large margin. I neither WORKED for the bill at any time, nor VOTED for it, as Mr. Hammack admitted privately to me was the facts. Rev. Lee Johnson, the man who made the speech in favor of the bill, was the chief champion of the local option bill.
      When Mr. Hammack makes the statements to the public that I supported the corroborative evidence bill, worked for it, and was largely instrumental in having it passed, he lies. I say that without heat, Mr. Mr. Hammack knows that he lies, having admitted as much to me as I have told. I have not entered into the merits of the bill, because that is not the matter under discussion; I will only state that the records will show that nearly all the best men in the house voted for it to become a law. As regards my own part, I will only say that Mr. Hammack in his speeches is both unfair and untruthful, and I am perfectly willing to leave the matter in the hands of the fair minded and unprejudiced voters of the county.

      Well, it worked. He won renomination and served out his second term, after having rubbed shoulders with the political powers in the county, including his fellow representatives for the terms, Charles E. Gaches, Henry Hurshman, John O. Rudene and Nels Anderson.
      His success may have led him to over-extend, however, or take too much risk when he returned to his logging business in Sedro-Woolley. Within a few years banker Charlie Bingham had covered Frank's overdrawn checks too many times and he made him an offer he couldn't refuse: to retain his assets, which would be under control and oversight by the bank. When Frank died on July 17, 1921, at age 61, his company still stood in name, but was still controlled by LaPlant at the bank. His first wife died in an unknown year and he had remarried to a woman named Helen, who survived him until 1937, when she died at age 59. His business also survived him; we have seen advertisements for Bradsberry Logging Co. as late as 1944.
      I remember the one time I had a chance to briefly interview A. Bingham, before he died in his 90s. He recalled Frank fondly. Although Frank could sometimes be a rascal, the wise old banker said he was worth all the riskier, nail-biter deals, because he knew how to identify a diamond in the rough, and because he was also just plain amusing and enjoyable. And A. knew a lot of successful and amusing people, from the battlefields of France all the way back to Sedro-Woolley.
      There is one addendum to the story that we have not completely traced down. Back in 2002 we received an email from Mary Bradsberry, from California, who read a Journal story that mentioned Frank. After correspondence, we determined that her father, Marion Jerold Bradsberry, then 77, was Frank's grandson. Marion's father was Emerson Bradsberry, who apparently married an Indian girl because he was born on the reservation on Dec. 29, 1924. We hope to learn more from her if we ever hear from her again, and maybe we can trace more descendants of this pioneering logger.

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Story posted Sept. 27, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 57 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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