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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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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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Two generations of Hammer & Green families were
Sedro-Woolley civic and business leaders

(Mae and George Green)

Mae (Jody) and George Green at their home on Warner Street in Sedro-Woolley. Parker family photo.

& the Parker family and the original hometown for all of the families — Lincoln, Kansas
By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal

      This story is the result of five years of research into the extended Hammer-Green-Parker family who made their mark in both Kansas and Washington state. It is the second in a multi-part series that we are developing on this fascinating group of people. Hammer Heritage Square in Sedro-Woolley is a testament to their importance in the history of our county and city. The story is written with details about both frontier cities since we are sharing it with the museum in the Lincoln area.

      The small towns of Sedro-Woolley, Washington, and Lincoln, Kansas, should be sister cities. We say that because the town of Lincoln provided more than 50 overland emigrants to the Washington community, starting in the 1880s. One of them was George Green, who founded Lincoln and then moved out to Skagit County in Washington in 1892 to join his daughter and son-in-law, Emerson and Isabel Hammer. He financially backed several early shingle mills and stores from Burlington to the upper Skagit River communities.
(Rees Mill in Lincoln)
This old photo of the Rees mill on the Saline River near Lincoln, Kansas shows where the Greens, Parkers, Hammers and Darts lived.

      George Green was a key pioneer in Lincoln County back when Kansas was in many ways the western frontier of the United States. In 1870, when the western part of Kansas was still sparsely settled, he named a new village for surrounding Lincoln County, which had in turn been named to honor of President Abraham Lincoln. A close neighbor and several cousins of Abraham Lincoln settled in the county. The town was actually platted on May 9, 1871, by seven other men. Green was also the leader of the fight to relocate the county seat two miles west from Abram to Lincoln in 1872. The first post office was established as "Lincoln Center." on July 14, 1870, in the home of the initial postmaster, John S. Strange. The "Center" part of the town name was dropped in 1878. According to the Lincoln Beacon, Green later purchased Mr. Strange's home "just west of town" in 1881 for $1,200.
      After a reputedly wild life as an adolescent in his home state of Massachusetts, Green headed out west for mysterious reasons in 1859 at age 19 to be a teamster for government wagon teams from Leavenworth, Kansas to Colorado. He was born on May 14, 1840, the son of John and Maria (Bowker) Green, farmers near the village of Milford. He worked across the country to what was then the West. He worked as a mule driver and a sailor on Lake Erie and the Erie Canal, then as a logger in the woods of Michigan and then became a teamster in St. Louis and Leavenworth, Kansas.
      Some descendants think that he served the Union cause during the Civil War. If not, he was surely in the government employ. From 1861 to 1865 he herded cattle and traded with the Indians as an employee of the war department. In 1865 he settled in the area of future Lincoln County where he married Josephine (Jody) Dart on Sept. 13, 1865. They must have made quite a dashing pair at cattle roundups and auctions. Dorothe Tarrence Homan noted in her book, Lincoln — That County in Kansas: "Jody, 16 or 17 years of age when they arrived, could ride and shoot like a cowboy. Many stories were told of her courage and quick wit when danger threatened." That was a valuable trait on the prairie for a young mother whose husband was often gone for months at a time. Jody's father, the widower John Dart, brought his family of seven surviving children to Lincoln County sometime in 1965 from California. He originally moved his family all the way to the West Coast by covered wagon in 1849-52 as part of the great Mormon emigration and lost two children along the way.
      The Greens' eldest daughter, Lizzie (Julia Elizabeth), was born on Oct. 18, 1866, and she is generally recognized as the first white child born in Lincoln County. In the summer of 1872, Lizzie was a pupil of the pioneer teacher, Mrs. Anna C. Wait, who taught the first school in Lincoln Center in the "little old frame building just north of the City Hotel" (Lincoln in 1913, by M.D. Steiner). In 1884, Lizzie married David J. Parker, whose family moved from Iowa to Lincoln County in 1870.
      If Green did serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, it was as part of a unit often called the Colorado Boys. During the war, the military outposts in those states were practically deserted and Kansas was "bleeding," a description that had started in the abolitionist days before the war even started. The Union Pacific laid tracks through the hunting grounds of Indian tribes and those encroachments infuriated tribes across the plains. The railroad companies wanted to sell land and populate it quickly to make profits in freight shipment. The powder keg was set to blow. In those days, Green headquartered at Fort Harker, Kansas, and Fort Lyons, Colorado, where he herded cattle and traded with the Indians, as a government employee, developing skills that would he would use the rest of his life. In August that year, Brevet Colonel George A. Forsyth [also spelled Forsythe in some accounts] received a field assignment from civil war hero General P.H. Sheridan to employ 50 frontiersmen, including Green, as scouts against the hostile Indians, with a Lieutenant Beecher as his assistant.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Beecher Island Poster)
(Beecher Island P-I)
Beechers Island photo)
Far left: A poster honoring the scouts at Beecher Island. Photo courtesy of the late Wyman Hammer..
Center: A cartoon-story version of the Beecher Island standoff that once appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Photo courtesy of the late Wyman Hammer.
Right: This photo shows the tiny Beecher's Island in the Arickaree River in 1905. Photo courtesy of, a great resource for genealogy and history.

Beecher Island ambush
      In early September the company of Colorado Boys pursued hostiles up the Arickaree fork of the Republican River in Colorado, five miles due west of the northwest corner of Kansas. On September 16, the unit made camp on the shore and the next morning they discovered they were surrounded by hundreds of hostile Indians. For the next nine days the 57 men were trapped in a defense against several hundred Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux Indians who were determined to exterminate them and had them cornered. The only refuge was a sandbar that was then called simply "the island," which was only 125 yards long and 50 yards wide and had just low sagebrush for ground cover. Forsyth's men were tough battle-hardened veterans, however, and they dug in and staved off wave after wave of attacks for ten days until they were finally reinforced by elements of the Tenth cavalry.
      In early November 1868, the U.S. Army officially named the conflagration the "Battle of Beecher's Island" in honor of Lieutenant Beecher, who was killed there on the sandbar. The events reached legendary status early on because Buffalo Bill Cody was attached to the company and any exploits involving him sold newspapers and books back east where people were fascinated with the frontier. Besides Green, two other Lincoln residents were honored for their part in the battle. Early on, Louis Farley, the oldest man on the mission and hampered by having only one good eye, staved off wave after wave of attackers after being mortally wounded in his leg and lying on his side to compensate for his wound. His 19-year-old son, Hutchison Farley, led reinforcements to his father's position although he himself was shot clean through his shoulder. The father died but Hutchison Farley survived and later moved to Sedro-Woolley, where he and Green often hosted reunions out here with J.J. Peate and others.
      Many of the other Colorado boys — a total of 20 when later counted, settled Lincoln along with Green, as well as other towns in Ottawa, Lincoln and Saline counties. Peate was the last living survivor of the company until he died in Beverly, east of Lincoln, in 1932. Not mentioned in the group was the last living rescuer from Kansas, Reuben Waller, a former slave who lived to be nearly 100 in El Dorado, Kansas.
      After the war, Green operated what was known as the Settlers' Store in the soldiers' camp for Gen. George Custer's 7th Cavalry near the Noon ranch southwest of what would soon become Lincoln Center. Green was elected as a city councilman in the first city election and in 1873, he was elected to the Kansas state legislature as a representative from Lincoln County. A newspaper account from that year noted that during Indian troubles in May, frightened settlers sought refuge at Jody's place while George was away, so the girls witnessed their mother's bravery and leadership.
      During the 1870s through the '80s, Green had a general store right in the town that he founded on the high hills overlooking the Saline River. He also engaged in the livestock business from his ranch on the Saline River. The 1870 census counted the Lincoln County population as 516. By then, Lincoln then qualified for a separate county, having been a part of Ottawa County until then. The first post office was established on July 14, 1870, in the home of John S. Strange and he was the first appointed postmaster of "Lincoln Center." The Lincoln Center name continued until the post office of that name was discontinued on November 29, 1878, when the new post office of Lincoln was established, with John Z. Springer as the first appointed postmaster. Green also had a drug store as part of his business and sold it in 1881 to Dr. J.G. Gilmer, according to the Lincoln Beacon.
      After a stormy beginning caused by drought, hard times and feuds, prosperity followed the first decade of growth for the new county of Lincoln. From a small town of 150 inhabitants in 1878, Lincoln's population increased eight-fold, until in 1886 only one hundred more citizens were needed for the 2,000 necessary for a second class city. In 1886 the Union Pacific Railroad built a branch line called the Salina, Lincoln and Northwestern Railroad, and the citizens had an outlet to Eastern markets. Mail service now came from the east to Lincoln. The late 1890's were drought years and land sold for $10.00 per acre.

Hiram and Emerson Hammer move to Lincoln County from Indiana
      In 1879 a young orphan from Montpelier, Indiana, named Emerson Hammer moved to Lincoln to work in the loan and insurance business until he was appointed postmaster in November 1882. Hammer descended from Germans who emigrated to New York and were Quakers. Emerson was born on Aug. 12, 1856; his mother died in 1859 and his father in 1861 and his older brother Hiram helped raise him. After being educated in public and private schools, he left school at the age of sixteen and worked in a grocery store until he formed a partnership in another one in 1873 in Montpelier. After selling out, he sold fire insurance until he left in the spring of 1878 and moved to Kansas, where Hiram had been elected county clerk at Lincoln. Emerson farmed for awhile and then Hiram offered him the position of deputy, which he filled three years while selling insurance until the fall of 1882.
      Back in Kansas, Mike Day helped us discover why Hi Hammer moved to Lincoln County in the first place. Day provided an obituary from the Oct. 12, 1911, issue of the Lincoln Sentinel newspaper for Hi's namesake uncle. His uncle Hiram was childless but he pitched in to help rear six of the children who were orphaned when his brother Peter died. Emerson and Hiram are the only children we know about. Uncle Hiram was a miner who left Montpelier in 1850 for California in the '49er gold excitement. Sometime in the 1860s he relocated to Lincoln County, where he established a farm. Hammer Cemetery still stands near Lincoln and a deed for the property indicates that a Hiram Hammer donated the land in 1882, either the uncle or nephew. Day has also helped us research the Cleary family from Lincoln who were prominent early citizens in Belleville and Bow.
      Hiram had also farmed before his election and taught school; he was reelected in 1882. According to William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Hiram was also "one of the original projectors of the Topeka, Salina & Western Railroad." Seven years older than Emerson, Hiram, or Hi, went on to an academy after high school and also attended the Illinois State Normal School at Bloomington before teaching in Indiana. He moved to Lincoln County in 1872, presumably to join his uncle on the farm, and later taught school often, in both Kansas and Washington, when he was not a city or county official.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Beecher Island veterans)
(Dart daughter)
(Parker Green Hammer families)
Far left: Beecher Island veterans George Green, Jutson L. Farley and J.J. Peate all met again in Sedro-Woolley on August 1905. Photo courtesy of the late Wyman Hammer.
Center: This is the wedding photo of either Isabel or Lizzie Green. Parker family photo.. Parker family photo.
Right: This photo of the combined families was taken at about the turn of the 20th century. From l. to r., front row: George Parker Sargent, Josephine Parker, Nellie Parker Gerdon, George Hammer. Middle row: Mrs. Josephine (George) Green, Mrs. Lizzie (Dave) Parker, Mrs. Isabel (Emerson) Hammer. Back row: Dave Parker holding baby Bob, Emerson Hammer holding baby Gale..

Emerson Hammer leads the family to Washington state
      Sometime in the late 1880s Emerson Hammer became a retail partner in Lincoln with George Green, who later became his father-in-law. Green's youngest daughter, (Iona) Isabelle Green, married Emerson Hammer in Lincoln on Feb. 13, 1889. They immediately boarded the Salina, Lincoln and Northwestern Railroad on a long trip to what is now Clear Lake, Washington, where Green's brother-in-law, John Henry Dart, settled sometime in the 1878-80 period. Thus started the great Hammer-Green-Parker clan in our bailiwick. Dart died in Steilacoom, Washington, in 1883, and the Dave Parker family settled on his property at the south end of Clear Lake in 1897. Dave and Lizzie originally came to Skagit County in 1893, settling first in Burlington where Emerson Hammer and George Green already had businesses, and then living briefly in Sedro.
      Parker's namesake grandson, Dave Parker, recalled in a recent interview that his grandfather told him a story about how the family contracted their own boxcar for the trip west, which was filled with their luggage, furniture and livestock when it reached Burlington via the Great Northern railroad. Dave Parker also recalled a family story that George Green had led a pretty wild life as an adolescent long before he settled in the Lincoln area in the mid-1860s. By the turn of the century, the elder Dave Parker built up a thriving dairy business and he was a key member of the Clear Lake school board early on. Contrary to some published accounts, Sedro grocer Bob Parker was not related to this family, even though he did coincidentally grow up in the Clear Lake area, and his wife, Mae Green Parker, was not related either, even though her father was coincidentally named George Green. We certainly understand how reporters in the past could have made that mistake.
      Emerson Hammer's departure to Washington Territory in 1889 began the migration of not only his extended family but of the Hutchinson Farley family and other families over the next 20 years. We are not sure why they came specifically to Skagit County, except that other Kansas families settled here in the 1880s and wrote back home about the temperate climate and tremendous resources and crops. Perhaps Isabel's uncle John Henry Dart was the stalking horse for the families. We know that he came here sometime in 1878-1880, very early in the Skagit-settlement timeline and also the time of the Ruby Creek gold rush, so that may have originally drawn him here. George and Josephine Green and family followed the Hammers in 1891 and Emerson's brother, Hiram Hammer arrived at about the same time.
      Emerson Hammer told the Beacon reporter back in 1889 that Washington Territory might be their future home if he found "a suitable position." He certainly did just that. Within two weeks, Emerson became the manager for Sedro-founder Mortimer Cook at Cook's general store in the little village of Sterling, which Jesse B. Ball formed a decade before around his logging camp and steamboat landing two miles west of old Sedro on the north shore of the Skagit River. Just before the honeymoon couple arrived, Cook bought out the old Skagit Railway and Lumber Co. store at Sterling. That became a branch of Cook's original store that he opened at old Sedro four years earlier. There was a growing market there as the Seattle & Northern Railroad built west from Anacortes towards the new town of Woolley. After loggers felled the forest further and further north from the river, they discovered rich topsoil on the land that flooded for centuries past. Cook sold his shingle mill at old Sedro the year before and bought acreage at the Olympic Marsh, a few miles north of Sterling, planning to become a farmer and hog raiser. Emerson sold staples out of the Sterling store along with Conestoga-brand wagons to the farmers who flocked into the area.

(Emerson Hammer)
Emerson Hammer 1902

      By 1891, Emerson bought or built a store in nearby Burlington, three miles to the west, with his father-in-law's backing and Green joined him there as a partner, while also starting a shingle mill in Burlington, and at Clear Lake on family land. Emerson also ran a logging camp with Frank Bradsberry [also spelled Bradsbury in some accounts], with whom he partnered in various concerns over the next three decades. Emerson and Isabel's first child, George Hammer, was born on June 9, 1889, while they lived at Clear Lake, on the south shore of the river. Two years later, on Aug. 11, 1891, Mary Elizabeth Hammer was born while the young family lived in Sterling, just before they moved to Burlington.
      Over the next two decades, Green and his son-in-law Hammer became major developers all over eastern Skagit County as the new state of Washington swelled in population. Besides bankrolling three mills of his own and the first department store in Sedro-Woolley, Green also acted as silent partner to young entrepreneurs and was a leading dealer in livestock, his primary vocation along with retailing back in Lincoln.

(Isabel Hammer)
Isabel Hammer at age 90

      Hi Hammer moved to Clear Lake in about 1890 after finishing his term as deputy Lincoln County school superintendent. After teaching in schools all over Skagit County during the Depression years of the mid-1890s, he was elected to two terms as county auditor, then acted as city clerk of Sedro-Woolley and was finally appointed as postmaster from 1906-15. Hi was city clerk of Sedro-Woolley in 1906 when the complicated early land claims of Sedro developer Norman B. Kelley were adjudicated and he guided the construction of many buildings at the south end of Metcalf Street. He also built the Central Grocery near his home on Warner Street in about 1917. It still stood as the longest continuously operated grocery in Skagit County until October 2003 when Mike and Winona Mann turned out the lights for the last time.
Green and Hammer thrive in the newly merged town
      Meanwhile, Emerson Hammer became Mr. Sedro-Woolley in the early years of the 20th century after the merger of the two frontier towns. He was a partner in both Green's shingle companies and the stores, first in Burlington and then in Sedro-Woolley. Along with serving as mayor and police judge of Sedro-Woolley, he was elected Skagit County treasurer and was elected state senator twice, serving from 1898-1906. He was also Mr. Republican, along with butcher Dave Donnelly, in the county Republican affairs. In 1921, Emerson was also elected Sedro-Woolley city treasurer. Since son George had decided to start his own store that same year, instead of working for the Merc, Emerson convinced grocer Fred A. Hegg to become a principal at Union Mercantile. Emerson and Isabel moved to Sedro-Woolley in 1902 and built their home, soon called a mansion, at the southwest corner of Fourth and State Streets at the border of the old towns. Back in the 1896-97 period, Green and Hammer formed an overarching business that they called the Green Shingle company at the southwest corner of Ferry and Metcalf streets in downtown Woolley. Initially a dry goods concern, their company became associated with F.A. Hegg who had a grocery store in the two-story building to the south on Metcalf where the Castle Tavern [now Cues and Brews) later stood. On Jan. 10, 1903, the partners took on other heavyweight partners including lumberman W.W. Caskey and A.W. "Ad" Davison, who originally owned a mill and then the stagecoach that connected Sedro-Woolley with Burlington, and together they incorporated the Union Mercantile, Sedro-Woolley's first department store.
      Just as George Green had nurtured Hammer's business sense 40 years earlier, Emerson passed along the wisdom to his son, George, who joined tailor Joe Oliver to form the Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop in 1921, a business that survives as strong as ever today. That store, under the management of the famous Pinky Robinson from 1958 on, and under the current owner, Dyrk Meyers, is in many ways the symbol of Sedro-Woolley's sustaining spirit from the pioneer days on.
      In 1903, Green and Hammer formed an overarching business that they called the Green Shingle company at the southwest corner of Ferry and Metcalf streets. Initially a dry goods concern, they joined with F.A. Hegg who had a grocery store in the two-story building to the south on Metcalf where the Castle Tavern stands today. In 1903 they took on other heavyweight partners including lumberman W.W. Caskey and A.W. "Ad" Davison, who originally owned a mill and then the stagecoach that connected Sedro-Woolley with Burlington.
      Just as George Green had nurtured Hammer's business sense 40 years earlier, Emerson passed along the wisdom to his son, George, who joined tailor Joe Oliver to form the Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop in 1921, a business that survives as strong as ever today. That store, under the management of the famous Pinky Robinson and the current owner, Dyrk Meyers, is in many ways the symbol of Sedro-Woolley's sustaining spirit from the pioneer days onwards.

(Hammer Mansion)
      This photo of the mansion is in many collections around town. It shows the Green home across the alley to the left, and if you look to the right, behind the outbuilding and a dark house, you will see the Hegg home across Warner Street. Emerson added a special feature, a covered walkway bathed in flowers that he kept Isabel dry when she had to walk to the privy at the end of the lot on cold, rainy days.
      Across Warner Street, you can see the top of another early mansion, also three stories like the Hammer home, one only three such houses of that height in the whole town. That home at the southwest corner of Warner and Fourth streets dates back to the early 1890s, along with the Devin and Bingham mansions across Fourth Street to the east. It was built by Ben Vandeveer, a Klondike gold miner who built in 1898 what became known as the B&A Buffet Saloon, which stood downtown at the corner of Metcalf and State streets where Interwest Savings stands now. Sedro pioneer Ad Davison bought that house in an unknown year. He and his wife, Betsey (Firth), daughter of one of the earliest San Juan Island pioneer families, raised ten children there. Ad's granddaughter, Jean Fahey Lisherness married Norm Lisherness, a Lyman native who became the Sedro-Woolley police chief in the 1950s. They lived in the house from the late 1940s on. Norm died during the Fourth of July parade of 1967 and Jean continued living there until her death in 2005. Their son Tom now owns the home.
      You can see that the then-unpaved 4th street stretched south to the horizon at the slope down to the river bottom lands. Fourth originally did not extend through the 900 block and south. Banker C.E. Bingham's wife Julia wanted a rose garden there in the 1000 block and didn't give up the throughway until a few years before this photo was taken.

      George Green never forgot Lincoln. He visited there many times, including reunions of the Beecher veterans, and he and Hi Hammer hosted Sedro-Woolley GAR meetings of their fellow civil war vets. Green passed on in 1913 and throngs filled the streets outside the church for his service. Jody Green died 13 years later and received equal honors. In fact, the former "Annie Oakley" of Kansas was given the ultimate tribute by George Baldridge Post #43 of the American Legion. They gave her a firing squad salute and draped their charter for her for a month, a distinct honor only rarely accorded to military heroes. The late Wyman Hammer recalled family stories of how Jody, usually called Mae in later life, occasionally wowed guests at the Greens' modest Warner Street home with her rifle marksmanship. The most famous story, which the late Howard Miller and other old-timers also recalled, was how a friend challenged Mrs. Green when she was in her 50s. He nailed a quarter up to the fence behind the lot where Hal's Drive-In now stands and she hit it square in the middle on the first shot.
      Dave Parker died in 1930 and Hi Hammer died in 1936, four years before his brother, Emerson, whose funeral equaled in attendance those of his parents. Lizzie Green Parker, first white child of Lincoln, died in 1955. The last survivor of the original Lincoln family members was Lizzie's younger sister and Emerson's widow, Isabelle Green Hammer, who died in 1966 at age 97 years. A charter member of the Territorial Daughters of Washington, she never had to wear glasses and was an avid reader to the end. Their mansion at the southwest corner of State and 4th streets was one of the most substantial in town. Emerson added a special feature, a covered walkway bathed in flowers that he kept Isabel dry when she had to walk to the privy at the end of the lot on cold, rainy days. The mansion was razed within months after Isabel's death.
      In April 2002 we mourned the death of Wyman Hammer, 79, son of George Hammer, grandson of Emerson Hammer, and great-grandson of George Green. Wyman was the last of his generation in his family. He made his own fortune in the lumber industry in Eugene, Oregon, after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He married Mary Elizabeth Ross, the granddaughter of pioneer Tom Cain of Edison, a village in the western part of Skagit County. Wyman was passionate about helping preserve local history and donated two lots for a downtown Sedro-Woolley park — Hammer Heritage Square, which was formally dedicated in the summer of 2005 to the memory of this extended family that originated in Lincoln, Kansas.

(Parker house)
      David James Parker with his horse in front of the house he built on Beaver Lake at Fox Road. He married Lizzie Green, daughter of George Green. Parker family photo.

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