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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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Isabel Hammer, Kansas and Sedro
Pioneer — the Blue Lady

Skagit Portraits: Young in Ideas, Isabel Hammer and Anna Lederle
(Isabel and Anna)
Isabel Hammer seated, Anna Lederle standing, 1961

Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Aug. 23, 1961
      Last Saturday Mrs. Joe Lederle, 86, dressed in a cool green summer dress and wearing a prim black straw hat on top of her head stopped by to visit with Mrs. Emerson Hammer, 92, and wearing a colorful red sweater. The two women, though old in years are young in ideas and just as bright and cheerful as the clothes they were wearing.
      Both have lived on State Street for many years, Mrs. Hammer's home is a three-story house situated just on the edge of the commercial area. From these vantage points the two women have watched Sedro-Woolley grow from a time near its beginning.
      The Hammers moved here soon after they were married and Mr. Hammer opened a retail store called the Union Mercantile. The late Mr. Hammer was Senator from this district for 12 years, during the early 1900's. The Hammers had three children, Mrs. Rupert Gale of Seattle; Mrs. James Ruel of Louisiana; and George Hammer, who until recent years owned a retail clothing store in Sedro Woolley [Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop]. He resides now on Mercer Island [maybe Samish Island?] but still has business holdings in this area. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren are too numerous to count.
      Mrs. Hammer belongs to the Episcopal Church and Eastern Star. She daily reads the [Seattle] P-I and does it without the aid of glasses]. Her general health is excellent and she keeps busy playing the piano, reading and writing letters. Though her hip was broken several years ago, one would never detect it to see this pretty woman get around.
      Mrs. Lederle also suffered a cracked hip two years ago, but there's no getting these pioneer women down. She walks to town to do her shopping and continues her active life being busy all the time. Mrs. Lederle crochets, makes quilts and also begins her day by reading the morning paper from beginning to end.
      Her husband was town marshal soon after Sedro-Woolley became an incorporated town and both of these women enjoy visiting and reminiscing about Sedro-Woolley in its early days.

(Hammer Mansionx)
      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 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 Wells Fargo Bank 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 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. See the Hammer Mansion story elsewhere in Issue 41.

Mrs. Emerson Hammer celebrates 95th birthday anniversary
(Isabel and the Gales)
Isabel and the Gale family. Mary Hammer Gale stands to the right of Isabel. To the left is her son, William, Christy, her youngest daughter, and Glenda, the oldest.

Undated 1965 Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times article
      Mrs. Emerson (Isabella) Hammer of Sedro-Woolley has had more birthdays than most folks and she wasn't hiding the fact as she greeted about 50 guests who came to celebrate her 95th birthday Tuesday. She loves people and enjoys having them call
      A native of Lincoln, Nebr. [incorrect, actually Kansas], Mrs. Hammer has lived in the house she and her husband built 60 years ago in Sedro-Woolley. She lived in Burlington prior to that time. Her husband, who died in 1941 [actually 1940], was a state Senator for 12 years and mayor of Sedro-Woolley for one term. He owned the Union Mercantile.
      Mrs. Hammer has never worn glasses and she reads the newspapers and watches TV regularly. She is interested in politics and spends her "leisure time" crocheting. She capably sets her hair in an attractive fashion. Her children are George Hammer of Samish Island, Mary Gayle [actually Gale] of Mercer Island and Joyce Ruel of Lake Charles, Louisiana. She has eight grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.
      Adding special joy to her birthday was a letter from the Curate of Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and flowers from her Godchild, Irene Sumner. Others also remembered her with flowers and gifts.


1. Mrs. Joe Lederle
      Miss Della A. Drummond married Joseph F. Lederle Jr., son of Utopia pioneer Joseph Sr. Joe Jr. died on Jan. 22, 1948 and Della died seven years after this article, on Nov. 25, 1968. Joe at one time owned the Maine Saloon on Ferry Street and later he was the night watchman in Sedro-Woolley, hired by merchants to patrol the business district, check the security of all buildings and use diplomacy and occasionally a nightstick to pacify those who imbibed too heavily. Greer Drummond, 91 and owner of Valley Hardware, is their nephew. [Return]

2. Union Mercantile
      The "Merc," located at the southwest corner of Ferry and Metcalf streets, was incorporated in 1902 by Hammer, his father-in-law George Green and other partners. It was Sedro-Woolley's first "department store," an outgrowth of the earlier Green Shingle Co. at the same location. Emerson Hammer came to the Skagit Valley with his bride, Isabel, in February 1889 and clerked for Mortimer Cook at Cook's general store in Sterling. Green followed them to Skagit County in 1891 and started a shingle mill in Burlington and Hammer opened a general store there on Anacortes Street. Hammer may have also opened a general store in Clear Lake but we have not confirmed that. Green opened his store on Metcalf Street in Woolley in the 1896-97 period. Their woodframe Merc structure burned in the great Woolley fire of July 1911 and they rebuilt the store of brick, reopening just before New Year's 1912. The store went bankrupt in 1932. Future mayor Puss Stendal clerked at the Merc, as did William Holtcamp Sr. and other pioneer descendants over the years. [Return]

3. Seattle P-I
      That reference reminds us of something that those who lived here in the 1960s and earlier may also recall. There were two Seattle daily newspapers, the P-I, which was the morning paper, and the Times, which was the evening paper. The P-I marketed itself as the statewide paper and I recall very few people who subscribed up here to the Times. I can still recall how thrilling it was to walk out to the mailbox in the morning during baseball season while it was still dark and finding the prized P-I. Royal Brougham, the legendary sports editor, posted a box at the top of page one, which showed the results inning by inning up until the time the paper was printed at 9 p.m. the evening before. All us kids reveled in the exploits of our heroes, like Carmen Mauro and Maury Wills (before he went on to star for the Dodgers) and you got extra brownie points at school that day if you had learned the final score. Thrilling? You bet. [Return]

4. Lincoln Center, Kansas
      Emerson and Isabel Hammer migrated here from Lincoln Center, Kansas, not Lincoln, Nebraska. Isabel's grandfather, John Dart, was a Mormon who moved his family west to California from Connecticut during the '49er days, but he moved his family to Lincoln County, Kansas, in 1865. George Green married Josephine Dart in that same year, when he was a stock trader on the Saline River and she was the teenage sharpshooting champion of the region. Green founded the town of Lincoln Center in 1870. [Return]

5. Burlington
      Until we read this article, we did not know that the Hammers maintained a home in Burlington before erecting the Hammer Mansion at the southwest corner of State and Fourth streets in Sedro-Woolley in 1902. The young couple moved their family here sometime between 1897 and 1902. George and Josephine Green moved into their own home south across the alley from the Hammers. An 1896 Skagit County Times newspaper article noted that Dave Parker built that home and sold it to the Greens in that year. [Return]

Isabel Hammer, the Territorial Daughters and her role as a pioneer
(Isabel age 95)
Isabel Hammer, 1965

By Noel V. Bourasaw, ©2002
      Isabel Hammer was an extraordinary woman. I played in her yard as a child. She fulfilled the role of town mother to a "T," but on top of that she had a sense of history that made her fascinating to her friends and peers — the earliest women settlers of the region. Behind her back, she was sometimes affectionately known as one of the "four biddies" who lived within two block of each other. She and the others were also Territorial Daughters, including Mrs. Fannie Hegg. Fannie was the wife of pioneer grocer F.A. Hegg and a daughter of the pioneer Mount Vernon Bishop family. The Heggs built the home on the south side of Warner (at number 315) that was recently lovingly restored by Paul and Katherine Chaplin.
      Mrs. Susie Osterman Alverson lived next door to the east of the Heggs in a house that is also still standing. You can read a more complete profile of Susie in the story next week about the St. Clair Hotel, the first famous hostelry in very early Woolley. She was a walking encyclopedia of Northwest Washington history. She was also the thread that tied together the history of the town. She was the daughter of the family than owned the Osterman House, the hotel that burned before the Gateway was built on the same location. She was also the "Hello Girl" for Woolley's turn-of-the-century telephone exchange. She wound up being the recorder of Vital Statistics for the county and she probably talked to every pioneer who lived here, along with their descendants. Her husband was L.E. "Ted" Alverson, who moved here from the little town of Marengo, Iowa, the original home of banker Charlie Bingham, his wife Julia and her sisters and cousins, all of whom were the backbone of Sedro. He was the early Sedro-Woolley town clerk and then manager of the Interurban railroad and the Stone &Webster Company. She was my mother's best friend and she bought my warts when I was a child.
      The fourth Territorial Daughter in the quartet was Minnie Batey, wife of John Henry Batey, the stepson of pioneer David Batey and son of David's wife, Dr. Georgiana Batey. John Batey was originally the tender on the old Northern Pacific trestle-bridge and was later the Equitable Life Insurance representative here. Minnie touched the lives of hundreds here as a longtime teacher in the Sedro-Woolley school district. She was a daughter of the pioneer Joseph Lederle family from the Burmaster road, who owned shoe stores here for nearly 80 years. Thus she was a sister-in-law of Mrs. Anna Lederle, who was featured in the story above. She taught in local schools for more than 20 years. Their house also still stands on the 300 block of Talcott street, across the alley from the Hegg home.

The Territorial Daughters of Washington, Chapter One
      All four women were widows, and all were charter members of the Territorial Daughters, along with Susan Batey Taylor (John Henry's half-sister and the first white child born in Sedro) and Eliza and Ethel Van Fleet and they passed along much of the history that is the backbone of this website. Minnie Batey was the last surviving charter-officer of the Territorial Daughters, and some called her the "Sweetheart of Chapter One." The chapter was born on Aug. 12, 1936, the day of the funeral for John Napoleon, the legendary Indian who taught dozens of local old-timers how to smoke fish. Many of the local pioneer women were waiting under a big maple tree before the services started at Lemley Mortuary. The funeral was delayed because of an extended service for Napoleon upriver at the Shaker Church. As they waited patiently, Susan Batey Taylor suggested that they all consider starting a club for women who descended from families who arrived here while Washington was a territory, before it became a state on Nov. 11, 1889. The club was born on the Van Fleet homestead a few weeks later.
      Old timers will take me to task if I do not explain that Isabel Hammer was known as the Blue Lady. When I was a child and played in the Hammers' yard, some other children passing by were shocked. Some were afraid of Isabel because she was the palest woman we had ever seen and had a blue tint to her skin. She had a medical condition where her veins showed faintly through her skin. As Susie Alverson explained, a recessive gene caused the condition; she said the oxygen-depleted blood in Isabel's veins looked blue. That made sense to me, but I was considered very brave to play in her yard and attend an occasional tea with the women in the afternoon. The only thing I remember in detail was that Isabel's home had that distinct "old house" smell and that I was not allowed to go upstairs and play. What a shame. Another Sedro-Woolley alumnus who played in that house as a child is writing a children's book from her memories. Bonnie Gottwald-Stene lives in Hawaii and we look forward to reading and reviewing her book.

From Kansas to the Skagit River
(Emerson at the Senate)
Emerson Hammer in the Washington State Senate, circa 1900

      Isabel Hammer was born Iona Isabel (or Isabelle) Green on Oct. 29, 1868, near the Saline River and the future town of Lincoln Center, which her father founded in north-central Kansas two years later. She was the second child born to George and Josephine (Dart) Green. Her elder sister, Julia Elizabeth (Lizzie), was born two years earlier on Oct. 18, 1866, the first white child born in Lincoln County. Mrs. Hammer was most referred to in records here as Isabel, but she was called "Blue Belle (or Bell)" as a child because of her physical condition.
      Her father was a flamboyant cattleman and stock breeder who gained considerable fame as one of the Gen. Phil Sheridan's "Colorado Boys" who pursued hostile Indians in Kansas and Colorado in 1868. In September that year, Green was one of 57 men who held off hundreds of Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux Indians who attacked them over a stretch of nine days on what became known afterwards as Beecher Island, located in the Arickaree fork of the Republican River in Colorado, five miles due west of the northwest corner of Kansas. The event reached legendary status early on as the "Beecher Island Massacre" 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. A Massachusetts native, Green herded cattle and traded with the Indians as an employee of the U.S. War Department from 1861 to 1865.
      After that assignment, on Sept. 13, 1865, he married Josephine (Jody) Dart the daughter of a quixotic Mormon pioneer named John Dart who moved his family west to California by wagon train in the '49er days, but then turned back east to settle in Kansas. Born on New Year's Day, 1849 in Connecticut, Josephine (called Mae by here family out here) was just four months old when her father and his first wife left on a long journey to join an emigrant wagon train. The tenth child in her father's first family, which experienced tragedy on the route west as two children died along the way.
      Although she spent her childhood in California and Texas, Josephine cut a wide swath as an Annie Oakley of Kansas. In her book, Lincoln — That County in Kansas, Dorothe Tarrence Homan noted: "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. In 1884, Lizzie Dart married David J. Parker, whose family moved from Iowa to Lincoln County in 1870.

Isabel's secret
      Early on in our research, we found a brief story from the Lincoln Beacon about Isabel's marriage to Emerson Hammer in Lincoln on Feb. 13, 1889, and their almost immediate railroad journey to Washington Territory. Emerson was an Indiana native who was orphaned in his childhood and later followed his brother, Hiram Hammer, to Lincoln County, where they were schoolteachers, town officials and retailers.
Lincoln Beacon, Feb. 21, 1889
      Married: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1889, at 3:30 p.m. at the home of the bride's parents in Lincoln, Kansas, Emerson Hammer with Miss Belle Green, both of Lincoln, Rev. Wm. Campbell officiating. A small party of relatives and intimate friends only were present and accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Hammer to the depot, where they took the 10 o'clock train on their way to Washington Territory, which may be their future home if Mr. Hammer finds there a suitable position.
They boarded the Salina, Lincoln and Northwestern Railroad, a branch of the Missouri Pacific and the Union Pacific, so presumably they traveled to San Francisco on what was called the emigrant train and then boarded a steamer to Washington and then a sternwheeler from either Tacoma or Seattle to Sterling. A railroad connection north to Sedro from Seattle was still a year away
      Subsequently, we assembled a family tree with the help of Parker and Hammer descendants and records in both Kansas and Washington. In the family tree and the Sedro-Woolley Cemetery records, the Hammers' first child, George, is listed as born on June 9, 1891. Yet we read in more than one source brief notations that George, the future founding partner of Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop (in 1921 with Joe Oliver) was born when the couple lived in Sterling in June 1889. Sure enough, George was born "early" — as they said back in those days — just four months after his parents' wedding. I sat around listening to many gossip sessions at Susie Alverson's house as a child and heard a lot of gossip concerning just about everyone in town, but I never heard anyone refer to the Hammers having a "shotgun wedding," as such unions were called back then. Only a handful of wives were present in the Sedro-Sterling-Skiyou area when the Hammers arrived in late February 1889, so either they kept mum about Isabel's secret or she moved back the wedding date a few months earlier. No one in the family who we consulted were aware of the creative birth year for George that the couple invented out of whole cloth.
      The Hammer's departure to Washington territory in 1889 began the migration of not only their extended family but of several other Lincoln County families over the next 20 years, including Hutchinson Farley, another of the Beecher Island veterans. 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 Hammer in 1891.
      Hammer told the Beacon reporter that Washington territory might be their future home if he found "a suitable position." He certainly did just that. Within weeks he became clerk for Mortimer Cook, the founder of Sedro, at Cook's store in the nearby village of Sterling. By 1891 Emerson bought or erected a store in nearby Burlington with his father-in-law's backing and Green joined him there as a partner, while also starting a shingle mill 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.
      As an addendum, by the time I was in high school and had a wee bit of curiosity about local history, I realized the four ladies were hardly biddies. I just wish that I had exercised more curiosity at the time and had listened to the conversations they had together and maybe that I had written down their memories. If I had only sat down with a tape recorder at one of their coffee klatches. . .

6. Sweetheart of Chapter One
      Minnie was noted as the long-ago "sweetheart" in a Slipper's Soliloquies column, in the March 5, 1971, issue of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, by the late Fred Slipper, quoting Sedro-Woolley historian and author Ray Jordan. Minnie Batey died Feb. 2, 1976, at age 87. [Return]

7. Blue Lady
      Read about methemoglobinemia and about the Fugate Blue-Skin People of Kentucky. [Return]

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Story posted on Dec. 15, 2007 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 41 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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