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Albert G. Mosier, engineer,
platted towns, blue that held Sedro and Woolley together

the man who platted the towns of Sedro, Woolley and Sauk City
Born Jan. 9, 1866, Des Moines, Iowa (bullet) Died Dec. 8, 1955, Sedro-Woolley
By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal ©2002
(Albert G. Mosier)
Albert G. Mosier, ca. 1930

      Albert Graham Mosier came back from the 16th annual Alaska-Yukon Pioneers reunion in July 1947 and told his friends in Sedro-Woolley that there were 300 other former Klondike miners at the main luncheon. Those honored were in Alaska before December 1899 for the Klondike Gold Rush. Another man from Sedro-Woolley was a member of the group until his death in 1943 — Harry Devin, who was Albert's brother-in-law. They were pioneers in Sedro before the Klondike days as partners in the first real estate firm and afterwards they became important community leaders.
      When Mosier lived here from 1889-98 and after he returned from Alaska in 1924, he played a key role in many historical events. Judging by many factors, he was one of the top ten most important pioneers for the region, especially for his role in platting many towns and his longevity into his '70s as an engineer. In many ways he was the glue that held the cities of Sedro and Woolley together. While others argued about which one was superior, Mosier platted both towns in 1889 and 1890. When he completed those projects, he performed the same service for the small village of Sauk City on the south shore of the Skagit river. He returned from upriver in late July 1890 with $350 in gold from his fee and discovered that the new Bingham bank had opened while he was away. He became one of the first depositors on opening day, July 30 [you can read his memories of that time in our separate Bingham website]. This story will soon be changed to this address. If neither file connects, please email us.
      Mosier came to Sedro in 1889 with the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern [SLS&E] railroad's developer Norman Kelley and they hiked together every day through virgin forests from David Batey's farm near Sterling to plan the train route and Kelley's Town, or new Sedro, where the high school stands today. He was also the Sedro-Woolley engineer, off and on, for 50-plus years, around his mining stints in Alaska. Albert married Bessie Amelia Reno of Marengo, Iowa, on June 20, 1893. She was born there on Jan. 13, 1866, and was one of the three Reno sisters who married future Sedro businessmen. Her eldest sister, Julia, married the future Sedro banker, C.E. Bingham, back in Iowa in 1885 and then played matchmaker out here for two other sisters and a cousin.

Early engineering training
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      Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times columnist Catherine McIntyre McClintock interviewed him for her "Skagit Valley Men to Know" column in 1935, the source for much of our biographical information. She noted that Mosier was one of seven children born to Cyrus and Rachel Mosier, born in 1866 in the thriving city of Des Moines. The family was firmly middle class and his father was court reporter for the first and second district courts of Iowa, a pioneer in his own way as one of the first shorthand experts in the state. We have learned in just the past year the full extent of Cyrus Mosier's notable career. [You can also read our separate website on Cyrus A. Mosier by returning to the Issue 20 contents page of our Subscribers Edition.] When Cyrus was just ten, his family moved from Missouri to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, where his father built the first frame house in town and planted a notable peach orchard. After he was home-schooled by his schoolteacher mother and then attended a small log cabin school, he became a schoolteacher himself in 1856 and soon launched an investigation of the Indian mounds of the area. He soon branched out to cover all over the Mississippi valley and his research uncovered a sizable ancient Indian population that pre-dated the Incas. An avid reader, such pursuits remained his hobby from then on and led to a second career in middle age. After a few years, he also became a court reporter for one of his teachers who had been elected judge of the district court. He was appointed as the district school superintendent in 1866 but resigned two years later to become a full-time reporter. In 1889, he was appointed by Republican President Harrison to be a special agent of the General Land Office of the Interior Department and was assigned to Washington territory, which became a state that November. His duty was to supervise the government land and prevent encroachment upon the public domain. He served from 1889-1893 under Republican President Harrison, was replaced when Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected and then returned to the post in 1897-1900 after Republican William McKinley was elected.
      Back in Iowa, Albert was a prodigy and at age 16 he entered the Iowa State College school of engineering, graduating three years later in 1885. Although he could have taken a cushy post just about anywhere, he preferred to work from the bottom up and learn the basics of railroading. He began as a laborer, building a steel bridge over the Des Moines river, and was soon hired by the Burlington Railroad in Nebraska. He mastered one task and then moved on to another, advancing from rod-man to topographer and then construction superintendent at age 21, in charge of building 17 miles of track. When the work was stopped by a locomotive engineers strike in May 1888, he moved to Seattle.
      Since we wrote the original version of this story in 1993, we have researched deeper and have finally found details about why Albert moved to Washington territory and the impact that several members of his family made here. We now know that he may have been lured to Seattle by the former president of his college, Lee S. J. Hunt, had become the editor of the weekly Seattle Post Intelligencer [P-I]. Hunt was a very colorful historical figure both in Iowa and Seattle. A lawyer and public school teacher, he taught the Mosiers in Des Moines schools and in 1885 he became the third president of Iowa State Agricultural College, now Iowa State University, where he taught Albert. His lack of experience soon became apparent and his aggressive style of leadership led to conflicts with the students and faculty. He resigned in 1886 after only a year as president and moved to Seattle, where he edited the P-I, which was launched as the Gazette in 1863 and was re-opened as the P-I in 1867. By the time that Albert appeared at his office, Hunt was on his way to also becoming a banker and a partner in real estate development such as Peter Kirk's east-side plat that eventually became the city of Kirkland.
      Hunt also knew the group of city fathers who started the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad [SLS&E] as competition with the Northern Pacific railroad, which committed the since of choosing Tacoma as its terminus. The SLS&E was once again flush with capital and needed talented young civil engineers for their West Coast Line, which they planned to run north to the border with Canada on an inland route. Two days after Albert arrived, SLS&E hired him as a location engineer and he soon left for Snohomish county, where construction bogged down when the company originally ran out of capital. Over the next few months, he searched for possible depot sites where water could be stored for the steam locomotives and towns could form around crossroads markets. Over the winter of 1888-89, Albert was in charge of constructing the roadbed from Snohomish City to Machias.
      About that time he met Norman R. Kelley, who was also a mechanical engineer but he had grown up in the lap of luxury as the son of Albert Kelley, a wealthy banker on Wall street in New York City. Kelley was five years older and a free spirit who became a mountain climber when his father sent him west to learn about railroads. For the next five years until Kelley died of alcoholism, Mosier was Kelley's tether to the planet. Kelley moved out to Seattle in 1886 and was originally a draftsman for the early SLS&E planned route east from Seattle to Spokane. By 1888 he became right-of-way agent on the second forty miles north on the West Coast branch through Snohomish county. Sometime that year he decided to boom a town along the way and he happened upon Mortimer Cook's village at old Sedro on the Skagit. That fall, the San Francisco Bridge Company built a railroad trestle over the Skagit, a half-mile west of Cook's village of old Sedro. Mosier and Kelley apparently decided that Cook's village was not the best place for a depot because it was located on the low land on the north shore of Skagit. They chose instead a site about 3/4s of a mile northwest, above the bench that was once the north shore of the ancestral river channel. Sometime in the spring of 1889, Albert boarded at the home of Sedro-area pioneer David Batey near Sterling and helped the plat the village we call new Sedro, while Kelley enjoyed the good life at a suite in the Rainier Club in Seattle.
      As Albert surveyed land for the railroad right-of-way, he located three adjoining homestead sites somewhere along the Skykomish river in Snohomish county, upriver from the junction with the Snohomish river. [You can read the journal entry that Harry Devin wrote about that time and place by returning to the contents page of Issue 20 of our separate Subscribers Edition] Harry did not say exactly where the homesteads were but he did say that they were 17 miles from the nearest grocery. The nearest one at that time would have been at Snohomish City, so that puts their land someplace between the present little towns of Gold Bar and Startup in the foothills of the Cascade mountains on present Highway 2. Brother-in-law Devin had visited this area alone on horseback in 1885 but in the spring of 1889, he brought his wife and two-year-old daughter out by train and steamboat to Seattle. Albert's younger brother Charles also came out from Iowa and he would live here for the rest of his life. Four years before Everett began, the family group probably took a work train from Seattle up to Snohomish City and then hired Indians to row paddle up the Skykomish river in two cedar canoes. Baby Frances was tied to the gunnel of the canoe by buckskin thongs and within a half-hour they were in wilderness forest.
      In 1896, a biographer wrote this story about Cyrus and his family's similar trip:

      In April, 1889, Mr. Mosier moved with his family to Washington Territory, where he had many adventures in the deep, wild forests. Soon after his arrival he took his family in Indian canoes, manned by Indians, and ascended the Snohomish river for three days. After disembarking they had to walk on a mountain trail for sixteen miles, making six miles of the trail themselves, and camping without tent. On the second day (fifth day out) they reached a small cabin. They spent the summer in the Cascade mountains, and early in December descended the river to the town of Snohomish on tide water.
We are not certain if that was the same trip that Harry and Albert's group took to the homesteads. In a letter before his death in 2004, Harry Devin's grandson Harry Duncan wrote that Cyrus, Albert and Harry "proved up" on their homesteads in 1889-90, obtained title, and then sold them to St. Paul, Minnesota, timberman Fredrick Weyerhaeuser sometime within the next seven years. By the winter of 1889, Lenore and the baby went back to Iowa, and Rachel Mosier took Charles back home to attend school in Des Moines. Harry went to Seattle to scout out a permanent place for his family to live. And Cyrus moved to Snohomish City, which was the oldest town in Snohomish county.
      Sometime in the late summer of 1889, Mosier accompanied Kelley north to David Batey's house, which was halfway between Sterling and Mortimer Cook's Sedro townsite, on the bench north of the ancient Skagit riverbed. Unfortunately all the newspapers from those days burned in various Sedro and Woolley fires, so we probably will never know why Kelley decided to plat a second Sedro town. All we know for sure is that Kelley met Winfield Scott Jameson, the pioneer Skagit timberman from the early 1870s and used his father's leverage to set up a partnership on the old homesteads that Jameson had retained north of where the four British bachelors staked their claims in 1878 staked their claims in 1878. Mosier and Kelley took a sternwheeler from Seattle and then walked up the primitive county highway, which was actually a dirt road along the high-water cliffs. See the Trains Section for the fruits of their labor.

Albert meets a cougar
      Mosier's grand-nephew Harry Duncan recalls a story that his grandfather Harry Devin told about one of Mosier's first experiences in the vast cedar forest that then covered the future sight of Kelley's future town of new Sedro. Mosier was running lines for a survey when he had to cross a cedar trunk that was ten feet off the ground. He jumped feet first into a thick huckleberry bush and landed on a sleeping cougar.
      "Grandpa used to tease him," Duncan recalls, "saying he thought that the cougar was running, not quite as fast as Albert was, in the opposite direction." Mosier lived with the Bateys for several months until he built a small cabin near where the high school football field now stands. Kelley did not live in Sedro year round. He preferred to hang out at the Rainier Club in Seattle, which became a social center after the great fire of June 1889, and cook up deals with his friends. Then in the "spring of 1890, Kelley led a trip into the Olympic mountains, one of the first to penetrate that then unknown region," according to his February 1894 obituary in the P-I. In 1892 he returned to New York and Mosier was his point man in Sedro.
      Back in Des Moines, Albert and his sister knew the sister of Sedro banker M.L. Holbrook. A native of Marengo, Iowa, Holbrook was destined to be the partner of his neighbor, C.E. Bingham, in the first bank down by the Skagit River in July 1890. The Holbrooks were also neighbors in Marengo of the Reno girls and that combined group from the little town in Iowa became the social and political backbone of our young town of Sedro, as they also became the economic leaders. This story will soon be changed to this address. If neither file connects, please email us.
      In a 1950 interview, Mosier recalled that he and Devin built their office on the west side of the F&S railroad track, having a commanding view of the new bank. They chose a bench of land that was located where the Rotary barbecue pits now stand on a mound in Riverfront Park. Devin was the realtor and Mosier was the engineer and mine developer, his favorite vocation for the rest of his life. As he explained in 1950: "[A company named] Mosher and McDonald were logging an area about at the east city limits [he probably meant Township street]. It was a beautiful stand of timber, principally fir, which was the only wood considered fit to make lumber. There was no sale for cedar; about 2 million feet burned to clear town lots on the site of the high school. Firs over 300 feet tall and 16-18 feet in diameter at the butt above the swell." During that time he also platted the town of Woolley. He recalled that "running east from P.A. Woolley's mill, for more than a mile, stood the finest stand of pile and tie timber that I have ever seen or heard of. In running subdivision lines we had to use candles for setting points and getting backsites, since so little light filtered down through the tall thick trees.
      "Mrs. Julia Bingham's sister Bessie arrived from Marengo, Iowa [in 1891]," he explained. "Albert Holland, then a clerk at Cook's store [along with being a partner in a drug store], and I were invited for an evening with the bankers to meet the arrival. I later married her at the Bingham cottage on Talcott, now grown into the Bingham apartments [the mansion still stands in 2003]." They courted for two years while Bessie worked as the first employee of the Bingham bank. In the early years the couple lived in Montborne. Later in life he and his brother Charles lived nearby in big Lake.
      When the nationwide Depression of 1893 set in, the land that Mosier and Devin traded furiously during the boom years lost its value almost overnight. By that time, Mosier was already engaged in other pursuits. A man of modest means, he took any employment that came along, first as Skagit county part-time surveyor-engineer and then as an engineer for Great Northern as they prepared to cross the Cascades range. That was back when GN's behemoth, James J. Hill, played every Puget sound town like pawns while he decided where he would place his terminus. The year before Mosier married, he hiked from the village to Sultan to camp in the Cascades as he oversaw construction of five miles of roadbed on the west side of the summit. After making good money from February to December 1892, he returned to Sedro to court Bess.
      He next decided to invest in a half interest in the shingle mill at Montborne, according to McClintock's biography. She does not explain where the mill was but we suspect that it was the remains of Dr. H.P. Montborne's mill that burned in about 1889. He tried to keep it going for two years but in the mid-1890s he and Bess moved to Seattle where he became a partners in the Seattle-Lake Washington Waterway company with Albro Gardner, whom he had met years before. For the rest of the Depression years, he was an engineer there, overseeing land reclamation along the lakeshore and digging waterways. He worked on projects that eventually led to the Lake Union-Puget sound canal and the Ballard Locks.

Albert G. Mosier in Alaska
      Mosier's introduction to Alaska came not as a result of mining but rather when he accepted a post in 1896 as assistant to Capt. D.D. Gailard, a U.S. government engineer who needed a report on a disputed waterway on the territory border between the U.S. and Canada. In 1897, as the gold rush exploded, Mosier surveyed White Pass down to Skagway. He recalled for McClintock how he observed thousands of eager-eyed, adventurous men with packs on their backs trekking over snowy peaks to the gold fields, some lucky enough to have mules and horses to carry nearly a ton of rations and supplies that each miner was required to buy from merchants in Seattle and Alaska. He was fascinated with Soapy Smith, the notorious con man who was making as much from various vices as were the successful miners.
      McClintock wrote that in 1898, Mosier went to Dawson by way of St. Michael and the Yukon and spent ten years in the Klondike and adjacent territories, making his mark as one of the most successful drift miners in the region. A story goes that Bessie preferred her sisters' social milieu in Sedro over the crude amenities of rustic Dawson when her husband beckoned her to join him. That is, until he proffered a necklace of pure gold nuggets. We suspected that the story was apocryphal or exaggerated until our friend, R.W. "Spike" Odlin, shared some of the mementos from his grandmother. In a July 3, 1899 letter Mosier's sister-in-law, Jessie Reno Odlin, wrote that "Bess got a sack of gold nuggets, about $60 worth, from Albert the other day and the sweetest bracelet of nuggets that I ever saw. Albert sent Dick part of the diamond money, about $800 in gold dust. He still wants to have Bess come to Dawson, but we are all so opposed to her going."
      In December 1899, Harry Devin wrote a letter back to the Skagit County Times of Woolley, announcing that he had just arrived at Sulphur Creek with mining machinery that had to be packed in from Dawson. He explained that on the way in he met Albert Mosier on the trail, who was on his way out. Mosier decided to stay with him for the winter, instead. When Devin returned to Sedro-Woolley in 1901, he found that Albert Mosier had been hired as the part-time county surveyor and was busy with engineering and surveying for private clients, a move back here that McClintock did not record. But within a few years Albert was back up in Alaska, hauling freight to mines. He showed McClintock a freight lading bill for equipment during that time that cost $9,000, so that gives us a pretty good idea of the size of his workings.
      In 1907, Albert and Bess returned to Woolley again and he resumed his practice of general engineering in Skagit county while also serving as chief engineer for the Lewis brothers at the Clear Lake Lumber Company for seven years. McClintock wrote that in 1914 the sirens of Alaska called him again and he returned, serving as agent for the Pacific Coast Gypsum company on Chicagoff island between Juneau and Sitka. He must not have stayed for long that time, however, because a June 20, 1918, article in the Skagit County Courier of Sedro-Woolley noted that he was resigning his office as city engineer that week to leave immediately for Gypsum, Alaska, where he would be manger for the Pacific Coast Gypsum Company. According to the article, gypsum was then a very valuable component in the manufacture of cement, the main industry of the town of Concrete, upriver on the Skagit. The mine was said to produce 30,000 tons per year. Mayor F.O. Douglass told the Courier that the position would not be filled for awhile because there was very little work available locally due to wartime building restrictions. Bess planned to travel north with him and live at the Chicagoff mine, 90 miles across the bay from Juneau. They did not return until early 1924 when Bess persuaded him to take a long trip to California and back to their hometown. But within a few days, became very ill while visiting her sister, Jessie Reno Odlin, in Anacortes. She grew progressively more ill, unable to leave her bed, and finally died on March 13 that year.

Albert becomes a fixture in Sedro-Woolley
(Albert G. Mosier at work in his 80s)
Albert G. Mosier still worked as city engineer part-time in his 80s and at age 87 he showed road crews how to swing a sledge hammer

      The death of his wife seems to have taken some of the wind out of Albert's sails. His traveling days to the Yukon were over but he certainly did not retire. Many of the original boomers of Sedro had passed away or moved to greener pastures in the three decades since the Depression that stalled the twin towns on the river, so younger city leaders sought out his perspective. Albert, Harry Devin, Ad Davison, C.E. Bingham and Charlie Wicker Sr. were now the grand old men of the town, all about 60 years old, and Albert outlived them all. In addition, other Klondike veterans were all in leadership positions, including Paul Rhodius and Ben Vandeveer. Ted Alverson, his wife's neighbor from Marengo, was the manager of the Interurban and then city clerk, and her cousin Q.P. Reno became city treasurer after serving as Bingham's cashier for many years. Over the years after his return, Mosier planned the water reservoirs at Northern State Hospital and converted the old cement holding tanks at the Sedro-Woolley Box and Veneer plant (at Cook's original townsite) to a wastewater system for the city. He also engineered the original Sedro-Woolley sewer system, which originally used wooden pipes in the teen years and had to be modernized as they rotted away.
      He also surveyed the Cascade Pass and worked with David G. McIntyre of Skagit Steel during the 1920s and '30s to promote a Cascade Highway. Mosier promoted such a road mostly as a mine to market road, helping companies that wanted to tap the vast resources in the hills around the Skagit. He may have hiked every square mile of the foothills over the years, checking geology and mapping the area. He wrote many pieces in newspapers and magazines about the mining prospects in the Cascades [we will soon publish such articles by both Mosier and Devin]. Up to the end, he was looking forward to when galena areas in eastern county can be developed.
      According to Catherine McClintock, he was a dashing figure in town for more than 50 years. She described him as tall, dignified, with discerning blue eyes and a neatly trimmed goatee and moustache. On his 84th birthday in 1950 the Courier-Times reported that he still drove his 2-door, 6-cylinder 1929 Oakland coupe daily. He bought it from his old friend Dale Tresner at the dealership in the original Mission Garage at the southeast corner of 3rd and State streets and drove it daily for more than 25 years. He was still a voracious reader into his 80s, saying that he preferred to read mining and scientific journals rather than novels.
      Years ago, when I didn't know Sedro history from Shinola, my darling daughter Jennifer was born while my wife and I lived in Mosier's log cabin at the corner of 8th and Fidalgo in Old Sedro. Harry's grandnephew Harry Duncan recalled recently that Albert's brother Charles built the cabin, which still stands today. We do not yet know exactly when the house was built, but we know that Harry visited the Mosier brothers there in 1937 and it was relatively new. The house was designed as if it were a hunting lodge in the wilds of Alaska, featuring a cathedral ceiling over the living room and an impressive loft bedroom. The fireplace was faced with green Italian marble, which Albert jokingly called his "$30,000, fireplace, all I have left of my investment in the doomed Bank of Anacortes." He apparently invested in the doomed attempt by his brother-in-law, William Odlin, to revive the bank in the mid-1920s. We especially loved the moose head that still hung over the fireplace, a trophy that even his old partner Harry Devin would have drooled over. Maybe they shot it during one of their hunting forays over to the town of Republic in the Okanogan area, where Devin organized hunting parties.
      Besides his charter membership in the Arctic Club in Seattle, Mosier was very active in the Knights of Pythias locally, as well as the Rotary. At the time of his death in 1955 at age 89, he was living with his nieces, misses Alice and Frances Devin, at the old Devin mansion at the southeast corner of 4th and Warner streets. That house sold in 2002 and is being lovingly restored by Mark Chatt. Albert's brother Charles moved back to Big Lake and lived there until his death in 1963. Mosier was the last original Sedro pioneer to die. Contemporaries noted that just two years before, at age 87, Albert was out with a city street crew, showing them how to drive stakes with a sledgehammer.

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