(Girl Undercut)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
600 of 700 total Free Home Page Stories & Photos
(Also see our Subscribers Magazine Sample)
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

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

(Click to send email)
Site founded Sept. 1, 2000. We passed 5 million page views on June 6, 2011
The home pages remain free of any charge. We need donations or subscriptions to continue.
Please pass on this website link to your family, relatives, friends and clients.

George Ratchford and
Jim Ritchford/Richford, brothers
and the strange story of their name changes

      The lives of George Ratchford and James Ritchford/Richford form the strangest sibling story of early Skagit County. If you read the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, you will find biographies of both George Ratchford and James Ritchford. James was 14 years older, born in Hawksburg, Ontario, Canada, on July 23, 1850. Their stories about growing up in Canada are identical except for the spelling of their father's last name: for James, it is Ritchford; for George it is Ratchford. We wondered if they could have had two different fathers, but the name and the year the father died — 1876, is the same. James is listed as the fourth child and George as the eighth and youngest.

(George Ratchford, blacksmith)
George Ratchford at his anvil in his blacksmith shop. Photo courtesy of Cecil Hittson.

    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down bedding. See our Journal feature on this local business and learn more details and how to order items at their website.

      Three questions arise: did they have a fight of some kind; which was the original spelling; and if they did have a feud, why did they wind up in the same city? None of the descendants who have contacted us know. And the name mystery continued. Sometime after the 1906 Book, James Ritchford changed his name again to Richford. But his burial record lists him as Ritchford. Just to complicate the story even further, he lists his father's Christian name as John while the 1906 biographies lists the father as William.
      James emigrated from Ontario to California in 1874 at age 24, worked in forests and mines and married Addie Findley in 1883. They soon moved to Washington and James took his family up the Skagit River in a rowboat to Sterling. James went to work in the woods and for the Sterling Mill Co. for seven years, maybe working originally for Jesse Ball or Winfield Scott Jameson. In 1890, the same year that George Ratchford arrived in Sedro, James bought a 90-acre farm near the Seattle & Northern railroad tracks and did well until the back-to-back floods in the fall of 1896 and the spring of 1897. Their house and farm was demolished and they had to rent a nearby house temporarily on the Jesse Ball homestead while they rebuilt. Then in 1905, James joined V.A. Marshall and William Hurley to lease out the old Sterling Mill Co. and bring it back into full production, this time as a shingle mill. The Hurley, Marshall & Ritchford Company revived the mill because Sterling was the terminus for the new Puget Sound & Baker River Railway, a partnership of Ed English and the Dempsey brothers from Michigan, who shipped logs down from upriver and dumped them into the Skagit to be rafted to markets. In the 1906 Book, we learn that both James and Addie were very active in the Order of Pendo, that they were Presbyterian and that he was Independent in politics. He also served on the Sedro-Woolley school board.
      A very brief July 29, 1937, obituary in the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times for Jim Richford does not explain the name mystery but does note that survivors included brothers George and Emery of Sedro-Woolley. Richford moved his family to Reed street in Sedro-Woolley in 1906 and sometime after that he began a greenhouse on his lots. The obituary notes that he pioneered that business here. He was 87 when he died at the home of his daughter, Florence Marihugh. She and her husband, Lloyd, owned the grocery store on State street that is now called the Handy Mart.
      George Ratchford was born in Montreal on April 17, 1864. When Ratchford moved from Mendocino, California to Sedro in 1890-91, he worked for a mill, probably the one owned by David Batey and Joseph Hart. He practiced his trade as a blacksmith for 18 months and then barked logs, first for Smith and Bechtel and then for Matt McElroy, until he had an accident. In 1893 he became a teamster for the Hightower brothers and worked for them for three years. In 1896 he became a partner with the Hightower and Kirby Logging Co., contracting shingle bolts for the Green Shingle Mill, first in Burlington and then at the Cokedale Junction in the Skiyou area. When his partners bought him out in 1899, he set up a blacksmith shop somewhere in old Woolley, maybe as a partner with William J. Thompson.
      We know very little about Ratchford's life after that except that the 1905-06 Polk Directory lists him as a blacksmith with partner James McCabe. Researcher Roger Peterson thinks that he joined Frank Hoehn's stable company after the great Woolley fire of July 1911. This seems to be borne out by his Courier-Times obituary of Jan. 6, 1944, which noted that his blacksmith shop stood where the Donnelly garage was located at the northeast corner of Ferry and Murdock streets. That is where Hoehn moved his business after it burned to the ground during the fire. Ratchford was buried with full Odd Fellows honors and Rev. Milo Morris conducted the ceremony. The obituary states that Ratchford was a 50-year member of Morris's church but the church denomination was not named.
      Ratchford was survived by his wife, Clarabelle and two sons, Floyd of Vancouver, Washington, and George Jr. of Seattle, and his brother, Emery R. Ratchford of Sedro-Woolley. Clara died just five months later on Oct 22, 1944. She was also buried in the Odd Fellows cemetery and the Rev. W.D. Griffin of the Methodist church officiated, so maybe George was also Methodist. Clarabelle was born in Elkhart, Indiana, on Oct. 10, 1877.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on Jan. 7, 2004, updated Oct. 14, 2007, moved to this domain Nov. 17, 2011
Please report any broken links so we can update them

Getting lost trying to navigate
or find stories on our site?
Read how to sort through our 700-plus stories.

See this Journal Timeline website of local, state, national, international events for years of the pioneer period.
Return to the new-domain home page
Links for portals to subjects and towns
Newest photo features
Search entire site
Our monthly column, Puget Sound Mail (but don't call it a blog)
debuted on Aug. 9, 2009. Check it out.
(bullet) Remember; we welcome correction & criticism.
(bullet) Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. With more than 700 features, we depend on your report. Thank you. And do not give up if you find a link that seems to be closed. Just put the subject in the search box below. The story may have been moved to our new domain. Or just ask us and we will guide you to it.
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues until we eventually compile a book about Northwest history. Can you help with copies or scans of documents or photos? We never ask for your originals.
(bullet) Read about how you can order CDs that include our photo features from the first ten years of our Subscribers-paid online magazine. Perfect for gifts. Although it was delayed by our illness, it is due for completion in 2012.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the rising costs of this site. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in September 2010, with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research or read how and why to subscribe.

You can read the history websites about our prime sponsors
Would you like information about how to join them in advertising?

(bullet) Our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds andduvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.
(bullet) Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 90 years continually in business.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20, day, week or month, perfect for hunting or fishing. Park your RV or pitch a tent — for as little as $5 per night — by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley. Alpine is doubling in capacity for RVs and camping in 2011.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence?
We may be able to assist. Email us for details.

Looking for something special on our site? Enter name, town or subject, then press "Find" Search this site powered by FreeFind
    Did you find what you were seeking? We have helped many people find individual names or places, so email if you have any difficulty.
    Tip: Put quotation marks around a specific name or item of two words or more, and then experiment with different combinations of the words without quote marks. We are currently researching some of the names most recently searched for — check the list here. Maybe you have searched for one of them?
Please sign our guestbook so our readers will know where you found out about us, or share something you know about the Skagit River or your memories or those of your family. Share your reactions or suggestions or comment on our Journal. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit our site.

View My Guestbook
Sign My Guestbook
Email us at: skagitriverjournal@gmail.com
(Click to send email)
Mail copies/documents to Street address: Skagit River Journal, 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284.