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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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Samuel Shea, pioneer
homesteader, barman and pool-room owner
Sedro-Woolley and Rockport

(Maine Saloon)
      This photo features the interior of the Maine Saloon in Woolley sometime around the turn of the 20th century. A note on the back says that the saloon was owned by Joe Lederle, a German immigrant who was marshal for Sedro-Woolley right after 1900. At that time he apparently became a partner of Al Shea. They remained partners through Al's death in 1912. Sometime in the early 1920s, Bert Woolley, son of the town founder, bought the pool hall from Lederle, the surviving partner. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Harnden Jr. We think the saloon stood on almost the same footprint as the present newer building, which houses Domino's Pizza, next to Sedro-Woolley's downtown park. Shea could be one of the men at the bar. We do not yet have a confirmed photo of him.

Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, 1906, page 699
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      Samuel E. Shea,, liquor dealer of Sedro-Woolley, one of the most successful business men of the place, has prospered by buying and selling Skagit county realty. He was born in Woodstock, New Brunswick, August 2, 1852, the son of William Shea, also a native of Woodstock, and of Mrs. Margaret (McCauley) Shea, who was born in Springhill, New Brunswick. Both parents of Mr. Shea died in the province where they were born. They had ten children, of whom our subject was the fifth.
      Samuel Shea remained at home until 1876, then he went to Wisconsin, where two years were passed in the woods. He then spent two years more at the old New Brunswick home, then a brief period in Minnesota, whence, in 1883, he came to Seattle. After a short stay in the Queen City, he went to Edison and worked in the woods a few months, returning eventually to Seattle. But in 1884 he was again in Edison, this time in the employ of [Dennis] Storrs & Company, for whom he worked two years. [Dennis Storrs was a pioneer of early Mount Vernon.] Thence he came to Mount Vernon and for three years was with Clothier & English in the lumber, real estate and mercantile business, occasionally dealing in land on his own account.

    We plan to visit Rockport for a few days, spread over two or three trips, starting in January 2010. This will be our first full research trip to town in about 12 years. The owner of the Rockport Pub has asked us about Rockport history and we hope to coordinate research there for upcoming articles.
    If you would like to meet for lunch with the editor and a group of other old-timers and history lovers in the Rockport area — both sides of the river, up or down Sauk Mountain, etc., shoot me an email with any question you might have or leave a note (with your phone number and/or email) for me at the Pub and I'll ring you up or email before I come. If you have photos, please bring them so we can see if there any new ones that have not yet been published. That is one of the highest priorities of the trips.

      During this period he bought forty acres of land at Burlington, an interest in land at Avon, one hundred and twenty acres on Walker prairie and located two timber claims. He sold these holdings to good advantage and when Sedro was platted, purchased property there. He also homesteaded the land where Rockport now is and by another deal acquired part of the Charles Martin ranch at Clear Lake, which he still owns. Later Mr. Shea ran a camp for Kane, Shrewsbury & McLean [mill owners mainly working with loggers in north Woolley and north up Duke's Hill], was in the employ of Parker Brothers, spent a year with the Lyman Lumber Company, worked for Hyatt & McMaster and built the road for the Hightower Company at Sedro- Woolley.
      All this time he kept his eyes open for bargains in real estate and was shrewd enough to recognize and seize them when they came. In May, 1902, he erected a building on the lot bought earlier in the history of Sedro and established his present business, opening one of the finest establishments of its kind in the city. Mr. Shea never has married. In 1903 he returned to his childhood home in New Brunswick and renew old acquaintances, also spent two months visiting at Holton, Bangor and Milo in Maine and Woodstock, Frederickton, Hartland, Marysville and Stanley in his native province. In politics Shea is a Republican but has firmly refused all requests to accept public office. He has engaged in many lines of business both before and since coming to Skagit county and has had the ability to prosper in all his ventures. At present he is erecting a modern six-room house in the western part of Sedro-Woolley.

(Ferry street)
      This view of Ferry street in the teen years shows buildings long gone from Woolley. As we look east from the Northern Pacific railroad tracks, we see on the left side (north): The Pioneer Hotel and Boarding House with a picket fence beside it and then the Samuel Shea Saloon. At the end of the block we see the Seidell building, which housed the First National Bank (burned in December 1949) and across the street is the new Wixson Hotel, later named the Gateway. On the right side, closest to the tracks, is the Vendome Hotel, owned by Frank Bergeron.

Skagit River Journal research
      Journal Ed. note: We open this story by correcting a likely mistake in the source document about Shea, the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties. Somehow they were given the impression that Shea homesteaded the land that eventually became the town of Rockport, the eastern terminus of the Seattle & Northern railroad, from Anacortes.
      Perhaps Shea told that to the interviewer, or he was misunderstood. Further updated Fall 2009: Tom Heuterman, the history author who lives in Clearlake, informed us over lunch recently that he is a relative of Shea, through his maternal family, which also includes the Dows of Clear Lake. Further, he saw on a plat map that Shea's original homestead appears to be very close to Rockport, the town. We plan to research this further and inquire more with Mr. Heuterman.
      Regardless, while Shea may have owned land in that immediate area, the site of Rockport was originally the Leonard Graves farm/homestead. As von Pressentin descendants have told us and as Will D. "Bob" Jenkins wrote in his book, Last Frontier in the North Cascades, A. v. Pressentin (Albert von) moved his family to the future Rockport area in 1892. Graves had moved on to Edison but he retained title to the land. A von Pressentin family story recalls that Albert overheard railroad surveyors at his small store discussing the plans for the terminus and that he rode all night to Edison to buy the property. Thus, when the railroad people showed up to complete the line, he had already built his luxurious Rockport Hotel and had a general store nearby for their needs.
      Samuel Shea passed away in 1912 in Sedro-Woolley. We know very little else about him. There is a Warren Shea who is featured in the biography section of the 1906 book, and his family also came from the same section of New Brunswick, but there is no indication of how they were related. Another Mr. Shea owned an early billiards hall in Conway. We have listed early liquor licenses in our separate subscriber Journal and we find a Gordon Shea was a partner in a license granted to a Fir saloon in 1890; that may be the same fellow who had the Conway business. Hopefully a Shea descendant can tie all these gentlemen together.
      Researcher Roger Peterson points out that Philip L. "Bert" Woolley bought out the pool hall that was owned by Samuel Shea and Joseph Lederle. Bert's father, P.A. Woolley, died in 1912 after he and his sons conducted a very successful business based in Savannah, Georgia, which supplied construction materials for the Seaboard Air Line railroad.

Obituary, Samuel Elihu Shea
Skagit County Times, Sedro-Woolley, April, 11, 1912
      There are few men of wider acquaintance in this county than was Al Shea and while his death was not unexpected his many friends will regret his going. Death came suddenly but peacefully about 8 o'clock last evening. He had been up and about the house the greater part of the day, going to his room late in the afternoon to lie down. His apparent sleep proved the unconsciousness proceeding death. It continued to the end. Deceased was born in North Hampton, N.B. Aug 2, 1852 He came west 30 years ago, the greater part of which time he lived in this county. Brothers and sisters who survive him are: Eli Shea, Woodstock, N.B., Geo. Shea, Houlton, Me; Norman Shea, Fla; Rev. John Shea, Jackson, Cal; Mrs. Chas. Grant, N.B.; Mrs. Geo. Titus, Bangor, Me; Mrs. Justus Gill, Peel, N.B. Funeral services will be held Sunday, Rev. Wilhelm officiating.

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Story posted on Dec. 25, 2009. . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 51 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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