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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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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

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Charles J. Wicker, the ham and the maple tree
in 1884, before Bug or Sedro

(Charles J. Wicker Sr.)
Charles J. Wicker Sr at 60

      Ed. note: Charles J. Wicker homesteaded in the Skiyou area, north of the Skagit and next to the Van Fleets in 1884 after moving here from Chillocothe, Iowa, in January of that year, in time to welcome Mortimer Cook to the river that summer. That town in south-central Iowa was laid out in 1849 by his father, A.J. Wicker, in 1849. Wicker put his family experience in real estate to good use from 1901 on as a partner with Harry Devin in Skagit Realty on Metcalf street, which lasted in business until 1998. His father was Chillicothe's first postmaster and Charles built a post office for downtown Woolley. He died on Jan. 18, 1944, almost exactly 60 years after arriving. But his early days illustrated that he was not exactly a mountain man. As you can see from the story below, Wicker was self-denigrating when a parable would prove a point.
      An item from the initial issue of the Skagit News in Mount Vernon on April Fool's Day, 1884, shows that the story of Wicker's first home here was not apocryphal: "Messrs. Wicker and Mitchell have had some downs as well as ups in their life on the river. They take either treatment philosophically and though a cabin may go down one day, it is rebuilt the next and they fry their bacon as cheerfully as ever. They now have a hospital with one patient, but will turn him loose soon."

The Tenderfoot

Reprinted from the Christian Union Herald, vol. 62, Aug. 29, 1942, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
      It is amazing what a tenderfoot can and will do. Many times he is long on goodwill and enthusiasm but short on knowing how. And that combination may get him into trouble.
      Charles J. Wicker and John [actually named Will] Mitchell went back into the virgin forest fourteen miles east of Mount Vernon to homestead a piece of fertile land on the banks of the Skagit river. There were plenty of trees on this quarter section. Most of them were fir and hemlock. Down by the river the growth was not so dense and was mainly cedar and maple. That was the place to erect the house and start the garden.
      The river and the Indian trail along the banks were the only ways in and out. It was January and the air was crisp enough to encourage hard work as the men cut logs and shaved shakes for the cabin. They had paddled their supplies — groceries, window-glass, nails, tools and tent -- upstream in a dugout [canoe]. They wasted no time in building that log hut. Neither would you, if your shelter in midwinter was a tent. Their knowledge of woodcraft was very limited; yet in a couple of weeks they had a 14 by 20-foot cabin enclosed, chinked with moss and mud and floored with splits. Immediately they moved in. But they had overlooked the need of a stove. Wicker went out and came back with that necessity. He also brought a ham, a can of syrup and some coffee. But he forgot to bring stovepipe. So Mitchell went out to get that.
      While he was gone, Wicker looked for dry wood. A big maple stood near one corner of the cabin. Because it had no leaves he thought it would be dry wood and he proceeded to cut it down. But he made the undercut on the side of the tree next to the building, with the result that the tree fell and cut that cabin in two. The ham was pinned tight to the floor. The sack of flour exploded and powdered everything in sight. The stove was reduced to a mass of scrap iron. Only the can of syrup remained unscathed. The splintered roof and walls did not encourage salvage operation. But for several days Wicker crawled in and hacked off pieces of ham and recovered a couple of quarts of flour. On that they lived while they cleared up the wreckage and rebuilt the cabin. Fortunately, no one was hurt and now they can laugh at their memories as they are laughed at by those who know the story.
      That tale was told by Wicker to one who was criticizing a young minister for a blunder he had made. It really seemed applicable. Enthusiasm and goodwill will excuse but do not prevent blunders.
      Ed. note: Unfortunately we have not found any record of Mr. Mitchell after 1884. We hope that a descendant can share information about Mr. Mitchell.

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