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Skagit River Journal

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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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Charles J. Wicker came here fifty
years ago as a homesteader

(Charles J. Wicker Sr.)
Charles J. Wicker Sr at 60
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Jan. 18, 1934
      Fifty years ago this month, Charles J. Wicker arrived at what is now the site of Sedro-Woolley. At that time there was not a house in sight and no roads. Seven or eight homesteads had been taken along the river and there was a little store near what is now known as Sterling. Of the men who had pioneered the homesteads a short time ahead of Wicker, all are dead. Two of those pioneer women, Mrs. [Eliza] Van Fleet [of Skiyou] and Mrs. [Alma] Dreyer, are still alive.
      Wicker has seen the amazing development which has brought Skagit county and its thriving towns to their present state of development, from the rawest wilderness. He had come out from Iowa to San Francisco, following Horace Greeley's advice to "go West, young man, go West." From San Francisco he took a steamer to Seattle and from there took a smaller boat to LaConner.
      That was the big city of this part of the state. He remained at LaConner about a couple of weeks and heard of some fine homestead land up the Skagit river, so he walked up the river trail from LaConner to a place east of what is now Sedro-Woolley and located a homestead of some 155 acres near Burns bar.
      At the time of his arrival he found homesteads had already been started and families were living along this part of the river, including those of David Batey, Joe Hart, Emmett Van Fleet, Harry Dreyer, Capt. Dan Benson, William Dunlop, Billy [William] Wood and Henry Holtcamp. He at once built a house on his homestead and cleared a few acres.
      There was no store here until a few years later when Mortimer Cook arrived [Cook actually arrived in June 1884]. Trading was done with the Indians at the little store at Sterling, unless the homesteaders walked the trail to Mount Vernon. Wicker sold his homestead in 1889 to the Fairhaven Land Co., which planned to use it as a townsite. However, the town boom dropped and this was never platted. The first house in what is now Sedro-Woolley was not built until 1889. This entire area was a fine stand of fir and cedar timber. Mortimer Cook opened a store on the river bank here about 1889, and a town gradually grew up. [Actually, David Batey built Cook's store and home in 1885 in old Sedro at what is now Riverside Park.]
      In 1889, [Harry] L. Devin arrived in town, and thirty-three years ago he entered into partnership with Wicker in the real estate and insurance business as the Skagit Realty Company, which is still one of the leading firms of the kind in the county. Wicker was married in 1896 and he and his family have lived here ever since. He can tell many interesting anecdotes of the early days and says he hopes to live to see just as much additional development here as he has already witnessed.

Journal Ed. note re: Charles J. Wicker
      If you check microfilm copies of Courier-Times files, you may be surprised to find this article on the front page of the issue that was dated Jan. 18, 1933. The correct date, however, was Jan. 18, 1934. Back in 1958, when I worked as a "fly-boy" or "printer's devil" at the Courier-Times, one of the first things I learned was that everyone in the back shop had one special assignment: to check and double-check the date of the issue on the folio lines and masthead. I was told that only once had a mistake been made and that publisher Frank Evans was still unhappy about it. I never learned back then when that mistake was made. Apparently this was it.
      We found another article that provides a most interesting anecdote about Wicker's arrival in Skagit County:

Charles J. Wicker and Charles Conrad meet after 56 years
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, May 2, 1940
      As automobiles go, and especially as Charley Wicker goes in his automobile, one would think that he would get to LaConner occasionally. But apparently note, for last night was the first time in 56 years that he and Charles Conrad, LaConner farmer, managed to get together.
      When Wicker first arrived in Skagit county in [January] 1884, his first job was on Conrad's farm. Later he moved to Sedro-Woolley to enter the real estate business and although the two men continue to reside in the county for all these years, Wednesday night is the first time that they have held a reunion. Conrad, an orphan, came to Skagit county at the age of 13 years in 1874, and during the ensuing sixty-six years has farmed at LaConner and Conway. John Conrad, Sterling service station operation is [Charles's] son.

      This almost seems impossible, that the two men did not cross paths for 56 years, especially considering Wicker's far-ranging role as a real estate salesman and developer. But, then again, in those days of the early century before World War I, travel was relatively restricted. When interviewing old-timers, we heard often about how people who lived four-score years never traveled outside of the county, and most did not travel outside of the state. Charles Conrad came here as an orphan in 1874, moving here with the family of his uncle, John Anderson, part of the Swedish migration from their temporary homes near Chillicothe, Iowa. Charles J. Wicker Sr., the subject of this website, was 11 when the Swedes moved out here, and he followed from Chillicothe in 1884 at age 21. According to family records, his father, Andrew J. Wicker, platted Chillicothe in 1884. We hope that someday a Wicker descendant will supply family information about communication between the various families in the interim
      According to an unpublished 1976 family biography, Grandpa Wicker, written by Wicker's son-in-law, Alfred McBee, Charles hoboed west on a railroad and walked part of the way. He worked on cattle drives to earn money, but arrived at San Francisco in 1883 with little money. Once there he worked as a Pearl diver (dishwasher). He earned enough to pay for steerage passage to Seattle, arriving late in the year. He worked short time in Seattle, and then rode a sternwheeler to LaConner, an all day trip. Besides working on Conrad's farm, Charles also worked as a farm hand for C.A. Nelson, for $1/day "and found (undefined)."
      In 1901-02, Wicker teamed up with Harry L. Devin to form what became Skagit Realty, the company that became the leading real estate outfit in the county during their nearly 40-years partnership. Over the next four decades, one or the other of them had a hand in selling nearly every home and piece of acreage in Sedro-Woolley and the surrounding area. Old timers note how remarkable their 43-year partnership was since Wicker was the first Democrat in the area and Devin was a staunch Republican. Devin was portly, reserved and very upper crust in his ways. Wicker often wore a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots and was never averse to tromping through a barnyard to make a deal.

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