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Skagit River Journal

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Charles J. Wicker's Sr.'s final years and his 1944 obituary

(Wicker and Gruver)
Charles J. Wicker, left, with Ernest Gruver, owner of Skagit Hardware in the 1930s and '40s

      Journal ed. note: This is our third feature about Charles J. Wicker, Sr., a partner with Harry L. Devin, in the most successful pioneer real estate firm in the county, Skagit Realty, which lasted in business from 1902 to 1998. He came to the Skiyou area in January 1884 from Chillicothe, Iowa, and his mother and brothers soon followed. This page includes news of his 80th birthday, in 1943, and his 1944 obituaries, all of which include more information on his life.

Charles J. Wicker has his 80th birthday and reunion
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Nov. 25, 1943
      Charles J. Wicker, one of Sedro-Woolley's oldest living pioneers, celebrated his eightieth birthday on Tuesday of this week. Wicker has been enjoying a well-earned rest after a busy life, since he retired from business in 1939. At that time he sold his interest in the Skagit Realty Co. to his son, Charles J. Wicker Jr., and shortly afterwards his partner, H.L. Devin, sold his interst to Merle Niece, and those two men are now operating this pioneer business.
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      Wicker came to what is now Sedro-Woolley in 1884, So far as can be ascertained, he is the earliest settle of this city who is now alive. He and H.L. Devin entered into partnership in Skagit Realty Co. in 1902, and took a leading part in the development of sedro-Woolley and surrounding country.
      In celebration of Mr. Wicker's birthday, Mrs. Wicker entertained with a family dinner at their home on Ferry street Tuesday evening. Chrysanthemums in the fall colors and matching tapers decorated the table where appointments were for Mrs. William Yeatman and daughter, Susan, in Castle Rock; Mr. and Mrs. Alfred McBee of Mount Vernon; Mrs. and Mrs. Charles Jr. and two children of this city, and Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Wicker.
      [Journal ed. note: The next Sunday, younger Wicker entertained the elder Wickers and the McBee family at the Hope Island Inn. Do you remember when you were a kid here and that was a tradition, special family dinners at the Hope or at the Chuckanut? We hope that readers have photos of such.]

Charles J. Wicker dies
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Jan. 20, 1944
      One of the few remaining founders of this community passed away this week, when Charles J. Wicker died at the age of 80 years. He came here 60 years ago, when when there was no town, and he and Mrs. Wicker, with the other pioneers of the district, endured the hardship of frontier life and lived to see the wilderness develop into a modern city.
      Although he had suffered from a serious illness for some time, Charley Wicker, up to a few days before his death was cheerful and uncomplaining, with a laugh and joke for all. He and his partner, Harry Devin, who died last July, formed a real estate firm, which did much to develop the community and both men all their lives took a leading part in community affairs.
      Only one of two of these pioneer Sedro-Woolley businessmen are left and we owe much to their pioneer spirit and unselfish efforts in building this community. Charley Wicker is gone but the city he helped create will always remember him. We extend sympathy to his family and are glad that his son is here to help carry on the business started by his father.

Chas Wicker pioneer dies; funeral today
Was 80, came here in 1884, civic leader

Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Jan. 20, 1944
      Another beloved Sedro-Woolley pioneer businessman and civic leader, Charles J. Wicker, passed away Tuesday night, January 18, following several months of failing health.
      Funeral services were held today (Thursday, January 20) at the Lemley chapel with Rev. A.W. Wilson of Mount Vernon officiating, followed by interment in the Union cemetery. Mrs. George A. Jones provided organ selections during the services.
      Born at Chillicothe, Iowa, on Nov. 13, 1863, he had been a resident of Sedro-Woolley since 1884 and last November 23 he celebrated his eightieth birthday with a family reunion and dinner party given in his honor by Mrs. Wicker and attended by all his children and grandchildren, except for Mrs. Leavitt and Major Darrell G. Leavitt and their family who were unable to be present.
      He is survived by his widow, Martha (Hight); four children, Mrs. Alfred McBee of Mount Vernon, Mrs. Darrell Leavitt of Seattle, Mrs. B.W. Yeatman of Castle Rock and Charles Wicker Jr. of this city, and five grandchildren. Active pallbearers were Merle Niece, Neil McLeod, Frank Evans, Andy Hanson, Wyman McClintock and Everett Blackburn. B.D. Vanderveer, M.F. Gampp, Fred Fellows, Dr. C.C. Harbaugh, George Clark and Gust Gilbertson acted as honorary pallbearers.
      [Journal ed. note: since this was still during the annoying time when married women's first names were rarely printed, in deference to their husbands, we include here the daughters' names: Agnes M. McBee, Gertrude Blanche Leavitt, Jessie Asenith Yeatman.]
      More than half a century ago, when Sedro-Woolley was timberland, Charles J. Wicker came to this county, which was then included in Whatcom county [actually he arrived the next year, 1884]. He took up a homestead in January 1884 on the Skagit River near the present site of the Morgan farm [including part of the present cemetery].
      In 1896 he was married to Miss Martha Hight. That same year they moved from their homesite on the Skagit and established their home in town, and in 1901 Mr. Wicker went into the real estate business with the late Harry Devin, which they conducted for 38 years until [Wicker's] retirement in 1939.

Charles Wicker, one of Sedro-Woolley's founders,
died; old days recounted
Mount Vernon Argus, Jan. 20, 1944
(Poem for Wicker)
Junius B. Alexander met Charley Wicker in 1890 when Alexander, a newly married Harvard graduate, came to new Sedro to help promote the original towns and sell acreage and lots. They went on to be principals together in another real estate firm, the Sedro Land Co.

      [Additional information] . . . Mr. Wicker came to Sedro-Woolley from his birthplace in Ohio in 1884, finding little [here] but a clearing. He is credited with laying out part of the townsite and in following years much of the town's real estate was sold through his office. He became associated with H.L. Devin in 1901 and the firm has done business since. Mr. Wicker's son, Charles Jr., took over his father's interest in later years. Wicker Sr. was well known throughout the county in early days and became well versed in Indian lore and could speak the language of the nearby tribes. . . .
      Several interesting stories of pioneer days were uncovered this week with the death of Charles Wicker, who saw Sedro-Woolley grow from infancy into a prosperous and thriving small city. In 1884, when the young man arrived here from Ohio [sic, actually Iowa] the only settlement north [or east] of Mount Vernon was at Stirling [sic, actually Sterling], on the river bend. Here a store and a schoolhouse were located, the store serving [as] the source of supplies for upriver prospectors.
      Mr. Wicker and another young man had built a cabin on a homestead farther north and had carried their stove out from Sterling over the trail with much difficulty. Having no pipe, the partner went back to get some and while he was gone Mr. Wicker decided to get some wood. A large maple tree stood near the shack and he started to cut it down. Unfortunately the cut in the trunk was toward the cabin and the tree fell on it, wrecking both the structure and the stove. When the partner returned with the pipe, a new cabin had to be erected and a new stove packed out to go with the pipe. A couple of years later a store and schoolhouse had been built in Sedro-Woolley on the site where the Nelson hardwood mill now stands. Mr. Wicker was chosen to hire the teacher and selected R.O. Welts for the position.
      [Journal ed. note: several errors cropped up in this Argus story. First of all, Wicker was native to Iowa, where his father was one of the city fathers of Chillicothe. Second, Sterling was never spelled Sterling, as far as records show, and it is actually east of Mount Vernon, not north. And the writer confused two locations for the store and school. First, in June 1884, Mortimer Cook built a store on the northern shore of the Skagit River, on the site of the present Riverfront Park. That is about two miles southwest of the old Goodyear-Nelson mill.
      Second, the school to which the writer refers was actually a very temporary location, on the David Batey farm, about a mile west of the old Goodyear-Nelson mill. As you can read at this Journal feature, by the 1885 term more people were settling near Mortimer Cook's new townsite and east of it, so that winter session was held in a new split-cedar, one-room house was built by George Wicker and others on the David Batey ranch. The school moved back to Sterling in a new school cabin for the 1886 spring session. More details can be found in that story.]

Charles Wicker, pioneer, dies
Mount Vernon Daily Herald, Jan. 19, 1944
      [Additional information] . . . Interment will be in the Sedro-Woolley cemetery, of which Mr. Wicker was director. . . . According to an article dated Thursday, Nov. 14, 1935, which appeared in the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Mr. Wicker built a cabin on his homestead in the early days and his furniture was brought to him by Captain Bailey of Seattle, who made a special trip here in his steamer, Glide, which he moored to an alder tree in front of the Wicker home. . . . In 1896 Wicker married Miss Martha Hight, daughter of A.W. High, also a Washington pioneer [and Ballard mill owner], [she] having been brought to Ballard from Portland when she was but a year old.

The great coincidence
Skagit River Journal, 2011
      You may have already read the Journal story about Wicker's arrival in 1884 and the great coincidence. When Wicker first arrived in Skagit county in January 1884, his first job was on Charles Conrad's farm near LaConner before soon moving over to Skiyou near future Sedro. For the next 56 years Wicker and Charles Conrad lived less than 20 miles from each other but never crossed paths until they joined for dinner on May 1, 1940. Conrad, an orphan who was born in Sweden, came to Skagit county at the age of 13 years in 1874 after briefly living in Iowa, and during the ensuing 56 years he farmed at LaConner and Conway. John Conrad, Sterling service station operator at that time, was Charles's son. We include this note because Conrad passed away at age 85 on Nov. 3, 1946 (see Charles was also the nephew of early LaConner pioneers of 1869, Mr. and Mrs. Magnus Anderson.

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Story posted on May 25, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 55 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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