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(S and N Railroad)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition
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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Sedro's Improvements

(Cook store and house)

Brief Skagit River Journal introduction to Mortimer Cook's house and store
Sedro on the Skagit river

      In preparation for his family arriving in 1885, Mortimer Cook commissioned David Batey to build a bungalow-style home just north and west of his store. In this photo, you will see both the Cook general store, which Batey also built the year before, and part of the Cook home, which he completed in the summer of 1885. The store sported an affectation that was common to frontier towns, a fašade that implied an upper story. In his inimitable way, Mortimer gilded the lily by installing an expensive, store-bought window in his fašade, which must have impressed the investors who visited old Sedro in the railroad boom days, when they first saw the store from aboard a sternwheeler at Cook's wharf.
      Nan Cook can barely be seen sitting on the porch of the house at the left and Nina is riding her cherished horse. Only a few of the men on the porch of the store were identified. Mortimer is standing with his left arm crooked at his hip. A man named O'Brien stands to his left. The second man standing, from the left, is Jim Blaine, a logger who lived here until at least 1915; we know of no relation between him and townsite officer E.F. Blaine. The boy squatting to the left on the porch step is Bruce Batey, son of David Batey. The last two men to the right are Indians who are already sporting settler clothing, so they may have been favorites of Cook and the other settlers. Trade with the Indians was very important in those early days. Just as he was very proficient in trade with Mexicans in Eagle Pass, Texas, and Santa Barbara, Cook traded extensively with the Indians and learned the Chinook Jargon trading language.
      You can see the shadow of a very tall tree trunk on the porch. The store was very close to the river and sternwheeler steamers originally slid right up onto the bank to offload their goods. Some have asked why there are so many stairs and why they are so broad. Although there had not been a really severe flood in several years, Cook apparently listened to the Indian advice that was given to pioneer Joseph Hart in the early 1880s: "see mud on tree, build higher." The joke was often told on Mortimer about when he learned just how treacherous Old Man River could be. He thought he had built his store sufficiently off the ground and he brushed off queries about the chance of a legendary flood by bragging that he would drink any water that rose above his store's doorsill. He was put to the test in the 1896 flood when the water rose first to counter height in the store and finally to the level of the fašade. Muttering and sputtering, Cook finally boarded an Indian canoe and was transported up to high ground at the site of new Sedro or "Kelley's Town," where his family had retreated when the water began rising dangerously. When they returned after the water receded, he discovered that the swift river current had picked up his store and moved it several yards away. The eventual fate of their house was not recorded. Judging from the people in the photo, the horse that Nina is riding and the age of Bruce Batey, this photo was probably taken in 1886-89, just before the Fairhaven Land Co. obtained a good portion of the town site in speculation for the railroad they promised to build into town and finally delivered on Christmas Eve, 1889.

The Washington Magazine, Vol. III, No. 2, October 1890
Washington Magazine Introduction

      Sedro's wonderful development during the past few weeks has been phenomenal. The whole of Jameson Avenue has been graded and presents an imposing appearance. For exactly a mile this magnificent avenue, 80 feet wide, begins at the railway [wye] of the Fairhaven & Southern railway and terminates with the handsome depot buildings of the Lake Shore & Eastern railway and.
      The fine hotel structure contiguous to the Lake Shore depot is fast approaching completion and will be ready for the reception of guests about the beginning of November. It seems that this favored district is one of remarkable surprises. Its wealth in railways, minerals and agriculture has been supplemented by the discovery of a rich asbestos mine This latter discovery is one of the first moment and will be of immense financial benefit to this growing town. Opportunity will be given here for its purification and it is within the range of practical possibility that a considerable industry will be evolved therefrom.
      Our illustrations show the character of the buildings which are being erected and give unmistakable proof of the substantiability of the town. As an evidence of what perseverance and pluck can accomplish, there is not probably in the great Northwest a better proof than that of Sedro. And what can be seen to-day is only an earnest of further developments which will be accomplished in a short time.
      In another column we give an able paper on the geological formation of the great Skagit Valley, most of which is contributory to this point, and it is not at all improbable that in a short space of time the hum of machinery and the belching from furnaces will be heard and seen within its borders, giving employment to a large number of artisans and cunning workmen in the various departments embraced in iron and steel manufacture.
      For Sedro we predict a great future and it is a pleasurable duty to be able to emphasize this fact, as amongst all the places in this wonderful corner of Uncle Sam's dominion there is none which gives greater promise of future greatness, or that has contributory to it such rich natural resources, such extensive and wonderful railway facilities, or such possibilities, as this rising town of Sedro.

(Hotel Sedro)
      Hotel Sedro. This is a copy of an unnamed architect's drawing that used to hang in Skagit Realty. We have never discovered a photo of the hotel and we hope that a reader will have one in their family photo collection, scrapbook or copy of an old newspaper.

By E.W. Wooster
      The illustration accompanying this article is a view of the town of Sedro, engraved from a photograph taken from Mount Sedro, across the Skagit River [north of Clear Lake]. The site of the town is perfectly level and is systematically laid out in business streets, boulevards and avenues, which are fast becoming lined with handsome buildings].
      The excellent foresight of the original townsite owners in platting a town with sufficient breadth of streets, avenues for business and pleasure, and reserves for public buildings, will be bequeathed to the rising generation as a rich legacy.
      The townsite of Sedro has probably the most remarkable boundary of any city in the world; on the [south] runs the Skagit River; on the north the Seattle & Northern Railroad; on the west the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern, and on the east the Great Northern [originally the Fairhaven & Southern].
      The four great highways of transportation, all running within the city limits, enclose a square perhaps of 2,000 acres upon which the present town is being built.
      Sedro seems to have been the predestined point for a great railroad center and occupies a position similar to Chicago in this matter. The accompanying map will give our readers a clear idea of its position and radiating highways.
      The natural wealth of Sedro, or more properly, the surrounding country, need not be dwelt upon. Sedro is the key to the entire Skagit Valley. To the north lie vast illimitable mines of coal, iron, copper, silver and gold. To the south, broad fertile mash lands, yielding year in and year out 100 bushels of oats to the acre, while the accessible timber lands in her immediate vicinity are inferior to none in the Northwest. I have before me a photograph of a cedar stump upon which are seventy-five men. This stump is fifteen feet in diameter, and not long ago was standing in the heart of the town.
      Like every prominent town, the success of Sedro's growth and rapid development has been largely due to the liberality of a few public-spirited citizens. Among them perhaps the most influential is Norman R. Kelley, who has devoted bast sums of money to grading and beautifying the town in every available manner. Mr. Trowbridge has equally sustained his position among the original landholders. Messrs. Wood and Terry, Devon [actually Devin] and Mosier have won the esteem and confidence of the people by their straightforward and manly method of doing business, having large tracts of real estate under their control.
      The Sedro Land and Improvement Company is perhaps the strongest, safest and best organized company in the state of Washington. The Fairhaven Land Company is represented in Sedro by Mr. Blaine. The Sedro Hotel in course of erection, is by far the finest structure in a town of Sedro's age. We suggest to our readers that if we have not for want of space sufficiently described the greatest railroad center of the West, that they take any one o the roads on the map and visit the twon for their personal edification.

Washington/Pacific magazine
      Washington magazine launched in October 1889, four months after the Great Fire of June 6. E.W. Wooster was the editor and J.C. Steele was the general manager. According to Frederic James Grant in the History of Seattle (1891), it was "a monthly . . . illustrated periodical and devoted to the interests and resources of Washington and the northwest." During boom times it did well. In December 1890 it was sold and it became Pacific magazine. The new editor was Lee Fairchild, a Unitarian minister who also wrote for the West Shore of Portland. Steele apparently stayed on as manager, at least for awhile. Stephanie Karnosh, the Reference Librarian at the Washington State Library, discovered that after Fairchild left, Ella Higginson from Fairhaven was listed as the "editress" of the July, August and October 1891 issues. She also wrote for the West Shore. The Pacific publisher of was B.P. Kunkler, but we know nothing about him. The publisher of was B.P. Kunkler, but we know nothing about him. When the first signs of the coming nationwide Depression appeared, the magazine ceased publication with the April/May 1892 issue. [Return]

1. Jameson Avenue
      Named for logger Winfield Scott Jameson, who bought up much of the land from the 1870s through the '80s on which Sedro was platted, that avenue was part of the projected county highway. Thus it was the widest street in any of the town plats and was the first to be graded, probably with sand and gravel, as labor crews cleared the townsites of old and new Sedros. [Return]

2. Hotel Sedro
      That was the Hotel Sedro, the grand hotel that was built in 1890 where the high school gymnasium now stands. It stood across from Block One of the plat of Norman R. Kelley's Sedro, which was sometimes called Kelleyville. The Pioneer Block building on that block stood about where the office for the high school stands now. We do not even have a photo of it, only an architectural drawing that was used in various booster-magazine articles. Sedro-Woolley researcher Roger Peterson discovered that the hotel was apparently already in bankruptcy by the time it opened in late 1890, and contractors were suing to recover funds. There were at least two fires in the hotel, one vaguely mentioned in 1897 that could have meant the death knell. This grand, three-story hotel should not be confused with the more plebian Sedro Hotel, which stood at the southwest corner of Fidalgo Street and Township Road during the days when it housed the crews that were building the F&S Railroad line and clearing the Sedro townsite in 1889-91 and later served as the first Episcopalian Church and then the St. Elizabeth's County Hospital. We ask any readers who have a family scrapbook or photo collection of Sedro to look for such a photo. [Return]

3. Mount Sedro
      This is the only reference we have had to the hill between the river and Clear Lake being named Mount Sedro. Perhaps the reporter got this name from a town booster. In an 1885 Skagit News article, we found the hill named Little Mountain and Clear Lake historian Deanna Ammons confirms seeing similar references in that decade. She says that now it is called Clear Lake Hill. [Return]

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Bank of Sedro)
(Board of Trade)
(Depot in old Sedro)
Far left: These first two drawings that accompanied the article are especially tantalizing. Because all the newspapers of that era burned decades ago, we have never seen these buildings. We hope that a reader will have a photo of them in family scrapbooks. This first one is of the Bank of Sedro, which rose in new Sedro in 1890 and died almost immediately. By 1892, C.E. Bingham moved his pioneer bank from old Sedro to this location and stayed there with A.E. Holland's drugstore until that whole block burned sometime in 1895..
Center: This is a drawing of the Board of Trade building, an organization something like the modern Chamber of Commerce. We have no idea where it was located in new Sedro but we hope that a reader will have a record of it..
Right: This drawing of the Fairhaven & Southern depot in old Sedro is the only illustration we have from this perspective, looking east from McDonald Avenue, the only business block in old Sedro. In other Sedro stories linked below, you can see the perspective looking north from Cook's wharf. The depot was described in various contemporary articles as being the most modern and attractive in the state at the time. In about 1901, after the Great Northern bought the rail line and decided that a passenger depot was not needed near the river after a series of floods had washed many of the buildings away, the depot was put on a flat car and moved up to where the parking lot for the Gateway Hotel stands today..

4. Handsome buildings
      Along with Hotel Sedro and the Pioneer Block, other impressive early buildings in new Sedro, or Kelleyville, were the Board of Trade building, at an unknown street location, and the Sedro Land & Improvement Co. building, at the northwest corner of Jameson Avenue and Third Street. All those business buildings appear in surviving drawings to have been built of stone or brick, as the buildings on Metcalf Street in Woolley Town were rebuilt after a series of fires. The Hotel Sedro was built of wood. [Return]

5. Norman R. Kelley
      Kelley was a bit of a playboy, the son of a New York City businessman, Albert Kelley, and he came out to Seattle in 1889 and set up a Sedro Townsite Co. when he learned that the planned Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad would bisect the area he planned to plat. He was soon joined by Junius Brutus Alexander, the son of Albert Kelley's banking partner in New York, and they began booming new Sedro. Although he was physically robust and climbed mountains on the Olympic Peninsula as an avocation, Kelley developed a serious case of alcoholism and he died at age 33 on Feb. 12, 1894, in Sedro, after a drinking binge following the death of his mother. His town dream faded in favor of Woolley town, but his legacy was the Kelley Strip, a sliver of land on the border of the two towns, which was not sorted out legally until 1906. [Return]

6. John F. and Kate L. Trowbridge
      The Trowbridges, Pennsylvania natives, bought the land directly north of Nelson Bennett's Fairhaven Land Co. plat, which encompassed most of Mortimer Cook's original town and land from the homestead of William Wood, one of the original four British bachelor homesteaders of 1878. The first Trowbridge plat, dated Feb. 20, 1890 and totaling just a handful of blocks, was called the Central Addition to Sedro and straddled the F&S rail line just north of the depot, near Jennings Street. Their next plat was the Trowbridge Addition to Town of Sedro-Woolley, dated March 19, 1899 and located west of the SLS&E Railroad tracks (later the Seattle & International and then the Northern Pacific). The plat was much larger that time and curved around the Batey acreage, running north to about Woodworth Street. We have discovered very little about the couple except that they were recorded in the 1900 Federal Census as living in Seattle. There is no evidence that they actually lived in Sedro. [Return]

7. Messrs. Wood and Terry, Devon and Mosier
      William M. Wood was one of the original four British bachelors who homesteaded future Sedro in 1878. He was listed as Secretary of the Sedro Townsite Company, with a mailing address of Box 752, Seattle, WA. He is the only one of the bachelor homesteaders who was involved with booming the town. Only his property was included in Mortimer Cook's original plat.
      John Y. Terry: the only information that we have found about him (Skagit News, Dec. 30, 1889) is that he was apparently a Seattle resident and that he was appointed auditor and treasurer of Sedro Townsite Co. sometime during that month. We have not yet connected him with Charles Terry, the 1851 pioneer of Alki and Seattle.
      Devon would have actually been Harry L. Devin, one of the key pioneers of both Sedro and Woolley. He later began the Skagit Realty Company with Charles J. Wicker Sr. in 1902 and it functioned in Sedro-Woolley until 1898, the longest active realty company in the county. Read the two-part Journal website about him here.
      Like Devin, Albert G. Mosier was an Iowa native. They shared an office across the street from the F&S Depot in old Sedro by the river in 1890. Mosier went on to plat the towns of Sedro and Woolley and Sauk City in the 1890 period and the town of Bow in 1909. His father, Cyrus A. Mosier, accepted a patronage appointment in 1889 from President Benjamin Harrison to be the federal administrator of public lands in the West. That was an opportunity for Cy and his wife, Rachel, to move out to Washington territory to live near their son, Albert G. Mosier. [Return]

8. Sedro Land & Improvement Co.
      Norman R. Kelley formed the Sedro Land & Improvement Company in Seattle on March 26, 1889, after aligning himself with the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad (later the Seattle & International and then the Northern Pacific). We have never determined if his father, Albert Kelley, a New York capitalist, invested in the SLS&E. He hired Albert G. Mosier to proceed up to old Sedro and scout out the property while living with pioneer David Batey.
      Kelley based his town, initially called Kelley's Town or Kelleyville, on Block 1 where the high school now stands, a half mile northwest of Mortimer Cook's property. Kelley platted his new town on Aug. 29, 1889 as Town of Sedro. Bennett and The Fairhaven Land Co. platted The Town of Sedro, based on Cook's original townsite, on Oct. 17, 1889. The competing towns of Old and New Sedro had a common border at Alexander street. On March 9, 1891, citizens in the two towns voted to incorporate a final town called Sedro. Sometime after Kelley's death on Feb. 12, 1894, the SLIC faded in power, as did the town of new Sedro, as we call it. After Junius B. Alexander returned from the East Coast near the end of the 1890s nationwide Depression, he joined with real estate agent Harry L. Devin to form the Sedro Land Co., which became the dominant development group in the area for the next four decades. [Return]

9. Elbert F. Blaine
      Nelson Bennett contracted with E.F. Blaine of Seattle to represent the Fairhaven Land Co. in Sedro. Blaine was a New York state native who became a lawyer and practiced in South Dakota and Minnesota he moved to Tacoma in 1884. In 1885 he arrived in Seattle and took charge of the old Michigan sawmill at Belltown. In 1886 he formed a law partnership with John J. McGilvra, and later with Lee DeVries.
      His legacy in Seattle is the Denny-Blaine Park and Trail near Madison Park, at the end of the streetcar line on the western shore of Lake Washington. It was officially named Minerva Park for his wife and has since taken the name of Blaine and real estate magnate Charles L. Denny, son of Seattle pioneer Arthur A. Denny. Blaine bought a ranch near Sunnyside and Grandview east of the Cascades and he owned the Sunnyside Irrigation canal and in 1937 he was lauded as the "father of the Columbia basin irrigation project." From 1902 to 1908 he served as a member of the Seattle Park Commission and served in a similar unpaid position for the state a decade later, which earned him recognition as a leader in the funding for parks in the state. In addition, in 1899 the students at the University of Washington accepted an offer from Blaine to raise money to construct a rowing shell for the University. The first UW rowing crew was formed in 1903 and in 1936 the University crew won the Gold Medal in the Olympics.
      We were delighted to meet Junius Rochester at the Edward R. Murrow 100th birthday party in Blanchard. The son of Alfred R. Rochester — who dreamed up Century 21, the Seattle World's Fair of 1962, Junius grew up very near the Blaine property and wrote The Last Electric Trolley: Madrona and Denny Blaine (Seattle: Tommie Press, 2002). He pointed out a modern event in connection with Blaine. Musician Curt Kobain bought the old Blaine estate in 1994 and committed suicide in the greenhouse on April 5 that year. [Return]

Links, background reading and sources
Issue 43 stories
      These five articles in Issue 43 provide the first outside record of the railroad boom of 1889-91 in the towns of Sedro and Woolley. If you are a subscriber, check back to the table of contents of that issue for links. If you are not yet a subscriber of the Journal online magazine, see details here for how to subscribe. Each is extensively annotated to familiarize you with names and places. Since we try not to be redundant, you might want to check the endnotes of each article for an explanation of terms or names unfamiliar to you.

Background articles, early Sedro and Woolley

Story posted on April 24, 2008 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 43 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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