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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, the great manufacturing and
distributing point of Western Washington

(F and S Depot, Sedro)
      This photo from the Fairhaven Illustrated magazine of 1890 shows the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad depot to the right and McDonald Avenue running horizontal in the center. This is one of the few photos of old Sedro by the river that has appeared over the years. We are looking north from the river and Mortimer Cook's store and steamboat wharf. Apparently the tracks continued south all the way to the wharf.

1. Fairhaven Land Co.
Fairhaven Illustrated magazine, Fall 1890 or Winter 1891 issue
      Fairhaven is the well conceived and boldly executed project of the Fairhaven Land Company. Possessing a thorough knowledge of its natural advantages, the practical ideas necessary to develop them, an abundance of means and the courage to use them, and having a strong sense of duty to the settlers who have come to its aid, this organization has been at once the inspiration and creator of many of the more important auxiliary interests. Its guiding spirits have built and operated railroads, steamboats, mammoth lumber mills and other necessary manufacturing establishments. They have opened up the tributary forests, coal and iron mines, and have in progress vast industrial projects connected with these.
      Its strong helping hand has been manifest in the superb systems of waterworks, electric lights, gas and electric railways, for which Fairhaven is famous. The grand five story brick and stone "Hotel Fairhaven," costing $150,000, is one of the monuments to its business sagacity and enterprise. Commerce has been fostered by the erection of numerous splendid wharves and the construction of modern approaches thereto. Not unmindful of the elevating and beneficent influences of good schools, newspapers, churches, hospitals and societies, all these have been encouraged with a broad and liberal hand. In fact, while studiously avoiding enterprises which might in any wise conflict with those of individuals, the Fairhaven Land Company has always stood ready to take up anything necessary to the prosperity of the city.
      Owning the original town site of 500 or more beautiful acres, together with much choice suburban land, the Fairhaven Land Company at all times in position to supply the investor, whether of large or small means, a choice of the widest range of property. Its financial standing and vast permanent interests, particularly commend it to those who at all times must more or less rely upon the integrity of those with whom they do business. Its officers are C. X. Larrabee, president; H. Y. Thompson, vice president; E. M. Wilson, treasurer; and E. L. Cowgill, secretary and manager. Gov. Geo. A. Black is the general land agent. The Fairhaven Land Co. has heavily interested itself also in Sedro, and holds large and desirable properties adjoining the river and Great Northern Railway, and is always pleased to answer inquiries relative thereto.

2. Advertisement for Sedro
      Sedro is situated on the largest river emptying into Puget Sound, in the center of the richest agricultural, timber and mineral region in the United States, and has three railroads in operation now, a fourth will reach Sedro by January 1st, 1890, and a fifth is projected.
      Openings for manufacturing plants unsurpassed by any point in the country. Special inducements offered to persons establishing Furniture, Sash and Door and Bucket Factories, Excelsior and Paper Works, Oat Meal Mill, Foundry, Machine Shops and Smelters. Money invested for non-residents. Send for Maps and Pamphlets. Sedro Land and Improvement Co. Paid up capital, $100,000. William M. Wood, Sec'y, Box 752, Seattle, Wash.

3. Sedro, a great Railway Center and Distributing Point
      Everybody in the great Northwest knows in a casual way of the immense lumber, mineral and farming resources of Skagit County, of its great fertilizer, the Skagit River, of the distributing point of this vast region, Sedro, but how much is known of the progress of development of this region which a year ago had been penetrated only by the most hardy settlers, and today with the progress of railroads has begun to blossom forth with an energy even surprising to those acquainted with the development of Western Washington, and the Puget Sound country.

(Batey Slough bridge)
Cook's store was located at the junction of Batey Slough and the Skagit. This was a bridge about a half mile west across the slough.

The Skagit
      The Skagit River is the largest stream flowing into Puget Sound; taking its rise in Southern British Columbia, it flows southeasterly, gradually veering around to a southwesterly course, until it empties into the Sound. The stream is navigable for a distance of seventy miles from its mouth during ten months of the year, by vessels drawing thirty inches of water. It flows through a valley of the greatest fertility abounding in magnificent forests.
      In our article on the resources of the State we have pictured a stump at Sedro of which a photograph was taken while over seventy persons stood on top of it. 'This will give some idea of the immense size of the timber along this valley, and it is not uncommon to find trees from twelve to seventeen feet in diameter at their base. The soil in this section is composed of a fine silty deposit which for ages has been brought down from the mountain sides. In width the valley varies from fifteen miles at the mouth of the river to three miles at the head of navigation, and at Sedro and for several miles above and below will average about seven miles, from which on either side the hills gradually rise.
      For certain agricultural pursuits this valley is exceedingly prolific, and especially is this true in the production of oats, barley, wheat, hops, timothy, potatoes and roots of every description; 120 to 140 bushels of oats to the acre is an average yield, as high as 158 bushels of oats to the acre having been produced; hay yields from three to six tons, and potatoes average from 300 to 400 bushels per acre; hops have for several years past averaged about 2,000 pounds to the acre; in price they have averaged 22 1/2 cents; this year they have been in demand as high as 36 cents; it costs about seven cents to raise, pick and bale them, and thus an idea of the profits of this industry may he determined.
      The soil is also especially adapted for the cultivation of rye and flax, owing to the humidity of the atmosphere and the character of the water, and experiments have already proved this assertion. This valley enjoys perfect immunity from rust, blight, fly and insects, as also from any disturbance by the elements, as is the case throughout the Puget Sound region. Such a thing as a crop failure is unknown, and this assertion cannot be disproven in a single instance.
      I come at last to fruit, and hardly know what to say. Although I have traveled through the finest fruit sections of the United States and of Europe, I can say with a perfectly clear conscience that 1 have never seen apples, pears, plums, prunes or berries so prolific or grown in greater variety. A visit to the Hartz Mountains, Germany, would give one the idea that lie had seen German prunes grown in such quantities as to supply the demands of the world, but a German fruit grower would turn green with envy were he to see the plum and prune trees of these valleys, where the fruit weights the tree down to such a degree as to necessitate the propping tip of the branches to save the trunk from succumbing under the rich load. Still another fact in favor of the apple and pear trees in this section, is that they bear heavily every year, and not every other year, as in the Eastern States.

      The value of the immense timber forests of the Skagit Valley and mountain slopes tributary to Sedro, may be in some measure realized when it is stated that competent authorities estimate the quantity of available lumber at 3,500,000,000 feet; this includes the cedar, spruce and pine, but principally the Washington fir [or Douglas fir], so widely known in all markets of the world. It is computed that the stumpage of merchantable timber will average from 30,000 to 60,000 feet per acre, counting only the heaviest timber.
      Until now very little timber has been cut, but the entrance of railroads has at once developed a large and lucrative business in this direction. As a field for successful enterprise, this wonderful district offers tempting inducements to settlers. Thousands of acres await the entry of the timber claimant which in the past have not been taken up, owing to their inaccessibility. The Skagit fir is unexcelled for all things where great strength and tenacity are required, as in the case of bridge building and large trusses, while the Washington cedar takes a beautiful finish, is very durable, and highly ornamental for interior fittings.
      Woolley's Mill at Sedro is now in operation with a capacity of not less than 5o,ooo feet per day, and Beatty [actually David Batey] & Hart's with a capacity of 3,000. The cedar is especially adapted for shingles. Sash and door factories and planing mills are also being contracted for at Sedro. The two resources of lumber and farming would in themselves make Sedro a large city, but the former of these two in conjunction with other resources of which we will now speak, have led many thinking persons to believe that Sedro is destined to be the Pittsburgh of the Pacific Northwest.
      Briefly, there are her mineral deposits which abound in such quantities at her very doors and throughout the hills and mountains in the vicinity. Already gigantic enterprises are on foot for the opening of immense coal and iron, as well as mines of other ores; capital is sending men and machinery in every direction to take from the earth its hidden store of wealth; miners' camps are to be found dotting the hills and mountains, and prospectors are daily making "finds" which add fresh energy to those already engaged in searching out the earth's treasures. In our article on the State's resources we have spoken of the Bennett and Cumberland coal mines in close proximity to Sedro.

      Within a short distance east from Sedro, on the south bank of the river, and on the direct line of the railways, are, perhaps. the largest and most important iron fields west of the Rocky Mountains. The ore occurs in the pre-cretaceous crystalline rocks, in which limestone also occurs. The secretive blankets of drift and ancient volcanic rocks, amongst which a bluish trachyte is most often seen associated with the ore, gives unmistakable proof that the formation is one of true bearing and great magnitude, unlike he deposits of Snoqualmie and elsewhere.
      The iron on the Skagit is formed and laid in well-defined ledges or beds, varying in thickness from 14 to 60 feet. The outcroppings are massive and continuous, and they give a general direction of south 60 degrees east, while the dip is south 80 degrees west. All along at intervals the ore occurs in large edges, rising up solidly from the mountain side. These ledges have been traced a distance of 12,000 feet, extending up the mountain diagonally to an altitude of 2,600 feet, as measured by an aneroid barometer, and Major j. W. Powell, Director General of the Geological Survey of the United States, states that this ore has been traced for a distance of 30 miles.
      There are no less than ten distinct ledges or veins, some of them cropping out on the margin of the river, and the contour of the surface is such that mining can be done expeditiously and cheaply. Several analyses of this iron have been made both in England and by some of the most eminent analytical chemists in the East, and their reports are eminently satisfactory and flattering. It is an iron of a rich black color, of strong polarity and even fracture, and much superior to the ores of the Lake Superior district, which occur in the same geological formation.
      The analyses show that it contains a high percentage of metallic iron, is absolutely free from sulphur, with only a trace of phosphorus, and the consensus of scientific opinion is that it is an ore of great strength and fluidity, can be cheaply reduced to pig, and is adapted for all purposes for the manufacture of every description of finished iron as well as for foundry purposes.

      The first and most important requirement after the quantity and quality of the iron ore has been ascertained is an abundance of fuel, easily accessible. Coal exists west of the iron deposits, at a point near Sedro and on the south bank of the river, and the Cumberland Coal Company are working at this point on three distinct veins. This coal is highly bituminous, with a pitch and dip of the veins parallel and in sympathy with the "run" of the iron ledges.
      Operations have been carried on at these coal mines for several years, but during the past year more vigorous measures to ascertain their extent have been employed. The tunnels have been driven along the course of the veins for a great distance, proving beyond doubt that the coal field is very extensive. Samples sent to Tennessee are reported to have made excellent coke, and one of the veins yields a smith and forge coal claimed to he equal to the famous Cumberland of Pennsylvania.
      he coal mines at Sedro, however, are exceptionally valuable, from the fact that it is of very superior quality, and the supply, from all visible indications, appears to be inexhaustible. The coal has a dip and pitch differing from the coal field on the north side of the Skagit, and lies in what may be termed semi-carboniferous formation. That it is very extensive is placed beyond doubt, and embraces an area extending in northerly direction beyond the northern boundary of the Nooksack Valley.
      The coal mines at Sedro are being vigorously developed. Two veins are at present being operated on; one vein is about 14 feet thick, and the other is over 30 feet thick. The analysis of this coal is remarkable, and proves it to be without exception the best yet discovered in Washington, and equal in all respects to the very best English coking coal. It has in fixed carbon 67.70, volatile matter 30.30, ash .038, sulphur .005. Its freedom from sulphur is phenomenal, whilst the low percentage of ash it shows proves that coke of great hardness density and purity, and capable of sustaining any weight it a blast furnace, can be manufactured from it. As a steam and household coal it is unrivaled.

      But beyond this, the illimitable forests provide a means for obtaining cheaply an abundance of the finest charcoal. Beside the abundant and magnificent forests of fir, cedar and hemlock, the timber on the bottom lands and on the margin of the Skagit River, contiguous to Sedro, is at abundance of alder, maple, fir, ash, cottonwood, white cedar and hemlock. The percentages are as follows: Alder, 30 per cent; fir, 3o; maple, 5; ash, 1; cottonwood, 15; cedar, 10, and hemlock, 9. Whilst most of these woods are denominated "soft woods," yet they make a very excellent quality of charcoal, and carbonize in ovens as well as it kilns with great readiness.
      Specimens of these various kinds of wood were submitted to a well known and reliable authority in the East, who has had large experience in the manufacture of charcoal and the making of charcoal iron and he says: "We consider the coal made from the wood sent us from the Skagit district to be excellent. Having put the specimens with about 8o cords of other wood in at oven, we found on taking out the coal the samples in the same shape as when put in die oven; only one piece was broken at all. This alone shows the strength and quality of the coal." The cost of the manufacture of charcoal it the Skagit River Valley, with the advantages there offered will not exceed four cents per bushel, notwithstanding the high cost of labor.

      Limestone exists in considerable quantity above Birdsview. It occurs in crystalline form, and also makes a good marble. This important factor in the manufacture of iron can be easily and cheaply transported to Sedro, and indications exist that the limestone formation also lies to the south of the iron measures. These limestone or marble ridges are a remarkable formation, rising in ledges to a great height, 600 feet thick, and embracing brown, streaked and white, the latter of fine grain, closely resembling the famous Italian beds of Ferrara.
      With iron, coal, coke, limestone, charcoal, and an abundance of water at Sedro's door, it is the spot beyond all question where in the near future will be located blast furnaces, rolling mills, puddling furnaces, and all the subsidiary branches of iron manufacturing industries, which must, without question, make it the foremost center of gigantic works the Pittsburgh of the West. This makes assurance doubly sure when its splendid and unrivaled railway facilities as a distributory point is taken into consideration. A great authority "regards the situation of this property as having advantages that are unexampled and unequaled, and that it will defy competition against any iron center in the world."

      The humidity of the Skagit Valley is lower than at any other portion of Western Washington. Finely sheltered by the Cascade Mountain range on the east, and on the north and south almost to its mouth by hill ranges, it lies snugly and cosily and is not subject to any sudden change of temperature, but remains comparatively even throughout the year. The thermometer seldom falls below zero in the most severe winters, and in summer registers evenly. Occasionally it has been known to go as high as 85 degrees in the shade. The chinook, or warm winds, during the early autumn season melt the snow off the Cascade Range, and, like the Nile, the Skagit has its annual overflow and spreads over its margin, bringing on its bosom fruitful and refreshing fullness. So mild and genial is the climate that at Sedro grapes are cultivated in the open air and rich, luscious peaches arrive at perfection in its orchards.
      The town of Sedro is beautifully situated on gently sloping, almost level lands, on the north branch of the Skagit and about ten feet above the highest known water mark in Township 35 North, Range 4 and 5 East. It is 63 miles from Seattle, 23 miles from the mouth of the Skagit and 26 miles from Fairhaven, and the scenery on the river is varied and enchanting, and above the hills and smaller mountains may be viewed Mount Baker, the second highest peak in Washington. The river itself is one of the finest salmon rivers in Washington, and in all probability a salmon cannery will be erected in the near future. Salmon, trout, and yellow and silver brook trout are very abundant; the forest abounds with pheasant and grouse, and the foothills with deer, elk, bear and the cougar.

      Water is abundant for domestic and manufacturing purposes. At present the supply is temporarily derived from wells, of which there is a plentiful number. The water is eminently pure and free from all organic and deleterious matter. About one and a half miles north of Sedro a fresh water lake of exceptional purity offers an inexhaustible supply, so that an abundance of water for domestic, sanitary and manufacturing purposes is placed beyond question. A preliminary survey has been made, and no difficulty will be experienced in obtaining ample supplies by artesian wells.

      The Sedro Press is a spicy journal published by George W. Hopp, and is devoted to the Skagit valley and particularly to Sedro; it has proved a very successful enterprise, and is exerting a wide influence in the development of the city and its resources. It is independent in politics.

(Hart and Batey)
Joseph Hart and David Batey, circa 1890s

      The first settlers at Sedro were Joseph Hart and David Batey, who came in 1878, being followed a few months later by William Woods and William A. Dunlop. In 1884 Mortimer Cook came and started a shingle mill, which has since burned down, and a general store and postoffice. Hart & Batey have a fine sawmill [a planing mill], situated on a spur of the SLS& E Ry., and having a capacity of 25,000 daily.

      Sedro one year ago was practically a dense forest, in which only small clearings had been made; today it is a thriving town with hotels, banks, sawmills, business places and residences conveying some idea of the enterprise manifested from the hour when it was decided to build the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad from Bellingham Bay in a southeasterly direction to Sedro on the Skagit River to connect with the coal fields and a trunk line; today trains are running several times in the twenty-four hours.
      The Fairhaven & Southern has been bought by the Great Northern Railroad which skirts along the Skagit Valley and across the mountains to run in as direct a line as possible to Spokane Falls and thence to the East, forming a transcontinental line from Bellingham Bay to the Atlantic.
      The Northern Pacific Railway through its feeder, the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern, skirts along the western part of the town, and has built the largest depot on their line with extensive ground there; this road is building and will soon be completed from Seattle to the Mission in British Columbia, forming a junction at that point with the Canadian Pacific and the foundation for an immense traffic.
      The Seattle & Northern Railway, owned by the Oregon Improvement Co., is already running from Anacortes to Sedro and by its junction with the Union Pacific will open up the treasures of the prairie lands east of the mountains, where it is believed that the Northern Pacific also intends pushing, with the same object in view.
      Sedro itself will from its immense stores of mineral, lumber and agricultural wealth not only be a source of supplies for the rapidly developing country tributary to it, but also a distributing point for many miles to the country north, south, east and west; consequently with the material on the ground she must of necessity become a great manufacturing center and the establishment of large manufacturing plants within her limits will not only build up her wealth, population and prestige, but will make her a power and producer among the cities of Washington.


Fairhaven Illustrated
      This magazine was published in either the fall of 1890 or the winter of 1891 as a promotional piece for the Fairhaven Land Co. during its successful program to boom the towns of Fairhaven and Sedro. The publisher was Baldwin, Calcutt & Blakely Publishing Co., with headquarters at 184 and 186 Monroe Streets, Chicago, Illinois, where they had extensive facilities for providing similar publications for clients all over the country. We suspect that the author of many of the articles was William Lightfoot Visscher (), who edited the Fairhaven Herald, which was launched on March 11, 1890. The same company produced Anacortes Illustrated and Tacoma Illustrated during the same period. In 2008-09 we plan to transcribe all the articles, including pioneer biographies, which will be shared first with the subscribers of the online Journal magazine. [Return]

1. Gov. George A. Black and H.Y. Thompson
      . . . is titled Governor because he was for a brief time the acting governor of Utah Territory in 1871 after Gov. John Wilson Shaffer died in office the year before. George Lemuel Woods became the elected governor later in 1871, after completing his elected term as governor of Oregon, and Black returned to his post as Secretary of the Territory. We are still researching to see how or if George was related to Alfred L. Black and John Black. Alfred was a partner in the law firm of Harris Black & Leaming in Fairhaven, was president of the Fairhaven Land Co. in 1902 and was the last mayor of Fairhaven before consolidation in 1903. John Black was appointed postmaster of Fairhaven in November 1903 by president Theodore Roosevelt. George A. Black came to Fairhaven in 1890 with Edward M. Wilson and others from Salt Lake City, where Wilson had acted as business manager of the Salt Lake Review newspaper. H.Y. Thompson was the mayor of Fairhaven in 1891 and the president of the Fairhaven Electric Railway Co. [Return]

2. Woolley's Mill at Sedro
      At that time, late 1890 to early 1891, Philip A. Woolley's Skagit River Lumber & Shingle Co. mill was no longer in Sedro. When he and his wife, Catherine, arrived in November 1889, they did board at Sedro while setting up the mill and purchasing the land a mile north. But on June 3, 1890, Woolley platted his own company town on his 84 acres, just southeast of his mill and the triangle formed by the three railroads that crossed there. Woolley was incorporated as a City of the Fourth Class on May 11, 1891. [Return]

3. Pittsburgh of the Pacific Northwest
      At the same time as this publication, the projected town of Bessemer was being platted just north of Birdsview on the northern shore of the Skagit as a potential Pittsburgh. And in 1891, the New York Tribune heralded booming Hamilton as the Pittsburgh of the . . . [Return]

4. Iron and Coal
      As in all of these 1890-91 features on Sedro and Woolley, the writers laud the coal and iron ore. While the ore is certainly still there, mining developers soon discovered that shipping costs were prohibitively high for the ore that was extracted from Coal Mountain and Iron Mountain, on the southern shore of the Skagit, across from Hamilton. The coal from the mines northeast of Sedro — soon to be named Cokedale in 1894, proved to be much more marketable. It was of the lignite variety, less desirable as heating coal than the bituminous, but it proved to be desirable coking coal, produced in 50 beehive ovens. After shipped via the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad to Bellingham Bay, the coal was also processed at the future Bellingham Gas Works to become coal gas. [Return]

(Sedro seal)
Click on this thumbnail seal to see the full seal of the townsite company for old Sedro, Fairhaven Land Co.

5. Sedro grapes and luscious peaches
      This claim is a little misleading. Several people still produce Concord grapes on arbors in Sedro-Woolley and in most years they produce enough grape sugar to be very tasty. And growers are successfully propagating white-wine varieties of grapes in various parts of the county. In 1890, however, grapes were not a big crop. And peaches occasionally do ripen in the area, but in very small quantities. Berries were the fruit that was ubiquitous throughout the valley. [Return]

6. Above the high water mark
      We must keep in mind that there were two towns of Sedro. Just four years in the future, Mortimer Cook's original townsite on the northern shore of the Skagit would be inundated with a major flood. That 1894 flood started to scare people with an eye on the future and the 1896 flood picked up Cook's house and moved it with the current, and filled the first story of his store, almost to the ceiling. After the third bad flood in 1897, the town was effectively history. Norman R. Kelley and Winfield Scott Jameson and Albert G. Mosier purposely platted new Sedro on the bench that was north of the ancestral channel of the Skagit, a very wise move. [Return]

7. Sedro Press
      Hopp launched the Press in April 1890 in new Sedro, and he soon became mayor and postmaster of the combined Sedros. The newspaper lasted until 1895 when a fire destroyed its plant. The Skagit County Times debuted in Woolley in January 1891 and survived until today, as part of the present Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, which represented a merger of the Times and the Skagit County Courier. [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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