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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 Woodworth, namesake
of Woolley's Woodworth Street

(Dream Theatre 1920s)
      This exterior shot of the Dream Theater on the north side of Woodworth Street was taken sometime circa the early 1920s by Frank LaRoche, whose studio was in the Schneider Block, where the old bowling alley now stands. Photo compliments of Lorraine Rothenbuhler, a very active member of the Sedro-Woolley Museum. The theater was built in 1913, a year after the death of town founder P.A. Woolley, on lots originally retained by Woolley from the time that he platted his company town in 1890. We apologize that we do not have any early photographs of Woodworth Street. Either early photographers did not photograph that area often or the photos have not been retained. We hope that a reader will have such photos in family scrapbooks and will share copies or scans. As we have emphasized since the beginning of the site, we do not request your originals. Many readers have done so and we are always very grateful, as are other readers. We also hope that a reader will share any photos of the original city hall, with the tall tower where fire hoses were hung to dry. Readers often ask for photos of streets in both Sedro and Woolley that were taken before 1911. When someone shares such photos, we will share them in a special feature.

      Journal ed. note: this discovery occurred once again via serendipity. Donna Macy Sand of Fairhaven and Bellingham sent us a copy of a biography that we requested for another story we are researching about early Mount Vernon mayors. At the same time we are working on an overall feature on the namesakes of Sedro-Woolley streets. And on the continuation page of the copy was the answer to a question that has plagued us for 15 years: who was the Woodworth of Woodworth Street in downtown Woolley? Sand's care package was actually a quadruple blessing because we also found information about William Lightfoot Visscher, which we published last winter in the first full biography about this fascinating frontier editor and performer. See the links in the endnotes below, part of our fully annotated story.

Biography of Charles Woodworth
Col. William Farrand Prosser, A History of The Puget Sound Country, Volume II
      Charles Woodworth was born at Adrian, Michigan, in 1850. His father was one of the pioneer railroad builders of what was then the "far west," who came out from New York state to connect the navigable waters of either the Raisin or Maumee rivers, flowing into Lake Erie, with the St. Joe or Kalamazoo rivers, flowing into Lake Michigan, thus completing a great traffic way, by way of the Erie canal, Lake Erie and the railway, with the great west, then just entering an era of great development, which culminated in the collapse of the "wild cat" banks in 1857. The railroads, however, became a power, beyond the most ardent dreams of their promoters, but in the panic the elder Woodworth was stripped of all his interests, and retired to a small farm, where he died many years ago.
      At an early age Charles, who was the eldest son, started out to seek his fortune, hiring out first to a farmer, but in less than a month quitting the farm and getting a place as train boy, from which beginning he went through almost every department of railroading, from brakeman to yard-master and from office clerk to attorney, claim agent and confidential assistant in the executive department. In the prosperous times following the close of the war the young man took a chance at various occupations as well as improving his school education, which had necessarily been rather limited when a boy. He taught district school, sold fruit trees, held a chair in one of the country colleges of the east, and was a crack harvest hand at home anywhere. In the meantime he spent three rears in New York, where he was a reporter on the [New York] Sun, then edited by Charles A. Dana. While in New York he made the acquaintance of many of the leading men and women of the day, among them Samuel J. Tilden, Commodore Vanderbilt, Henry Ward Beecher, Judge Conklin, in whose office he read law, and here also he took the law course at Columbia College and was admitted to the bar.
      Born with a natural bent for the west, he could not remain in New York, where he had gained a fair business, but returned to the west, locating at Bay City, Michigan. where he practiced law for some rears, until the attractions of the southwest became too strong, and for the next five ears he was engaged in various enterprises connected with the railroad extension in that section of the country.
      In 1887, as the result of a severe illness, he was advised by his physicians to come to the Puget Sound country, which place he reached broken in health and fortune, having lost everything as a result of the collapse in values in that year. Although fortunes were being made at that time in all the Sound cities, he had no capital to gain a foothold, and again turned his hand to newspaper work. The following year the Morning Globe was started at Tacoma by Harry Morgan, then a local politician and keeper of the leading gambling house in the city, and a bitter enemy of the editor and proprietor of the Ledger, the established morning paper. On this paper Woodworth took the job of reporter, and a short time after, secured the talented Colonel William Lightfoot Visscher as editor. Realizing that in order to make the paper of any influence in the community it must hive a following of the better class, they set to work to give the Globe [EN4] such a standing, in which their efforts were so successful that in one year's time the paper had outstripped its rival both in circulation and influence, had paid all expenses and first cost, and was sold to Colonel Frank C. Ross and Judge Fremont Campbell at an advance of ten thousand dollars over its cost.
      After the sale of the paper Mr. Woodworth was engaged in various projects for the development of the country, but was again caught in the panic of 1893. Meantime he had become interested with Colonel Ross in the fight to secure the opening of the Puyallup Indian reservation, adjoining the city limits of Tacoma, and the building of a system of railway terminals on the harbor, in which they have invested over a quarter million dollars, a good part of it in fighting the Indian department of the government. They finally succeeded in the opening of the tract, which includes a large area suitable for manufacturing and shipping interests.
      Mr. Woodworth is now engaged in the real estate business, paying particular attention to the location of manufacturing plants and the sale of lands for mill sites, docks and waterfront property on the tide lands of Tacoma harbor, where it is expected the business portion of the city will be centered within the next ten years.
      In politics Mr. Woodworth is a Democrat, and for many years took an active interest in the affairs of his party. He married Mrs. Helen Bixby, of Rochester, New York, who was killed in a railroad accident soon after, and some years later married Miss Silsby of Lockport, New York, and has an interesting family.
      To one who has ventured on all seas, as he has done, constantly smooth sailing could hardly he expected, but with a nature quick to grasp opportunities, a tireless energy and confidence in the success of his ventures, Mr. Woodworth's career may certainly be denominated a successful one.


Endnotes

1. William F. Prosser
William F. Prosser and Charles Woodworth
and Woodworth Street in Sedro-Woolley
By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, 2007
      Prosser's fine history, A History of The Puget Sound Country: Its Resources, Its Commerce, and Its People, was published in two volumes, the first a history of Washington Territory and state, and second a collection of biographies [published 1903, The Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago]. These books are somewhat hard to find but Donna Sand discovered this particular section in the books that are at the Bellingham Public Library. Until her discovery, we had been stumped as to whom Woodworth Street was named. It all makes sense now. P.A. Woolley retained lots in his company town on both sides of the street, and may have planned it as the main east-west street in town, dead-ending at Murdock Street, which was initially the eastern border of Woolley's company town.
      Judging from the street's original prominence, we knew that the namesake had to be someone who was either a very old friend of Woolley, himself, or who contributed something vital to the formation of Woolley's company town. The Woolley and Woodworth families could have crossed paths in either New York or Michigan. Philip A. Woolley was born in New York State 19 years earlier than Charles so perhaps Woolley knew Charles's father. Their paths could have crossed again when Woolley contracted for a railroad along the Grand River, just 40 miles north of where Woodworth was beginning his railroad career near Kalamazoo.
      With Sand's discovery of Woodworth, we now add to the connections Woolley had with Washington Territory. The main connection, however, was with Gen. James Bard Metcalfe, for whom the main north-south street of Woolley's town was named.
      Prosser was born in Pennsylvania in 1934 and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, from where he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1869. He came to the West in 1879 at the same time that President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Woodworth as special agent of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. He married in Seattle in 1880 and then settled in the Yakima River valley area in 1882, where he founded the town of Prosser, Washington. He was a delegate at the first Washington State Constitutional Convention in 1889 and he was later one of the founders of the Washington State Historical Society, which he served as President for a time. He also served as chairman of the State harbor-line commission, mayor of North Yakima, and city treasurer of Seattle 1908-1910. He died in Seattle on Sept. 23, 1911.
      Whatever expertise or political grease that Woodworth supplied to influence Woolley's name choice, he must have provided something of value because Woodworth was the key street in downtown Sedro-Woolley from almost the time that the two towns merged on Dec. 19, 1898. First, the original city hall, fire department and skookum house, or jail, for the merged towns was built where the alley is today on the south side of Woodworth, just east of the present U.S. Post Office. Second, banker Charles E. Bingham built his bank next door to the east in 1905. On the east side of Metcalf, P.A. Woolley, himself, had his mansion built on the south side of Woodworth sometime around 1900, set back from where the Countryside Chevrolet stands today; the dealership is on the old Woolley front lawn. Up until the time Woolley died in 1912, his family owned all the lots on the north and south sides of the street from Metcalf to Murdock. The first lots were sold to Edson "Dad" Abbott, who opened the original Chevrolet dealership and built the Dream Theater across the street where the bank stands today.
      In addition, when the Interurban rail line was built east from Burlington to Sedro-Woolley in 1912, the tracks entered town on West Woodworth Street and continued to the north-south Northern Pacific rail line, where the electric power unit was and the depot, which faced West Ferry Street. The present post office opened on the south side of Woodworth in 1939. Finally, in 1930, the second city hall was built at the northwest corner of Woodworth and Murdock streets. [Return]


2. Samuel Jones Tilden
      You may recall that the name of Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886) was back in many minds during the disputed election of 2000 because Tilden was the winner, then the loser of the presidency in 1876 as the Democratic candidate — the most controversial American election of the 19th century. Tilden, from New York, won a majority of the popular vote in November 1876 against his Republican opponent, Rutherford B. Hayes, from Ohio, but Tilden received only 184 electoral votes and 185 were needed to officially be declared winner of the election. The states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina each sent two sets of Electoral Votes to Congress, as a result of the political battle raging there ten years after the end of the Civil War. Republicans had taken control of several state governments in the South during Reconstruction, but the overwhelmingly Democratic white southerners rose up in opposition.
      The Constitution did not address a solution to how Congress should respond to such a dispute and a constitutional crisis appeared imminent. Congressional leaders punted and created a 15-member Electoral Commission, which was assigned to determine which set of votes was valid. After weeks of backdoor back-scratching and log-rolling, the Commission voted 8-7 to award all the votes to Hayes, who became the 19th president, with William A. Wheeler of New York as his vice-president. Although Tilden's ego and political future were bruised, he returned to New York and his fortune. He became a noted philanthropist. He bequeathed what netted as $3 million for a free public library and reading-room in the City of New York. The Tilden Trust was combined in 1895 with the Astor and Lenox libraries to found the New York Public Library, whose building bears his name on its front. In another historical oddity, he died a bachelor in 1886 and some historians claim that he confided to a friend that he was a virgin, having never slept with a woman in his life. [Return]


3. Globe, Ledger and Tacoma News Tribune
      We first learned about the details of the short-lived Tacoma Globe newspaper from the late Murray Morgan who wrote (Puget's Sound, Seattle: University Press, 1979) that Visscher came to Tacoma and the Globe via the Portland Oregonian. He was lured north by Harry Morgan, the Tacoma gambling and entertainment magnate turned publisher:
      Harry Morgan drifted into Tacoma in 1884 from Maryland, or so he said, and quickly established himself as Boss Sport, the fellow in charge of the community's illicit entertainment activities. . . . In 1888 the Boss Sport opened a new joint, Morgan's Theater (later called the Comique), at 817 Pacific Avenue, where the Olympus Hotel now stands. The [competing Tacoma] Ledger implied that Sodom and Gomorrah would have rated PG to Morgan's X. They blamed the Morgan Theater for every Tacoma shortfall from stumps in the street to the murder of a young man on a somewhat distant downtown street. . . . In time the Ledger's carping annoyed Morgan sufficiently to cause him to bankroll the transformation of his theater program bill into a dally paper. It was called the Daily Globe and employed as its editor J. N. Frederickson, a desk man whose memory lingers in the Valhalla of journalism as perpetrator of the headline, over the story of a hanging, "Jerked to Jesus."
      Editorship failed to inspire Frederickson further, and Morgan lured, from the Oregonian, William Lightfoot Visscher, a Civil War cavalry colonel of impetuosity and pungent prose. Visscher was disenchanted with a community which relied on gravity to pull riches past it. He did not want to become a freshwater barnacle. He responded to Morgan's [blandishments] to come to Tacoma and say something nice about vice. Direct endorsement of sin Visscher avoided, at least as far as one can tell from surviving issues of the Globe. But sinners he tolerated as he did Masons, Democrats, Englishmen, and Socialists not opposed to hard liquor . . . . Visscher avoided such excesses of expression. He contented himself with giving good coverage of community affairs and parodying the Ledger's former anti-Chinese theme by running edits headed, "The Ledger must go."

      We also learned that the Globe made newspaper history during Visscher's time at the helm. In the article, The Background of Mark Twain's Vocabulary, by Charles J. Lovell (American Speech, Vol. 22, No. 2, Apr., 1947), we learned that the Globe during Visscher's era "has coined two new words that fill a sad want in the English vocabulary-'typoscribe,' one who operates a typewriter, and 'typoscript.' " The former term is obsolete but the latter has been altered into computerese. The original definition was: a typewritten copy, as of a manuscript. The typewriter was one of those marvelous inventions that inventors cranked out by the 1890s to speed up the lives of scribes and others and it was as celebrated as the personal computer was in the 1980s
      Within a year of Visscher's arrival, the Globe had risen quickly to the lead in Tacoma, but William Farrand Prosser (A History of The Puget Sound Country, vol. 2) noted that Morgan soon sold it to Frank C. Ross and Judge Fremont Campbell, one of the owners of the Tacoma and Lake City Railroad. By the time that Visscher had moved back from his editing sting in Fairhaven and set up his family in Tacoma on April 1, 1892, the Globe had suspended publication two months, an early casualty of the spreading financial slowdown. Murray Morgan wrote: "The Globe scored points, gained circulation, lost advertisers, and, after two years of understated vindication of vice, went under."
      In 1898, the Ledger and the Evening News were bought and merged by Sidney Albert "Sam" Perkins, a Tacoma boomer in the period after the Klondike Gold Rush. The Tacoma Tribune was launched in 1907 and in 1912, the Baker brothers bought it. In 1918, Perkins sold his interests to Frank S. Baker and Elbert H. Baker who began their publication under the name of The Tacoma News Tribune and Ledger. In 1937, The Daily Tacoma Ledger suspended publication and The News Tribune lives on until today, now owned by McClatchy Newspapers. Perkins bought the Bellingham Herald in 1911 and his family owned it for four decades. [Return]


4. William Lightfoot Visscher
(Visscher mug)
William Lightfoot Visscher
      Visscher was a poet, performer/entertainer and editor during his life. The Visschers were members of the intellectual elite in Holland, both writers and cartographers. Visscher's grandfather, Frederick Visscher Sr., was a patriot of the Revolutionary War and as a colonel, he raised troops in New York for General George Washington. Frederick Jr., William's father, moved to Bath County, Kentucky, sometime by 1840 and became a prominent architect in the city of Owingsville, where William was born sometime in 1842.
      Visscher literally worked himself across the country after graduating from the University of Louisville. He took one newspaper position after another, as amanuensis, write and editor, moving on from one town to another, sometimes after physical scrapes, from Louisville to Missouri to Wyoming to Colorado and then to California, with several stops in between and a marriage to Emma Blanche [no maiden name] along the way. In California he traveled with a theater troupe and that experience led to his second vocation for the rest of his life, developing into one-man shows a la Twain.
      By the late 1880s he briefly landed in Portland and then went to work for railroad promoter Nelson Bennett as we explain above. He seemed to like boom towns, spending two years in Fairhaven on Bellingham Bay while Bennett boomed the village but Visscher had a falling out with his boss and returned to Tacoma. During the nationwide Depression of the mid-1890s, Visscher decided to return to Chicago, where he would stay the rest of his life. Over his 50+-year professional career, he published two dozen books, wrote songs and became a biographer of Buffalo Bill Cody and produced a best seller history of the Pony Express, even though some of it has been debunked in the past 30 years. You can read our full exclusive biography of Visscher in our Subscribers Journal online magazine. [Return]



Story posted on April 19, 2007 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 38 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine



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