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Territorial Daughters of Washington
Chapter 1, Sedro-Woolley

(1939 4th of July)
Nellie Canavan and Mabel Meins dressed in period garb to ride in the Territorial Daughters wagon in the 1939 Fourth of July parade in Sedro-Woolley.

      I had the great pleasure to meet many of the original Territorial Daughters of Washington when I was a child — they were friends of my late mother, Hazel Bourasaw. Charter member Susie Osterman Alverson came to old Woolley in 1895 with her parents, who managed the old St. Clair Hotel and turned it into the Osterman House. She used to show us the photos she had of the earliest days here, especially scenes of where the hotel stood until it burned in 1909 and was replaced by the Gateway Hotel a year later.
      The Territorial Daughters is a unique organization that began as Chapter One in Sedro-Woolley in 1936 after the idea was proposed by pioneers who attended the funeral of John Napoleon, an Indian in Sedro-Woolley who they all respected. They formed a group specifically for women who were born here when Washington was still a territory (before November 1889), or who moved here before then with their families, or were the daughters or other descendants of territorial pioneers.
      Chapter One met regularly until Nov. 17, 2005, when only four members were present. They decided at that meeting to cancel further meetings, and nine days later, one of the four died — Alcina Harwood. They welcomed visitors who are descendants of the early families or have a sincere interest in maintaining and observing local history, the reason the club has always existed.
      This section will grow steadily, with new memories and recollections that are culled from memories of the daughters themselves and newspaper and magazine stories. We begin with Ray Jordan's story of how the Sedro-Woolley chapter began in 1936, and a 1937 letter from one of their ardent admirer, J.C. "Baldy" LaPlant. You will find links at the end of the story that will take you to more articles about the shared memories of early members, how you can help revive the group, and to accounts and photos of the early picnics.


How the Territorial Daughters of Washington began in 1936

By Ray Jordan, Yarns of the Skagit country


      The germ of the idea from which the Territorial Daughters sprang first appeared as an observation voiced at the funeral of John Napoleon on August 12, 1936. Napoleon, a well-known Skagit river Indian, died at his modest home on the slough at the south edge of Sedro-Woolley and quite a number of the townspeople paid their respects at this last rites.
      After a service at the Lemley Mortuary, the mourners followed the casket to the Concrete Indian Shaker church where another service was held followed by interment in the Indian cemetery at Sauk.
      Among the Sedro-Woolley people attending were Minnie (Lederle Batey, Susan (Batey) Fuller Taylor, Ethel (Van Fleet) Harris, Eva (Van Fleet) Beebe, Susan (Osterman) Alverson, Mary (Mrs. Frank) Pingry, Emma Hart, and Charles and Julie Bingham, Sedro-Woolley's senior banker.
      While a group of young women were waiting under a big maple tree before the services started at the mortuary, Susan Taylor (the first white child born nearest to what is now Sedro-Woolley), no doubt stirred by old memories, looked around at her girlfriends and remarked:
      "We're all territorial daughters, why don't we organize?"
      "But what shall we call it?" was the question.
      Heads came together, but no one could think of a better name than "Territorial Daughters."
      Minnie Batey then suggested a picnic at which the matter could be further discussed and asked if it couldn't be held at the Van Fleet place. This gathering took place at the picturesque Emmett Van Fleet homestead at Skiyou (reported in the Courier-Times, Aug. 20, 1936). This picnic is called the first meeting of the Territorial Daughters, though it was not as yet formally organized.
      Forty-two people attended, thirty of whom qualified as charter members, that is, the daughters of parents, or women who had settled in Washington while it was yet a territory, or before Nov. 11, 1889, when it became a state.
      On Oct. 16, 1936, Chapter 1, of the Territorial Daughters of Washington was legally born at the home of Martha Hight Wicker (Mrs. Charles J. Wicker Sr.). First officers elected were: president, Ethel Van Fleet Harris; vice-president, Martha Wicker; secretary, Minnie Batey; treasurer, Susan Alverson; and historian, Eliza Van Fleet.
      As far as is known, Ethel Van Fleet Harris (now deceased) and Minnie Batey were the last surviving members [written in 1965]. Present officers [Nov. 6, 1965] of Chapter 1 are: president, Mabel [Mrs. Charles] Meins; vice-president Katherine Spaulding; secretary, Mrs. Judson van Liew; treasurer, Agnes Wiseman; and historian, Ehthel (Van Fleet) Harris.
      Chapter 1, still holding a most interesting meeting once a month at the home of some member, once boating a large membership, now consists of only about a dozen active members, but is gamely trying to build up the organization. And it should be. [Chapter 2 formed later in western Skagit county.]
      While this group was organized "for fun," it was also dedicated to the preservation of pioneer history so that the record would not be lost to those who would come afterward. Over the years, these women have done a remarkable service in amassing a wealth of material linking the stories of the early settlers to the present day.
      As we understand it, any woman who is a descendant of people who settled in Washington prior to Nov. 11, 1889, is eligible for membership.
      We have been told that there is an active chapter in Mount Vernon, but as of yet, the writer has no pertinent information on this group. Also, that a chapter was once proposed for Snohomish county. However, no one here seems to know whether or not this one got under way.
      Anyway, cheers for these valiant ladies.

Letter to the Territorial Daughters from J.C. "Baldy" LaPlant
Printed in the Courier-Times, April 16, 1937


      The following very interesting letter was received last week by Mrs. Charles Nye, president of [Chapter 1] the Washington Territorial Daughters, and read by Mrs. W.H. Curry at the first annual banquet of that organization, held Friday night in the city hall.

My Dear Mrs. Nye:

As feathers in the arrow's flight,
A surer course impart,
So truth, when winged by fancies light,
May sooner reach your heart.

      —J.C. LaPlant letter

      I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness in extending an invitation to me to attend the Territorial Daughters banquet. This is impossible; therefore I am addressing this note to your sisterhood.
      My first impulse was to address you as "Sweethearts of Yesterday," but upon sober second thought, decided [otherwise]. I feel your association fills a void in our social and economic structure that needed filling, and with little effort on your part might help future generations more readily to understand the part your mothers and you have had in laying the foundation and building upon it, in part, the wonderful structure we all behold and love today.
      No one need subscribe for you a "bill of rights." The right to be a Territorial Daughter of Washington is a proud distinction and one which no future generation can hope to attain. Realizing, as I must, the hazards of a contemporary historian, I shall recall some of the perhaps half, or wholly forgotten incidents which are treasured memories to me.

      I have trailed the real pioneers all my life. Born on the grass-covered prairies of Iowa, 64 miles beyond a railroad. When I came to Washington, I located at Skamokawa on the Columbia river, 80 miles downstream from railhead. Then I finally drifted to Skagit county beyond and ahead of the railroads that seemed to be chasing me all my life.
      I came to Sedro. I loved the sky-line at dawn, the hills are my sanctuary.
      Having been more or less in love with Territorial Daughters (some of whom may have ante-dated you Territorial Sisters], I should like to mention two of your members specifically:
      On a bright sunny morning, strolling along the only promenade we had, a newly laid, unballasted railway grade [1889], I saw a little flaxen-haired girl stumble and fall on a narrow footbridge spanning a rather deep depression from higher ground on the top of the railroad grade. On this same spot I was a few weeks later introudced to Mrs. [Julia] Bingham by her husband, "C.E." As indifferent as though she had fallen on a feather bed, the little tot started rolling toward the edge of the narrow bridge. When she heard running footsteps approaching, she rolled back toward the center of the bridge, kicking her little feet in the air, incidentally in my face, as I stopped to pick her up to carry her to safety. She was smiling then as she is probably now — Frances Devin.
      The third railroad to enter the county came in from the south, the Seattle and International. The name of that railway was the inspiration back of the naming of our long hoped for International Highway.
      Being in a more or less strategic position through my connection with the Hart and Batey sawmill which furnished all the sawed timber used on the north end of the S&I construction through to the Canadian border at Blaine, jokingly the roadmaster said, "Clarence, can't something be done to welcome us to Sedro, the first real passenger train in Skagit county?"
      From this top was evolved the idea of having the first white baby girl born here assume the honors. The hour approached and I had the extreme pleasure of taking the gloved hand of this little golden-haired chum and I do wish I could describe how she was dressed. I will try. A dress of red satin, trimmed with heirloom lace collar and cuffs. Over this a red satin coat, also lace trimmed, and a red satin bonnet with frills around her face of more of the lace, wide ribbons tied in a graceful bow under her chin and a magnificent bunch of red roses, also tied with the lovely red ribbons. I am describing my first Washington sweetheart, Susan Batey Taylor.
      Journal Ed. note: [Part of the letter is included in the hilarious story of the Two Hobos of Sedro website ]

More Territorial Daughters stories

Story posted on March 30, 2002, last updated Dec. 1, 2005, update September 2016
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