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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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Very Pleasant Trip Through the
Rural Homes of Our Country Cousins
Snapshot of Skagit Valley, 1893

By Mr. W.F. Robertson, Skagit News, Nov. 6, 1893
(Kemmerich family)
W.F. Robertson took this photo of the August Kemmerich family in Birdsview, circa 1888. Barbara Halliday posted the photo on her website. Her caption for it is: "After 7 years of marriage, August and Barbara Kemmerich had 3 children. left to right: Anna (b. 9-2-1888), father August, Mary (b.2-14-1885), mother Barbara and Joseph (b.10-14-1886). Formal photo taken at Birdsview ranch by W.F. Robertson."

      The bright, balmy and invigorating days of the past week would tempt (one thinks) even an editor from his sanctum sanctorum, that thankless life of continuous servitude and toil to take in the exhilarating beauties of the forest and field, that sweet repose which mother nature demands for her careworn and weary children.
      Leaving Mount Vernon, the fair queen of the Skagit, one lovely morning last week and shouldering one of the grand achievements of man's mighty mind (the camera), we started for the grain fields down the meandering banks of the romantic Skagit The scenes along the banks of the river were varied and charming. After passing several shingle mills on the skirts of the town in full operation, turning by their Eladen touch [??] the wealth of the forest into gold, we came across a party of ladies and gentlemen angling for the speckled denizens of the water, which here leap for their tempting bait with that ferocious impetuosity which stamps them as one of Mars' favored race, while out in mid-stream is the swarthy Indian in his cedar canoe gliding noiselessly over the surface of the waters by the skillful touch of his feathery stroke, with a long trolling line far behind, every now and then hauling a struggling victim of misplaced confidence to his boat who took the shimmering gleam of the barbed spoon for a tempting fry.
      Now moving consciously along the riverbank is some carnivorous animal, with soft downy fur, tempted by the warm sun from its cozy nest to capture for its breakfast some innocent, unoffending victim, while out on the shining waters, skimming along o'er its rippling waves is many a happy bird, warbling sweet love notes as they dip the dappled wing in its pellucid waters. Now let me turn to the many pleasant homes on the margin of the stream, with gardens where vegetables of all descriptions grow in prolific luxuriance. The incense of sweet flowers, fragrant with the dews of the morning, fit for Juno's ambrosial lovers, while from the trees hang golden fruit in all its pristine lusciousness, tempting as the nectarine beauties which Paris gave to Aphrodite, the most beautiful of the Goddess of heaven fresh from the gardens of Hesperides.

    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down bedding. See our Journal feature on this local business and learn more details and how to order items at their website.

      Arriving now at the beautiful of Harry Mills, we replenished the internal fires from his bounteous and hospitable tables, and after a social chat in this pleasant home with his bright and happy family, Mr. Mills and myself took a stroll through his broad domain's midst tall waving grain with its plump, rich kernel, luxuriant from a virgin soil rich in all the [nature's] qualities and welfare of the human family. Here Ceres the Goddess of grain with her cornucopia presides with supreme sway over this fertile valley, whose almost exhaustless riches is only beginning to be appreciated by its fortunate owners.
      We were shown many fields that eighty bushels of oats to the acre was a common crop, while it often ran from that figure to one hundred and twenty-five. Hops, wheat, barley, and rye are also produced in phenomenal crops, while from berries and prunes, which are just beginning to be cultivated extensively, many persons make from $300 to $400 per acre.
      After crossing the Great Northern railway, which runs through the center of the east side of the valley, we came to Mr. Johnson's ranch, where the threshing machine called The Advance was at work turning out from its treasured storehouse sack after sack of plump oats, till in a day of ten hours it will pile up a stock of fifteen hundred high. It is owned by a company, our friend Jasper Gates being its superintendent. It is run by a steam engine also called the Advance, which can travel over the road by its own motive power, with the threshing machine and tender attached. Joe Fesler is its chief.
      I took a shot at the whole paraphernalia, boys and all, just as they finished work. This machine is owned by our own home Mount Vernon farmers, and cost in the neighborhood of $3,000 and its superior does not exist on the Sound. It takes from thirteen to fifteen men to run the engine, feed the machine, handle the grain as it comes from the separator and attend to the elevator and straw pile, besides four men in the field gathering up the sheaves, and eight teams (one man to a team) hauling the grain to the hopper. In fact, one day's work of ten hours on Peter Egtvet's farm they piled up fifteen hundred and five sacks of oats, and as each sack contains over 2-1/2 bushels you can make your own calculation of what an enormous quantity of work one of these machines is capable of doing. It is really wonderful to look into the interior of one of them and see how nobly it does its work, throwing out two great sluices of grain in one continual stream into two manila sacks, filling them up as fast as two men can press them down and one stitch and another pack them away.
      Part of this fertile valley, within a radius of 12 or 14 miles from Mt. Vernon, is composed of some of the richest soil in the world, capable of producing all the different fruits, grainy vegetables, and roots which the most favored clime of any country can produce. There is about 25,000 acres of this rich bottomland, nearly 15,000 of which is under cultivation. Around the mouths of the rivers and salt water sloughs the land is composed of salt, or alluvial soil, while farther in the interior its formation is decomposed vegetables compost.
      This lovely valley is principally owned by old settlers, all prosperous and happy, surrounded by beautiful homes, many of them fine architectural structures furnished with all modern conveniences and improvements, some of them verging to elegance, while well-stocked libraries with periodicals show them to be intelligently capable of filling all the high offices in the gift of the nation, which only collegiate and city bred men in olden times aspired to, while the horticultural display in front of their delightful homes, of all the different varieties of beautiful flowers, shows an elegant and cultivated taste, which none but the truly refined possess, while horses, cattle, and sheep, frolicking among the rich, nutrious grasses of the meadows, fat and contented, presents a scene of rural felicity (whose competence keeps poverty from the door) which his less fortunate brother of the city might well envy.
      Below will be found a few names of the fortunate owners of this earthly treasure: Wm. B. Moore, 300; Col. Haller, 500; Frank Hancock, 160; Dr. G.V. Calhoun, 320; J. Conner, 600; J. Slosson, 320; Tom Hastie, 160; O. Polson, 600; E. Good, 320; Thos. Hayton, 320; Peter Olson, 160; F. Johnson, 160; M. Lloyd, 160; S. Starbird, 160; P. Hancock, 340; Robt. Abrams, 360; T.P. Jones, 160; Jas. Gilligan, 160; Magnus Anderson, 160; Harry Mills, 160; Jasper Gates, 160; M. Johnson, 160; Jacob Hayton, 100; P.D. Moore, 80; Peter Egtvet, 160; P.L. Kelley, 160; Mrs. John Bessmer, 160; Mrs. B.N.L. Davis, 230; Mrs. Wilbur, 280; J.B. Abbott, 160; Dennis Storrs, 160; J.B. Moody, 150; Richard Holyoke, 300; Lyman Everett, 250
      There are quite a number of other farmers, too numerous to mention, who own all the way from 40 to 160 acres of the productive soil.
      And now, Mr. Editor . . .


W.F. Robertson
      William Francis Robertson was a photographer and writer in Washington state and Territory in the 1890s. We have only read a couple of his articles and have seen a few of his photographs. We have been unable to determine if he was also the W.F. Robertson who was provincial meteorologist for British Columbia in the early 1900s. [Return]

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Story posted Aug. 28, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 56 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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