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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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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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Introduction to Ray Jordan transcriptions
and Chapter One, Part One of Yarns

(Ray Jordan)
Find below: Introduction to all our
Ray Jordan transcriptions

Yarns Chapter 1, Part 1 . . . Endnotes/Annotations
And at links . . . Chapter 1, Part 2 . . . Chapter 2, Part 1
Chapter 2, Part 2 . . . Chapter 3
Chapter 4 . . . Chapter 5

(Northern Avenue)
      This photo shows Northern Avenue — Whiskey Way — in Sedro-Woolley, as photographed by Darius Kinsey in 1899. At the far right is the Keystone Hotel and Saloon, an alleged den of iniquity that was across the street from the railroad depot at the time. Photo courtesy of the book, Kinsey, Photographer.
Introduction to Ray Jordan transcriptions
By Noel V. Bourasaw, re: Ray Jordan, Yarns, 1974
      Many readers have asked questions about the more obscure references and relatively unknown pioneer names in the first five chapters of Ray Jordan's book, Yarns of the Skagit Country, written from the 1960s onwards, self-published in 1974 and very rare. Back in the period of 1960-75 when he wrote these chapters, at least the old-timers in town knew who most of the people were whom he referenced. But now, 35 years later, the names and businesses from pioneer Sedro and Woolley are largely obscure and unknown.
      We are enthused to learn this week that the Skagit County Historical Museum in LaConner is still planning to reprint the book in the near future. After talking to Jordan's widow a decade ago, we decided to honor her request to publicize widely his stories and columns. So we have built over the last ten years a special Jordan Portal section and these transcriptions mark 36 of his chapters from the book and his columns in the Skagit Valley Herald. As a boy Jordan arrived in old Woolley in 1901, by train from Kansas, with his father Lafe Jordan; we have never read about his mother. Among his first-hand experiences with pioneers were the times as a boy when he slept on top of dynamite boxes at the ranch at the western end of modern Cook Road, where David Donnelly, the butcher and Mortimer Cook's successor at the ranch, was paying to have it cleared, drained and tiled to control the water table, with the help of Jordan's father, and they were also addressing the fires underground in the ancient peat bog.
      We wanted to completely annotate these first five chapters because so many readers have written asking questions about the more obscure names and businesses that are not familiar to many of us. So we share more than a hundred annotations and links. As you will notice, the annotations are about ten to one in pages so you will find considerable annotation to peruse. We will soon also publish some of Jordan's unpublished manuscripts, courtesy of the late Fred Slipper. These first five chapters are unedited for grammar or spelling, with only a few punctuation marks inserted. Ray's notes in the actual transcription portions are in parentheses ( ) and our annotations are indicated in brackets [ ] with short notes and links to endnotes and Journal profiles. Endnotes will be indicated at the end of each chapter, and will often include complete mini-biographies of pioneers and their businesses. We hope that readers may be able to add definitions of some items and background on families of pioneers. Again we thank the ace researcher of Sedro-Woolley, Roger Peterson, who supplemented our search and pointed out discrepancies as well as other documents and photos. Please note: the source most often posted, Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, published 1906 and still the bible for local historians, is often referred to as 1906 History.

Chapter One, Part One, transcription
Ray Jordan, Yarns, 1974
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      Here are some recollections of my boyhood days around Sedro-Woolley, and if my memory is bad I hope some of you old-timers will speak up and straighten me out. Rustling beer bottles and five-gallon coal oil cans to raise funds for the movies. Bottles brought five cents a dozen and cans a nickel each.
The gazebo that once stood next to the railroad tracks in old Woolley later became a cottage for young couples in town.

      Those bang-up week-long Fourth of July celebrations we used to have, with a balloon ascension by a Mr. Brooks, the main attraction; the numerous inebriated gentlemen sleeping it off peacefully in that triangular-shaped grove across the track from Saloon Row; the night of the last day when everyone let down his hair and whooped 'er up until the wee hours. Two bits was a big stake for a boy then, and it never seemed to rain on this magical week.
      Clumps of vine maples growing along the sides of Metcalf Street. The old board sidewalks. The muddy streets in winter. Women with dragging skirts and a bunch of kids trying to cross same. The same streets ankle deep with dust in summer. Runaway horses and the ensuing excitement. The octagon-shaped building (or was it hexagon?) that stood on the west side of Metcalf opposite the Great Northern station. The Hightowers had a confectionary store on the ground floor. The upper story was open around the sides and served as a bandstand. Here the band boys used to gather on pleasant summer evenings and serenade the town with sweet music. What a thrill for a small boy!
      The tame bear at the Great Northern station and how he liked his beer. Chan Ingham driving his fast, blind thoroughbred buggy-horse down the streets. The first movie house in town (that I remember) on Northern Avenue, across the track from the G.N. depot, Emil Runck, proprietor. Paul Rhodius, gentleman, as a young man, and the derby hat he always wore. Charlie Nye and his confectionary store. Howard and Reynold's grocery and their deliveryman, Fred Jarvis. The old Union Mercantile department and grocery store where you could buy anything, George Green, one-time proprietor, and the blue wool shirts he always wore in winter. I never saw him in a suit coat or overcoat.
      Coddington's clothing store. Fritsch Brothers' Hardware. Frank Hoehn's livery stable with the smart rigs popping out of the driveway. George Ratchford's blacksmith shop and the smell of burnt hoofs when he was shoeing horses. Crowds congregating at the railroad stations to watch the trains come in. Big Lou Austin, town marshal, a man's man, who if you wished to make it personal, would peel off his star and have it out with any hombre.

(Union Mercantile)
      The Union Mercantile (or "The Merc") was the first department store in town, located at the northwest corner of Ferry and Metcalf streets, at the turn of the 20th century. Courtesy of the Parker family collection.

Chapter One, Part One
Saloon Row and Whiskey Way
      At the turn of the century, the western part of Northern Avenue was known as Whiskey Way (on this page), and the south side of State Street was called Saloon Row. According to researcher Roger Peterson, the city council of the newly merged towns (merger in December 1898) either officially or informally decreed that new saloons would be restricted to those streets. The Osterman House at the corner of Ferry and Metcalf — the present site of the Gateway Hotel, was grandfathered in because it was the "respectable" hotel in town, a first class hotel for traveling businessmen and salesmen.
      Between Ferry and State streets, saloons were not granted licenses but the Capital Bar was grandfathered in as long as it maintained the highest standards, discouraged "loose ladies" and enforced a dress code. When its owner, T.J. Mullen, died, the building was converted into retail space. Retailers in that downtown business core demanded such restrictions so that ladies would feel safe to stroll the sidewalks and shop in those two blocks. In that first decade of the century, the city council even went so far as to order horses to be hitched in the alleys, not on the street, in that area. As a result, that was probably the only area of town where the sweet smell of horse droppings would not assault milady's nose. [Return]

Two bits
      Twenty-five cents. "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, everyone for Woolley, stand up and holler," went our old high school yell. The term dates back to the Spanish currency reform of 1497. Briefly, as explained at this online website:
      The Spanish started making the "dollar" which was also the same as the "peso" which translated literally to mean "weight". The peso was worth (at the time there was a known currency called "reales") eight "reales." The peso was worth about the same as a German currency known as the "thaler''. Later, this became widely known as the "dollar" in France and England currency (and United States currency as well). . . .
      The peso, (and dollar) were the equivalent of eight reales. People started to refer to them as "pieces of eight." These pieces were broken into quarters, which later became known as "eight bits," (eight bits = one American Dollar so each 2 bits is a quarter). This was done as a way to make change to pay for small purchases or to take care of small transactions. In many ways this was the birth of our modern currency format (penny nickel dime quarter, half dollar, "silver" dollar (Susan B, Anthony dollar and gold dollar not real silver dollars)
      "Two bits" was then on known in the United States as a "quarter dollar", prior to the American Revolution. Because of English financial/fiscal policies, an acute shortage of English money was very apparent, and colonists started conducting their trades using the Spanish dollar instead of reales. (Courtesy of this site, accessed January 4, 2011.)


Woolley Gazebo
      The gazebo was about 25 feet high, covered, with the top open so that bands could play there above the crowds. The bottom was covered with wood all around and originally served as storage for the uniforms and instruments. Later on, James Renfro and W.B. Pigg occupied the gazebo with their confectionery stores. Originally it was on side or the other of the F&S railroad tracks that continued south on a diagonal, north of what is now the Gateway Hotel. Sometime before 1920 it was moved over to Murdock Street near A.E. Holland's home next to the present museum. In 1919 Harry and Mae Osborne also lived in it as a home when they were honeymooners. A few decades later it was moved to the Ferry Street area to serve as a study for a local attorney. The late Judge Hugh Ridgway told us 15 years ago that he bought the gazebo years before that that after it had been moved around on a flat wagon and deposited on several different lots no one wanted this piece of local history anymore. It is now in the backyard of a local residence, both stories closed in and used for a study room and private office.
      See these Journal stories about the famous 1890s gazebo that is now behind a private residence: here and here and here (Gazebo and Dad Abbott) and here (Harry and Mae Osborne's Gazebo). [Return]

Orian Hightower's confectionery
      Read this brief reference. We are researching this family for a future profile. We hope that readers can add to it. We remember that back a few years ago the Courier-Times featured some Orian Hightower descendants in an article. They lived in Sedro-Woolley at the time. Maybe a reader knows of them? [Return]

Chan Ingham
      Chauncey "Chan" Ingham was another of the Kansas contingent who moved to Skagit County from Lincoln Center along with the Hammer and Green families. He arrived in Sedro with his wife and four children on Sept. 25, 1890, a year after Emerson Hammer. A New York native, Chan was born on Oct. 4, 1838, and served in the Michigan Artillery for the Union Army in the Civil War.
      At the turn of the 20th century, he owned a small dray, or freight, line. In 1910-11 he was chief of police under Mayor C.E. Bingham. From 1913-20, he was street superintendent for the city and he was also among the charter volunteers for the fire department. He died in 1929 at age 90. The late Howard Miller helped us place the original Sedro town hall when he recalled from his childhood that Ingham pointed out to him the lots on the alley on 7th Street south of Jameson Avenue. [Return]

(Pigg Confectionery)
      This interior photograph of the W.B. Pigg Confectionery, on the east side of the 600 block of Metcalf Street, may have been the home, in the back, of the first nickelodeon in town, circa 1904.

First nickelodeon movie and Emil Runck
      Our other research of the nickelodeon in Sedro-Woolley revealed the first recorded one was called the Globe, which was operated by Frank Hemingway from about 1904. It was located in a small room at the back of Wallace B. Pigg's confectionery, which stood about where the southern half of Mestizo's Restaurant (the former Schooner Tavern) is today on the eastern side of the 600 block of Metcalf street. Emil Runck worked for Ewestern Reno's bicycle shop and then bought it before World War II, expanding it to become the first shop in the region to sell Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Runck served in World War II in units that used Harleys to get through the mud and then he returned to Sedro-Woolley, operating his bicycle and motorcycle shop until the early 1950s in a woodframe building on Woodworth Street that was torn down in 1953 to make space for the fire-hall extension on the 1930 city hall. [Return]

Charlie Nye's confectionery store
      Nye was one of the most noted retailers and landlords in the early decades of Woolley. See this Journal story for a review of some of his businesses and how he came out of the 1911 Great Woolley Fire very successfully. We discovered the first record about him on the registered-voters list in the 1898 Voters Pamphlet for Skagit County. [Return]

(Metcalf Street)
      This photograph of the west side of the 600 block of Metcalf Street was taken circa 1920s by a Sedro-Woolley photographer we know only as "Wathey." As researcher Roger Peterson discovered, two photography partners, a Mr. Wathey and a Mr. Springer (first names unknown) bought out George Vogel's photography business on Metcalf Street in 1924. Metcalf Street was paved by the time of this photo. We know from a 1905 Courier-Times article that Frank Douglass was the first to build a concrete sidewalk in front of his store, possibly in conjunction with the bank.
      At the far left was the Arthur Seidell building (1905-49), which originally housed the First National Bank. Note the similar exterior to the older Bingham Bank a block south. Next is Frank Douglass' drug store, the first brick building in Woolley. To its right was the Howard and Reynolds grocery. Across the alley was the Morris Schneider general store.

Howard and Reynolds grocery
      This early grocery store was located on the north side of the alley on the western side of the 600 block of Metcalf Street, just south of the Schneider Building. Records are that it dated from 1899 at 614 Metcalf Street. But the book, Kinsey Photographer, includes a photo of that location in 1899 on page 86 and the Paulson Bros. Mercantile is in that woodframe building. Researcher Roger Peterson agrees that, at least initially, H& shared a woodframe building with Paulson's Mercantile, which was located just north of the Frank Douglass drug store. Indeed, records from the First National Bank robbery in October 1914 indicate that H& was at that time located next to the drug store, on the south side of the alley, directly across from the construction of the new brick Morris Schneider building, following a disastrous fire in January 1914.
      The owners were Edward S. Howard, about whom we know very little, and Charles F. Reynolds. Both were Iowa natives and first appear in local records with their grocery store at Cokedale, three miles northeast of Woolley. A report in the March 1912 Skagit County Times noted that H& purchased the first automobile expressly for retail delivery three months previously. Other advertisements at various times indicated that the story stocked Gents Fine furnishings.
      We know little about Edward S. Howard, but Charles F. Reynolds stayed in Sedro-Woolley and became a moving force behind the Commercial Club, the predecessor to the Chamber of Commerce. Howard and Reynolds established their first grocery store together in Cokedale in 1897 and Reynolds, an Iowa native, served as postmaster there. In 1899 they moved to the Paulson site on Metcalf Street. During the famous First National Bank robbery in October 1914, the store was in the line of fire as the robbers exited the bank across the street. In 1915 Reynolds was elected president of the Commercial Club and he was in charge of the Sedro-Woolley agricultural display at 1915 Washington State-Panama Exposition. Neither man nor spouse is buried in the county. Fred Jarvis came to Woolley in 1894 with his parents after they emigrated from England [Return]

Union Mercantile and George Green
      The Union Mercantile was Sedro-Woolley's first department store and it was incorporated on Jan. 10, 1903, Emerson Hammer, W.W. Caskey, A.W. Davison, F.A. Hegg. They sold dry goods, clothing and, originally, groceries too, until Fred A. Hegg split off that trade for his own family businesses. By 1916, the corporation's minutes show that their gross profit was $18,395.56, which was handsome for that time and the 1913 Dun business ratings indicates that they had a very high credit rating. The store failed, however, in 1935 after they tried to ride out the nationwide Depression. [Return]

(Swastika Building)
      The Coddington store was in the center rooms of the Swastika Building, which still stands at the southeast corner of Metcalf and Ferry streets. built in the months following the Great Woolley Fire of 1911 of July 1911, it was named and decorated for an ancient Hindu good-luck symbol.

Coddington's Dry Goods store
      William C. Coddington owned such a store on the eastern side of the Metcalf Street in the 700 block, originally in the woodframe Donnelly Building before the 1911 fire, and afterwards in the brick Swastika Building, as it still stands. A New York native, he moved here in an unknown year before 1906 with his wife, (Eliza J. Gokey). The business was included in the 1906 History. In those early days, the store was located somewhere in the 800 block of the street or nearer Ferry in the 600 block. In April 1911 he sublet in the Donnelly Building. Post-fire and in the new building, the Skagit County Times of December 27, 1911, gave them quite a favorable review:
      Together with the W.C. Coddington Co., the Mercantile Co. has made Sedro-Woolley famous as the one place in Skagit County where any and everything in the lines of general merchandise may be obtained. Nowhere on the coast are the stocks of these firms greatly exceeded in quality and variety, and never in quality. Both firms deservedly enjoy enviable reputations for liberality and reliability.
      By the time of the 1913 R.G. Dun Business ratings, he carried a high rating. In the 1913 Polk City Directory, he was president of Coddington Dry Goods, which had two employees. In early 1917, Coddington, then very ill, sold out to O.D. Thygeson. Coddington died later that year and the new owner continued in business until 1925. [Return]

(Fritsch Building)
      The Fritsch Brothers department store, built sometime after 1892. It stood at the northwest corner of Metcalf and Woodworth streets. This is the wooden version. After it burned in the Great Woolley Fire of July 1911, it was rebuilt in brick and is now the site of the Dollar Spree store. At the far left you can see part of the storage shed in the back where the fire started.

Fritsch Bros. Hardware
      The Fritsch family is one of the ten most important in early Woolley, both for their four-decade hardware store and one brother's involvement in the birth of Sedro-Woolley Iron Works (later Skagit Steel). The family of Franz (Americanized to Frank) Fritsch emigrated from Germany to New Orleans in 1871 and settled in Texas until the early 1880s when they moved first to Whatcom County and then to Sauk City when that was the entryway to the Monte Cristo mines. Quite a great circle route.
      But they walked into a real mess, as old Sauk City would be for the next decade until it washed away. At that early time, their location seemed like a good idea. Gold-seekers at the Monte Cristo mines in the Snohomish County portion of the North Cascades shipped all their machinery up the Skagit and the Sauk rivers and bought their supplies and staples at Sauk City. But the business district burned to the ground in 1889, and after a series of floods, Frank's sons, Joseph and Frank, moved to Sedro-Woolley and the father moved the rest of his family to Burlington.
      The brothers bought out the original Waltz Hardware of old Sedro. Waltz did well during the rail-building times and he hosted the early masses for the itinerant Catholic priests. By 1892, they either moved the store to Jameson Street, at the boundary of the two Sedro's or Waltz had done so. In 1897 they led another parade of Sedro businesses up to P.A. Woolley's new town a half mile north, possibly building themselves a woodframe store at the northwest corner of Woodworth and Metcalf streets. Meanwhile, the father invested in a sawmill and a general store for at least a decade more.
      A 1902 city directory notes that the brothers also opened a machine shop that catered to logging and railroad concerns that needed metal repairs. That was the beginning of what would evolve into Skagit Steel & Iron Works over the next two decades, all contained in those early years in a back room at the Fritsch store. Frank Fritsch became a partner of John Anderson, the new company's founder, and they soon moved the rapidly growing business to the corner of Puget Street and the railroad tracks. In 1907, the brothers erected a new woodframe building that was destined to be the center of one of the biggest stories in Woolley history, with a firewall between two parts to protect paint in storage in case of fire. That was a wise move but not enough to prepare them for the fire that broke out in their oil shed on July 24, 1911, and wasn't contained until it destroyed two blocks of businesses in the heart of Woolley.
      The brothers quickly rebuilt, this time using brick and steel, and the building reopened in December 1911. The brothers sold their company in 1914 to the firm of Ludwick and Wuest, but in 1923, Ludwick-Wuest moved their hardware and appliance business to a new building where Bus Jungquist/Masonic Building stands today at the northeast corner of State and Metcalf streets. The Fritsch brothers soon moved back into their old building and they alternated as owners of the business and then landlord as the company went through several owners over the next five decades. It was for many years the home of Mt. Baker Hardware. We will profile this amazing family and business later this year. [Return]

(Hoehn Livery)
      The original Hoehn Livery Stable, located south across Ferry Street from the present Gateway Hotel.

Frank Hoehn and his stables
      Elsewhere in this Issue 53, you will find the complete two-part profile of Frank J. Hoehn. After arriving in Sedro with 16 head of horses in 1889, he packed for railroad crews, logged and constructed the plank road that is still his legacy. In 1904, he became a partner in the livery stable that stood south across Ferry Street from the original Wixson Hotel, now the Gateway. He also hosted Buffalo Bill, who visited Sedro-Woolley and looked up Frank, who rode for him as a young man in 1883 in Nebraska. [Return]

Lou Austin
      Maybe? We have no other record of him or another Austin. [Return]

See the links at the top to read other chapters, with annotations

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Story posted on March 7, 2011
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