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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 Two, Part One of Yarns

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

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

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 Two, Part One, transcription
Ray Jordan, Yarns, 1974
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(Hankin Mill)
The Royse-Hankin mill, located next door to the settlement of old Sedro, evolved from a mill that processed cottonwood trees and produced wood shavings that were used for packing, decades before the Styrofoam bubbles that eventually replaced all such material.

      That snow fort that was always erected on Dr. Harbaugh's huge lawn after a snowstorm and the hard- fought battles that took place there. Quite a few heads were cracked with "water soaker" snowball ammunition used when the defenders of the fort were hard pressed. Charlie Warner's bakery on Third Street and the delicious cookies that good-hearted Charlie was always passing out in hungry small fry. "Cottonwood" Bill Royce, actually Royse] and his veneer mill in the southeast edge of old Sedro. The old Vendome Hotel and Pool Room on Ferry Street, Frank Bergeron, proprietor. Bert Woolley, from whose family Woolley got its name. The old baseball park in the southwest corner of town. In case you have forgotten, Sedro-Woolley had one of the best teams in the state at that time and would take on any team that felt lucky. Many a big town team got its tail-hold cut loose in that park, and I can still see the victorious, mustachioed local boys swaggering homeward wearing hats snatched from admiring girls and engaging in other assorted brands of tomfoolery.
(David Donnelly)
David Donnelly, 1935

     Skagit Steel and Iron Works when it was a tiny foundry, operated by a man named Fuller [actually Fred R. Faller]. The big lumber mill, located on some of the land now occupied by Skagit Steel, and the spectacular fire that destroyed it. When the First National Bank was robbed in 1914. One small boy was killed during the wild shooting, two of the robbers were killed in Canada and two on the Nooksack River Bridge at Ferndale, Some of those pits on -the walls of the bank building were caused by bullets.
      Big, genial Pat McCarthy, blacksmith, town marshal, sheriff, and finally superintendent of Monroe Reformatory. He was a man hard to scare. Jake Cully when he was attending grammar school, a lively lad. Hi Hammer, postmaster. Dave Donnelly, another postmaster, who had personality plus, and the cigar which he was forever munching, but never lighted. Wyman Kirby, and those plaid lumberjack jackets he used to wear, and that decrepit old Ford that he hacked around in for years, mill man, logger and mayor.

Chapter Two, Part One

Charlie Warner
      Charles Warner, son of John M. Warner, namesake of his Prairie north of town, was possibly the most influential of Warner's children and the one who was the earliest entrepreneur, but he was also the most complex and troubled of the offspring and came to the saddest end. The 1906 History noted in his paid biography section: "Mr. Warner is ambitious and energetic, a man of much worth, popular in his community." Yet a year later he committed suicide.
      His father was an acquaintance of Sedro founder Mortimer Cook when Warner senior was a 49er miner in the California gold fields and Cook owned a general store on Rabbit Creek, now called Laborite. His father migrated to British Columbia after Cook led a Hudson's Bay Company packing team to the gold fields starting in 1858; by 1861 John Warner lived at Cook's Ferry, Mortimer's namesake town on the Thompson River. Charles was born on Feb. 6, 1867, after the family moved to Whatcom County; he was the third child in this large family.
      The 1906 History continued the myth that Warner senior homesteaded the Prairie property. But Warner descendant Mary Ellen Langridge argues that teenaged Charles was the actual impetus for that. Charles found the final property in 1880, when he was 14. He paid $1.25 per acre for it on August 1889 upon "proving up," even though he was logging in Aberdeen at the time. The patent is dated Aug. 24, 1891 and bears the signature of President Benjamin Harrison. From 1885 onwards, he also headed up crews that logged Mortimer Cook's timber claims for the Cook shingle mill at old Sedro by the Skagit River. Langridge also recalled another family memory that when Charles started logging away from home he deeded the homestead over to his mother. In addition, she discovered that "Charles asked his father to come and farm it because Charles did not care to farm [preferring logging instead]. John moved the whole family there [from their farm in Edison] until the children were grown. Della, the 11th and last child was born there."
      In August 1890, Charles became a business owner and started one of the first saloons in new Sedro (corner of 7th and Bennett streets, east of Block One of the townsite, the present site of the high school) with partner Billy Todd, who was also an early pioneer after settling in Mount Vernon in 1881. Todd married Charles's sister, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Warner, on Feb. 15, 1888. Charles also owned a bakery, as Jordan noted, and was a hero to children whom he treated with baked delights. Like his brother George, Charles went back to British Columbia to marry Louise Yates, the daughter of a Scotsman who worked for the Hudson's Bay Co. in Hope when the Warners originally lived near there.
      His various successes in business and especially his yeoman work for Mortimer Cook and Cook's successful mill stand in stark contrast to this death. Charles committed suicide on January 4, 1907. Unfortunately the official record leaves no clue for the turnaround from the glowing profile of 1906. As Langridge notes, the death certificate confirms suicides and the only explanation is "troubles." [Return]

      When Ray Jordan was a teenager here, in the early years of the 20th century, the only way to cross the Skagit River between Sedro-Woolley and Clear Lake was by means of a crude, scow-like ferry. It's motive power was gravity. A wire rope was usually strung between two tall trees on opposite sides of the bank and connecting wires were attached to the front and back of the ferry. The current pushed it across. The first ferry here was started by Albert E. Holland, in the late 1880s, and was finally replaced by the Thompson Bridge, which crossed to Clear Lake from Third Street on the Sedro (north) side.

Bill Royse and the Royse-Hankin mill
      Cottonwood Bill Royse (often misspelled Royce) was one of the leading mill men in the county. Follow the ridgeline along the rivers and the cottonwoods are ubiquitous. Thus, in October 1902 when the Eugene Excelsior Works & Veneer Co. scouted the original location of Mortimer Cook's Sedro wharf, they were thrilled with the proliferation of the trees that provided the wood source for the shavings then used as packing material, pre-Styrofoam. The Graphic magazine in 1891 noted that the cottonwood trees that grew wild in thick bunches along the upper Skagit River were very large and perfect for excelsior production. Several companies looked at the area but the Depression of 1893-96 dampened the plans. By 1905 the Sedro Veneer & Excelsior Works was listed in the Polk City Directory. By the time that three railroads crossed within 100 yards of each other in Woolley in 1890-91, magazines up and down the coast announced that the twin towns of Sedro and Woolley were seeking an excelsior plant.
      Royse and his original partners, C.O. Peterson and C.D. Lloyd, contracted with the Sedro-Woolley Iron Works that year to produce what was described as a mammoth log jack for the company that would convey up to 8,000 pounds at a time from the mill pond to the mill. They expanded the company in 1908 added barrels to their product list, which included excelsior, berry crates and boxes for shipping dishes. The company name was changed to Sedro Box & Veneer Co. In 1914 the Skagit County Times newspaper in Sedro-Woolley announced that the company bought 28 acres east of the plant, over to about where the Skagit Steelhead Club stands in 2011, to expand their mill pond.
      On Feb. 13, 1918, a fire nearly destroyed the mill, but it was quickly rebuilt. Business was very strong and the newspapers reported that the main products were egg cases, barrel shooks (assembly parts) and veneers. (See the full profile here.) [Return]

Vendome Hotel, Frank Bergeron
      The original Hotel Royal, at the southeast corner of Ferry Street and Eastern Avenue, was Woolley's first hotel designed for those who could afford it. It was built in 1897 by Charles Villeneuve Sr., who had already been in business in the county for 23 years. A Montreal native, he settled in 1873 where Conway would soon rise. Even though he had located along a rail line there in the western part of the county, not enough population was there to support a classy hotel, so Woolley was hot, with nearly 1,500 people and three rail lines. But five years later the hotel had not yet lured enough guests from the Keystone and the Osterman. So he sold the hotel to Frank Bergeron and built a hotel a block west, across the Northern Pacific tracks, called the St. Charles (nice, huh?).
      In stepped Frank Bergeron, another of the most colorful of early Woolley characters. He changed the name to the Vendome, which many old-timers still remembered in our interviews. Although Villeneuve may have started the restaurant, Bergeron became known for it, as the Keystone was known for its saloon. The late Howard Miller recalled that when he was a boy in the 1920s he loved the berry pies at the Vendome, which he could smell down the street.
      Soon he took on Gust Linquist and Jesse E. Johnson as key employees and John M. Rickard as a partner, maybe selling part of the property to him. Frank had first appeared in Clear Lake with his brother, a barber, in the mid-1890s. Clear Lake historian Deanna Ammons found his magnolia saloon to be a hot place at the tail end of the nationwide Depression, and then his Clear Lake Social Club. He assured his pals that he would continue them after buying the hotel, the deal for which closed in September 1903. In a Skagit County Times article two months later we found an announcement of "Miss C. Bergeron will open her Parisian Dressmaking Parlor in the front corner room of the Donnelly Block on the 10th." That is all we know about his wife. Frank maintained such a presence in Clear Lake that when his brother skipped town to San Francisco, Frank bought his barber shop at a sheriff's sale and Alva McKay continued as the main barber. The Vendome burned to the ground in 1927 and the lots apparently stayed vacant for 12 years. Finally, in May 1939, a Gilmore Red Lion gas station opened in the nucleus of the building still standing there. Two decades later it was known as Cargill & Lisherness. Neither Bergeron nor his wife is buried here so we know little of their later years. [Return]

Bert Woolley
      Bert was Philip L. Woolley, son of the town founder. Born in Christmas Day 1870 in Elgin, Illinois, his first job for his father's mill company after they moved here in 1890 was as manager of Woolley Construction; Cokedale mine timbers were then cribbed from Woolley. After his father obtained the contract to provide construction materials for the Seaboard Air Line railroad project out of Savannah, Georgia, sometime after the turn of the century, Bert moved down there. After his father died in Georgia in 1912, Bert continued the Woolley construction work when he came back home, but after a while he managed the pool hall in Frank Bergeron's Vendome hotel at the southeast corner of Ferry and Eastern and also ran an employment bureau out of the hotel.
      Although one federal census showed a spouse, when Bert died in 1934, he was living with his nurse near LaConner when he experienced a paralytic stroke. Although the Vendome had burned down, he still had both businesses and just moved across the street to the original Maine Saloon site. [Return]

Original baseball park
      Nonagenarian Greer Driscoll fondly remembers the original baseball field, which was located south of State Street, at the south end of Borseth Street. For six months a year it was the social center of town, especially for schoolboys. By 1930, the late Howard Miller recalled, the field had moved to lots north of the new city hall that P.A. Woolley originally offered to the school district for the high school site. [Return]

Skagit Steel, Sedro-Woolley Iron Works (S-WIW) and Fred R. Faller
      As you can see in our story about the Birth of Skagit Steel, Fred R. Faller was an original investor in John Anderson's S-WIW from 1902 on and he was soon manager. See: [Return]

Cogshall-Metsker mill and the great fire

(Cogshall Mill)
      This mill has usually been identified as being the Royse-Hankin or Sedro Veneer mill near old Sedro, but we infer that it may have been the Cogshall-Metsker mill, which stood on P.A. Woolley's original mill site, next to his Woolley town. That mill burned spectacularly in 1911, the same year as the Great Woolley Fire and a year before Woolley's death in Savannah, Georgia.

      The lumber mill on the original Woolley family mill site that burned in a fire was the Cogshall-Metsker Mill. It actually burned on August 10, 1911. The same date was reported in the 1998 Sedro-Woolley Centennial Calendar, but in 1921, which has caused some confusion on the matter. We have not discovered what year S.B. Cogshall moved to Sedro-Woolley, but we do know that he was elected the Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge here on Dec. 14, 1909, for the year 1910.
      One cryptic note on the 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows that this mill had replaced by that time the Shrewsbury Mill, which occupied a portion of the site in 1899. We also know that his wife was president of the original library here, elected on Oct. 22, 1908. But once again we were disappointed in the unfortunate style rules by many editors of those days, i.e., the use of a woman's initials to identify here, so she is listed as merely Mrs. S.B. Cogshall. Neither of them are listed in the Union Cemetery records, so we infer that they moved away from Sedro-Woolley sometime after the fire. [Return]

Hi Hammer
      Hiram Hammer followed his illustrious brother, Emerson, here from Lincoln Center, Kansas, in 1890. Hi moved to Clear Lake after finishing his term as deputy Lincoln County school superintendent. After teaching in schools all over Skagit County during the Depression years of the mid-1890s, he was elected to two terms as county auditor, then acted as city clerk of Sedro-Woolley and was finally appointed as postmaster from 1906-15. Hi was city clerk of Sedro-Woolley in 1906 when the complicated early land claims of Sedro developer Norman B. Kelley were adjudicated and he guided the construction of many buildings at the south end of Metcalf Street, then called the Kelley Strip. He also built the Central Grocery near his home on Warner Street in about 1917. It still stood as the longest continuously operated grocery in Skagit County until October 2003 when Mike and Winona Mann turned out the lights for the last time.
      Back in Kansas, historian Mike Day helped us discover why Hi Hammer moved to Lincoln County in the first place. Day provided an obituary from the Oct. 12, 1911, issue of the Lincoln Sentinel newspaper for Hi's namesake uncle. His uncle Hiram was childless but he pitched in to help rear six of the children who were orphaned when his brother Peter died. Emerson and Hiram are the only children we know about. Uncle Hiram was a miner who left Montpelier in 1850 for California in the '49er gold excitement. Sometime in the 1860s he relocated to Lincoln County, where he established a farm. Hammer Cemetery still stands near Lincoln and a deed for the property indicates that a Hiram Hammer donated the land in 1882, either the uncle or nephew. Day has also helped us research the Cleary family from Lincoln who were prominent early citizens in Belleville and Bow. Hi was born in Montpelier, Indiana, in 1849 and after brief service in the Civil War, he returned to the normal school in Bloomington to prepare for being a teacher.
      He moved to Lincoln County in 1872, presumably to join his uncle on the farm, and later taught school often, in both Kansas and Washington, when he was not a city or county official; his first election office was as Lincoln County clerk. Hiram had also farmed before his election and taught school; he was reelected in 1882. According to William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Hiram was also "one of the original projectors of the Topeka, Salina & Western Railroad." Seven years older than Emerson, Hiram went on to an academy after high school and also attended the Illinois State Normal School at Bloomington before teaching in Indiana.
      Out here, Hi also taught at Clear Lake, Sterling, Burlington and Hamilton. His wife, Catherine (Dunmyer), was his former high school student and a Pennsylvania native; they married in 1877. She died in 1939, three years after Hi, who was retired to recurring intensive influenza. The late Sedro mailman Harold Renfro recalled that when the First National Bank was robbed in October 1914, Hi ran home and hid under his bed. [Return]

(Kirby and Log)
      Wyman Kirby was one of the most important local mill owners in the early decades of the 20th century and was Sedro-Woolley mayor. His wife's work with young girls led to Camp Kirby, a Campfire Girls lodge in the San Juan Islands, being named for her. This photo of Wyman Kirby shows him measuring a cedar for the Skagit Mill in Lyman that had prodigious specs written on its butt end: 111 inches diameter, 16 (?) feet circumference and 446 years of age, according to the rings. The late Wyman Hammer, Kirby's namesake, provided the photo, which was taken one day when young Hammer "rode shotgun" with Kirby from camp to camp.

Wyman Kirby
      We do not yet have a profile of Wyman Kirby. Most famous for his partnership in the Skagit Mill at Lyman from 1909-36, Wyman was first elected mayor of Sedro-Woolley in 1922 and served three terms in office. See for the timeline of the mill and Lyman. [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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This article originally appeared in Issue 53 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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