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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition
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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Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties,
Part Two of Chapter 2: Skagit county 1874-82
From Part II, Skagit County Section

(Pressentin cabin)
      This was the second von Pressentin family cabin, the one that became their permanent home after the family gathered on the south side of the Skagit River, across from Birdsview, in 1878. Photo courtesy of descendant Barbara Halliday.

Transcribed from Illustrated History, 1906,
fully annotated with linked Journal endnotes
Birdsview: von Pressentin, Minkler and Kemmerich, and early upriver settlers
      The earliest settler in the vicinity of Birdsview was Charles von Pressentin, who made his location at that point in May 1877. At that time there were five settlers above him on the river and two between him and Mount Vernon, the latter place being his post office. The timber and brush were so dense upon his place that he was compelled to cut a pathway even to transport a sack of flour to his cabin. Ten million feet of timber were cut from Mr. von Pressentin's claim, one of the first to be logged on the upper river. In 1878, [Birdsey] D. Minkler built a water-power saw mill on the south side of the river, and the first post office on the upper river was established at Birdsview in 1880, Mr. Minkler being the first postmaster. Indians in that vicinity always held that they were not treaty Indians, and they did not consent to the acquisition of land by the whites. A contest between these Indians and Mr. Minkler for the mill site was ultimately carried to Secretary of the Interior Hitchcock and recently decided by him in favor of the Indians. The name of Birdsview was not derived, as might be assumed, from any ornithological connection, but from the fact that Mr. Minklers first name, which was Birdsey, was commonly abbreviated to Bird and from this the town took its name. One of the pioneers of Birdsview still living there is August Kemmerich], who located his claim on February 14, 1878. He states that it was eighteen years before there was any continuous wagon road down the river.

Future Sedro and other early upriver settlers
      In pursuance of this sketch of the various early settlements of the Skagit country we may note the beginnings of the Sedro-Woolley settlement as the work of Joseph Hart and David Batey, both natives of England and the latter ex-president of the Skagit Pioneer association, who established themselves one mile southwest of the present town in August 1878. Mr. Batey's wife, [Dr.] Georgiana Batey, and two sons, John Henry and Bruce, joined him in 1880. James M. Young became established in the same year a few miles east of Mr. Batey's location, and in the fall of that year also William A. Dunlop and William Woods, former friends of Mr. Batey, took up claims adjoining him on the east. They found the woods at that time swarming with bears, cougars, coons and other wild animals.
      Other settlers of 1878-79 and 1880 in the upper Skagit valley were John Stewart, William Gohlson. John Kelly, Stephen Benson and sons Jerry and Dan, after whom Benson slough is named, Lyman [actually Amasa] Everett, James Cochrane of Skagit jam fame, Dr. [Lorenzo] Lyman, Emmett Van Fleet (whose family was for a time the only white family on the river between Sterling and Lyman), Frank R. Hamilton, John M. Roach, S.S. Tingley, Michael and John Day {later owners of the Day Lumber Co.] and Joseph Zook.

Courts of Whatcom county (pre-Skagit county)
      While the settlements out of which the towns of Sedro-Woolley, Hamilton, Sterling, Lyman and Birdsview grew were thus shaping themselves, the customary organized institutions of civilized society were in process of formation in the older portions of the Skagit country. Prominent among these were the courts. We find that the district Court met at La Conner on June 4, 1878, at which time Hon. J. R. Lewis was the chief justice and judge of the third district of the territory. G.W.L. Allen [George Washington Lafayette] was sheriff of Whatcom county and Howard H. Lewis, clerk. In the absence of Prosecuting Attorney W.H. White, G.M. Haller was appointed by the court to handle the state's cases, while Isaac N. Power, Robert Newman and J.T. Bowman were appointed bailiffs.
      A seal was adopted bearing as a motto a sheaf of wheat and the words, "District Court of Whatcom county, W.T." James F. D'Arcy and John L. Dale were admitted to practice law at the bar of the territory; Frederick Eyre and Edward McTaggart were admitted to citizenship. The principal case that came before the court at that session, that of au Indian named Taws, charged with murder, resulted in a verdict of guilty of manslaughter and a sentence to five years in the county jail. George Connor was tried for "exhibiting a pistol in a rude, angry and threatening manner in a crowd of two persons," and upon conviction thereof was sentenced to six months in the county jail and a fine of ten dollars and costs.
      Whatcom county at that time was suffering from the inconvenience of possessing no county jail and was obliged therefore to board her prisoners in the Jefferson county jail. In connection with court history it may be noted that from time to time discussion of the location of the court and with this the allied question of county division, was agitated. In the Bellingham Bay Mail of February 15, 1879, we find mention of the question and the varying propositions made as to its settlement. Some proposed to abolish the United States court at Steilacoom and to confer jurisdiction on the court at La Conner for the counties of Whatcom, Snohomish and the proposed county of Allen, while others advocated the establishment of the court at Utsalady. If that measure could not be effected a dissatisfied element in Whatcom county insisted that the district court should be abolished or removed to Whatcom, which measure they admitted would probably result in a division of the county along the line of the Chuckanut hills.
      The establishment of the county seat at Whatcom and the district court at La Conner seems to have been of the nature of a compromise between the chief centers of population. It was estimated that the entire taxable valuation of the county was about seven hundred thousand dollars, about one quarter of that being north of Whatcom. The Mail advocates great concessions to the people of the southern part of the county, for it prophesied that without such concessions county division would follow and quite likely Ferndale on the Nooksack river might succeed in capturing the county seat of the northern county.

Northern Pacific relinquishes government land
      An event of importance in the development of the region was the restoration at this time to the public domain of lands along the unbuilt portion of the Northern Pacific railroad. This was proclaimed by a notice from the general land office published in the Mail of August 2, 1879, to the effect that on and after September 1, 1879, all of the odd-numbered sections in the counties of Snohomish, Whatcom, Island, Jefferson, and part of King, not earned by the railroad company, should be restored to the public domain. The restored sections as well as the even-numbered sections not included in the railroad grant were rendered subject to preemption at the rate of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, except in the case of timber, coal or milling lands already fixed at a higher rate. To those who had already purchased railroad lands at two dollars and fifty cents an acre, the government granted a rebate of one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre. It had been anticipated that this proclamation would produce a great rush for the acquisition of the lands indicated, but so much of them had already been secured in anticipation of the withdrawal that there was no great rush. It was estimated that the shortening of the Northern Pacific route across the territory of Washington reduced the amount of land earned within the forty-mile limit by about four million acres.

Sternwheelers and early landings
      Among the interesting miscellaneous events chronicled by the press of that time was the voyage of the steamer Josephine to the upper waters of the Skagit. Captain Smith was the skipper of the gallant little steamer and the party consisted of the following persons: Benjamin Stretch of Snohomish; C.P. [Farrar] of Seattle [co-owner of Seattle's Arlington Hotel]; C. Dodge of the firm of Ebey & Company of Seattle; Thomas Prosch of the Seattle Intelligencer ; [Jesse] B. Ball and daughter [Emma] of the Skagit river, and the following from various regions bound for the gold mines: Frank Cohn, William Tracy, John Ryan, William Durley, J.T. Armstrong and his two sons, James H. and T.N., J.D. Lewis, Philip Thomas, Alonzo [Low, who opened the first trading post at Swinomish], Philip Keach, William Druitt, Charles Sperry, John Carnes, Albert Bacon [upriver gold miner], Henry Ellis, J. D. Dowe, August Graham [Anacortes settler] and Mr. Robinson. Various other people, on business or pleasure bent, joined the steamer as she proceeded up the river.
      There were at that time four trading points upon the river, Mann's Landing, three or four miles above the mouth; Skagit City, four miles farther [near the fork itself]; Mount Vernon, and [Jesse] Ball's Landing, now Sterling. At the last-named place the steamer stopped for the night. On the next day the steamer called at Williamson's hop ranch, and an hour later at the coal mines near the present site of Hamilton, where a distressing accident occurred, casting a gloom over what was expected to be one of the most happy events of the season. James H. Armstrong, while sitting insecurely upon the upper deck of the steamer, fell in some manner into the swift and icy current and was drowned. Every effort was made to rescue him, but such was the swiftness of the current that the boats which were launched were upset; life preservers thrown to the drowning man failed to come within his grasp and the cook of the steamer who bravely leaped in amid tried to save him could not reach him and was all but drowned himself. Attempts at rescue and even the securing of the body proved to be unavailing and the steamer proceeded as far as Minkler's saw-mill near Birdsview. The water was then at its lowest stage, or the steamer might easily have gone a number of miles further tip.

(Jesse Ball oxen team)
      Possibly the most thrilling result of the dissemination of our website is that the family of Jesse B. Ball found it. We had pleaded on our "Wish List" that we wanted desperately to profile this man and his artist daughter Emma. Ball was a pioneer in California before moving to the Nisqually area in the early 1870s to log, just as his California friend Winfield Scott Jameson moved to the Port Gamble area to open a mill. Jameson told Ball about the Skagit River area and the vast forests and Ball started a logging camp in 1878 at a river bend he later named Sterling. This tintype reproduction from his descendants show how he logged the Sterling area with teams of oxen.

Homemade entertainment and culture
      In preserving this general picture of the evolution of our county we should not neglect to notice its social life. Pioneers are proverbial for genial hospitality and openhandedness. It is safe to say that in the rude surroundings and meager resources of early times there is more of genuine, whole-souled, hearty social life than amid the artificial make-believes with which the people of more polished and elegant conditions are obliged to surfeit themselves. As an illustration of the entertainments amid reunions common in the pioneer settlements of Skagit county, we may draw upon material furnished by a correspondent of the Mail during the year 1879, who describes the meetings of a literary society held in a public hall near the residence of [Rienzi] F. Whitney] of Padilla. Mr. Whitney was himself the president of this society and he seems to have been as efficient and helpful in the social as he is already known in these pages to have been in the business life in his section. The program of that society consisted of musical selections, select readings, presentation of dialogues, reading of the Country Chronicle, the organ of the society, whose editor was changed at each meeting, in order to distribute the responsibility, and which abounded in social gossip, flashes of wit and humor and choice scraps of original poetry.
      After these miscellaneous features had been disposed of came the grand chef d'oeuvre of the evening, which was the debate. At Christmas 1878, this society conducted a neighborhood festival, at which all the ordinary joys of the season were experienced. An introductory address by the president and Christmas carols by the singers were followed by the appearance of Santa Claus with a bountiful supply of the customary goodies for the children, which the adults did not scorn to receive, and after this two heavily laden trees yielded up their coveted loads. Mr. Whitney rendered a piece entitled The Wolves, which was followed by a song, Remember the Poor, sung by Messrs. R. B. Whitney and H.E. Dewey and Misses Eva Baker and Letty Upson. Upon the statement by the president that there was one suffering family in the community a generous contribution was immediately forthcoming for the sake of taking Christmas to their doors. After this came songs and declamations for a short time, and then the company all repaired to the wide-open Whitney mansion, where a bountiful repast had been spread. After the enjoyment of this essential feature of the occasion by all, the evening's festivities were closed by the presentation of Hamlet's Ghost and the performances of the Blackville Club by most of those present.
      A melancholy event of the year 1879 was the accidental drowning of John Imbler at the Devil's Elbow of the Skagit, opposite the [Rev.] B.N.L. Davis place. [That was where the Great Northern railroad trestle now crosses the river at Riverside.] Imbler had settled at that point the year previous and was an esteemed pioneer. He was on his way up river to James Cochrane's logging camp when his boat capsized.
      The business which next to lumbering has become the greatest industry of the Puget sound region is of late development. We refer to the fishing industry. The sound and the streams entering it, particularly the Skagit, were known from the first to be swarming with the finest of salmon, yet there was in the early days no market accessible, but an abundant supply of fish could be secured for local needs by any one who had a boat of his own. The pioneer of the fishing business on the upper Skagit seems to have been James H. Moores. He was located on the west bank of the Skagit just above Mount Vernon and in 1879 he put in the first gill net on the river, at the head of the channel which opened into the upper jam. It proved a great success, he putting up fifteen barrels of his first catch, which he sold at ten dollars a barrel. The salmon caught there were of what is known as the Tyee variety, weighing as high as forty pounds. The business, however, was seriously interfered with by the Indians, who repeatedly robbed the nets and in the end got away with the nets themselves. Many others soon followed Mr. Moores in the fishing business, until now, as is well known, the largest salmon canneries in the world are located in the western portion of Skagit county.
      The year 1880 was marked by the heaviest snowfall ever known in the Puget sound country. During the month of January five feet of snow fell at Seattle, twenty-six inches on the Skagit delta, two feet and a half at Mount Vernon and eight feet at [Goodell's] Landing on the upper Skagit. As a result of the enormous accumulation of snow in the mountains the river ran bank full throughout the summer, scarcely varying a foot in height during a period of six weeks. One result of the unusual and continuous height of the water was the encouragement of steamboat navigation, and the subject of steamboat navigation leads up to the fortunes of the Skagit mining district during the year and thereafter.

Mining continues upriver and transportation
      We have sketched the progress of those mines to the year 1880 and have seen that the excitement had collapsed and the thousands of gold seekers gathered there had scattered. Nevertheless there were a number of men with greater staying qualities who remained. On Canyon creek seven companies were in existence and engaged in the construction of a number of ditches and flumes. The gold found in that district was of remarkably fine quality and commanded the highest price for gold dust at the mints. Nuggets were frequently found running from five to thirty dollars in value. The Ruby creek mining district was formed in the spring of 1880, George Sanger being elected recorder and a post office was established with Martin Coltenbaugh as the first carrier, or some say a man named Nelson. He charged twenty-five cents per letter for his services. In July the Slate creek mines, which have since become much more productive than those of Ruby creek, were discovered. Sanger, the first recorder mentioned in the foregoing, was killed by a rock slide in Alaska in recent years.
      In July 1880, the steamer Chehalis, Captain Thomas Brannin, made the trip tip the river to The Dalles [present location of the bridge south of Concrete] in two days and a half, attaining the highest point ever reached by a steamboat, but a few days later, the Josephine, Captain Denney, reached nearly as high a point. These steamers were both of one hundred tons burden and their successful voyage demonstrated the possibilities of navigation on the Skagit. One result of the travel back and forth to the mines was the demand for numerous way stations and provision stores up and down the Skagit valley. Amasa Everett's place at the mouth of Baker river, and David Batey's near the site of Sedro-Woolley, together with many other places carved out of timber, met the demand by becoming supply stations, but the largest mercantile establishment anywhere above Mount Vernon at this period was that of Clothier & English at [Goodell's] Landing, succeeding Edward Goodell, who had had for a short time previously a store at the same place. Albert L. Graham says that Ruby City, laid out on twenty feet of snow, likewise had a small store for a short time during the excitement. The fare on the steamers from Mount Vernon to the portage was at first twelve dollars, subsequently dropping to eight, and it took about two days to make the trip. While there has been in later years a considerable amount of gold taken from the Ruby creek mines, they have never attained the first rank as wealth producers.
      In 1880, Frank R. Hamilton and wife settled at the mouth of Baker river, his neighbors being Theodore Sunter, a half brother of Mrs. Hamilton, Eli Frome, Amasa Everett, Orrin Kincaid and S. Anderson. Sunter's mother was the first white woman to settle in the neighborhood and Mrs. Hamilton the next. While bringing a bull up the river at this time, Hamilton and Frome blazed out a trail which in later years became the course of the river road.

The Indians rebel
      This period of settlement was marked in 1881 by a fracas with the Indians in connection with the survey of the government land, the Indians on the upper river objecting to the survey and finally breaking the surveyor's instruments. Amasa Everett was overheard by some of the Indians to advise the surveyors to kill them if they persisted in their opposition and the result was an attack on Everett by two Indians. He, in self-defense, opened upon them with his revolver and seriously wounded both, escaping in the night down river with Willard Cobb in a canoe. Everett gave himself up at once and was tried at Mount Vernon for the shooting, but acquitted. The general body of the Indians sustained Everett and later held a great pow-wow with him, at which they adjusted their differences by his paying a small amount for the two Indians shot and the Indians paying him an equivalent amount for things stolen from his cabin. Colonel Pollock, a government agent, came soon after with an escort of forty soldiers under command of Lieutenant Culver Simons from Port Townsend, and the local Indian agent to investigate the trouble. It has been stated that Colonel Pollock offended Mr. Everett and the Indian agent by much boastfulness and self-importance, and as a consequence they arranged with the Indians to test the courage of him and his party as they went down the river. The Indians accordingly located themselves in an ambuscade, from which they fired upon the valiant colonel, taking pains to land no bullets dangerously near the boat, and the colonel and party made time down the river which beat all records before or since. .As we shall see later on it was many years before the survey of the upper river was completed.

Early mail routes
      The consequence of the ever-increasing business and population of the upper Skagit was a memorial addressed to the postmaster-general of the united States for improved mail facilities, which memorial was indited as follows
Memorial to establish mail route from Mukilteo,
Snohomish county, to Lyman, Whatcom county, via Port Susan, W.T. [near Stanwood]
To the honorable Postmaster-General of the United States
Your memorialists, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Washington, respectfully represent:
      That the mail facilities afforded to the people of the northern portion of the county of Snohomish and the southern portion of the counts; of Whatcom, including the valleys of the rivers Stillaguamish and Skagit. are inadequate to the growing demands; that the aforesaid tract of country is rapidly settling up, and the commercial and social interests of the people demand increased and more regular mail service. That they are now supplied once a week from mail route No. 43,108. The mail is carried in small open boats and often delayed by stormy weather.
      That steamers ran regularly twice each week over the route hereinafter proposed, and that the mail can and will be carried without much expense to the government.
      Therefore, your memorialists pray that a mail route be established with service thereon twice each week from Mukilteo on route No. 43,108; thence to Tulalip, thence to Port Susan, to Stanwood. Utsalady, Skagit City, Mount Vernon, Sterling and Lyman, a distance of about sixty miles.
      Wherefore, your memorialists as in duty bound ever pray.
      Passed the Housc of Representatives Nov. 22, 1881, George Comegys, Speaker of the House of Representatives. Passed the Council Nov. 23, 1881. H.F. Stratton, President of the Council. Approved Nov. 29, 1881. The petition was duly granted and the new mail route established.

(Cauliflower crop)
      Hiram A. March looks over his cauliflower crop at his ranch on what became known as March's Point. Photo courtesy of the 1902 Sebring's Skagit County Illustrated magazine, the first and last issue.

Abundant crops on the Padilla flats
      The oat farmers of the Skagit were in the condition sometimes called being "in clover." in their crop sales of 1880; for the price of that leading staple of the agricultural section was thirty dollars per ton. It is also worthy of record that self-binders were introduced that year for the first time. Two of these were owned by John Ball and R.E. Whitney and two others by parties whose names seem to have escaped record. All were wire binders. The prosperity of the farming class continued right on for the two years following, and in 1882 the price of oats stood again at thirty dollars per ton, only two dollars and a half below the highest San Francisco mark. At the same time there was much competition in the carrying trade, especially between the O.R. & N. steamships and the company centered at Utsalady, the latter employing sailing ships in which they undertook to transport freight for two dollars and a quarter per ton, a price below the cost to the steamships. As a result of this the farmers were making money during those years beyond any previous experience. At this time their timothy hay was selling for twelve dollars a ton.
      But continuous prosperity, to adopt the old Greek superstition, is likely to incur the enmity of the gods and we accordingly find that during the very same year that prices of products were so high and freight charges so low [that] many of the farmers suffered disastrous losses by the great flood of the summer of 1882. The preceding winter and spring had been in a measure an imitation of that of 1880, and a similar summer of sudden heat produced the inevitable catastrophe. E.A. Sisson, to whose diary we are indebted for this and much other valuable matter, has preserved a record of his impression that the damage to the country was greater than in the flood of 1880, although the latter was a greater flood in general. In the vicinity of Sullivan's slough the agricultural district was entirely under water and the crops totally destroyed.
      On the Swinomish the fine farms of Messrs. Lindsey, Armstrong, Polson, Ball, Soderberg and Calhoun were overflowed and crops destroyed, while on the Beaver marsh, five miles from La Conner, the water was higher than ever before known. Mr. Leamer's place was six feet under water and his crop, of course, entirely ruined. The dikes were broken clown in several places, and the country extending from the delta northward toward Padilla presented the appearance of a vast lake. It is estimated in the Northwest Enterprise [in Anacortes] of June 17th that about twenty-five hundred acres of land were inundated and that the loss sustained was not less than a hundred thousand dollars. The upper valley was not especially damaged by this flood, the river being at least two and one-half feet higher in 1879 and 1880.
      The farmers were not the only sufferers from the great flood, for the loggers sustained corresponding losses and the north and south forks of the Skagit river were both choked with drift. The jam on the south fork extended all the way from the sound to Fir, a distance of three miles, not only the main channel but what are known as the Freshwater slough, the Deep slough and the Crooked slough being choked to such a degree as to bar navigation. Steamboat slough, however, was left open, and through that boats continued to pass. As a result of the creation of this great jam a public meeting was held to inaugurate measures for its removal at which Thomas P. Hastie presided. A committee of investigation reported that at least ten thousand dollars would be necessary to perform this work. B.A. Chilberg, J.T. Wilbur, Joseph Wilson and Olof Polson were appointed a committee to solicit subscriptions for this purpose. About twenty-five hundred dollars was subscribed, but after using this sum, dissensions arose in the application of the funds and the prosecution of the work, as a result of which the enterprise was finally abandoned, and the removal of the drift was left to the operations of Nature. Not until the year 1905 did she complete her task of removing the drift, but it gradually disappeared here and there and new channels were formed around it, so that the river is now free to the ingress and egress of vessels of ordinary size.

Logging camps and mills
      Attention has heretofore been devoted to a presentation of the developments in the mining and agricultural interests. We must now place beside those another of even greater magnitude in Skagit county, namely, the lumbering interest, which had been steadily advancing during the years from 1876 onward, though the low price of logs (four dollars a thousand.) during the latter part of the decade of the seventies was somewhat discouraging to the industry. With the opening of the year 1882. however, there was a very marked rise in the price. On March 21st there was not a single log left in the boom at Utsalady and the price offered reached seven dollars per thousand. The increased activity in all lines of enterprise which characterized that year caused an increased demand for building material and the logging business was active throughout the year.
      The following enumeration of logging camps existing in 1882 is derived from the current records of the year: Joel Miller upon the eddy above the present location of the Great Northern bridge; Charles Jackson half a mile above Burlington; Scott Jameson, Birdsview; Day Brothers, at Lyman; J.B. Ball, at Sterling; Clothier & English, at Blarney lake on the Nookachamps; Pippin & Jacobs, above Birdsview; Samish Lumber Company, consisting of Richard Holyoke, John McPherson, Melburn [actually Melbourne] Watkinson, William Tracy and Martin Thorpee at the Samish; Patrick McCoy, Samish; Clothier & English, Samish; Spencer Young, Skagit delta; Millett & McKay, Burlington.
      The last named was one of the most extensive logging companies in the Puget sound basin. This company acquired fourteen hundred acres of land, on which they logged until 1887, filling orders for the Tacoma Mill Company. They got out the first large order given in this county for cedar timber, consisting of six hundred thousand feet of logs at five dollars and a half per thousand. In August 1883, Millett & McKay built the pioneer logging railway [on log poles] in Skagit county at their Burlington camp. This company also introduced the use of donkey engines in handling logs in Skagit county and inaugurated the towing system upon the Skagit river, the first steamer to tow rafts under their orders being the Alki, Captain [M.A.] McCall., which began operations in 1883.

(Shingle bolt sledge)
Loggers chopped up the abundant cedar trees into small-sized wedges called shingle bolts, from which siding and roofing material could be sliced off with a tool called a froe. Here a stack of bolts is being transported, probably to the river, where they will be floated downstream and caught by a boom strung across the water near a mill. Photo courtesy of the book, Skagit Settlers, which has been reprinted and is for sale at the Skagit County Historical Society Museum in LaConner.

      During the months of July, August and September, Inspector McTaggart scaled about fifteen million feet of logs, while there were still awaiting scaling at the close of September fifteen million more. It was estimated that the total output of logs for that year was fifty million, with a value of three hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. The second logging railroad on the Skagit was introduced the succeeding fall by William Gage, a road a mile and a half in length. These roads were built of 3x5 inch maple rails, on which cars were used capable of carrying 8,000 feet of timber, often more. It was found that this system of handling logs constituted a great saving in expense. It is stated that there were in active operation during the year 1882 fifteen logging camps, this enumeration including those given as established during that year, and besides a number of those of preceding years. These camps employ from fifteen to eighteen men each and from ten twenty-five yoke of oxen.
      The lumbering business of Skagit county up to this time had consisted mainly of logging, the logs being taken to the large mills at Tacoma, Seattle and Utsalady for sawing. Minkler.s saw-mill at Birdsview was the first in what is now Skagit county. In 1882 a combined saw and grist mill run by water power from Campbell lake, was established by Frank Benn and Marcus Christianson at Deception Pass and found an immediate demand the products of both grain and lumber.
      A very deplorable accident occurred at Conner on November 23, 1882, by which one of most prominent citizens of the Swinomish slough lost his life. On that day, J.S. Kelly was boarding the steamer from his small boat, intending to go to his home on the slough, when in some manner the small boat was turned about suddenly and thrown against the side of the steamer. Mr. Kelly was precipitated into the water and apparently without a struggle sank to rise no more. Late that evening the body was discovered and conveyed to LaConner, at which place the funeral was h three days later under the auspices of the Masons and the AOUW [Association of United Woodmen]. Mr. Kelly had come to the Swinomish country from Island county in 1876 and had become so respected and useful a member of his new home that his untimely death was a matter of deepest regret to all.
      With the close of the year 1882 was completed another stage in the evolution of the great Skagit country, at that time still a part of Whatcom county, but, as we shall see, destined soon to constitute a new county in itself.


Karl and Minnie von Pressentin
      By 1906, Karl had Americanized his name from the original Germanic spelling to Charles. After immigrating from eastern Germany, the couple and their young children completed the journey west from Manistee, Michigan, in 1877-78, with Karl and his brother scouting out the area first. They chose to settle and build their first home on a claim on the south shore of the Skagit River, almost exactly across the narrow part of the river from the town that would become Birdsview a decade later. See this von Pressentin Portal section with links to the 20-plus stories about them, the most widely profiled family on our site. The couple eventually had five boys and Karl's German educational standards, his clerical experience and his natural affinity towards management led to his being a leader of his neighborhood and a probate judge. Like his next-door neighbor, German Birdsey Minkler, he was rumored to have been groomed for high state office although we have not authenticated the claim. [Return]

Birdsey D. Minkler
      Minkler was born in 1849 to a proud German family who settled in Omro, Wisconsin. His parents traveled west by wagon train in 1852 when he was barely a toddler and his father died of cholera along the way on the route of the Platte River. His mother continued west and married a second time in 1853, settling with her new husband in Nevada City, Nevada, a decision that radically changed the lives of Birdsey and his baby brother. They stayed in Wisconsin and were raised by their traditional grandfather for 19 years.
      As young men, the brothers joined their mother in California when she summoned them in 1871. Birdsey settled near her in the town of Janeville where he married in 1873, while his brother settled 20 miles away in Susanville, where he lived for the rest of his life. Birdsey and his new wife soon moved north to Washington Territory. After logging on the Olympic Peninsula, Birdsey heard about the logging riches of the upper Skagit River and moved there in 1877 while the log jams still blocked the Skagit River. His logging associates, August Kemmerich and John Grandy, soon followed him and in 1878 Minkler built the first mill on the Skagit River on the south shore along Mill Creek. Over the years, Minkler became a central figure in both the towns of Birdsview and later in Lyman in the 1880s. The house that he built for his family in Lyman in 1891 eventually became known as the Minkler Mansion and is in the process of being converted into the municipal headquarters. You can read the exclusive two-part Journal biography of Minkler and his family and their mills and businesses in Lyman and the town of Minkler on the lake west of town. You can also read there the details of how the Upper Skagit Indians ultimately won their suit against Minkler over the land on the north shore near the town of Birdsview. [Return]

August Kemmerich
      After joining Minkler at the future site of Birdsview in 1878, August Kemmerich chose to stake a preemption claim on the flats of the north shore of the Skagit River, just east of the present Rasar Park. He was also a German immigrant who arrived in the Skagit Valley via Iowa. Kemmerich actually named the town for Minkler and Birdsey became the first postmaster on Oct. 6, 1881. Even though Kemmerich was a coal miner back home in Germany, neither he nor Minkler showed much interest in the boom cycles for various minerals. In 1882, Kemmerich traveled back to Chicago and married German immigrant Barbara Hommerding in Chicago. Joe Kemmerich, their son, managed for years the fish hatchery on the north shore that was located on Minkler's original land where the Indians disputed ownership. Read the Journal profile of Kemmerich. [Return]

David Batey, Georgiana Batey, Joseph Hart
      Read about the 1878 British bachelors at this Journal website. Batey's wife was the first licensed doctor in northwestern Washington, having received her medical training in Iowa. [Return]

Emmett and Eliza Van Fleet
      See this Journal portal website for an introduction to the Van Fleet family and links to all stories about them. They moved west from Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, to the Skagit River in 1880 and settled on a preemption claim north of the Skagit in the area that became known as Skiyou. [Return]

Samuel S. Tingley
      Tingley came to the Puget Sound in the late 1850s on a revenue cutter, all the way around Cape Horn from the Aroostook River region of Maine, the same home country as Amasa "Pegleg" Everett. He returned to Maine to volunteer for service in the Civil War and after he mustered out, he traveled to Washington again in style on a steamboat that Asa Mercer of Seattle chartered for the "Mercer Girls" who came west from Massachusetts to find jobs and husbands. They married and lived near the North Fork of the Skagit on Fir Island, where Maria gave birth to the first white settler child in the Skagit Valley. After he worked as a timber cruiser and boatbuilder and they lived in Mount Vernon and then moved to what is now Day Creek, Tingley became one of the most important pioneers on the south shore of the Skagit. Read our exclusive Journal profile of Samuel and his family. [Return]

G. Morris Haller
      Haller was an early lawyer in northwestern Washington Terriotry and was the son of Col. Granville O. Haller, one of the most famous military men of the region. The son was an early law partner with Judge Thomas Burke, the organizer behind the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad. He had a very bright future but accidentally drowned along with one of Seattle's most popular mayors, Dr. Thomas T. Minor, and Haller's brother-in-law Lewis Cox, while they were hunting in canoes on Saratoga Passage near Whidbey Island on Dec. 2, 1889. [Return]

Jesse B. Ball
      Ball was one of the most successful early logging-camp owners on the Skagit River, moving here in about 1878 after logging in the Steilacoom region at the southern end of Puget Sound. He set up a sternwheeler landing on the Skagit, about two miles west of future-Sedro and then added a trading post and bunkhouses for a growing number of loggers. After an education at a girl's school, his daughter Emma joined him and soon married a logger named Albion Welch. Sometime after 1880, Ball changed the small community's name to Sterling. A widow, Ball married a second time to Caroline Lisk, an Indian woman from the South Fork area of the river. After selling his camp, they moved to Mount Vernon, where he invested in a general store called Ball & Ledger along with the Ball & Ledger Addition to Mount Vernon, north of what is now Division Street. Read our Journal feature about Ball and the birth of Sterling. [Return]

A.R. Williamson
      Williamson was a Pennsylvania native who moved west in the 1850s and hired out to Ezra Meeker's family to farm near Puyallup and pick hops, a crop that was becoming an economic staple in the new territory. In 1872, Williamson struck out on his own and discovered a patch of land on the north shore of the Skagit River that was ideal for hop cultivation, just a mile west of future-Lyman. A pass through the hills north of his new farm allowed migrant Indian laborers to travel down from British Columbia and the Nooksack River channels. He farmed there until the late 1870s when he became ill and then leased out his hop yards to others in the county who recognized their profitability. For more information, read the Journal feature on the "Origins of Lyman". [Return]

Rienzi E. Whitney
      Whitney came west in August 1872 from Pennsylvania and was soon joined by cousins A.G. Tillinghast and Edgar A. Sisson on Padilla Bay that December. They soon began reclaiming the saltwater-soaked marshes of Padilla and eventually constructed dikes around more than 250 acres along Indian Slough. In 1874 he was elected to the territorial legislature and in 1876 he moved his wife and children to Colton, California, because of respiratory illnesses and his wife and youngest child died there. He very soon returned to Puget Sound and bought out his cousins, whereupon he diked two hundred and fifty acres in addition to the original holding of the partnership on Indian slough and connecting the two properties by private roadway and drawbridge three hundred feet in length. In 1882, he founded the town of Padilla, in favor of the bay that was named in 1791 for a Mexican viceroy when Spanish were exploring the area. In 1888 he purchased 700 acres of land on the bay that he soon named Whitney island. In 1880 he married Kate Bradley and later in the decade they moved to the area just south of the new town of Anacortes where Rienzi boomed real estate. The Seattle & Northern railroad came through the old ranch in 1890 and the depot just east of there was named for Whitney. In August 1891.he was driving in his buggy when the horses reared and he was thrown from the vehicle, receiving fatal wounds. He was 51 and left his widow with seven children. [Return]

Thomas P. Hastie
      Born in England in 1835, Hastie had one of the most exciting childhoods of any Skagit pioneer. After the family emigrated to the U.S., they farmed in Illinois until 1850, when they bought a covered wagon and started west from Council Bluffs, Iowa. On the way to Oregon Territory, he ran footraces with Indians to escape and the family averted disaster when Indians stole their oxen. After a short time at the Willamette River, the family wound up at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island in 1853, the year that Washington became a territory and cut spar trees for sailing ships while also working at the mill on nearby Utsalady, Camano Island. Hastie proved up on a claim on Fir Island in 1872 and became one of the most respected farmers in the area. Read more about the family and their adventures at this Journal website. [Return]

Capt. M.A. McCall
      McCall, pioneer from 1878, later built the first brick business building in old Mount Vernon in the summer of 1889. [Return]

Return to Part One of Chapter 1, Skagit Section
      Part one includes: Skagit Valley in the grip of the 1873 Depression; First major flood, 1875; Coal mines; Prices in 1876; Pioneers clear the log jams at Mount Vernon by hand; Sincere thanks but little compensation for the jam heroes; Early farmers on the flats produce record yields; Upriver coal mines; Gold excitement 1877-80; Logging and the Nookachamps.

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Story posted on Jan. 31, 2009 (in a truncated form in Issue 11 on Nov. 23, 2002)
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