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Skagit River Journal

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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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Seneca Garnet Ketchum,
Ontario native — feisty early editor in Woolley

By Noel V. Bourasaw, humble ink-stained wretch, ©2006
(Metcalf Street)
      This 1907 photo is of a slightly later scene but this is how Metcalf Street looked while Seneca G. Ketchum lived and edited here. We are looking south, with the large Osterman House Hotel and Donnelly's Building dominating the left (east) and Morris Schneider's building on the west. The Grand Central Hotel is at the southern end where Metcalf dead-ended up against State Street. Photo courtesy of Mike Aiken postcard collection. We are sadly lacking a photo of Seneca or anyone in his family and we hope a reader can supply one. We also hope that readers will supply copies of any of the Skagit County Times issues that Seneca edited from 1898-1901.

Sedro-Woolley obituary
      Seneca Garnet Ketchum, formerly editor of the Times and widely known as a printer and journalist, died at his home in this city, of cancer of the stomach, on Thursday evening, Aug. 20, 1903, at the age of 39 years.
      Mr. Ketchum was a man of much ability and had he been true to himself might have attained some eminence in the literary world. He was his worst enemy, and his sins against himself were responsible for his early demise. Six feet of earth, however, make us all of one size. Let us forget his faults and remember only his redeeming qualities. He was born, we believe, in Dumfries county [actually Dufferin], Ontario, Canada, and commenced his journalistic career in that country at an early age. At various times during his life he was identified with some of the most prominent newspapers in Canada and on the Pacific coast.
      Under his administration the Times became one of the most popular country newspapers in western Washington. His literary productions were principally in a humorous or satirical vein, but not always.

Part 1 is pre-Northwest . . . Jump to Washington & British Columbia period

Seneca G. Ketchum, Part One of Two
      The brief quote above was the obituary and requiem for editor Ketchum that was published in his former newspaper, which was launched in old Woolley on Jan. 24, 1891. We are very fortunate that historian Deanna Ammons obtained that particular issue of the Skagit County Times from an anonymous source, since that volume and most of the volumes before and after for a 20-year period burned up in various early fires. Because of our sketchy records, we know only that he owned the newspaper from sometime in 1898-99 to sometime in 1901 and possibly sold his interest because of the ailment that finally felled him.
      Seneca Garnet Ketchum (possibly two "Ts" in middle name) was arguably the feistiest and maybe the most famous editor in the early days of Skagit County. Although he became most famous in the Northwest as a "Tramp Printer," who rode the rails from city to city and performed his own poetry for rounds of beer from his printer brethren, he was born to a deeply religious Anglican and Presbyterian family in Canada, after his ancestors emigrated to Ontario from Spencertown, New York, at the turn of the 19th Century. Trained as a printer in his teens, he moved to Washington Territory in 1888, where he became an itinerant traveler and newspaperman, flitting back and forth from Fairhaven to Olympia and Tacoma, and from Spokane to Nelson, B.C., where he was also the temporary police chief in the rowdy early days of that town.
      He was described variously as being colorful, tending to exaggerate, and adjectives abounded, such as creative, incisive, boosterish, garrulous, loquacious and some that we probably cannot print. We have found zero evidence that he followed in the path of his pious, teetotaling ancestors; in fact, he tended towards the opposite. But he did strike up a friendship with Sedro-Woolley's famous and very pious photographer, Darius Kinsey, as the segment we share below illustrates. With the help of an ace researcher, Greg Nesteroff, of Castlegar, British Columbia, we have filled in some of the large gaps in Ketchum's profile, especially the details of his day-to-day life, his marriage and the sorrow of his nuclear family after he and his wife, Naomi Kline (sometimes spelled Cline) Ketchum, lost their infant son just three years before Seneca's death. Sadly, we have not connected with his Toronto family nor do we gave have a photo of him or his family. His only surviving child, a son, died in Everett and had no children so we have no descendants to check with, but we are still pursuing descendants of his large family, which descended from a very early 17th-century English immigrant. We will paint the picture below as we have it at this point. Study of Ketchum's genealogy and his family's role in helping settle the Canadian metropolis of Toronto will be most interesting to those who want to learn about how English-immigrant families moved back and across the international border in the early 19th Century. There are parallels with the Jotham W. Goodell family.

English immigrant ancestors
      The given name Seneca recurs often in descending generations of this family, and a family genealogist attributes that name to an ancestor's connection with the town of Seneca Falls, New York. We have not found substantiation for that, so perhaps the name was derived from the First Century Roman stoic philosopher and writer Lucius Annaeus Seneca "The Younger." Many pioneer families in the early centuries of our Republic followed a naming convention, whereby they added status to the male heirs, with a classic name.
      After more than ten years of largely fruitless genealogical research, we were recently rewarded by connecting with John Marshall Ketcham, who has assembled a central website that details the descendants of 13 generations of the family. He notes that his work is the result of research and family trees by dozens of family members. By way of introduction, he explains:

      Ketcham genealogies give various accounts of the origin of the name "Ketcham," which is English. While they vary, they all agree that of the four typical origins of names (patronymic, occupational, nickname, and place name), "Ketcham" was derived from a place name. The ending "-ham" is a typical English village name, and "Ketcham" is most likely derived from the borough Chatham in Kent. Perhaps not coincidentally, 60% of the Puritan immigrants to Massachusetts were from the "Eastern Association" — Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, plus parts of Bedfordshire and Kent (Fischer 1989, 31)
(St. James church)
The original St. James church, from church website

      By consensus, most family researchers agree that Edward Ketcham (1590s, England-June 8, 1655, Stratford, Conn.), was the probable progenitor of all Ketchams and Ketchams in America. He may have arrived in 1630 on the Winthrop fleet or in 1633 on the British ship Ipswich. By 1637 Edward was reportedly on the Board of Freemen, the town council of the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, on the river Ipswich, within miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
      By the late 18th Century Seneca's line had changed the surname spelling to Ketchum. Our patriarch Jesse Ketchum II (1782-1867) lived in Columbia County, New York State, due north of New York City and near the Massachusetts border. He was the fifth child of Jesse and Mollie (Robbins) Ketcham or Ketchum (her given name was also variously recorded as Molly or Mary). The given name Jesse has also continued down through five generations into the 20th Century. Jesse the elder may have changed the surname spelling. He was initially listed during the Revolutionary War with the 9th Regiment of Albany County Militia as Ketcham but towards the end of the war, the spelling became Ketchum and continued thus.
      Mollie Ketchum died when Jesse II was age six and he was taken in by foster parents. His foster father was a tanner and the skills that Jesse learned in the family factory led to his eventual wealth in that business. Like many other children of the day, he was forced to work in the family tannery and he felt frustrated about not being able to pursue an education, so he ran away from home at age 14. In fact, he walked across New York State to Oswego, where he took a boat to Kingston, Ontario, where his older brother Seneca, the first born of the family, had become an Anglican lay preacher and founded an Anglican church along the Cataraqui River. Fidelia Ketchum Harris, Jesse II's daughter, noted in the family bible that "Seneca's main reason for migrating to Canada was to associate himself with the Church of England as a missionary. There were no Episcopal theological seminaries in the United States at the time, where the religion was predominantly Congregational." Seneca had moved to Upper Canada as early as 1790 with a second cousin and other lay preachers and missionaries. They moved on with the rector to the town of York where they became charter members of the St. James Anglican church, the only church in York during the early decades.

(York Anglican Church)
Original York Anglican Church, from church website

      Reviewing Canadian history briefly, Toronto was then called York, with a population of 150, mainly loyalists who had left their homes in the Colonies after the American Revolution in order to retain their allegiance to the Crown. The Parliament of Great Britain created the political entity of Upper Canada on December 26, 1791. That act split the former colonial Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada so that Loyalist American settlers and British immigrants in Upper Canada could have British laws and institutions, and so the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain French civil law and the Catholic religion. On Feb. 1, 1796, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe moved the capital of Upper Canada from Newark, now Niagara-on-the-Lake, to Toronto, which he renamed York. The town was then smaller than Kingston and it was on the old Indian portage trail between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron.
      Some profiles place Jesse II and Seneca in a boarding house on Yonge Street in the district called York Mills in 1796. In 1800 the Ketchum sons were reunited with their father, Jesse the elder, who brought two other children, Zebulon and Polly, with him. The family established a tannery, a shoemaking business and a store where they sold hides, beef and hay. After investing in farmland around the town, Seneca experienced a setback. Biographer John Webster Grant wrote "Whether through the burden of settling the family or — according to one story — an unsuccessful drawing of lots with Jesse for the hand of their attractive young housekeeper, Ann Love, Ketchum suffered a mental breakdown in 1803. Despite this setback, he was active before long in the educational and religious affairs of the community.

Jesse II launches business
      Jesse II apparently drew the winning lot because in 1804 he married Ann Love, then 18 and a widow who had a young daughter. They settled in Richmond Hill, a nearby neighborhood on Yonge Street. Sometime in the next few years, Seneca married Sarah Ann Mercer, the daughter of one of the old families of York Mills. His missionary calling took him all over Upper Canada. Jesse's life took a turn when forces from the United States attacked Upper Canada during the War of 1812. When an American loyalist chose to return to the United States to enlist, Jesse II purchased the departing man's tannery and he proved to be a shrewd businessman, profiting greatly from supplying the troops during wartime. At the beginning of the war, Ketchum joined a regiment of York militia, and was among those paroled after the capitulation of York when the Americans sacked and burned the city in 1813. His loyalty came under suspicion during the brief American occupation and Upper Canada Attorney General John Beverley Robinson considered arresting him but no arrest occurred. The episode likely had a lasting effect upon Jesse II, however, and his politics.
      After the war, Jesse II invested his profits in town property in York, and also bought and sold farms in the county of York. When the Common Schools Act was passed in 1816 without funds for buildings, Jesse II subscribed to the building fund of the first common school in York. A pious Methodist by choice, he gifted land and money for Methodist chapel in 1818. Because his wife was a devout Presbyterian, in 1920 he donated both land and funds for the Knox Presbyterian Church, which opened in 1822. In 1829, their fourth-born, Fidelia, married the pastor who emigrated from Ireland to preach there.

Orangeville, where Seneca Garrett was born
Orangeville church, from church website

      The family's association with Orangeville, which is located 40 miles northwest of Toronto and 100 miles northwest of Buffalo, began in 1830 with the Anglican church's assignment of Seneca to Mono Township in Dufferin County, where Orangeville was a mere crossing in the road at the southern border. Over the next few years, he helped found six Anglican churches in the township including a humble wood structure called St. Mark's outside of Orangeville in 1837, with his brother's help. Seneca began investing in large tracts of land in the township back in the 1820s and in 1845 he and Ann deeded 300 acres to the Anglican Diocese of Toronto (300 acres, to be exact). From our original research, we inferred that Jesse II lived in Orangeville, but then we heard from Steve Brown at the Dufferin Museum who informed us that Jesse II did not actually reside there. He was instead a benefactor to the town along with his brother Seneca. Jesse III, — the seventh and last child by Jesse II's first wife, was born on May 26, 1820, while they lived in Toronto and son Jesse stayed in Orangeville after his father moved back to the United States.
      The Anglican church was the basis for some friction between the brothers, however, when Jesse II reacted against dictums by John Strachan, an official of the Anglicans, by joining with the Radical Party. Jesse II was elected to the upper house of the Upper Canada legislature for terms from 1828-34, but he had resigned before the Rebellion of 1837 when The principal cause of the rebellion was objections from the middle class to large of tracts set aside as crown reserves. Part of this land was called the Family Compact, tracts set aside for protestant clergy, which was interpreted as meaning only Anglican. The British Parliament feared that the American transplants would encourage democracy such as was established south of the border. In 1831, Jesse II and others drew up a petition signed by the "Friends of Religious Liberty" that asked the imperial parliament to place all denominations on a footing of equality and to appropriate the clergy reserves to general education and public works.
      William Lyons Mackenzie, one of the radical reformers, gained the support of farmers in 1836 after a bad harvest led to tight credit and recalled loans. Matters came to a head when the rebels led an armed march down Yonge Street on Dec. 4, 1837. A battle broke out between Mackenzie's forces and British military, resulting in casualties on both sides, and Mackenzie and some of his followers fled to Navy Island on the Niagara River where they declared themselves the Republic of Canada. Mackenzie later fled to the U.S., where he was arrested. Jesse II chose not to march, but the rebellion spelled the end to his exalted stature in Canada. No matter how many public works he had funded or the good work he had done for the church, he was suspected of being sympathetic to the Republicans. More specifically, his son William by his first wife, Ann Love, was targeted.
      Ann Love Ketchum died in 1833 and Jesse II went to Buffalo, New York, to get away for awhile. While there, he saw that he could establish a tannery business there, and he also saw Mary Ann Rubergall, whom he married in 1834. They returned to Toronto but when William was targeted for arrest after the Rebellion, Jesse II decided to move his tannery business to Buffalo. Buffalo provided more prospects for growth and the land of the Toronto tannery site had grown too valuable for the business as Toronto grew rapidly and land suitable for homes and apartments also rapidly appreciated. For the next 11 years he commuted back and forth between his businesses in Ontario, which was formed as a province in 1841, and Buffalo, but he moved permanently to Buffalo in 1845. Jesse II invested his profits from the Buffalo tannery in farm lands around Buffalo and real estate around Toronto, and it was real estate that required his presence there. In 1845, however, he decided to turn over his property in Toronto to the children of his first marriage, including Jesse Ketchum III.

Jesse Ketchum III, Seneca Garrett's father
      Our records for Jesse Ketchum III are much more spotty, possibly because he grew up in the shadow of his famous father. He was born May 26, 1820, presumably in Toronto, which reverted to that original name in 1834. When his father moved to Buffalo, he and Mary took the younger children by the second marriage with them. We wish we knew when Jesse III established himself in Mono Township, but we know that he lived there by 1851 or maybe even before, possibly at his father's second home in the country. We place him there because we know that all 13 of his 15 children by two wives were born at Orangeville, and his third child by Elizabeth Wilson (of Rochester, New York) was Catherine Ketchum, born in Orangeville on an unknown date in 1851. Elizabeth died in Orangeville in 1855, after losing two of their five children as infants. Sometime in the next year or so, Jesse III married Mary Colvin, an Irish immigrant.
      The infant village of Orangeville grew very slowly until one of the early settlers, Orange Lawrence, commissioned a plat in 1851 that comprised the south side of the present town, where the business revolved around his tavern and store and then a pair of flour mills owned by his brothers-in-law. From various land records, we infer that Jesse III administered his father's land there and obtained tracts of his own. For instance, in July 1856, Jesse III laid out lots and wide streets that today comprise the north side of Orangeville. Just three years earlier, Seneca Ketchum's original church outside of town was replaced by a larger stone church on land donated by the Jesses. Maybe Jesse III had New York City in mind because he called the main street in his part of town Broadway, where he planted many shade trees that still stand there today. The area was rural and visitors today notice the "Bank barns," built in such a way that wagons, and later tractors, could pull hay wagons right into the top story of the barn and the animals could be housed downstairs where they stay warm beneath the insulation. Jesse III's uncle Seneca died in Orangeville on June 2, 1850, at age 78, without any children, so perhaps Jesse III administered Seneca's land parcels, too. Jesse II died in Buffalo in 1867.
      One of Jesse III's personal projects was a fascinating little ghost town near Orangeville that he called Melville Cross. About the same time that he promoted northern Orangeville, Jesse III surveyed Melville as a site for a town, partly because the north branch of the Credit River ran through the village. He hypothesized that if the river was dammed, businesses would flock there, and he was proven correct an oatmeal mill and sawmill were built and operated. He was also proven prescient when two railroads crossed there in 1871, making the site even more strategically valuable. In the 1930s a writer toured Melville and reported that the population was about 1/3 of what it was 70 years earlier and the writer could find no trace of the mills, which had been abandoned long before. Nowadays it is still a fond memory to old timers in Mono Township, much as towns like Van Zandt and Clipper are in Skagit County today.
      Our Seneca Garrett Ketchum was born in Orangeville in 1863, the same year that Orangeville was incorporated, and he was Jesse's 10th child, the fifth by Mary. When Seneca was ten, Orangeville attained town status in 1873 and the first Town Council was elected in January 1874, immediately naming Jesse Ketchum III as Mayor, but he retired in favor of Maitland McCarthy, who had been Reeve for the village for several years. He may have eschewed the mayor's office because of illness because we know that he died in Orangeville on an unknown date that year. Land records show that Jesse III owned several homes and farms and collected rents from them all around the town and township. Steve Brown reports that Jesse III's stone reads: "By whose liberality and foresight Orangeville was greatly benefited."
      Up until 1881, Orangeville was located in the southern part of Simcoe County, but parts of three contiguous counties were combined in 1882 to form Dufferin County, the youngest county in Ontario. Back in 1861 the merchants and professional men of Orangeville became increasingly frustrated about having to travel many miles to the three county seats for matters relating to taxes, assessments and court proceedings. Orange Lawrence became ill that year and Jesse Ketchum III became the town leader in the movement for a new county, which took 20 years to come to fruition. Our first record, so far, of Seneca Garrett Ketchum in Ontario is from the 1881 Canada federal census. At that time, he was listed as living with his mother, Mary, in Orangeville, at age 17 and he was a printer by trade, the first one in his family that we know of to have followed that trade. Family genealogical records note that his childhood nickname was Heck.
      The only other record we have found is from the 1931 obituary of Blayney McGuire, who founded in 1893 the Orangeville Banner newspaper, which still publishes today. Born in Orangeville three years before Seneca Garrett Ketchum was, McGuire joined Seneca in an unnoted year, probably 1886, as a partner to buy the former Orangeville Gazette newspaper and changed the name to the Dufferin Post, in honor of the new county. They published the Post for 14 months and then sold it to another owner.

      Continue on to — Seneca G. Ketchum Biography Part Two. Feisty pioneer 1899 Sedro-Woolley newspaper editor in his years after arriving in Fairhaven, Washington; editing in Olympia and Tacoma, his adventures in Nelson, B.C. and Spokane, and his publishing years in newly merged Sedro-Woolley.

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