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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
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Seneca Garrett Ketchum, tramp printer and editor
and his alter ego, Wandering Willie Waterhouse

Part Two of Two
Seneca G. Ketchum resurfaces in Fairhaven, Washington Territory, 1888
(Nelson map)
The Nelson, B.C., area where Ketchum lived

      The next records we found for Seneca Garrett Ketchum are from 1889 when he was employed in Fairhaven, now south Bellingham, Washington, by the Plaindealer weekly newspaper, which was launched on the Fourth of July that year, during the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad boom days. We have not found any record where he explained when and why he moved to Washington Territory, but we have a few hints. His widowed mother, Mary Colvin Ketchum, died at Orangeville on Nov. 1, 1887, so he may have lit out for the territory, as Mark Twain would have said, soon thereafter. We also know from the family genealogy records that his older sister, Mary Elizabeth, who was born in 1852 as the fourth child in the family, married Thomas Stevenson and moved to Vancouver, B.C., in an unknown year, dying there in 1926. Amelia Reid "Minnie" Ketchum, born 1861 as the ninth child and Seneca's immediate oldest sibling, married John Clarke and also moved to Vancouver, B.C., where she died in November 1930. We think it is safe to propose that Seneca came out to visit and liked what he saw.
      A brief timeline may be in order to help the reader follow Ketchum's itinerary over the next 15 years. Although it is still sketchy at some points, we have assembled this record with the help of Greg Nesteroff:

      E. Rosamonde Ellis Van Miert has spent hundreds of hours researching Fairhaven and Whatcom county documents and articles in preparation of her limited-printing explorations of Whatcom history. In her book, Fairhaven Hotel Journal, 1889-1956, which is based partly on the research of Galen Biery and Gordy Tweit, she employs the composite image of a narrator who relates items from the hotel register and form period newspapers and books. From that book we learned that Seneca showed up in Fairhaven in October 1888, almost exactly the time that railroad promoter Nelson Bennett bought Dan Harris's Fairhaven land holdings and formed the Fairhaven Land Company.
      Ketchum could not have arrived at a more propitious time for a young man with a good mind and the desire to have fun while making money off a well trained skill. Here are a few excerpts from when Van Miert's narrator recorded notes of a tour that Seneca might have hosted. Note that they traveled from Fairhaven to the old town of Whatcom. That is because the roads then were primitive to say the least and there was a big hill, Sehome, between the two towns. A boat was easier, quicker and the sights of Puget Sound and Bellingham Bay were quite pleasant along the way. Van Miert's narrator starts by donning his boots, a literal necessity for travelers between the towns because they — like newcomers, often had to slog through the mud of the tide flats when boarding or exiting a boat.

      Boots on — the job search begins. Slopping back toward ocean dock, I am hailed by S.G. Ketchum, S for Seneca (G for Galen, he says, but I think it's for Garrulous), a man with classical roots, now a journalist for the Plaindealer. Within five minutes we're firm friends, boarding the Mikado for the Broadway dock over in Bellingham and a certain tavern, Fairhaven being deficient in such establishments at present. [Footnote 130 cites History of Whatcom County, Lottie Roeder Roth, 1929, page 320: "With saloons at Sehome and Whatcom, Fairhaven received all the ill-effects of the liquor traffic without any of its compensations in the way of business or license fees and by August (1889), Mr. Bennett was forced to recede from his advanced position and the first saloon was established at Fairhaven."]
      Conveniently located near the dock on Front street, the saloon proclaims itself "Bellingham Saloon, T.E. Monohan, proprietor. Wines, Liquors and Cigars. Straight Kentucky Whisky [Footnote 131: quoted from The Reveille, June 7, 1889]. Not averse to that, we enter to be immediately assailed by strange smells, sounds and sights.
      The brass rod around the bar was . . . a greenish-black, and there came from it an unpleasant odor of verdigris [the river that flows south into the Arkansas River and the smells thereof]. The walls were fairly coated with dust, smoke and fly-specks, and the windows let in the light but feebly through dust-obscured glass. The floor was filthy. Behind the bar, on the shelves designed for a display of liquor, was a confused mingling of empty or half-filled decanters, cigar boxes, lemons and lemon peel, old newspapers, glasses, a broken pitcher, a hat, a soiled vest, and a pair of blacking-brushes, with other incongruous things . . . The air in the room was loaded with offensive vapors . . . Pictures, too, were hung upon the walls, or more accurately [p. 31] speaking, coarse colored lithographs, the subjects of which, if not really obscene, were flashing or vulgar. [Footnote 132, noting this description was actually derived from a book by T.S. Arthur, Ten Nights in a Barroom]
      The sounds of laughter, clinking glasses and the sweet smell of straight Kentucky Whisky lure us to a dark corner where my garrulous friend, a Bellingham Bay resident since last October, begins his monologue
      Jobs? Plenty! Capitalist or speculator? Neither — no money. No matter! Bennett says he needs "Merchants and Professional Men! Mechanics and Laborers. Sell lots for Mrs. Peck over in Sehome. Since last June she's been advertising on the front pages of the Reveille Boom! Boom!! Boom!!! Buy a few lots, the best at $175 to $250 — price will double by December. Buy more, you'll be rich. Why a $25 lot in Tacoma ten years ago is worth $4,000 now! Mr. P.J. Hennelly has made over $50,000 in the last three months selling land in Whatcom. He sold just one of twenty fine lots in Fairhaven and is setting up the finest real estate office on the sound." [Footnote 133: the Reveille; Journal ed. note: Hennelly was a San Francisco capitalist who platted subdivisions in Fairhaven built a mansion that was reported to have cost with $32,000, with furnishings, and burned in 1895].
      "By December we'll have at least 20 real estate offices right here in Fairhaven [Footnote 134: tabulated from Speirs and Anderson 1889 Directory of Fairhaven]. Good jobs. Fast money. Harder work with oxen for Bennett pulling stumps, logging on the railroad at $2.25 a day. Go over to Happy Valley — the brickyard's heating up. 15 hands are already working overtime."

      Aside from his bylined articles in the Plaindealer, we know very little about Seneca's stint in Fairhaven, other than the fact that he tippled often and had a grand time while the boom lasted, which may have led to his gastric illness in 1901 and his death two years later. Col. Jay B. Edwards, publisher of the Plaindealer, sold the newspaper on Sept. 1, 1890, to G.H. Culver and E.G. Earle, who renamed it The World. They later renamed it the Weekly World-Herald, when they combined with the afternoon daily, Fairhaven Herald, which launched on March 11, 1890, and eventually became the Bellingham Herald, which is still published today.

Editing in Olympia and Tacoma and Wandering Willie Waterhouse
      When we first researched Ketchum's life, we were faced with a six-year gap between 1890 and 1896, but we have filled part of that in. Once again, Ketchum's story becomes like a picture jigsaw-puzzle and we have to find out how the pieces fit. On Jan. 11, 1899, the Morning Olympian reported: "Among the arrivals of note yesterday was Seneca G. Ketchum, editor of the Sedro-Wooley (not wild and wooly) [sic] Times. Seneca is well known in Olympia and has many friends here. He was the first city editor of the Olympian, and is a bard of no mean proportions. Many will recall his famous epic, Wandering Willie Waterhouse, which went the rounds of the press a few years ago, and which made its author famous." In the Dec. 21, 1902, issue of the same newspaper, we found: "Seneca G. Ketchum, of Sedro-Woolley, newspaper man and politician, formerly a resident of this city and editor of the Olympian in its infancy, was in the city yesterday to secure quarters during the legislative session.".
      Of course neither story mentioned a date, so we have to go back and look at the history of the Olympian itself, one of the few newspapers out of 68 over the first half century that actually lived, although it tried to die. We will write a more complete history of the capital's newspapers some day, but this will be a brief overview. Just seven years after Washington became a territory in 1853, and eight years after a cannon salute greeted the first newspaper, the Columbian, in the state capital of Olympia, John Miller Murphy launched there The Washington Standard, with Democratic Party politics, on Nov. 17, 1860.
      Starting in 1871, Murphy took on as a partner, Clarence Bagley, who moved his Puget Sound Courier over from Port Townsend and the two launched the Daily Olympian, in conjunction with the Standard. Murphy soon argued politics with the staunch-Republican Bagley family and the two parted ways in 1874. The Olympian went out of business and Bagley became the Public or Territorial Printer. The paper was reborn as the Evening Olympian on Feb. 16, 1889, when Murphy needed a daily newspaper with which to lobby the territorial Legislature to name Olympia as the new state-capital instead of its rivals, Vancouver, Walla Walla and Seattle. Murphy's crusade was successful, but after Washington was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state on Nov. 11, 1889, the Olympian stopped printing.
      Was Ketchum the first city editor of that second version of the Olympia? That is doubtful because he was still writing for the Fairhaven Plaindealer at that time. We conclude that the more likely year of Ketchum moving to Olympia is 1891. An unnamed group of printers launched the Morning Olympian — version three — on March 15, 1891, and that line has continued through until today. Nesteroff's discoveries seem to indicate that Ketchum stayed there for two years, about the period he usually liked. Murphy regained interest in the paper during the Depression of the 1890s.
      The other discovered articles place him in an unnamed newspaper job in Tacoma in 1893 and for an undetermined period. The Tacoma Daily News reported on Nov. 15, 1898: "The two enterprising towns of Sedro and Wooley [sic] in Skagit county, are likely to be consolidated soon. The Skagit County Times, published at Sedro, is edited by Seneca G. Ketchum, formerly of Tacoma." The same newspaper reported on Dec. 12, 1898, about Ketchum's stay at the Donnelly Hotel: "Seneca Geronimo Ketchum, a well known northwestern newspaper writer, an accomplished wit and poet, and at present editor and cordwood collector for the Sedro-Woolley Times, was a visitor in the city yesterday. Five years ago Editor Ketchum was engaged in newspaper work in Tacoma."
      While editing in Olympia, Ketchum became most famous in his fraternity of printers and in the newspaper world for recounting the adventures of the character of Wandering Willie Waterhouse from Walla Walla, Wash. He did create the character, however; that honor went to Bill Lunsford, who lived to the relatively ripe old age of 73 in Houston in 1943. When he passed on, the Dallas Morning News noted his Waterhouse character and the fact that Lunsford set his first "stick" of type at age 13, probably before he rode the rails to the Northwest.
      Thus, Seneca did not invent Willie, but rather, he put flesh and bones on him. He was Hal Holbrook for Mark Twain or James Whitmore playing "Give 'em Hell, Harry" Truman. His Willie poem became legend. The first stanza started as:

Wandering Willie Waterhouse of Walla Walla, Wash,
      A peregrinating printer and a good fellow, too, b'gosh
Came recently from Texas to Seattle on the Sound
      To rubberneck and chew the rag, for which he is renowned.

You can read the complete poem and read the context of those times for tramp printers at our Journal website, which is a reprint of F.J. Smyth's April 7, 1928, Spokane Spokesman-Review article about old-time Northwest printers. Smyth explained that printers were usually beer rustlers:
      It will be noticed in the above "pome" that "Wandering Willie's chief aim in life was to rustle beer. In the days of which I write, that seemed to be the chief pursuit of almost every printer. The annual brewers' picnic at [Spokane's] Natatorium Park was more eagerly looked forward to than Christmas.
      Although he did not achieve the national stage that his contemporary Northwest editor, Col. William Lightfoot Visscher did, Ketchum built up a repertoire of characters and the saloon performances that Seneca gave with one foot parked on a barstool built him into a star.

Seneca joins the boom around Nelson, B.C., and the Houston era
(John Houston)
John Houston

      We could not find many records of Ketchum in the mid-1890s until about 1896 when he appeared back in Canada, but not in his home, Ontario. Rather, an account of him surfaced in an undated 1970s article in the Trail Daily Times, in which Elsie Turnbull described Seneca as one of the "itinerant newspapermen who followed miners." Nelson was born a mining town, about 280 miles as the crow flies east of Vancouver, and the biggest town between the coastal town and Winnipeg, Manitoba, with a population that grew to more than 5,000 at the turn of the 20th century. As we noted before, we are indebted to Greg Nesteroff, a regional researcher and historian who lives near Nelson in Castlegar. Greg spent a great deal of time perusing old newspapers for details of Seneca's brief but amusing record there as journalist, bon vivant and even temporarily the police chief. The first detailed reference that we found to Seneca in Nelson was in Fred J. Smyth's 1928 article referenced above and in his book, Tales of the Kootenays (1938, reprinted 1942, 1977):
      Upon my arrival in Nelson in the fall of 1896, I was greeted by Seneca G. Ketchum, who was [later] chief of police under John Houston, the city's first mayor. Ketchum was a printer by trade as well as Houston, and both had been what is known as "tourist printers," who rode in boxcars, on the blind baggage or on the rods going from town to town, picking up a few days' work and moving on. I had known Ketchum down in Pullman, where I started to learn my trade. The mayor and his chief of police had much in common — sometimes the chief of police took the mayor home, and then again some times the mayor took the chief of police home, a most fraternal arrangement, as it were.
(Mining Cabin)
Mining cabin in the Kootenays

      Smyth wrote for the nearby Slocan City News during the paper's short life from 1896-98. We know from other records that he was wrong by a year regarding Seneca's brief tenure as chief of police, but his other description of Seneca as a tourist printer gives some hints as to what he may have done in the gap period that we have not yet filled, and it tells us that he spent part of that period in Pullman, Washington, the home of Washington State College, now the University. Unfortunately, we do not yet know the newspaper in Nelson for which Ketchum printed or wrote. But we infer from a chapter in the book, Nelson: Queen City of the Kootenays, by David Scott and Edna H. Hanic (1972) that he wrote for John Houston, who published both the Nelson Miner and Tribune from 1890-96 before being elected as Nelson's first mayor.
      Like other mountain towns in the U.S., Nelson grew like Harriet Beecher Stowe's Topsy because someone found promising galena (silver and lead) ore in the hills around the western arm of Kootenay Lake. The ore looked promising enough that, in the early 1880s, U.S. capitalist George Hearst sent his scouts to search for silver. But the real history-changing discovery occurred when brothers Osner and Winslow Hall from Colville, Washington, found copper, galena and silver ore by accident in August 1886. Although it was not as famous as the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the source for Hearst's early fortune, the discovery led to riches for the Halls and others as the silver market in the U.S. skyrocketed.
      John Houston arrived at the village of Nelson in March 1890, after editing newspapers in the town of Donald, near Revelstoke in the B.C. Interior and New Westminster, the original mainland major city. According to David Scott's book, Houston launched the Miner newspaper on June 21, 1890 "and for the next two years weekly editions hurtled through the town like bolts of lightning." Nesteroff disputes the myth, however, that Houston led the campaign to drop the former name, Stanley, in favor of Nelson, in 1892. Greg has discovered a letter written by B.C. postal inspector E.H. Fletcher on Nov. 12 1888: "The townsite of Nelson has just been laid out at the point known as 'the Outlet of the Kootenay Lake' and several lots have been sold." The town was named in honor of B.C. Lieutenant-Governor Hugh Nelson.
      In June 1892, Houston felt the itch to move on and he sold the Miner and went to Spokane, but by November, he returned, apparently with a bride, and started his second paper, the Tribune. Houston's interests were highly diversified. When he first arrived, he joined two partners as the first real estate agents in town and the Miner was a perfect vehicle for their promotion. In short order, Houston became a principal in the water and electric light companies and became a power to reckon with in the town. After other town fathers had the audacity to criticize his actions, Houston lit out for the village of Rossland on nearby Red Mountain, where he started another newspaper, the Rossland Miner, on March 2, 1895, yelling back at his former neighbors, "Nelson? Hell, who would want that one-horse town?"
      By November, however, he was back in Nelson and rode a whirlwind for the next two years as Nelson rode out the storm of the worldwide Depression, which resulted partially from the devaluation of silver from 95 cents to 57 cents per ounce. As the economy recovered in 1896, Houston and other town fathers prepared for incorporation as a real city. That is when Seneca G. Ketchum apparently rode into the picture, although Smyth is the only one who has left a clue that we have found thus far.
      Nesteroff has found some more clues, however, in subsequent research of the British Columbia Historical Quarterly of 1946: "The tramp printers roamed from city to city, worked a few days or weeks, and passed on. One of these was Seneca G. Ketchum, known as the 'minstrel printer.' Some time in the '90s he and Percy Whitworth started a comic weekly in Vancouver, boasting that their joint capital at the time of commencement was $3.50. Their paper was The Idea. According to reports, it was quite a brilliant effort, but no one seems to have thought of preserving a copy of it. It did not last long." Greg also found a brief item in The Ledge of New Denver, near Nelson, of Aug. 27, 1896: "Seneca G. Ketchum, who ran the Idea in Vancouver last year, is inspecting the glorious scenery of the Slocan."
      It was Fairhaven all over again for Seneca except this time the boom had gone bust but the town still lived on as its own entity. As the town revived from the lean years, a building boom began and 350 historic structures that were erected, beginning in that period, survive today. We wish we knew which newspaper Seneca wrote for in that day and whether he criticized Houston during his subsequent campaign for mayor. Houston was not universally adored and the ups and downs of the power and light companies caused a lot of friction.
      But when March 18, 1897, rolled around, Houston emerged as the winner of the mayor contest and the tradesmen in town ceremoniously dipped their brooms in kerosene and burned them in celebration. A month later the town celebrated incorporation and their new mayor in grand style. Houston appointed Robert A. Winearls as constable to quell disturbances in the slew of saloons downtown but Winearls demanded a higher salary in May and quit in a huff when rebuffed. That is when the oddest item on Seneca's resume occurred. Houston appointed Seneca temporary police chief and the fun began, as explained on March 20, 1899, in Houston's former paper, the Miner.

      No small part of the reputation conceded to Seneca is due to the fame of his tales of achievements during a term of Chief of Police of Nelson, B.C. It was in June of 1897 while he was chief that several holidays came in quick succession, says the veracious P-I [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]. They included the Queen's Jubilee and the Fourth of July. They were celebrated in wild western fashion. In fact, the celebration became so intense that the whole City Government was incapacitated from business for a week.
      "The mayor began the celebration," said Editor Ketchum. "I found him around one evening celebrating in a fashion that was altogether too wild and western even for Nelson, so I arrested him.
      " 'What?' said he, 'you arrest me? I'm Mayor of Nelson, and you're only the Chief of police. I discharge you.'
      " 'Oh, no!' Don't' do that now,' I said. 'I won't be discharged. I refuse. Come along.'
      "Well, I took him around for a time until his ardor wore off somewhat. Then we went into a refectory and squared our differences. We concluded that we would celebrate together. The City Clerk couldn't do anything without the Mayor, so we played poker; the policemen couldn't get long without me, so they quit work. The machinery of the Government was stopped. I think that if the Queen had known what going to happen she would have postponed the jubilee.
      "I have had some pretty wild experiences, but none of them beat my career as Chief of Police. Here I had been for years a man trying to dodge policemen, and I became one of the most important of them. It gives you a remarkable feeling to be the Chief of such a town. You can very readily imagine yourself a king, for you come very near being boss of all you survey."

      Did Ketchum really arrest his boss? We agree with Nesteroff that there are apocryphal aspects to the story, but it was long ago firmly set in stone. Apparently, however, Houston and/or the city fathers soon decided that Seneca was too much fun. On July 21, 1897, the Nelson Economist newspaper announced the end of Chief Ketchum's short reign:
      To gaze upon the stern features of ex-Chief of Police Ketchum as he stretched out the strong arm of the law and gathered in the rich and poor alike, the keenest observer would never suspect that all the while sly Cupid was bombarding the heart of the uncompromising preserver of the peace. Yet such was really a fact, and last Sunday night the garrison surrendered unconditionally, when Rev. Mr. Morden tied the knot that made Miss N. [Naomi] Kline of Los Angeles and Mr. Seneca G. Ketchum one. Joy be with you Seneca and your bride. When interviewed on the subject Mr. Ketchum said he had nothing to say for the press.
      We are sad to report that, other than their Nelson marriage record of July 18, 1897, and Naomi's 1951 obituary, we do not have any information about Seneca's bride and her influence on him in his last six years. She must have been a strong woman. We unfortunately also know much more about Seneca's brief reign as police chief than we know about his resume as a journalist in Nelson. Although Houston sold the paper in Rossland, he retained his interest in the Tribune during his campaign, as a useful tool, so perhaps Seneca wrote for him or worked as a printer. Greg is still searching for bylined articles, but all he has found so far is references to Seneca rather than signed stories.
      For instance, from the April 22, 1897, issue of the The Ledge in nearby New Denver: "Seneca G. Ketchum has not rode in a box car for many months and has boozereno to bathe in." One can infer from that item that he did indeed arrive in 1896 and in a boxcar. Outside of Nelson, Greg discovered that Seneca wrote for the Paystreak paper in Sandon, a nearby town that boomed hard but faded into obscurity after the turn of the century. The Nelson Police History quotes an unnamed May 1897 newspaper that Seneca's salary as police chief was $65.00. Greg also found this fascinating note in the July 21, 1897, Nelson Economist about Seneca's prowess as temporary chief:

      The Nelson police force as it is now officered and manned is in a position to accomplish beneficial results. This assertion is not intended as a reflection on any member of the former force, for everyone knows that under the careful training of that experienced thief-catcher Seneca Ketchum (who could detect a clue in a whirlwind), the old organization was a thing of beauty and joy forever.
      If Ketchum left a legacy in the Kootenays, it was probably his effort to organize the printers and obtain what benefits were available for labor at the time. In one instance that Greg found, the newly digitized Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper (1858-1910) reported on June 23, 1897: "Nelson, June 21 — The Nelson Typographical Union has been organized and every active printer in the city has signed the roll. The redoubtable Seneca Ketchum, chief of police of Nelson, has been elected president.
      Possibly Ketchum's most contentious period was in that same year in Rossland, another gold-boom mining town, about 50 miles southwest of Nelson and seven miles above the U.S. border. W.A. Buchanan wrote an obituary about Eber C. Smith, founder of the Rossland Evening Record, on June 3, 1908. Smith was a very early pioneer of Spokane who moved to Rossland during that boom year and he became a landmark on both sides of the border. They locked horns after Seneca rode into town on the rails and before their bout was over, Ketchum's friends had founded a daily newspaper and Seneca had formed the Rossland Typographical Union. Before long, Smith was back in Spokane and soon moved to the Philippines, where he set up a law practice until his death.

Seneca takes his new bride to Spokane
      And that is the end of Seneca in Nelson story, as far as we know at this point. According to the marriage certificate that Nesteroff discovered, Naomi Kline was the daughter of Andrew and Ann Kline; Seneca was described as a bachelor and Naomi a spinster. She was also born in Ontario, six years later than Seneca, in the town of St. Catherine's, now a suburb of Niagara.
      As we know from Smyth's 1938 book, Fred noted that he met Seneca down south in Pullman, Washington, sometime in the mid-1890s. But apparently the bride and groom stopped this time in Spokane, just north of Pullman, moving sometime by September 1897. The same 1899 Miner story includes this cryptic information: "A year ago [1898] Seneca Ketchum was a modest printer working on the New West Trade in Spokane, says the Spokane Chronicle. Now, as editor of the only Skagit County Times, he is not only the wise man of the aspiring town of Sedro-Woolley, but is fast becoming one of the noted men west of the Cascades."
      The problem we initially faced was that neither newspaper is recorded in the history of Spokane. Spokane authors Tony and Suzanne Bamonte even sent us their excellent May 2000 Nostalgia magazine article on the history of Spokane newspapers, focusing on the dailies. Back in 1893, the king of Spokane newspapermen, William H. Cowles, merged the afternoon daily, the Review, with the morning daily, the Spokesman, which still publishes as the Spokesman-Review. The Bamontes provided the proverbial fly in the ointment when they observed, "On November 7, 1902, George Putnam published the first copy of the Spokane Press, the only major competitor to the Spokesman-Review for almost four decades." So we were a bit flummoxed about the two mentions above. Then Greg came through again last week, finding articles from Nelson that tell much of the story of the Ketchums' short time in Spokane, with the author's tongue often planted firmly in cheek.

Nelson Economist, Oct. 27, 1897:
      The Spokane Saturday Press has made its appearance and is a neat four-page publication with a border around it and printed on a chromo-lithographic press. The editor is Mr. Seneca G. Ketchum, whose official duties as chief of police at Nelson at one time brought him in contact with the leading men of the world. It will be remembered that it was some of Mr. Ketchum's clever detective work that unearthed some of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated in the Kootenays, and if we mistake not, it was the same gentleman who arrested the man that got drunk last summer in this city. As an extra inducement to subscribe, Seneca will give an oil painting of himself to anyone sending $100 for the paper. [Journal ed. note: at first, Greg and I thought the story about arresting Houston might have been apocryphal, but the reference in this story to the "same gentlemen" lends credence to the story, especially since it appeared in one of the papers that competed with Houston's paper, the Tribune.]

Slocan City News, Oct. 30, 1897: Re: Spokane Saturday Press
      Vol. 1., No. 1, of the Spokane Saturday Press has reached this office. Seneca G. Ketchum, the editor, and John M. Cole, the manager, are both well known in the Slocan country. Seneca G. Ketchum was at one time chief of police in Nelson, and has probably ridden in more boxcars than any other 'print' who ever struck west. He is generally known as the auburn-haired poet of the Cascades and is noted for his extreme beauty. John M. Cole held a position in the News office for a while last summer.
      In their introduction to the public they say they "have decided that in the matter of subscriptions they will accept string beans, old iron, baby carriages, baled hay, coffin varnish, and barbed wire in lieu of cash. Anyone having cash concealed about his person will please step in some place where they need it.
      "We have in our possession now several cases of type, and three or four slingers thereof; an office cat, a bottle of red ink, four nails for the employees' coats, and the pen with which this declaration of independence is written. There are also in the land adjacent three cords of wood and a low, musical hen house.
      "It will thus be seen that we are fully prepared at every point, and that people who don't approve of our style of pitching may as well leave town." The boys have the best wishes of the News in their venture.

The Paystreak (Sandon), Oct. 30, 1897: Seneca's latest graft
      The irrepressible Seneca G. Ketchum is to the front again. After a varied experience as chief of police at Nelson, itinerant journalist, and other occupations, Seneca is before the public and incidentally after it, as editor of the latest acquisition to Spokane journalism, The Spokane Press. The new paper is humorous to a degree and to those acquainted with the editor's antecedents, the salutary which informs the public that the sheet is run in interests of the reputable liquor dealers is particularly droll. Seneca has been working for the saloon keepers for a long time but this is the first occasion on which he has obtained recognition. By the way, Editor Ketchum once accepted a situation on the staff of the Paystreak but after a few days — he was not prepared to state precisely how many — during which his exuberance so greatly exceeded his verbosity that he was far too full of utterance, left for other parts. Mr. Cole's friends also will be glad to hear of his good fortune in obtaining a sit on the new paper. Quite a number of people in the Slocan would like to see Johnny Cole — just for about two minutes.
      We learned from the book, News for an Empire, by Ralph Dyar, 1952, that Ketchum was definitely still performing Willie Waterhouse and his other poems and ballads in Spokane:
      One of the most consistent advertisers in the Review was the Pantheon saloon, located on the ground floor below the newspaper offices. In its advertisements the Pantheon was represented as the leading wine room in the city." It featured "elegant billiard and pool tables and cosy club rooms supplied with the leading papers and periodicals of the country.
      Unquestionably the Pantheon was patronized by members of the newspaper fraternity, including the tramp printers, a characteristic feature of Western newspaper offices during the eighties and nineties. Their names were individual, perhaps invented, as: Pilgrim the Printer, California Dick, Seneca G. Ketchum, Major Henby and J. Peck MacSwain. Most of the itinerants never wanted a steady job. A few days at the case and their feet commenced itching for the road. They would either climb into a boxcar or hit the road on foot for other pastures. . . . Some tried their hand at prose or poetry. Among the writers of verse was Seneca Ketchum, who would stand at the bar of the Pantheon or some similar refreshment place and recite his own productions to the bartender, [such as Wandering Willie Waterhouse].The Press apparently failed after just a month and a half, or else Seneca moved on, judging from the report above that he was back working as a printer at another plant in Spokane in the spring or summer of 1898. And then, soon thereafter, the bride and groom reappeared in old Woolley, just before the merger of the twin towns. What we do know for sure is that while the newlyweds were in Spokane, they conceived their first child, sometime in November 1897.

(Metcalf Street)
      This photo by Darius Kinsey shows an 1899 view of Metcalf Street from almost the same spot as the photo above. One interesting detail is the same street surface of mud, gravel and dirt. Some sources have spoken of planked streets, but we have yet to find planks on Metcalf. The only planked streets for which we have evidence are State Street/Hoehn Road and Northern Avenue. We hope that a reader will have other such photos.

Seneca and Naomi feather their nest at the border of Sedro and Woolley
      A tiny notation in the Slocan City News of Aug 20, 1898, notes simply: "Seneca G. did it! Son born in Sedro. The following note reached the Nelson Economist office the other day bearing date Sedro, Wash., Aug. 6: 'Please mention that there was the best looking nine-pound red-headed chunk of humanity arrived at our home yesterday. 'It' is of the male variety and positively the cutest thing that has ever happened. Yours fraternally, Seneca G. Ketchum' " That was Jesse M. Ketchum, born Aug. 5, 1898, in Mount Vernon. That is the only hint we have for when Seneca came to the twin cities, north of the Skagit. He came just as the fever was rising for merger of the towns. Skagit County was well past the Depression years. Business was booming, especially in the agriculture sector, as farmers and fishermen shipped goods to the miners in the Klondike. That Alaska gold rush district would have been a natural haven for Seneca if it had occurred a decade before, but now he was 35, married, with a child on the way.
      He may have been hired as a printer for either the Skagit County Times or the Skagit County Courier; both papers were thriving nearly side by side as the economy picked up speed, based on logging in the hills all around, on the farms that grew on the patches where timber was recently felled, and for shipping on the river and by railroad. Three railroads crossed in Woolley and two crossed in Burlington. Julius B. Alexander was a principal of the Sedro Land & Improvement Co. and he was the financial backer of the Times. He was also the driving force behind the Twin Cities Business League, which was pushing hard for the merger. We recall that Seneca's father and grandfather were both town boosters in Ontario, so he could talk a good game with Alexander and the League.
      We think Alexander installed Seneca as editor of the Times in the summer of 1898, probably in June. That volume of the Times burned in one of the many newspaper-plant fires decades ago, so our evidence is very slim. We do know that the former owners of the Times, Walter and Albert Gillis, moved south and opened a newspaper in Issaquah that summer. Seneca likely took the lead of posting news and promotion of the merger as it reached the final stages, culminating in a vote in both towns in November 1898 and final approval by the Skagit County Commissioners on Dec. 19, 1898.
      Unfortunately we have seen very few issues published during the two years that Seneca was editor and publisher; most volumes from that era burned in fires long ago. We do know from the surviving handful that by 1899, the owner on the masthead was Ketchum Publishing Co. And we know that the office and printing plant was at the southeast corner of Third Street where it dead-ends at State Street, where the Mission Market/Diamond Plaza is located today. That was just south of the border between the two towns at that time. But we do have one excellent package that illustrates both details of Seneca's life and his character, his friendship and tour with photographer Darius Kinsey. Kinsey was Sedro-Woolley's most famous photographer. Kinsey lived just two blocks south of the Times plant and advertised regularly in the newspaper during Seneca's years here. Here is one example of a trip they took together on one of Kinsey's assignments upriver. We wonder if one of the reasons Seneca took the trip with Kinsey was because of the death of his second child, Seneca G. Ketchum Jr., on Jan. 8, 1900, when he was just three months old. Darius was devout Methodist, just as Seneca's grandfather, Jesse Ketchum II, was, and he was superintendent of the Sunday School in his Sedro-Woolley church. And from the marriage certificate, we know that Seneca and Naomi were married by a Methodist minister in Nelson. Here is a surviving account of their trip.

(Cedar Bar)
This is a photo by Darius Kinsey on this trip of Cedar Bar, the Roadhouse and ranch owned by the Lucinda Davis family. See Issue 35 of the Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online for the story of the Davis family. The caption from the Kinsey Photographer book reads: "Road House surrounded by towering firs, near banks of Skagit River, Washington. Thanks to Rodolfo Petschek for permission to use the photos.

Kinsey Photographer
(Dave Bohn and Rodolfo Petschek.
Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 1982, Page 94)
      In August of 1900, two men and a heavily laden packhorse set out from Hamilton — destination Barron, up in the Slate Creek mining district and not much more than one hundred miles out. It was Darius Kinsey heading for the mountains again, this time with Seneca G. Ketchum, then editor and publisher of the Skagit County Times of Sedro-Woolley.
      No small part of the horse burden was cameras. The indefatigable 6 1/2x8 1/2" was aboard, with a strong supply of glass plates to match. Also aboard was the camera destined to become the indispensable tool in the hands of a genius photographer — the 11x14" Empire State. Almost certainly this was the first trip for the 11x14" because the earliest surviving plate in that format is from the Expedition of 1900.
      Fifty-one miles from Hamilton — along the Skagit River — Kinsey and Ketchum hit Goodell's Landing and Ketchum was posed in front of the roadhouse. Then another eight miles or so to Cedar Bar, where they hauled up for a day or two. The Hotel Cedar Bar — or the Davis Roadhouse — was run by Lucinda Davis, her daughter Dessa, and sons Frank and Glee [see Issue 35 of the optional Subscribers-Paid Magazine Online for the story of the Davis family]. It was a good place to stop, not only for the excellent food but because Glee was an expert at loading horses and the intrepid travelers were not.

(Goodell's Landing)
This Darius Kinsey photo from the same trip shows some of the buildings at Goodell's Landing, about a mile north of present-day Newhalem. The caption from the Kinsey Photographer book reads: "Roadhouse on Skagit River. Seneca Ketchum standing. This is Goodell's Landing."

      In August of 1900, Glee Davis was fifteen years old. Now — December of 1973 — Glee is eighty-nine and willing to reminisce at some length about the Kinsey/Ketchum effort and on Skagit river history in general. Glee recalls that about two weeks after the travelers passed through on the way into the mountains. Darius came down from Barron alone, because Ketchum had decided to walk out to the east.
      "But Kinsey came back and then he stayed with us. And I took him around quite a bit getting pictures, sort of in inaccessible places. He was a very religious man, a Methodist, and one of those days was Sunday. He told my mother, he says, 'You don't need to get any dinner for me. I am going to stay over the day, and I want you to let me have that bunkhouse down by the river, and I want to stay there and I don't want to be disturbed.' And he stayed there all Sunday. Had his Bible with him. Didn't eat any dinner. No, he just wanted to be quiet. He just shut what windows there were and he wanted to sit there and study his Bible."

      That is the last record we have during Seneca's life. His brief obituary in the Puget Sound Mail of LaConner, dated Aug. 27, 1903, reads: "Ketchum, Seneca G. At one time a prominent journalistic light in Skagit County, passed away at Sedro-Woolley last Friday from stomach trouble. Seneca ably presided over the destinies of the Skagit County Times for over two years, relinquishing the property about two years ago." Seneca's widow must have been besieged by grief, losing her infant son and her husband within three years. We also know that Seneca sold the newspaper in 1901, so he may have been an invalid for much of the time until his death. If you continue on to Part Three, you can read several obituaries of the various family members and other documents about the family that supply more details.
      To close this profile, we point out that while studying Ketchum over the past 15 years, we have found a few character traits in common between Seneca and that other irascible pioneer, Mortimer Cook, the founder of Sedro. Thus we nodded our head and chuckled when we read a brief mention from 1898 that showed how Ketchum could be just as stubborn as Cook. The Tacoma News exchange editor reported on Dec. 13, 1898:

Ketchum Wanted Cash (Mt. Vernon Argus)
      It is said that Seneca, the philosopher of the Sedro Times, not long since, published a long obituary of a man who had died in that part of the country, closing with the statement that "a long procession of people followed the remains to their last roasting place." The family read the notice and discovered the supposed error, and asked the editor to make a correction in the word "roasting" but he said he couldn't do it until the seven years' back subscription the deceased owed had been paid.

      Return to — Seneca G. Ketchum Biography Part One. Feisty pioneer 1899 Sedro-Woolley newspaper editor in his years before arriving in Washington Territory in 1888. And his family, 17th-century English immigrants, pioneer settlers of Toronto, Ontario, and businessmen of New York State.

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