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Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Home of the Tarheel Stomp Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug
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.
- Fairhaven 1888-1890 or 1891
- Olympia, Washington 1891-1893
- Tacoma 1893-95
- British Columbia: Vancouver 1895 and Nelson, the Kootenays, 1896-1897
- Spokane/Pullman 1895? and 1897-1898
- Sedro-Woolley 1898 until his death in 1903
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."]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.
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."
Wandering Willie Waterhouse of Walla Walla, Wash,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:
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.
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.
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.
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.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:
"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."
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.
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.
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:
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 PressVol. 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 graftThe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 1982, Page 94)
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.
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.
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."
"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."
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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