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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
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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Pioneers of the North Cascades, M-Z, 2 of 2

(Road route 1895)
This map of the proposed routes for roads in the North Cascades from 1895 shows most of the area that these pioneers roamed at that time.


John McMillan
      John McMillan was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1854 and came to Washington in the early 1880s after gold was discovered on Ruby Creek. He trapped, hunted and prospected in the Skagit Valley and traveled the Skagit-Hope trail to Fort Hope [in British Columbia] to trade his furs for supplies. On one of those trips he returned with an Indian wife, a half-breed girl, and took her to his home on the banks of the Skagit river, which later became the Rowland Ranger Station. Later he married a white woman, Emma Love. He died on July 29, 1922. Read this Journal profile of McMillan. [Return]

Charles H. Park
Mount Baker Almanac, 1950
      Charles H. Park became supervisor of the Mt. Baker National Forest in 1908 when it as known as the Washington national Forest. He remained on the Forest longer than any other supervisor, serving 18 years, until he was transferred in 1926 to the Olympic National Forest on timber sales work. He resigned on disability in 1931. He succeeded C.H. Flory in 1908 when the Forest's headquarters were at Sumas, Washington. His office was moved to the Exchange Building in Bellingham in 1909.
      Supervisor Park came to Washington Territory with his parents in 1880 and settled in Bellingham. The surveyed land along Baker river now in the National Forest was surveyed under contract by Park's father and two others, O.B. Iverson and Mack Galbraith. Park left his name in the Baker river district for Park creek and Little Park creek were named for him, and Sulphur, Sandy and Little Sandy creeks were named by him.
      Park was a pioneer forester, beginning on the Rainier Forest Reserve, he came to the Mt. baker Forest in 1908 when it was a vast unknown forest. Through the years he saw great changes take place in forest management and played a big part in the development of the Mt. Baker National Forest. [Return]


Robert Pershall
      Robert Pershall was an early Stehekin Valley settler and miner who mined with his brothers in Horseshoe Basin in the early 1890s, owned a general store together in Chelan, as well as a cottonwood fruit-box factory in Stehekin in 1896. Read more about him at this site. [Return]

Joe Ridley
Mount Baker Almanac, 1950
      Joe Ridley, woodsman par excellence, was one of the early rangers who left his mark in many places on the {Mt. Baker] Forest. He could work wood, stone, concrete or iron with equal dexterity. As a trail locator, he had few equals. Some of the trails exist today, as he located them. Without the use of Abney or other leveling instruments, he could follow the contours of hills and mountains with an unerring eye. His trail work was inspected by District Engineer Herring, who though sometimes he would catch Joe in an error judgment but each time Joe's locations proved to be the best.
      He built all the buildings at the Deming Ranger Station on the Middle Fork of the Nooksack. He put a fine stone fireplace in the dwelling and enclosed the yard with a neat picket fence. the station was occupied for awhile by Carl Bell, a co-worker of Ridley's.
      The barn and tool house at the Boundary guard station was built by Ridley and he had his hand in the construction of many other forest improvements. He left the service in 1917 to engage in salmon fishing and canning with one of the Alaska companies. Joe was one of Nature's noblemen, loyal and true to what he believed right. Fortunate was the man who had him for a companion and friend. [Profile signed by Charles H. Park, 1927]
      Journal Ed. note: The Abney level is a surveying instrument consisting of a spirit level and a sighting tube; used to measure the angle of inclination of a line from the observer to the target. Rotating around a vertical axis; this and other instruments were employed to measure relative heights of land. [Return]


George L. and William Rowse and
and 1890s mining near the Cascade river

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©2004
(George L. Rowse)
George L. Rowse

      We were first alerted to the mining efforts of the Rowse family by Kate Colwell, the great-granddaughter of William A.C. Rowse, a brother of George L. Rowse, who is very prominent in our excerpt of Lawrence K. Hodges's 1897 book about mining in the Cascade river district in Skagit county, Washington state. Earlier, our curiosity was tickled by a small item in the Puget Sound Mail newspaper in February 1890 about the Cascade Mining Co. buying the Boston Mine. In that article, we learned that George Rowse and Jack Rouse contracted with the company to take out 50,000 tons of galena ore that season and they planned to build a concentrator somewhere near the Cascade river. The assay estimate of the ore was $150 per ton.
      After three years of correspondence with Colwell and research all over the state, we now know that the Rowse brothers were originally from Nova Scotia. Jack Rouse, whose name is spelled Rowse and J.C. Rouse in some documents, may have been related, but he was apparently not a brother. The Rowse brothers were born to David and Lydia (Pineo) Rowse in Nova Scotia and the mother's Beckwith family first landed in Connecticut in 1632. From family memories, Kate has gleaned that David and Lydia may have settled near a large Rouse family in Canada, who were Loyalists to the British nation and King. George, born in an unknown year (1856-60?), was educated in the common schools and at the high school in Farmington, Maine. After a short time as a brickmaker in Maine, he shipped timber in Virginia and then in 1876 he and probably his brother Augustine moved to the Black Hills area of South Dakota, where a gold rush began two years earlier around the historic town of Deadwood. Over the next six years, George wandered to Missouri, Iowa, Nevada mines and then California.
      In 1882 he came to the Puget sound on a steamship and logged in various camps. By 1885, he was a partner with Jack C. Rouse and that year they took a canoe from Mount Vernon to Marble Mountain, across the Skagit from the future town of Marblemount and near the junction of the Cascade river. They followed the Cascade to Cascade falls, where they met other miners in the Cascade-Stehekin mining district. U.S. surveyors named their destination Doubtful Lake and Basin, and it was there that they started digging the Doubtful and Quien Sabe mines. Apparently they did not hit pay dirt immediately because they pushed east over the Cascade Pass. His ensuring adventures were outlined in the 1904 book, History of North Washington, an Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties, published by the Western Historical Publishing Co.:

      In the following May [1886], having gone across the range in company with two others, all carrying their provisions, he made a trip [eastward] to the east shore of Lake Chelan and from thence, made their way to Meadow creek and finally by raft to the Indian village of Wapato, being greatly depleted by lack of food. The Indians pleasantly greeted them and a squaw showed them to a canoe crossing of the Columbia river. They crossed to the east side and found a store kept by Chinamen in a dugout, where they were able to procure flour and salt. They returned to the Indian village and got a tub of butter made by the squaws. Securing a skiff from Chief Wapato, they returned to the head of Lake Chelan and arrived at Doubtful Lake in time to celebrate the fourth of July.
      By 1889, he was back at Doubtful Lake and Hodges and others credit for discovering the galena deposits in that year that became the famous Boston Mine of the Cascade river district. He was again a partner with Jack C. Rouse and another famous early prospector, Gilbert Landre, and together they discovered the ore deposits that were exposed by the glaciers of Horseshoe basin and on the rim of Doubtful basin. One of the early investors was C.W. Waldron, a banker from Michigan, who moved to booming Fairhaven in 1889 and also invested heavily in real estate and a bank there, along with buildings in old Woolley. Although the mines initially showed great promise, the nationwide Depression that began in 1893 cut off capital investment and development of the mines stalled. Back on Sept. 29, 1891, George married Nettie G. Boles at Chehalis, Washington. We are uncertain if they ever had children.
      Frank E. Davis, quoted in the fine book, Skagit Settlers, provides another perspective for why the mine failed to prosper. He was the son of Lucinda J. Davis, who moved her family from Colorado to the Cascade river district on Aug. 1, 1890, and owned various ranches and roadhouses that supplied and housed miners. Frank wrote:

      Jack and George Rouse [actually Jack C. Rouse and George L. Rowse] were among the first prospectors in the district and located the Boston mine. The district also had its lost mine like other places. A company of solders came over the pass in the early days and one of them found some rock that reportedly showed much gold. It was later searched for and the Soldier Boy claim was located on what was thought to be the place the gold-bearing rock came from. The only ore I took [from] there showed only iron pyrite. . . .
      For in the Cascade valley near Gilbert's [Landre]cabin hundreds of prospectors hacked at outcroppings of Galena ore and silver and lead. The Boston mine was sold for a half-million dollars in cash, others for hundreds of thousands as everybody was going to strike it rich and retire. But alas, silver was devalued overnight and the boom broke. Overnight, also, the town of Marblemount was a deserted village.

(William A.C. Rowse)
William A.C. Rowse

      In 1895, George's brother William Allan Chipman Rowse lived in Mount Vernon with his wife; Colwell's grandmother was born there in 1896. William moved to Washington in 1889. Colwell learned that he was born in Nova Scotia in 1852 and was ordained as a Baptist minister in about 1887 after education in Canada schools and at Acadia college. He also completed what we would call post-graduate Theological studies at Newton, Massachusetts, in 1889, and was pastor of various Baptist churches in that state. Sometime in the early 1890s, he moved his family and possibly a good share of his congregation from Massachusetts to Pendleton, Oregon, briefly, before winding up here in Skagit county. Upon arrival, he became "united" with the Church of Christ in Mount Vernon and became its minister. Another brother, Augustine Rowse, had stayed back in the Black Hills and homesteaded there. In 1896 he was killed in a gun battle and William moved back there to settle his brother's affairs, staying about five years.
      Back in Washington, George decided to follow gold seekers to the Klondike river region of southeast Alaska in 1898. He initially staked a claim on Seventy-mile creek and then in the fall, he returned to Dawson to work in a claim on Bonanza creek. But in 1899 he went first to Nome and then returned to Seattle via Dutch Harbor, deciding that Washington mines were more promising. He missed the Nome gold rush by a year. From then on, according to the 1904 book, he invested "his entire time and energy to the development of the properties above mentioned" at the Boston Mine.
      William moved his family back to Washington in 1901 and became pastor of the Church of Christ in Kelso, Washington, near Mount St. Helens. We are unsure if his family ever moved back to Skagit county, but Colwell thinks that the brothers invested in the United Cascade Mining and Smelting Co., which was the conduit for investment capital in Cascade river mines. Although the 1904 book predicted "great promises of success," Colwell's family records indicate otherwise. She notes that they "put a fair amount of time, money and physical labor into the whole thing and never made a dime from it, according to my mom." William Rowse died in 1915 and Colwell believes that he is buried in Volunteer Park cemetery in Seattle. [Return]


Henry Soll
Mount Baker Almanac, 1950
      Henry Soll was a ranger from April 1909 to 1917, being stationed at several places on the [Mt. Baker] Forest where he left a structure to attest to his workmanship. He was brought out from Wisconsin by supervisor Park, who had learned of his woodsmanship. He built the Thunder creek and the Skagit river suspension bridges in the Skagit district; both were fine structures.
      He built the Marble creek ranger station's house and barn. The 1 1/2 story house was of log and split cedar design. He built the barn at the Gallop Ranger Station, Glacier [Whatcom county], the barn at the Blue Bird station on the Suiattle [river] district [east of the Sauk river] and the barn and warehouse at the Backus Ranger Station. He was also detailed to assist Grover Burch at the Baker Lake Ranger Station in construction of the new 5-room ranger's dwelling. He was stationed at the Reflector Bar Ranger Station [on the Skagit east of future Newhalem] for several seasons and was the first ranger to stay there throughout the year.
      He built the station's buildings, consisting of a four-room house, barn and 645 rods of fence. He remained two winters at that isolated station, which could be reached only by trail from Marblemount. His trails and telephone lines were always kept in order, and hard work was neither a stranger at all distasteful to him. [Profile signed by Charles H. Park, 1927] [Return]


Tommy Thompson
      Tommy Thompson was the son of famed Concrete bridge designer Henry Thompson. The family emigrated from England to South Dakota and then to Kansas before moving west to Snohomish County in 1889, the year the territory became a state. They settled in Birdsview and opened a store there in 1891. In 1904 he began working for the Federal Rangers and became a legend along with his pioneer wife, Ella. Read this Journal profile of McMillan. [Return]

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Story posted on Sept. 29, 2004, transferred to this domain June 19, 2009
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