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Skagit River Journal

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Pioneering in upper Skagit
recalled by early settler Glee Davis

By Glee Davis, Bellingham Herald, June 26, 1953
(Davis Power Plant)
The power plant that Glee and Frank Davis built at Cedar Bar, unknown year. Courtesy of Gretchen Luxenberg, National Park Service.

      My mother, Mrs. Lucinda J. Davis, was the first white woman to move into the Upper Skagit Valley when she brought her two sons, Frank and myself, and daughter, Dessa [Idessa], to Goodell's Landing (now Newhalem) to take over the small store and hotel in 1893.
      These buildings were erected of logs by early day prospectors in 1894 when the spot was the head of canoe navigation. Canoes were used to bring up supplies to Goodell's as late as 1898 when Frank Davis and the Buller brothers brought up a load for Capt. Burbridge who was prospecting near Thunder Creek.
      In 1895 we again operated the trading post during the summer season. There were many prospectors working the various gravel bars, such as the Taylor, Ferry, Reflector and Cedar bars, who brought out some fairly large stakes.
      We had become much attached to the mountains and in 1897 went further up the Skagit canyon where we found the place for our permanent home. [The biggest flood in many years washed out all the buildings on our ranch except for the barn on Nov. 17, 1897. We moved to a location up the Cascade river and] on June 17, 1898, the stopping place at Cedar bar, known as the Davis ranch, was opened. This was 25 miles from the post office and wagon road over a precipitous trail with several creeks to ford.

Mining activity grew
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      This same year the Ruby Creek Mining Co. started development of claims at the junction of Ruby Creek and the Skagit River. They built a sawmill far up the mountainside where there was good timber and operated the mill by a Pelton water wheel. Lumber was cut and flumed down the hillside to where they constructed a flume five feet by four feet in size and about three miles long to bring water from their dam on Ruby Creek to the placer diggings. They installed two hydraulic giants to wash down the old gravel beds and put them through the sluice boxes.
      All this required a large pack train to bring in supplies and machinery from Marblemount, which was the end of the wagon road. William Parry and four other packers ran this pack train of about 30 horses. Another large pack train was operated by Jack Ring and Preston Conner who took supplies into the Mountain Goat Mine and others on Slate Creek where there was much activity.
      train over the old Hope [B.C.] trail from the Fraser valley. By 1902 the Ruby Creek Mining Co. had given up and the North American Mining and Milling Co. started development of mining properties at Mill Creek, some 14 miles further up Ruby Creek. This company built a wagon road up Canyon and Slate creeks to connect with the narrow-gauge railroad from east of the mountains over Harts Pass which terminated at Barron near the Mamouth [actually the Mammoth mine near Azurite] and Eureka mines. This road became an outlet for many other ventures.

House burned
      On Oct. 23, 1900, an early snow came and we had to take our stock out before snow slides closed the trail. While we were away for one night a party of three men stopped at our place. Being careless with fire, the house was burned to the ground with all our belongings. In those days no one carried fire insurance so this was a total loss. In the spring of 1901 we had to begin all over again. Every piece of lumber used had to be cut out of the woods.
      Engineers of the U.S. Geological Survey climbed a nearby peak in 1904, named it Davis Peak and built a monument on the top to be used in triangulation work. In 1906 I applied for homestead right and obtained a patent on the land. Later, in 1913, I was married to Hazel Campbell of Bellingham and she, too, became much attached to the Upper Skagit.
      We needed electric lights and water at the ranch so my brother and I got busy and cut lumber out of the timber, planed it and built a flume 2,000 feet long to carry about four second feet of water from the dam we constructed across Stetattle Creek. A powerhouse also was built and a generator installed.
      There was always a fair transient trade. As the prospecting and mining travel wanted the tourist trade built up. We planned to gradually build up a larger and better place and make an attractive mountain resort. Our dreams of this were brought to an abrupt ending when City Light took the entire place by condemnation after two court trials.

(Cedar Bar)
Cedar Bar roadhouse, circa early 1900s, unknown source


Condemnation of Davis property
      As Paul C. Pitzer explained in his 1978 book, Building the Skagit,
      In 1913 Glee Davis married and his wife, Hazel, moved into the homestead. The other Davis children had long since married and moved away. Glee ran the roadhouse and worked for, of all people, the Forest Service, making trails and building lookout stations. Later, Glee's brother, Frank, moved back to Cedar Bar, and together the two men built a dam across Stetattle Creek, put up a 2,000 foot flume that ran to the homestead and carried water to irrigate their garden.
      Years later, in 1925, Glee and his brother acquired a quarter-horse generator, which they installed on Cedar Bar. But they only enjoyed the luxury of electricity for a while because Seattle City Light was building in the valley, and had acquired most of the land around the Davis Homestead. After two long court battles over condemnation proceedings, City Light paid the Davis family about $26,000, and took over the holdings at Cedar Bar. In 1929, Lucinda Davis, by then an old woman, and her family moved down the valley. Less than a year later, Lucinda Davis was dead.


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Story posted Sept. 11.
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This article originally appeared in Issue 57 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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