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Skagit River Journal

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Finding the roots to
the Glee Davis family

(Cedar Bar 1900)
Cedar Bar, 1900, Darius Kinsey, photographer. Kinsey Photographer (A half century of negatives by Darius and Tabitha May Kinsey). San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1982

Part One
By Dick Fallis, Skagit Valley Herald, Sept. 12, 1981
      I spent a pleasant day last week at Sedro-Woolley visiting with Glee Davis, now 96, who is the youngest and sole surviving member of a sprightly band of pioneers who came in 1890, went up the Skagit River to Marblemount and a mile beyond to a homestead on the Cascade River, near its junction with Jordan Creek.
      This band of pioneers, besides Glee Davis, aged 5, included his sister Dessa [Idessa] , aged 8; his brother Frank, a strapping 13, and his mother, Lucinda, still a young woman, who had just divorced her husband in Colorado and had brought her children out to this section of Puget to start a new life in a newly developing country.
      Besides this first home on the Cascade River, with attendant adventures, the Davis family also played a vital role in early developments on the upper Skagit reaches, operating a small lodge in a rugged country which opened onto prospective gold and mineral finds and then became dominated , though not subdued, by the massive dams and power plants of City Light, squeezing out the juice and energy that lights and powers Seattle, the Electric City.
      I had long been interested in this family whose story is already passing into legend, and so my need to meet and talk with Glee Davis. I had talked with him on the phone on several occasions, and knew that his mind and memory are bright, clear and accurate. I also knew that he has been much sought after by researchers, historians and other writers, and that he has always been generous in sharing his memories and experience with people who come seeking this information.

Glee at 96
      Because he has reviewed this many times, he has had the chance to align his memory with other fixed events, to be sure of a date, and also with early journals and registers in his possession, to be clear and sure of facts and names.
      But talking with him is not like getting material from a computer or from a programmed, edited text. The experience or though he is haring was vivid and meaningful to him and he is still finding new conclusions and significance as he brings his thoughts into focus, sharing them with an interested and sympathetic listener. For instance, when I was asking him about his state of health at the age of 96, he admitted to some pains of old age, but that they were not unbearable.
      He said that he had never been a deeply religious man, in terms of church attendance and the like, but he knew that God was always there and would answer him if he ever really needed to call on him, such as relief from pain or suffering that might be too much to bear; he could call on God and god would lift the cause of suffering from him.
      I asked him how much of this attitude, this abiding faith, had come from Lucinda, his mother, and Glee looked startled for a moment and then said, "All of it," as though he had never before made that connection.
      Glee is shorter than I had expected, somewhat shrunken with age, and wrinkled, gnarled and weathered by time, but still maintaining his own home in Sedro-Woolley in a house he himself built fifty years ago; still preparing many of his own meals, though he is a frequent and honored guest at the senior citizens center, and with many family members and loving, concerned friends calling him or looking in on him, seeing to his needs.
      The man, with the memories he has, deserves to be an institution, and I am pleased that at the Seattle City Light station in Diablo, the museum representing early history of that area, is called the Glee Davis Museum, and includes many personal and family belongings; and that recordings and transcripts of Glee Davis recalling the early days are a part of the Skagit County Historical Society's collection at the county museum in LaConner.
      However, it is not just as a relic, a connection with the past, but as a warm and surprisingly sensitive human being that makes Glee Davis unique and very special. Considering how rugged the country and how rough the life must have been her in the early days, it was even more startling to me to think on how tender and sensitive this gentle family must really have been.

Lucinda's early family roots
(Davis Cabin)
Davis family cabin before the flood of 1897.

      Glee points out that a grandfather of his mother, a Christopher Palmer Tallman of Pennsylvania, the family seat, rose to prominence with his strong views in support of the prohibitionist movement. Tallman had made a substantial fortune in lumber, and contributed heavily toward educating people as to the harmful effects of alcohol.
      Lucinda's father, the Rev. George Willoughby Leach, was also a prohibitionist among the other trappings of his calling as an early Methodist minister who was always moving forward to open up new territory. The policy was strictly enforced that Methodist ministers would move every two years to new parishes, avoiding the stigma of the comfortable shepherd, and keeping their ministers lean and hungry. While opening up new territories to the teachings of the church, the Rev. George Willoughby Leach carried a line of sewing machines for sale, and was also trained in repairing the same.
      Glee does not personally remember much about his own father, who bore the unusual name of Etsyl Clum Davis. He has been on good terms with members of the extended family, many of whom have visited out west, and it is generally conceded that Lucinda, the mother, had never been known to say an unkind word about her former husband. One suggested problem was that he was the younger of several brothers who tended to dominate him, even to the point of telling them where to live, and Lucinda was more independent minded, particularly where her children were concerned. Another suggested area of disagreement is that he enjoyed working with machinery, quite content in an urban setting with mechanized conveniences, while Lucinda loved the open spaces, where unfettered nature ruled supreme.

Introduction to the Skagit river
(Cascade River map)
National Park Service map of the early Davis ranch. Barrett should read Barratt

      Lucinda had two brothers who had homesteaded on the upper reaches of the Skagit River, and was intensely interested in their progress. They were Will and George Leach, and when George Leach drowned in an accident with his canoe, Will contacted Lucinda to come on out and take up George's claim on the Cascade River. Otherwise all that he had worked for would be taken over by claim jumpers.
      This was in the summer of 1890 and Lucinda Davis, still in her thirties, added cross country traveler and homesteader to her list of careers that included wife, boardinghouse keeper, school teacher, student and minister's enterprising daughter. They took the train to Salt Lake City, spent four hours at Ogden, Utah, waiting for connections with a narrow gauge railroad that took them through Idaho and on to Portland, where the train was ferried by huge barges across the Columbia River to Kalama [Washington], and on to Tacoma, which was the end of the Northern Pacific line.
      They did manage to get on up to Seattle, which was still in ashes from the disastrous fire of 1889. Glee says that the Indians were still probing the ashes, looking for salvageable items. As he watched them, Glee was afraid that his straw hat, specially purchased for the trip and worn proudly across country, would blow off and the Indians would get it.
      The first boat scheduled for Mount Vernon, on the Skagit River, was the Henry Bailey, of which Joshua Green was the purser. Lucinda and her band were able to book passage and they were on their way, with young Glee no doubt clutching his new straw hat. From Mount Vernon they made connections with the sternwheeler Indiana, which was operating from that point to Hamilton. A wagon road from Hamilton to Sauk City was still under constructi8on, but the Davises traveled there on the stage coach, which had just begun operating.
      Lucinda's brother, Will Leach, had his claim just above the settlement of at Sauk, and was under a fair stage of development. Will was called out at that time as a witness in a land claim case, and during the two weeks he was gone Lucinda and the children stayed at his place, picking and canning his raspberries, as well as taking care of stock and plantings. Glee especially remembers the raspberries as these were the first and best that he had ever eaten.
      When Will was able to escort them on up to the claim on the Cascade River that had belonged to their brother, George Leach, he brought along a milk cow and other animals and garden stock to get them started. They had quite a time driving the cow along the Indian path beside the river, and even more trouble crossing the river above Marblemount. However, a man named Morgan Davies had rigged an effective ferry by lashing two freight canoes together and planking over the tops to form a deck.
      George Leach's claim on the Cascade, now the Davis claim, consisted of 160 acres of mixed river bottom with some wooded uplands, not suitable for farming to any great extent, but considered desirable land on the speculation that the Great Northern Railway, then surveying in the field, might run its main line down this valley, linking the inland areas with the coast at Anacortes. Improvements consisted of little more than the simple, one-room cabin with sleeping loft above, some cleared garden space, and enough of a grassy clearing to put the cow out to graze.
      Glee recalls that his mother was afraid of bears, Indians and just about everything else that could befall them in this new and wild land, as far up the river as you could get. However, she was able to control her fear, partly out of a need to comfort and reassure her children.
      As she adjusted to this new and challenging situation, she was soon looking for even wilder, more rugged country, of which we will tell more next week.

Part Two
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      This week I am obliged to conclude these articles on Glee Davis and his mother Lucinda. This can only be done by sketching in hasty outline, with some shading and coloring from Lucinda's journals, what I wish could be a fuller presentation; leading you to walk the high trails that they took as a matter of course over and around mountain ridges, fording rocky streams with animals that were too skitter; holding grand social functions way up the early Skagit, or even looking for the family cow which frequently wandered away through both the towns of Sedro and Woolley.
      We have noted that while her children were growing up. Lucinda Davis would come down to Mount Vernon — sometimes to Sedro-Woolley — when schools were in session. Just packing up your personal and household necessities and getting down from the upper valley would have been enough of a chore, but mind you, you also have to find winter care for your horses, your cow, your chickens, and all of your other farm and domestic animals.
      This involved several trips each time, by all available means of transportation: Indian canoe, by foot, stagecoach or railroad, improvised ferry, and by sternwheeler. Every after everything was brought down, and the stock pastured at Burlington, Fredonia, or some other place relatively free from the winter snow, Lucinda or Frank or Glee would make occasional trips back up to the ranch on the Cascade River, to check on something, or to fetch something else back down. The distance between Mount Vernon and their ranch is right at 60 miles over modern, paved roads; approximately the same distance as been Mount Vernon and Seattle.
      Improvements were steadily made at the Cascade ranch over the years, with increase in stock and goods until 1897, when they were washed out by a disasterous flood. This came in the middle of November, when they had the produce of the field all neatly stored and should be able to take their ease and comfort after a hard-earned harvest. The following are excerpts from Lucinda's diary for November 1897:

Wed. Nov. 17 — The boys came home in a heavy rain at noon. Will went to Trudell's with the horses. The river is coming up. Thu. Nov. 18 — Water at the gate at daylight. Davies came to the bridge and the boys tore down the smokehouse and put up a shed on the hill. We got dinner early and before we were done eating, I went in my bedroom and stepped in the water. They began taking things out in the canoe. Dessa went over with little October cat and the birds, then went to ride Riley. I took an armful of pictures and Kitty McD.
      I did not want to go but Will thought we must. The water was raising over a foot an hour. They brought a few more loads, then the water was nearly to the windows and they dare not go back, but went to the barn and were getting some hay, when the big fir turned and we called to them and they rout out to the hill downstream. Our house went to pieces and away about 6 o'clock. It was awful to hear it and the chicken house with 20 chickens, and we feared the barn would go with the rest of them. Water kept rising till about 8 or 9, then began to fall and we could see the barn was still there. At 11 o'clock we went to bed but slept very little. The big clock stood near my head and kept running without the pendulum and would strike every few moments. Oh, what a night, and the worry about others who we feared were worse off than we were.
Fri. Nov. 19 — I got up at 5. It was a long time before we could see how things were. As soon as light we went out to the wreck. Frank found my canned fruit in the cave covered with mud and water. the cave was torn to pieces and potatoes all gone out of it. The river has taken about one-third of our land and covered the rest with gravel and logs. Jack Frazier came over, then Mrs. Barratt and Barbara. We went over to Barratt's. Adkins, Barratt, Dessa and I had a time getting up to Davies from the state road, then past their camp over to the "old trail" home.

      [We suggest, as the waters splash about, you listen to Johnny Cash, singing Five Feet High and Rising.]

Cleaning up
      And with the help of neighbors and friends they started putting it back together again. A tent was erected on their own land "so we are more comfortable," and logs were cut for a new house, with just about everybody in the community coming to help at one time or another. Lucinda writers in her diary "It seems dreary to begin in such a wilderness again," and yet she is caught up in the activity, the coming and going of many people and the goodness of friends, even from afar. At one point she receives a letter from Mrs. Cornell with a check from the churches in Holdridge, making $40.91 that she has helped us to." Lucinda notes significantly in her diary, "I can[t see how we would have done without it." Work on the new cabin progresses through December, right past Christmas which is celebrated with neighbors at Trudell's: "There is quite a crowd. We had supper twice and came home at one." Activity increases through the end of December, with Lucinda working in the tent, reworking a dress from Dessa, and putting the finishing touches on the cabin, working right up past midnight of New Year's Eve — "Frank finished the floors and made the door. I worked past 2. We have the house lined and pictures hung." And then we see that the frenzied activity is for a neighborhood housewarming for New Year's Day. From the Diary:
Jan. 1, 1898 — Got up at 4, Irene and her father came about 10 o'clock. Mrs. Barratt and her family and Wade Buller came to dinner, others came before evening. Mrs. Fanny Bacon, Mr. Albert Bacon, Anna Bacon, Mr. McAllister, Emma Ingles, Mrs. Trudell, Mr. Trudell, Masie, Henry, Fred Trudell, Archie McKorkendall, Charley Pettit, Charley Simpson, Charley Barratt, Cleve, Will, Barbara, Mrs. Barratt; A. Adkins, Ida Smith, Richard Buller, wade Buller, Carl Buller; Mr. [Henry?] Martin, Jerome, Mable Martin; Blanche Stafford, Fanny, Mae Stafford; Kate White, Otto Frick, Ernest Frick, Tom Moran, E.J. Taylor, Irene Taylor, John Rusner, Jetta Rusner, L.J. Davis and family.
      We had supper at 5 and again at midnight. I worked very hard, but the young people had a good time. Dessa wore her new pink waist and her black skirt lengthened with black velvet makes a nice rig. They went home at one.

Close, tight-knit community
(Jacob's Ladder)
Jacobs Ladder, 1928. Courtesy of The Callahan collection, National park service

      Whatever else, it is very clear that they are not isolated but are very much a part of a caring and interacting community; and not just at the Cascade River, where they had made their first home, but also on their forays into Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, and other places, where Lucinda works for other people but they are also performing acts of kindness and friendship for her. The children, too, have many friends everywhere they go, knowing what it is to give and take, openly and deeply of friendship.
      Even before the disruptive flood of 1897 at the Davis homestead on the Cedar [Cascade] River, a mile above Marblemount, Lucinda and her family had been looking at other places even more remote, more compelling. In the summer of 1893, and again in 1895, Lucinda and her family ran the small store and hotel at Goodell's Landing (present Newhalem) [see Nathan E. Goodell's Journal profile] while the regular operators were off prospecting on the various gravel bars and streambeds that were said to be producing.
      Goodell's Landing was the extreme limit of canoe navigation on the Skagit River, which at that point truly became a wild and tumultuous stream, still cutting its way through the rugged outcroppings of the North Cascades. All traffic to the gold fields had to pass through here, and the store and simple lodging had been built in 1884 by the enterprising firm of Clothier and English, founders of Mount Vernon. Even though the Ruby Creek gold fever had passed, with nobody but Clothier and English showing a profit, there was still a steady stream of hopefuls headed for the upper reaches many years afterward.
      Frank Davis, then a young man, had been doing some trapping, packing and guide work for prospectors who were attracted to these parts from many scattered places. It was he who found the abandoned cabin at Cedar Bar, near present Diablo, and built himself a house nearby, as it was convenient along the trail that led to the goldfields.
      Cedar Bar, which is presently a part of the development at Diablo Dam, could then be reached by a rough-hewn trail, crossing several creeks that could boil up in season with all the fury of witches' cauldrons; around a steep, rocky precipice known as "Devil's Corner," under "Hanging Rock," and straight up the chiseled steps of "Jacob's Ladder," for a distance of 25 carefully trodden miles from Goodell's Landing.
      Lucinda was much charmed by the place, and after the flood at Cascade river, agreed that this would be their home, where they could build a lodge big enough to provide sleeping rooms and meals to prospectors and other travelers who might be attracted for whatever reason to this most splendid, awesome, Alpine setting.
      On June 17, 1898, the family arrived to start business, after a hectic time getting there and having to back down for a train of pack horses coming out, met "right at Devil's Corner, I had to take our ponies back a good way before they could pass. There were 18 ponies and Perry, Ring and Sylvester. We got to Cedar Bar about 3 p.m. Moved into an old shack with a fireplace. The boys slept in Frank's new house. His garden is up good."
      Frank had other business and went down to Marblemount for more supplies and equipment, returning on the 22nd "with a pony load and the sheet iron stove on his back and the cat B.L.Z.Bub in the oven. Will made us a kitchen.
      By the 23rd of June they were really in business, for as Lucinda notes in her diary under that date: "We got dinner for three and were resting when two gents from New York came for dinner. While they were eating two more New Yorkers came and before they were gone three Frenchmen came. So we made dinners four times and were tired.
      And there, among such auspicious beginnings at Cedar Bar, we must leave them, except to say that not all was serene and fulfilled. They had a rough time from the [Federal] Forest Service in their attempt to secure title to the land in order to build and supply their traveler's lodge and resort. They did manage to get a special permit for use of 43 acres of the 160 acre claim they had applied for, and this wasn't granted until June 15, 1917, after nearly twenty years of running battle and hassle with government officials.
      Soon after that shadow was cleared, Seattle City Light was in the process of acquiring the property for its planned system of hydro-electric plants, and the Davises fought through court procedures in 1926 and 1927 before accepting City Light's final offer in 1929, at far less than they valued the property and their dream of a hospitable r4esort in the midst of such natural splendor.
      Frank took Lucinda on a long trip back to the family seat in Pennsylvania, to visit many relatives and become acquainted with the families of old friends; then down to Florida, and a sea voyage, around by way of the Panama Canal, and back to Sedro-Woolley, to spend her brief, remaining years with Glee and his family at their home where she died, peacefully, June 25,m 1931, just short of her 79th birthday.
      Lucinda had never remarried, though she did keep in touch with her former husband, Etsyl Davis, whom she valued as a friend. Each of their three children married, had families of their own, and pursued careers "outside" the enchanted mountain areas upriver where they had been raised and where they frequently returned to take part in the continuing adventure.
      The City Light museum presently at Diablo is called the Glee Davis Museum and contains many pictures and artifacts of Lucinda and her family. The power plant that Glee Davis built to provide electric power and irrigation to the Davis Ranch is proudly on display there, brought up to a higher bench than the now flooded Cedar Bar; and the most prominent peak looming over Diablo at this high point of the North Cascades, is called Davis Mountain, permanently marking the place where this gentle and tender band of pioneers had made their home.


Christopher Palmer Tallman
      Tallman was born April 22, 1806, Mt. Pleasant, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Died Feb. 18, 1889, Preston Township, Wayne County. Married to Lucinda King (1805-1835), May 20, 1827. One of their children was Juliette Aromanda Tallman (1828-73). This description of Tallman is from this site.
      In October 1826, he set off on foot with enough provisions to last to Philadelphia and part way home, buying only 3 nights lodging at 6 cents a night. He went to find the man who owned some farm land which he wanted to buy in the Mt. Pleasant area of Preston Twp, Wayne Co, Pa even though he was under age. The man asked $4.00/acre, but he bargained for a contract on 175 acres at $2.00/acre with the understanding that he clear 3 acres a year, put a family on the land, build a house and barn, and finish paying in 3 yrs. He did so well that the man forgave the interest and gave him a parchment deed on April 29, 1829 with the original contract dated in 1826. (This is the beginning of Tallmanville, Pa.) He also bought three timber lots, enough to last for three years of lumbering.
      In 1829/30 he contributed nails, glass, and sash (he noted as costing $4.84) to help build the first school in the area on the east side of his lot (it was 16' by 20', made of logs). The school ran 6 months a year and was considered a satisfactory success. Women teachers never received more than 75 cents a week and men not more than $10 per month. This same year he built a mill on the creek a few rods below the road, and a post office was established, for which he was postmaster during the next 30 years until his son Edwin took over in 1860 (both were the first in Preston Twp).
      In Honesdale on Dec 2, 1861 the Wayne County Agricultural and Mechanic Arts Society was formed with E. W. Hamlin as pres. and C. P. Tallman a respected octogenarian of Preston, as secretary. He favoured the South during the Civil War, and in fact sold his timber to the South. At the end of the war he lost his money and prestige. C.P. was the Wayne County Surveyor from 1868 until 1877. Listed as a farmer in 1870 census with $10,000 of land, which is shown on an 1872 map under the name of Honorable C. P. Tallman.[Return]

George Willoughby Leach
      George W. Leach was born in 1821 and died Sept. 16, 1902, in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He married Juliette A. Tallman on Aug. 26, 1849, in Tallmanville, PA. They had five children. Born in 1852 as the second child, Lucinda Jane Leach was the oldest of the siblings who wound up in Washington. George Edwin Leach was born in 1856 and William Eugene Leach was born in 1864. Source. [Return]

Journal notes about Dick Fallis:
      A colleague asked me at the time of Dick Fallis' passing in January 2011 how he and I met. It occurred nearly 30 years ago, long before the Journal project ever began in earnest. A partner and I were making an offer to buy the Puget Sound Mail in LaConner, a newspaper with a glorious history but which had sadly discontinued publication in 1982. The deal sadly never happened, but I met Dick, who was the former owner of the paper, with copies of articles or manuscripts bulging out of his pockets, in the manner of any Dickensian scribe. He scribbled on napkins about his ideas for the upcoming centennial of Skagit County and like any good story-teller, he spun a great yarn about the importance of Skagit County in frontier history. But most importantly, he planted the seed that you see in the Journal today.
      He taught all of us who are exploring our common history today and his phone calls, starting with, "You're not going to believe this . . . :" are still sorely missed. After a couple of beers with Dick, one could be forgiven for imagining him as a madrigal or wandering poet, dressed in the puffy sleeves of medieval Europe. Like Jim Harris, also sadly departed, his was an oral tradition, and luckily his typing fingers caught up with his most intriguing ideas. Like Reverend B.N.L. Davis, the minister of note whose praises Dick most often sang, Dick passed out the bread to the multitudes, in so many wonderful ways. This below is my idea of a classic interview: where Dick has a list, but then just wings it and draws from the near-centenarian Glee Davis his detailed impressions, but also provides a tease of the famous Davis diaries that the Journal will soon transcribe in depth. They have been kept intact by Glee's great-granddaughter, Cindy Callahan, who has returned to the Davis place in Sedro-Woolley. Dick and I discussed the Davises often, especially the fact that Glee was the last to record meeting Alonzo Low, the early storekeeper at LaConner, at the old Cedar Bar place. After you read this Fallis story about the Davises, with all its rich descriptions of the character and motivation of various Davis family members — asking many of the questions of the principals that we all would want to ask — come back and read: "R.I.P. Dick Fallis."

A musical interlude
Five Feet High and Rising
Johnny Cash, 1974

How high's the water, mama?
Two feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Two feet high and risin'

We can make it to the road in a homemade boat
That's the only thing we got left that'll float
It's already over all the wheat and the oats,
Two feet high and risin'

How high's the water, mama?
Three feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Three feet high and risin'

Well, the hives are gone,
I've lost my bees
The chickens are sleepin'
In the willow trees
Cow's in water up past her knees,
Three feet high and risin'

How high's the water, mama?
Four feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Four feet high and risin'

Hey, come look through the window pane,
The bus is comin', gonna take us to the train
Looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain
Four feet high and risin'

How high's the water, mama?
Five feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Five feet high and risin'

Well, the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can't come back till the water comes down,
Five feet high and risin'

Well, it's five feet high and risin'

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Story posted Sept. 12, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 57 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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