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Skagit River Journal

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Pioneers of the Skagit
Glee and Hazel Davis are living
links with a colorful past era

By Dolly Connelly, Seattle Times, Sept. 25, 1955
the flume that the Davises help build

      How brief is the white man's span in the Pacific Northwest! Glee and Hazel Davis, still bright-eyed, slim and energetic, are living testimonies to this circumstance, in their modern home in Sedro-Woolley.
      The Davises, husband and wife, are straight out of half-century-old historical records of early pioneering in the granite gorge of the upper Skagit River, in Eastern Whatcom county.
      Mr. and Mrs. Davis are members of the family which operated the widely known Davis homestead-roadhouse at the Skagit's Junction with Stetattle Creek, offering lonely miners the rare boon of clean beds and bountiful meals. They were mountaineers and builders in a region considered, at turn-of-century, "as far away as China."
      June 17, 1898, a tract of land one-quarter mile down-river from the present community of Diablo, extending on both sides of Stetattle Creek, was chosen as homestead by the indomitable family head, Mrs. Lucinda Davis.
      A Methodist minister's daughter and schoolteacher with a passionate devotion to the wilderness, Lucinda so believed in the abilities of herself and her three versatile children that she was undeterred by conditions that would give pause to hermits.
      The Davises were seven miles from the nearest neighbor and 22 miles from Marblemount, the closest settlement. They had to snowshoe out in the winter months for necessities over a forbidding trail hacked in the walls of the roaring gorge. Every comfort they knew they fashioned for themselves, or packed in by horse and mule in summers.

Their early years
      Lucinda, her two sons, Frank and Glee, the younger, and daughter, Idessa, built their first home of logs and split fir boards in a small clearing near the river. First land gained from the encroaching forest was put to hay and feed for pack animals and the prized cow.
      Two years later [after a flood destroyed much of their property and they moved up the Skagit to Cedar Bar, their home there was] destroyed by fire, the family built another house. this structure was replaced in 1907 with the large, fine house that became widely known as the Davis Roadhouse.
      All lumber for building was manufactured by hand with a frow [froe] and draw knife. Later a powerhouse, a kind of wonder of its day, drew water from Stetattle Creek to operate a 1 1/4-horsepower dynamo which supplied lights for the home, power for a small sawmill and irrigation of extensive planting. Its flume, 2,000 feet long, was built of lumber fitted piece by piece with such extraordinary precision that it remained watertight for generations.
      Mining men of Barron, Chancellor and the Ruby, Thunder and Slate Creek areas made the Davis homestead a routine stopping place. They delighted there in fresh milk and vegetables, berry pies and fine fruits from the thriving orchard.
      Wild hopes and dreams were steady conversational fare at the hand-hewn dining board. The tale of the big ruby recovered in 1872 in sand and gravel and coarse gold at the mouth of Ruby Creek was told and told again, the stone "growing" as the years passed.
      Names of renowned outdoorsmen dot the yellowed pages of the old roadhouse register. There were Jack Durand, prospector, miner and trapper who built Middle Cabin, a forest-trail shelter, on Thunder Creek in 1893, and John McMillan, packer on the Skagit-Hope [B.C.] Trail who settled on Big Beaver Creek in 1884 and whose homestead became a forest-guard station.

(Middle Cabin)
The Middle Cabin, courtesy of the National Park Service. Caption: "Middle Cabin, 1893. Pictured from left: Harry Swettenam [associated with the extended Martin/Pressentin family], Charley Marsh, Charles E. Phoenix, C.D. Grove and Remi (Jack) Durand. (Callahan Collection."

      Rube Sylvester, John Young, Will McCracken, Herb Soules, Pete Miller and hundreds more enjoyed a final sheeted bed and last satisfying meal at the Davises before climbing upriver over rough and dangerous trails to mining claims.
      Most permanent of the developments stimulated by the gold rush in the North Cascade Primitive Area was the Chancellor power plant. It was built in 1906 at the junction of Slate and Canyon creeks to supply power to the Chancellor and Bonita mines and mines of the scenic Slate Creek area. A flume two feet wide and two miles long carried water to the 240 (?)-horsepower generator.
      When mines of the region closed in 1907 and whole towns emptied in sudden panic, the power plant ceased operations. the great snowfalls of the Harts Pass area took their gradual toll of buildings. Plant, blacksmith shop, cookhouse, flume and transmission lines fell in ruins and decayed away.
      F.D. Hyde of New York city and Berlin, Maryland, one of the men prominent in the chancellor development, has kept alive the federal license for the power project through payment of an annual fee up to the present time. Now 93 years old, Hyde retains his enthusiasm for his mining properties, known as the Indiana and Illinois claims, believing in their "great possibilities."
      Hundreds of thousands of dollars thrown into frenzied development of gold properties in the wilderness brought a lasting benefit, if little of the shining mental. Trails were laid out, pioneering families attracted, wagon roads built, and the country manned and explored.
      Mount Baker National Forest, then the Washington Forest Reserve, built the first stations and lookout for guardianship of the public heritage, often on land cleared by early settlers.

Mountains and the Davis family
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      Davis Peak, 7,150-foot eminence in the Diablo area, fittingly is named for the Davis family. In 1911 Lucinda Davis and pretty Hazel Campbell of Bellingham and Seattle, later to marry Glee, climbed 7,600-foot Stetattle, now known as Pyramid Peak, and 5,477-foot Sourdough Mountain. They were the first women to reach the summits of these forbidding landmarks. Two years later, Hazel, then 20 years of age, and Glee, 28, were married.
      The bride's father, Malcolm Campbell, soon joined the family group when the Forest Service, in 1916, decided to establish lookouts on the crests the women had attained. Campbell erected a tent on the top of Sourdough and served as first lookout on the mountain. The tent was replaced the following summer by Glee Davis, who built a proper 10x10-foot lookout house and thus established one of the permanent stations of the district.
      Young Glee manufactured the lumber for the building on the Davis place, splitting and hand-shaving siding, dimension and shingles from fir. These he packed to the mountain's summit in multiple trips over rugged three-mile trail and precipitous hog-back.
      In the middle '20s, concerned for educational opportunities for their young daughters, Hazel and Glee Davis went down the river winters to their present home on Northern Street in Sedro-Woolley. They continued to spend the summers helping Lucinda run the roadhouse until the famous old place was purchased, in 1929, by the City of Seattle.
      Heartbroken at condemnation of the property, the Davis family attempted, through two court suits, to retain title to five acres of the land on Stetattle Creek for a summer place. The effort failed before the prior needs of the Skagit Project and its long-range plan to harness the wild power of the 11-mile stretch of confined river.
      The Davis improvements have been removed from the land, except for the power plant. Clearings that once fruited and flowered lushly for them have gone back to rough brush and young timber.

Now in Sedro-Woolley
      In Sedro-Woolley, Glee, ever able with his talented hands, went into the electrical business, from which he now is semiretired. He and his wife devote much time to the beautiful flower beds in which their home is half-hidden.
      Lucinda Davis died in 1931, after a year of traveling about the United States to revisit the places of her youth. Her elder son, Frank, lives at Lake Killarney, near Tacoma. Her daughter, Idessa, now Mrs. Arthur Egbert, resides at Woodinville.
      Glee, now an alert 70, and Hazel, 62, often drive along the sparkling river whose every mood they know so well, marveling at the ease with which they now reach country once considered impenetrable, utterly remote — a land they helped to open up.
      "We could leave this house in Sedro-Woolley with hardly a backward glance," confesses Hazel, "I think we always shall live, in our hearts, on the Reflector and Stetattle bars, where that rippling creek joins the Skagit."

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Story posted Sept. 15, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 57 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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