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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
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A Dugout Canoe over Sour Dough Mountain
& Preview of Lucinda Davis diaries of the 1890s

A Dugout Canoe over Sour Dough Mountain

(Ruby Creek)
      This photo shows the junction of Ruby Creek and the Skagit River where Ross Lake is located today. It is from the Tommy Thompson collection, courtesy of Will D. "Bob" Jenkin's definitive book about the mountains, Last Frontier in the North Cascades , which is till for sale at the LaConner Museum. The caption reads: "This picture that also shows [John] McMillan's Roadhouse (the long roof at the right). The Upper Skagit flows beneath the cable suspension bridge in middle foreground while Ruby Creek enters from the high Cascades at lower right. The combined streams rush through the famed gorge of the Skagit. This picture was taken in the 1920s after the City of Seattle began core drilling the foundation bedrock for Ross Dam and built the temporary footbridge in the lower foreground. Ross Lake now covers the area right up to the steep slopes of Pierce Mountain on the left, Jack Mountain on the right, and the Canadian border in the distant north."

By Glee Davis, undated handwritten manuscript*
      On Oct. 21, 1911, a group of miners, headed by Mr. A. Fasbender, decided to try out the old ruby Creek placer mine again. Work went on as usual for such a venture. On Nov. 10 there was a sudden freeze, six degrees above zero, followed by a twenty-inch snowfall at Davis Ranch (now called Diablo).
      Early in January 1912, Mr. Fasbender was injured in the works and Dr. R.G. Kellner of Hamilton was summoned to go up to Ruby Creek to give the necessary care. This was some 68 miles trip, the last 33 being on foot and by snowshoes, where needed. Dr. Kellner took care of his patient and returned to Hamilton.
      On Jan. 22, the doctor was called again to give more treatment as the injury had become much worse. Dr. Kellner, stopping with us, said the only way he could see was to bring the patient out, and to construct a dugout canoe for the carrier.
      Our front doorway was measured to see that the canoe was not to be any larger as it would have to be pulled through without removing the patient. Dr. Kellner the went on to Ruby Creek where the miners would then make a canoe some thirty inches wide and about eight feet long, out of a cedar tree. There was no chance to try a stretcher as the men could not get room nor footing in that four feet of snow on the trail. They arranged the ropes on each side of the canoe for pulling same.
      The morning of Jan. 24 it was raining but they had to go two miles down the trail to the Rip Raps. At elevation of 1080 feet they started up a mile climb to the pass over Sour Dough at elevation 2383 feet above sea level. Then on down the trail to Davis Ranch where it was well into darkness. The canoe was pulled into the living room, which had a large heating stove where Dr. Kellner could care for Mr. Fasbender.
      The next morning Doctor asked me to with them past the long bridge, where three icicles hung from the bluff above and were some thirty feet long and one about three feet thick, and it was raining.
      All went well.
      The men in the crew were registered with us as: Dr. R.G. Kellner, M.D.; Herman Rohde, packer; and miners George W. Evans, E.J. Stripe, Elmer Meally, Jim Wilson, A. Fasbender.

      *: A copy of this manuscript was given to us by Lucinda "Cindy" Callahan, Glee's granddaughter, who is a retired teacher and is now living in Glee and Hazel's old home on Northern Avenue in Sedro-Woolley, where Glee and Cindy's mother, Jeanette, have maintained the family memories. Cindy also allowed us to transcribe the Lucinda Davis diaries, as you will see below. Cindy estimates that the manuscript was written in the 1950s or '60s.

Glee Davis recalls the trail to their ranch
      Rebuilding our old trail would be an awful nice thing to remember the miners who spent so many years up here working their lives out! But make the new trail the old way we built trails. Not too blooming good! Use split lumber instead of sawed lumber. And no wrought-iron railings. That spoils the beauty of it, to my way of thinking.
      Leave it the natural way that the rocks lay. Just throw out rocks and make a path. It seems to me that would be more appropriate. The trails I've seen lately, they grade them all out smooth so they can run a motorcycle over them. Of course, I wouldn't want to see motorcycles on any of it, myself. The motorcycles just don't belong in the mountains, to my notion. You're out there to hike and to take the things Nature provided, not destroy. The old trails were hard, hard on horses, but I like to be on an old trail if I can.

Preview of Lucinda Davis diaries of the 1890s
(Glee Lucinda and Cedar Bar)
Glee Davis and his mother, Lucinda, at Cedar Bar, circa 1900

      Since you have traveled this deep into the Davis world, we are betting you will enjoy a special multi-part series of transcriptions of Lucinda Davis' diaries, beginning with the ones surrounding the famous 1897 flood that washed Lucinda's family home and the Marblemount schoolhouse away. Here is a preview of a few days in August 1897. Note the names she lists — dozens in that year alone — along with the day-to-day details of living in what her friends back in Denver and Pennsylvania probably considered the wilderness. The series will unfold next year, shared first in this Subscribers Magazine.
      And that is just a taste: the famous flood of that November follows. These diaries are like gold mines to historians. And this collection just might be one of the major mother lodes, if not the one. So tune back in to the Subscribers Magazine next year. Does your family have any old pioneer diaries like this? Please let us know so that we can copy it.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on December 26, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 58 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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