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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

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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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Introduction to the Cascade Pass
wagon road section

(Mary Roberts Rinehart)
Mary Roberts Rinehart and her two sons fishing during a tour of the Cascades in 1916

      Back in the 1990s the Journal editor used to drive back and forth across Hwy 20 for four months every year while editing the North Cascades International Loop Travel Guide, and learned many details of the pass history from people who talked to pioneers and their desendants. The present Hwy 20 route is via Slate Creek, Granite Creek, Rainy Pass, Bridge Creek, Washington Pass and Early Winters Creek to the Methow River Valley. Years later, while researching the papers of David G. McIntyre, the founder of Skagit Steel & Iron Works, the editor discovered that this was one of many routes considered first by engineer Bert Huntoon and McIntyre when he headed up promotional efforts in the 1930s.
      The Washington Legislature appropriated $5,000 in 1895 for a Cascade Pass wagon road to connect the areas of Washington state on both sides of the North Cascades mountain range, just south of the Canadian border. Mining interests clamored for what they called "mine-to-market" roads in all the counties that surrounded mines in the North Cascades mountain range.
      Miners and mining companies had been frustrated since the 1878-80 gold rush at Ruby Creek on the upper Skagit River and the earlier discovery of coal and iron in the mountains across the Skagit from the little village of Hamilton. They saw a rich future for the ore discovered in those areas, but the transportation costs from those remote areas were exorbitant and miners wanted help from the Washington Legislature.
      A generation later, the road was only partially completed and seemed stalled. The concept required an industrial leader with some moxie to communicate the need to both the public and the politicians. As his son, Sydney, took over management of the Skagit Steel & Iron Works in Sedro-Woolley in the mid-1920s, David G. McIntyre took on the highway as a personal project and spent the next 13 years until his death, devoting most of his spare time to the goal. That highway was finally opened in the summer of 1972, 34 years after his death, as a belated tribute to the hard work and enthusiasm he brought to an uphill project.

Links, background reading and sources for Cascade Pass and David G. McIntyre

Story posted on Dec. 23, 2005, last updated Jan. 11, 2009
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This article originally appeared in Issue 31 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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