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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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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
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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The Skagit Queen Mine, circa 1906

by Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©2001
(Ruby Creek bridge)
      Journal Ed. note: Update May 2002: We are delighted to share some new material about Mrs. Joyce Rickman's family photos that was included in an email from Jesse Kennedy of the National Park Service. You will find the correction in the photo section below.
    Mrs. Joyce Rickman shared most of the photos below with us. She is the daughter of Woolley's pioneer grocer, Theodore Bergman. These views of mining and the Cascade gorge have been in a family scrapbook for decades. They are faint, with much of the original silver content faded away, but the remaining images are very valuable for their detail of mining life and environment. They were taken at and around the Skagit Queen Mine, starting about 1906. The Skagit Queen was near Thunder Creek and the Boston Glacier, located about 15 miles southeast of where Ruby Creek intersected with the Skagit river before that area was flooded for the dams.
    Her uncle Milton Johnson, on her mother's side, and other members of the family were bit with the gold bug just before the turn of the century. They packed up along the north shore of the river and found a gorge that must have seemed impregnable. But beyond were beautiful vistas and the hope that they would be rewarded for their labors. Anything had to be better than farming. Except for the Darius Kinsey photo and a contemporary postcard, all photos were taken by either her uncle or members of the gold mining crew. You can read about this area in Will D. Jenkins's fine book, Last Frontier in the North Cascades, which is available at the Skagit County Historical Association's museum in LaConner. You can also read a story about hiking in that area.

    Mrs. Rickman shared this postcard of a footbridge (left) built over nearby Ruby creek.
    Do you have photos or documents you would like to share about your family or the old days here, especially about the mountains and mines, fishing and hunting? Please consider emailing the scans as attachments or use regular mail for copies.

(Canyon Bridge 1903)
Canyon Bridge by Darius Kinsey
(Devil's Corner)
Devil's Corner-Rickman
(Devil's Elbow)
Devil's elbow by unknown
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
Left is a typical bridge over the high county canyons. This photo was taken by Darius Kinsey during an ascent towards Mount Baker from the south side in 1903. His wife, Tabitha, and her friend, Miss Phronia Farnsworth, are at the right. Packer Ed Barnes is at the left. The horse at the rear carries three of Kinsey's camera cases. You can see the photo and read the story about the ascent in the excellent book, Kinsey, Photographer, on pages 112-19.
Center: you see the Devil's Corner, which was on the Goat Trail, a path that miners carved by hand from The Portage to gold fields on Ruby creek. The path was chiseled out of granite to form a path along the steep walls of the gorge above what we now call Newhalem. The Portage was the point near Newhalem that was the absolute last point where a sternwheeler (in high-water years) or a canoe could navigate on the Skagit river. From there, everything had to be carried on the backs of miners or mules. Until Will D. Jenkins and others were hired to use dynamite to widen the trails about 15 years later, the Devil's Corner was typical of the switchbacks and abrupt turns on the trails.
Right, you see another contemporary photo by an unidentified photographer, which shows better detail of what was also called Devil's Elbow.

(Go-devil across Thunder creek)
Go-devil across Thunder creek.
(Skagit mine packers)
Skagit mine packers
(Skagit river gorge)
Skagit river gorge
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
Left, is an ingenious device called a go devil. It may be suspended over Thunder creek near the mine location. Some of the deep canyons without bridges were crossed this way day in and day out, regardless of the weather. Read the exciting story that tells what a go-devil is and about how a woman rode it across the river on a wild journey before the turn of the century.
Center, you can see one of the pack trains that supplied the mine every month or so. These pack trains transported everything larger than what was brought in by backpack.
Right, this is probably the river gorge east of what is now the town of Newhalem.

(Drilling at Skagit Mine)
Drilling at Skagit Mine
(Skagit mine buildings)
Update: we thought this was the Skagit Mine, but see the story below about the Rainbow Talc Mine.
(Playing cards in bunkhouse)
Playing cards in bunkhouse
(Gramophone in the bunkhouse)
Gramophone in the bunkhouse
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
Can anyone explain any of the processes, locations or activities in any of the photos on this page?
Upper left shows drilling inside the mine, using some kind of high pressure drill.
Upper right, we assume these buildings were built along Thunder creek. Can anyone tell us for sure?
Lower left, miners were cooped up for a long time with only each other for amusement. On rainy, drizzly nights, cards may have been their only way to recreate.
Lower right, this gramophone must have been very welcome in the bunkhouse. It had to be transported to the mine by horseback or muleback.

All these photos from Mrs. Joyce Rickman

      We were very pleased when Jesse Kennedy of the National Park Service was able to identify one of the photos. Jesse is responsible for the extensive museum at the Park Service center near Marblemount. Here is what he found. "We have the photo that is labeled Skagit Mine Buildings. Our records show that the buildings in the photo are not any of the series of Skagit Queen Mines buildings. The photo is of the Rainbow Talc Mine (aka Rainbow No. 1). They were located on the north side of the Skagit river, between Bacon Creek and Jennings siding (just shy of milepost 85). Gretchen Luxenberg's history indicates:"
      The lode claim on this site, the Rainbow, was located September 24th, 1931 (relocated July, 1945). In a mineral report completed April 28, 1972, it states 'talc mining on the Rainbow No. 1 has been continuous for approximately twenty-five years.' However, it is believed that this is the first talc mine on the upper Skagit River, so it may have been worked at an earlier date under a different name or unofficially.
      "The claim was also called McMurrell Talc. According to Gretchen, an early Marblemount resident noted that the talc mines on the Skagit were present when he arrived in the area in 1912. The only current remains are a number of holes drilled into rock."

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