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Skagit River Journal

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

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Henry A. Martin and family,
upriver pioneers of Illabot creek

Obituaries for Henry and Katherine
(Katherine Martin and her chickens)
One of the first lessons that Katherine Martin taught her children was that if they wanted to eat, they better learn how to feed the chickens and keep them fat and happy. The pictures on this page from the collection of Lea and Denise von Pressentin.

      Henry A. Martin emigrated from Minnesota to Seattle and arrived on June 7, 1889, the day after the big fire that burned down most of the town. He learned about the Skagit river and took a steamboat up to Mount Vernon later that year, where he learned that most of the best government land had already been appropriated. Looking at a map, he found the Illabot creek about 75 miles upriver and he walked overland to get there. Back in New Brunswick, Canada, where he grew up, the woods were disappearing, but here, there was a forest ready to logged. A year later, he sent for his wife and four children and when they arrived, he put them in a canoe and poled up the Skagit to their new home, where he had built a primitive shake cabin. As his wife often pointed out, she was less than thrilled about their little clearing in the forest. But she helped him raise five more children and worked with him to start a Catholic mission downriver near Concrete. This family's story is one of the most inspiring ones we have ever read and in this issue we share four vignettes that will help you learn about the terrific challenges that families such of theirs faced. We especially want to thank the sisters, Lea and Denise von Pressentin, and the combined members of the von Pressentin and Martin families who were kind enough to invite us to their wonderful reunions in August 2000. This is one of four stories about the family. Please return to the introductory page for the other links

Obituary for Henry Martin, Concrete Herald, August 2, 1951
(Henry and Katherine in their parlor)
Henry and Katherine Martin in their parlor on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1933. On the day of the Martin family reunion in 2000, we all walked about the Martin homestead. It is easy to see why Henry chose that bench for the location of his two-story home. You can see Sauk mountain to the northwest, across the river, and Illabot peak to the east. Cedars still ring the house and we found the remains of the two-hole privy about 20 yards away. It was sad to see how the interior of the house has crumbled away in the last two decades, especially this parlor where a family of eleven once ate and where Henry stared down the beaus who walked or rode their buggies for miles to court his beautiful daughters. The photo has a logo at the bottom that reads: "Centlivere, Sedro-Woolley, WA"

      Death closed the long and interesting life of one of the last of the original upper valley settlers last Thursday when Henry Martin died at the home of this son in Vancouver, Washington. Mr. Martin was born in [1860] and in 1889 poled a canoe up the Skagit river to homestead at Illabot Creek. He lived on this homestead and raised his family there, leaving it only the past year to make his home with his son Fred. He had been ill for the past three months.
      Mr. Martin's story of the early days is well known by his many friends in the valley and was a feature of the recent historic edition of the Herald. He was a wonderful character, whose pioneer spirit did much to develop the upper valley all through his active life. Needless to say, his passing was a great loss tot he valley and to his hundreds of friends.
      He is survived by five daughters, Mrs. Mabel Pressentin of Marblemount, Mrs. Ed Pressentin of Rockport, Mrs. Evelyn Powell of Hamilton, Mrs. Marie Ryan of Bellingham and Mrs. William Hudson of Seattle; three sons, Fred Martin of Vancouver, Rod and Jerome of Port Angeles; 21 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
      Funeral services were held at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Sedro-Woolley Monday morning. Requiem Mass was conducted by Rev. Father Murtaugh of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Seattle, formerly of Sedro-Woolley and a long-time friend of Mr. Martin.
      Pallbearers were six grandsons: Jack Hudson, Bruce Pressentin, Fred Martin Jr., Robert Swettenam, Robert Ryan and Richard Brinck. Honorary pallbearers were the other grandsons: Martin Pressentin, Norman Pressentin, William Swettenam, Warren Pressentin, Bernard Pressentin, Kenneth Martin, Harry Martin, Jay Martin and Pat Martin. Rosary was held at the Lemley Mortuary Sunday evening. Burial was made at the Sedro-Woolley cemetery.
      [Ed. note: If you will forgive a brief rant, we reserve a rung in hell for editors who include in an obituary, words like: "Mr. XX's story of the early days is well known by his many friends in the valley, etc." We respect this editor, the late Charles Dwelley, very much, but no matter how well a person's neighbors know his biography at the time the obituary is written, readers will not know it decades later. Please, editors-to-be, include at least a basic biography in any obituary.]

Obituary for Katherine Martin, Concrete Herald, July 23, 1937
(Katherine and children)
Katherine and some of her children

      Sunday morning [July 19, 1937] at her home at Rockport put a close the interesting and active life of Mrs. Katherine Martin, pioneer of the upper valley and wife of [Henry] A. Martin, one of the first settlers on the upper Skagit. Mrs. Martin had been ill for several months, so while her death was not unexpected it was with deepest regrets that here hundreds of friends learned of her passing. She leaves her husband and nine sons and daughters, with 23 great grandchildren.
      Funeral services for Mrs. Martin were held Wednesday from the St. Mary's Catholic church in Sedro-Woolley with Rev. Father [Murtaugh] conducting the services. Rev. Trunet of Anacortes assisted by singing high requiem mass. The services were attended by throngs of friends. Hundreds of floral offerings attesting their love for the deceased. Active pallbearers were the six oldest grandsons, Warren and Vernon Pressentin of Marblemount, Norman Pressentin of Rockport, Billy [Swettenam] of Hamilton, Jay Martin of Marblemount and Bernard Pressentin of Bellingham. Honorary pall bearers, representing the pioneer families of the upper Skagit, were Thomas Thompson of Marblemount, Jake Stafford, William Porter and Carl Olson of Rockport, Ed O'Brien and Otto von Pressentin of Concrete, P. v. Pressentin of Alger, Albert Bingham, Dave Donnelly, Pat McCarthy and Max Stafford of Sedro-Woolley, Verne Brannigan of Mount Vernon and Percy Heal and Eli Heaton of Bellingham. Following the services, interment was made in the Sedro-Woolley cemetery.
      Mrs. martin was born Katherine O'Connor in New Brunswick, Canada, Feb. 20, 1858. While still a resident of that locality she met and married Henry Martin, soon afterward moving to Minneapolis. [Ed. note: Actually, they married in Minnesota in 1883.] In 1889 they came west and were among the first settlers in the upper Skagit. Their first trip from Mount Vernon to their new home at Rockport was made in an Indian canoe. They built a home and remained to watch the country grow to its present state. During the passing of years nine children were born to them.
      Four years ago Mr. and Mrs. Martin celebrated their golden Wedding Anniversary at their home on Oct. 9 and at that time old friends from all over the state visited them. Sons and daughters of the respected pioneer couple are Fred Martin of Rockport, Roderick and Jerome Martin of Port Angeles, Mrs. Frank Pressentin of Marblemount, Mrs. Ed Pressentin of Rockport, Mrs. Thomas Ryan of Vancouver, Mrs. Harry Swettenam of Hamilton and Mrs. William Hudson of Seattle.

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Story posted on Jan. 8, 2003, last updated Feb. 14, 2009
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This article originally appeared in Issue 12 of our Subscribers-paid Journal

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