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The soap opera of Fred Cole and his family

(Fred Cole Family 1)
      Thomas Frederick Cole's family posing on the front porch of their Concrete home in 1912. From l. to r.: Flossie May Cole (back left), Violet Opal Cole, their father Thomas Frederick Cole, Edward "Joe" Cole (standing center back), on his mother's lap is baby boy Thomas Franklyn Cole (Paul's grandfather), mother Carrie Thompson Cole, Bessie Belle Cole (leaning back right), little Myrtle Minnie (Mary) and Harriet Marie (next to post) or maybe that could be Hazel Carolyn Cole. The oldest child Evaleana is not in the pictured; she was already married. Her mother Carrie Thompson Cole gave birth to three more children after this photo was taken, Earl John, Cleo Pauline and Lyman Appleton {later changed to Harold, nickname Buddy).

      One day this summer we opened an email from reader Paul Enge that was the first of a series about the amazing story of his great-grandfather Thomas Frederick "Fred" Cole. Paul caught our attention by stating: "The personal family stories of the Cole family in Skagit County is better than any soap opera I have ever seen." He does not exaggerate, as you will see. This story includes tragedies, murder, bigamy and a swindle, with a dollop of sweetness to leaven the loaf. And, oh yes, you Superman fans will discover that there really was a newspaper called The Daily Planet. Hold on, as Betty Davis would say, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
      Paul has shared with us more than a dozen photographs of the Cole family. The first photo we opened was labeled "Sheriff Cole's Family" from 1912. That is one family claim that we must dispel. Fred Cole was never sheriff of Skagit county. During that time period, Charles W. Stevenson was sheriff for four terms from 1908-20, and Ed Wells was sheriff for two terms in the middle of that time from 1912-16. We infer that Cole was a deputy sheriff. It was sometimes common during those days for the title sheriff to also be attached to deputies. We were disappointed to find that none of the county history books included details about Cole. The only reason we can think of is that the family indeed had a very checkered history. Luckily, Paul and his sister Kelly have provided a lot of research, which we will share below.

(Superior Hotel)
Concrete's Superior Hotel in 1913, where the Cole family had their bakery. Bessie Belle Cole posed in front of the hotel with the other people that worked there with her. Bess is the tall young lady leaning against the wall and is about 16 years old here. The hotel may have burned in the big fire of March 13, 1915. Does a reader know?

      Fred Cole and his third wife, Carrie Thompson Cole, came to Skagit county in 1908 from Reed City, Michigan, with seven children that they had raised there. They would raise five more children here. Counting two sets of twins that she miscarried, Carrie gave birth to 16 children altogether. That was not enough for Fred, however, as Paul explains:
      After she had her last child in 1918, she had a surgical procedure so she would not have any more babies. Her husband, Thomas Frederick Cole, was furious and immediately filed for a divorce and wanted to kill the doctor for what he had done to his wife. . . . She had her first baby when she was only 16 and gave birth to 12 children and miscarried twins, twice by the time she was 44. Her husband was furious and immediately filed for a divorce and wanted to kill the doctor for what he had done to his wife. He wanted MORE children.
      Carrie was left a single parent in the poor mining town of Concrete. She had a lot of "boyfriends" and her children were not allowed to come home at night when their mother was entertaining a gentleman caller. The men often brought Carrie gifts of food that her children were not allowed to eat. Carrie Thompson Cole was known to say, 'Things are bound to happen when you put a man and a woman under one roof.'

Bessie Belle Cole
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2010, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Thank you.
      Most of the Cole children followed a hard road and Paul, born in 1959, grew up knowing very little about the family. His grandfather, Thomas Franklyn "Frank" Cole, died in 1993, but Frank's sister Myrtle Minnie Cole Swanson is very much alive and still a Yankee Doodle, celebrating her 94th birthday on the Fourth of July this year. She wound up being very open about the family and her memory was still clear. She also referred Paul to two other living family members who were up in years but also had distinct memories that fit more pieces of the puzzle together. Stories of two of the sisters stood right out.
      Bessie Belle Cole was the third child born back in Michigan and she became rather notorious even in the wild early days of the cement company town of Concrete. If you have read our story of Amasa "Peg-Leg" Everett, you may recall that he discovered the limestone in the cliffs along the Baker river that let to the opening of Washington Portland Cement Co. in the town of Baker on the east shore in 1905. Superior Portland Cement Co. opened on the west shore in 1908 and the two towns were incorporated under the name Concrete in 1909. The booming cement business attracted workers from all over the country. The Coles came here to open up a bakery in the aptly named Superior Hotel.
      Bessie was born Oct. 15, 1897, in Evart Township, Osceola County, Michigan and she died in September 1989 in Ballard; several of the Cole children wound up in the Seattle area. A few years after the family moved to Concrete, Bessie began living together with a man who called himself Earl Blaine, apparently meeting him sometime by 1915 while she worked at the family bakery. Earl was born Loral Ellis, also in Michigan, but no one in the family knows whether Bessie ever knew his real identity. When Paul researched genealogy he discovered that Earl's mother's maiden name was Blaine and there was a family argument that may have led to the name change. Earl was ten years older than Bessie and family members were surprised when they married in Seattle in 1916.

(Bessie Belle Cole)
Bessie Belle Cole in Concrete in 1915, about the time she met her first husband, Earl Blaine. They married a year later. Photo by Frank LaRoche of Sedro-Woolley.

      Bessie was 14 when Frank Cole, Paul's grandfather, was born in Concrete on June 13, 1911, and she wound up caring for him after her mother literally handed the baby to Bessie. Paul recalls that the siblings remained very close through the years. She visited Paul's parents often and Paul never realized that Bess was so much older than Frank. Bess never had children of her own even though she was married three times.
      When Bessie and Earl settled down in Seattle, he became a trolley-car driver, his lifelong profession. They remained married for 20 years but the end was rather rocky and made the papers in a big way. Bessie Belle had an affair with their neighbor, Jack Espeseth, which broke up his marriage and hauled her into court as a co-respondent. She became very angry when she discovered that her own family members planned to testify against her. Some sisters never even mentioned her name again. Earl was hardly a saint himself, however, because while Bessie was dallying next door, Earl had a girlfriend who lived along the tracks of his trolley car. After the couple divorced, Bessie married Jack Espeseth, who had obtained his own divorce. The surviving family members recalled that Earl was a kind man and that his hair literally turned gray overnight after a young boy stepped onto the tracks in front of Earl's trolley car and was crushed to death. Earl died in the 1960s as did Jack Espeseth.
      Widow Bessie married once again and she died at age 92. Her third husband, Pearl Galbraith, had a very shocking past that Paul's mother learned about by accident. While living in Bremerton, Paul's mother, Shannon Enge, met a neighbor and one day they were idly discussing their families. Shannon mentioned her uncle Pearl and it turned out that the neighbor was one of Pearl's eight children by his first wife. Pearl had abandoned his wife and children when the neighbor was quite young. Shannon decided to never tell Bess about it.

Eveleana Cole Moore
      The most tragic story of the family involved Eveleana "Leana" Cole, the eldest Cole child, who was born on Oct. 10, 1876, in Michigan. Paul discovered a story about her that gives us a glimpse at teen rivalry in the town at that time:
      Eveleana won the most popular girl in the [Concrete] camp around 1909. Her daughter Lois Kabbe Moore still has the watch that she won as the prize. I guess a pretty and wealthy girl in the town thought that she would win the contest for sure. She was devastated when she did not. Leana and her sister Flossie waited tables at the restaurant [in Clear Lake] owned by their grandmother Olive Elizabeth "Lizzie" Woods Thompson Chambers, Carrie Cole's mother. Later in life Lizzie married Walter Chambers, a cook in her restaurant). As the story goes all of the loggers and miners that were customers at the restaurant voted for Leana and not for the snobby rich girl.
      [Ed. note: As you will see, Lizzie plays a central role in this family story below.] After working at the family bakery in Concrete, Leana fell hard for Herman Henry Moore, also born in Michigan. He was suspected of being a professional gambler and they ran away to Seattle to marry in 1911. They knocked around for awhile, winding up in Montana in 1918, where Leana gave birth to daughter Lois, the second Yankee Doodle baby in the family, born on the Fourth. Lois was their only child, born after her mother suffered through several miscarriages.
      Herman apparently left his gambling behind and tried to earn an honest living in the woods around Concrete in the 1920s. It was there that he met a cruel end. Paul discovered this story:

      Herman built a temporary bridge in the woods so he could drive his truck over a ravine. The bridge was not very sturdy and his truck fell as he tried to drive across the bridge. He was not killed in the crash, but received a severe head injury that ended his life [on May 10, 1929].
      Eveleana was shocked and screamed as they carried his coffin past her and loaded it on the train to Michigan, where Herman was to be buried. She sob that she "Had her true love one minute, and now he is gone". She fainted at they carried the wooden box past her. Leana and her daughter Lois moved to Michigan , where Herman Henry Moore was buried. Leana made her daughter dress in black and [Lois] was not allowed to go out to play. Eveleana Moore was in mourning over the loss of her true love and died October 05, 1936 of a broken heart.

      This story of Leana's broken heart reminds us of the story of Henrietta Dillard of Concrete, who became a widow after her husband, Daniel, died in a car wreck in a ravine not far away from Herman's accident. Dillard was the first mayor of Concrete. [See this Journal website.] We will learn more about Leana in Paul Enge's own story below.

Flossie Cole Maiers, a sweet story
(William and Flossie Maiers)
William and Flossie Maiers in Concrete, 1913

      One sweet story did emerge as Paul researched his genealogy. Flossie "Slivers" Cole was the second Cole child, born back in Michigan on Nov. 15, 1895. She married William Joseph Maiers in Mount Vernon in 1913. Their son, William Jr. was born in 1914 while the couple lived in California and survives at age 88. He told Paul this story:
      Flossie May Cole was working in the small bakery that her parents ran and in front of their shop William Maiers was laying cement sidewalks. Flossie May flirted with young William and asked him what he would do if she stepped on his freshly laid sidewalk. He promptly replied "I would have to chase you!". Flossie immediately stepped into the wet cement. As the story goes, William was a hard worker so he could not just leave the cement all messed up, so he fixed the sidewalk and then went in to the bakery to get to know Flossie a little better. And they were married and stayed married!
      Those stories were just the tip of the iceberg, however, as Paul continued his research. Soon he would discover that Fred Cole's past was a strange one for a lawman, as he married a murderer, swindled her of her money, committed bigamy, then married the cousin of his first wife. But we will let Paul tell the story from his own research.

(Myrtle Minnie Cole)
Myrtle Minnie Cole in a photo taken circa 1926 at Hart Studio in Seattle. This is her wedding photo when she married Wallace Richard Swanson. She was 17 and she told Paul Enge that her jacket was blue velvet. In another of the sweet stories of this family, the couple remained married more than 70 years. Paul Enge says that Mary Swanson is still a very sweet and lovely lady in the year 2003 and she has three children, Richard, Sylvia and Janet. She is the last remaining Cole child of 12 total.

Paul Enge's research of the
scandals of his great-grandfather, Fred Cole
      We were not sure where to begin when my sister Kelly and I decided to work on tracing our family history. With my sister living in California and me living in Seattle, the best way for us to collaborate our research was to start a family tree site on the computer and easily share information and have a place to post old family photos.
      Our mother's maiden name was Cole and her father was Frank Cole. I knew that his mother was Carrie Thompson and his father was Frederick Cole. I had always heard that his parents were both born in Ontario Canada and married in Michigan. Fred and Carrie had 12 children, the first seven born in Michigan and then five more children born in Skagit county. There was a rumor that Frederick Cole had been married before and had two sons before his first wife died.
      So we had a few clues to our Cole family line. It was not until I ran across a posted family tree on the internet with a Thomas Frederick Cole married to Carrie Thompson. This Thomas Frederick Cole was the Frederick Cole I was searching for. He was born March 16, 1867 in Fredericksburgh Township, Lennox and Addington County, Ontario, Canada, the son of Sarah Jane Hearns and Hiram James Cole.

Family tree begins in 17th-century Holland
      I was really excited by this time. The records of Steven Michael Cole that I found on the computer traced the Cole family back 17 generations to 1500. I was descended from Lucretta [Lucretia?] Jacobs Oem and Adriaen Gerardsz Kool of Dordrecht, Zuid, Netherlands. Barent Jacobzen Kool born May 10, 1610 in Amsterdam and was one of the early settlers of New Amsterdam before it was called New York.
      Daniel Cole born June 30, 1731 in New York was the Revolutionary War Spy in my family. He married Maria DeLong and they had 14 children. Although Daniel was of Dutch descent he sided with many families that were also "United Empire Loyalists" that were loyal to the king of England. He was caught as a spy more than once and almost hanged, managing to escape and run with the rope around his neck and is quoted to have said "They just could not hit me with those fireballs." He was also noted to have lived to be 105 years old at the time of his death in Adolphustown Township, Lennox and Addington County, Ontario, Canada in 1836.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Fred Cole family 2)
(Earl and Bessie)
(Violet Opal Cole)
Far left: Thomas Frederick Cole with the five youngest of his twelve children in a photo taken at Paterson Studios circa 1924 after the divorce. From l. to r.: Cleo Pauline, Thomas Franklyn (Paul's grandfather), their father, Thomas Frederick; Earl John, Lyman Appleton (later changled to Harold) "Buddy", and Myrtle Minnie "Mary." These children were born in Washington after the family moved to Concrete in 1907-08.
Center: Bessie Belle Cole with her first of three husband, Earl Blaine. Photo by Frank LaRoche of Sedro-Woolley, circa the teen years of the 20th century.
Right: Violet Opal Cole in her graduation photo from Concrete High School. She graduated at the head of her class with high honors. Not all of the children in this family had the opportunity to complete High School.

Paul finds his living relatives
      I thought all of this was very interesting, but I still wanted to know more about my great-grandparents. With my grandfather being one of 12 [Cole] children I knew that even though my grandfather Frank Cole had passed away August 15, 1993, his sister Myrtle Minnie was still living. I contacted her and was pleased to hear that she was willing to help me in my research and had some old family pictures that I might find interesting. She also mentioned that her husband Wallace had been working on tracing the Cole family history but he passed away and she had given away his computer and records.
      Myrtle put me in contact with two other family members that she thought might be able to help me in my research. Lois Kabbe is my mother's cousin and Myrtle's niece. She is the only child of Leana Cole and Herman Henry Moore. Although Lois was born 1918 her enthusiasm was very refreshing and her personal family tree stories helped to bring my files to life. It was Lois that pointed out to me that my grandfather Frank Cole was actually named Thomas Franklyn Cole but went by his middle name, as did his father Thomas Frederick Cole.
      Myrtle also put me in contact with William Maiers, son of William Maiers Senior and Flossie May Cole. Cousin Bill and I have talked on the phone several times and also wanted to help out and offered more family pictures and personal stories. He is still very sharp at 88 years old and his wonderful sense of humor is reflected in his story telling about his "Folks" back then. After only two years of research I was quite pleased with the progress in my files for the Kool-Cool-Cole. I was sure that I had the "real scoop" and began proofreading, correcting and refining my files. I posted my family tree information to the internet so I could get input from fellow genealogists.
      [I discovered that] the first wife of Thomas Frederick Cole was Mahlah Jane Cleveland, daughter of James Cleveland and Catherine Maynard of Ontario, Canada. Frederick and Mahlah were married Dec. 04, 1885, in Ontario. They had two sons, Hiram James Cole born in 1885 and Frederick Bruce Cole born in 1890. Mahlah Jane Cleveland Cole was quite pregnant with their third child when she died December 07, 1890 in Raleigh Township, Kent County, Ontario, Canada. This may have been True Love. Mahlah Jane Cleveland, was buried in Ontario at age 26 years.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Cole sisters)
(Fred Cole)
(Cole trio)
Far left: The Cole sisters, Flossie May, left, and Eveleana, right, pose with Hedwick Mertz from Germany, according to Paul's information. She could be the daughter of Dr. Mertz — maybe a reader knows? Flossie was born in 1895 and Leana in 1893. The photo was taken in Concrete, circa 1910.
Center: A postcard photo of Frederick Bruce Cole in 1910 in Snohomish, addressed to Flossie Cole, Baker-Wash-Box 97. It reads: "Hello Slivers, We are going to Vancouver on May the 10th. That's my birthday. Will write you a letter next time. Tell every body hello for me. From Kiddo. They were step-siblings with different mothers, he from the late Mahalah from Michigan — born in 1890, and she from Carrie — born in 1895. Flossie was always very slender and that is why he would call her "Slivers" and himself "Kiddo."
Right: This is a photo of Eveleana "Leana" Cole Moore with her husband, Herman Henry Moore, and his brother, Mr. Moore, on the right. Leana was born in 1893 in Michigan, the eldest of the Cole children. After she was voted the most popular girl in Concrete in her teens, she died of a broken heart in Michigan after Herman died from an accident in the woods.

Fred Scandal One: two wives at a time
      I was ready to document what I thought was Thomas Frederick Cole's second marriage [to Carrie Thompson] until I received a very interesting communication from Ontario, Canada. A fellow researcher had found information on a marriage of Thomas Frederick Cole to an Alice Brady on Feb. 24, 1892, in Ontario, Canada. I knew that Thomas Frederick Cole had married my great-grandmother Carrie Thompson on Sept. 12, 1892. I knew that this was either a mistake or a scandal. Well, I was "digging for gold" in my family tree and all I found was more dirt, and it was no mistake.
      [Thomas Frederick Cole indeed married widow Alice Brady Wallace] on Feb. 24, 1892. Alice Brady had just been acquitted for the murder of her husband James Wallace, who died in September 1889, before the birth of their ninth child. His body had been found to be full of rat poison and she was arrested and went on trial. Her baby, Charles Wallace, was born in the Chatham County Jail in 1890.
      When she married Thomas Frederick Cole, 25 years old, widow Alice Brady Wallace said she was 35 years old but was really 49. Alice was a very controlling person and she talked her first husband sign over all of the properties into her name. They constantly argued about this and she often threatened to poison him if would not keep quiet. When James Wallace suddenly died September 1889, his brother became suspicious and insisted they examine the body and an inquest was held. His body was found to be full of high levels of "Rat Poison" so Alice Brady was arrested and put on trial for his murder.

Alice Brady Wallace's trial
From the Tri Weekly Planet, Friday, April 18, 1890
      The Grand Jury came in with a true bill against Alice Brady for murder. Some time previously they had brought in a true bill against John McMeakin for embezzlement. Mrs. Alice Wallace came into court with a very young baby in her arms, born in jail a few weeks ago. She took her seat in the dock and appeared quite cool and collected. The accused woman is of rather large build, with a square, determined face, and respectable appearance. When the indictment for murder of her husband was read she plead not guilty, and said she was ready for trial. The Crown, however, was not ready and the case traversed to the fall Assizes. The prisoner's council applied for her release on bail, but this was opposed by the Crown and refused, and she was then removed from the courtroom.
      Paul Enge — Alice Brady Wallace was later acquitted for the death of her husband, even though his body had been found to be full of rat poison. Alice Brady Wallace then married my great-grandfather Thomas Frederick Cole on Feb. 24, 1892, in Raleigh Township, Kent County, Ontario, Canada. They were only married six months before Fred swindled Alice Brady Wallace out of $200 dollars and went to Michigan to marry 15-year old-Carrie Thompson Kent County, Ontario, Canada. There is more to this story of scandal and deception.

Fred Scandal Two, he proves to be a cad! The swindle of Widow Wallace
Chatham Daily Planet, July 11, 1892
FICKLE, FALSE FREDERICK! He secures His Bride's Little Hoard and Decamps
      An information lodged on Saturday at police headquarters read: "On the 17th of March 1892 Frederick Cole did unlawfully, and knowingly by false pretenses obtain from her, this complainant, a cheque for $200 with intent to defraud. The information is signed by Alice Cole, wife of the accused. With a warrant in his pocket based on this information, High Constable Dennis drove to Pardo's Mill, Raleigh Township early yesterday morning and took Frederick Cole into custody. The prisoner was to-day arraigned on the charge.

Cole's contemptible conduct
      This case is a peculiar one, and illustrative of man's duplicity and woman's weakness. Alice Cole is the widow Wallace, of the Port Alma poisoning case fame. She has been living in Chatham since her acquittal on the charge of murdering her husband. It took nearly the value of the farm left by Wallace to pay for the expenses of the great trial.
      The residue, some $250 dollars, was obtained after a sale of the farm and deposited in the Chatham Loan & Savings bank. Mrs. Wallace by this time married again, her husband being the young man now in custody. It was at his insistence that she sold her farm and he further suggested the investment of the little balance in a Detroit Saloon business. The woman consented. She signed what purported to be a $20 cheque, so that he might draw that amount and proceed to Detroit to look up a saloon. By some means or other the cheque proved to be for $200 dollars. The money was drawn by Cole and that was the last heard of him until he turned up the other day at his old home and police got wind of his whereabouts.

(Carrie Thompson Cole)
Carrie Thompson Cole, as a single lady after her divorce from Fred Cole, pictured here in 1924 in Sedro Woolley, Washington. Even after bearing 16 children, she was still very much interested in men and entertainined gentleman callers. She was known to say "Things are bound to happen when you put a man and a woman under one roof."

      The prisoner gives a good and sufficient reason, if true, for deserting his bride after only a few weeks of wedded bliss. But the reason for making off with her little hoard and leaving her well nigh penniless is not so clear and satisfactory. This morning the prisoner was remanded for trial till Thursday, the Magistrate wishing to look up the law applying to this case.

Fred Cole's trial
Chatham Daily Planet, Thursday July 14, 1892
Cole gets off and Ollie Scott receives two years
      The first case called at the Police Court this morning was that of Frederick Cole, the man that skipped town with his wife's money. He could not be proceeded against on the charge of false pretenses, and as he had not been arraigned on the charge of forgery, and that his wife Mrs. Cole, not pushing the charge, in view of the prisoner's promise to live with her and support her, the Magistrate let him go. Mr. O'Neil defended the prisoner.

      Paul Enge — Well, Thomas Frederick Cole obviously did not keep his promise. He again abandoned Alice Brady Wallace Cole; he was probably afraid that she would try to poison him. So he escaped back to Michigan, this time not alone. He was never divorced.
      Thomas Frederick Cole married Caroline "Carrie" Thompson on Sept. 12, 1892. in Michigan just one month after her 15th birthday. Her father had been out of town on business so her mother gave consent to the marriage. When her father returned he was very angry about the early marriage of his young daughter, but it was too late. John Thompson must have known of the scandals of Thomas Frederick Cole! Frederick's first wife Mahlah Jane Cleveland was the cousin of Olive Elizabeth "Lizzie" Woods. Their mothers were sisters. Olive Elizabeth Woods was also the wife of John Thompson and mother of Caroline "Carrie" Thompson. In the marriage record Caroline signed her name as Carrie Thompson, claimed to be of legal marrying age and lists her residence as Moorestown in order not to be traced. They were also married by a Justice of the Peace and not in a church.
      The 12 [surviving] children of Frederick Cole and Carrie Thompson struggled to survive in this family, each child suffering much hardship and lack of feeling loved. Even their son Edward, who was born in 1900 with a clubfoot, was constantly in severe pain from botched surgeries and was addicted to heroin.
      Frederick Cole did marry a fourth time. This wife was an Indian Woman who lived in Bellingham, already had children and owned a Candy Store business. It sounds like she was just another "free ride" for Fred Cole. This couple was later divorced. He should have come with a warning label!
      My mother, Shannon Melissa Cole, went to Western in 1952, but dropped out to marry Herman Frederick Enge Jr. in 1953.

Addendum: Carrie, Lizzie and Clear Lake
      Lizzie also ran a boarding house in Clearlake [in the 1912 time period]. Lizzie could not read or write but did not want people to know that. Whenever she needed to talk to her daughter Carrie, she would put a blank slip of paper into an envelope. She would the ask one of her boarders to address the envelope to her daughter Carrie in Concrete/Baker, claiming that she had misplaced her glasses and could not see to do so herself. When Carrie received the envelope with the blank slip of paper she knew that her mother wanted to see her, so she walked along the railroad tracks to Clearlake. Carrie was he oldest child and Lizzie insisted that her children were educated and could read and write.

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