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

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Portal section: Charles M. Dwelley,
Concrete publisher for 40 years, and his
and his family who made Skagit history for a century

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2005
(Chuck Dwelley)
      Charles M. "Chuck" Dwelley spent 40 years as the voice of the town of Concrete, after originally being assigned there in the months just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash to edit a failing small-town weekly newspaper, the Concrete Herald, which had gone bankrupt. His early days as an editor were not auspicious at all, especially for the grandson of one of Skagit County's earliest pioneers, Joseph Dwelley.
      Joseph Dwelley was born in 1839 in Kittery, Maine. His father was a Boston ship carpenter and Joseph learned the trade well. He moved from New England to Wisconsin as a young man and in 1861, after learning of the fall of Fort Sumter, he enlisted in the Union army. His autobiography includes eye-witness accounts of the battles at Antietam, Chancellorsville and the Wilderness and he watched Pickett's charge from Round Top Hill at Gettysburg.
      Following the war, after Dwelley married Angeline Wells on Feb. 11, 1870, and Having decided to seek a home in the West, he left his bride to wait until he could send for her. At San Francisco he arranged to work as ship's carpenter on the Isaac Jenner [EN 2] for his passage to Whidby [Whidbey] island [EN 3]. The captain set him ashore on or about March 26, 1870, with a $5 gold piece as a bonus, to begin his career in the new territory.
      The young man had inherited his father's carpentry skill, so he built barns and houses on the island in the summer. On a trip up the Skagit river he located a land claim above the great log jam which blocked the stream near the present Mount Vernon [EN 4]. He sent for his wife in 1871 and they spent the winters on their wild homestead. Each summer they migrated to Whidby Island, where Dwelley worked at his trade.

From Coupeville to future Mount Vernon by canoe, as a babe
      "One of my first conscious memories," said Joseph's daughter, Mrs. Kate Maloy, in 1959, "is of going back and forth to Coupeville in a large canoe. Mother put a feather bed in it and we children slept while our parents rowed. We lived in a log cabin on the island two summers. [EN 5]
      After four seasons on his Mount Vernon homestead Dwelley moved to LaConner. The country above the jam was too lonely for a man with a family. He lived there for the next 60 years, one of the leaders out of the early pioneers, in government and in social lodges. The boy who learned to be a carpenter grew into the man who helped imprint social structure on the frontier.
      Along the way, two generations later, Chuck Dwelley actually eclipsed the publicity and historical reputation accorded to his grandfather, Joseph Franklin Dwelley, and he grew into a significant journalist rival for his mentor, Frank Evans, publisher of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times. His voice became pre-eminent for all things upriver in the Skagit Valley and he pushed badly needed infrastructure and transportation projects, while he opposed others that he considered boondoggles or frivolous.
      Chuck's value for historical researchers was insured when he published his memories of his adopted town, So They Called the Town Concrete, in 1980 (link soon will be changed to the current domain) That link is for our review and introduction to the book. You can order it through this link. That book has recently been reprinted by the Concrete Museum. In a 1984 letter to Anne Bussiere, who took over as editor of the Herald for owners Bob and June Fader, Dwelley explained how he soon became the established upriver "whipping boy" and how the manager of Superior Cement Co. soon demanded that Herald articles concerning the cement plant were to be brought to him for approval. Dwelley called the man's bluff and he was soon on his way to establishing a presence in town.

See the extensive section on Charles M. "Chuck" Dwelley, which was created by Larry and Josef Kunzler as part of their program in August 2006 to honor Dwelley by installing a plaque on the Dalles Bridge, one of Dwelley's most important projects.

      In his 1980 book, Dwelley recalled how he was sent to Concrete as a young man of 21 to take over the bankrupt weekly Herald, just before the depression struck, Mr. Dwelley eked out a living of sorts until he managed to put the Herald on its feet financially and retire the mortgages some ten years later. Meanwhile, he was establishing a reputation, which grew to statewide and eventually nationwide, as a top editor and writer. His short editorials have been reprinted in numerous daily newspapers and national magazines and reread over radio stations throughout the country. Dwelley sold the Herald in late 1970 to Robert and June Fader. In 1979, he edited a collection of historical stories in a book for the Skagit Valley Historical Society, Skagit Memories, and he wrote a column, "The Bridge Tender," in the Channel Town Press, LaConner newspaper.
      Charles M. Dwelley was the middle child of three of Charles L. Dwelley, who was born in LaConner in 1878 as the fourth child of Joseph and Angeline Dwelley. Charles L. Dwelley moved his family to Anacortes in 1910, where he worked for the Anacortes Pulp Mill when it started and remained there until his retirement. He was president of the Historical Society in 1954.

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Story posted on Story posted Dec. 1, 2005, last updated April 24, 2007, moved to this domain Nov. 21, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 31 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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