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Daniel D. Dillard, first mayor of Concrete

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal ©2002
(Dillard wedding)
Daniel and Henrietta Dillard on their wedding day in 1912

      Daniel Dougal Dillard built the Baker Lumber Co. mill on the west side of the Baker river, just north of the junction with the Skagit river, sometime just before or after the turn of the twentieth century. The mill was located just down the slope from the eastern dead-end of Main street in present-day Concrete, Washington. You can see a historical marker there on — what else — Dillard street [or avenue].
      Thanks to his descendants Andria Kennoy and Jody Dillard, we learned a great deal about the man who was elected the first mayor of Concrete in 1909, when Concrete was chosen by the voters as the new name for the combined towns of Baker and Cement City, on the western and eastern sides of the Baker river, respectively. They first contacted us in 2002, and as they added information, we eventually heard from a descendant of Dillard's mystery partner, who added more details to the story.
      Daniel D. Dillard's family line dated back to the revolutionary war, where Culpeper County Virgina (George Washington country), with Capt. James Dillard fighting from there and then moving on to Laurens District, South Carolina. Down the line two generations came Andria's great-great-grandfather, Thomas Milton Dillard. Thomas Milton moved from South Carolina to Tallapoosa County, Alabama, married his first wife, Mary Baker, and then moved to Sevier County, Arkansas. After his first wife died, Thomas married a former Alabama neighbor, Manerva Jane Jackson, and brought her back to Arkansas to care for his children. They had seven more children. One of those children was her grandfather, Jerry Clements Dillard, who was Daniel's half brother. The family lived in Falls County, Texas, until the death of Thomas in 1876 and that hard time is the subject of this extraordinary family story that Andria shared with us. We always look for character of the pioneers we profile and this story shows some admirable genes.

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      Thomas Milton Dillard joined the army in the fall of 1863. He was part of the 5th Arkansas Cavalry Company C under the command of Robert C. Newton (from Texas Confederate Widow's Pension Application). The 5th fought in the battle at Shiloh and Corinth among others before becoming the 8th Arkansas Cavalry Regiment that fought in the battle of the Trans-Mississippi West, known as the battle between the rivers. He left the army when the war ended in 1865.
      This story about the long treacherous move from Arkansas to Falls County, Texas passed down through the family has been repeated many times. The following is the account relayed to me by T.M.'s granddaughter Pearl as well as by my father, Jack, and other members of the family. When Thomas M. decided to move to Texas after the Civil War, he made an offer to his slaves who had been freed by President Lincoln. Any slave that wanted to travel with him would be given a wagon, a walking plow, a walking planter and a mule. Once they reached Texas they could get their own land or work for him for wages. The convoy contained 27 wagons headed out of Sevier County Arkansas, to Texas. The Dillards, Harlans and Jacksons were filled with hope as they headed for a new life on a new land.
      Upon reaching the Red River they discovered that fording the very wide sandy river was too much for the wagons and mules. They camped on the north side of the river and began making raft-like devices out of the branches of the trees along the banks. They wove the tree limbs together until it would support the weight of the wagons. One at a time they slowly maneuvered the heavy wagons and mules across the quicksand and water. It took over a week to get each wagon across. It took them over seven months to make the crossing.
      Thomas and his children, and the group of black families headed south until they came to the Brazos River, in what is now known as Falls County. The cedar trees lining the ridge above the valley housing the Brazos gave the illusion of the color blue as it came into view. Amazed at the "Blue Ridge" Thomas and the others found this place to be the one they wanted to call home. That's where his family settled and farmed the land. I have found no deed or evidence that that shows ownership of the land he farmed. I assumed the land he owned along the Little River in Arkansas had been the grant he received for his service in the Civil War. Thomas and Manerva lived in Falls County only a short time but made quite an impact on the small community of settlers and encouraged many members of his family to move to the area from both Alabama and Arkansas.
      He died suddenly while on a cattle run in Falls County. The cause of death has been reported as tuberculosis, but the story goes, he fell from his horse and a lung was punctured. This injury was complicated by his illness and he died on the range near Mart, Texas. He is buried at Blue Ridge Cemetery alongside his brother Odell near members of the Harlan family . There is no headstone with his name. Only a sandstone rectangular slab protrudes from the ground at the head of his resting place.

      Daniel D. Dillard was nearly 17 when his father, Thomas, died. He was born in Arkansas in about 1856, as the oldest son in the first family, and moved to Texas with the family as a young man. He had been trained since childhood in all types of stock-raising and he became a cowboy for hire, both in the American South and in South America. Then, in the 1880s, he lived in Arizona where he met Rudolph Roggenstroh, who was initially a partner in the Baker mill.

British Columbia, the Klondike and then the Baker River
      Sometime in the early to mid-1890s, Daniel moved to British Columbia. Daniel's great-granddaughter, Jody Dillard, shared another family story about when Dan moved down to Concrete, part of the way in a canoe. There is a hint within that he had maybe followed the gold rush to the Klondike, circa 1897-1899. He was always known as quite a character:
      Uncle Dan Dillard [was] coming across a river from Canada into the U.S. (or vice versa) and was stopped and investigated by the Border Police. They inspected his belongings in the canoe and then questioned him and proceeded to search him. They came upon a small leather pouch and they asked Uncle Dan what this was. Scowling, he held the bag at arm's length over the side of the canoe, "It's me gold dust!" he replied "and I'll deposit it here in the deep before ye shall have it!"
      Magnus Miller founded the town of Baker in 1890 just up the slope from Dillard's future mill. Charles Dwelley noted in his book, So they called the town Concrete, that early logging-camp owners hired men to fell cedar trees way north of town and cut them into shingle bolts that were then floated down the river and caught on a boom. Dillard built his shingle mill along the right-of-way for the Seattle & Northern railway, which crossed the Baker on a trestle just north the junction of the Skagit, and soon produced a million shingles daily.
      His initial partner was his associate from Arizona, Rudolph Roggenstroh, and we finally learned about him from Rudolph Schmid, who was born in Germany and now lives in the U.S. He confirmed that the spelling was correct and that Rudolph had returned to Germany in about 1911. We still do not know exactly how long the men were partners.

(Dillard family)
Dillard famly: (from left to right) Daniel Jr.; Daniel Sr. holding John; Mary Fannie "Fan" standing in back; in front of her is Lillie; Hennrietta Phillips Dillard is sitting with Cecil on her lap; then June Dillard.

      Soon after Baker was incorporated as Concrete on April 27, 1909, Daniel Dillard was elected the first mayor and took office on May 10. Three years later, when he was 56, he traveled briefly to Alabama to marry Henrietta Phillips in the town of Goodwater sometime in February 1912. They would eventually have six children. In other public records, we find that in 1917 he applied to the city council for permission to erect a half dozen telephone poles for his private telephone line. It likely connected with the Concrete Telephone Co., owned by the famous sisters, Kate Gluver and Nell Quackenbush. Sometime in those early days, he also helped build a church in town, possibly the Catholic church on the slope northwest of the grade school.
      Shortly after Daniel moved to Baker, his sister Catherine (Kate) and family followed him from Texas, where both Kate and Daniel lived after being born in Arkansas. Kate's daughter Eula married Bill Connelly, a man who worked for Dan at the mill. In 1923 she left Connelly and married Joseph Kemmerich, the son of upriver pioneer August Kemmerich.
      Jody shared another family story that shows that Daniel kept in touch with the folks back home in Texas and Arkansas. His half brother, Jerry, heard a tale that Daniel had met with and maybe hung out with the likes of Billy The Kid. One of Jerry's descendants remembered hearing from Uncle Dan Dillard of Washington State and the Vancouver, Canada area. When the Washington apples were in season he would ship a barrel to Jerry and his wife, Leona, in Bell County, Texas. When the apples arrived it was "Christmas all over again!" she said. Other times he would send cases of canned Red Salmon from Vancouver B.C. and 25 pounds of raisins from California.
      In 1932, Dillard was killed in a car wreck west of Concrete in what was then called the Rock Cut. A year later, Henrietta died after suffering a nervous breakdown, brought on by her intense loneliness and the strain of being left with their six children.

(Shingles at Dillard mill)
Great Northern train picks up Dillard shingles
(Baker River Shingle Mill)
Baker River Shingle Mill
This bunkhouse-kitchen was built from cedar shakes. Dan Dillard at far right
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos. Photos from So They Called the Town Concrete, by the late Charles M. Dwelley, the longtime publisher of the Concrete Herald. [Order the reprint].

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Story originally posted on Oct. 19, 2002, updated and moved to this domain May 25, 2011
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