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Skagit River Journal

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History of the
Qualls and Cary families of Hamilton

      Update March 2004: we are about to update this entire story and we encourage you to share information or scans of photos that will add to this family profile. We are also working with Skagit County Commissioner Ted Anderson to set up a volunteer crew to work with county parks employees to once again clean up the Qualls pioneer cemetery site. We hope to assemble a crew by May 2004. Please email if you would like to volunteer.
      An upriver family name that has almost been forgotten except by real old-timers is that of the Qualls who moved here in the 1870s from Tennessee. I have always been curious about the family and had just about given up on finding traces of them until Lois Pinelli Theodoratus reminded me last year that the old family graveyard near Alder Creek has been grown over by weeds and brush again. I went back and re-read Mollie Dowdle's lovely story about the family in her great book, Tarheels, and then found some new information on the web. Here is a collection of stories about the Qualls and Carys, who were salt of the earth back when pioneers ruled the roost upriver.

(Qualls ranch picnic 1916)
Qualls ranch 1916 reunion picnic. Click on this thumbnail to see the full photo. See story below. Can anyone identify people in the photo? Scan courtesy of Dan Royal.

Pioneer cemetery
By Mollie Dowdle, from her 1985 book, My Best Loved Stories
      In a neglected, forsaken cemetery, not far from the Skagit River above Hamilton, lie the remains of Nancy Adeline Qualls, one of the earliest pioneers in the upper valley. Nature has claimed the spot for its own again and I can't plow through the tangles to visit Nancy anymore. Standing like a silent sentinel over the burying spot is a huge cedar tree with sweeping low branches reaching out like gentle arms to caress the earth. Snow berries have pushed their persistent sturdy growth and then consecrated it with white berries. Many years ago, someone planted an old-fashioned rambling rose in the grave yard, and its prickly long branches have dropped to the soil and sprouted to new life in a mad riot over Nancy and her silent neighbors.
      I remember when Nancy's grave had been protected from the elements with a steep roof of long hand split cedar shakes, but time claimed its own and now these lay scattered over the sunken spot. Nancy is one with the wind, rain and snow along the Skagit. The remains of a low ornate picket fence has withstood time, separated this pioneer woman from other graves. Someone cared. Someone cared very much. Was it a husband or a child? We will never know.
      I can't reach the grave marker, but it is there, a four inch slab of straight grained cedar, curved into a half circle at the top. Faintly seen is Nancy's simple epitaph, printed in black letters — Nancy Adeline Qualls — age 58 years, died 1883. Nancy and her young husband, Jasper, and their children left Arkansas over a century ago [probably late 1870s] and traveled west with a wagon train.
      It took a long time, and we can only imagine the hardships they endured. Our valley was a land of promise, one of fertile soil, fish, wild life and opportunities. They reached LaConner from their long journey and loaded their scant belongings into a canoe and continued on up the Skagit River. Just above Hamilton they staked out homestead rights on 160 acres of virgin timber and hurried to erect a log cabin because winter was drawing near.
      Nancy bore more children until there were four sons and three daughters. A larger house replaced the one room log cabin and Jasper finally cleared away enough timber from his door-step for adequate soil to feed his family. There is no remembrance of how long the Qualls lived [here] before the death of Nancy. But we know she was laid to a corner of their homestead. As others of the family died, they were laid alongside of her. The Carys were relatives and some of them were put there. It became known, until this day, as Cary Cemetery. There are memories of loggers killed in the woods and buried there. An old timer handed down a pathetic story of death in the wilderness, far up the Skagit River, on the Sauk. A young homesteader lost his wife and first baby in childbirth. There was no available material for a coffin, so he chipped one from the trunk. of a tree. Placing the baby in the mother's arms, he brought them by canoe to the Cary Cemetery for a Christian burial. From such. pioneers have come the roots of civilization along the Skagit. There was no church, so we can only imagine how these services were carried out. We only know the pioneers managed.
      The cemetery expanded with open arms to all without a price. Ten? Twenty? Thirty? No one knows. Those who would are gone. The information I have is from a woman whose ancestor was an early Qualls woman who had kept a journal of remembrances. The bodies in the pioneer cemetery had been buried near Alder Creek at a time when the water didn't wash and cut dangerously. But the time came when the water changed its course and caskets began to float down stream into the river. Once, I picked up the bleached arm and leg bones of an adult, and called the sheriff, who took care of them.
      Nancy Adeline Qualls is the only grave with a marker ; the others are known only to God. Feeble attempts were made a time or two to grasp the spot from the elements but none were successful. The nettles, snow berries and all manner of sturdy brush gained a foothold over the seven graves and I gave up trying to visit Nancy. Recently I went up to the cemetery and this is what I found. Someone had dumped a pile of liquor bottles over what could be graves. Alder Creek has been rocked, so there will be no more washing graves away. Huge alder trees grow along the creek bank and lean heavily over the cemetery. One day the State Fishery Department stopped, looked over the site and decided it would be an ideal spot for some phase of their work, but were soon told it was a burying spot of old pioneers. Few people know it is there. But those of us who do all feel alike: wouldn't it be great to see it restored so future generations can visit Nancy and others who lie in peace along the Skagit?

Pioneer cemetery gets spruced up
By Noel Johnson, associate editor, Skagit Valley Herald, unknown date in July 1985
      In a neglected, brush tangled cemetery at Alder Creek on Cape Horn Road between Hamilton and Birdsview stands a time-worn cedar tombstone: "Nancy Adeline Qualls, died July 13, 1884, age 57." For 101 years almost to the day, the four inch slab of straight grained cedar has withstood the ravages of wind, rain and sun to mark the final resting place of this pioneer woman.
      Tuesday, a maintenance crew from the Skagit County Public Works Department, armed with brush cutters and muscle, cut away the tangle of brush, vines and small trees which had overgrown the grave of Nancy and her silent neighbors, and made the pioneer cemetery at least accessible again. A number of years ago a group of young people from the nearby communities had cleaned up the area and restored the markers the best they could. But time and undergrowth wait for no man, alive or at rest. The county effort to clear away the ancient cemetery is a triumph of persistence for Molly Dowdle herself a pioneer resident of the area. More than 20 years ago Mrs. Dowdle, a long time correspondent, wrote an article in the Skagit Valley Herald telling about coming across the old burying place. The article, Pioneer Cemetery is reprinted in her new book, My Best Loved Stories. Mrs. Dowdle recently got a commitment from Skagit County to do something about the historical site. The effort was spearheaded by County Commissioner Dave Rohrer. "Now I'm hoping it will be classified by the county for perpetual care," Dowdle said Tuesday.
      According to her account, Nancy Qualls and her husband Jasper, and their children, left Arkansas and came west with a wagon train. They reached LaConner and loaded their scanty belongings into a canoe, traveling up the Skagit to a site above Hamilton where they staked out a homestead. Eventually they had seven children, and a larger house replaced the one-room log cabin. How long they lived there before Nancy died is not know, but eventually other members of the family were buried there to. Alder Creek at flood stage has eroded away many of the graves, but the county will now rock the stream bank in hopes that what remains of the cemetery will continue as a memory and tribute to the Qualls and other pioneers of that area.

More Mollie Dowdle memories of the cemetery
More Mollie Dowdle memories from the book, Hamilton, 100 Years, by Carol Bates
Aunt Mary Qualls
      [After the death of his wife, Nancy,] Jasper Qualls returned alone to Arkansas where he lived the remainder of his life. Two of Nancy's and Jasper's granddaughters, both in their eighties, remember one of the Qualls girls, their aunt Mary. They say of her:
      "She was really clever, even though blind. When our little brother was a little boy, he loved to go see Aunt Mary. She would hug him close to her and then caress his body with her aged hands. Once she felt a hole in the knee of his trousers and insisted he take them off until she could sew on a patch."
      Aunt Mary Qualls lived and died in almost the exact spot where she was born. She was laid to rest alongside her mother, Nancy. Gar Green related an interesting account of a pioneer burying and he says it could easily have been that of Aunt Mary. Gar grew up on the place adjoining the Quallses' homestead and never missed a funeral service. They were always held in Hamilton. The coffin, a rough cedar box, was placed on a wagon after the service and hauled with a team of work horses to the graveyard, three miles up the valley. In Gar's own inimitable way, he says:

      I remember this one time. It was in the middle of the summer and hot as blazes. The horses kicked up the dust along the dry rough road and it would blow back into the faces of the people walking in the procession.
      Everybody quit work and attended funerals because it was an occasion where folks got a chance to see each other and visit. The women always wore black clothes, long-sleeved, high-necked, and their skirts touched the ground. All the children were dressed in their Sunday best and taken to the funerals. The women held to the hands of the older ones and the men carried the babies or little ones. The preachers, most times a pioneer with a little religious zeal, was pressed into duty, would walk directly behind the cortege with his big black bible. And everyone would weep.
      The graveside services were long and drawn out and it was sundown before the wagon was loaded with weary women and children and started for home. They left the open grave and wilted tight bouquets of summer flowers for the neighbors to fill and arrange.
      "Nancy Adeline Qualls, age 57. Died 1884. An ethereal peace surrounds her resting place and is steeped in memories of old pioneers along the Skagit."

Cemetery update 2002:
      Lois Pinelli Theodoratus, our upriver correspondent sent a note the other day. "The Qualls-Cary Cemetery is on the east side of Alder Creek by the side of the river road. There are about eight members buried there. Maybe more. I can't remember. Its over grown and needs cleaned up again. It was last worked on back in the 70's." Maybe some of our readers would like to volunteer for this project? Please email if you want to volunteer.

Memories of the Qualls and Cary families
By Gladys Ellis Pape Miller, descendant of the Savage and Boyd families
Qualls boat landing
      About three miles upriver from Hamilton on the north side of the Skagit river was the early settler rest area and stopover known as Qualls Landing. This was the entrance to the Qualls Homestead, the big log house with its huge fireplace warmed and made welcome and shared their food with neighbors, friend or stranger traveling the river. This was the pioneer way of showing hospitality. The latch string was always out on every door to everyone passing through.
      When the Skagit was cleared enough for the steamboats to use the river the Qualls Landing became of greater use to river travelers. The steamers would stop and buy long wood and make sure they had a good head of steam before they reached the riffle area at the Pressentin homestead. Another wood stop along the river was the Savage Landing at the south side of the river at Birdsview, also located just before the steamboats reached Pressentin's. The riffle areas of the river were shallow and swift and most difficult for a loaded boat to navigate and must always be done during daylight hours.
      The Black Prince and the Harvester were the two steamers known to most that can remember the old freighters. [These sternwheelers hauled both people and supplies from Seattle and towns in the lower valley to the little towns upriver and even above Marblemount when the water was high enough. The river was dredged to keep the river deep enough for the boats to clear the jams and gravel bars.] Children hearing their whistle would run to the river to watch and wave and were delighted when the passengers waved back. This was only possible when the steamers traveled upstream. Going downstream the natural swift current took the ships much faster. There were many stubbed and swollen toes from running barefoot to the river. In the spring during high water we would see men on each side of the river in canoes driving shingle bolts down to the mills at Sedro-Woolley. The drivers of the shingle bolts did a lot of yelling to each other. We always had time to get to the river to watch.
      In later years came the tugboat of Mr. Ben Tingley and Mr. Elwell towing huge rafts of logs from the upper valley. The Skagit river offered much excitement for children living nearby.
      It was October 1881 when Capt. [Lewis] Alexander Boyd brought his wife and children up the Skagit river to homestead at Birdsview near Mrs. Boyd's sister, Mrs. George Savage. My mother Grace Boyd was one of nine children that stopped or at Qualls Landing before traveling on to Birdsview.
      These are the names of the Qualls children that I remember: William, Mary, Matilda. Matilda married Jesse Cary; they took over the home farm and raised their large family there. [Update 2002: from genealogy information, we know that there were other children in the family. They included: Francis Taylor, Samuel W., George W., Robert, Lucy. Some or all of those children may have stayed down South.]
      Behind a white picket fence on the east boundary of the Qualls property was the family cemetery where the Qualls and Cary families were buried until the Alder Creek channel was changed, which took the creek through a portion of the cemetery. The family (graves) there were moved to Hamilton. Matilda Qualls Cary and Jesse Cary are buried next to their only daughter, Viola McKenna, in Hamilton cemetery. Their graves are unmarked. Such a shame.

Jesse and Matilda Qualls Cary
      Matilda Qualls married Jesse Cary during the late 1870s. Jesse Cary came to the area with his brothers Freeman and Aaron during the civil war. Jesse Cary, whom all the neighbor children learned to call Uncle Jess, was the first pioneer doctor on the river. He was kind and gentle and filled with good humor, which sometimes helped make the [castor] oil a little easier to take. [Journal Ed. note: Castor oil was a pioneer cure-all, used as a laxative and skin softener and also used industrially as a solvent. My mother still administered it to us in the 1950s.] I remember on a cold winter day in particular when Uncle Jess came to our farm home where my sister Corrine was very ill. He looked at her and said: "Well, Bless you, darling, you have the smallpox." This kind soul had one arm completely off at the shoulder; however, he brought many of the children into the world for families along the river. Ellen Steen Kirkland told me a few years ago that he helped her mother through most of her births.
      Matilda Qualls Cary was ill with what termed dropsy when I first met her in about 1916. She sat in a big Morris chair in the front room and children carried dippers of water to her. [Journal Ed. note: this type of chair was an early version of what we now call a La-Z-Boy recliner.] We all loved her and we were taught to call her Aunt Tillie.
      Freeman and Aaron Cary each established a homestead farm near the Cary or Qualls farm, across the railroad tracks. I believe the Great Northern built their tracks through the Cary property. Later, Hazel and George O'Hara bought part of the Freeman and Aaron Cary place and made their home there sometime in the 1930s. Rita [also called Retta] Cary Todd, sister to Jesse, Freeman and Aaron, came to live with her brothers. She had an inheritance from her former husband. After George Savage divorced his wife, she married him.

1916 Pioneer picnic of upper-Skagit settlers
      On the Fourth of July, 1916, families came by canoe, wagon and buggy load with their children to spend the day visiting with friends and neighbors and making new acquaintances at the Jesse and Matilda Qualls Cary farm. Some old friends and relatives came by train to Hamilton and stayed over, while others from distances came and camped out.
      Long tables were placed in the big orchard to be covered with a variety of colored tablecloths, some with fancy linen. The tables were soon loaded with fried chicken and wonderful-smelling roasted meats plus breads, pastries and fresh-cooked garden vegetables. Large crocks of lemonade and big kettles of coffee over an open fire smelled very inviting to hungry kids that had been up early and traveled rough roads behind a team of horses. After dinner we had speakers that stood on a milk stand covered at the bottom by bunting. After that came the games for kids, gunny-sack and three-legged races, baseball and much more.
      The picnic described above became a yearly event for a few years. We often saw at least a hundred people; sometimes more attend. Other popular events during this same time period were the barn dances when someone finished a new barn. The old settlers had many old time musicians even before the later, better known music of Nellie Quackenbush Wheelock and her sister, Kate Glover. Capt. L.A. Boyd and his brother-in-law George Savage played their fiddles for many dances at Birdsview. The Savages built a rather large dance hall on the south side of the river near the Birdsview ferry landing. On Sunday this same hall served as a church and community meeting building

Qualls family genealogy
      Jasper Newton Qualls was born in 1829 in White county, Tennessee. His father was Robert G. Quarles, who was born about 1792-1795 in Henry Country, Virginia. His mother was originally Elizabeth Snow, who may have been born sometime between 1810-20 in an unknown state. Jasper was logged in the 1850 federal census, coincidentally in Hamilton county, Tennessee. In the 1860 and 1870 censuses he was logged in Marble township in Madison county, Arkansas. By the 1880 federal census he was logged in Whatcom county, Territory of Washington. After Skagit county was split off in 1883, he was logged in Skagit for the 1885 census.
      We discovered quite a bit of information on Jasper in the research shared by Debbie Cossey Wasserburger (> in her Wasserburger/Qualls/Quarles Family Pages. She shares information that Esther Truax of Stillwater, Oklahoma, provided in 1995. Jasper served for 51 days in the Missouri Militia, 6th provential Regiment. He was a private in company "A". He enrolled on May 1st 1864 at Ozark, Missouri, and was ordered into active service September 15, 1864, at Ozark, Missouri, by General Holland. He was relieved from duty on November 14, 1864. Esther notes that Jasper was a colorful and courageous man. David Hollinghead, a Qualls descendant from San Jose, toured the Qualls cemetery near Hamilton in 2003 along with Lois Pinelli Theodoratus.
      A land record will help us determine a little more closely when Jasper moved to Washington territory. Arkansas records from the Harrison Land Office note that Jasper N. Qualls homesteaded 80 acres on June 30, 1876.
      Jasper and Nancy had eight children together, inclduing Francis Taylor, May 3, 1849; in Tennessee. Born in Georgia: William Alexander, born September 1851; Samuel W. Qualls, born 1853; George W., born 1856 (all estimated birth dates). Born in Arkansas: Matilda, born March 1857; Robert, born about 1859; Mary Qualls, born about 1862; Lucy, born about 1868. George W. Qualls, the fourth child of Jasper and Nancy, died in Skagit county on July 17, 1905.
      Another source of information on Jasper is Jeff Loewen (jloewen@pnrail), who has a document called Qualls cousins and a CD with genealogy information. None of these sources gives a death date for Jasper or tells when he returned to Arkansas. All of them indicate that he returned to Washington, where he apparently died sometime after 1885.
      Mr. Loewen also shares information about the children of Jesse Freeman Cary and Matilda Qualls Cary (misspelled Carey): Alfred, 1878; Delbert, 1880; Harry Henry, 1882; Viola, 1884; Irving, 1885; Robert, 1888; Oscar Austin, 1890; Walter, 1892. In Mrs. Miller's undated story that we quoted above, she includes two children whose names are not on that list: Ervin and Austin; possibly they were nicknames or middle names. She also noted that Viola married a Mr. Boyle, then a Mr. McKenna, and lived in Alaska. Her son, William Boyle, "lives in Seattle area."
      We hope that a reader will share more information about the Qualls and Cary families, especially the last days of Jasper after he returned to Washington, and any descendants you know about.

Cary family genealogy
Journal research
      Our research of the Cary turned up some information that conflicts with some of the old-time sources quoted above. Apart from Jasper and Nancy Qualls, the members of this intermarried family who left the largest impact on the upper Skagit river district were their daughter Matilda and her husband, Jesse Cary.
      The conflict comes from an obituary we found for Matilda in January 1916. In it we find that the Qualls did not move directly to Skagit county from Arkansas. Instead, they "crossed the plains in a prairie schooner in 1876." She married Jesse Cary there in 1877, they had their first child there, Alfred, in 1878, and then moved sometime after that to the Skagit river area. We do not know if her parents moved here at the same time.
      From the obituary of Freeman Cary, Harry's older brother, we learned that Freeman was born in New York in 1849, enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War and homesteaded land near Hamilton in 1879. Freeman died here in 1927.
      The only other brother that we have been able to find very much information about that is the oldest Cary son, Aaron. From his 1923 obituary, we find that Aaron was born in Broom county, New York, in 1843. A few years later his family moved to Indiana, where Freeman lived with them until he also enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. After he was discharged, he moved to Kansas and emigrated to Hamilton in 1882. Aaron died here in 1923. Jessie preceded them in death on Dec. 13, 1921.
      Matilda's obituary noted that when they moved here in 1878, there were only two other white wives east of Lyman, Mrs. Wilhelmina von Pressentin and Mrs. Hannah Minkler. Because of that note, maybe we can infer that her mother and father had not yet moved here. Maybe they followed their daughter's family soon afterwards. We thought that Mrs. Georgetta Savage had moved upriver by then but she may have still been living back on Fir Island or LaConner while her husband and her older sons prepared their homestead on the south bank of the Skagit across from Birdsview. But the obituary definitely ignored the other white wife who lived in Hamilton by then, probably the most important wife in the young village: Louise Galloway Hamilton, the wife of founder William Hamilton. We must note here, also, that there were probably Indian wives of white settlers east of Lyman but those women were hardly chronicled in newspapers or books of the time.
      We do not get much help from census information because in the 1885 Territorial census the only Carys listed are F.O., which must be Freeman, and Dorcas, who was the mother of the brothers. By 1892 there are 13 Carys listed. In Aaron's 1923 obituary, we find that out of seven children in the family, five of his brothers and sisters are dead and buried at Hamilton, including Jesse, leaving only Freeman to survive him.
      The parents of the family were Alfred and Dorcas Cary. We have not been able to find any genealogical information about Alfred's ancestors. From cemetery records in Carol Bates's book, Hamilton 100 Years, we find that Alfred was born on May 19, 1819, and the census says he was born in New York. He died on March 5, 1907. From the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society's fine book of County deaths from 1891-1908, we find that Dorcas died in Hamilton on Dec. 17, 1896, at the age of 71. She was also born in New York, probably in 1825. Her father was Christopher Wood and her mother was Margaret Post Wood. Apparently all of their children eventually moved out here over the years. We hope that a descendant reads this story and can help us bring this story up to date.
      Below, you will read a story about one of the best known descendants. Harry Cary, the third son of Jesse and Matilda, married Nellie Viola Butrick on July 3, 1915, in Mount Vernon. Nellie was born on April 26, 1895, in Robinson township, Ottawa county, Michigan. She died on Aug. 18, 1967, in Bellingham. Harry was born on Mar 4, 1882, on the ranch east of Hamilton. He died on Sept. 26, 1949, at their home in Sedro-Woolley. They had one daughter, Elaine, who was born in 1922 and died in 1939. Walter Cary, the youngest child of Jesse and Matilda, was born on Aug. 27, 1893, and was the only family member who was a veteran of world War II. He was discharged from an Army Engineers battalion in 1919 after serving 17 months in France.

Harry Cary celebrates 60th year as Skagit resident
Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, March 5, 1942
      Today is Harry Cary's sixtieth birthday and also the sixtieth anniversary of his residence in Skagit county. He is celebrating the occasion by tending to business at his Metcalf street lunch counter, with occasion time out for execution of one of his famous jigs.
      Cary's parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Cary, came to Skagit county from Kansas in 1878, making the trip in a covered wagon. They took a steamer at Skagit City, [north of] Conway, and traveled to a place above Hamilton, where they homesteaded. Their address then was Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Cary, Cary, Washington Territory. Harry was born there on March 5, 1882.
      He recalls trips through the wilds to deliver farm produce in old Sedro, and the long jaunts to the post office at LaConner. His family had the first horses and wagon in their part of the valley although they could not use them for some time because there were no roads.
      Harry attended school t Hamilton in a log schoolhouse, taking all that they had to offer, after which he went to work in the woods. He worked for Hightower, Kirby, Henry and other pioneer firms of the valley until a year or so ago when he was injured in a wreck. Now, [at age 60], he is busy again, serving coffee, hamburgers and other comestibles at the Hole-in-the Wall.
      [Journal Ed. note: do any of you readers know anything more about this extended family? We would like to expand this section. Also, does anyone know about the Hole-in-the Wall restaurant on Metcalf in 1942? Was it in what is now the north cubbyhole of Bus Jungquist furniture in 2002?]

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