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Skagit River Journal

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The Slipper brothers
help define
Hamilton and
the Sprinkle sisters
tame them

By Noel V. Bourasaw,
Publisher of the
Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2002
(Fred W. Slipper died on Oct. 30, 2007, see link to his obituary below)

(The Slipper family in England)
The nine original Slipper children in Ludham, England, circa 1880s. Standing in the back row are the three brothers who emigrated: Tom, second from left; John, center; Fred, far right. Willie and Katie in the back row stayed in England, as did Mary, Bea and Louise in the front row and Armine, who is seated and became a barrister.

John Slipper emigrates first, 1890
      The Slipper family's prominence in Hamilton dates from 1890, right in the middle of the original boom, when financiers promoted the proximity of ore from Coal and Iron mountains across the river. According to his March 12, 1942, letter in the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, John Slipper dated his arrival in that year, five years after he immigrated from England.
      That was when the town still hugged the north shore of the Skagit River. What we now think of downtown Hamilton was then just a collection of cedar shacks along Maple avenue. We see on the two original plats of the town that everything centered on four blocks west of Cumberland Street that were unplatted, with the William Hamilton residence and hotel in the center on Water Street, which is now covered by water or sand and weeds. Most residents in Hamilton were not there permanently. They were people betting on the future of the town and loggers who lived there on the weekend while working on camps up and down the river, following work, opportunity or the will o' the wisp.
      John Slipper soon formed the Eagle Shingle Company somewhere close to the river. That was the umbrella company for various businesses that he and his brother Fred G. would own in town over the next 25 years. He was born in 1867 in Ludham, a small parish in eastern England that lays thirteen miles northeast of Norwich in Norfolk, and about 120 miles northeast of London. His family had lived there for at least three centuries. His father, Thomas Slipper, first shows up on the census rolls there in 1845 as a farmer in the district and eventually became a squire of his estate, which was then called Fritton House. By 1885 his father became a very important person in the parish, but John got in trouble at his boys school. As soon as he finished the equivalent of high school that year, he struck out for the United States.
      Why or how John arrived in Hamilton is unknown, but his nephew Fred W. Slipper [hereafter Fred W. to avoid confusion with his father, Fred G.] of Sedro-Woolley surmises that the Slipper boys were on remittance, so they were never destitute. John's niece Lorna told her daughter Sue that John emigrated with his uncle Haddon, always known as W.H. Slipper in records. Fred thinks that John's oldest brother, Thomas, also emigrated with them. They all worked across the U.S. until they reached Iowa, where they farmed for a few years. Then they went to Oregon and John wound up in Hamilton. Haddon and Thomas possibly stayed there and followed later. In Hamilton, John soon fell in amongst the leading builders of the small village, which included William and Louise Hamilton, the founders, and others such as William and John Baldridge, Charles Richardson, H.J. Bratlie, James H. Smith, Dave Russell, Thomas Conboy, W.T. Scott, C. B. McDowell, Edgar C. Suiter, Merritt Graves, Andrew Richardson, William Everett, James Cochrane and Herman Behrens, the Huntoon brothers and Frank Wilkeson.
      Brother Frederic Gooch Slipper, three years John's junior and born in 1870, left Ludham a few years later in an even more unusual circumstance. One of his uncles was a general practitioner and it was then the custom that if a doctor did not have a son to enter medical school he could sponsor a nephew. So Frederic was sent to Guys Hospital in London.
      "That was somewhat ironic," recalls Fred W. Slipper of his father, "because he literally fainted at the sight of blood." A year before the end of his studies, in the early 1890s, Frederic went to his uncle and asked to be released from his obligation and surprisingly the doctor agreed. Fred recalls a family story that his father went back to the estate and eventually got in some trouble when he was in a celebratory mood. "Dad was athletic, played on the cricket team, and they won the championship. Staying at an inn, they apparently trashed the place, which embarrassed his father, Thomas." Everyone concerned approved when he decided to follow his older brother across the sea, but this time through Canada. Sometime in the middle part of the decade, Frederic was working on the railway in Winnipeg when John sent him a telegram that urged him to join them in Hamilton:
      "Apparently he told my father that the he had found the promised land, the Garden of Eden, on the Skagit River," explains Fred Slipper, who is the lone male survivor of his generation of the family. Although the whole country was still reeling from the financial panic that started in 1893, John Slipper's shingle mill here was still running. At the time, Frederic was engaged in section work for the Canadian Pacific Railway at Lake of the Woods, near Winnipeg in Canada, "barely subsisting from meal to meal," as Fred recalls. Frederic worked his way out to the coast and immediately went to work for his brother, who assigned him to work with loggers and Indians upriver. They were cutting shingle bolts from the giant cedars around Marblemount and the Cascade River. "He must have had quite a time of it, with his English accent, and not speaking a word of their language," Fred says. But the Indians on the river had seen plenty of "Bostons" on the river before. Apparently Frederic soon learned enough Chinook Jargon to efficiently float the bolts down the river where they were caught by a boom. Meanwhile, Haddon and Thomas moved elsewhere for work, Haddon to Friday Harbor, where he lived most of his life, and Thomas to Lake Whatcom and Anacortes.

The Slippers become merchants in Hamilton
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      By the turn of the century, the Slipper brothers came to the same realization of many early loggers on the river: work in the words was hard and grueling. Hamilton was growing and needed more retail stores. And by then, the town had started moving north from the river. The original town, like Sauk upriver and Sedro downriver, had been devastated by a series of floods between 1894-98. Eloise Knapp recalls in Carol Bates's Hamilton 1991 Centennial book that her mother's family lived close to the river in Hamilton and severe floods brought the river up to their bedroom windows on the second floor. Indians came with canoes and helped rescue families from top floors.
      Around 1900, John moved his Eagle Shingle Company headquarters up to the northwest corner of Maple and Cumberland and started a hardware business, which took off like wildfire. Frederic was his partner and they became substantial members of the community. Around the same time, another family moved to Hamilton in the 1890s who had a big impact on the Slipper family. Simon Hamilton [nice coincidence] Sprinkle moved to Hamilton in 1895 to become principal of the Hamilton schools. Simon originally came from Ohio and as a young schoolteacher in Iowa he married Emma Elizabeth Schumacher on Sept. 26, 1871. Her German immigrant family moved there from Pennsylvania. Simon taught in several states of the Midwest and finally moved to Washington territory in 1888, where he taught at Edmonds.

(Fred's original house near the river)
(Fred Slipper house circa 1920s)
Far left: This is the original Fred G. Slipper house when it was located near the river, before it was moved in 1902 to where it now stands as the Hamilton Museum.
Center left: Fred G. Slipper house, looking towards the southwest, sometime in the 1920s.
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos

Both photos from Sue Flexer, granddaughter of Fred Gooch Slipper

      The eldest daughter, Lola, caught John Slipper's eye first and they married on June 28, 1898. Her younger sister, Gertrude, was 14 when they arrived but she caught Frederic's eye after the turn of the century and they married on May 26, 1902 at 6:30 a.m. Frederic explained that the unusual time of day was so that they could make train connections on the Seattle & Northern Railroad for transportation east to catch the ship to England for their honeymoon. But one of the many jokes in the family tells that he chose the morning time to avoid the inevitable charivari, or shivaree, a mock serenade that frontier neighbors conducted for newlyweds to interrupt their connubial bliss. The honeymoon was especially long at five months because the trip over and back took several weeks and they toured Europe, especially England, where they visited his relatives.
      Before they married, John bought a three-story home on the south side of Maple Street, a block or so west of the store. Fred, in turn, bought a house that stood down by the river at the original townsite. When the newlyweds returned that fall, they found two surprises. While they were gone, brother John had put their house on log rollers and moved it up with teams of horses to a spot next to his home to the west, where it still stands as the Hamilton Museum. Their in-laws, the Sprinkles, lived on the north side of Maple, across the street. The second surprise was detailed in a Nov. 8, 1902, article in the Hamilton Herald.
      Frederic and his wife had a rocky start to their honeymoon as they encountered rough weather and the rolling of the ship induced severe seasickness in the groom. While in England he told a doctor about the problem and obtained some pills for motion sickness but there were not enough and he experienced the same problem. The second surprise was that 60 of their neighbors and well wishers were not to be denied; they staged a raucous charivari with "old saws, dish pans, other instruments miserably out of tune. Fred returned the compliment with an invitation to accompany him to the nearest corner, where healths were drunk with musical honors."
      The second family joke involved the traditional calling cards that were printed for the wedding. Gertrude did not initially like the sound of Frederic's middle name, Gooch, an old family name from his mother's side, and she convinced him to abbreviate it as "G." But after she visited her in-laws, she relented and liked the name after all. She was feted at Fred's father's country estate, which was called Braydston Hall, where John and Lola had visited the year before. Fred's brother, Armine, was a barrister in the Norwich area and the whole family was prominent in society. Herald Editor Hans Bratlie noted that "to be an American is all the introduction one requires to the best families in England. Once satisfied of this, the people there are most cordial and very generous in their entertainment, the American ladies being regarded with undisguised admiration." During this time, Gertrude convinced Frederic to add a "K" to the end of his name, and Fred W. is also named Frederick. John and Fred added a fireplace to the home after the honeymooners returned.
      We found in the May 3, 1902, Hamilton Herald that John's hardware store was moved west along Maple before the wedding to make room for Fred's new General Mercantile; the stores had a common wall. It would also be called Eagle Shingle Company, just as Green Shingle Company was the original name of the Union Mercantile store in Sedro-Woolley. Fred recalls his father telling him that they stocked every conceivable thing that someone would need, since pack trains only came down river twice a year. An advertisement in the May 31, 1902, Hamilton Herald that featured their wedding on the front page also had an ad for the new store on the other side of the page. "We will gladly meet all prices of Seattle catalogue houses or of rival towns on all goods, either groceries or hardware, on orders amounting to fifteen dollars or over and freight at twenty cents per hundred added. . . . bring your pricelists with you. New stock, Cutter and Nap-a-Tan shoes and Rubbers," the ad reads.
      Baby Thomas Armine [another old family name] came along to Fred and Gertrude in 1904 and sister Lorna arrived in 1908. An article from the Aug. 21, 1909, Hamilton Herald noted the profusion of Slippers with this inside joke:

      There are now so tarnal many Slippers in town that it will be difficult to segregate them when such partition is necessary. There are three Mesdames Slippers, four Messrs. Slippers, three Miss Slippers, and one Master Slipper and one naturally hesitates to say how many more there will be.
(Early photo of the Slipper family)
Fred G. and Gertrude Slipper and their oldest children, Thomas Armine and Lorna, about 1916

      Frederick Ward Sprinkle was a "surprise" baby nine years later in 1917 and was usually called "Wardie" in his youth, to differentiate from his dad. Children of the Sprinkle and Slipper families soon were the nucleus of local schools. Thomas Slipper died back in England, after marrying for a second time, just a few months before Fred was born. Fred recalls that his grandfather willed each of his grandchildren 250 pounds in English currency and that he just barely qualified. John and Lola had two daughters, Doris and Marianne.
      In 1917, Doris graduated from Sedro-Woolley High School in the days before Hamilton was named a fully accredited high school. She was well known upriver for her masterful piano playing. She studied classical piano while attending the University of Washington. The 1921 Kumtux annual from Sedro-Woolley notes that she had taken a year off for rest from the university. Actually it was foretelling her sad illness. She died in 1923 of tuberculosis. Fred Slipper says that the family always attributed her sickness to playing in drafty old performance halls at all hours.
      Marianne is alive in Connecticut, but has been confined to a rest home for several years; she is the only other survivor from Fred's generation. Out of the nine children of Thomas Slipper, Esquire, of Braydston Hall, the two boys who stayed in England never married, so Fred W. Slipper's three boys are the only ones to carry on the name of their branch of this proud English family.

The Slippers become town fathers
      Over the next few years after 1906, Frederick's general store business thrived and he attained considerable status in town along with brother John. Fred and Uncle John looked for new ways to invest the profits from their business. John chose to invest in the new Hamilton Coal and Development Company, which was incorporated on May 24, 1906, with capital of $56,000. He joined E.G. English, Patrick McCoy, J.H. Smith and Thomas Conboy. The company was formed to purchase, own and acquire all kinds of timber and lands, coal and iron lands and claims, conduct logging camps and build logging railroads, build single mills, conduct mining of coal to make coke, mine and prospect iron ore and manufacture smelters. Fred G. Slipper was elected secretary-treasurer of the company and retained that position until 1941.

(Eagle Shingle Company)
(Fred Slipper's Mercantile store)
Far left: This is John Slipper's Eagle Shingle Co., which was located on the north side of Maple Street, just west of the present cafe. The photo could have been taken in 1902, because brother Fred Slipper's mercantile store is to the right, or east, where the cafe stands. That building is unpainted, so this photo could have been taken during its construction. Lola and John Slipper are to the right.
Center left: This is the interior of Fred G. Slipper's General Mercantile store, with father Fred behind the counter and young Fred, "Wardie," standing on top of it. This was taken about 1923, two years before the fire that leveled the building.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos. Both photos courtesy of Fred W. Slipper

      Fred G. was also elected city councilman several times, the first time in 1906 with the highest number of votes, 30, and again in 1912 and 1942. The brothers were leaders in the town business coterie that was reshaping Hamilton to adjust to the collapse after the early boom years. Founder William Hamilton moved back east in 1891 after his wife died. The dreams of having a transcontinental railroad over Cascade Pass had gone up in smoke in the early 1890s when Great Northern's James J. Hill decided to make Seattle his terminus. And the depression that started in 1893 wiped out several speculator fortunes. During the ensuing years until the Klondike gold rush brought new investment money into Washington state, many people just abandoned their farms and businesses and moved to the larger cities, looking for any laboring jobs. It was up to merchants like Fred and John to dig in and build a community that would be a market center for upriver area. The Seattle & Northern terminated at Hamilton first, before the financial panic, and eventually built up to Rockport in 1900.
      Meanwhile, brother Fred was establishing himself as one of the main suppliers for pack trains that were going up along winding trails through the thick forests to the mines and future dam sites in the Cascades and the cement plant at future Concrete. Goods were delivered to Hamilton via what became the Great Northern Railroad. The depot was a few blocks north of town and Mr. Phipps hauled them to the store in his drayage wagon. Fred watched every penny; in fact he had no use for them. His son recalls Fred G.'s practice of taking the case cost of goods such as peaches and dividing it by the number of cans. If the result was 33 cents, he rounded up to 35; if it was 32 cents, he rounded down to 30. His bookkeeping costs were kept to the minimum by paying his employees in cash every Friday. Fred W. remembers Ralph Dexter working for his dad and receiving his pay in silver and gold coin, with nothing carried over to the next week. Fred G. carried many of his customers through the winter, since there was no "rocking chair" money at that time. In April they would go back to work and by August would almost always pay off their account.

John and Fred Slipper become bankers
(Slipper delivery truck in front of store)
Fred Slipper and some other men stand in front of his general mercantile store, circa 1916-24. That may be Ralph Dexter in the cab of the truck.

      The young community had a problem keeping a bank in good order. Back in 1893, I.E. Shrauger, an attorney from Mount Vernon gave it a try with a private bank and employed A.W. Schafer as cashier. By 1896 there were slim pickings and Shrauger successfully ran for county attorney. After that, he closed the Hamilton bank and Schafer went to work for C.E. Bingham and Co. in Woolley. In John Higgins's 1961 unpublished manuscript about banking in Skagit County, we find that:
      In 1899, Schafer prevailed upon his uncle, Jake Jungbluth, to establish another bank in the community. A private bank was established and operated as the J. Jungbluth & Co. Four years later they formed a partnership and changed the name to the Bank of Hamilton.
Jungbluth owned a large rooming-house hotel nearby and Schafer acted as cashier and sole employee. In 1906 the partnership was dissolved and within four years, Schafer found himself in some serious hot water.
      In April 1910, the state issued a warrant that charged Schafer with "receiving deposits, knowing that the bank was insolvent." In case file 2704, we find that the state had what seemed to be a solid charge against him, but the Washington Supreme Court in the prior year held that state law did not apply to private banking institutions. Update: Conn McQuinn, a descendant of Mr. Schafer read this article and clarified some information. There is some folklore from early-day Hamilton that Schafer was despondent after the bank failure and committed suicide. Our source for that information was John Higgins, who wrote an unpublished manuscript about Skagit County banking history in 1962. Actually, Schafer and his family moved to Portland and then lived in Anacortes for many years. We thank the reader for updating the story and we welcome any corrections to incorrect local folklore.
      In a Dec. 31, 1913, Hamilton Herald article, readers learned that the new state bank was almost completed, and cashier C.L. Stone was setting up for business. The new bank occupied a building just then being completed at "one of the best locations in town, holding a double corner at [the northeast corner] of Maple and Cumberland streets. It is constructed entirely of pressed brick and reinforced concrete, tiled floor in lobby, plate glass windows, fine oak fixtures, and a tremendously strong solid concrete vault." The bank was due to open shortly after first of year, with "J.H. Smith, president, one of oldest and most influential pioneers of this section. Fred G. Slipper, another well-known citizen of Hamilton and a wealthy capitalist, will be vice-president. Stone, former cashier of State Bank of Enumclaw, WA, has nine years experience. Those three will be the board." This bank promised to be much more substantial, considering the pedigree of the individuals involved and their long-established integrity: Fred and John Slipper; James H. Smith, from the drug store; F.E. Wyman, who owned Wyman General Merchandise, and Ike Morrell, a longtime successful farmer from east of town, who originally moved here with his brother, Sam, from Tennessee before the turn of the century. [Read about Ike and fishing with Frank Wilkeson in the 1890s.] The bank was capitalized for $10,000. Besides the local money, Stone's father, an Bellingham industrialist, put up money for his son's part of the venture. Smith and the Slippers erected the brick bank.
      Stone turned out to be the weak link in the bank, but fortunately the directors found H.E. Carruthers, who bought out Stone's stock and became the cashier and manager in 1922. Stone established a bank in Everson and nine years later lost it when he was caught embezzling funds during the Depression. Carruthers soon sold his stock out to O.E. Thompson, who became president. Thompson was the mayor of Stanwood at the time and assistance cashier of the bank in that town, so he seemed to have solid credentials. But in 1924, he was accused of embezzling funds at the Bank of Stanwood after bank examiners found $12,000 missing. No charges were brought against him by either the bank or the bonding company, but the Hamilton directors forced him as president and they acquired his stock. James Smith was elected president, and his daughter, Mary Jane (known as Jennie) continued as cashier. From that point on, the bank continued on solid footing. James Smith continued as president until his death in 1940 and Jennie succeeded him as president, cashier and only employee. Higgins noted that:

      "Mr. Smith's will decreed that Jennie was to continue to operate the bank as long as she felt able to do so, and that in the event that she felt she could not run it, she was to liquidate the bank and not sell. Acting under her father's wishes, Jennie elected to liquidate the bank and it was closed Dec. 31, 1942, and all depositors were paid in full.
The bank did make the national papers, however, two years later. Although closed for nearly two years, a robber broke in on April 27,1944. The felon, an apparent stranger to the community, was not an expert on casing banks.

Fire levels Hamilton in 1925
      When little Fred was seven years old, he was awakened from sleep around midnight on April 15, 1925, to the sound of alarms and screams from outside his bedroom window. When he looked outside, he could see flames shooting out of his father's building and other stores and houses along Maple Street. His uncle John had sold out his store three years before and moved to Seattle, selling it to George Hardy. A fire in September 1924 started nearby, but this one was far worse.
      The fire of unknown cause started in Hardy's store where it smoldered for awhile in the wall and quickly spread to Fred's store since there was no firewall in between. The flames picked up steam after reaching an oil house to the west and then started down a line of residences on the north side of the street. Flames also leaped to the south side of Maple and destroyed in turn the Jacobin poolroom, Swettenam's car storage garage, Frank Jacobin's theatre and three residences. Although the primitive water-pumper was sorely taxed, volunteers from all over town finally managed to fight back the flames at the Belfry and Shannon residences on the north side of Maple and John Slipper's house on the south side. By that time, Fire Chief Bill Ropes had arrived with a crew from his Sedro-Woolley department. In all, 19 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, including those to the north and east of the Slipper store on Cumberland: J.L. Wall's poolroom, W.Z. Harrison's barber shop, the woodframe Washington Hotel, the Jacobin apartments and the Shannon garage on Noble Street.
      Although the businessmen and residents soon starting clearing the rubble, it was soon apparent that this great fire would change the town completely. Unlike Woolley, which rebuilt immediately in the boom years after the great conflagration of July 1911, Hamilton rebuilt slowly and was to never attain the level of business that was there before. Fred considered rebuilding but his son recalls that his father said he was glad he did not attempt it. The Piggly Wiggly-chain grocery store had opened in Sedro-Woolley and was drawing his grocery business away even before the fire. He often joked that longtime customers would drive in their new autos down to Woolley to save a buck and pay $5 for the flat tires they had on the atrocious roads in between. At that time and for many years afterwards, the paved road ended just west of town at Bill and Mina Soren's store and service station. The mercantile lots remained vacant until Nels Hodgin bought them in about 1941 and built a cement block building which has since then housed a pool hall, tavern, cafe, meat processing plant for the Bates family and now a cafe again.
      Note that there were no saloons burned, only pool halls. This was the depth of Prohibition. If you were trustworthy, you could sate your thirst at one of the pool halls or the barbershop. And Fred made part of his profits from ordering carloads of sugar and mash and distributing it out to the many stills in the hills around the town. The stills were mainly owned by a third wave of residents who had moved to Hamilton from North Carolina and border states. Among those, some of the Tarheels from North Carolina came as scab labor when local mill owners rooted out the Wobblies who demanded better wages and safer working conditions around World War I. Others were lured here by agents of the mill owners who went back to Tarheel and distributed one-way rail tickets to those who were desperate for work and who could get rental shacks and credit at the local stores if they moved out, lock, stock and barrel, to work long hours in the woods of the Cascade foothills. Still others piled their families and belongings into Model-T Fords and made the long trek cross-country on very primitive roads and through cow pastures, and over narrow mountain passes. They soon proved to be a backbone of the upriver communities and aspects of their Tarheel culture has added color and depth since then. By the 1940s there was a local joke that you could fire a cannonball down Maple or Cumberland and never avoid hitting someone from the town of Sylva, North Carolina.

Fred G. Slipper retires as master of his own domain
      After the fire, Fred G. Slipper retired to his home on the south side of Maple Street and became the landed gentry that his father had been in England, only without the title and trappings. The automobile, whose introduction had threatened many upriver stores, was also the subject of another local joke about Fred G. Slipper. His son still insists that the story may be apocryphal, but it has been passed down from generation to generation. In Carol Bates's Hamilton 1991 Centennial book, Vinnie Moyer-McGee recalled that "Mr. Slipper" bought a new car and the car dealer taught him how to drive it, the first car in town. He built a garage with a front and back door and while trying to drive into the garage he was unable to stop the car inside, so he had to drive straight through. According to Mrs. McGee, he made several tries before he finally stopped the car and quite an audience gathered to watch him. Regardless of the details, stories like that one accumulate in a small town like Hamilton, especially when the high and mighty are the butt of the joke. Fred does recall that that there was a ramp up to the middle of the garage, which stood by the house, designed so that a mechanic could crawl under the car and change the oil. Fred says that he was working around the car one time when he was in high school and found under the floorboards a stash of old bootlegger whisky supplied by "Dynamo Ray," a supplier who Fred G. said had the best hooch in town. Although Fred G. rarely drank, son Fred surmises that his father may have kept the whiskey to dole out to his best customers or possibly took it as barter when Ray could not pay his bill.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos. Photos courtesy of Sue Flexer, Lorna Slipper's daughter
(Gertrude's sewing party)
(Lorna's school days, 1915)
(Slipper family reunion)
Upper left: This photo of Gertrude's sewing bee in about 1900-01 show that the women knew how to loosen up and have a good tiime. The woman with her hand on her head in back was Hazel Fitzgerald, who was later a Hollywood script writer. Gertrude is next to her on the couch. At Gertrude's foot, holding yarn with both hands, is Grace Cockreham Pollard. To her right is Lola Sprinkle Slipper, holding her daughter Doris, born in 1899. Grace's daughter Betty Pollard Harris gave the photo to Sue as well as the school photo below.
Center: Lorna's class photo from the second or third grade, 1915-16. Sue's mother, Lorna, is the blonde in the back with the big bow in her hair. Next to her on the left are her two best friends, Betty Pollard and Kathryn Moore, and Theo Cumming is next to them. Mamie Pike and Winifred Henry are also in the photo, but we do not know which girls they were. Can anyone else identify students or the teacher in the photo?
Right: Slipper-Sprinkle family reunion in 1909 on the front porch of Simon Sprinkle's house, on the north side of Maple across from Fred G. Back row: (l. to r.) Jim Plott, John Slipper, Smith and Polly Fleming (parents of Ella), Ella Sprinkle, Ralph Sprinkle. Middle row: Mabel Plott (Gertrude's sister who later moved to North Carolina), Lola Slipper, Haddon Slipper, Ward Sprinkle (holding Wilbur), Emma Sprinkle (holding Helen), Simon H. Sprinkle, Thomas Armine Slipper, Gertrude Slipper(?), Grace Sprinkle. Bottom row: Doris Slipper, Bernice Sprinkle, Fred G. Slipper (holding Lorna), Frances Sprinkle and Marianne Slipper.

      Fred G. spent a lot of time in his retirement, planting and expanding his flower gardens between his house and John's estate next door. He also planted many exotic fruit trees, including English walnut, in a long orchard that extended behind the two homes. Sometime in the late '30s John decided to have his three-story house torn down by a carpenter and then have two houses built out of the recycled lumber. That spelled the end of the large croquet lawn next to John's house, a fixture from their days in England, which had been the scene of many family parties and reunions. But more and more, as the years went along, much of Fred G.'s spare time was taken up in his newfound love, the game of golf. In the heady days of the late '20s boom days before the Depression, Fred took up membership in the Skagit County Golf and Country Club, which anyone did who wanted to celebrate their status in the upper crust. Fred the son also loved the game and the family soon had a ritual of spending Sunday afternoons and evenings at the nine-hole course in the western part of the county.
      Fred W. was the first and only of the Slipper children to graduate from Hamilton High School. Back in the days when cousins Doris and Marianne and sister Lorna and brother Thomas Armine were of that age, Hamilton only had two fully accredited years. Those families who wanted a full diploma for their children sent them to board in Sedro-Woolley. Thomas, who was always called Armine, boarded with Sedro's most famous realtor, Harry Devin, just a couple of blocks from the school, and Lorna followed his lead. Armine is noted in the 1921 Kumtux as "that boy so well known, plays very well on a big saxophone." Lorna caused a bit of a sensation and jealousy when she graduated three years later as valedictorian of her class. The word "interloper" was whispered in the hallways. The first fully accredited graduating class was in the spring of 1925 and Fred W. Slipper graduated with Lena Scales and twelve others in 1935.
      Around that time, Fred G. experienced one of his few financial reverses. Son Armine went to work in Seattle during the roaring '20s for companies promoting the new concept of a memorial park. Customers were encouraged to "invest" in funeral plots by purchasing their own ahead of time as well as those for family members. He initially did very well, and soon asked his father to back him in a new memorial park in Ferndale. Fred agreed and became president of the new Greenacres Memorial Park in Ferndale. Unfortunately it opened at the beginning of the Depression and never returned a profit. After several years of driving up weekly to supervise the park, Fred G. and Armine sold their interests. Armine later became a very successful car dealer in Bellingham and the owner of Mount Baker Motors. He died in Bellingham in 1969. Lorna Slipper, meanwhile, became a noted principal in advertising in Seattle, helping promote the Rhodes Department Store and many other clients, and was named Advertising Person of the Year for Seattle in 1955. She graduated from the University of Washington School of Journalism in 1929 and died in Seattle in 1974.
      Fred W. Slipper attended the University of Washington, where he boarded and studied for three years and either hitchhiked or motored up to visit his parents on semester breaks. On one of his breaks, he began dating a girl from Lyman whose father was also in the banking business, but much more actively than Fred G. Virginia "Ginny" Fellows was the daughter of Fred Fellows, who headed up the bank Lyman State Bank, which later became the Skagit Valley Bank in Sedro-Woolley, and which eventually sold to the National Bank of Commerce. Ginny recalls knowing Fred from the time they were both about age five. Fred and I drove by the house where he courted her in Lyman, just two blocks west of the old Minkler mansion. They married on Nov. 2, 1940. He had inherited one-sixth interest in his great-uncle Haddon Slipper's house in Seattle and they moved into it for their first home. While there, they watched the Aurora Bridge construction during their honeymoon. Since their daughter Mary soon came along, Fred was not drafted into the U.S. Army, after the outbreak of World War II, until 1943. He still considers his experience to be one of the most important periods of his life and when the family returned to Sedro-Woolley in 1946, he became very active in the American Legion Post #43 here. As commander, two years later, he worked with fellow veterans such as Joe Fisher and Fred Vochatzer to launch the new Loggerodeo in 1948.
      His parents continued to live in Hamilton at the old estate, and Gertrude finally convinced Fred to travel, so they wintered first in Palm Springs and later in Seattle. The Slippers carried on quite a social life in Hamilton from early on, entertaining several times a week. They were always on the lists of guests along with Dr. Kellner and Judge Raymore. Especially after retirement, Fred motored weekly on business to Concrete, Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Seattle, and the family picnicked on the islands, often visiting Uncle Haddon at Friday Harbor, one of Fred W.'s treats. After son Fred W. married and Fred G. and Gertrude were empty nesters, Gertrude started a most unusual collection in about 1942. Her friends decided that any hostess named Slipper should collect slippers. It started when Mrs. W.R. Morgan of Sedro-Woolley gave her a Dutch slipper from Holland. Back when Fred G. gave miniature shoes to children when parents bought their school shoes, Jessie Stafford Cockreham received a set. Thirty years later, as Mrs. George Cockreham, she returned the favor by giving a pair from her childhood to Gertrude. She eventually collected a couple dozen sets from all over the world, compliments of her friends and relatives. Gertrude passed away in 1960. At first, Fred G. moved in with Armine and family in Bellingham. Fred and Ginny and their family of a girl and three boys moved to Ritzville in 1950, where Fred became very active in the banking business. In 1961, Fred G. joined them there, where he lived in a small rest home until he died in 1964 at age 93. His brother W.H. (Haddon) preceded him in death in 1954.
      Fred W. moved back to Sedro-Woolley in 1976 and he and Ginny have lived here ever since. In his retirement, Fred began writing about area history for the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times and the Skagit River Post. For the past 26 years, through six or seven owners, he has been a fixture at the Courier-Times office on Metcalf. And in 1991, he was called upon to give the history address at the centennial celebration of his hometown. He hosted visitors who toured his old childhood home, which had been converted into the Hamilton Museum in time for the celebration, after being owned by other families in the intervening thirty years. If you wonder why Fred does not talk more about the floods, he addressed them in 1990 and again since then. He notes that the only time his family home was threatened by flood waters in his lifetime before the 1990 Thanksgiving pair of floods was in 1921 for a few hours before the water receded again.

Fred returns'home' for his 85th birthday
      The 1990 floodwaters definitely did make it up that far and flooded out the two "little houses" next door. The federal FEMA agency bought those homes along with others on Maple and the Fred's old childhood home. The city bought the house for $1 with the proviso that the house would be jacked up four feet on a cement-block foundation. A ramp has been added for wheelchair access. We celebrated his birthday this week by going back to the house and he showed me all his little cubbyholes and favorite places. We were fascinated with the photos that Carol Bates and others have collected and displayed on the walls of the old living room, dining room and parlor. Fred's old bedroom is a storeroom now, packed to the walls with old furniture and antiques. He noted that the bathroom off his old room was a much later add-on; when he was growing up, the privy was out back next to the windmill that was the family's original source of water. He recalled that he was forbidden as a child to climb up above the first level. He also remembered hearing little scurrying sounds in the rafters when he was in bed. His father picked the walnuts from his orchard and laid them out to dry on old screen doors in the rafters. That in turn attracted rats, thus the sounds.
      We drove all over town so he could point out the locations of stores and homes from the very old days. His home and the home of druggist James Smith are now the oldest residential bookends of Hamilton. He was very pleased to see that the present owners of the Smith home have maintained it just as it was in the old days, including painting it in a subtle green shade that complements the green trees and foliage all around. As we drove west on Maple Street, he pointed out the old Valentine chocolate store on the north side next to the brick bank and where the Russell brothers had their store on the south side. Next door to the Russell's place was F.E. Wyman's grocery and general store, then the Smith drug store and Cockreham's, and the block ended on the corner of Cumberland with Shannon's tavern, which is now a newer version of what many of us remember as Willie's Hi-Lead. He recalled that when he was in high school, tipsy revelers would pile out of the saloons and duke it out in the intersection to prove their manliness; he was always forbidden to venture down that far. Then we drove down to the river around the old ferry landing where blackberries and brush surround the few flood-marked homes that are remnants of the countless floods. And just west of his home, at the end of California Street, we found the spot where the last hotel of the original village of Hamilton stood in his childhood days. Sam Morrell, the brother of John and Fred G.'s partner Ike, lived there until the hotel's last days, the last resident in the original town. Fred remembers how Sam used to knock on the back door and sell his mother the catch of the day from the Skagit for 50 cents. Happy birthday, Fred.

      Journal ed. note: Fred W. Slipper turned 85 on March 14, 2002, and in his honor, we launched a Chapter 3 of the Hamilton series, the story of what his family meant to Hamilton. There will eventually be many sections, each one profiling a family who made an impact on their community or the Skagit Valley as a whole. We especially appreciate Fred's help and that of Sue Flexer, the daughter of his sister, Lorna. We have researched past issues of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times and the Hamilton Herald, which is long out of print. We also appreciate the many items about the Slipper and Sprinkle families and Hamilton itself in the Hamilton 1991 Centennial book by Carol Bates. We hope that descendants of other pioneer families from Hamilton and upriver will share their memories with us for upcoming chapters, which will be added periodically.

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