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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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Alice Hamilton's memories of her parents settling Hamilton

      On Oct. 1, 1947, Chapter 1 of the Territorial Daughters met at the home of Olive Fahey in Sedro-Woolley, so an old clipping goes. Alice Hamilton was in charge of the program and read a very interesting article about the origin of the town of Hamilton which follows.
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      William Hamilton, wife and two children, Ashford and Motz, moved from Kansas to Washington Territory via San Francisco, thence north by boat. They first settled in LaConner where Alice was born. Mr. Hamilton had been in the Civil War and had powder burns on his face as a result.
      In June of 1877, when Alice was five months old, the family moved to what was later the town of Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton filed on the land and the town was named for him.
      He built their first house some distance back from the river. He wasn't satisfied there so moved to within about a mile of the river, but not liking it there either, he moved the family to the river, where he built a house of sawed lumber. The other two had been built of split of cedar. In 1884 he put in a general merchandise store, building a large two-story house.
      The only traffic up and down the valley was by boat or canoe on the river, except for a crude trail along the river bank. Everyone tried to make Hamilton's place by nightfall, so it became a regular stopping place. As many as 35 or 40 people a day stopped for board and room.
      Besides having a hotel, store and meat market, Mr. Hamilton had the post office for years, being the first postmaster. By moving upriver in June 1877, the William Hamilton family became the first white family (in this particular vicinity) to live in the upper Skagit Valley.
      About 1890 Mrs. Hamilton built the Mountain View Hotel. She died March 11, 1891. Mr. Hamilton remained about a year when his health failed, so he sold out, moved to Ohio and later to Oklahoma, where he died.

      No one knows for sure when what is now called Hamilton was first settled. According to stories handed down by old Indians, it was once the site of an Indian village. When the land was homesteaded by whites the Indians moved over close to the river, the site of which is now washed away.
      An Indian woman once showed me a snapshot of a carved door portal found in the runs of this last village before Old Man Skagit wiped it out. There is still quite a large Indian cemetery on the outskirts of Hamilton.
      When I first saw Hamilton, about 1906, I thought it quite a busy place with sawmilling, logging, homebuilding and land clearing going on. And many times in later years I boarded the crummy [the caboose, the crew's quarters] at Hamilton and rode up to Camps 14, 11, 15, 16 and 17 to work.
      It was once the headquarters for the Hamilton Logging, Lyman Timber and Soundview Pulp companies and now the focal point for the Hamilton Division of Scott Paper. Activity around Hamilton has slowed down in later years with the decrease in logging, but with the recent news about the revival of interest in the coal and iron deposits across the river, the presence of which has been known since the 1870s, who knows? Will overzealous environmentalists kill it?
      It was heralded in 1903 by the Pacific Coast edition of Graphic magazine as "Hamilton, Future Pittsburg of the Pacific Slopes." A long time ago I read an article, with map, in some newspaper about this. If I remember correctly, a London, England, syndicate once had great plans for a smelter at Anacortes to be fed by coal and iron ore from Hamilton, but I can't recall what publication.
      What other treasures lie buried in the Cascades for which miners have waited so long for adequate transportation?

(Hamilton Depot)
The railroad, which was in many ways the key to Hamilton's brief success as a thriving town, ironically arrived after Mrs. Hamilton died and after Mr. Hamilton left for parts initially unknown. This photograph is from our mystery file because we failed to attach the name of the donor. All we know is that it may have been taken near the turn of the 20th century. Please let us know if you were the donor.

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Story posted Sept. 11, 2011. Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 57 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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