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Skagit River Journal

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History of Hamilton to 1906

(Pinelli: Yarder for Hamilton Logging Company)
      Reader Lois Pinelli Theodoratus sent us this scan of John Pinelli's Willamette Yarder, which he used for the Hamilton Logging Company sometime after the turn of the century. The family has a namesake road running north and south near the original site of Birdsview.

      This history of Hamilton comes from the "bible" of early Skagit history. The Chicago publishers sent young reporters — mainly Harry Averill (later publisher of the Skagit Valley Herald from 1926-54) — out to all the towns and townships in Skagit County, both to interview pioneers and their descendants, and to study the volumes of newspapers that survived the frequent fires at newspaper plants.

Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, 1906
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We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down bedding. See our Journal feature on this local business and learn more details and how to order items at their website.

      The ruins of long-unused business buildings in Hamilton tell of a past exceeding the present. The towering mountains of coal and. iron just across the Skagit river, the mountains of timber in an opposite direction giving prophecy of a future far surpassing past or present, while the great beauty of the level town site, dry and clean at all seasons, will permit the building of an attractive as well as a busy and prosperous city when the time is full for the development of its tributary wealth.
      About the year 1877, William Hamilton filed on the land that is now the town site. In 1884 he put in a general merchandise establishment, encouraged by the activity in the coal region just across the river, but the village did not grow much until 1889. In that year, however, it took a wonderful start. Among the promoters of its development were McNaught Brothers, C.B. McDowell, H.C. Pettit, J.W. Dermont, Colonel Wilkinson [often misspelled, actually Frank Wilkeson] and J.C. Canton. It speedily became a thriving place with perhaps fifteen hundred inhabitants within its borders and in the country s surroundings.
      It speedily became a thriving place with perhaps fifteen hundred inhabitants within its borders and in the country s surroundings. The Skagit County Logger tells us that in November 1889, Hamilton had a steam saw and shingle mill, a water-power feed mill, two livery stables, a general merchandise store, a newspaper, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, a school — house and a public hall. Two stages left the town daily, one for Mount Vernon, The other for up-river points. Lots ranged in price from seventy-five to two hundred dollars. In the spring of 1890, the Hamilton Town Site and Land Company was incorporated, with a board of trustees consisting of twelve influential capitalists of Butte, Seattle, Fairhaven, and Hamilton. It is stated that during the week ending June 5,1890, that company sold thirty thousand dollar's worth of real estate. Very early in 1891 steps were taken looking toward incorporation.
      At a meeting held January 11th, J.B. Wiley, census enumerator, submitted his report showing that he had found three hundred and twenty — seven people within the proposed corporate limits. The 24th of the ensuing March by a vote of forty-eight to thirty-four, the people decided upon incorporation and the following officers were elected: Mayor, J.B. Wiley; Treasurer, Mr. Graves; Councilmen: Thomas Miller, C.B. McDowell, C.G. Shepard, J.C. Richarson, W.H. Dexter.

Hamilton incorporated in 1891
      The year 1891 was one of great activity and prosperity, due to the mines and the building of the Seattle & Northern Railroad. It was assumed from the efforts of the Great Northern to secure a half interest in the town site that that company expected to do great things for the development of Hamilton. It was claimed that an arrangement had been entered into whereby the Great Northern undertook to connect Hamilton with its Puget sound system during the year, and hearts beat high with hope that not only this would be done, but that the road would be extended to Sauk and in a short time through the mountains to a connection with its great transcontinental system.
      Unfortunately the hopes then entertained were doomed to disappointment. The mines shut down, the hard times came on, a portion of the town near the river suffered greatly from floods and a decline began, lasting yet. The Great Northern is a reality, to be sure, but it has not proved the developer that was expected. The rates demanded by it for transporting logs are considered prohibitive by lumbermen causing many of them to shut down. While this and the inactivity in the tributary mines are very depressing, it is clear that present conditions cannot last always. So magnificent is the timber that the loggers have begun surveying for a railroad to a point on the river from which logs can safely be transported by water to the sound. They assert that unless the Great Northern establishes a reasonable rate they will surely build their own road. In either case the town will profit by the increased activity which must come.
      The iron and coal will not always go begging and when their development commences in good earnest a splendid city will spring up on this magnificent town site.
      A list of the present business houses and business men of Hamilton at the present time would include the following: Bank of Hamilton, J. Yungbluth & Co. proprietors; Drug Store, J.H. Smith; Confectionery, Morris [probably Maurice?] Hamilton; Hamilton Herald, Hans J. Bratlie, publisher; The Yellowstone Restaurant & Saloon, P. Jacobino, proprietor; J.R. Baldridge Saloon, J.E. Baldridge; Groceries, Thomas Conmey; Dry Goods, Frank Wyman; Hardware, Gen. Merchandise etc., The Eagle Shingle Company; The Seattle Saloon & Hotel E.R. Whitney; The Washington Hotel, Mrs. M. Ferbrache; Meat Market, Frank Shannon; Harness, Paint etc., P. Gabel; Livery Stable, W.W. Raymore.
      Four miles above town is the J.T. Hightower Lumber Company's plant and there is also a logging camp in the vicinity in operation at present. Dr. E.G. Kellner practices medicine and surgery in the town and surrounding country. At the time of the writer's visit, the Methodist Episcopal society, under the pastorate of Rev. Henry Harpst, was erecting a neat little church. The Catholics also have a local organization and a resident priest. The town has an excellent public school, presided over last year by four instructors. G.W. Wilson is post master.


Harry Averill (1881-1960)
      Read our research on this fascinating young man. We hope a reader and/or family member have more information about his years as a publisher, here and elsewhere. [Return]

1500 population
      We have checked every census and we find no year when Hamilton's population was that large. We suspect that it never exceeded 6-800. This is more than likely another exaggeration such as the one about Cokedale having 2,000 and Ruby City having 5,000. [Return]

Skagit County Logger
      June 5, 1890, Hamilton, Washington, Vol. 2, No. 3 [Return]

      Could this have been a relative of the "ruthless logger" who had a camp at the foot of Burlington Hill? [Return]

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Story posted on Dec. 23, 2002, last updated and moved to this domain June 26, 2009
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