Site founded Sept. 1, 2000. We passed 2.25 million page views on Feb. 10, 2008
The home pages remain free of any charge. We need donations or subscriptions to continue.
Please pass on this website link to your family, relatives, friends and clients.

(S and N Railroad)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

(Click to send email)

Early Whatcom Biographies and profiles
— Subject starting with M through Z

(Roeder-Peabody mill)
We apologize for the condition of this blurred old photograph of the Roeder-Peabody mill at the foot of Whatcom Falls. It was taken sometime before the mill burned to the ground in 1874. Read about those pioneers below.

      We have launched this new section to provide capsule biographies of very early pioneers of Whatcom, especially the very early settlers who came in the beginning — 1852-57; during the Fraser river gold rush of 1858; or the period after that until 1870, the tough years of the county when the little settlements along Bellingham Bay hung on, waiting for a boom time. Our impetus to launch this section was our posting of June Burn's 1931 columns in which she recalled the very early settlement and provided details of the short-lived gold rush. We will build this section over the years and we hope that descendants of the pioneers will share family memories or copies of documents and photos.

Northern Light newspaper [See the listing for William Bausman]

Henry C. Page Henry C. Page [See June 10, 1931, June Burn column]
      Page is one of the least documented of the early important settlers of Whatcom so we construct a capsule biography from bits and pieces. We know that he was a partner with Henry Roeder in the Whatcom creek sawmill but we do not know when or what his relationship with Roeder's other partner, Russell V. Peabody. Edson describes Page in her The Fourth Corner book that "in 1854, [Roeder] built the schooner-rigged scow, H.C. Page (42 tons registry, 70 feet overall length). This boat, named for his friend and sawmill partner, was the first launched on Bellingham Bay, and the third in Puget Sound registry." Roeder was skipper of the Page and he and William Utter and James Taylor and others provided the upper Puget sound waterside-villages with the only dependable mail and freight service in the mid-1850s. We also know that Page took a donation claim on the slope of Sehome hill, southwest around the bend of Bellingham Bay from Roeder and Peabody and upslope next to Edmund C. Fitzhugh. We also know that he was a colleague of Fitzhugh's because they both served together on the Trails Committee that funded, encouraged and corresponded with W.W. DeLacy in his attempts to forge a trail to the Fraser river gold rush area in 1858. In the July 10, 1858, edition of the Northern Light newspaper, we find that Major J.J. Van Bokkelen [see this Journal website], deputy customs collector of the district out of Port Townsend, arrived on the revenue cutter, Jeff Davis (ironically named for the Secretary of War and future president of the Confederacy) for the purpose of appointing H.C. Page the inspector of Customs for the Whatcom port. "Mr. P. is one of the oldest resident of the Bay and universally acclaimed." [Also see the William Utter endnote.] [Return]

William Pattle June 9, 1931, June Burn column
      In October of 1852, local Native Americans discovered the existence of what they called "black fire dirt." William Pattle, an Englishman employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, transformed the small Native production into a Bellingham industry employing many and generating a huge revenue. Exploring the land that later became known as Sehome Hill and Fairhaven, Pattle claimed the area's first discovered coal outcroppings in January 1853 on the slope of Sehome hill near where Chrysalis Inn and Spa stands today, and about a mile southwest from the later and more successful Sehome mine. He soon attracted investors from outside Washington territory. Over 2,500 tons of low-quality bituminous coal were extracted from the Pattle Mine before it was abandoned in 1863 (Carl F. Batchelor, Subsidence Over Abandoned Coal Mines, Bellingham, 1982).
      In his 1971 book, Pig War Islands, David Richardson provides a fascinating detail about Pattle's wanderings pre-Bellingham, "In this capacity, one of the wilful Scot's Gov. Douglas] first acts was to grant a license to one William Pattle, a Hudson's' Bay employee, to cut timber and carry on trade with the Indians on the southwest side of Lopez Island. Pattle erected a couple of log huts and began cutting spars for export to San Francisco, but left the island in 1852 to investigate Indian tales of 'black fire dirt' — coal — over Bellingham way. Finding the stories true, Pattle abandoned his Lopez Island layout to pioneer Bellingham's coal mining industry." In 1852, Pattle encountered Henry Roeder and Russell V. Peabody in Port Townsend when they were seeking a site for their proposed sawmill. He offered to guide them to Bellingham Bay for $1,000 but they responded with a "thanks but no thanks" and found their own way with the help of Indian guides [Also see the Henry Roeder endnote.]. His claim was later platted as Unionville in 1871 by Arthur A. Denny and Dexter Horton and partners of Seattle as a hedge in case the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Bellingham Bay as its terminus. In 1883, long after Denny and Horton gave up such thoughts, Erastus Bartlett and Edward Eldridge platted the area again, this time under the name Bellingham, which became the name of the four merged towns 20 years later. We have one question that we hope a knowledgeable reader can answer. Some sources affix the title Captain to Pattle's name; others do not. Was it an honorary title or was he an officer in the British navy? [Also see the William Utter endnote.] [Return]

Russell V. Peabody [1820?-1868] [See June 9, 1931, June Burn column]
      Peabody, a native of Ohio, came to the future townsite of Whatcom with Henry Roeder on Dec. 15, 1852, when he was 38 years old. Roeder's partner in California, Peabody was also a partner with him in a sawmill at the foot of Whatcom Falls. He was particularly active in buying and selling real estate during the 1858 Fraser river gold rush. He served as Whatcom county commissioner and was a member of the Boundary Commission. He took an Indian wife and they had three children. Peabody moved away from Whatcom and died at Indian Wells, California, on Aug. 8, 1868. Confusion and conflicting claims by his heirs and their representatives put his entire estate into a near state of limbo for nearly two decades. Roeder only owned one third of the mill when Peabody died and both men owned parts of each other's donations claims. As Lelah Jackson Edson notes in her 1951 book, The Fourth Corner, "The townsite of Whatcom comprised all that part of Bellingham north and west of Champion street to the Eldridge claim. It included the Roeder donation claim from West street to G; the Peabody donation claim from G to Champion and north to H; the Peabody homestead; and 40 acres of the Roeder homestead." Part of the land that his daughter inherited was sold to the county for the courthouse. Other parts of Peabody's donation claim eventually became part of the Kansas Colony land, which was then purchased by Nelson Bennett in 1888 as part of the route for his proposed railroad. So you can see how the battle over probate until 1891 delayed the full access to some of the most important land that eventually became the nucleus of Bellingham itself. Find a copy of Edson's fine book for the full story. [Return]

Capt.. George E. Pickett [See June 10, 1931, June Burn column]
(Captain George Pickett)
Read below about Capt. George Pickett, who served in the U.S. Army at Whatcom and the San Juans in the 1850s before leaving to join the Confederate Army during the Civil War, where he became famous for Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg in 1863.

      We plan an upcoming profile on George E. Pickett, who later became the most famed U.S. Army officer who served in the Northwest in the 1850s, but for the Confederate side in the Gettysburg campaign when he led "Pickett's charge." We refer you especially to Edson's book, The Fourth Corner, David Richardson's 1971 book, Pig War Islands, and The Pig War: Standoff at Griffin Bay, by Michael Vouri, and this website by the Pickett Society.]. Pickett was born to an aristocratic family in Richmond, Virginia on Jan. 16, 1825. He graduated last in his 1846 class at West Point when half the class flunked out. Almost immediately he gained fame as a young lieutenant and warrior in the Mexican-American War at Vera Cruz. In one of many coincidences, after the war he served on garrison duty along the Texas border where fellow war vet — and future founder of Sedro, Mortimer Cook, set up his first store. In 1855 Pickett was promoted to Captain and assigned to the Department of the Pacific. He was soon assigned in 1856 to Bellingham Bay where he built a blockhouse fort northwest of the village of Whatcom to protect settlers during the Indian scare, and three years later he was ordered to dismantle that fort and re-assemble it on San Juan Island during the "Pig War" fracas. Married twice before, he took an Indian wife and fathered a boy, Jimmie, who became an accomplished artist. Edson documents many facts about Pickett's life before, during and after his service here. She follows his covert decision to join other officers with Confederate leaning and enlist in the new army of the South. She also details the other great coincidence in his life. That was Pickett's friendship with the young lawyer Abraham Lincoln — a friend of Pickett's uncle, their continued friendship despite the conflict and Lincoln's visit to Pickett and his fourth wife in Richmond just days before the assassination.. [Return]

Henry Roeder (1824-1902) [See June 4, 1931, June Burn column]
      Henry Roeder is generally accepted as the father of the settlement at Whatcom even though he was not the first on the scene. A German immigrant, he emigrated to Vermilion, Ohio, as a child with his family and then sailed on the Great Lakes until he was lured away to the West Coast by the '49er gold rush in California. In 1852 he came to the site of the future Whatcom settlement on Bellingham Bay with his associate Russell V. Peabody in December 1852 and located a sawmill near Whatcom Falls. Joined in Washington territory by his fiancee, Elizabeth Austin from Vermilion, in 1854 (they married in February 1855), Roeder was one of the few Whatcom settlers who persevered through the dark days of the 1860s, '70s and '80s, and held on to amass real estate and wealth. Read a biography at this Journal site along with other sources and links.
      e: June's contention that Roeder "made a lot of money," we note that a fire destroyed the original mill in 1874 and the title had been clouded since partner Peabody's death in 1868. In addition, one of Roeder's original partners in a coal mine absconded with the proceeds of its sale, as you will see below. Roeder had to be creative in several fields of endeavor as the village limped along economically for its first 30 years. Roeder eventually began make a lot of money in several fields, mainly from his return to building boats that plied the Puget sound, for his stone quarry near Chuckanut drive, and for his savvy real estate investments on Whidbey, Vendovi and other islands, for his store and hotel in the Cariboo gold rush country in B.C. and for other real estate in Whatcom county and town.
      In Wes Gannaway's excellent 2004 photo book, Whatcom Then and Now, he shares this research from the Hubert Howe Bancroft papers — an interview with Henry Roeder at Port Townsend in June 1878: "While he (Roeder) was at Pt. Townsend [in 1852] Capt. Pattle arrived on his way to Olympia to file on a claim. He was an English subject, and he had discovered coal in the place called Bellingham Bay and he told Plummer [owner of Port Townsend's only trading post along with E.B. Hastings] he had also discovered a waterfall, a good one, and would give the information for $1000 to anyone who wanted to locate there. Plummer told him (Roeder) how to get to the falls without paying any 1000 dollars; the Indians would take them there for dollar a day. They took up this plan and camped the first night inside of Deception Pass on Whidbey Island because of the stress of the weather. The next day they camped on Guemes Island where they killed a wild dog in the night. The place was called Dog Island for many years. The third day found them at the future site of Whatcom. They met with Chief Chowitzet of the Lummi Indians who invited them to stay and offered help to build a sawmill." As with all anglicized Indian names, you will find many spellings; Lelah Jackson Edson spells the chief's name as either Cha-wit-zit or Chow-its-hoot. [Also see the Sehome Mine endnote.] [Return]

Mrs. Lottie Roeder Roth [See June 9, 1931, June Burn column]
      Lottie Roeder was the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth, born in Whatcom on Oct. 25, 1864. After attending public school locally she was sent to Ohio and San Francisco for high school, then returned to Nellie Coupe's private school and attended the University of Washington for two years in preparation to be a teacher at The Crossing (Everson) and Ferndale. In 1885, she married C.I. Roth, a Whatcom attorney who later joined his father-in-law in business and eventually owned Roeder's sandstone quarry on Chuckanut drive. She wrote the two-volume History of Whatcom County, which was published in 1926. [Return]

Sehome Mine [See June 9, 1931, June Burn column]
      Shortly after Pattle's discovery, Henry Hewitt and William Brown, scouts for Henry Roeder's lumber mill, discovered a coal seam revealed by a fallen cedar tree between present-day Laurel and Myrtle streets on the slope of Sehome hill. As a result of this discovery, a San Francisco businessman organized and funded the Bellingham Bay Coal Company, which opened in 1855. Under operation by the Bellingham Bay Coal Company, coal from the Hewitt/Brown claim was mined beginning in 1855. Later called the Sehome Mine, the mine shaft began at the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Myrtle Street, and extended northeastward under Railroad Avenue as far as Holly Street and as far northwest as the intersection of Champion, Unity and Cornwall streets (Carl F. Batchelor, Subsidence Over Abandoned Coal Mines, Bellingham, 1982).
      In the Henry Roeder biography published in the History Of The Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington [Elwood Evans, 1889], we found a curious story that we hope a reader will know more about: "With Brown and Hewitt, however, he began to develop the vein, and they afterwards sold it for eighteen thousand, five hundred dollars, the whole of which Brown ran away with; and his partners never could either find him nor recover their shares." Re-reading Lelah Jackson Edson 1951 book, The Fourth Corner, we found that she corroborated the Brown story: "Brown, so Captain Roeder reported, absconded to Colorado with the mine purchase price. Perhaps, as discoverer, he felt he was entitled to the major portion of the money, despite Roeder's interest. In Denver, he is said to have built up a fortune with the acquired capital; erecting and owning the famous Brown's Palace Hotel of Denver." Roeder finally collected part of the money due 22 years later when Elizabeth Roeder was enroute back East. She stopped at the hotel and called on Brown, who gave her $1,200 as Roeder's agent.
      In Wes Gannaway's excellent 2004 photo book, Whatcom Then and Now, he shares this research from the Hubert Howe Bancroft papers — an interview with Henry Roeder at Port Townsend in June 1878: "After this mine was opened by Capt. Howard and Mr. Loomis (Roeder is referring to the Pattle Claim) we had a couple of men by the name of Brown and Hewitt who were logging for us. They discovered the Bellingham Bay Coal Mine by turning up a large tree by the roots. I had just shifted my stakes about a month when coal was discovered in the claim. I had shifted my stakes in another claim for the sake of the timber claim and I had not done it for more that a month when those men who were logging for us found coal on the claim. They sold it for $18,000. They were men I had brought up here myself as laborers from San Francisco. Their names were Henry Brown and Samuel Hewitt. It was the first coal that was discovered in U.S. soil on the Pacific Coast — this Pattle and ours, the Brown and Hewitt claim [later known as the Sehome Mine]."
      "That was the adjoining claim to the other coal mine. That has been open ever since until last January 1 when it suspended operations. They worked on about sixty acres of it. There is quite a bit of interesting history in reference to that. It has been fired and flooded so many times. Capt. Fontleroy [Capt. W.H. Fauntleroy] was the first gentleman put in charge of the mine. After a few months Col. E.C. Fitzhugh took over operation of it. He rain it a number of years until after the Indian War [1855-56] Then it was leased to Sinclair and Moody who ran the mine successfully for a year and finally it changed hands again. It was purchased by Mr. Hayward and Company, this present company."
      Also see the Fitzhugh note below and see this article from the 2003 Bellingham Herald town centennial series. [Return]

Archie Shiels (1878-1974) [See June 11, 1931, June Burn column]
      Archie Shiels, June's contemporary and friend, was born on May 26, 1878, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he emigrated to the U.S. in 1893. He became a steamship purser and then worked in railroad construction in Alaska from 1898-1916. The Alaska division of Fairhaven's Pacific American Fisheries, which became the largest salmon cannery in the world, hired him. He soon became president of that division and later became managing director of the entire company. He drew on his experience to write the books, Seward's Ice Box, The San Juan Islands, and a Brief Chronological History of the Pacific American Fisheries. [Return]

William Utter (1810-?) [See June 10, 1931, June Burn column]
      Captain William Utter was born in Genessee county, New York, on June 18, 1810, and he was the eldest of the early pioneers of Whatcom. In Wes Gannaway's excellent 2004 photo book, Whatcom Then and Now, he shares this research from the Hubert Howe Bancroft papers — an interview with Henry Roeder at Port Townsend in June 1878: "[Roeder] Went to San Francisco a second time for goods. H.C. Page, Edw. Eldridge came up on the same vessel. They were the next settlers. Captain Pattle made a settlement on his place after we located. He came to the bay two or three months after we had located. Pattle got Capt. Howard of the Revenue Service (Roeder called him Sir Tom Howard) to open the coal mine on his place. That was in 1855, I think." Utter's donation claim contained the major part of the York Addition, south of Whatcom creek, north of the Eldridge & Bartlett Addition and northeast of Holly street. The north line was Fraser street. [Return]

Vermilion, Ohio [See June 9, 1931, June Burn column]
      To understand the background of many of the small group of original settlers of Whatcom, you have to study Vermilion, Ohio. We began doing so a few years ago when we tried to connect N. Edward Goodell, the namesake of Goodell creek near Newhalem on the upper Skagit river, with Phoebe Goodell Judson [also spelled Phebe] and Henry Roeder. We will address this all in a special feature later in 2005, but here is a brief version. As you will read in the Roeder biography.], Roeder emigrated with his family from Germany to Vermilion as a child. After sailing on the Great Lakes, news of the gold strike at Sutter's Fort excited his imagination and he joined an overland wagon train at St. Joseph's, Missouri, which arrived at Sacramento, California, on Aug. 14, 1850. He settled at Ophir, named for the land around King Solomon's biblical gold mine.
      At the same time as Roeder and Peabody established their donation claims and erected their sawmill in the summer of 1853, Phoebe Goodell Judson and her husband, Holden, and baby traveled by steamboat from Ohio to Missouri and then by wagon train for seven months to join her parents, the J.H. Goodells, at Grand Mound, near Olympia. They were frustrated in their search for good farmland and they were enticed to join the Roeders in Whatcom county when a Colonel Patterson gave them his homestead in 1871, most of which the couple platted in 1880 as the town of Lynden, northeast of Roeder's mill. Goodell and Judson relatives who were also from Vermilion joined them.
      Roeder wrote back to Vermilion and urged his sweetheart, Elizabeth Austin, to join him in 1854. She also took the steamboat route to Missouri with her friend, Anna Goodell, the wife of Phoebe's brother William who was already in Washington territory. They joined a wagon train West that became famous because it included Jacob and Winfield Ebey, the father and son of Col. Isaac N. Ebey, who had recently settled on Whidbey Island and would be beheaded by Indians there three years later. Mary Ebey, Isaac's sister, was also in the train and her future husband, Urban Bozarth joined them near the Platte river. Bozarth and Ebey married in 1858, but that is a whole 'nother story, which will be shared in Issue 31 of the Subscribers Edition. The Ebey wagon train arrived in Olympia that fall of 1854; the Ebey group went to Whidbey island and Miss Austin stayed in Olympia, where she married Roeder on Feb. 10, 1855. Meanwhile, over the next three decades the Vermilion settlers became revered pioneers of Whatcom county, as June noted. [Return]

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on July 15, 2005 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 29 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

Return to the new-domain home page
Links for portals to subjects and towns
Newest photo features
Search entire site
(bullet) See this Journal website for a timeline of local, state, national, international events for years of the pioneer period.
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues until we eventually compile a book about Northwest history. Can you help?
(bullet) Remember; we welcome correction & criticism.
(bullet) Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. With more than 550 features, we depend on your report. Thank you.
(bullet) Read about how you can order CDs that include our photo features from the first five years of our Subscribers Edition. Perfect for gifts.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the rising costs of this site. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which has entered its seventh year with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research or read how and why to subscribe.

You can read the history websites about our prime sponsors
Would you like information about how to join them?

(bullet) Jones and Solveig Atterberry, NorthWest Properties Aiken & Associates: . . . See our website
Please let us show you residential and commercial property in Sedro-Woolley and Skagit County 2204 Riverside Drive, Mount Vernon, Washington . . . 360 708-8935 . . . 360 708-1729
(bullet) Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 86 years.
(bullet) Joy's Sedro-Woolley Bakery-Cafe at 823 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence?
We may be able to assist. Email us for details.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley

Looking for something special on our site? Enter name, town or subject, then press "Find" Search this site powered by FreeFind
    Did you find what you were seeking? We have helped many people find individual names or places, so email if you have any difficulty.
    Tip: Put quotation marks around a specific name or item of two words or more, and then experiment with different combinations of the words without quote marks. We are currently researching some of the names most recently searched for — check the list here. Maybe you have searched for one of them?
Please sign our guestbook so our readers will know where you found out about us, or share something you know about the Skagit River or your memories or those of your family. Share your reactions or suggestions or comment on our Journal. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit our site.

View My Guestbook
Sign My Guestbook
Email us at:
(Click to send email)
Mail copies/documents to Street address: Skagit River Journal, 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284.