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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition
, where 450 of 700 stories originate 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

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Part 3: Descendants of pioneers recall early Blanchard,
its favorite son, Edward R. Murrow,
the Cobles, Smiths, Henrys, many others

(Blanchard 1920s)
      This beautiful photo of downtown Blanchard in the Teens or 1920s is from a postcard loaned by Mike Aiken. The photographer was looking south, standing beside the curve that Legg road now makes into Blanchard road, and in front of a small mill boarding house that is still there. To the left you see a row of five houses rented by mill families; then the old Hinkston store/warehouse that still stands but without the balcony and beyond that is a machine shop that was torn down years ago. In the right background, you see a row of business buildings that you will see closer up in a photo below, including the old general store that closed in August 1970.

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore ©2005, updated in 2010
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2010, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2001) by donation too. Thank you..
      When we attended the open house at the Blanchard Community Hall on July 23, 2005, we spent a couple of hours getting background from three people who have devoted a lot of time to preserving the history of the town with two names — Lynn Lennox, JoAnne Prentice and Tom Wake. The hall itself was built in 1902 as a Great Northern depot on the new Chuckanut Cut-off route. When the town became a flag-stop sometime after World War II and the depot was no longer needed, the community banded together and bought the building and moved it to the lots just south of the old Blanchard General Store. After families adapted the building for use as a residence for a decade, local residents incorporated the Blanchard Community Club and remodeled the interior so that it resembles a depot again with a large airy open space that is ideal for meetings and presentations. Duluth Timber in Edison recently donated beautiful fir flooring to replace the linoleum that covered the original wood floor. Prentice lit up with a smile as she pointed out the old timetable-chalkboard on the north wall that the volunteers found in the attic several years ago. It features the last schedule of northbound and southbound GN trains when it was last used in 1924. Blanchard is gaining outside attention now in conjunction with the movie about favorite-son Edward R. Murrow, Good Night and Good Luck.-
(Lynn Lennox)
Lynn Lennox at her Blanchard chapel, courtesy of the Skagit Valley Herald. See the July 24, 2005, Randy Trick story about Blanchard. Photo by Frank Varga.

      Lynn Lennox's roots are deep. She is the great-great-granddaughter of the Terry and Fannie Coble family who settled here in the early 1900s, and her grandparents, Don and Jeanette Coble, owned the store from 1951 until it closed in about 1975. Lynn returned to Blanchard as an adult in 1989 and she later bought the former Methodist church, which was built in 1911. Her grandparents were the first couple married there. The church became affiliated with the Methodist church of nearby Allen and when the local church ceased operations, Lennox converted it to the Blanchard Chapel, which has become a favorite spot for weddings, reunions and anniversary parties. JoAnne Prentice moved here as a new bride in 1946 and "I had very little idea of local history or exactly why the town was named Blanchard," she recalls, but over the past six decades she has become the repository of local history, collecting dozens of photos and relating historical details to reporters and authors who visit. She provided some of the details for this story. Prentice lived more than 50 years in Blanchard and raised three children here. Now 77 and a widow, she has lived in a Burlington retirement home for the past two years but she is hardly the retiring type. She still has a very busy schedule and she proudly notes that she encouraged Florence Smith Lowe to publish the Equality Colony book.
      "Florence arrived in my driveway and I took her for a history walk." She also told us that one of her female ancestors lived at the Colony. After Florence published the book with the help of the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, JoAnne publicized it at appearances all over the county. Tom Wake hosted the open house. Wake was president of the club for two years and Margery Hite succeeded him this year. He has only lived here permanently for four years but he bought part of the old Terry Coble property west of the Great Northern tracks twenty years ago and built a house there ten years ago. He has also compiled a tremendous collection of photos and postcards of the early towns. We explain the Coble family history in a separate story.
      We started getting our bearings by walking along what is now Blanchard's main street with photos in hand that another Community Club member, Jon Miller, enlarged for display. This street is now Legg road, but no one seemed to know for whom it was named. Then Shirley Henry Hanson helped us find Joseph Legg in the 1871 federal census of the Samish district where he was enumerated as a 38-year-old single farmer from Massachusetts. Using that as a springboard, she discovered that a Joseph Legg was an early settler in the Samish area. Lynn Lennox recalled that the name for the road on the original plat was Virginia Street. We wondered if it was named John H. Fravel's third daughter, Virginia, but Coble family members noted that Terry Coble named the street Virginia in his original 1911 town plat, just as he also named his boat.

(Downtown businesses)
      This photo, courtesy of Community Club member Jon Miller, shows a close-up of the row of business buildings in the photo above. In the story below, you will find a description of these buildings in downtown Fravel/Blanchard, circa the Teen years, including Dell Smith's pool hall and the general store. The photograph was apparently taken by someone named Hall, about whom we know nothing. Does a reader have a photo of other streets or roads in and around Blancard?

      One of Miller's photos shows the oldest building still standing in town, a vacant warehouse built by Ernie Hinkston as a general merchandise and grocery store, which stands on the east side of Legg road and a block north of the hall. It dates from the very early period after George Blanchard started his logging camp in 1885, when businesses were dotted along the slough and what is now called Colony Creek. Lynn explained that the main access to the Hinkston store was originally from the back side, via a loading dock on the slough. It looks very forlorn now with its unpainted wood exterior and broken windows, but it is the only thread back to the original town of Blanchard/Fravel. Shirley Henry Hanson recalls that when she was a child, she and her friends enjoyed climbing up to a balcony/porch that once hung out from the second story on the side now facing the street. One thing will especially strike you as you stroll through the town: this was and is a great place to raise kids. Except for the occasional event, auto traffic is almost nonexistent and there are dozens of places for young children to play and learn about the great outdoors.
      You now enter Blanchard via Hwy 11 — Chuckanut drive, which follows a route through the valley along what was the old roadbed of original Interurban tracks (1912-29). But at the turn of the century, visitors arrived by sternwheeler on the slough, or by horse and wagon along the county road, actually a crude trail from Edison, or via what became known as Colony road, a graveled trail that came down Colony Hill and entered Blanchard from the southeast. In her book, Equality Colony, Florence Smith Lowe described the various routes that Carey Lewis showed Ed Pelton in the fall of 1897 when Pelton scouted a location for the Equality Colony. Lewis was a local socialist farmer, a cook at the logging camps and a friend of the local Indians:

      From the Lewis farm, Carey and Ed followed the county road straight up the middle of the flats through great fields of oats ready for harvest. Less than two miles north from the farm, the delta flats ended at Blanchard slough, where the flats, Samish Bay, the rocky Chuckanut mountains and the long, low Chuckanut foothill all converged. Here, near the mouth of the slough, had been the first logging camp thirty years earlier; now there remained a store, a few scattered houses and several farmhouses, all interspersed with clusters of Indian split cedar shacks. The post office had been removed when the logging camps moved farther inland, but the name "Blanchard" remained. The arm of salt water called Blanchard slough reached inland half a mile as it collected the fresh water run-off of rains, creeks and springs from the foothill. A few of the giant cedars remained along the slough and Ed Pelton, who had lived his life in the [Maine] woods, felt for the first time the overpowering majesty of a living tree three hundred feet tall standing on a base fifteen feet in diameter. Hustling and shrieking along beside the slough, a logging train carried the choicest logs from the hill and dumped them onto the mud flats of the shallow bay to be floated away at high tide. . . .
      From Blanchard, Carey Lewis led Ed Pelton southeastward along the logging track toward the uninhabited timberland. A chain of abandoned logging camps along the base of the foothill marked the thirty year progress of the loggers. This was the scene that logger Pelton knew best. The land was marked with man-made things, a network of skidroads (where oxen had dragged logs to the railroad), log bridges, Indian shacks, log farmhouses all worn and beautifully weathered — and abandoned. A mile from Blanchard, the track turned abruptly eastward into a ravine of the foothill from which gushed a clear, swift mountain creek that lost first its momentum and then its course among marshes of the flat brushland.

      A 1925 Metsker's map shows that the original Chuckanut drive did not continue due north and bypass the town as it does today. Florence Smith Lowe recalls that sometime after 1920, the state highway department paved the old gravel Chuckanut highway and continued it straight north at the same time as they built the bridge over the slough. She recalls that all three Murrow boys — Lacey, Dewey and Egbert (Edward R. Murrow), worked on the highway crew. The drive made a dogleg right onto what is now Colony road and then turned north onto what is now Legg road. The major landholders on that 1925 map are shown as: west side of the Great Northern tracks — Terry and George Chalfant Coble; north of town — Mary Fravel, William Gilmore, Bloedell Donovan Mills and the Otis Staples Co.; east of town — J. Flynn (for whom a street is still named), C.E. Wright and Oscar Simmons; and south of town — Wendell P. Morrison, J.L. Jackson, F. Butte and a Mr. Fleming among others.
      Another photo shows the strip of businesses that were once clustered along the west side of Legg road — and east of the railroad tracks, in the block where the community hall now stands. The northernmost building was the pool hall and cigar store called "The Club." We suspect that the photo was taken during the early Prohibition years after Washington state went dry in 1916, before the 18th Amendment (Volstead Act) was ratified in 1919 and took the rest of the country dry in 1918. "Pool Hall" was a euphemism for a business that supplied liquor in the backroom in the old days and Blanchard did become a conduit for local bootleggers, but not until after 1924 when Dell Smith lost the business; he was a teetotaler.
      Florence remembers that when the bootleggers had a new supply of moonshine, they signaled to customers by going up in the foothills and shooting a rifle with a certain series of shots. Next door to the south was Roy Shadle's barber shop, then an unknown tailor's shop and then the General Store that was a fixture of the town until it closed in 1970. Florence found a Bellingham Herald article dated Aug. 16, 1970, that announced the day the general store closed, noting that it had been in service for 89 years, which dates its erection at 1881, even before the Blanchard days. At some unknown time, the center of business for the town moved across the street and Ernie Hinkston took over the general store. We are still researching for when that occurred.

Frank Pratt came home after 50 years
(Frank and Berniece Pratt)
Frank and Berniece Pratt, courtesy of the Skagit Valley Herald. See the July 24, 2005, Randy Trick story about Blanchard. Photo by Frank Varga.

      We decided to interview all the people who had roots in the town from the old days, so first we walked south down Legg Road three blocks to where Frank and Berniece Pratt live, a block south of the Blanchard Chapel. Frank will be 90 this October. He and Berniece married nearly 20 years ago when both were widowed in Anacortes, where Frank lived for 40 years. They moved back here in 1989 and Frank moved a manufactured home onto the four lots that his aunt once owned. His aunt and parents moved to Blanchard from Kansas in 1913 and his father worked at the Hazel Mill as a yard foreman. Frank told us that his aunt originally bought the property for $350. He still gets around really well; he was pushing a wheelbarrow through the virtual nursery behind his home that he has laid out with winding pathways between flowers, shrubs and trees. They have a beautiful view north to Blanchard Mountain, where his father worked 90 years ago. Frank remembers Florence Smith Lowe and her brother Fred Smith very well (authors of Equality Colony) and he especially remembers Blanchard's most famous resident, Edward R. Murrow. Frank's aunt once worked for Murrow's mother, Ethel.

Blanchard is proud of its favorite son
      Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born on April 25, 1908, in Polecat Creek, North Carolina, and he moved here at age five with his family. His father, Roscoe Murrow, came West for the same reason that Frank's father did, in hopes of obtaining a job in the timber business. In Alexander Kendrick's 1969 Murrow biography, Prime Time, the Life of Edward R. Murrow, we read that Roscoe Murrow's family traced its ancestors back to Ulster, Ireland, and that his wife Ethel also traced her ancestry back for several generations in the hill country. Ethel's first-cousin, Terry Coble, enticed them to move to Blanchard after Ethel was diagnosed as needing a "softer" climate. The Murrows and their three young sons traveled on a series of trains, with wicker baskets full of food and they supplemented their diet with inexpensive Chinese food when they changed trains in San Francisco.
      Tom Wake told us the story about how Roscoe initially pitched a tent for his family in Terry Coble's field, next to Wake's present house, between the GN tracks and the present Chuckanut drive. That field is now the landing zone for parasailers who launch from atop Blanchard mountain. The family then moved into one of five mill-family houses that were strung along what is now Washington Street, east of the railroad tracks and depot. Egbert was the youngest of three boys. Lacey, the eldest brother, went on to become an official in the Washington state highway department and the floating bridge between Seattle and Bellevue is named in his honor. Dewey, the middle brother, became a highway contractor in Spokane. One photo in Kendrick's book shows Egbert as a squat, chubby, pouting toddler, with a spelling book in his hand. Although he was not old enough to attend school, he insisted on clutching the book and walking with his brothers to the Blanchard school, which was located at the corner of Colony road and Legg road. Florence Smith Lowe recalls that when Egbert was a teen, he drove the high-school age children to Edison High School in a bus that was converted from an old Model-T. Frank recalls how Egbert, who was seven years older, tickled him incessantly
      Kendrick discovered in the Mazda annuals of the old Edison High School that Murrow was a serious student who was a member of the school's debate team, with three other girls, which won the Northwest Washington championship. Frank did not live here when Murrow returned as an adult sometime after World War II to visit his parents, but he does recall that Murrow was well regarded and that locals were very proud of him as they listened to Murrow's famous radio commentaries during the blitz of London, which began with Murrow's rumbling voice announcing, "This is London." When he returned to the U.S. after the war, he became an innovator in investigative journalism and television documentaries, reaching his zenith with his expose of Joseph McCarthy. Instead of using a heavy hand and editorializing, he let film clips of the Senator illustrate his excesses while hunting communists in government. The last time that Murrow returned to Blanchard, he remarked to a reporter that he would trade his success for the chance to return to those days when he hiked along the dike near Blanchard with a shotgun in hand and with nothing else on his mind; just waiting for a duck to fly by.
      Roscoe Murrow originally worked in the nearby pea fields that were still a mainstay of agriculture when I worked there while in high school. Roscoe soon tired of the field work and he actually returned briefly to Guilford County, North Carolina, a year after moving here, but the economy was still in the dumps back there so he soon returned to Blanchard. After he returned here for good, the Hazel/Samish Bay Logging Company mill hired him as a to work on the "big saw," then he moved up to be a brakeman on the mill's logging railroad and he finally became an engineer on the locomotives that hauled logs from the bottom of the inclines on Blanchard Hill. Ethel was a firm disciplinarian who believed that the boys would be less inclined to delve into mischief if they were constantly supervised. Every night she read the bible to her children and offspring of the other mill families. Egbert was a reserve player on the famous Edison High "Sparkplugs" basketball teams of 1924-25 that beat almost all the teams in the county by wide margins. He was more known, however, for being very talkative, which was obvious in his debating prowess and his resulting nickname of "Blow." When Egbert graduated in 1925, the prediction for him in the class prophecy was that in 1965 he would be a speaker on social reform. That was only a few years off because his incisive documentaries focused on that very subject in the 1950s and early 1960s. He died on April 27, 1965, at age 57 after smoking several packs of cigarettes a day for most of his adult life. Roscoe and Ethel are both buried in Bow cemetery; Roscoe died in 1955 at age 77 and Ethel died in 1961 at age 84. According to Florence Smith Lowe they had moved away from Blanchard sometime before then, first to Forks and finally to a house on Spruce Street in Bellingham.

The Coble family and modern Blanchard
      When we wanted to learn more details of the Coble family, several people referred us to Denny Coble, who now lives on Samish island with his wife, Carolyn, of the Sedro-Woolley Ensleys. Denny's parents were Don and Jeanette Coble, who ran the old Blanchard General Store for several decades until it closed in 1970. Jeannette spent several years researching the genealogy of the Coble family and Denny has retained much of her correspondence and the results of her research. He is a brother of Lynn Lennox's mother, Donnette Coble Lennox.

(General Store)
      This is a photo from an undated 1976 special section in the Burlington Journal about the small towns from Burlington to the Chuckanut mountains. The old general store that stood just north of the present community hall/depot looked very forlorn and was due to be demolished. The store was erected in 1881 when the town was still named Fravel and for at least 50 years before it closed in 1970 it was the social center of the town.

      The Cobles trace their lineage back to two families who emigrated from Ireland and Germany respectively. Finley Stewart migrated from Scotland to County Down, Ireland, and then to the U.S. in 1763 with his bride, Prudence, settling briefly in western Pennsylvania but then permanently in Alamance County, North Carolina. The Stewarts were a royal clan affiliated with King James I of England/VI of Scotland and if you saw the movie Braveheart, you may recall the controversy about the Stewart/Stuart line and the character of William Longsword. George and Jacob Coble [could have originally been Goble] emigrated in the same century from Hovenheim, Germany. A descendant of the Stewart family married a descendant of the Cobles in Alamance County, and the Blanchard Cobles descend from that line as did Ethel Murrow, the mother of Egbert R. "Edward" Murrow.
      George Cornelius Coble and some of his brothers migrated to Marion County, Kansas, during the Civil War and "Bloody Kansas" period, where George became a wealthy cattleman and stock trader. A street in Marion Center is named for the family and George was the county sheriff in the 1860s. Denny has a grandfather clock that came out here by railroad with the Coble family after George bought it in Alamance county in the early 1900s. George's Son Terry wound up on McElroy's slough sometime in 1905-06. His brothers Roddy and Eli also settled in Skagit County and all are buried in Mount Vernon. Roddy's son Claude settled in the Mount Vernon and his photo is featured on the wall of the YMCA as one of the benefactors. The Hazel Mill was built over McElroy slough in 1906 and when the Interurban project was planned in 1911, Terry quickly sized up the opportunity for a new town. He platted the town of Blanchard that year, when the depot was named Blanchard and the post office was still named Fravel. He and his son, George Chalfant Coble, owned farms west of the railroad tracks, and Terry's wife, Fannie (Mary Frances) and George's wife, Tillie (Mary Matilda) became local society leaders. Terry's father, George Cornelius Coble, also joined the family in Washington sometime in the early 1900s and is also buried in Mount Vernon. In a photo from Lynn Lennox's collection, we find Roddy and George Cornelius in the group of employees at the Hazel Mill. Terry's daughter Alice, who was postmistress of the town when Florence Smith Lowe grew up here from 1912-24, married another local landowner, George Lawson. Denny Coble recalls that George Lawson's father, A.J. Lawson, brought his family to Washington in a covered wagon.
      George Chalfant Coble's son Don graduated from Edison high school in 1937 and married Jeannette Lowry of Edison on July 29, 1938. They moved to Seattle where Don bicycled to work at Boeing while living in the Georgetown section through World War II. After the war, they moved back to Blanchard and Don worked at the Rock Point Oyster Co. on Oyster Creek. In 1951 the old Blanchard General Store was up for sale and Don and Jeannette bought it; Don also drove the local school bus and Jeannette became postmistress. Although the town had faded by then, the store was still the community center, where people came for their mail and while there, shopped for everything from groceries and staples to hardware, dry goods and clothing. As we noted above, the store was erected in 1881.

(Old Fools)
      This is the "Old Fools" house near Oyster Creek where some enlightened folks hung out in the 1970s and shared their plans for saving the world from lunacy, or at least the world immediately around them. Some succeeded. But we have a feeling that John Henry Fravel and Blanket Bill Jarman would have fit rather nicely if Bill's sloop, the Alice, were blown ashore on a dark and stormy night and if they trudged up the beach to knock on this particular door a century after their heyday. "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."

      Frank Pratt remembers that the first store owner in his childhood (he was born here in 1915) was Ernie Hinkston, who also owned the warehouse we mentioned, further north on Legg road. Frank's family moved away for a few years and he recalls that by the time they returned in about 1927 the store changed hands to William Fenno. The Fenno family lived in the apartment above the store, as Hinkston's family did before. Sometime after 1936, Marion B. Adkins bought the store. Sometime during that period, gas pumps were installed in front of the store. The Cobles bought the store and the lots from Adkins, but Denny Coble has the bill of sale that shows that fixtures were still owned by Fenno. The sale price was just under $3,000. JoAnne Prentice recalls working at the store for the Cobles starting in 1955, and she ran it for them when they traveled. She remembers how eagles roosted in the big cottonwoods that grew on the lots to the north of the store where the other old businesses of Blanchard stood a couple of decades before. By the 1960s the building was sagging and Don Coble put a reinforcing bar through it, but by 1970 the building was nearly falling down around them so they closed it. Don moved a house across Legg road to a spot facing the old store location, he installed gas pumps there and they continued the store and post office there until 1975. Jeannette had continued as postmistress over the years and when the postal service discontinued the Blanchard zip code, the couple realized that business would drop off even further. This was a common problem for rural stores that depended on people who had to drop by for mail for a good share of their income. In 1973, Jeannette replaced Luella Henry as the postmaster at the town of Bow, south on Chuckanut drive, when Mrs. Henry was elected Skagit County auditor. By that time, hippies and backpackers converged on the hillsides and on Oyster Creek near the old convict camp that housed the prisoners who built the Chuckanut highway under the cliffs six decades earlier. JoAnne says that she often visited the hippies who camped out at the creek and watched them cavort on the beach. Speaking as one who loved to play there in the bay, I just have to correct her that some of us considered ourselves beatniks rather than hippies but, regardless, we are now, three to four decades later, all just "Old Fools," to say nothing of the fact that we all bozos on this bus.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(The Smith band)
(Hazel Mill)
(Pot Belly Stove)
Far left: Brothers Dell and Paul Smith play their guitar, banjo and drums in a local band in the 1920s. Dell's daughter Florence, who later co-authored the book, Equality Colony, with her brother, Fred, joined her father to perform at dances from the age eight after taking lessons from Mrs. Frank, the butcher's wife.
Center: The Hazel Mill, which employed many men from 1906 on and was bought out by the Samish Bay Logging Co.. Right: Residents chew the fat around a pot belly stove at the General Store. Florence Smith Lowe recognizes Roy Shadle at the far right. Can a reader identify the other people?.

Shirley Hanson's Skagit roots are deep
      One of the highlights at the community hall is the painting of old Blanchard by Shirley Hanson on an old mill saw-blade donated by Bob Gilchrist. When we interviewed her we discovered that she has deep roots with two Blanchard pioneer families and an upper Skagit River family. Her mother was Ruth Henry Wiseman, a sister of Tillie Henry Coble. Shirley was ill when she was a toddler and while her mother taught school at Custer, Shirley lived with Tillie and George out near the highway. Her maternal grandfather was W.K. Henry whose name pops up in more than one area of the county. A Tennessee native, he moved to Skagit County with his bride, Amanda, in the late 1890s and after a brief time in Burlington, he moved his family to Ralph's Corner, which is better known today as the location of one of the finest country watering holes, the Corner Tavern. In the early years of the last century, Henry donated part of his land along Joe Leary slough for a country school and the school stood there until the tavern opened after Repeal of Prohibition. In 1924, Henry decided to open a Red Crown service station in Blanchard where a trading post from the early days of the village stood in disrepair. He bought a corner of Terry and Fannie Coble's farm, which bordered the Interurban line and the highway alongside that became known as Chuckanut drive. He tore down the old building and built the service station and the house behind where Shirley now lives. Shirley remembers her great-aunt Fannie Coble very well.
      "If you looked in the dictionary under the word, lady, there she would be," Shirley recalls. "She had lace curtains and the finest china. I can remember so well that she and Terry had what we would call bearing." Terry was a gentleman farmer — Denny Coble infers that Terry had family capital from his father's cattle business in Kansas. "One family story goes that Terry had his choice of whatever property he wanted when he arrived, "Denny recalls, "and that he could have had Samish island for a song." The kids in the extended family loved to motor out on the sound in Terry's small yacht named the Virginia V, thus the name of the street in Blanchard when Terry platted it. Shirley recalls that George was also a gentleman farmer, on a farm just south of his father's. Tillie told Shirley about the old days at the Equality Colony and how many of the colony men worked for the mill after the colony disbanded. In many ways, Tillie and George were the glue that held the community together after the mill closed in 1928 and after many people moved away as the nationwide Depression set in. A 1976 special supplement to the Burlington Journal included a profile of Tillie:

      [Tillie] Coble was born in 1897, the same year that Ed Pelton, the leader of colony came to Blanchard to build the ideal community to change the state of Washington into a giant cooperative. She was born near Burlington and later moved with her family to a farm near Allen. She did not start school until she was eight, but she kept going until she had completed normal school [now Western Washington University] in Bellingham and was prepared to teach school herself.
      At 19 years she was hired as the teacher at the one-room Bow Hill school. She taught for one year and then married George [Chalfant] Coble in 1918. They moved into the same house on Chuckanut drive they live in today. There they raised three children. Mr. Coble farmed and worked for [Rock Point] Oyster Co., and Mrs. Coble worked for 22 years in the [Bow] post office.

Shirley recalls visiting her grandmother at the old wooden post office building in downtown Bow when Shirley was a student. The late Luella Henry, who passed away in 2003, was also related to the Cobles through Tillie and the Henrys. Luella's first husband was J.C. "Fat" Henry of Bow, one of W.K.'s sons. Luella was postmaster of Bow from 1943-73, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and subsequently serving under both Democrat and Republican presidents. Shirley also fondly remembers Ethel Murrow, Edward R. Murrow's mother and a first cousin of Terri Coble. She has a photo taken while she was a baby, sitting on Ethel's lap. Later, when Shirley was about ready to enter the first grade, she had the distinction of being the flower girl at the first wedding in the Blanchard Methodist church in 1938, when cousins Don Coble and Jeanette Lowry were married.
      In 1932, W.K. Henry sold the service station to Charlie Matthews, who had married the third Henry sister, Blanche. Charlie was a bookkeeper for several companies in the area, including the Samish Bay Logging Co. As Blanchard's population plummeted even further during the Depression years, Charlie converted the station to a wrecking yard and his tow truck supplemented the couple's income. Shirley's father was Hobe Wiseman, a member of the famous family who settled near Lyman at what became known as Wiseman Creek.
      Ed. note: in the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society's book, Skagit County, Washington, Index to Funeral Home Records (1908-1994), we find these records for deceased Coble family members: Claude Dwyer Coble, died 1965, age 90; Donald George Coble, 1990, 71; Eli Coble, 1918, 81; George Chalfant Coble, 1981, 85; George Cornelius Coble, 1921, 81; Harry Coble, 1920, no age given; Lorraine Eva Coble, 1971, 51; Mary A. Coble, 1915, 68; Mary Frances "Fannie" Coble, 1954, 80; Mary Matilda "Tillie" Coble, 1989, 92; Nellie Bown (?) Coble, 1965, 87; Roddy Caruthers Coble, 1927, 82; Terry Eli Coble, 1955, 85; William Terry Coble, 1989, 66.

Click on these thumbnail photos to see the full-sized photos
(Chuckanut drive)
(Convict camp)
Far left. This tremendous photo was taken by Fred Jukes of Bellingham sometime in 1920s as he stood looking south at the paved Chuckanut drive and the trestle of the Pacific Northwest Traction Interurban where it stretched out over Samish Bay. Both photos are courtesy of Jon Miller.
Center: This is the convict camp that housed workers who constructed the original Chuckanut drive in the early Teen years of the 20th century. It was located near Oyster Creek, north of Blanchard

Florence Smith Lowe and Fred Smith
      Mary and Fred Smith grew up in Blanchard at the same time that Frank Pratt did, with mill saws buzzing day and night and smoke pouring out of slash piles and sawdust burners. They were in the middle of six children and she was the only girl.
      Their father, Eudell "Dell" Revere Smith, moved to Bellingham Bay in 1900 with his parents and five and brothers and sisters from Sutton, Nebraska, where he was born in 1875. He was hired as a clerk in Arlington and met and married Mary Blanche Morton there in 1905. Dell heard that the Hazel Mill opened on McElroy slough in the town of Fravel, so he scouted the town and decided that the new loggers would need a confectionery and tobacco store as well as a pool hall. It would be alcohol free because he was a teetotaler and he was pleased that Fannie Coble, the wife of the town's most successful farmer, was death on liquor. Florence was born in 1912 during the boom year when Samish Bay Logging Co. opened on McElroy slough. Frederick was born two years later and they would remain close through their adult years. Del's brother Paul lived over near Anacortes and often came to Blanchard to play the banjo while Del played the ukulele for family entertainment.
      She met Egbert R. Murrow when she was in the first grade, but she liked his older brother Dewey better. They used to amuse each other as children by spreading out a blanket on the lawn in front of the Murrows mill house and reading chapters of books out loud. She especially remembers when Egbert's oldest brother, Lacey, went off to Pullman for study at Washington State College. Since he was to live in a dormitory, Ethel thought that everything he took with him should be marked, so she enlisted Florence to help her write his initials on every piece of clothing and every possession. "I especially treasured her because she taught me to "tat" and I have continued that hobby the rest of my life." Did Florence learn about the history of the town and founders while growing up there?
      "No, we never learned those details. In fact we never knew the names of any of the streets," she recalls. "I always thought that Blanchard was named for Lord Blanchard, who was a member of Capt. George Vancouver's crew when he explored the Sound in 1792. But I did know of Mr. Fravel vaguely because I often played around the small house north of town where his daughters, Blanche and Rebecca, lived. They were in their 20s and very beautiful. They boarded the Interurban every day to work in Bellingham, at a bank, I believe."
      When Florence ventured downtown, she was allowed to visit the respectable businesses but not the row of saloons. She recalls that the grocery store then was the one owned by Ernie Hinkston, with the balcony on the upper story where he lived with his wife; they had no children. She remembers the butcher shop owned by Mr. Frank, located where the community hall is today, and the general store north of it, then a barber shop further north. She does not recall the tailor next door, but north of that was her father's confectionery store, attached to "The Club" pool room, which her father owned but she was not allowed to venture inside.
      She remembers a number of other early families and businesses from the early days. Mr. Cooper worked at the mill and his wife was her mother's best friend. They lived where the Thornton family lived in modern times. She recalls W.K. Henry's service station out on the highway because her oldest brother Philip worked there. "We didn't see the Cobles very much; they were definitely up there in society. But I remember seeing Roscoe and Ethel Murrow all the time, walking through town, arm in arm, with the three boys clustered around. She was always very frail." Florence remembers her teachers very well, especially Mrs. Crawshaw in the first grade, Mrs. Dora Frederickson, Miss Gladys Ryan and Miss Kernaghan. "Mr. Bentz, the principal was a wonderful man. I was very fond of Ruth Schmidt, who married Mr. Bentz's son Perry and they owned land on the west side of the slough, north of the Coble farm." Her mother's sister's family joined them in town later on. "Uncle Pete Peronteau worked at the Colony mill and Aunt Mabel kept house. We would often take rides up the new Chuckanut highway in Uncle Pete's new Model-T." She especially loved playing on the slough among the cattails, floating along on a raft that her brothers built for her. She and her girlfriends spent hours every spring picking the wildflowers on the foothills below Blanchard Mountain; the many-colored violets stand out in her mind.
      Florence was somewhat of a prodigy while attending the Blanchard grade school south of town. She skipped the third, fifth and sixth grade and entered Edison High School at age 11 in 1923. By far the shortest girl in the freshman class, she usually rode on the bus that junior Egbert R. Murrow drove. One of her most exciting memories is of playing piano in a duet with her father, who played mandolin, guitar and drums with a foot pedal for the bass drum. "I started performing with him at age eight and we would perform for dances on Samish island and in Blanchard. He was the very image of the later singer, Andy Williams." She especially enjoyed riding the Interurban. "Father would wake me up at 3 a.m. to ride north and help him spread nets for smelt at Clayton Bay. Other times we would visit our Smith grandparents who lived on Humboldt Street in Bellingham. Grandpa fought in the Civil War and was a carpenter. He built many of the first houses in Lincoln, Nebraska, and then built houses in Whatcom and then Bellingham when they moved here."
      But when the mills started their periodic closures in 1923-24, local businesses like Dell Smith's confectionery and pool hall took a hit. "I suppose he went bankrupt," she recalls, "although I do not remember the details. I had just started high school as the baby in the class and suddenly we moved to Everett where dad worked in the lumber mills and I was the tiniest kid in a school of nearly 2,000, as opposed to Edison's enrollment of 200. So mother kept me out of school for a year and I spent nearly every day, reading at the big old Everett library. I graduated from high school there in 1929" After graduation, Florence attended Bellingham Normal school, now Western Washington University [WWU], where she met her future husband, Carl Lowe from Arlington. They married in 1936 and Florence got a teaching assignment in Carnation while Carl was hired to teach at Cleveland High School in Seattle. She commuted down to be with him every weekend and then, after teaching a year and a half, she lost her job because married women were not allowed to teach anymore. Carl began his career of working for oil companies and Florence began her career of working for legal firms and occasional civil service stints for government offices.
      Brother Fred became a noted artist after graduating with a degree in the field at the University of Washington. Florence also attended graduate school at the UW in the early 1950s but left before she completed her master's thesis. Fred joined the U.S. Army during World War II and before and afterwards he painted signs in Seattle to make a living while he spent much of his spare time painting. Then the American Petroleum Institute hired Carl Lowe in 1964 and they moved to Arcadia, California. "I hated California at first," Florence recalls. "But then I grew to love it." Brother Fred decided about that time to write a manuscript with his memories of Equality Colony, which had always fascinated him. "He would write a chapter in longhand and mail it to me and I would type it and mail it back. This back-and-forth process continued for several years until the project was nearly complete, but then he died suddenly on April 17, 1979, and I grieved so over his death and then Carl's in 1981, that I put the project away for a few years. Then someone, whose name I do not recall, wrote to me and told me of the centennial celebration in Blanchard and of an annual picnic every August. So I drove up there in 1988, I think it was, after whipping the manuscript together. I had edited it all and added footnotes and a bibliography and I took it to the picnic. People in the town were so enthusiastic, especially Mrs. Prentice, that I took it to all the local libraries and they wanted to buy copies. Then I met the staff at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies at WWU and they offered to take it over, print it and distribute it." Will Florence return to Blanchard again?
      "Oh no, I'm afraid that is not likely," she chuckled. "I last returned two years ago with my daughter, Margaret Rhodes, who lives in Palm Springs. And on the way back, I broke my ankle when we were in Roseburg, Oregon. I still have a dozen pins in it, which slows me down a little. My daughter Ruth Ann also lives nearby." Considering that she is now 93 and still has a memory as sharp as a tack, we can't imagine her slowing down for awhile. We invited her up so that she can go with us to deliver a birthday present to her old schoolmate, Frank Pratt, who will be 90 this October, and she thinks that would be great fun. But she broke her shoulder a few months ago and that is also taking a while to heal. Meanwhile, Florence has left us all quite a legacy in the most definitive book about Equality Colony and the description of the area in the Teens and the '20s where she was born and still loves so much. She especially enjoys corresponding with people who are curious about those events and times.

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Story posted on July 28, 2005, and last updated on July 9, 2010
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