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Skagit River Journal

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What happened to Lyman Cutler?
— A new addition to the extensive Journal Pig War series
— obituary for Lucile McDonald

(Cutler farm)
All these photos are from the original article. Caption: "The Ora martin home near Blanchard, thought to be the old Cutler cabin. Ray Jordan photo." We hope that a reader will recognize this house or will know where Ora martin lived in 1965. We were unable to find the property on a 1925 plat map.

By Lucile McDonald, Seattle Times, May 30, 1965
      A bill introduced in Congress in January [1965], proposing that the federal government purchase 1,800 acres on San Juan Island and create a national historical park commemorating the Pig War, has set several persons wondering what became of the man who started the trouble.
      Percival R. Jeffcott, Ferndale historian [see Journal feature: http://www.skagitriverjournal.com/WestCounty/NW/Jarman/Jarman04-Jeffcott1-JarmanBook.html], and Ray Jordan, Sedro-Woolley member of the Skagit County Historical Society, are among the latest to inquire into the subsequent career of Lyman A. Cutler, who fired the shot that set off an international boundary dispute lasting 12 years. [Journal ed. note: many records and several authors spell his name as Cutler, including Ray Jordan as well as McDonald, but as you will read in the Journal Pig War introduction portal, Michael Vouri has established that the correct spelling is Cutlar.]
      The future park would pay tribute to the powers of arbitration, for no blood was shed in the Pig War, except that of the porker. Lyman Cutler, after having raised a crisis that spread far beyond the bounds of the potato patch where he found a British hog rooting, did not remain long enough in the islands to learn whether they were to be English or American. He was living on the mainland when the decision was reached.
      Jeffcott, who believes he has tracked down Cutler's burial place south of Bellingham, recently told of his findings in a talk before the Ladies of Kiwanis group in that city. He said he has every reason to conclude that Cutler was interred on Deadman's Point which later was hydraulicked into Bellingham Bay and that the pig warrior's last resting place is beneath industrial plants on what is now known as Commercial Point.
      Cutler, a Kentuckian, aged 27, was among the first dozen American squatters on San Juan Island, arriving there in April 1859, presumably after a disappointing experience in the Caribou gold rush in British Columbia. He staked a 160-acre homestead on what is known as the Frazer place, facing American Camp Road near its intersection with the road to Mar Vista.
      A contemporary described him as "one of the unwashed sovereigns of the United States who did not scare worth a cent." Another recalled he was "tall, light-haired fine-looking, fearless, adventurous and full of fun." A third said he set up housekeeping with an Indian woman in a structure that was a cross between a tent and a hut.

(English Camp)
Caption for photo above: "English Camp on San Juan Island from a drawing by Sgt. A.D. Roland in December 1886. Courtesy of U.W. Library."
Photo below: "Artist's drawing shows plans for the proposed park on Garrison Bay"

(Visitors center)

The pig and the spuds
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      Cutler is credited with having made a round trip of considerably more than 40 miles to Dungeness by sailboat to purchase a sack of seed potatoes for $10. He dug up about a third of an acre in the midst of a Hudson's Bay Co. sheep run and sowed his spuds. It is a miracle that a pig was the only one of the company's livestock to find them; several thousand sheep, 40 cattle, 35 horses and 40 hogs grazed at large on the south end of the island. The potato patch was fenced only on three sides and the terrain it occupied was part of Bellevue Farm, which the company had operated for six years.
      On the morning of June 15, Cutler saw the pig nuzzling among the potatoes, chased the animal into the nearby woods and shot it. When the encounter was reported Charles Griffin, manager of the farm, Cutler said he had been assured by American authorities that he had a right to the land, it was American soil, and he and other squatters would be protected by the United States government.
      A boundary commission, then at work, had not yet decided on which side of the international border San Juan lay. Until the point was settled, Griffin considered Cutler and his ilk trespassers. The manager at once sent a letter to his superiors in Victoria. Before it reached its destination he received unexpected support. The steamship Beaver came in from Nisqually with A.A. Dallas, the [Hudson's Bay] company's chief factor on board. The latter paid a call on the Kentuckian, told him that he had killed a breeding boar valued at $100 and intimated he had better pay for it or stand trial.
      Cutler did not like the tone of the ultimatum. To him the animal was worth no more than a common razorback and he professed willingness to settle for $10. Evidently hot words were said on both sides. Cutler later reported Dallas "insulting and threatening" and Griffin was heard to remark that the Americans were a pack of intruders and he had been a fool ever to let the first one remain.

The aftermath
      What happened after that is well-known. Brig. Gen. William S. Harney, calling at the island on a tour of Puget Sound defenses, heard a highly colored account of the episode and dispatched Capt. George Pickett and 68 infantrymen from Fort Bellingham on July 27 to protect the Americans and prevent any attempt to carry Cutler off to Victoria for trial. At the urging of fellow settlers, Cutler made himself scarce for some time. His friends were afraid he might get trigger-happy and kill any British subject sent to arrest him.
      Conflicting accounts exist as to what happened next. Paul K. Hubbs Jr., American customs officer on the island, said that Pickett's first act on San Juan was to order Cutler's arrest and that Hubbs was deputized to go and get the culprit.
      The same day the British warship Satellite anchored off Griffin Bay to land John De Courcy, who had been appointed magistrate to try the case on the island. The British officers were surprised to find American troops already on San Juan when its ownership was under arbitration by the boundary commission. Pickett, one step ahead of the game, had appointed an American justice of the peace, Henry R. Crosbie. The latter, in a report to Washington, took credit for advising Cutler to place himself under Pickett's protection. The pig-shooter acceded "to the relief of everyone.

(The shotgun)
Caption: "Senator Henry Jackson examined shotgun with Crook and Mrs. Rhoda Anderson." Scoop needs no introduction, but we hope a reader can identify the two other people.

      Crosbie said that Cutler was in custody only one day. Hubbs insisted in an interview late in his life that Cutler never was tried by the authorities on either side. British reports present a different view. The captain of the Satellite said that Pickett told him on July 31 Cutler was given a court hearing and fined heavily and the amount would be paid to the Hudson's Bay Co. agent to compensate for loss of the boar.
      That September, Hubbs helped Cutler phrase his story of the shooting in a favorable light, laying the firing of the spot to "a moment of great irritation." Cutler, in the statement sworn to by Crosbie, said he had expressed a desire to replace the pig at once.
      Cutler at first gained prestige from the episode. He was elected constable by the Americans on the island and later served as deputy sheriff, a post he was holding in May 1864. Then he disappeared from the San Juans. The next one hears of him he was 39 years old, unmarried and living in Samish precinct [Blanchard area] in April 1871 with John Gray, a fellow Kentuckian and logger. Jeffcott discovered that Cutler took a squatter's claim a short distance south of Blanchard and north of Bow in the northwest part of present Skagit County, "east of the William Wood place."
      Two years later Cutler became sick and moved to a hotel on Bellingham Bay so as to be near a doctor. Jeffcott thinks it must have been in Sehome. On April 27, 1874, Cutler died, leaving an estate of $489.75, to which his father, brother and sister in Michigan were heirs.
      Among his belongings, sold on June 13 at an administrator's sale, Jeffcott learned from county probate records, was the shotgun with which Cutler was said to have killed the pig. D.P. Thomas purchased it and many years later sent it to the Washington State Historical Society, where it now reposes. It was brought out last fall and displayed at a park hearing in Friday Harbor.
      Records show that Cutler's body was taken to the graveyard by boat. Jeffcott found that two cemeteries existed in Whatcom County in 1874 and only the one on Deadman's Point [Fairhaven area], three miles south of Sehome, would have required the use of a boat, the other graveyard being inland.
      "We are pretty safe in concluding that Cutler's last resting place was on Deadman's, today known as Commercial Point," Jeffcott told the club. "But he was not allowed to rest in peace for long. In 1884 the county commissioners discovered that, due to a faulty deed, they did not own the cemetery they had started in 1863. In 1889 they ordered all bodies exhumed and reburied in the new city cemetery of Bay View. All told 69 bodies were removed, but many who occupied unmarked and unknown graves were not disturbed. Lyman Cutler's reinterment at Bay View is not recorded, so the natural assumption is that his body was not removed.
      The former cemetery was washed into the bay to raise the level of waterfront land. Jeffcott talked with an eye witness to this operation, who said he saw many bones flushed out with the earth.
      "We would hesitate to assert that the remains of the pioneer who once was so much in the public eye passed down the flume to finality in Bellingham Bay," Jeffcott said, "but what else can one conclude?"

(Deadman's Point, Fairhaven)
Caption: "Deadman's Point in the 1880s. Bellingham Museum photo courtesy P.R. Jeffcott."

Lucile Mcdonald, 93, Journalist, Writer And Northwest Historian
Seattle Times, June 25, 1992)
      Lucile McDonald, author, historian and journalist who worked on newspapers from Alaska to South America, has died at age 93. Mrs. McDonald, a pioneer for women in journalism locally during three decades of newspaper work at The Seattle Times and Journal American of Bellevue and as a newswoman internationally, died Tuesday night (June 23) at the Cascade Vista Convalescent Center in Redmond.
      Born Lucile Saunders in Portland on Sept. 1, 1898, she was the daughter of Frank and Rose Saunders. Her father worked as a baker in a cracker factory, while her mother taught grade school. Her parents encouraged her to enter a traditional profession for women, like secretarial work, but Mrs. McDonald let them know at an early age that she intended to do the opposite.
      When she graduated at 17, she went to work for the Eugene Daily Guard while she studied at the University of Oregon. Soon after that, her newspaper career blossomed as she landed jobs at The Bulletin in Bend, Ore.; The Oregonian, as a reporter, news editor and city editor; and The Statesman-Journal in Salem, Ore., as a wire editor.
      In the early 1920s, she traveled to South America to become a free-lance writer, later landing a job writing for an English-language newspaper in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Upon returning to the United States, she lived in New York, where she went to work for United Press, now United Press International.
      It was while there that she married - on Christmas Day 1922 - her Oregon boyfriend, Harold McDonald, who was in the tractor business. While following her husband worldwide on business, she worked for the Cordova Times in Alaska and was a correspondent for The New York Times in Turkey.
      The couple eventually returned to Oregon and in 1940 moved to Seattle, where during World War II Mrs. McDonald was hired at The Seattle Times. She worked as a copy editor, book reviewer and feature writer until 1966. Her articles often explored the lives of the state's early settlers, explorers and early communities. Between 1977 and 1987 she wrote some 450 columns for the Bellevue Journal-American, exploring the history of the Eastside.
      Mrs. McDonald had a number of distinctions as a journalist. Among these are: first woman news reporter in all of South America; first woman copy editor in the Pacific Northwest; first woman telegraph editor, courthouse reporter and general news reporter in Oregon; first woman overseas correspondent for a U.S. trade newspaper; first woman on a New York City rewrite desk; second woman journalist in Alaska; and second woman to be a correspondent abroad for The Associated Press.
      A resident of Bellevue and Kirkland since 1945, Mrs. McDonald was best known for her chronicles of Northwest history, starting in 1917 and continuing through 1991.
      She wrote more than 20 books and co-wrote another 13 on Washington history and children's fiction. Her books have won a number of local and national awards. Her last book, Making History: The People Who Shaped the San Juan Islands, was published in 1990.
      The most revealing and fascinating book may end up being her autobiography, which she wrote about 10 years ago, said her son, Richard McDonald, who submitted the manuscript for publication about four months ago. Survivors include her sister, Iris McRae of Bellevue; son, Richard, of Bellevue; daughter, Carol McVay of Tacoma; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
      Journal ed. note: Lucile McDonald is one of the best sources of Northwest history. We plan to post more of her articles in future issues. We hope that a reader will own a copy of her autobiography and will consider loaning it to us to read.


Boundary results, post-war
      In the12 years after the 1859 Pig War, troops and sailors from both the United States and England occupied respective camps on San Juan Island. Many aggressive Brits advocated that the case for the British-drawn border be pressed against the U.S. while the government was preoccupied with the Civil War. In 1871 Great Britain and the United States signed a treaty to seek a solution to that border and other border disputes with the newly formed Dominion of Canada. The treaty commission decided to resolve the San Juan dispute by international arbitration, with Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany as arbitrator. Wilhelm referred the arguments to an arbitration commission in Geneva and after a year of deliberation, the commission decided on October 21, 1872, in favor of the U.S. The arbitrator approved the marine boundary via Haro Strait, to the west of the San Juan islands — as Americans argued, visit the British boundary drawn through Rosario Strait, east of the islands. [Return]

"Caribou" or Fraser river gold rush
      We conclude that McDonald confused two British Columbia gold rushes: the 1858 Fraser River rush and the more sustained Cariboo rush, centered on Barkerville in the BC interior in 1860, but too late for this reference to Cutler in 1859. [Return]

Frazer place
      FrazerWe hope that a reader will be able to identify this property. [Return]

Strength of American and English forces
      The American Camp, commanded by Col. Silas Casey, had at various times 461 military and 14 cannons. Rear Admiral R. L. Baynes commanded the British forces, which included 2,140 military, five warships mounted with 70 cannons. There were no casualties on either side in the dozen years of dispute, except, of course, for the pig. [Return]

William Wood place
      We hope that a reader will conclude from the information above in the story the exact location of Cutler's place. [Return]

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted Aug. 26, 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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