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Skagit River Journal

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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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Thomas P. Hastie,
our covered-wagon pioneer

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©2003
(Thomas P. Hastie)>
Thomas P. Hastie, turn of the century. Photo courtesy of Skagit Memories, a book still available at the Skagit County Historical Museum in LaConner.

      Thomas P. Hastie Jr. was the only early Skagit pioneer we know of who ran a footrace with Plains Indians on his way across country in 1850. He said he was long-winded and used to traveling and ran fast. Indians rode up to him, one on either side for several hundred yards, talking and waving their arms but he could not understand. Finally one Indian reached down, patted him on back and rode away, laughing loudly.
      Hastie died in Mount Vernon on June 24, 1925, just a month after his 90th birthday. A year before that, he gave an interview to Mrs. Roger Hannaford at his home and told her of his many adventures on both land and sea.
      He was born on March 2, 1835, in Liverpool, England. From the 1906 Book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties [hereafter the 1906 Book], we learned that his father, Thomas Hastie Sr., was born in Scotland and moved to England as a boy, where he learned the stone cutter's trade. His mother was Welch and was educated in England to be a nurse, training that would serve them well in the New World. [Journal Journal ed. note: to differentiate between father and son, we will call the elder, Father Hastie, and the son, Thomas P.]
      In 1845 the Hasties took their older son and his baby brother, William, on a sailing ship to New Orleans. They then boarded a boat to Galena, Illinois, where they bought a team of two horses and drove to Dane County, Wisconsin. After farming there for five years, elder Hastie was dissatisfied and bought a covered wagon. He and the family drove to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they joined a train of 13 wagons going west. Outside of Council Bluffs, a Mr. Jewell joined them along with his wife and 18-year-old daughter, and they drove their three teams together.
      As the team proceeded slowly through the Nebraska plains, they witnessed that the Pawnee and Sioux tribes were at war and they often saw Indians in paint and war togs. Although the sight terrified many of the emigrants, the Indians did not molest them, according to Thomas P. The worst enemy was alkali water, which killed two of the Hasties' oxen. That was just the beginning of the problems. When fording rivers, the beds of the wagons were taken off and cracks were chinked so they could be used for scows. Every man carried enough rope in the wagon to reach across any river forded. Lines were taken across by a horse and rider. Then several trips were made with the wagon, often taking an entire day. At the Platte River, a horse and rider were lost while fording. In his interview, Hastie noted that it was a great hindrance when oxen could not swim across if they were facing the sun.
      At one river fording, the Hasties were alone. Once they were across they got some rare rest as they spread out their clothes to let them dry in the sun before they resumed the journey. After several miles, Father Hastie asked his wife if his spare pants had been stored, but a search showed they were left behind. Thomas went back for them alone since family had to keep droving. After Thomas P. found the pants, he was returning when he was taunted by the Indians as he ran. The Hasties generally kept together with the train until the emigrants reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming, where cholera broke out. Two in the train died, and Mrs. Hastie's nurse training became very important as she prevented her family from catching the disease and helped save the lives of many other emigrants.
      The smaller train plodded onwards and when they neared the California turnoff, they met a mountaineer on horseback going east, who urged them strongly against California, reporting that vast numbers of emigrants on that route had exhausted both pasture and food supply. So the travelers came west on the Oregon Trail, instead, with the train down to five wagons drawn by oxen. Horses were used only for riding; women drove the ox teams while the men and boys trotted alongside, the boys barefoot.
      The Hastie family was finally left behind after losing most of their oxen. They were joined on the trail by an old man with his wife and son. The families' provisions were running low and late fall was approaching. Near the Snake river, they met up with a man named Patten who had gone on ahead of the train. He was camping out after Indians had stolen his oxen. Some mountaineers on horseback came along and, after hearing the story, took up the trail of the Indians. They found that Indians had eaten one of the oxen, but the men returned the rest to the owner. The Patten family, however, was too exhausted to travel, so the Hasties went on alone. Apparently the older man's family also stayed behind.
      The footrace actually occurred during one of the few comic moments of the journey. At one river fording when the Hastie family was alone, they spread their wet clothing on sagebrush to dry while they rested. After they resumed their voyage, father Hastie asked mother about his spare pants and she was horrified when she discovered that they had been left behind. That is when 15-year-old Thomas P. went back to fetch them and encountered the taunting Indians. He noted in the 1924 interview that he was never so scared in all his life. He also noted that the Plains Indians were armed only with bows and arrows.

Oregon Territory
      Along the south shore of the Columbia river, the Hasties were overjoyed one day in late November 1850 when they met men on horseback from the fort at the Dalles. People in the emigrant train that had left them behind became concerned when the Hasties had not arrived, so a party from the fort took mules and a wagon out on a search and brought along hardtack and other food. The men took Mrs. Hastie and William, then age 6, along with them and left Thomas P. and his father behind to follow with the oxen and covered wagon.
      Mr. Hastie had brought a special trowel and other tools along with him from England, and these helped him find work at good wages. Both Thomas P. and his parents worked through the winter at the Dalles. The 1906 Book noted that John McLoughlin, the factor at the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, was a great help to them when they initially decided to settle in Oregon Territory.
      Father Hastie decided in the spring of 1851 to farm on Sauvie's Island which lies at the mouth of the Willamette river, ten miles northwest of Portland. The island was brought under cultivation after Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, who built Fort Williams at the lower end of the island, across from St. Helens, Oregon.

Whidbey Island beckons
      Sauvie's Island was visited by many sailing ships during that year. Ship captains spoke of Puget Sound, hundreds of miles north in what was still the northern section of Oregon. In 1852, Father Hastie heard that Captain Thomas Coupe took a claim on a long, narrow island in Puget Sound, which is the second largest in square miles in the lower 48 states. Whidbey Island was originally discovered in May 1792 when Capt. George Vancouver explored Puget Sound with the British warship, H. M. S. Discovery. Vancouver did not want to take chances in possible shallow water with the Discovery, so he sent a company of men in longboats with his trusted second lieutenant, Peter Puget, and the ship's master, Joseph Whidbey. Whidbey discovered Deception Pass in 1792 and in so doing he proved that Whidbey Island, thought by the early Spanish explorers to be part of the mainland, was in reality an island. Captain Coupe had the distinction of being the only man ever to sail a fully rigged ship through Deception Pass.
Sauvie's Island was visited by many sailing ships during that year. Ship captains spoke of Puget Sound, hundreds of miles north in what was still the northern section of Oregon. In 1852, Father Hastie heard that Captain Thomas Coupe took a claim on a long, narrow island in Puget Sound, which is the second largest in square miles in the lower 48 states. Whidbey Island was originally discovered in May 1792 when Capt. George Vancouver explored Puget Sound with the British warship, H. M. S. Discovery. Vancouver did not want to take chances in possible shallow water with the Discovery, so he sent a company of men in longboats with his trusted second lieutenant, Peter Puget, and the ship's master, Joseph Whidbey. Whidbey discovered Deception Pass in 1792 and in so doing he proved that Whidbey Island, thought by the early Spanish explorers to be part of the mainland, was in reality an island. Captain Coupe had the distinction of being the only man ever to sail a fully rigged ship through Deception Pass.       In the spring of 1853, when Thomas P. was 18, Father Hastie became discouraged by the fever and ague that were plaguing the settlers on the island and decided to move north. The family crossed the Columbia river twice to shuttle their household goods to Vancouver, in Washington Territory. From there they and other settlers caught a boat that was carrying salt from the Columbia region to the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Steilacoom. Then they boarded another boat whose captain decided to follow Coupe's course. They landed on Whidbey Island in June 1853 at the village of Penn Cove, which was north across the cove from the little village of Coupeville, which was named for the captain. Father Hastie found work, cutting wood there for the steamer Mary Ellen. Later, he felled trees that were cut into ship spars at the mill on Utsalady beach across the Saratoga Passage on Camano Island. The mill was built by Thomas Cranney and Lawrence Grennan in 1857-58 after they had cut trees for spars there for a few years. In the 1924 interview, Thomas P. recalled that the spar trees measured from 150 to 200 feet in length and were only cut after careful preparation of a level bed built of substantial timbers. Father and son worked together to haul spars behind several yokes of oxen, from the mill to sailing vessels at the boat landing on the northern end of the island. He recalled that Cranney was dealing at that time with a firm in France that was selling spars in all parts of the world. The ships made a hazardous trip around Cape Horn, through the Straits of Magellan and across the Atlantic, some sinking along the route.

Indian Wars
(Early Coupeville)>
This fine photo of early Coupeville is from this wonderful website of Whidbey Island memories. The caption reads: Coupeville about 1888, showing Main Street on the left. Dr. Chaffee's office is second building on right side of the street. Third building was old Good Templars lodge which was later used as the Court House. Building on the hill at far right was old Puget Sound Academy, later destroyed by fire.
      We learned from the memoirs of Alice Kellogg Cahail that the Hasties were in the thick of dustups between Indians and the settlers on Whidbey Island. Alice's father, Dr. John Coe Kellogg, was the only doctor in the entire area and lived at Admiralty Head (long known as Kellogg's Point) on Whidbey Island. The Hasties, father and son, were working there in 1854. Father worked in the brickyard and son cooked for the laborers and mill workers. In May 1854, Haidah (or Haida) Indians from the Queen Charlotte Islands were harassing the settlers, so a boat of armed marines from Fort Steilacoom, near Olympia, were sent to drive them off. Many Indians were loaded onto the ship to be taken back north and their canoes were towed behind. Some chiefs of the band were killed, so a series of reprisals occurred after the military left.
      After the outbreak of the Yakima Indian War in 1855, settlers volunteered to form militias that built blockhouses around the major settlements from Whatcom to Seattle and down to Steilacoom and around the Olympic Peninsula. Father Hastie was not pleased after not being paid for his service. After the first dust had cleared, he applied for his pay and was told: "Claim not allowed, no funds." At first he didn't understand, but he learned later that someone else had signed an "X" to collect his wages. Hastie was well educated and literate, so the signer was obviously a forger.
      Thomas P, on the other hand, enlisted in Co. I of the First Washington Volunteers, as noted in the 1906 Book. His regiment roamed the region of King, Snohomish and Whatcom counties (which then still included Skagit) and down to the Nisqually and Snoqualmie rivers. After three months, he enlisted in Company G, Second Washington Volunteers and saw action against warring Indians for six months. He returned home to Whidbey to farm in the winter of 1856-57.
      Mrs. Cahail described that Thomas P. was on hand during the murder of Col. Isaac Ebey in 1857. Over the years, he had learned Chinook Jargon, the trading language of the sound Indians, and was a bit of a diplomat. Isaac Neff Ebey, on the other hand, was not diplomatic at all. He was originally from Ohio, as was his pal, Doc David Swinson Maynard, of Seattle fame. They both explored the Puget Sound and Ebey fell in love with Whidbey Island, where he filed a donation claim in October 1850. Indians from the Skagit river delta all the way up to Vancouver Island were less than thrilled about Ebey's presence. The northern Indians had driven the first island settler, Thomas Glasgow, away two years before. Instead of finding common ground, Ebey toughed it out and, on occasion, even kicked Indians in their pants when he thought they didn't show him or other settlers respect. He moved his wife and two sons to the island from Missouri in 1852, but she died in childbirth there a year later. He remarried and by 1857 he was the leader of the settlers in the area. With the help of the Hasties and other settlers, seven blockhouses were built at strategic places for the protection of the women and children during The northern Indians attacks.
      In early August 1857, Alice Cahail recalled, Haidahs came to the island in canoes to talk to her father. He was gone at the time and the Indians stayed for three days, killing a settler's calf for food as they waited. Then they camped out at Ebey's landing, where Thomas P. talked to them and told them what a Hyas Tyee, or great man, Ebey was. On the evening of August 8, Ebey answered a knock at his door and was shot in the doorway. The Haidahs decided that since he was the most prominent settler that he must be killed in retribution for the death of one of their chiefs. They beheaded him and took his head with him as they departed. It was recovered by a Hudson's Bay Co. official two years later and buried with his body on the family farm. Hastie was in the Ebey cabin at the time and escaped along with the family and another settler. They made sure the family was safe and then sounded the alarm.
      In May 1858, Thomas P. had another close brush with warring Haidahs, when he was taking a Sunday afternoon stroll with another settler, James Harvick, along the beach at Brown's Point, near Cranney's Mill. In the 1924 interview, he recalled that, they suddenly saw a war canoe loaded with Haidah braves out on the water. Hastie and Harvick hid on the beach and watched the attack by 14 braves on a smaller unit of Camano Indians. The attackers were armed with Hudson Bay Co. flintlocks and war cries grew in intensity as the parties came together. When the war canoe reached shallow water, a man kneeling in the stern gave a "deft sweep of his paddle, gracefully and with incredible swiftness. The canoe swung broadside to the shore, paddles disappeared and a volley of shot crashed out. Six of the surprised band onshore were killed." The rest of the Camano band retreated, the war canoe exited as swiftly as it had attacked and the Hastie and companion could not tell if any of the Haidahs were wounded.
      The last recorded incident with Indians that involved Thomas P. comes from his 1924 interview. Thomas Cranney built the first courthouse at Penn Cove. Trials for the Third Federal District were held there; the district stretched from the Canadian border, south to King County, east to Idaho and west to the islands of Puget Sound. Cranney kept a store in the large room of the courthouse and court was held there for two years. It was there that the first and only execution on Whidbey Island took place, according to Hastie. An Indian had killed a settler named Church, and was tried and found guilty. A scaffold was built just south of the building. The trial attracted such a large crowd of Indians that court officials feared interference, so they placed a concealed guard in a large unfinished storehouse that stood nearby. Thomas P. was chosen to be one of the guards. After an hour or more of lamentations by Indians, the execution took place without incidence.
      Sometime after the Ebey murder in 1857, Thomas P. moved to Oregon where he farmed and drove stock, returning now and then to Whidbey to work at Cranney's mill. Then in 1861 he returned to Puget Sound, where he sailed under a Captain Barrington. During that winter, gold was discovered near Salmon river, Idaho, and Thomas P. joined the thousands that streamed eastward. He stayed there during the summer of fall of 1862 but never had any special success. In November he came home to assist his father and work again at Cranney's mill.
      Thomas P's life took a new turn in 1863 when his mother died on Whidbey Island and his father decided to return to Wisconsin. We were surprised to learn that since his father was dissatisfied with Wisconsin 13 years before. In January 1864, during the Civil War, Thomas P. enlisted for three years in Co. E., 9th U.S. Infantry, and was discharged at the rank of duty sergeant in January 1867. He returned to Whidbey and on Dec. 10, 1867, he married a widow with three children, Mrs. Clara (Taylor) Scott. She was also a native of England, born there on Christmas Day, 1839, and moved to San Francisco with her family in 1849. She was educated there at Sisters' Academy of Benecia.

(Baling hay)>
      This photo from reader Larry Harnden shows a hay baling operation with horses and wagons that would have been typical at the time that Thomas P. Hastie's family farmed on the Swinomish flats.

      By 1870, people who had lived on the islands of Puget Sound or on the Olympic Peninsula began to take an interest in the Skagit river delta. The first explorers crossed the Cascade Pass in 1824 and fur trappers criss-crossed the foothills in the 1830s. During the 1858 gold excitement on the Fraser river in British Columbia, exploring parties went up the Skagit river but they noted the solid log jams at the future site of Mount Vernon that made navigation impossible and the placer gold in the river and streams wasn't worth the effort. In 1866, the silty river-delta soil itself starting attracting attention rather than precious metals. Historian John Conrad recorded that in 1866, Samuel Calhoun and Patrick Sullivan were working for Cranney's Utsalady mill and each of them separately paid Indians to begin rowing them over to the Skagit Delta. One day in 1868, Calhoun rowed up future Sullivan Slough to the northern tip of Pleasant Ridge, where he climbed a tree and viewed the tidelands all about. He decided to settle there and homesteaded on the highest spot, on flats to the west of Pleasant Ridge later known as the Dunlap place. Sullivan homesteaded across from him that same year. Calhoun's experience included reclaiming tideland in New Brunswick, so he knew about fighting saltwater tides. He hired the first threshing machine to come into the county in 1869 and bought the first local thresher 1876.
      Then, in May 1870, engineer D.C. Linsley and a future New York Times columnist, Frank Wilkeson, headed up a team that explored the Skagit and Sauk river valleys for the Northern Pacific Railway, when the Cascade Pass was seriously considered as a route for a transcontinental railroad. Word got out about the riches of the valley. Thomas P. Hastie homesteaded on Fir Island between the north and south forks of the Skagit in 1870 while he was still working at Utsalady. Because of his veteran status from the Indian Wars and the Civil War, he was able to prove up early on his claim in 1872. Like Calhoun and Sullivan before him, he slid in slowly and did not move his family over to the Skagit homestead until 1877, when he had a house ready for his wife and seven children.
      Clara Hastie had three children from her first marriage. They then had four children together. His family responsibilities finally influenced Thomas P. to settle down and he wound up being one of the most influential of the very early Skagit settlers. In 1891, he was named the first worshipful master of the new Masonic Lodge that was inaugurated at Skagit City. According to the 1906 Book, it was initially called the "Blue Lodge." By the time the lodge moved to Mount Vernon in 1910, Hastie was the grand old man of the fraternal group, which was known as the Mt. Baker Lodge, number 36. He was a member for 33 years by the time of his death. Because of his Civil War service, he was also a charter member of the Larrabee chapter of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) post at LaConner. In politics, he was a Republican. While Skagit was still the southern portion of Whatcom county, he was elected county commissioner for the southern area. In 1884, after the split of the counties in 1883, he was elected a commissioner again and served as chairman of the board, but did not stand for reelection in 1886.
      In 1956, John Conrad noted on the death of Thomas's daughter, Margaret Hastie Davis, that the Hastie farm was long the oldest ranch in Skagit county under the same family ownership. Margaret married E.D. Davis, who had the old hardware store in Mount Vernon. Conrad said that Hastie started with a quarter section of marshy, timbered bottom land that could hardly be penetrated, but built it up to where it was 240 acres of rich land, well stocked and easy to access. The 1906 Book described the farm: "Here one may find an oat field so dense that only by trail can it be easily traversed and with grain so high that the stalks towered high above the heads of tall men." The writer noted that Hastie was still general manager, but that he had turned over the active work to younger hands.
      Clara Hastie was known as an education leader in the county. One of her children by her first marriage was Henry W. Scott, the assistant city engineer of Seattle. Of their four children together, besides Margaret, Thomas G. worked for the Great Northern Railway in Grand Forks, B.C.


Sauvie's Island
      One of the attendees at our 2009 Blanket Bill Jarman show is a descendant of the Sauve family and is quite generous in sharing historical information. If you are interested, please email us. Sauvie Island is located just north of downtown Portland between the Multnomah River channel and the Columbia River. It was named for Laurent Sauve, a Frenchman who managed the dairy farm for the Hudson's Bay Company, circa the mid to late 1830s. At first called Wapato Island (for the Indian Potato), the post office was renamed Sauvie in 1852. A new bridge crossed over to the Island in 2008. [Return]

Haidah/Haida Indians
      Once again, we witness how historians confused and/or lumped Indians together. We know from other contemporary sources that the Haidah Indians did make raids into the San Juan Archipelago. But we are unsure if they were the main aggressors in this case, and indeed we are unsure if they actually scalped Col. Ebey. We discovered a first-hand account in an 1859 article from the Colonist newspaper, from someone who had personally seen the scalp of Ebey. He explained that the Indians were of the Kane tribe, which we translate to mean the Stikine Indians who lived along the river of the same name, which empties into the Eastern Passage, just north of the city of Wrangel in southeastern Alaska, after rising in northern British Columbia as one of Canada's last really wild rivers. The Stikines are a sub-group of the Tlingit Indians.
      Some writers have mistaken the Haidah to be from Vancouver Island, but their home territory was actually the archipelago of the Queen Charlotte Islands, known in the Haida language as Haida Gwaii ("land of the Haida"), and the southern half of Prince of Wales Island in the southernmost Alaska Panhandle. Perhaps the confusion came from Hubert Howe Bancroft who confused the Haidah with the Stikines in his 1890 book, History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana: 1845-1889, p.137. Hereafter, we refer to the attacking Indians collectively as the "northern Indians" [Return]

Thomas P. Hastie's education
      We have never read details about Thomas P.'s formal education. [Return]

      Hastie did not give the date of the trial and we cannot find a document about it, but we assume the trial took place sometime between 1855-57. [Return]

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Story posted on July 21, 2001, last updated on March 9, 2004, moved to this domain July 3, 2009
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