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(S and N Railroad)

Skagit River Journal

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Sauk City, Sauk Depot & Monte Cristo, page 2 of 2

Charles Dwelley's history of Monte Cristo, Sauk and the Orient
(North Shore)
This is a view of Sauk, the city that formed on the north shore of the Skagit at the turn of the century after the S&N railroad built a depot there. The house belonged to Harry Henry Wainright. Photo courtesy of Harry's granddaughter, Diane Marie Wainright McMurdie.

      Now we return to Monte Cristo and the Wilmans brothers, who put Sauk City on the map. Charles Dwelley explained the Wilmans mining project in his epic 50th anniversary edition of the Concrete Herald on June 21, 1951:
      It was Fred and Jack Wilmans who discovered the Monte Cristo gold in 1889 in an area so inaccessible that it seemed that it would be impossible to get a railroad into their claim. They finally started down the Sauk river and established a trail as far as Sauk City, the then promising community at the confluence of the Skagit and Sauk [rivers].       They tried for some time to interest either Skagit or Snohomish county in a railroad from Sauk City to Monte Cristo, but finally had to form a private company (Ewing-Wilmans) to build the road themselves. The wagon road covered a distance of 60 miles and the entire cost was born by the mining men. The road was completed in 1891 and many homesteads were set up along the route. By 1885 no less than 20 homesteaders had settled between the Whitechuck and the North Fork of the Sauk.
      A trading post along the route was called China. The story behind the name was that Mrs. Moorehouse, one of the five women settlers there, came in over the road from the Skagit with her husband. Finally, just below the Forks, she stopped, exhausted, and exclaimed: "This must be China. I can't go any farther."
      In 1893 the railroad came into the [Monte Cristo] mine up the South Fork of the Stillaguamish and the old road fell into disuse and finally became impassible parts of the old road still may be seen along the present Sauk highway.
      As background to Dwelley's story, we should explain some of the locations. In the book, Chechacos All, Mrs. Morehouse [different spelling] explained that the going was so rough on the trail that their party had to stop at Bedal's on the North Fork of the Sauk. In that account, she just says that "one of the women" made the China comment and the name was given to the trading post that was started there later at the juncture of the North and South forks. When settlers there applied for a post office, presumably in the 1890s, the U.S. Post Office changed the name to Orient for unknown reasons.
      The Ewing in the company name refers to Thomas Ewing, a wealthy mining developer. Jack Wilmans appealed to Ewing and his partner, George W. Grayson, when Wilmans realized that he and his brother did not have enough capital to fund the entire mining operation and road. Wilmans and Ewing both put up $800 cash as their original investment in the road project and both were repaid. Wilmans stayed with the project; Ewing went on to other projects and only participated in Monte Cristo on a limited basis.
      Bedal's refers to sisters Jean and Edith Bedal, who were raised at Orient and ran a pack train up the Sauk into Monte Cristo. Their mother was a Suiattle Indian and their father a Frenchman. According to Woodhouse, the mother instilled in the girls a deep respect for the land and their father taught them a keen business sense. In the 1930s the sisters ran the old Boston-American cookhouse as a lodge for tourists, miners and other travelers. Jean Bedal married Russell Fish, the son of Estella Fish Andrews, who owned the Monte Cristo Inn with her second husband, John Andrews.
      Suiattle is one of the rivers that create the gorges and canyons of this foothill area of the North Cascades mountains. Named for the local Indian band, this river " rises on the southeast slope of Glacier Peak in northeast Snohomish County between Suiattle and Chocolate glaciers and flows around the east and north slopes of Glacier Peak then northwest into Skagit County to the Sauk River," according to Washington Place Names. A local name in early days was Miner's Creek.

(Linsley map)
      Northern Pacific Railroad was the first national firm to see the potential for a railroad route over Cascade Pass, right after the civil war. The company commissioned Massachusetts engineer D.C. Linsley to explore the watershed of the Skagit river and its tributaries and the North Cascades. One of his assistants was Frank Wilkeson, who later lived here while writing columns for the New York Times and Sun. This map is courtesy of the out-of-print book that excerpted the April 1981 issue of Northwest Discovery magazine. The article about the exploration was called A railroad survey across the North Cascades in 1870. Except for a 1932 article that researcher Patricia McAndrew found, we have not found a single reference before the turn of the century to the Linsley group's exploration of the Stilliguamish in 1870. Did Wilmans and the others ignore their findings when they chose the Sauk access to Monte Cristo? Or did they just not have access to the maps?

      Further south is the Skykomish river. Silver Creek, mentioned above, " rises in Silver Lake a mile southwest of Monte Cristo in southeast Snohomish County. It flows south and southwest to the Skykomish River at Galena. On October 15, 1874 the Skykomish Mining District was organized by a group of miners who had claims on Silver Creek," notes Washington Place Names. So the Monte Cristo miners didn't start the exploration and prospecting in the area; they just created another boomlet on the level of Sedro, Fairhaven and Anacortes, where similar booms occurred two to three years before.

1906 Illustrated History profiles Sauk City and Sauk
      The 1906 Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties [hereafter 1906 Illustrated History] sets the Sauk City post office opening in 1884; we have not been able to resolve these dates. In November 1889, 40 acres were platted into town lots, with a larger acreage divided into 5- and 10-acre plots. We know from a July 1950 interview in the Courier-Times, that Albert G. Mosier, the pioneer who platted both towns of Sedro along with Woolley, also platted Sauk City sometime in 1890 before the summer; he was apparently paid $350 for his efforts. While the Staffords were setting up their teams in January 1889, most of the small village burned in a flash fire, the first of several there. George Perrault's store was the only business building left. In the 1937 obituary of his wife, Catherine Perrault, we learn that they came to Washington Territory in 1883 and settled in Sterling in 1886 before setting up shop at Sauk City.
      Two men foresaw that the railroad would eventually come and that it would be on the north shore of the Skagit, not the south. In 1890, Thomas F. Moody of Hamilton and J.W. Sutherland of Fairhaven bought 360 acres of land on the north shore, opposite Sauk City, from three early settlers, John Sutter and two we know only by their last names, Byers and McCloud. In August that year they surveyed the area and set up a sawmill. Another unnamed corporation joined in the plans for a full-fledged village there. But the financial panic of 1893 put the kibosh on their village, as it did for so many 1890s boomtowns. By 1906, the Illustrated History listed the following stores there: Sauk Mercantile general store, two hotels, two saloons, butcher shop, tailor and the shingle mill. A school was established by then, but no church, although a Sunday school was conducted.
      John Sutter was a very early transplant to the Sauk Depot area. He was from Maine as were Amasa Pegleg Everett of future Baker and Concrete, and Samuel S. Tingley of Day Creek and Happy Valley. He was a member of one of the early mining parties in 1878-79 who presaged the Ruby Creek gold rush. He later married Alice Wilson, daughter of Joseph Wilson of Skiyou. Her father was one of the handful who worked hard and contributed cash to clearing the log jams in Mount Vernon and his tireless work towards obtaining a school in Skiyou led to that district originally being called Wilson. Margaret Willis notes in the useful book, The Buildings of Old Skagit County, that Sutter became a lumberman after his prospecting days and settled a farm starting in 1892. His second house on the farm property still stands along Highway 20, three miles east of Rockport. His first wife was an Indian who bore him five children, who all died of either consumption or tuberculosis. After she died the original house burned and neighbors believed members of her tribe burned it to rid the evil spirits that caused the deaths. Sutter became a county commissioner and he asked a future commissioner, Henry Thompson, to build him a new home in 1905-6. It was later owned by the Ray Johnson family.
      Mr. Byers was a partner with James M. Young in a company that logged first growth around Hamilton in the 1890s. They used teams of oxen. Like Sutter, partner Young was later a county commissioner.

Ray Jordan chronicles the Sauk
      In those early days, while Sauk city was still important as a freighting crossroads, the Stafford brothers made several trips to Monte Cristo. In his marvelous book, Yarns of Skagit County, Ray Jordan describes one of the trips as Ed V. Pressentin of Rockport recalled it. Ed's uncle Karl (Americanized to Charles) was one of the first settlers in the Birdsview area and his father, A.V. Pressentin, ran a large store at old Sauk City from 1888-93 (see more below). Ed recalled in the 1960s:
      One particular piece of machinery was a steam boiler; a contract to transport this boiler was let to the Stafford brothers. They built a special ox wagon with big wooden wheels and used eight yoke of oxen to haul this to its destination. The contract for this job was $1,500, which at that time was a lot of money.
      The year was 1890 and it took six grueling weeks to make the 42-mile trek, which figures out to one mile a day for total time elapsed, or a little better daily average if they rested the oxen one day a week, which they no doubt did.
      The road, such as it was, had been completed by this time, but was in such a raw state that the Stafford had much improvement to make in moving their exceptionally heavy load. Many times they had to put lines on it to prevent its tipping into the Sauk river.
      The usual method, however, of freighting from Sauk city to Monte Cristo was by six-horse teams. The man who handled the ordinary freighting business was a Tom Merryweather, who employed 30 head of horses in his outfit.
      Ed Pressentin revealed in a letter to Jordan that during the time of the mining boom, Sauk City had a population of about 800 and boasted five saloons, two butcher shops, a real estate office, three hotels, A.V. Pressentin's general merchandise store, and a clothing and work gear store owned by C.C. Filson. Filson later headed the Seattle Firm named after him that became famous in this region for its brand of outdoor clothing.
      It is important to note here how A.V. Pressentin illustrated the early move by some in the family to de-emphasize the Von in Von Pressentin. Albert reduced it to a one-letter middle name. There is no surviving family story about the decision by various children regarding their last name, but we suspect that Albert may have done so to blend in with those on the frontier who sought to de-emphasize class distinction and titles. Barbara Halliday, a Pressentin descendant, points out that patriarch Charles Pressentin underwent a thorough background investigation by the U.S. Army when officials discovered the original spelling of his name, but he passed muster.
      Albert, like several others in the second generation of the Pressentin family, built a substantial business base upriver. His father, a civil engineer who was one of constructors of the Calcutta, India, waterworks, moved his family from Pomerania, Germany, to Michigan in 1868, where Albert's older brother, Karl, had found work in lumber camps. The family moved to West Virginia and then Ohio, while Karl and another brother, Bernhard, moved west to Washington. Albert attended the private St. James school in Virginia and followed his brothers to Skagit Valley in 1884, settling first at Hamilton and Birdsview. Moving to Sauk City in 1888, he had a general store there and was a notary public for the land business upriver and the miners who filed official papers. His paid biography in the 1906 Illustrated History states that his was the first such store in the village and was built from lumber milled at Birdsey Minkler's water-powered mill downriver on the Skagit. Albert complained that the Indians who brought the lumber up by canoe charged him roundly.
      Like many other retailers there, he was leveled by fire. His store burned in 1893 and he lost $10,000. He may have foresaw the floods of 1896 and especially 1897, which floated most of the town away. All that remains today is an open field. Albert moved to Rockport where he built a hotel with 20 rooms, valued in 1906 at $5,500, and an adjoining store valued at $5,000, which mostly sold groceries. The daughter of one of the key Sauk City-area pioneers, Tom Porter, explained decades later how disastrous the flood of 1897 was for the settlers. Bessie Porter writes:

      At the time of the flood, Hank Stafford had gone down river on business and couldn't get back to help his family, so Mrs. Stafford was left alone with the children. Their log house was smaller than ours and it was close to the river, and when the river got really high and full of logs she and Ray decided to go to the chicken house, which was back a ways, and stay in an upstairs part of the building. In the morning help came and got her out of there. Mrs. Stafford said they had bought 2 sacks of sugar (200 pounds) and two barrels of flour to last thorn over the winter. She had canned a lot of fruit and before going to the chicken house she put the fruit on the kitchen table. When she got back the sugar was gone, dissolved, and so was most of the flour. The kitchen table had tipped over and all the jars were broken.
Sam Strom explains the early days of Sauk City
      Jordan had another source for the mining days of Sauk City in the memoirs of Sam Strom, who actually moved there in 1893, the year that the Monte Cristo bubble burst after John D. Rockefeller withdrew as an investor. Strom met many of the original miners who were active there during the frenzy of development after word got out about the discoveries of Pearson, Pearsall and the Wilmans brothers.
      Strom explained that miners originally reached the promising Silver Creek district by a pack trail through Poodle Dog Pass, but the high divide there was not practical as a rail outlet. Sauk City was a logical place for a market stop in case the railroad advanced up Skagit valley. He described the original road from Sauk City to Monte Cristo:

      The system of construction was a winding dirt road following least resistance by avoiding the larger trees as far as possible. No gravel was hauled at any place. In swamps and soft places, puncheon split from trees on the right of way was used and this winding, narrow road was pushed to Monte Cristo, or nearly so, in the late fall of 1891.
      Machinery for a sawmill was hauled in along with the progress of construction of the road. That is, the machinery for the mill weighed many tons and was moved by horses, oxen and mules by relays as building of the road progressed. This moving of the machinery and supplies to the established road building crews along the route was done entirely by the man known as "freight crew," [by] 4 and 6-horse teams, and some ox teams. Also, some pack trains to carry supplies to the front crews.
      The timber fallers and swampers cutting out the right of way and building bridges. Thus it can be seen that the mass of machinery, men horses, mules and oxen moved like a large caravan up Sauk River, chopping and blasting their way through and taking all machinery for a sawmill along at the same time.
      Thus it will be seen that the trail from Sauk City to Monte Cristo arrived there nearly altogether, crew, bag and baggage. Thus was established the Sauk River-Monte Cristo Pioneer Trail in 1891.
      Thus it came about men and supplies poured into Monte Cristo both through Poodle Dog Pass and via Sauk River route. During this time the railroad project was not overlooked. It was first intended and considered that the Sauk river valley was the only logical outlet for a railroad as far as known at the time. Railroad engineers were at work looking for the most feasible place to build it, in fact a party surveyed up Sauk river.
      Among the railroad engineers there was a man whose name was Barlow. One day while surveying or reconnoitering about four miles downstream from Monte Cristo, Barlow found a spring on a hillside a few hundred feet from Sauk river on the west side.
      This spring was no different than many other springs in these mountains. It is at the foot of a high cliff and at first glance would naturally be considered to belong to Sauk river, but the little trickling steam of water, so small as not to be noticed ordinarily, did not flow into the Sauk.
      Where did it go? Barlow became interested. On examination he found that the small stream of water had an outlet on the west side of a promontory just high enough to turn water into a narrow valley to the west of a low ridge.
      It proved to be the very beginning of the divide between South Fork of the Sauk river and the South Fork of the Stillaguamish. Barlow Pass was discovered and examined for the man that found it...
      Man proposes, God disposes. It so happened this little spring of water changed the whole plan. The Sauk river project was abandoned through the pioneer trail was built at great cost.
      Attention became centered on Barlow Pass as the best route for a railroad from Hartford to Monte Cristo, [actually the Everett & Monte Cristo RR]. This railroad was completed in the late fall of 1893.
      Jordan explains that Strom probably meant the proposed extension of the Seattle & Northern [later Great Northern] when he said "the Sauk river project." As Jordan pointed out: While the original builders of the wagon road no doubt did abandon it after the coming of the railroad to Monte Cristo from the west, segments of it saw considerable service for some time, provided you did your own upkeep.

Sauk City businesses in 1892
      Jordan was fortunate that he was writing and interviewing at the time when Glee Davis was most prolific in sharing his memories of growing up at Cedar Bar, way upriver past Marblemount. He and his mother, the widow Lucinda Davis, and their family hosted most of the travelers in the area in the 1890s and early 20th Century. Davis shared a rare existing newspaper from Sauk City called the Sauk City Star, published by H.C. Parliament. Parliament was also a partner in the Hamilton Herald, a lively newspaper in the small town a little ways downriver from the Sauk.
      The newspaper was dated Sept. 15, 1892 and featured some ads that profile the business section of the very small village:

      Filson and Howard, hardware and tin, miners' and loggers' supplies, 15 lbs. sugar $1, 18 lbs. oatmeal $1, Green Crown flour $7, chop feed $40 ton [presumably for the oxen].
      Pioneer Store, A. Von Pressentin, who was also a notary public; and Sauk City Hotel, Mrs. Sarah Wainright.

(Sarah Wainright)
Sauk City hotelkeeper Sarah Wainright. Photo courtesty of her great-granddaughter, Diane Marie Wainright McMurdie.

      M. Hopkins, M.D., physician and surgeon; blacksmith S.T. Clark; Sauk City Land Co.; Monte Cristo Saloon, W.L. Lysle, prop. [Ed. note: we believe that this is the same Lyle who became a partner in the old St. Clair Hotel in Woolley in 1891.]
      Steamer Indiana, John Hamilton, captain, regular trips from Hamilton (then the end of the railroad) to Sauk City. [Ed. note: Violet Burmaster, a descendant of Joseph Lederle from Skiyou, remembered in a 1928 essay the days before the railroad extended to Rockport and a daily stage traveled up to the north shore of the Skagit across from Sauk, presumably meeting the ferry].
      Jordan noted that the ads cost $1 an inch, big money in those times, and subscriptions cost $2 a year. Election time was just around the corner and the Star is firmly listed in the Republican tanks. Among the candidates running were Benjamin Harrison for president; John McGraw for Washington state governor; John W. Meehan for county surveyor and John Sutter for commissioner of county district 3.
      Jordan also notes that the editor claimed with a straight face that a local Sauk farmer showed him a head of barley that contained 900 grains. "The stalks from which this paltry yield came were 40 feet high. Doubters were invited to visit the field." The Sauk City Star was established in 1891 and lasted until 1894, after moving to Hamilton, a year into the great 1893 Depression. The Hamilton Herald folded in 1896. Another Hamilton Herald surfaced in 1901, published by F.J. Wilcox. In 1903 it was sold to Hans J. Brattle, who moved it to Concrete in 1910. Charles Dwelley later took over the Herald in the late 1920s and made it famous for the next five decades.
      Sauk City's original post office was opened on July 20, 1886, according to the book, Chechacos All. At this moment we have not determined who the postmaster was. We do not know when the post office was transferred to Sauk Station, but we do know that the final post office there was closed in 1943 and mail was transferred to Rockport. Also according to the same book, the first school district was set up in 1891. We hope some reader will be able to fill in the information for both these openings.

Sauk City Hotel and the Wainrights

(View of Sauk-North)
      This is another lovely view of Sauk, the city that formed on the north shore of the Skagit at the turn of the century after the S&N railroad built a depot there. It shows how these small villages clustered along the river to take advantage of early trade by sternwheeler. Photo courtesty of Diane Marie Wainright McMurdie.

      Subscriber Diane Marie Wainright McMurdie sent us some material that helps us understand Mrs. Sarah Wainright's Sauk City Hotel. According to their obituaries of 1918 and 1932, Sarah and her husband Samuel settled in Sauk in 1888. Samuel was born in Birmingham, England, in 1845 and worked as a brickmason there until 1870, when he emigrated to the U.S. He married another Birmingham native, Sarah Hunter, in 1868 and she followed him to the U.S. in 1871.
      After following mining claims in Illinois and Kansas, Samuel moved to Sauk City in 1887 and Sarah followed him a year later with their son, Harry Wainright, Sr. As a teen, Harry ferried passengers across the Skagit to a point near the mouth of the Sauk. By that time, fire and floods had forced his parents to move to the north shore of the Skagit. Several years after Samuel's death in 1918, Sarah moved to Rockport. After working in the woods, Harry became a county game warden. He married Hattie Ellis, whose parents moved to the county in 1892 to follow railroading. Among their five children was George Hunziker of Rockport. Harry's sister was Emma Wainright Gay, who married Henry Gay, owner of a lumber camp and mill upriver.
      Diane's father, Roy Vernon Wainright, was born on the north side of the river in 1920 and when he was little they lived in the hotel owned by his grandmother. They lived in half and rented out the rest. In about 1927 Harry Wainright Sr. tore down the part of the hotel they were not living in and a nearby dance hall, hauled the lumber up to Rockport and built a house for his family on 5 acres given to him by his mother, Sarah. Thanks to Diane and her father, we have these fine photos accompanying this article.

More pioneers who got their start at Sauk
      The original Sauk section attracted some special pioneers. One was Eugene Beloit, a New York native, who settled on the north shore of the Skagit near the Sauk river in 1883. Originally trained as a millwright in Pennsylvania, Beloit noticed the success of the Rev. B.N.L. Davis at Riverside and A.L. Williams near Lyman in growing hops and he joined an unnamed partner to grow that crop near his home. They came near to causing a flare-up with Sauk Indians when they killed many of the dogs that the Indian band was famous for propagating, but Beloit established a profitable farm of 72 acres, later moving further upriver. Although he was not educated much beyond grade school, Beloit was noted as an omnivorous reader and one of the best informed men in the upper valley, according to the 1906 Illustrated History. An independent thinker and an advocate of Teddy Roosevelt, he was as respected as other upriver settlers such as Otto Klement and Capt. L.A. Boyd.
      One of the later settlers at Sauk Station was John L.Bowen, a Virginian who moved here through Canada, and who became wealthy in Everett real estate during the Monte Cristo and railroad boom. Like many others, he lost nearly everything when Monte Cristo went bust and the financial panic began in 1893. After he returned from a stint at Dawson City at the turn of the century, he settled in the Sauk area and bought the H.E. Hutchins mercantile store at Sauk. We discovered this in the 1906 Illustrated History and we wonder if that was the forerunner of what more recently was known as the Sauk Store. We found that he was later a partner in the Sullivan Shingle Mill near his store and that he was regaining his fortune. Do any of you know anything about his store or the other stores in the area?
      Frank Bradsberry, a Missouri native who roamed Colorado and California by horseback, owned what was possibly the first mill in the Sauk area. According to the 1906 Illustrated History, he arrived in Sterling in 1884 to work for the Skagit Railway lumber camp. He started his own mill at Sauk City in 1887, but apparently never really settled there. In 1890 he married Marinda Kelley, the daughter of an Irish immigrant who moved to Puget sound right after the civil war, and they lived in Sedro-Woolley. In 1901 he established the Bradsberry Logging Co. and eventually amassed 4,000 acres of timberland, most of which was already clear cut by 1906 and converted to rich agricultural land.
      The Ellison family farmed around the Sauk River until 1933, when the big flood wiped out their farm. Alec, the patriarch, came to the county in 1898 and worked on the S&N tracks to Rockport. His brother, Silas, started the farm in 1899 and his sister, Maggie Yeager, lived at Sauk Station from 1901 on. By 1953, four of the Ellison brothers and sisters all lived within four blocks of each other on east State street in Sedro-Woolley.
      The Sauk City settler whose name most often comes to mind is Thomas E. Porter, whose log cabin is now displayed in Howard Miller State Park in Rockport. Born in Pennsylvania of Irish immigrants, he first came to King county and constructed railroad trestles there until 1884 when he moved to Skagit county. He moved to property east of the Sauk River on the south side of the Skagit in 1887. He married Mima S. Kerr in Lyman in 1891 and brought her up to this farm, where he was raising dairy cattle.
      In 1999, Howard Miller showed me how the cabin corners are dovetailed so that no framing or nails are required. When it was being prepared for moving in the mid-60s, workers found that the foundation was set down several feet in the ground, indicating that it had been raised more than once to keep it above the flood line. The center original part of the cabin was moved by two front loaders across the new concrete bridge to Rockport, but the wings that were added over the years were left behind.
      Garnet Thompson was an original settler of the Sauk Depot area and became a partner in the shingle mill and store on the north shore with George Green's group, as explained below. When he died in 1949, biographer John Conrad noted that he supplied goods at one time or another for every resident above Concrete. See the Jenkins description of Sauk below for a story about Garnet and the Green Shingle Company store. Frank McGovern took over the Sauk Store from Thompson; McGovern's widow still lives near Sedro-Woolley in 2001. See the Jenkins description of Sauk below for a story about Garnet and the Green Shingle Company store.

Continue to Part 3 of 3: The pioneers who got their start at Sauk
Return to for introduction, Part 1

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