Historic Resource Study
North Cascades National Park Service Complex, Washington
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Settlement within the remote and rugged North Cascades occurred slowly over many years. Although towns developed, a combination of natural and cultural factors prevented the growth of communities of any size in the region. The difficulties of physical access and the relatively small amount of workable agricultural land were primary deterrents to settlement. In addition, the lack of surveyed lands and the creation of the Washington Forest Reserve in 1897 may also have discouraged individuals from seeking homesteads in the area that is today a national park.

Any discussion of settlement patterns in the North Cascades must begin with an understanding of settlement elsewhere in Washington State. As a region, the North Cascades remained virtually unknown to many pioneers until after the turn of the twentieth century. Over time, as open and accessible agricultural lands were claimed in other areas of the state, settlers were forced to search for other homesites and slowly moved into the foothills and forested territory surrounding the mountains. Moving beyond the shores of Puget Sound and the banks of the Columbia River, they traveled up rivers and lakes until eventually they were stopped by the natural barrier of the North Cascades themselves.

Early Settlement in Washington State: An Overview

Before permanent white settlers moved into what is now Washington State, the primary inhabitants of the land were Native Americans and Euro-American fur traders. The Indian population included coastal and plateau tribes who subsisted on the resources of the land. White fur traders had a more obvious impact on the land, trapping animals and erecting a number of trading posts and forts throughout the region north of the Columbia River as early as 1811. [1] Outposts such as Forts Langley, Hope, and Yale along the Fraser River, Fort Okanogan on the Columbia River, Camp Chelan at Lake Chelan, and Fort Bellingham on Puget Sound, are all representative of the earliest efforts of white settlement near the North Cascades. Their presence often led to the establishment of permanent settlements or towns. Because of the relative proximity of these outposts to the mountains, their inhabitants recorded some of the earliest written descriptions of the general character and natural resources of this region.

Map showing early trading posts and forts in vicinity of present-day park boundaries (shown as a broken line).

The vast and seemingly boundless Territory of Washington opened to settlement in 1846, after the long disputed boundary between the United States and British Canada was finally determined. By the late 1840s, hardy individuals slowly moved across the Columbia River from the Willamette valley with the intention of finding permanent homes. From the mid-1800s an era of pioneer settlement was underway, encouraged by the federal government's Donation Land Claim Laws of the 1850s. The laws allowed virtually anyone over the age of 21 to claim as much as 160 acres of land for homesteading purposes. If, after five years, the claimant had fulfilled all the requirements associated with the laws, he or she gained full title to the land. With these incentives in place, hopeful homesteaders arrived in the territory in large numbers, although not in the numbers anticipated by the territorial government. In fact, neither the 1850 laws nor the subsequent Homestead Act of 1862 proved to be dramatic forces in bringing people to the Northwest, particularly to the North Cascades. [2]

Rather, it was primarily the abundant natural resources of the state that stimulated much early settlement. Timber was one such resource, and several early settlers established sawmills along Puget Sound from which lumber was exported to a booming San Francisco market. Gold was another resource which attracted settlers to the northern part of the state. News of gold strikes along the Fraser River in Canada in the 1850s brought prospectors and their suppliers into Whatcom County, one of three counties that cover the North Cascades today. Although the excitement was a short-lived event, many miners remained in the county after the rush in search of employment and land open for settlement. [3]

Settlement trends on the west slope of the North Cascades reflect the early settlers' need to find accessible, suitable farm land, coupled with a desire to profit from the region's natural resources. From Puget Sound they headed inland, traveling east along the Nooksack and Skagit Rivers, penetrating the unknown country in search of opportunity.

Responding to an increasing population, the territorial government began dividing the state into counties. Whatcom County was established in 1857 and included 4300 square miles. As late as 1876, however, only 110 square miles of this land had been surveyed by the government for homesteading purposes. Although boosted by the gold fever of the 1850s, the population of Whatcom County remained small; in 1860, 352 white people lived in the county; by 1870, 534. [4] In the late 1870s there were still few white families living in Whatcom County. Rather, an assortment of vivid characters prevailed:

. . . the population heretofore being mostly adventurers, miners, etc. of all nationalities. This class of people would squat down on some of the numerous inlets along the Sound, build a cabin and plant a small patch of potatoes; logging some occasionally to get money to buy whiskey; a large portion of their time being spent in card playing and carousing . . . [5]

Settlement along the county's major waterway, the Nooksack River, occurred as early as the 1850s in areas near Puget Sound, but settlers did not reach the upper Nooksack region until the 1890s. [6]

Created from southern Whatcom County, the area that is today Skagit County (established in 1883) was slow in attracting settlers. There was a lack of government surveyed lands and, more significantly, an enormous natural log jam near the mouth of the Skagit River prohibited access and travel upstream. Settlers were forced to locate homesteads in the dense timber along the river banks below the jam. Not many did, and in 1876 it was noted that:

. . . settlement [was] confined to the bank of the river below the jam; two settlers had made locations eight miles above, where the bottoms appeared less liable to overflow . . . . Although there is known to be better locations further back [beyond the jam, to the east], the immigrant usually takes the first he comes to or the easiest to get at. There being no roads in this section (back into the interior) makes it rather expensive for a poor man to cut a road in . . . and . . . The only way at present to approach this section is by water . . . [7]

Once the log jam was cleared in the late 1870s, pioneers quickly moved up river, establishing the patterns of settlement still evident today along the Skagit. [8]

The east side of the North Cascades displayed similar settlement trends. Pioneers traveled beyond the familiar banks of the Columbia River to explore outlying areas like the Chelan country. Following the shores of Lake Chelan to the west, these pioneers penetrated the mountainous country and established their homestead claims at the head of the lake, along the Stehekin River.

Settlement on the east slope of the North Cascades, however, occurred at a much slower pace. This was due, in large part, to the existence of the Chief Moses Indian Reservation which included all the lands between the Methow and Chelan Rivers, and west to the mountain divide. This was land the territorial government reserved for Indian settlement. As on the west side of the Cascades, settlement tended to follow lines of transportation, and the Chelan country was north of major routes such as the Columbia River. [9] In addition, the available timber resource, though abundant, was less accessible and therefore less marketable than timber on the west slope. All of these factors left the region east of the North Cascades sparsely populated into the late nineteenth century.

Prospects of gold along the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers in 1856-7 attracted some miners to the area, but the population increase was inconsequential and had little impact on developing settlements. [10] Substantial numbers of immigrants did not arrive until after the Indian Reservation was re-organized and opened to white settlement. It was the original intention of the government that the reservation become a home for all relocated Indians from around the territory. For various reasons, however, it attracted few Indians as permanent residents and was opened to white settlement by the federal government in 1886. Two years later, this land became Okanogan County. [11]

Slow but steady growth continued through the 1880s and 1890s. A few early settlers established homes in the new townsite of Chelan, at the lower end of Lake Chelan. At least ten others are known to have chosen the shores of the glacier-fed lake by 1888. [12] In 1899 Chelan County was carved out of the immense Okanogan County. The 1900 census for Chelan County shows a population of several thousand; by 1910 that number had swollen to more than fifteen thousand. [13] During this decade of rapid growth in Chelan County, Whatcom and Skagit County populations also increased significantly. However, few of these settlers located in the interior portions of the North Cascades.

Major River Corridors

Primary settlement within the North Cascades followed three major watersheds: the Skagit and Cascade Rivers on the west side of the mountains, and the Stehekin River on the east. The greatest development occurred along the banks of the Skagit, with homesteads and towns, including Mount Vernon, Sedro Woolley, Lyman, Hamilton, Birdsview, Concrete, and Rockport, stretching from Puget Sound eastward into the foothills of the North Cascades.

Marblemount, established in the 1880s at the confluence of the Skagit and Cascade Rivers, was the easternmost of those communities. It first served as a supply base for miners arriving in the area, and eventually grew to support a larger community. [14] Homesteaders followed in the 1880s-90s mainly to service the supply needs of miners, but some with thoughts of filing a mineral claim or two themselves. Similar patterns occurred on the east side of the mountains, with Stehekin serving as the supply center for miners and homesteaders, it being the only easy access point to civilization in an otherwise remote wilderness.

Challenges to Settlement in the Mountains

The first pioneers were faced with similar challenges, whether on the east or west side of the mountains. Access and resources were difficult to obtain. Although steamboats plied the waters between Seattle and Whatcom (Bellingham) as early as the late 1860s and early 1870s, the upper Skagit region was reached by canoe only; a wagon trail would not extend east to Marblemount until 1892. [15] Dug-out cedar log shovel-nose canoes, patterned after those used by the Skagit Indians, were the usual means of transport. [16] On the east side, steamboats were traveling the waters of Lake Chelan soon after settlers arrived in Chelan, making runs as needed to the head of the lake. For pioneers on both sides of the divide, land needed to be cleared, a shelter constructed, and some form of subsistence crop planted. These initial tasks were necessary whether an individual was attempting to acquire land legally or merely to "squat." Homesteads grew in size over the years, according to needs or perceived needs; their appearance and permanence dictated by available materials, labor, and money. The power of the landscape revealed itself early on to these hardy settlers; those who stayed learned to overcome or live with the hardships imposed by the harsh environment in order to survive.

In addition to environmental constraints, settlers in the North Cascades found themselves confronting significant governmental restrictions by the end of the nineteenth century. Particularly important in the upper Skagit region was the establishment of forest reserves by the federal government. In 1897, pioneers who had already settled in the area found themselves living within the boundaries of the Washington Forest Reserve, a huge area of land encompassing nearly all of today's park. This reserve was essentially created to protect the remaining stands of marketable timber. A decade later, the Washington Forest Reserve separated into smaller units including the Washington National Forest and Chelan National Forest, and these were administered by a new federal agency, the United States Forest Service, under the Department of Agriculture (USFS).

Concurrent with the establishment of the National Forests was the passing of the Forest Homestead Act of 1906 (also known as the June Act), designed to halt indiscriminate settlement and use of forest land. Valuable timber was the primary reason individuals sought homesteads in this remote area. The USFS believed many settlers had no intention of making improvements to their homesteads (proving up), but instead planned to sell off marketable timber from their claims to lumber companies.

Matters were further complicated by settlement on unsurveyed lands, which included nearly all of this territory. Claims of this sort gave these settlers squatters' rights only. [17] In 1906 the USFS embarked on an ambitious campaign to determine which homesteads were valid. Under the law, if a homesteader occupied the claim at least five years prior to the June Act, he or she was legally entitled to stay. The law, however, included restrictions: claims had to be used primarily for agriculture, with no sizable amount of quality timber, and no larger than 160 acres. [18] Under these restrictions, few existing homesteads qualified as legal claims. Some settlers were offered special-use permits by the USFS in order to remain on a temporary basis, and some lost their land completely. [19] Still other settlers, particularly those in remote areas, were simply left alone. When they died their homesteads officially became USFS land.

A report by H.B. Ayres describing settlement in the Washington Forest Reserve was completed in 1899. Ayres observed:

Aside from the cabins of mining prospectors, occupied during a small portion of the summer and autumn, there are scattered through the lower valleys small clearings, with stumps left, and houses usually made of split cedar boards, on lands taken as squatters' claims. Whether the object in taking these claims was timber or agriculture has not been determined. In nearly all cases where clearings have been made the land cleared has been seeded to grass. Some vegetables have been grown and, in a few cases, grain; but the remoteness from market and the difficulty of transporting produce over the trails renders farming for the general market unprofitable. Very few of the houses or cabins were found actually occupied during the progress of the examination. [20]

On the Skagit River in particular, Ayres found four claims "actually agricultural" located downriver from the Skagit River Canyon (site of Diablo Dam today). Above the canyon, he found only two "improved" claims. Ten years later, a 1909 report filed by the acting supervisor for the Washington National Forest claimed that "most of the settlers now in the Forest took . . . claims more for the timber than for any agricultural possibilities." He added that other homesteaders supplemented their meager existence by catering to travelers passing through the region. It is not surprising, then, that with so few serious homesteaders in the North Cascades, of the 63 applications made under the June Act, the USFS determined only five were eligible for patent by 1909. [21]

Despite the drawbacks of living within a national forest, many settlers did manage to retain their land and make a meager living. Seasonal logging and trapping on both sides of the North Cascades helped sustain these determined few. Mining activity and providing supplies to prospectors were the other primary means of making a living. The latter often involved trading food or lodging for cash, which was always in demand. This money allowed permanent settlers to purchase necessary items such as clothing, food, and equipment. More often than not, however, conditions were such that settlers in the upper Skagit, Cascade, and Stehekin River valleys were forced to travel downriver periodically throughout the year to seek additional employment to support their mountain lifestyle. [22] Despite the difficult accessibility, the remoteness of the region, the often devastating effects of early frosts and late winters, and the discouraging governmental regulations enforced by the USFS, some early settlers in the North Cascades were able to overcome these challenges and maintain a wilderness existence well into the twentieth century.

Corridors of Settlement: Cascade River

The Cascade River is a significant physiographic feature of the region, providing access to Cascade Pass, a route used historically to reach Stehekin and the eastern plateau country. Homesteads along the banks of the Cascade River were established between 1880 and 1910 and were outside the present park boundary. [23] For the purposes of this study, however, it is important to consider patterns of settlement along this river because events which occurred here influenced settlement along the Skagit River, a major drainage within North Cascades National Park.

Fifty years after the first recorded exploring party investigated the Cascade River drainage, miners and prospectors entered the region. Many bypassed the Cascade River, and directed their attention up the Skagit River to Ruby Creek where gold had been found in paying quantities. This influx of people helped spread general knowledge of the North Cascades and of the untapped wealth of minerals located within the region. Although the Ruby Creek Gold Rush had subsided by 1881, miners continued to arrive in search of mineral resources elsewhere in the mountains. Other areas such as Cascade Pass and Boston Basin were being explored, and the only route to these prospects was along the Cascade River.

Early settlers along the Cascade River valley were well aware that their homesteads were located on unsurveyed government lands. Anxious to establish permanent ownership, settlers within the boundaries of Township 35 (North) petitioned to have the land surveyed above the mouth of the Cascade River in 1891. [24] Three years later, in 1894, the General Land Office (GLO) in Olympia completed a survey, carefully mapping the entire township (T35N R11E), recording both natural and cultural features. Several homesteads were shown clustered near the mouth of the Cascade and on both of its banks. Farther upriver the claims were fewer in number and more isolated. [25]

When the GLO returned to the Cascade River in 1904 to undertake a survey in the adjacent range (T35N R12E), the deputy surveyor for the work, Robert F. Whitham, reported: "I find indications of about 8 settlements having been made in the valley, some of which have extensive improvements, which are largely covered now with a small second growth and cabins deserted." [26] Whitham's survey focused on developed lands along the river. Both banks were evenly settled, and on his map the terms "house," "cabin," or an individual's name indicated the existence of a homestead; the remaining sections of the township were simply mapped "mountainous and unsurveyed." [27]

One of the earlier downriver settlers noted on the 1894 GLO map was William Barrett (also spelled Barratt). He homesteaded at the confluence of the Cascade and Skagit Rivers and purchased rights in 1891 to approximately 20 acres of cleared land previously held by Indians. [28] This was a prime location for intercepting traffic headed up both rivers, and Barrett capitalized upon his position by operating Marblemount's first ferry, transporting miners, packers, settlers, and other travelers across the often swift-moving waters. [29] Beyond Barrett's there were five other claims, two noted as "Moses," one "E.J. Taylor," and across the river from Taylor, "Mrs. Davis"; the fifth claim is somewhat illegible but appears to be "Scotties."

Cascade River Corridor (click on image for a PDf version)

The story of Mrs. Davis is closely interwoven with the history of the North Cascades. It survives today because of diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, and other materials she and her children kept over the years. Their time on the Cascade River marks only a short segment of their simple and rewarding life in the mountains. [30] Mrs. Lucinda J. Davis and her family came to the Cascade River in 1890 after learning of her brother George Leach's death. George and another brother, Will Leach, had arrived in the area in 1884, eventually taking claims along the river. George's claim encompassed 157 acres on the northern bank, and it was here that he cleared some land, made a few improvements, and lived until his death. Will Leach encouraged Lucinda to come and claim George's homestead and, in July of 1890, she and her three young children left their home in Denver, Colorado, bound for Seattle. Traveling by train, steamboat, stage coach, canoe, and ferry, the family finally reached their destination on foot. Shortly thereafter, they began to clear "quite a piece of ground," and to settle into their new home. [31]

Remarkably, within two years' time, the family had cleared enough land to plant a small garden of potatoes, alfalfa, oats, onions, peas, cabbage, popcorn, and beans. They also grew raspberries and picked other berries to supplement their garden produce, and had a cow for milk, and some chickens. [32]

The Davises' existence was typical of most early settlers'. Hard work was a way of life and concessions were constantly being made. On her son Frank's birthday on January 1, 1897, Lucinda wrote in her diary: "Frankie is 20 years old today and I have no present for him again. These are the days I get tired of poverty." [33]

Neighbors, though few and far between, interacted by providing both physical assistance and social distractions, as well as occasional conflict. Lucinda wrote in 1896, "During this week Barretts were mad and Taylor got mad about not being helped with potatoes, and Barretts and Davies quarreling and the neighborhood in a regular comotion [sic]." But community dances and other social activities helped dissipate bad feelings, and oftentimes at Christmas gifts were exchanged among the settlers. One year Lucinda received a wash bowl and fresh meat from a neighbor as a present. [34]

High hopes for improved conditions on the homestead were shattered in November 1897, when the Cascade River swelled to an unprecedented level, flooding out families along its banks. Anticipating a loss, the Davises worked quickly to move their household belongings to safer ground. The high waters completely destroyed the homestead, and their land was severely eroded. [35] Abandoning their efforts on the Cascade, the family headed up the Skagit River to Cedar Bar in 1898. This move was not unforeseen; since 1893 the family had spent summers operating a roadhouse along the Skagit River at the head of navigation, and they knew the upper Skagit country well. [36] It was here at Cedar Bar where the family settled in, establishing a business and way of life for themselves that they maintained until the late 1920s.

Across the river and beyond the Davis property were claims belonging to "E.J. Taylor," "Scotties" (possibly Scottie Loudon, an early homesteader on the Cascade), "G. Moses-Indian," and "H. Colby" (Harry), who lived two and a half miles up the river. [37] Continuing east along the Cascade River seven cabins, one house, and two settlers were recorded on the 1904 GLO survey. The settlers were F.G. (Frank) Bart of Seattle (in Sections 16 and 17), and William Moran (in Section 16), who was "making improvements." [38] The "house" indicated on the map may have belonged to J.T. Perley (also spelled Pearley, Purley) who operated the "Hotel Perley" along the Cascade River, visited by Lucinda Davis in 1892 and the Mazamas (a mountaineering club) in 1899. [39] Other claims in the vicinity belonged to A.O. (Al) Kindy and a Hurd (or Heard?) although neither names appear on the GLO map. [40] The "Old Heard Place" was visited by USFS Ranger Thomas (Tommy) Thompson in 1907. [41]

John J. Perley's homestead cabin along the Cascade River, 31 May 1908. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file)

Another Cascade River settler was Will Leach. Leach arrived on the Cascade with his brother George in 1884. While George chose a homestead site along the Cascade River, Will selected a site along the Skagit River near present-day Rockport. Later he filed preemption claims along the Cascade River and built a second home about one mile above Mineral Park in 1896. Locally, Leach's Cascade River cabin gained fame when Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot reputedly stayed overnight there in 1897, while on tour of the newly-created Forest Reserve. [42] Unfortunately the flood that year forced Leach to relocate downriver near Lookout Mountain, across from present-day Boulder Creek (T35N R11E, Section 15, Lot 6). Here, he cleared land, built a cabin, farmed, raised cattle, and tried his luck at prospecting. [43] In 1930 he wrote to his nephew Glee Davis from Marblemount saying he would

keep a horse or two up the Cascade and may turn some young stock up early in spring to finish the day. Have got to dig my garden yet up there. I have to pick some more apples hear [sic] yet. I will go up Cascade Thursday morn if the weather looks good and will be gone 4 or 5 days. [44]

Although his name does not appear on the early maps of the area, Will Leach did receive title to his homestead along the Cascade River, on October 10, 1902. A 1941 Metsker Map of Skagit County indicates that Leach also owned 80 acres along the Skagit River (T35N R11E Sections 6 and 7, outside park boundaries), and a total of 74 acres in three separate parcels along the Cascade River. [45] No structures remain from this early settler's efforts.

The only early settler along the Cascade drainage whose property falls within today's park boundaries was not a homesteader in the true sense of the word. Gilbert Landre (also incorrectly spelled Landry, Landrum, and Lander) was a French-Canadian miner who came up the Cascade River in search of minerals about 1888. Never filing a homestead claim, he cleared a small area of land along the North Fork of the Cascade River, and erected a small log cabin with a fireplace. [46] Landre was known to have some mining claims in nearby Boston Basin, and he also hunted and trapped and was a skilled axman. His ability with this tool is evident in the second and larger cabin he constructed, which remains standing today.

Cedar logs for this cabin were hand-hewn, possibly as early as 1892. By spring of the next year, the cabin walls were halfway up when an unpredicted avalanche leveled Landre's work. Undaunted by this common backcountry occurrence, Landre began again and had his new home in order the following year, 1894. For. the next decade and well after his death in 1905, Gilbert's cabin (as it was and is known today) became a familiar and appreciated stopping place for prospectors and other travelers heading into the North Cascades. [47] It was used as early as 1895 by the Washington State Road Commissioners who "stored with Gilbert Landre, at head of Cascade River Skagit County: 2 Cross-cut saws, 2 Bake Pans, 1 Brush Scythe, 1 Cook Stove, 6 Steel Crow Bars, 1 Logging Jack, 1 Portable B.S. Forge, 27 Steel Drills, 1 Wash Tub and Board." [48] USFS Ranger Tommy Thompson mentioned his use of the cabin numerous times between 1916 and the 1930s. [49]

Gilbert's cabin, ca. 1943. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Gilbert's second cabin, originally one and a half stories in height, two bays wide, and capped with a wood-shingled or shaked gable roof, measures 18" x 25' and was constructed with materials available on-site. Landre cut enormous trees for the cabin — many of the planked wall logs are more than 20" wide — and stumps are still visible nearby. The unique quality of the cabin lies in its construction: Landre used dove-tail notches in laying the logs, and it is the only log cabin of that type within the park complex. The interior consisted of one large room with a full space above, reached by stairs at the rear of the cabin. Bunk beds were built in, a large cache box was kept downstairs, and Landre had even devised a flume system which carried refuse from the cabin out to a nearby creek. [50]

After Landre's death, years of neglect caused the cabin to deteriorate. Not until the 1940s were repair efforts attempted, when a group of interested local citizens rallied to restore the cabin. With assistance from the USFS, they sought to preserve the cabin as a historic site. USFS employee Blacky Burns helped get work underway; John Dayo, another USFS employee, recalled the roof being replaced at this time, only to be destroyed the following year by a snow slide. [51] Apparently in the 1950s foundation logs and floor joists were replaced, but this work marked the last effort to revive Gilbert's cabin. In 1984, a field-check of the site revealed that four walls of the cabin are standing, pierced with door and window openings; the roof beams lie alongside the structure's north wall and remnants of a wood-framed outbuilding are extant nearby. [52] Nearly hidden from view by the forest vegetation, this cabin, once called a "woodsman's work of art," stands as a quiet reminder of early efforts to inhabit and tame this unknown region. [53]

Historic view of Gilbert's cabin along the upper Cascade River, n.d. (NPS-PNR photo file)

Corridors of Settlement: Skagit River

The Skagit River is the largest watercourse in the North Cascades, an impressive channel through this mountainous country. In earlier days it flowed freely, quietly winding its way south from Canadian headwaters through densely-forested lowlands until it reached Ruby Creek and changed to a southwesterly course. From there its waters were compressed and violently forced through narrow, rock-walled canyons and gorges. Farther downriver, near Newhalem, the channel widened and the raging waters flowed calmly again, unimpeded, to Puget Sound.

This wild country is now submerged beneath the waters of Ross, Diablo, and Gorge Lakes. But even before the upper Skagit River's course was altered, and despite the nature of the surrounding landscape, people sought homesites along its banks. From the 1880s until the early years of the twentieth century, both miners and settlers claimed the loamy river bottomlands that offered both fertile, tillable soil, and access to the mountain interiors. The opportunity to supply travelers with goods sparked some settlement. Temporary or seasonal employment with government agencies offered Skagit River settlers the chance to supplement their simple existence. For some, the remote and rugged character of the region may itself have been a factor that encouraged settlement. All of these incentives worked to bring homesteaders to Marblemount and the upper Skagit River; as many as ten of these early settlers eventually established permanent homesites within the boundaries of today's national park.

As on the Cascade River, explorers and surveyors were the first whites to observe the lands drained by the upper Skagit River. No Euro-Americans inhabited the upper Skagit region until the 1880s, when prospectors began penetrating the mountains regularly in search of minerals. With miners came their outfitters — those who provided meals and lodging, transportation up and down the Skagit River, and backcountry guide and horsepacking services to and from the mining claims.

Homesteaders in the true sense of the word also came into the area, arriving by canoe or following the rough trail built by the miners along the Skagit's north bank. They located their isolated homesteads on the best available land along the river. Few crossed the Skagit to settle because it meant abandoning an important link to civilization (the trail), as well as repeated and often dangerous river crossings for mail and supplies, and further seclusion from travelers and neighbors.

In 1891 the Marblemount column of the Washington Farmer declared:

. . . shut in as we are on four sides by the lofty peaks of the Cascade range, the sun never shines full upon us until he has reached his meridian — yet such is the desireability [sic] of land in this favored region that almost every day brings its immigrants seeking homes. [54]

Much of this home-seeking activity initially centered around Marblemount because of its favored position at what was the portals of two developing mining districts and its location at the end of the Skagit River trail until the 1890s. Above Marblemount to the north, settlement along the Skagit became increasingly scattered. GLO maps from the 1890s reveal the names and locations of homesteaders, as well as other cultural and natural features. But the ruggedness of the terrain beyond the banks of the river left much of the land "mountainous and unsurveyed." Government surveyors were instructed not to map any township and range sections too difficult to traverse or unfit for cultivation. [55] Consequently, the area along the Skagit River north and east of Newhalem (T37N R12E Section 21) was never mapped by early surveyors and information regarding homesites in that area is scarce. Often, the name of a creek is the only evidence that a pioneer once lived nearby.

These early survey efforts by the government included some of the first detailed descriptions of the upper Skagit region. In 1895 Lew A. Wilson, U.S. Deputy Surveyor for the GLO, examined the Skagit above Marblemount (T35N R11E) and noted that it was

a well timbered and well watered township. The valleys along Skagit River-Bacon Creek and Diobsud (Creek) are very fertile - though generally very narrow. As fire has swept through the Bottoms a large portion of the valuable timber has been destroyed. [56]

Ferry crossing Skagit River at Marblemount, n.d. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

View of Skagit River canyon west of Ruby Creek, 28 June 1919. (FARC-RG 95-Portland)

A small portion of the land included within today's park was mapped in 1906, in conjunction with the Forest Homestead Act and the efforts to stop the indiscriminate settlement of government land. A surveyor's 1906 observation of the western boundary of today's park remains accurate eight decades later:

The region . . . is very rough and mountainous; consisting of deep, impassable gorges, lofty divides and snow capped peaks. It is the foothills of Mount Shuksan, a region of perpetual snow, traversed by great ice fields and glaciers. There is not an acre adapted to agriculture. [57]

During this same time, the Skagit River was surveyed between Thornton Creek and Newhalem (T37N R12E), but again, three quarters of the township and range were recorded as "mountainous-unsurveyed." [58]

Of the ten known homesteaders who settled along the upper Skagit River corridor and within the boundaries of the present-day park, all but three filed homestead claims between 1899 and 1910 in order to obtain full title to their land. Only a few were actually declared legitimate homesteads under the requirements of the June Act. Over time the squatters abandoned their efforts, reluctantly returning their land to the federal government. The USFS firmly exercised its right to administer the law, which included the removal of illegal squatters from the national forests. On one occasion in 1918, Ranger Tommy Thompson accompanied a U.S. Marshal who boarded over windows and "fastened up"' a house on an illegal claim, posting signs warning trespassers to keep their distance. [59] It is unlikely that such drastic measures became common occurrence in the upper Skagit region. The USFS did, however, generally regard settlers on forest lands as potential problems. In interpreting the homestead laws and determining which homesteads were valid under these laws, the USFS was strict and rarely offered leniency of any kind. Perhaps this attitude toward homesteaders explains why patented acreage recorded in the Skagit drainage between 1906 and 1913 totaled only 500. [60]

Skagit River Corridor (click on image for a PDf version)

Settlement on the upper Skagit River was confined to its banks and principally along the north side where the only trail to penetrate the trackless wilderness had been located by early miners. Beginning at the confluence of the Cascade and Skagit Rivers, the 1894 GLO map shows the homesite of "J. Russner" (John), a miner who worked claims on Thunder Creek, and to the north, the town of "Marble Mount'" is indicated by a house and store. [61] Across the Skagit, William Barrett (also spelled Barratt) owned a sizable piece of land that was bounded by both rivers. In 1891 Barrett planned to open a hotel ''for the accommodation of prospectors and mining men. " [62] The large, wood frame building Barrett built on this site is standing today and known locally as the Boarding House. [63]

There were other individuals in the vicinity of Marblemount attracted more to the mining opportunities than to homesteading possibilities. Renny Durand (also known as Remi and Jack), Jack Jackman, and Joe Cozier were all associated with mining developments in the North Cascades. In 1891, Jackman and Cozier built a large hotel on ground they purchased from Renny Durand, ". . . in anticipation of the lively times expected in the Cascade mining district the coming prospecting season." [64] Its location is not known. Durand also planned a townsite in 1891 but this site and whether it was ever platted remains unknown. He did file a homestead entry on land just west of Marblemount (T35N R10E, Section 12) which was patented in 1891. [65] Durand was a well-known and well-liked miner, trapper, and hunter who worked the Colonial Mine on Colonial Creek, and elsewhere along Thunder Creek for over two decades. Years after his untimely death in 1915 he is still remembered through his association with two log structures: Log Cabin Inn, still standing in Marblemount, built in 1889 by Durand and Henry Martin, and a backcountry log cabin he constructed along Thunder Creek in the 1890s. Known locally as Middle Cabin, this structure was situated along the old mining trail and was used over the years by prospectors and hikers for shelter until it was razed in the 1970s by the National Park Service. Today, the site of Durand's cabin goes unnoticed by the general passerby; it has become a study section for the park's revegetation program and only the keenest eye can detect the cabin's former location. [66]

There are several other early residents of the upper Skagit River whose homestead locations remain unknown. John Sutter is one of these. Sutter was a miner who first visited the area in 1872 with several other prospectors. Traveling by Indian canoes as far as present-day Newhalem, the party continued on by foot, crossing the river periodically and panning its banks for gold at each opportune moment. At the mouth of Ruby Creek the prospectors found gold, and, as the story goes, Sutter, while washing gravel, found a large ruby stone in his pan. In recognition of his discovery Sutter named the creek Ruby. It is not known when he became a permanent resident or where he actually lived; the only historical reference to Sutter is found in USFS Ranger Tommy Thompson's diary of 1907, wherein he mentioned "Sutters Ranch on the Skagit. [67]

Thompson also mentioned going up to Martin's ranch on the south side of the Skagit River in 1907. This ranch may have belonged to Jerome Martin who had a place in the vicinity of Marblemount for over thirty years. In 1905 Jerome Martin's land was valued at only $15, but the farm was not his principal livelihood. [68] Martin operated a pack train of horses which carried supplies to miners in the Ruby Creek and Thunder Creek drainages. [69]

North along the Skagit River from Marblemount, five homesteads were located in Section 7 on the 1894 GLO map; situated alongside the river, an "unknown" homesite, "S. D. [?] Davis," "Emory," "J. Failana" (possibly Fatland but incorrectly recorded) and "M. Clard" were all recorded. [70] Continuing on into the next section to the north (Section 6), "John Buller" located a homestead on the west side of the river, and William McAllister had a "clearing"' directly across the river (T35N R11E, Section 6). This "clearing" was probably McAllister's homestead claim of 131 acres which he purchased in 1896. [71] A 1903 Skagit County directory records McAllister's land valued at $85; it appears that by 1905-6, McAllister had left the area. [72] McAllister was also a miner who attempted to establish a livelihood for himself by prospecting along Thunder Creek. McAllister Creek, a drainage off Thunder Creek, is named after this early upper Skagit resident.

Farther upriver, "J. Marchard" (Marchand?) located a homestead on the east bank of the Skagit. Although no early GLO map exists for the section of river between Marchard's land and Thornton Creek (T35N R11E), U.S. Deputy Supervisor for the GLO, John Parsons, recorded: "There are a number of settlers along the Skagit River, but none in other portions of the township." Oliver Trudell was one of these settlers. In 1895 it was recorded that Trudell resided in a 1-1/2-story log building with a root house, chicken house, and garden nearby. [73] His property, along the western boundary of the township in the area of Diobsud Creek, had an assessed value of $258 in 1905. [74] The other settlers within this surveyed area were actually recorded as squatters by the surveyor himself, Lew A. Wilson: "There are but 3 squatters in the portion I surveyed. Mr. Frank L. Oaks [sic] claims a portion on Section 8 and 17. Earnest and Henry Germain claim the south 1/2 of sec. 30 . . ." [75]

Frank L. Oakes located a homestead along Bacon Creek outside, but adjacent to, the present-day park boundary. Little is known about this settler who came to the upper Skagit as early as 1895 and who remained into the 1940s. He trapped in the winter, and built a trapping cabin farther up Bacon Creek from his main ranch. He may have been a miner like so many of these early arrivals. Oakes was signed on as an axman in a 1909-10 GLO survey (T36N R11E western boundary), and in 1935 Ranger Tommy Thompson visited at his ranch to discuss the work he had completed along the Cascade Mine trail. Whether he was actually employed by the USFS is not known, but he did supplement his simple existence by supplying the USFS with goods, such as oats, and by leasing his pasture land to Ranger Thompson who needed land to winter the government-owned burros. [76] Remnants of Oakes' homestead and trapping cabin along upper Bacon Creek may still be extant today, but have not been field-checked recently.

Frank Oakes' barn in a clearing at Bacon Creek, 19 September 1907. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Bacon Creek marks the entrance to the national park complex along the Skagit River corridor. The creek's name commemorates a prospector and early homesteader of the upper Skagit, Albert Bacon, who came in 1879 to placer mine Ruby Creek. Like so many others, he stayed on after the mining rush subsided and established himself as an expert canoeman on the upper river. Bacon s homestead was located approximately 1/7 mile upstream of Bacon Creek; Huey Bacon (relationship unknown) had a place across the creek to the east. [77] The actual location of either Bacon claim and the extent of their improvements is not known. Albert Bacon died in 1897 when the canoe he was guiding along the Skagit tipped, spilling its occupants into the water. Bacon drowned while trying to save the lives of the other travelers. [78]

Map showing Younkin's roadhouse complex at Bacon Creek (T36N, R12E, Sec. 21) Tracing from Skagit River Railway: Rockport to Power Camp Map 1920-21

By the first decade of the twentieth century the Bacon Creek area had become the home of F.M. (Marion) Younkin (or Younkins?) who operated a roadhouse for many years in that vicinity (T36N R11E, Section 21). Located along the Skagit to the east of Bacon Creek, Younkin applied for and received a homestead entry patent in 1910. [79] The roadhouse was open by 1917 when Mrs. Lucinda Davis visited there. [80] On a ca. 1920 railway map of the Skagit River, Younkin's property included a 24' x 26' dwelling, separate garage, a 24' x 36' barn, chicken house, pen, and one unidentified outbuilding (root house?). Miners and other travelers no doubt stopped at this roadhouse on their way up to the mountains, receiving lodging, fresh vegetables, meat, and other supplies before continuing toward the mines.

It is not known how long the roadhouse business operated, or when Younkin left the area. In 1936 USFS Ranger Tommy Thompson mentioned going up to Bacon Creek to pick up the government burros at Wilson's ranch. [81] Whether this ranch and the old roadhouse were one and the same is unclear. On a 1936 Mt. Baker National Forest map Younkin's site had become Bacon Creek Lodge. Over the years, neglect and abandonment caused the old wood frame structure to deteriorate. The front porch was removed and not long thereafter, the remainder of the building was demolished by its owner in the 1970s. [82]

Dora and possibly Grace Younkin at Bacon Creek, n.d. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

Beyond Bacon Creek to the northeast (and into the national park) were other individuals who settled along the river, but little is known about them. While it is possible that most applied for homestead entry, only a few ever gained full title to the land. Their names do not appear on early survey maps or on subsequent maps issued by the USFS. The information that is available comes from oral histories by former upper Skagit residents.

Jackson was one such homesteader who lived on the south side of the Skagit River just below Alma Creek. Above Alma Creek was Charlie D. Petit's place, approximately two miles upriver from Bacon Creek, on the river's west bank (T36N R11E, Section 15). This was the first homestead reached after Bacon's place. Petit did apply for and receive a patented homestead in 1899. [83] Continuing upriver, two Indian brothers, John and Sam Enick (Enig?) had a place west of Damnation Creek, followed by a white settler named Benson. Benson lived directly below the Whatcom County line, along the Skagit River. No above-ground remains of these various homesteads are known to exist today. [84]

One upper Skagit settler whose cabin is extant, albeit in ruins, was Arthur P. White. White located a homestead on the south side of the Skagit, opposite Thornton Creek. He claimed two adjacent parcels, one being 109 acres (T37N R12E, Section 31, lots 8 and 9), and another of unknown size for his cabin site (T37N R11E, Section 36). By 1906 White had erected his cabin, as it was indicated on a GLO survey map from that year. Three years later he purchased his land, receiving final certification in 1913, and full title to the homestead in 1918. [85]

The White cabin was of considerable size. Originally two stories in height, it measured approximately 25' x 25' and was constructed of logs from the site. Most of the hand-hewn logs averaged 10" in width, and were joined with saddle-notched corners. It is not known when the cabin was last occupied or used. [86] Today, the remnants of the cabin lie on an elevated site near a dry creek bed. The collapsed cedar shake roof covers the structure—its ridge pole and log rafters still in place — but forest vegetation is rapidly claiming what remains of this early log cabin.

Farther east was William M. Thornton's ranch, located on the north bank of the Skagit River and east of the creek that continues to bear his name. A 1906 GLO map locates the homestead alongside the creek, but an early resident of the upper Skagit, Glee Davis, recalled that Thornton's ranch was along the Skagit about 1/4 to 1/2 mile up from the creek. [87] When the GLO surveyed the township, Thornton informed them that he had been a resident there for the past fifteen years (T37N R12E, Section 31). According to their notes, Thornton was a permanent resident and his improvements to the site included six outbuildings, approximately five acres in clover, with a "fine garden of about one acre in area." Glee Davis remembered the muskmelons that Thornton attempted to raise one year but which never grew because of the area's lack of sun. [88] Thornton also owned one horse, 35 chickens, several hogs, and a cow. [89]

Although Thornton may have tried his luck at mining like so many others in the region, it appears from the description above that he was a homesteader who succeeded in establishing a bonafide claim for himself. In 1909 he received a final certificate for the 166 acres, thus proving his established equity in the property. [90] Thornton remained on his ranch until 1917 when he sold his entire place to the Van Horn Shingle Company. [91] He probably left the area shortly thereafter. It is not known if his home or outbuildings were used or maintained by anyone over the subsequent years. A cursory field-check of the homestead's general location undertaken in the summer of 1984 revealed no extant above-ground remains.

Thornton's homestead along Skagit River, ca. 1910. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

One mile above Thornton's homestead was Burton Babcock's claim of 138 acres (T37N R12E, Section 30). Babcock was a miner and his penchant for gold kept him traveling in and out of the North Cascades. Although he may have been in the upper Skagit region as early as 1893, he did not settle permanently until 1902, after he had returned from the Klondike gold fields. He chose a homesite along the north side of the Skagit River, east of Babcock Creek.

Known as a miner and rancher, Babcock supplemented his income by working odd jobs. In 1905, for example, he was hired by the GLO as a chainman for the survey of a nearby township. [92] In 1907, he was working at a talc mine along the Skagit River. [93] When the GLO mapped Babcock's township in 1906, the surveyor recorded that Babcock had cleared several acres, "part in clover and the rest in garden." The homestead itself consisted of a 12' x 14' two-room house, a barn, and a third building under construction at the time. Babcock was described as a "deserving citizen" who resided on his property year-round. [94]

Despite this attestation of residency in good faith, Babcock never succeeded in obtaining full title to his land. In 1908 he applied for homestead entry under the June Act, and the USFS immediately challenged the validity of the claim. Babcock was offered a special-use permit by the USFS enabling him to remain on the land, but he refused it, insisting the land was rightfully his. After a series of hearings which included the GLO, the USFS, and several upper Skagit settlers who testified in favor of Babcock, the claim was declared invalid in 1910. By law Babcock was required to vacate the property within a specified amount of time. In December of that year, he took charge of the Davis Ranch for the winter, but by 1911 Babcock had passed away. [95] The only remnants on the land that speak to this early upper Skagit homestead are several unkempt fruit trees conspicuously located in a logged-over area south of the highway.

Beyond Babcock's ranch the river valley narrowed noticeably and good bottomland was virtually non-existent. Only one settler moved onto the last practical piece of land available along the Skagit at a site just below the point where the valley closed in forming the nearly impassable Skagit River Canyon. August Dohne (also spelled Dohn, Doan) was one of the earliest to arrive on the upper Skagit, and became a notable personage before leaving the area in 1918. Like many others, Dohne was lured into the North Cascades by promises of rich mineral deposits. Unlike most of his counterparts, however, he was successful in establishing a homestead and business that sustained him year-round for many years. His story is inextricably woven into the history of human accomplishments within these rugged northern mountains.

Map showing Goodell's Landing complex (T37N, R12E, Sec. 20). Tracing from Skagit River Railway: Rockport to Power Camp Map 1920-21.

"Goddells Place" along the Skagit River. (Darius Kinsey photo, Callahan Collection, Seattle)

Dohne first came up the Skagit River ca. 1892-3. Initially he claimed land just below Goodell Creek and erected a small cabin. In 1897 Dohne had the opportunity to purchase a roadhouse a short distance upriver from him, at the head of canoe navigation and 16 miles from Marblemount (T37N R12E, Section 21). This property, known as Goodell's Landing, was located on, high-ground above the Skagit River, and included several log buildings. It was first developed by N.E. Goodell, a Portland, Oregon, entrepreneur who set up a store for miners in 1879. [96] About 1880, Harrison Clothier and Ed English, two mining promoters from Mount Vernon, established a new trading post at the landing. As the final outpost of civilization before the mountain wilderness, the post rapidly became known as the place to obtain lodging, or to exchange gold for food and supplies. [97]

Prior to Dohne's purchase, Goodell's Landing had passed through a number of owners and proprietors. When Dohne first came to the area Reese Jones owned the property. Jones sold to Harry Dennis in the mid-1890s. In the summers of 1893 and 1895, Mrs. Lucinda Davis and her family operated the roadhouse, enabling Dennis to go prospecting. Davis' experience at Goodell's Landing undoubtedly encouraged her to open a roadhouse of her own in 1898 at Cedar Bar, farther up the Skagit River. It was Harry Dennis who sold the property and its improvements to August Dohne in 1897. [98]

As the new proprietor, Dohne continued to operate the roadhouse until 1901, when an accidental fire destroyed the log structures. Dohne began to rebuild immediately, and over the next few years he constructed a two-story log dwelling, a smaller house, and an L-shaped barn. When the GLO surveyors came through the township in 1906, they recorded that Dohne had several acres of land cleared and planted in garden and in clover. [99] They noted that the upper Skagit River trail passed through the property, dividing the buildings from Dohne's sizable orchard to the north. [100]

By the time the Forest Homestead Act was enacted in 1906, Dohne had been living at Goodell's Landing for nearly a decade. He applied for homestead entry in 1908, and Ranger Calvin Farrar examined the claim shortly thereafter. Farrar found that Dohne's homestead consisted of a two-story, eight-room cedar structure, valued at $500, a barn, and a bunkhouse. Of the 124 acres of land, 3 acres had been plowed and 10 more were cleared. [101] Although Dohne plainly met all necessary requirements as stated in the June Act, his claim was questioned and debated by the USFS for several years. Finally, on April 25, 1910, Dohne received final certification of the land; six months later he gained title to his fully patented homestead.

Although the roadhouse burned down again in 1913, Dohne rebuilt it and continued his business of supplying miners and travelers. His guests ranged from USFS rangers, who tried to patronize all of the local roadhouses, to U.S. Geological Survey employees. [102] Dohne stopped working in 1918 when he became ill and had to be taken downriver to Sedro Woolley for medical help. He died shortly thereafter.

Dohne left no heirs. His homestead was sold one year later in probate court and received two bids. Bingham Investment Company, the highest bidder, paid $3,000 for a log house and 124 acres, only to have it condemned two months later by Seattle City Light. City Light had already begun its extensive Skagit River hydroelectric project and needed Dohne's property for a work camp site. City Light awarded the Bingham Company $27,000 for the land. [103] Today, there are no structures remaining from Dohne's roadhouse operation at Goodell's Landing. The property was incorporated into Seattle City Light's Newhalem, a work-camp-turned-city, in the 1920s. The site of Dohne's main building is now in the backyard of a company house. Only a lilac bush stands nearby to suggest the location of a vanished structure. [104]

August Dohne's roadhouse at Goodell's Landing, 1917. Dohne on far left. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file: from Gaspar Petta)

A short distance above Goodell's Landing the grand and rugged wilderness of the North Cascades was apparent: "The river . . . passes through the great Box Canyon [site of Diablo Dam today], and there is [sic] no bottom lands at all on either bank. The great towering mountains come right down to the water's edge." [105] Despite this less than hospitable description three homesteads were established along the upper river beyond Dohne's roadhouse between 1885 and 1898. Although all three were "improved" by their owners as required by the June Act — cabins constructed and land cleared for agricultural use — only one was ever filed for and declared a valid homestead.

That homestead belonged to Mrs. Lucinda J. Davis and her three children, sons Frank and Glee and daughter Idessa. The family had originally established a homestead along the Cascade River when they arrived in the area in 1890. [106] After the devastating Cascade River flood of 1897 destroyed their home and property, Mrs. Davis relocated her family to the upper Skagit River, to a site eight miles above Goodell's Landing known as Cedar Bar.

To reach Cedar Bar (in the vicinity of Diablo today) the Davis family had to travel on foot, as the river was not navigable beyond Dohne's. Walking along the north bank of the Skagit, they encountered the infamous Goat Trail within four miles of Goodell's Landing. This trail, built in the 1890s, began at Gorge Creek and was notoriously treacherous. [107] Untold numbers of miners followed this narrow and precipitous route to reach the Ruby and Thunder Creek mines.

However dangerous the Goat Trail was to travel, the Davis family's decision in selecting Cedar Bar as a homesite was a shrewd one. Not only was there a perpetual water source nearby (Stetattle Creek) and potentially good soil for a garden, but Cedar Bar was eight miles from Dohne's and a logical place to open another roadhouse. It was a reasonable distance for a traveler to achieve in a day if on foot and carrying a load. It did not take many years for the "Davis Ranch" to become an established stopping place for hundreds of miners and other travelers heading into the North Cascades.

The Davis family's first house at Cedar Bar, built in 1898. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

When the Davis family arrived at Cedar Bar in 1898, son Frank built the family's first home (T37N R13E, Section 7). On a small clearing near the Skagit River, Frank erected a cabin of logs and split fir boards, incorporating into it what remained of an old trap house which had been built on the site by Charlie Moses, a Skagit Indian, years before. [108] This house was used by the family seasonally until 1900. Each April they would travel upriver from Mount Vernon where they spent the winter, and stay on the Skagit homestead until early November when winter weather forced them back downriver.

The same year the house was built, Lucinda Davis began a backcountry operation. Recorded in the roadhouse's guest register (still in family hands) are the names of visitors and their home cities and towns. Of the 220 travelers who stopped at the roadhouse between June and November 1898, many were familiar residents of Marblemount and upriver. Hurd, Barrett, Leach, McAllister, Marchand, Bacon, Pettit, and USFS Ranger Calvin Farrar were some of the locals who patronized the Davis place that first year. Others represented more distant communities such as Baker, Hamilton, Mount Vernon, LaConner, Blaine, Bellingham, Everett, and Seattle. Travelers from as far away as Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New York City registered at the Davis roadhouse. One visitor, a miner named Melville Curtis, maintained a diary, religiously recording his daily activities from the August day he left his home in Anacortes to the September day he returned. Beginning in 1898, Curtis never failed to stop at the "Cedar Bar Hotel" en route to and from the Slate Creek mining district. [109]

The roadhouse was host to another season of visitors in 1900, including miner Jack Rowley and the well-known Northwest photographer Darius Kinsey. It was also the year two guests burned the house down. Free Hendrickson and Earnest Holdman stopped at the roadhouse to spend the night on October 25, while the Davises were downriver with their stock at William Thornton's ranch. Whether the fire that resulted was accidental or malicious remains uncertain, but the house was destroyed. Lucinda wrote in her diary on October 27 that she had lost $600 worth, "besides things beyond money value."' [110]

So as not to forfeit the next summer's trade, the family built a new house within a year. They constructed a larger building and located it farther back from the Skagit River in a grove of fir and cedar trees. [111] Back in business, the 1901 roadhouse registered 300 guests for that season; in 1902, the Davises remained open until mid-December and had a total of 402 guests that year; in 1903, 414 people had stayed overnight or taken meals at the well-established Davis Ranch.

The popularity of the Davis Ranch stemmed from both its prime location along the Skagit River trail and its various services. Throughout the summer Lucinda had fresh milk from their cows, vegetables from the garden, apples from the thriving orchard, and homemade fruit pies, all made available to the hungry visitors. [112] Beds were provided for those needing overnight accommodations. Despite a 1906 USFS ranger's inspection report which painted an unpleasant picture of the roadhouse, the growing number of guests year after year attests to the fact that the ranch was a fine stopping place for clean beds and satisfying meals, a respite from the rigors of mining life and backcountry travel. [113]

In response to their success, the Davises built a third and larger house at Cedar Bar in 1907. This house was a gable-roofed, wood-framed structure, 1-1/2 stories in height, 3 bays wide, with a veranda supported by log posts. A sign above the porch read "Davis Ranch-Meals and Beds," letting those unfamiliar with the place know what they could find there. Years later the roadhouse would be described as "a mecca in a wilderness of gaunt mountain crags, evergreen forests and 'white water.' There are fruit trees, chickens, farm tools, a radio, electric lights, a comfortable farmhouse built of hand-hewn lumber," and there was an air of "thrift and contentment everywhere." [114]

Indeed, the small family homestead had evolved considerably over the years. The house itself grew to 11 rooms by 1917, and was filled with hand crafted furniture. Every board in the house, the outbuildings, the power plant, and the 2,000-foot water flume which irrigated the garden, had all been cut by hand with an ax or draw knife, using timber from Cedar Bar. None of the wood on the ranch had been commercially sawn. Even the kitchen range had been made by hand. Using old iron scraps from an abandoned mining camp on Thunder Creek, Frank connected all the pieces with handmade metal rivets, resulting in a stove Lucinda "wouldn't trade . . . for all the enameled ones I ever saw pictured in the catalogs." [115]

Davis Ranch at Cedar Bar, n.d. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

Davis homestead being cleared and a cabin under construction, 2 October 1907. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Lucinda Davis (left) with guests outside her Cedar Bar ranch. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

Using their own ingenuity, the Davises supplied power to their wilderness home. Originally they had only gas and kerosene lamps supplying their ranch with light. In the 1920s, however, the family built a log dam on Stetattle Creek, and constructed a wooden flume which carried water from the creek a half mile to a wooden turbine. This turbine ran a generator which supplied the house with direct current. A wood-shaked, gable-roofed structure was built to house the workings of this early power plant. [116]

Besides working diligently to improve life on the homestead, Glee and Frank both sought employment elsewhere to supplement the family income. In 1896 Frank was hired to assist a mining crew in building a dam on Ruby Creek. Frank was also employed for a time by the U.S. Geological Survey, checking water depths in Thunder Creek and the Skagit River at various stream gauging stations. Periodically, the USFS hired the brothers to do trail work and fire fighting. In 1916 Glee Davis built the first fire lookout in the Skagit Ranger District atop Sourdough Mountain, cutting down all the necessary wood at Cedar Bar and packing it up the ridge on horses along a trail he built. In the 1920s Glee worked as a carpenter for Seattle City Light. [117]

When the Forest Homestead Act passed in 1906, the Davises applied for homestead entry on the land they had significantly improved. None of the area surrounding the ranch had been officially surveyed, a prerequisite for filing a claim. Glee Davis undertook the survey of Reflector Bar, part of the original family claim of 100 acres, himself. But the USFS decided the land was needed for a ranger station, and withdrew much of this land from homestead entry in 1908 for use as a ranger station. [118] This left the Davises sixty acres upon which to file a homestead claim. For several years the USFS debated the validity of the Davis claim, sending various rangers to the property to evaluate it. The USFS eventually recommended that the remaining 60 acres be reduced to 43, claiming the other 17 acres were timberlands not eligible under the June Act. Finally, after many heated conversations and much lengthy correspondence between the family and the USFS, the 43-acre Davis claim went to patent in 1910. Final papers giving the Davises full title to their land were not signed until seven years later, in 1917. [119]

The controversy over ownership of their land did not end here for the Davis family. That same year, 1917, was also the year Seattle City Light (SCL) acquired rights to develop a hydroelectric project of immense proportions in the upper Skagit valley. Although SCL's initial operations began at Newhalem, well below the Davis homestead, they continued to expand development. City Light applied for a railroad right-of-way and obtained permits from the USFS to construct additional dams along the Skagit. All this activity for the benefit of Seattle electric customers resulted in City Light's condemnation of the entire Davis Ranch in 1928.

Although mining in the North Cascades had subsided years earlier, the Davis roadhouse had continued rather successfully catering to increasing numbers of tourists and fisherman in the region. The Davises argued with SCL that the ranch was not only their home and farm for almost two decades, but that it had become an established business operation and a valuable asset to their existence. With this argument clearly stated, they sought $40,000 from City Light for damages resulting from the condemnation of their property. [120] In the hearings and condemnation proceedings that followed, the family realized they were no match for the monolithic electric company. In 1929, the last trial was held and, despite Glee's appeal to the State Supreme Court, City Light succeeded in acquiring the Davis homestead for $15,000. [121]

The Davises left their homestead for the last time in 1929 and moved to Sedro Woolley. For many years the Davis Ranch remained intact at Cedar Bar, used by City Light to house employees and guests. The buildings were removed in the 1950s when the dammed waters of the Skagit River finally began to flood the property. City Light did salvage the old Davis power house, moving it to a new location and replacing deteriorated wood in the shake roof and water wheel. [122] It can be seen today in present-day Diablo, enshrined behind a fence, and heralded as the first hydroelectric plant on the Skagit. In actuality, it is the only vestige from the past that evidences the existence of the Davis family homestead on Cedar Bar. Ironically, when Glee Davis was asked later why the family had homesteaded in the remote upper Skagit valley, he responded: "It was the freedom, I guess. We had the run of the mountains. There was nobody much to bother you." [123]

The remaining two homesteads along the Skagit River were miles beyond the Davis ranch. They were in extremely remote areas and neither settler ever filed for homestead entry. One of these settlers was John H. McMillan, an eastern Canadian who first came into the region in the mid-1880s. [124] Like other early settlers, McMillan was a miner and packer who was lured to Ruby Creek by rumors of gold. After abandoning claims on the Fraser River, McMillan traveled to Ruby Creek around 1884 with hopes of making his fortune. Unlike most miners in later years who would reach Ruby Creek by following the Skagit east to the Goat Trail, McMillan packed in from Canada because no trail beyond Marblemount existed at this early date. [125] Leaving Fort Hope with his pack horses, McMillan headed south, passing the Whitworth Ranch four miles above the international boundary, and proceeding along the Skagit-Hope miners' trail through dense timber until he reached Ruby Creek. [126] McMillan became one of a number of miners who stayed and settled in the mountains, determined to make a life for himself in the North Cascades.

McMillan's life appears to have been fairly typical of that experienced by most settlers in the North Cascades. During the summer he panned for gold along Ruby Creek, and became quite influential in mining developments there. [127] McMillan supplemented his mineral discoveries with a horsepacking business which he operated simultaneously for many years. Carrying supplies for prospectors, he packed between Fort Hope (in Canada) and Ruby Creek, avoiding the Skagit River canyons and the treacherous Goat Trail. At various times and seasons McMillan worked in a shingle bolt camp near Marblemount (1891), was employed by the USFS clearing trails and fighting fires, and later, in 1918, worked for Seattle City Light on the Skagit River hydroelectric project. [128] During winters at his homestead on Big Beaver Creek, he laid traplines along nearby creeks. When trapping Little Beaver Creek, McMillan stayed in a log cabin he built on the south side of the trail near Perry Creek (between Perry and Stillwell hiker camps today). [129] Beaver and marten were two of the many types of pelts McMillan shipped to furriers in exchange for cash. [130]

McMillan's house at Ruby Creek. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

John McMillan, early settler and miner, n.d. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, WA)

For several years John McMillan also ran a roadhouse, located at the confluence of the Skagit River and Ruby Creek. This roadhouse, known in later years as the Ruby (Creek) Inn, may have been in operation since the onset of the gold rush. It is not known who built it, but McMillan did request a permit for its use as a roadhouse in 1916 from USFS Ranger Tommy Thompson. In this location McMillan could provide services to prospectors heading up Ruby Creek and beyond to the Slate and Canyon Creek mining districts. How many years McMillan ran the roadhouse at Ruby Creek is not known, but Ranger Thompson did visit him there as late as October of 1919. [131] A retired USFS employee of the Skagit District, whose father was a mining and trapping partner of John McMillan, claims that McMillan operated the roadhouse at Ruby Creek before establishing his permanent home along Big Beaver Creek. [132] In the 1898 Davis roadhouse register, however, John McMillan's name is recorded and his home is listed as Beaver Creek. [133]

The McMillan homestead on Big Beaver Creek, known as the McMillan Ranch, was located on the west side of the Skagit River, southwest of the creek. McMillan erected a cabin in a wooded area with a small natural meadow nearby. [134] In this clearing McMillan raised hay for his three pack horses. At various times Frank and Glee Davis came to McMillan's specifically to purchase hay for use at their roadhouse at Cedar Bar, baling it by hand before packing it down on horses. [135] McMillan also built a barn and root cellar and had a garden nearby. In an 1899 report on the Washington Forest Reserve, H.B. Ayres observed that McMillan's ranch was one of the most improved claims on the entire reserve. [136] A later map depicts "McMillens Ranch"' as a complex of four or five structures, one marked "house," and a corral or fenced-in area (perhaps the pasture). [137] For a time, McMillan was known to exchange homesteads periodically with fellow settler Tommy Rowland, who lived across the Skagit River to the east. Rowland had a fairly large hay field located along the river and McMillan often used this hay for his horses and roadhouse operation. [138]

In his later years McMillan and his wife spent their winters in Marblemount, returning to the Big Beaver ranch each summer. When he died on July 29, 1922, he was on his ranch. Several friends gathered, including Ranger Thompson and fellow miner George Holmes. McMillan was buried two days later, near his cabin.

Three years after John's death, in 1925, Mrs. McMillan attempted to acquire homestead rights to the ranch, but the USFS rejected her application. [139] The settlement case was closed and the old homestead was used as a guard station by USFS trail crews and packers for many years. Even into the 1930s a former USFS employee recalls picking McMillan's rhubarb which had grown wild. While the USFS utilized the ranch to a degree, several of McMillan's former acquaintances also resided there intermittently, including his partner Miles Garrett (who later married John's widow), miner George Holmes, and Bert Ferguson, a railroad conductor-turned-trapper who came to the upper Skagit ca. 1904 and settled farther up Big Beaver. [140]

McMillan's grave at his homestead along Big Beaver Creek, 1984. (Gretchen Luxenberg, NPS)

Remnants of McMillan's homestead cabin or barn, 1984. (Gretchen Luxenberg, NPS)

Over time, without maintenance, McMillan's ranch deteriorated and the place was all but forgotten. Harsh winters and forest vegetation continue to take their toll on the ranch structures. Although difficult to locate, remnants of the homestead can be seen today. A section of collapsed wood frame building and part of a log structure with saddle-notched corners (house and barn) are extant, as is the leveled site where a root cellar formerly stood. Nearby is the grave of John McMillan himself, intact and marked by a rectangular piece of wood simply inscribed "McMillan." [141]

Tommy Rowland (also spelled Roland) was the last inhabitant along the upper Skagit River within today's park boundary. From the international boundary south not one settler chose to live in the broad, densely-timbered river valley which spread to the north of his claim. Moreover, with the exception of an occasional fur trapper, few individuals passed through the region even after the trail beyond Marblemount was opened in the 1890s. Tommy Rowland lived a quiet existence here, and although he did not remain in the area very long, he was successful at carving out and sustaining a homestead for himself in an untamed wilderness. He is remembered through stories and place names that persist today, nearly a century after he first arrived in the North Cascades.

A Canadian from northern British Columbia, Rowland first journeyed up the Skagit River about 1885, although a second source claims ten years later. [142] Selecting an elevated site on the east bank of the Skagit across from Big Beaver Creek, Rowland eventually built a sizable log cabin, large barn, and root cellar. A small cleared area, believed to be a swamp before Rowland dredged it by hand, served as a garden where he cultivated vegetables. He also had a second place along the Skagit River, directly below this main homestead. There, Rowland erected a small cabin and outbuilding, and grew hay in a nearby pasture that John McMillan helped him clear. [143] Obviously impressed by the improvements, H.B. Ayres noted on his 1899 visit that Rowland's homestead and McMillan's across the river were "the two most improved claims" on the Washington Forest Reserve. [144]

View of Tommy Rowland's homestead, ca. 1917. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Rowland's primary reason for being in the North Cascades was gold. He placer mined along Ruby Creek, but also sold or bartered vegetables and hay to support himself and his simple lifestyle. Glee Davis purchased hay from Rowland for the Cedar Bar roadhouse many times. [145] Rowland periodically exchanged homesteads with John McMillan, who also used Rowland's hay. Unlike other settlers, Rowland was able to sustain himself with what he had, never needing to travel downriver to earn supplemental income.

View of Rowland's lower property, which became the Roland Guard Station, ca. 1916. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Several colorful though undocumented stories exist about Tommy Rowland, more so than about any other individual within today's national park. One common thread in all these tales is that Rowland was or became, while living in the mountains, a religious fanatic who believed he was the prophet Elisha. In his eccentricity he christened his homestead "New Jerusalem." On one of his numerous visits to Rowland's, Glee Davis recalled how Tommy did not speak to Glee the entire three days he was there baling hay. On that last day just before Glee departed, Tommy let it be known that he was not supposed to talk for three days and three nights. [146] However odd a character, Rowland was never known by anyone to be a dangerous or bothersome fellow.

Possibly in an effort to take over Rowland's mining claims on Ruby Creek, an unidentified person had Rowland judged insane, sometime prior to 1903. Tommy was forced to move and remain downriver in a hospital until 1903 when authorities allowed him to return home. The last time Rowland was seen on his ranch by Glee Davis was in 1908; again, an unknown person was responsible for Rowland's permanent return to Northern State Hospital in Sedro Woolley, where he remained until his eventual death. [147]

While Rowland's principal homestead lay abandoned and ignored, his lower place was taken over by the USFS. On a 1913 Washington National Forest map both the lower and upper homestead were indicated; by 1917 only the lower place was shown, listed as "Roland Guard Station." [148] It retained guard station status at least until the late 1930s. [149] When the dammed waters of the Skagit River backed up to the north, this site was inundated, obliterating all signs of human activity.

Rowland's upper homestead in its forgotten state is extant today, approximately a quarter mile east of the campground at Roland Point. A large, cleared area in a sparsely-wooded pine forest contains the remnants of Rowland's log cabin, barn, root cellar, and outhouse. [150] Though it stands in ruins, much historically valuable information regarding Rowland and early settlement in the North Cascades can still be gleaned from what remains of this old homestead.

Remains of Rowland's cabin, 1970. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Root cellar remnants at Rowland homestead on Roland Point, 1984. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS)

Remnants of Rowland's homestead cabin, 1984. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS)

Miles above the Rowland homestead and approximately four miles north of the international boundary, Henry Robert Whitworth located a cattle ranch along the east side of the Skagit River. Although outside the present-day park and the United States, the Whitworth ranch deserves mention in this chapter because it represents the closest homestead to the northern boundary of today's park. [151]

Between the years 1904 and 1910, Whitworth and his family developed the property, building a ten-room house, two outbuildings, and furniture, using wood cleared from the site and cut by a portable sawmill brought onto the ranch. Dairy and beef cattle, pigs, horses, and chickens were also brought in for the family farm operation. Whitworth chose this site in hopes that the Canadian government would construct a major road through the ranch. But a series of family illnesses and the subsequent loss of livestock compelled the Whitworths to abandon their efforts, never to return.

In 1911 Oliver Smith leased the ranch intending to establish a roadhouse, but nothing appears to have come of this. Eventually the ranch was deserted. Only hikers and trappers used the buildings intermittently, and the ranch fell into disrepair. By 1929, the land had been sold to Seattle City Light as part of the proposed Ross Dam Reservoir site. This land has not been flooded by the waters of Ross Lake, but it is unlikely that any remains of the uppermost Skagit River homestead are extant today. [152]

The upper Skagit River corridor closed to settlement, in theory, with the passage of the 1906 Forest Homestead Act. After that, any lands held privately here either became patented homesteads, were issued a special permit, or were declared illegal, forcing the squatters to relinquish all rights to the property and move. All other lands were federally-owned and under the administration of the USFS. New settlers could no longer locate homes in the upper Skagit region of the North Cascades unless a legal property owner chose to subdivide his/her land and sell. The population of the area decreased as early settlers died, many leaving their unpatented claims to revert to the federal government.

Not until Seattle City Light began construction of their hydroelectric project in 1919 did the upper Skagit River population begin to grow again, and consequently disrupt the linear pattern of settlement established along the Skagit River. The population swelled to an unprecedented level as City Light employees relocated from Seattle to this remote area. This influx of people required the formation of two company towns, Newhalem and Diablo in 1919 and 1927 respectively. These "towns" had a significant impact on settlement patterns within the North Cascades.

When SCL received the permit from the Department of Agriculture to begin their Skagit project, it marked the beginning of intense manipulation and transformation of the North Cascadian wilderness along the Skagit River. Construction of Gorge Dam, the first of three units called for by the extensive program, began in September 1919, and by mid-November SCL had 100 men employed and residing in tents nearby. In a matter of two months the population of the upper Skagit region had more than doubled.

By April of 1920, 500 men were working for SCL and they were living in temporary frame shacks and tents. The need for a permanent camp was obvious. Seattle City Light selected and purchased an area east of Goodell Creek and began construction of a carefully planned work camp. Taking the name of a nearby creek, Newhalem was to have 75 three-bedroom cottages, six bunkhouses, a cookhouse, a warehouse, a general store, and hotel, all arranged along streets paralleling the Skagit River. Particular attention was given to the design of the landscape, and non-native flowers, shrubs, and trees were introduced into the wilderness. [153]

View of Newhalem, Seattle City Light's first company town along Skagit River, n.d. (Photo courtesy of Seattle City Light)

The transition from urban living to the wilderness was probably not easy for most members of the new community, but SCL administrators attempted to make the move as easy as possible. In addition to recreating an urban setting of buildings, gardens, lighted streets, and sidewalks into the wilderness, SCL provided the newcomers with social and recreational activities. Dinners and dances were held often, basketball tournaments were arranged for the long winters, and baseball games were played in the short summers. As a natural result a close community developed among people who lived, worked, dined, and played together. Their physical isolation, coupled with the upper Skagit old-timers' refusal to accept them as neighbors, further reinforced the formation of a tightly-knit community. [154]

Farther up the Skagit, a short distance beyond Cedar Bar, a second "company town" began to develop. Around 1927, SCL transformed the wilderness of Reflector Bar, located at the base of Sourdough Mountain, into a tamed "modern" residential community for its employees. The two secluded towns eventually were linked by SCL's private railroad, constructed in the 1920s and in operation until the 1950s. Diablo represents the first major break from the linear settlement patterns established historically along the Skagit. The town occupies the entire river bar and is comprised of two building clusters, linked by a road, but each with its own network of streets and sidewalks.

View of Diablo under construction, Seattle City Light company town along Skagit River in vicinity of Reflector Bar, n.d. (Photo courtesy of Seattle City Light)

Newhalem and Diablo maintained their "company town" images well into the twentieth century. A major change occurred in 1972 when SCL chose to automate the operation of their power plants. The former company towns lost their company support, and expendable employees were relocated to outside areas. Today, the small communities of Newhalem and Diablo are home to both SCL employees as well as other individuals, but the towns still retain their association with SCL. [155]

Corridors of Settlement: Stehekin River

The Stehekin River has its rise in North Cascades National Park and empties into Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. While the Stehekin is not the park's largest drainage, it is, without doubt, one of the park's most dramatic. Gathering its waters in the glacial high country, the Stehekin flows southeasterly, flanked by craggy mountain walls which transform into a gently sloping bowl—a glacially-carved river valley. Winding its way through the wet/dry ecotone of the North Cascades the Stehekin completes its journey through remote and enchanting country at Lake Chelan, where its icy glacial waters are released.

Because the region is so remote, the Stehekin River valley remained unknown and uninhabited by white settlers until the 1880s, when miners began infiltrating the region in search of mineral wealth. Between the years 1887-1910 they came in relatively significant numbers. These miners looked to Lake Chelan for the easiest access to mineral deposits known to exist in the North Cascades. Finding a tolerable environment at the head of the lake, many of these pioneers located homesteads there.

View up Stehekin River valley, 1905. (By L.D. Lindsley, University of Washington Photo Collection)

In 1889 Alfred Downing wrote in The Northwest Magazine (October):

To the tourist, the hunter, or the man of leisure, Lake Chelan is no longer a sealed book. The sturdy settler and the prospector is already there, the latter already revealing the hidden treasures of that region. [156]

Indeed, by this time, settlement mainly associated with mining extended well beyond the townsite of Chelan at the foot of the lake. Settlers had quickly claimed the few homesites along the predominately rock-bound lake shore. A small settlement at Lucerne on the west side of the lake was established as a base camp for prospectors working on Railroad Creek. It was the last site with substantive improvements along the lake until one reached Stehekin at the head of the lake. [157] By the late 1880s Stehekin had two miners and their families as permanent residents. Within three years it was noted that ". . .there is a large settlement at and near the head of the lake, where the new town of Stehekin has been laid out...." [158]

Stehekin was a logical place for miners to call home. Situated at the head of water navigation, it was the final stop for commercial boats plying the lake to disembark prospectors and deliver their much-needed supplies. Although the mines were still miles beyond this point, the head of the lake quickly became the supply center for people, goods, and news—the last link to civilization. What had its inception as a mining base camp would eventually grow into the organized community of Stehekin.

One of the earliest maps of the area, a General Land Office (GLO) survey of Township 33 North Range 17 East completed in 1902, shows a hotel, post office, school house, three residences, and two barns at Stehekin. The map describes the remaining territory as "mountainous and unsurveyed." Two years later, in 1904, it was noted "There is no settlement at Stehekin, the only business enterprise at this point being Field's Hotel." [159] Upvalley from Stehekin there were nine structures scattered along both sides of the valley "road." [160]

Early settlement patterns in the Stehekin area were dictated primarily by topography, available water supply, and accessibility to natural transportation routes such as the lake. Those settlers who came early were unrestricted by government regulations and found land practical for homesteading. At the head of the lake, settlers were as close as possible to the "outside world." Over time, the changing course of the Stehekin River may have deposited rich, alluvial sediments along the valley floor, but it also left behind huge boulders and other debris that restricted free and easy settlement. Consequently, land suitable for cultivation was somewhat limited. Subsequent arrivals to Stehekin were forced to search upriver for good land on which to live. [161]

Few early settlers remained in the valley through the winter months. Seasonal work, isolation from other people, and the lack of fresh supplies were hardships difficult to bear. As winter approached many traveled downlake to Chelan and elsewhere, returning to Stehekin in the spring to prepare for the upcoming summer's activities. For most, these activities included mining, but Stehekin residents quickly realized that they could earn a living by outfitting hundreds of other prospectors who came uplake each summer in search of gold. Packing goods to the mineral claims, guiding miners into the backcountry, and other related services proved to be profitable for several individuals. And before 1890, Stehekin boasted a hotel that served prospectors, tourists, and fishermen who increasingly sought out this interior mountain country.

Demonstrated success over the years made it apparent that a relatively comfortable existence could be made at the head of the lake. When the first Stehekin residents encouraged their families and friends to join them, the population of Stehekin increased and a permanent community began to develop. The Chelan Leader of May 19, 1892, reported:

There is considerable difference in the appearance of this place comparing it with one year ago. At that time there was but one garden of any account in the whole valley. Now there are twelve on the north side of the river. . . one year ago there were about four actual settlers on the north side of the river. Now there are thirteen, eight of whom have families. [162]

School classes were held off and on for the few children living in Stehekin as early as 1895. [163] In 1902 there was a "schoolhouse" located at the head of the lake, and later on, the structure known as the Kronk cabin was used for classes. It is today the oldest known school building in the valley. [164] As new families arrived and others departed, the need for a schoolhouse downvalley arose and, in 1921, valley residents assembled to select a site for a new school. Materials for the building were all crafted by the community. Logs were cut, notched, and filled by volunteers, money was raised through "box socials" for flooring, windows and doors, and in the late summer, residents gathered to build the schoolhouse. [165] Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the school is attended by valley children in kindergarten through 8th grade and is a symbol of pride to all Stehekin residents.

Historic view of first log schoolhouse built in Stehekin at head of lake, on land now under water, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file: R. Byrd photo)

Stehekin School, pre-1957, when it was still a one-room structure. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file: P. Bergman photo)

Although Stehekin's economy was originally based on mining, that activity diminished in importance in the early twentieth century because of various factors, including transportation difficulties. Residents found other means of making a living. Subsistence farming, tourism, and logging sustained many Stehekin settlers. Apples were grown and transported downlake for market. Winter trapping and hunting became a mandatory activity for most. [166] Once the USFS was established in 1905, seasonal work became available in the Stehekin Ranger District of the Chelan National Forest, providing still another source of income for a few individuals. By 1910 many previously seasonal residents stayed year-round in the valley, surviving on the area's natural resources and their own ingenuity and self-determination.

Heavily dependent upon each other, settlers in the Stehekin valley exchanged goods for labor and labor for goods using the barter system. Cash that did come into their possession was usually the result of downlake employment, USFS work, or earnings from summer visitors on holiday in the valley. Over time the demand for cash on hand increased but Stehekin remained a cashless society until the 1940s. [167]

Stehekin River Corridor (click on image for a PDf version)

Stehekin settlers were also dependent upon each other socially. One activity which occurred historically and continues today in Stehekin is the gathering of valley residents to await the boat from Chelan. The community has always relied on the boat to bring new people, old friends, mail, and supplies from downlake. Traditionally most everyone gathered at the dock to receive goods as well as exchange news and experiences. Historically, the 55-mile journey required a full day's travel. Two boats plied the lake daily during the summer, one traveling uplake and one downlake. In the winter, boat service decreased to two trips a week with the slowed activity. Today, one boat cruises the lake daily during the summer, making three trips a week in the winter. Although freight and passengers have changed over time from mining equipment and prospectors to freezers and photographers, the century-old tradition of gathering to meet the boat still remains.

The first pioneer to settle at the head of the lake was Major John W. Horton. A veteran of the Civil War from Wisconsin, he became interested in silver mining and found his way up Lake Chelan via rowboat in 1885. [168] Within a few years he had selected a homesite and built a log cabin on the bank of the Stehekin River. [169] Called an "old hermit" by Isaac Tillinghast, a reporter for a St. Paul magazine who visited him in 1891, Horton had a small garden wherein he grew potatoes, sweet corn, beans, and other vegetables. Over his entry a sign declared: "Welcome-our cabin door is open to all square men. Others take warning." [170] Horton was an industrious fellow who made a living in a variety of ways. Along with prospecting, Horton was engaged in logging, rafting the cut timber downlake for marketing. One year 150,000 board feet of logs were cut from Horton's "ranch." [171] In 1898 Horton purchased the shingle mill that had been used to cut his timber, moving it . . . a few miles up the Stehekin River, where there is plenty of cedar convenient, waiting to be converted into shingles. The machine will be run by water power." [172] An advertisement placed by Horton in the Chelan Leader announced:

To the Travelling Public. Having had twelve years experience in the Cascade Range as a miner, prospector, hunter and trapper. I hereby offer my services to tourists, camping parties, miners and all who may be in need of a thoroughly competent guide. Rates reasonable . . ."

It is not known how long this jack-of-all-trades remained in Stehekin but he was still uplake in 1900, residing at a fellow settler's homestead cabin. [173]

Early drawing of Stehekin settler John Horton's cabin, ca. 1889. (By Alfred Downing, NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

Soon after John Horton arrived he persuaded his son-in-law George Hall to join him in Stehekin. Moving from Minneapolis, Hall came uplake in 1889 with his wife and four children and built Stehekin's second log cabin and its first hotel. [174] The "Argonaut," as it was called, was a 2-story building with a lower floor curtained off into a kitchen and bedroom — by no means a luxurious affair. After operating the hostelry for several years, Hall sold the business and building to Merritt Field in 1892, and left the valley permanently that same year. [175]

Although Merritt Field was not a homesteader in the typical sense of the word, he did reside in the valley year-round, and he was one of the few settlers who actually filed for homestead entry. When he arrived in 1892, he acquired rights to the Argonaut and continued to operate the small hotel. In 1893 he married and brought his new wife uplake to help run the business. Nearly ten years later, Field filed this land for homestead entry (T33N R17E, Section 36). [176]

When Field's property was surveyed for entry in 1902, the examiner noted that Field had settled on a squatter's location. Also recorded were the many improvements, including a 25-room hotel (32' x 132'), a barn (28' x 56'), a laundry building (24' x 32'), a cellar, and a wagon shed. Timber had been cut from the claim between 1890-1894 and 1898-1901, allowing Field to put 20 acres "under plow" and 80 acres "under fence." Hay, vegetables, and fruit were all raised on the property. [177]

Field's hotel venture was so successful that it was necessary to expand. In 1905 he built a large and picturesque structure that could accommodate one hundred guests overnight. This new building incorporated the Argonaut. [178] Known as the Field Hotel, this first-class hostelry catered to miners and tourists by offering good food, boating on the lake, backcountry guide service, horsepack trains, and many other services. Concurrent with the hotel operation, Field also engaged in the shingle business and in mining, and served as Stehekin's first postmaster. [179]

In 1906 Field sub-divided his homestead claim, selling a portion to Alice B. Wick, who purchased it for the considerable sum of $10,000. [180] When the Chelan Electric Company began formulating plans for the construction of a dam downlake which would raise the lake level and flood the hotel site, Field sold his remaining homestead acreage, including the hotel, to the power company. He moved downlake to 25-Mile Creek shortly thereafter, devoting his attention to apple growing until he died in 1949. [181] Today, the site of Field's homestead lies underwater. Nothing remains of the impressive Field Hotel except photographs and select building materials that were saved in the process of dismantling the old structure and incorporated into another Stehekin hotel, the Golden West Lodge.

Historic view of Field Hotel at head of Lake Chelan. This 1911 photo by L.D. Lindsley shows the structure as it finally appeared after several additions. (University of Washington Photo Collection)

Other early settlers locating homes in the Stehekin valley were members of the Pershall family. Three brothers—Lloyd, Al M., and Robert N. — were actively engaged in mining in Horseshoe Basin in the 1890s. They located a base camp just south of the basin. [182] The brothers also maintained a store in Chelan, selling various goods, including fruit boxes made at their "cottonwood fruit-box factory" in Stehekin in 1896. Little is known of Lloyd except that he was a miner; Al was also a miner, having claims in the Methow River valley and Horseshoe Basin where he worked the Davenport claim in 1895. [183]

Of the three brothers, Robert Pershall seemed to be the most active in the Stehekin area. As early as 1895 Robert and his wife lived on their Stehekin "ranch" in the winter. [184] In November of that year, he built an addition to the north end of his residence. [185] In 1898 Pershall sold "the improvements on his ranch at the head of the lake to Mr. Wm. Purple . . ." [186] By 1892, however, Robert had acquired a second homestead farther up the valley that had belonged to his cousin, M.M. Kingman. By selling a quarter of his interest in the Horseshoe Basin mine to Kingman for $20,000, he obtained Kingman's Stehekin ranch as a partial payment. [187] This homestead, also referred to as the old Perry Wilcox ranch, was 6-3/4 miles up the valley from the head of the lake (prior to flooding), on unsurveyed land (T33N R17E, Section 8) adjacent to the McGregor Flat Ranger Station site. In 1907 Pershall filed the 100.5-acre homestead claim for entry but his application was quickly rejected "on account of the small area of agricultural land and the poor transportation facilities and the distance from market and the heavy snow fall and killing frosts that came early [to the area]. . ." [188] Persistent, Pershall reapplied for a homestead on August 3, 1911, filing on 92.07 acres in the same area. Five years later he filed for nearly 16 additional acres of land (July 18, 1916). A USFS ranger carefully recorded Pershall's improvements as of 1918: the 1-1/2 story log house (14' x 28') with its lumber kitchen addition on the east end (14' x 12') was furnished with 2 beds, cookstove, heating stove, sewing machine, kitchen table and chairs; an open hay shed, chicken house, barn, and cellar were used for storage and housing the family's horse, cow, calf, and 22 chickens. Five acres of land were under cultivation and the crops were used solely for the family. [189] Robert Pershall received full patent on his homestead claim on October 30, 1919. Within three years time, however, he had moved downlake and was living in Chelan.

Also at the head of the lake, along the eastern shore, was the homestead of William (or Whitby) F. Purple. Purple was a miner and homesteader of sorts who came to Stehekin in the 1890s, perhaps on the advice of his friend Merritt Field. On May 7, 1897, the Chelan Leader noted: "W.F. Purple of Tacoma is seeking for a location upon which to make a home, up the lake." By the following month, "Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Purple and three children of Tacoma, lately from Montana, have settled at Stehekin, where Mr. P. will engage in mining." [190] The Purple family apparently remained uplake the year-round. [191]

In 1898 Stehekin miner Robert Pershall sold his ranch and its improvements at the head of the lake to Purple, ". . . who will move there with his family." [192] It is not known whether this was the same property Purple eventually filed on for homestead entry. In any event, by 1899 Purple had an alternative source of income for himself other than mining: he had become the proprietor of a hostelry in Stehekin known as the Mountain View House. Purple's residence served as the inn. In September of that year he expanded the size of the house, enlarging it with an additional story to "otherwise improve it, to meet the demands of a rapidly growing business." [193] The 1-1/2-story frame structure was capacious, 42' x 50', and situated on a ridge overlooking the lake. Guests could stay with the family in the house, in a wood frame cabin Purple had built close by, or in tents set on platforms beneath tall fir trees. Rock-lined paths; decorative rock piles, both free-standing and surrounding trees; and rustic wooden "branch" furniture ornamented the grounds. Stairs led visitors from the dock at the lakeshore up the knoll and through a small gazebo before reaching the Mountain View House. [194]

Map showing Purple's Stehekin homestead. (Tracing from 1913 Chelan Electric Company Map.)

View of Purple homestead from water, n.d. Note outbuilding in lower left corner, main residence up slope with path leading from lake to house. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

Purple's log barn and gate, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

"Purple Inn," also known as Mountain View House, in Stehekin, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

Purple continued to work assessments on promising mining claims in Horseshoe Basin while operating the inn on his homestead. [195] On December 17, 1903, he officially purchased 153 acres which he had diligently improved (T33N R18E, Section 31, lots 3, 5). Later, Purple left Stehekin for Soap Lake, Washington, selling his homestead to W.F. Boardman in 1917, who immediately sold to the Chelan Electric Company. [196] After Purple's departure his residence remained standing until the Golden West Lodge was built on the site in 1926. The rock foundation beneath the present-day lodge may have been part of the rock foundation Purple used for his home.

Early maps indicate that several other log cabins or houses ringed the head of the lake. Who built or owned them is unknown at present. [197] It is likely some of these cabins belonged to pioneers associated with early settlement (whose homesites cannot be located) such as Johnson, McCullom, Wilkeson, McGregor, and Moran. Today all of this land, including the lower portion of Little Boulder Creek, is submerged beneath the waters of Lake Chelan. It is not known whether any of these cabins were saved and relocated, their materials reused, or whether they were destroyed completely when the level of the lake rose in 1927 inundating upwards of 500 acres.

Map illustrating development at Stehekin, before the raising of Lake Chelan. (Tracing from 1913 Chelan Electric Company map.) (click on image for a PDf version)

Continuing up the densely-vegetated river valley, early settlers chose homesites along both banks of the river. A settler named Dan Devore, perhaps one of the best known residents of the Stehekin valley and a horsepacker by trade, moved to the upper end of Lake Chelan in 1889. It is thought that he built a cabin for himself approximately where the Weaver Point Campground is sited today. [198] Apparently he sold this cabin to A.M. Pershall and moved downlake in the mid-1890s to Deer Point, where he located a ranch for wintering his stock. This place was called Deer Lodge, an ". . . attractive and valuable ranch situated beyond [above?] 25-mile Creek on the north shore of the lake . . ." [199] Later Devore sold Deer Lodge and returned to Stehekin. [200]

Devore's summers in Stehekin were spent leading pack trains into the various mining camps, as well as guiding tourists into the backcountry. An advertisement of Devore's in the Chelan Leader clearly stated his services:

Get Started Right!
If you are a tourist, health or scenery seeker, miner or prospector and want to reach any camping, fishing or hunting grounds or mining district in the Cascade Mountains, inquire for
Stehekin, Washington. Will furnish pack and saddle horses from any point you wish to reach. Animals gentle and accustomed to trails. Guides and packers furnished if desired. Headquarters at Stehekin landing. (30 June 1899).

One of Devore's more celebrated trips occurred in 1916 when he led author Mary Roberts Rinehart, her family, and a crew from the Great Northern Railroad (including L.D. Lindsley, the photographer) up the Stehekin valley and over Cascade Pass. Known as "a hustler and a hard worker," Devore also prospected in the summer and trapped in the winter but it was his packing business that brought him local fame. [201]

In the 1920s Devore based his packing operation out of Lydia George's Rainbow Lodge, located several miles beyond the head of the lake near Rainbow Creek. This hostelry offered lodging and good food for potential customers as well as grazing land for Devore's horses. Devore eventually left Stehekin and sold his 15-horse pack string to Oscar Getty who had packed for M.E. Field around 1911-12. [202]

The Weaver brothers were settlers who came uplake somewhat late in comparison to others. Arriving in 1903 Lewis and his brother James came with the intent of making a living by trapping animals. They successfully trapped bear, cougar, lynx, and coyote (among others), and consequently opened a taxidermy business in Stehekin. The Chelan Leader of August 25, 1905 noted: "Weaver Bros., taxidermists, have established headquarters here and are making a specialty of bear skin, coyote, whistler and other fur rugs, robes, etc." Many of their customers were guests from the nearby Field Hotel, tourists, and hunters interested in bringing home a souvenir of their trip to the wilderness.

Weaver Brothers' Taxidermy and Furrier shop in Stehekin, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

Portrait of Weaver brothers, early Stehekin settlers and entrepreneurs. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

By 1907 the furrier business was growing but both Weavers decided to ". . . close shop for the winter of 1907-08 and visit Alaska to trap and traffic for furs...returning here [Stehekin] to reopen in the spring." [203] The Weavers returned again to Alaska for the 1908-9 season, but an unfortunate circumstance led to James's untimely death that year. Upon return to Stehekin, Lewis sold the business and moved downlake until 1913, when he returned to Stehekin with his new wife Daisy.

Daisy and Lewis Weaver learned of an opportunity to homestead 85 acres on the west side of the Stehekin River, on land commonly known today as Weaver Point. (T33N R17E, Section 36) Early in 1913 they filed for homestead entry, actually establishing residency there several months later. [204] The Weavers worked hard at improving their claim to gain title to the land. In addition to an old, shake-roofed log cabin (12' x 24') and the remnants of another (built by a former squatter—possibly Dan Devore), the Weavers built a 1-story, 3-room frame house (20' x 24'), a woodshed, chicken house, barn, and other associated outbuildings. Satisfying the requirements for a homestead, the Weavers received title to their land in 1921. [205]

The Weavers led a simple life in their small cabin along the river, mainly subsistence farming. Almost twelve acres were cleared and they grew an assortment of farm crops, including vegetables, rye, oats, clover, and alfalfa. [206] Raising more than they needed, the Weavers supplemented their existence by supplying the local market with fresh milk, butter, and homegrown garden vegetables. [207] The Field Hotel was the primary recipient of their produce. [208]

The original Weaver cabin remained on the property until ca. 1960-61, when Daisy (by then a widow of thirty years) had a new cabin constructed. In 1970 she sold all but 3 acres of her homestead to the National Park Service. The remaining acres were subsequently sold to the government by her son Jim. [209]

John E. Merritt was another early settler who located a homestead near the head of the lake. Arriving in Stehekin in 1893, Merritt found work as a crewmember on the Lake Chelan steamer. [210] He and his family spent summers uplake, wintering in Chelan where his children attended school and he could earn wages. Merritt's homesite was on the east side of the Stehekin River (T33 N R17E, Sections 25 and 36). He had a 4-room frame and log cabin (24' x 28'), a frame barn (12' x 48'), 100 acres of land "under fence," and 5 acres "under plow" by the year 1902. To supplement his income earned from the boat company, Merritt logged timber from his claim and had a sawmill operation. In 1907 the local newspaper noted: ". . . Merritt's portable sawmill saws out all the rough lumber required right here at home." [211] The Merritt property has long since been sub-divided — the Honey Bear Bakery is the most conspicuous structure in the area of the old homestead today.

Adjoining Merritt's claim was Frank F. Keller's homestead. Keller and his wife settled in Stehekin in 1898, on land previously inhabited by a miner named Jim Scheuyeulle (T33N R17E, Section 25 SW 1/4, and 36, NW 1/4). In addition to Scheuyeulle's abandoned 1-room log cabin (12' x 16'), Keller's homestead had a 1-room log house (16' x 30'), a log cabin (10' x 10'), and a log barn (16' x 16'). Keller himself had plowed approximately five acres of land, fenced 40 acres, and put 20 acres "under ditch." For two years he resided on his claim year-round raising potatoes and other vegetables until he was appointed Chelan County Sheriff. His new position required him to live downlake, so in order not to lose his claim, Keller asked fellow settler J.W. Horton to remain on the land. Although initially rejected for homestead entry (because of Keller's absence from the claim), the land eventually passed to patent in 1907, giving Keller full title to the property. [212] Today, Keller's land is sub-divided into parcels honoring the early settler: "Keller's Park" and "Keller's Stehekin Homes" together comprise the former homestead.

Near Keller's was Will J. Margerum's place. A transplant from Salmon City, Idaho, Margerum arrived in Stehekin in 1898, settling on land about one and a half miles up the Stehekin River on the south side (T33N R17E, Section, SE 1/4). [213] Christening his new home "Cedar Grove Ranch," Margerum made improvements to the property which had been settled originally by a William Ridinger, who left the valley for California. [214] In addition to farming, fishing, and hunting, Margerum was busy with mining claims in Horseshoe Basin. He had two claims there owned jointly with fellow settler W.F. Purple. [215] Margerum remained in the valley at least into the early part of the twentieth century. His property was later acquired by Oscar Getty, whose descendants still retain the land today. [216]

Several miles upriver the farthest homestead from the settlement at the head of the lake was William Buzzard's claim of 160 acres (T33N R17E, Section 26). A miner from Spokane, Buzzard came uplake in 1889 and selected a site on a horseshoe bend of the Stehekin River. Here he built a small, rough 1-story log cabin and cleared many acres of land for pasture and cultivation. By 1892 his famous potato crops were shipped downlake to Chelan and up to miners in Horseshoe Basin. The Chelan Leader reported on May 19, 1892, that Buzzard had hauled 1000 pounds of potatoes on his wagon up to the rock slide (past Cottonwood Camp today, at end of present-day road). By 1895 Buzzard's ranch had been considerably improved and a visitor there in September

. . . was astonished at the productiveness of [Buzzard's] splendid Stehekin Valley farm, situated in close proximity to Rainbow Falls. Mr. Buzzard has a fine orchard planted, and some of his apple trees have made a four-foot growth this season. He also has nearly all varieties of small fruits. He had the largest potato tops . . . and cabbages that would weight 15 to 20 pounds at the least calculation. [217]

Thirteen years after Buzzard arrived, the USFS completed a government report on his "agricultural settlement." In 1902, the ranger responsible for the report noted a three-room house, 16' x 42' in size (the dimensions of the extant cabin today), a 24'x 27' log barn, 25 acres of land "under plow," 40 acres "under fence," and 60 acres "under ditch." [218]

Farming and mining claims in Horseshoe Basin occupied most of Buzzard's time, but he also operated a horsepacking business one year. The Chelan Leader reported in 1896 that Buzzard was ". . . getting ready to do a general freight and passenger business from the head of the lake to all the mining camps in that vicinity, and will be able to furnish good saddle or pack horses on short notice." [219] Whether it was a successful venture is not known, but by September of that year he had traded his pack train to M.E. Field. [220] Buzzard also earned a living selling cordwood logged from his land to the boat company operating on Lake Chelan. In 1900 and 1901 he removed a sizable amount of timber from his claim, and two years later he reportedly cut and sold 150 telephone poles. [221]

Despite all his profitable ventures, Buzzard almost always left the valley to live in Spokane for the winter. Each spring, in March or April, he would return to his "valuable and beautiful home" in Stehekin and prepare to work his mining claims up the valley. [222] On November 9, 1903, he officially purchased his homestead from the government. [223]

Buzzard continued to live summers on his ranch until 1910, when he decided to sell his property. He entered into an escrow agreement with William Van Buckner, a Californian interested in developing the homestead further. Apparently because Buzzard was a spendthrift, this agreement stated that Buckner would pay for the property by depositing fifty dollars a month into a bank in California (in lieu of paying Buzzard the entire price), until the total amount for the ranch was paid. After this agreement was made and papers signed, Buzzard moved downlake to Chelan where he lived until his death in 1919. Local tradition holds that by the time Buzzard died, Buckner had paid off all but $50 of the $5000 purchase price. With this remaining payment Buckner purchased a headstone for Buzzard, who was buried in the Old Fraternal Cemetery in Chelan. [224]

The arrival of the Buckner family in Stehekin marks a second period of settlement in the valley. Between the years 1910 and 1920 more individuals and families came uplake to settle permanently, most arriving before 1915 and filing homestead claims in the early 1910s. While some new settlers were associated with mining, many were not and found other ways to subsist. Thirteen people were recorded as living in Stehekin at the time of the 1910 census. [225] This number did not change markedly over the next several decades. As late as the 1930s a few individuals were filing for homesteads in the valley, but the residential population remained constant. And times remained hard for most. A 1935 USFS report on forest homesteads stated:

There are about fourteen homesteads in the Stehekin valley and of the number only two are making a living from the use of land. In all, there are only 5 families living on their homesteads. 3 of these families are practically living on subsistence homesteads. They raise a little garden and live on money earned working for the Forest Service during the summer. [226]

The first Buckner to arrive in Stehekin came years before the Buzzard-William Van Buckner agreement of 1910. Henry Freeland Buckner came uplake in 1898 and was active early on in the Horseshoe Basin mining area. He became a manager of an important mine there and was instrumental in getting a telephone line into the basin as early as 1905. [227] He supplemented his mining income through carpentry and in the spring or summer of 1910 he built the Rainbow Lodge for Lydia George. [228] That same summer Henry Buckner applied for an 80-acre homestead on a tract of land two miles from Stehekin. Nestled between Buzzard's and Margerum's claims, Buckner's parcel was bisected by the Stehekin River; Rainbow Creek and the state wagon road traversed the eastern portion of the property (T33N R17E, Section 26, NE 1/4). One month later, USFS Ranger Jack Blankenship recommended that only 50 of the original acres applied for were suitable for agricultural purposes. Buckner died before the end of that year (1910), however, and never received title to the land. [229] A mountain above Horseshoe Basin was named for this early pioneer.

It was in the fall of 1910 that Henry Buckner's brother William first visited Stehekin. William was interested in purchasing property as an investment, and he remained three days uplake to investigate possibilities in the Stehekin valley. During this time he met Bill Buzzard and viewed Buzzard's ranch. Only after William departed Stehekin did he learn that Buzzard was willing to sell his 149-acre property (11 acres across the road had already been sold to Lydia George), and in late 1910 Buckner returned to Stehekin to discuss the matter with the old rancher.

Early April of the next year brought William, his wife, and a son to Stehekin. They would be followed by their two younger children who came in May, after completing their school year. Upon arrival at their new home in Stehekin, the family found that Buzzard had cleared only about an acre of land for a garden. The remaining land was mostly stumps because Buzzard had removed the valuable commercial timber from the property earlier on. With intentions of operating an orchard, the family set out to clear additional land. Since proper irrigation of the land was necessary, the Buckners designed a system that would divert water from Rainbow Creek to various parts of the orchard. They spent two months of that first summer digging the irrigation ditch by hand; the rest of the summer was spent clearing stumps. By April of 1912, the family was able to plant 15-20 acres of orchard.

Gradually the family increased their production until their ranch had about 50 acres of cleared and planted land. Along with improving the land for commercial production, the Buckner family worked hard at making their homestead a comfortable and livable environment. They grew vegetables and flowers and raised pigs, cows and chickens. The old log cabin had already been enlarged to three rooms by its former owner, but other structures were needed to protect animals, machinery, tools, and foodstuffs. Eventually the Buckner ranch had more than a dozen outbuildings, including a milk house, root cellar, chicken house, workshop, barn, outhouse, playhouse, smokehouse, sleeping cabins for guests or hired hands, and sheds for general use. [230] A wooden fence one mile in length was built to contain the entire property; lumber for it and all the other structures was produced at Frank Lesh's sawmill located upriver from the Buckner place. Rough, unfinished board and batten siding was used for all the structures, giving them a homogeneous appearance.

Everything on the ranch was built by the Buckners, using their own skills, experience, and knowledge. Since the family initially resided in Stehekin only during the summer months (until 1915 when son Harry began to stay permanently), the homestead developed slowly, reflecting the family's changing needs and desires, as well as evolving farm practices. When the Buckners decided they wanted electric lights, they converted a smokehouse into a power generator house. Although much of their time and energy went into making a livelihood, the Buckners also made the ranch a home, adding their own personal touch to an otherwise strictly functional complex. They constructed a simple swimming pool for summer fun and refreshment. To decorate the yard they mounted a sundial on a cobblestone base, planted flowers in the shape of a "B", and red, white, and blue flowers together in a "flag" bed. After grandchildren appeared, a playhouse was built for the children to enjoy.

Buzzard/Buckner cabin and outbuildings on homestead, 1984. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS)

William Buckner and his wife Mae lived in the old Buzzard cabin seasonally until 1924. This was the last summer they spent in Stehekin before returning permanently to California. For the next 25 years various people used the old cabin but the focal point of the homestead had long since shifted to a 1914 sleeping cabin which, over the course of several decades, had been enlarged and added to to become the homestead's main house. In 1919 this house became home for Buckner son Harry, his wife Olive (M.E. Field's daughter), and eventually, their three daughters.

Interior of Buzzard/Buckner cabin showing fireplace, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

Buckner homestead outbuildings, 1985. (Photo by C. Gilbert, NPS)

It was not long before the Buckner homestead, essentially Harry's ranch, became a place well-known for both its delicious apple crop and family hospitality. Summer or winter, valley residents who passed by were always welcomed into the Buckner home to chat over homemade ice cream and coffee or a hot cooked meal. The ranch became a center of community activity, with square dances held in the apple packing shed. Over the years Harry became a familiar face in the community as Stehekin's postmaster, weatherman, and long-time valley resident. Harry's first wife died in 1948. He eventually remarried and continued to live on the homestead until the national park was created. In 1970 Harry and his wife Lena moved to a parcel of land they had retained for themselves, and sold the remaining property, orchard and all, to the National Park Service.

Today, the Buckner homestead remains intact in location and appearance, within audible range of the Stehekin River. The Park Service uses the homestead as a means of interpreting the pioneer era in the Stehekin valley. To be sure, the place has an air of an earlier time with the old log and frame cabin (now listed in the National Register of Historic Places), the numerous board and batten outbuildings, and the orchard, but it also exudes the feeling of a place very much alive, not frozen in time. Changes have been made to numerous ranch structures over the years, but their overall integrity has been retained, creating visible links between the past and present. Although it is no longer a working farm, people still live in the main house, horses graze in the pasture, apples are still picked in the fall, Rainbow Creek water still flows through the irrigation ditches, and many of the outbuildings are still in use. Remnants of other early features can still be found around the ranch: the old swimming pool with its cracked concrete foundation remains; the 1914 barn, albeit in ruins, is still in place; the old four-board-high fence can be located here and there; the concrete floor of the former apple packing shed is still used for community square dances. All of these elements help the site maintain its historic integrity, creating a place of remarkable value for the understanding of early homesteading efforts in the remote Stehekin valley. [231]

At least eight additional settlers came to Stehekin during the second decade of the twentieth century, locating homesteads along the river near and beyond the Buckner ranch. Directly across the Stehekin valley road from the Buckner ranch was the home of Lydia George. Although not a traditional homesteader, Miss George was an early settler who established a life for herself and remained in the valley for several decades. She was uplake by at least 1905 and employed by Henry Buckner as a telephone operator on Buckner's line which ran between Stehekin and Horseshoe Basin. [232] Stationed at Bridge Creek, Miss George later was ". . . in charge of the culinary department" at the mining camp located there. [233]

Soon to tire of working for others, Miss George hired Henry Buckner in 1910 to build a 6-room house for her on 11 acres of land she had purchased earlier from Bill Buzzard. She opened a hostelry for miners, tourists, and fishermen, providing them with good food and clean beds. The place was named Rainbow Lodge, after the nearby creek and falls, and it quickly became a popular place to board. As a result of the early success of the small lodge, Althea Rice, Lydia's sister, came uplake to help run the seasonal inn. With business steady and profitable the lodge continued to expand, and by the 1920s small individual cabins had been built on the property. This enabled guests to cook their own meals and come and go as they pleased.

Early view of Rainbow Lodge, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

After Lydia George died, Althea Rice acquired interest in the property and continued to operate the lodge up to World War II. Althea resided in the house with her son Donald until her death in the 1950s. In turn, Donald inherited the property and lived there into the 1970s. [234] Today, the early home of Lydia George can still be found on its original site. Though neglected and deteriorated, it is still occupied periodically. A small shed and root cellar are sited nearby, and scattered throughout the complex are remnants of the cabins which formerly slept guests from as far away as Kentucky. [235]

Rainbow Lodge as it appears today. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

Near Lydia George's land and adjoining Buckner's homestead to the south was Fred W. Merritt's homestead claim. Merritt came uplake in 1915 and claimed 50 acres in the vicinity of Henry Buckner's claim. [236] He made his living working seasonally in the valley for the USFS and a local enterprise, the Lesh sawmill. When Merritt's property was evaluated for homestead entry in 1922, USFS Ranger Blankenship observed many improvements including a 12' x 30' house of rough lumber, a cellar, woodshed, barn, chicken house, and 8-1/2 chains of picket fence surrounding the complex Enough land had been cleared to plant a garden and raise animals. Later that same year, on September 5, Merritt's patent was issued and he gained full title to his claim, which had been reduced earlier to 10 acres. [237]

Today, this parcel is owned — in part — by Herbert Bowles. Merritt's remaining original 40 acres were claimed years later, in the 1930s, by a man named Bernard Devin. Arriving in 1930, Devin lived in a tent that first summer. By 1931, he had a one-room frame house built (about 12' x 12') on the property, replacing a smaller log cabin built earlier (possibly by Henry Buckner). Devin received patent on his homestead shortly after 1936. His land is owned entirely by the NPS today, and no remnants of his cabin are known to be extant. [238].

Across from Buckner's homestead on the south side of the river was land claimed by Bernard (Barney) Zell. He had originally filed on 10 acres near the head of the lake (T33N R17E, Section 36), but this sale was canceled by relinquishment on January 22, 1915. Zell refiled on July 15, 1915, on nearly 82 acres he claimed farther upriver, approximately 3-1/2 miles above Stehekin near Blackberry Creek (Section 26). Two years later USFS Ranger Blankenship reported on Zell's improvements to the homestead and found over 7 acres of cleared land, 2 acres planted in garden, a 12' x 12' three-room frame house, a root cellar, and a new barn under construction. An older barn on the site had been repaired by Zell for use on the homestead. [239]

Directly adjacent to the Zell homestead was a homestead originally claimed by a man named Igo Inlow. Inlow first came uplake in 1913 and soon after filed on 85 acres approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile below Company Creek (T33N R17E, Section 22). Two years later Inlow applied for an additional 32 acres, increasing his claim to more than 100 acres. When USFS Ranger Blankenship visited the claim in 1917, he observed a 1-story, 2-room lumber house (16' x 16') with a 10' addition, 3-1/2 acres of land planted, and a dozen apple trees. [240] For unknown reasons Inlow relinquished his homestead claim in 1919.

The following year Charles F. Byrd filed on Inlow's former claim and arrived in Stehekin shortly thereafter. He built two bridges, one across the river and another over a slough (both more than 100 feet long) to link his property with the valley road. Byrd owned four head of cattle, two horses, and an assortment of farm equipment including a wagon, plow, harrow, and drag-saw. Well-equipped to cultivate his land, Byrd successfully grew oats, potatoes, and carrots. Within two years after the application was filed, President Warren G. Harding signed Byrd's homestead patent. [241]

Beyond Byrd's property were two claims across the Stehekin River from each other. Frank Lesh's homestead was located on the south side of the river, approximately 1-1/2 miles above Company Creek (T33N R17E, Sections 15, 16, and 21 in part). Lesh was a Californian who learned of Stehekin from one of Harry Buckner's brothers. With the intention of starting a sawmill business, Lesh came uplake about 1912 and settled on land previously inhabited by a miner and trapper named McKeever. McKeever had built a log cabin long before the national forest was created and this cabin was still standing in 1912. To satisfy stringent homestead requirements, Lesh added a two-story, four-room frame house (16' x 24'), a cellar, two woodsheds, a barn, and a wagon shed to the property. Lesh constructed more than a dozen other wood frame outbuildings as well, all associated with his sawmill operation which ran between 1913 and 1918. An important valley business, Lesh's sawmill provided lumber for numerous structures in the area and employment for various people. [242] When high wages and labor problems became unmanageable in 1918, Lesh was forced to close. He left the valley that same year, abandoning his claim for several years. He returned for a time, received patent on his land in 1921, and eventually sold much of it in the 1940s to the Armbruster family, who ultimately retained ownership until selling to the NPS. [243]

Across the river opposite Lesh's homestead was Alfred D. Bowan's claim of 76 acres (T33N R17E, Sections 15 and 16). Arriving in Stehekin in 1910 Bowan settled on his claim the following spring. He lived on this land year-round except for periodic absences during the winters of 1912, 1913, and 1914 when he was trapping animals on various Stehekin River tributaries. Besides trapping, Bowan earned a living working at the Lesh sawmill, cutting timber on his land and selling or trading it for sawn lumber at Lesh's, and working for the USFS. In 1918 Bowan's claim was evaluated for homestead eligibility by the USFS. Ranger Blankenship reported that Bowan's place had an "appearance of a permanent home." Improvements included a two-room log cabin (14' x 40'), a frame barn, 6-1/2 acres of fenced land, and 4-1/2 acres of wheat, corn, beans, melons, and a variety of other garden vegetables. [244] Bowan received patent on his homestead on February 3, 1920; however, he did not remain in the valley for long after. Today Bowan's land is owned in its entirety by the NPS.

Above the Lesh and Bowan homesteads a miner and trapper named McComb built a log cabin about 1889, along the south side of the Stehekin River. [245] Some time before 1905 he built a second, larger cabin (14' x 24') nearby. The "McComb Place", located directly across the river from McGregor Flat, was later filed for homestead entry by James Moagham. Moagham applied for 160 acres in 1911, and arrived the next year with Frank Lesh to work as his bookkeeper. He later sold his claim and its improvements to a man named Byers who was also a mill employee. In turn, Byers sold the place to Hugh Courtney, who came uplake in the 1910s to work at Lesh's mill. [246]

Filing a claim in 1918 for only 53 acres, Hugh Courtney, his wife Mamie, and their five children settled into their new home shortly after. When USFS Ranger Blankenship visited the property in 1919, he noted many improvements to the old McComb place. Courtney had added a new floor, windows, and door to the "roughly made but substantial" log cabin, and was working on clearing and plowing the land for a garden. Within four years Courtney had added a rough lumber addition (16' x 16') to the cabin enlarging it to two rooms for his growing family. The house contained a range, kitchen and dining tables, four beds, a phonograph, and various other pieces of furniture. Courtney also built a cellar, barn, and hay shed on the homestead. [247]

As the Courtney children grew up, they left home, married, and moved elsewhere in the valley. Hugh and Mamie continued to live in the old cabin until 1950 when son Curtice acquired the property. Curt did not live in the old cabin but next door, in a larger, modern house. From then on, the log cabin was used as a rental. Eventually Curt subdivided the homestead, selling off parcels, and in 1971 he sold the land and his family's cabin to the National Park Service. [248]

Today, the old cabin is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an example of homesteading efforts in the Stehekin valley. Despite this recognition, the cabin barely stands, extremely deteriorated by the elements. Ironically, it has outlived the newer Courtney house next door, which burned to the ground, leaving only a stone fireplace intact. The wood frame additions to the cabin were dilapidated and were removed by the NPS in the 1970s, and the root cellar was closed as a safety measure. But the cabin remains, tangible evidence of the way many early settlers first lived in the Stehekin valley. A recent field-check of the older McComb cabin (located to the north) revealed only bare traces of the cabin's foundation logs. These are found on the McConnell property today.

Farther upvalley and on the north side of the river was Robert A. Stanley's homestead claim of nearly 80 acres (T33N R17E, Sections 8, 9 and 16). Arriving in 1904, Stanley chose land adjoining the McGregor Flat Ranger Station site, six miles from the head of the lake. He filed his homestead claim one decade later. By 1920 he had constructed a 1-1/2-story log house (24' x 26') with a basement, a wood shed, and a log barn. Other improvements to the homestead included 5-1/2 acres of cultivated land and 10 fenced acres. Years of successful garden crops allowed Stanley to sell thousands of pounds of potatoes, carrots, beans, and rutabagas to the local market. [249] Unfortunately Stanley died less than one month before receiving his final patent to the homestead (in 1921). The title was passed to his wife. Over the years the privately-owned land was sub-divided and the old Stanley cabin fell victim to the elements. Today, the acreage of the early homestead is shared by more than a dozen different owners.

Pershall's homestead, mentioned earlier in the chapter, adjoined Stanley's. Beyond Pershall's claim was the farthest homestead in the remote upper Stehekin valley. Oliver P. Maxwell traveled 7-1/2 miles upriver in 1912 to settle on approximately 148 acres (T33N R17E, Sections 7 and 12). He officially filed for the land the following year (1913), increasing his claim with an additional 12 acres in 1914. Over the course of six years "O.P.," as he was known, diligently improved his homestead by building a 2-story log cabin (16' x 20'), a cellar, a large barn, and a well. He fenced 20 acres and planted another in orchard alone. When USFS Ranger Blankenship came to survey Maxwell's claim in 1918, he noted that the settler had planted nearly 60 fruit and nut trees including almonds, walnuts, quince, apples, peaches, pears, apricots, and plums. Strawberries, loganberries, asparagus and other vegetables supplemented the richly-planted farmstead. "O.P." Maxwell received patent for his property without difficulty in 1919. [250]

Cabin on Maxwell Homestead in Stehekin River valley, n.d. This early structure is owned by the Courtney family today. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

Maxwell's land was sub-divided some time after 1931 and parcels sold to the Chelan Box Manufacturing Company and the Ray Courtney family. Today, all but 20 acres are owned by the NPS, and the remaining 20 are retained by Esther Courtney. An old cabin located on this acreage was probably built by Maxwell himself. The Courtneys no longer use this cabin as a residence, but live instead across the valley road and at the far end of a large pasture, in a newer, rustic-looking house. [251]


Over the years the North Cascades have harbored hardy individuals attempting to make the rugged mountains their home. Before the turn of the century and long before the general population of the northwest was familiar with this territory, a few miners and other individuals claimed land for homesteading along major rivers draining the North Cascades. Some were successful in establishing their homesteads but many others were not. Hardships encountered by early settlers included difficult physical access into the area, limited agricultural soils, a lack of surveyed land, and restrictions to settlement following the establishment of forest reserves by the federal government.

Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, individuals did make the upper Skagit River and the Stehekin River valleys their home. However, very little physical evidence remains of structures relating to this important chapter in park history. Cabins and homesteads abandoned by owners were left to deteriorate naturally. Others burned or were purposefully dismantled. The resources that remain, therefore, increase in significance because of the information they may offer.

Settlement is a significant theme within the overall context of the human history of the park and should be part of the park's interpretive program, including presentations at visitor centers and discussions in park publications.

The following resources are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places within the historic theme identified in this chapter:

GILBERT'S CABIN, an early log structure, is a fine example of dove-tailed, hewn log cabin construction, unique within the park. It is also associated with a miner and settler significant to the area's settlement and development. The cabin is presently listed on the park's List of Classified Structures (LCS).

BUCKNER HOMESTEAD AND ORCHARD represents one of the earliest homesteads in the Stehekin valley. Its evolution from a single cabin to an intricate complex of structures, paths, irrigation ditches, and fruit orchard contributes to our understanding of settlement in this wilderness area. Although the Buzzard/Buckner Cabin is presently listed in the National Register and the LCS, it is recommended that the entire complex, as defined in the Cultural Landscape Inventory: Buckner Homestead (NPS-PNRO: Summer 1984) be documented for inclusion in the National Register.

RICE RESIDENCE/RAINBOW LODGE has been determined eligible for the National Register.

The 1921 log STEHEKIN SCHOOL, with its subsequent additions, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is very likely that a new school will be built in the valley in the near future. Recommend that an appropriate long-term use be found for this building and a maintenance schedule outlined to allow for its continued use as a functional structure.

This study recommends that the ROWLAND HOMESTEAD be placed on the park's List of Classified Structures and that the park monitor and maintain the site to the degree that the ruins are stabilized. Because of its tangible remnants this site offers significant historical information. Listing on the LCS allows the NPS to consider all park actions impacting this cultural property. It is recommended that park policy on the treatment of this site, and its management as a cultural resource, be addressed in the General Management Plan for the park complex. Also, it is recommended that this early homestead be studied and recorded more thoroughly by a historical archeologist to determine the site's eligibility for the National Register as an archeological site under criterion D.

The COURTNEY CABIN is presently listed on the LCS and in the National Register as an example of an early homesteader's cabin in the Stehekin valley. For years it has been vacant. Recommend the park staff review its status and, if an appropriate use and future for the cabin can be determined, undertake the appropriate stabilization measures to assure its preservation. If a decision is made to continue to allow the cabin to deteriorate, recommend that the cabin be recorded to the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey and approval to continue a "benign neglect" policy be sought in accordance with NPS guidelines and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Because they do not meet the criteria for eligibility, this study recommends that the following structures associated with this theme not be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places:


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Last Updated: 07-Feb-1999