THE ROAD FROM MORTON AND MOSSYROCK TO MONTESANO
LOGGING THE WILLAPA HILLS, A HISTORY OF THE BROWN FAMILY
By Dan Brown
This information can be considered as a biography of sorts of the George Brown family. George and most of his married sons and their families migrated between 1910 and 1919 from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia to western Washington.
This is a work in progress as other info continues to be found and added.
It is the hopes of Dan Brown, the author and submitter, that the following information will be helpful to other researchers or relatives to fill in some “missing pieces” and add to the interest of the history of western Washington during the logging boom of the early 1900s.
Some names, places and events have been bolded (for attention) and some notes or comments (by Dan Brown and others) are in brackets.
Although Dan Brown has some additional information, including a few pictures that he is willing to share, it is also hoped that more info can be found even for in-laws, other spouses, step children, etc. Any records will be helpful such as census records, newspaper articles, directory listings, public records, church records, photos, school yearbooks, birth/marriage/divorce/death records, court records such as probate/land/deed/or wills, obituaries, tombstone pictures or cemetery records, and other related internet biographical or historical articles. Undoubtedly there are many names, dates, places, events and sources that are unknown to the author that would be very helpful and interesting. Hopefully there are also unknown cousins or distant relatives who may be interested in this information or be willing to contribute additional history.
Please do not assume that just because something is mentioned in this biography, that the info is correct or that the author has more info about that person, place or event—although it’s possible. Dan would like to be able to verify what is thought to be accurate (as stated herein) with records (yet to be found) that would verify and increase the knowledge of the Brown family history.
Special Thanks to my newly found siblings and to many formerly unknown distant cousins who have unselfishly contributed and willingly shared, and especially to the numerous “volunteer lookups” from RAOGK (Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness) who have gone “the extra mile” to help freely locate the sources for much of this information that has immensely helped the growth of the Brown family tree by nourishing the roots.
Introduction by Dan Brown, the submitter--
Introduction to the author, Coy Delbert Brown (deceased 19 April 1995 Tacoma, WA)-
The autobiography or memoirs herein below were written by Coy Delbert Brown who was born 18 Mar 1905 in Pageton, WV and died 19 Apr 1995 in Tacoma, WA.
Coy is the son of Jonathon and Martha Frances Caudill Brown. Jonathon is the brother of Joseph Brown who is the grandfather of the submitter, Dan Brown.
Coy also wrote memoirs titled “KENTUCKY” (pt I) and “Moving West” (pt II) which has been submitted by Dan Brown to the WA GenWeb Lewis Co site. This “Montesano” is pt III and the last in a series.
Coy and his parents, siblings, many uncles and aunts, and grandparents migrated from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the east to Lewis and Grays Harbor County in Washington beginning in 1910. Many of Coy’s relatives are buried in the Wynoochee Cemetery in Montesano.
Coy Delbert Brown was born 18 March 1905 in Pageton, McDowell Co, WV, but his parents and ancestors were all originally from Wilkes and Ashe Co, North Carolina. Coy's parents, Jonathon & Martha Frances (Caudill) Brown, upon their arrival in Lewis County had tried traditional subsistence farming but Jonathon also worked in a brick and tile factory in town of Morton. In his memoirs, Coy talks about how his dad became a logger and had to move often to keep up with the timber jobs in the region. Coy's mother, Martha (3 Jun 1878-10 Jan 1939), also wrote her biography titled "Memoirs of Martha F. Caudill Brown". Martha very vividly describes her daily life from childhood, young married life, and her hardships endured while her husband searches for work both in the Blue Ridge Mtns and also in both Lewis and Grays Harbor Co after 1910. Dan has collected much genealogical info, family history and pictures on many of his paternal Brown ancestors.
For additional information or to make corrections, additions or comments, please contact-
1131 SW Wanetah Way
McMinnville, OR 97128
ph 503 434-1215
This narrative is not an attempt at genealogy and the accounts, events and incidents are not in chronological order. Rather, it is a factual, as far as can be determined, of circumstances and occurrences in which might be of some interest. It is hoped that it may provide some bit of diversion and enjoyment. If so it has been most worthwhile.—Coy Brown
Origin of Washington Geographic Names
Montesano, the county seat of Grays Harbor County. The first settler was Isaiah L. Scammon, who came from Maine by way of California, arriving in 1852. (H.H. Bancroff: Works: Volume XXXI., pages 36-37.) When the county of Chehalis (name later changed to Grays Harbor) was created on April 14, 1854, the Washington Territorial Legislature located the county seat “at the house of D.K. Welden (Laws of Washington, 1854, page 476.) On January 28, 1860, it was relocated “at the place of J.L. Scammons.” Mrs. Lorinda Scammon, wife of the pioneer was very religious and wished to call the place “Mount Zion.” At a little fireside council Samuel James, pioneer of Mound Prairie, suggested that Montesano had a more pleasant sound and about the same meaning. The suggestion was approved and soon afterwards a post office was secured with the same name. A few years later, S.H. Williams, son-in-law of S.S. Ford, and one of the party shipwrecked on Queen Charlotte Island, enslaved by the Haidah Indians, ransomed and rescued by other pioneers, bought sixteen acres on Medcalf Prairie and recorded his plat of “Montesano.” The Chehalis River and a mile and a half of swampy road lay between the two places. A town-site war resulted. The county seat remained at the Scammon place but population and business flowed to the prairie town. The people of the county voted in 1886 to move the county seat and the Scammon place became known as South Montesano. (M.J. Luark, in Names MSS., Letter 548.) One of those who platted and helped to build the new town was Charles N. Byles. (History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, Volume II., pages 239.) The new town had been incorporated by the Legislature on November 26, 1883.
NOTE by Dan Brown: It is unknown if the paragraph above was actually written or copied by Coy Brown, but it was a part of his manuscript or memoirs.
Below is a portion of Coy Brown’s “Moving West” biography which has been edited by Dan Brown to show the migration of the Browns from Ashlock and Pluvius in Lewis County to Montesano in Grays Harbor Co.
“Our folks were considering purchasing a farm in the valley and thought that within another year they would be in a position to do so. Then we received word that the owner of the farm, Mr. Blankenship had died and the Nesika property would be turned over to others who would move onto the farm.
After much thought and discussion they decided it was wise to accept work with a small timber company that had been offered to him. They had corresponded regularly with friends and relatives who worked there and every letter urged them to move there. Mr. Ed Lester, owner of the operation had also written him that he would have work for him if and when he decided to move there. With mixed feelings of regret and relief our folks began to arrange their affairs, dispose of the necessary things and stock at the farm and prepare to move to Ashlock and start a new line of work in a logging camp.
Our parents wrote friends at Ashlock asking them to arrange housing and soon received a reply that there was nothing just then at Ashlock but there was a house available at Pluvius, about three miles south with enough ground for a garden and for some small stock. This we could rent until a place was available at Ashlock. They wrote back accepting this. All our belongings were shipped by wagon to Chehalis then by train to Pluvius and we were soon in our new home. Ashlock was a regular train stop but Pluvius was what was known as a flag stop, which meant that the train would only stop if signaled or if requested when on the train. The train stopped long enough to unload our belongings. Friends from Ashlock were on hand to assist us in getting settled and we were soon comfortably installed in our new home.
Our Pluvius home reminded us of our home on the small farm at Nesika. The farmhouse was about three hundred yards from the road and railroad, which ran parallel and was near the end of a six-acre cleared garden and meadow and was surrounded by timber. It was a quiet and homey place and we were happy to live there as long as was necessary.
Life at Pluvius was very pleasant. Dad began working in the logging woods three days after we arrived and had to walk the three miles to his work. He was well satisfied with his work and felt that the move had been a good choice.
One day we were told that a new house was nearly completed at Ashlock and we could move there shortly. The house, which was built by the timber company, was a wooden framework twelve feet wide and thirty feet long. A solid floor and wood wall built up four feet high with a two by four framework over this. Then a tent of the same size was fitted over the framework. Posts were set up and a shake roof built over the entire structure. It was comfortable and secure from the weather and we had ample room for our family. The timber company furnished this to the workers and most of the people lived in this type of building. Life at Ashlock was a close-knit community. Everyone worked in the logging woods and shared the same common interest. All the children went to the one room schoolhouse. All school functions, church services and social gatherings were held in the schoolhouse.
While at Ashlock the First World War broke out. Feeling and interest ran high and surprisingly that much support was expressed for Germany. This was long before America became involved in the war and although everyone discussed it I can remember many remarks that it was not our concern as it was impossible that we would become involved. The planes then were constructed of wood and fabric. Spruce was in great demand for plane building as it was a strong but lightweight wood. All loggers processed as much spruce as possible to supply the demand. My father and three of his brothers worked in the woods and received a little publicity for their work. –
Mr. Lester came to our home one evening and told dad that the timber he had been promised and on which he had planned would not be available and he would soon have to close the operation, as he would be out of timber to cut. He advised dad to find another job for a while as he had acquired a large tract in Grays Harbor County and as soon as he began his operations again he wanted dad to work for him again.
This would mean that we would soon have to move again.--
We soon moved to Walville, a sawmill town about seven miles west of Ashlock. The house we rented was not large enough for our family but our folks said we could get along until something better came along. Dad thought this was a fairly good place to work although the company seemed more demanding of the workers. Walville was a small town with a company store where we bought all our supplies but we felt they charged more than was necessary. It was a pleasant town and the folks were friendly and considerate. The mill was a good-sized operation, which employed a lot of men in the combined mill, and logging operation. It was located on the main railroad line, which was convenient for shipping or for taking the train to Chehalis or other shopping area.
There was a large millpond at the sawmill. The logs were hauled from the woods and dumped into the millpond then taken into the sawmill by conveyor to be sawed into lumber. On one side of the mill pond there was a Chinese community. We were told that they had come into the country illegally. They stayed with the community and never entered into any of the town’s social activities. They worked in the mill and on the railroad, which the company maintained. We seldom saw them but they were polite and unobtrusive. We saw very little of them or their activities.
The men were working ten hours a day and six days a week. At the time there was a movement afoot to cut the workday to eight hours. The loggers were asked their opinion of this and dad said he was in favor of it. The owners were not too pleased with those who felt this way and found things to make work disagreeable for the dissenters. Dad looked for work elsewhere and was given a job at Doty, which was about fifteen miles further west.
The move to Doty was comparatively simple and we were soon settled. We had found a nice house and good neighbors so everyone was happy. Doty was a fair sized timber and saw mill operation with good houses and very good school and store. Our home was located just across the tracks form the mill. By the tracks was a large hopper into which the mill chain carried the sawed mill ends and scrap.
One day he received a letter from Mr. Ed Lester saying that he had secured the timber and would be ready to start his operation again within a very short time. He asked my dad to work for him as bull buck, which is foreman of the timber cutting crew. It was a very good offer and dad wrote back accepting and would come as soon as he could arrange it. He wrote friends in Montesano asking about housing there and got an immediate reply stating that a good house was available.
By this time we had accumulated too many things to leave behind. Dad arranged to have a small boxcar left on the siding and all our belongings were loaded into it. Then we all made the rounds saying goodbye to the friends we had made, and then boarded the train for our final trek west to Montesano.
NOTE – With the exception of the preceding extracts from “Moving West”, Dan Brown has not added nor deleted any content to “Montesano” except to insert paragraph headings.
We had all acquired some good friends in Doty and so we now made our rounds saying goodbye and exacting promises to write and keep in touch. One of the ladies, a good friend of our mother, came over saying she had prepared a lunch for all of us before we had to leave, then off to board the train. The arrival of the train always attracted a few people to the station. When our train arrived there was a sizable gathering to see us off.
Moving to Montesano seemed some how different than our previous moves. Whereas our previous moves had been to follow the available timber, this seemed more permanent where lasting associations could be formed and permanent roots put down. Also, Montesano was by far the largest town in which we had lived. The largest previously had been the small mill town of Doty whereas Montesano was a sizable town of nearly two thousand people. Also, we were reminded that our family unit would, before long be cut down as we grew up and left home for other fields.
Montesano was a bustling community and several passengers left the train and several boarded the train for towns farther west. Several relatives met us at the station and as we walked through the town to our new home, pointed out points of interest, court house, school and impressive buildings. The finest building we were told, belonged to a prominent lumberman who owned a logging company and sawmills. Montesano was the county seat and the courthouse was a very impressive building. However, none looked as good to us as the home which had been rented for us, a sizable two story house with a large yard and garden spot with a white picket fence in front. We thought it was beautiful and everyone was happy.
My father’s three brothers who had worked with him at Ashlock had moved to Montesano before us. For the first few days we spent most of our time in renewing relationships, meeting new friends and getting settled. We had previously been told that people in larger places were not as friendly as in smaller towns. We found everyone just as nice and friendly as any we had ever met. There were just more of them and consequently more friends.
Our father went to work immediately in the logging woods and we were enrolled in school, which was near our home. De attending high school, the rest of us in our respective grades. De was a top student receiving excellent grades. Virgie did quite well in all her grades while Roy and I usually had to struggle with our schoolwork. We all liked the school and our teachers and we had all made new friends.
De and Roy attended high school in Montesano while Virgie and I attended a tiny school about two miles from our home. There were only four in the school, a boy about my age and his sister who was Virgie’s age so there were only two grades. We had a real good teacher, a Miss Kemp who was a good teacher and very thorough. She insisted that we be proficient in every subject, especially English and spelling so we all became pretty good spellers. De was in the last grade in high school and Roy was two grades lowered. De was an excellent student and all her teachers were lavish in their praise of her work. Roy had problems in school and thought he would be better off to leave school and follow logging work, which he liked. Our parents objected but finally gave in as Roy had little interest in schoolwork but was a very good logger. So it was, after finishing two years of high school he went to work full time in the logging camps.
"Notorious outlaw of the Northwest, John Tornow"
We were regaled with interesting information about the area and some fascinating accounts of local history. One was of the recent hunt for the most notorious outlaw of the northwest, John Tornow. John Tornow was a strange man who often disappeared into the woods for weeks at a time. Starting at age ten he periodically survived in the forest for long periods. Because of his eccentric behavior and some said, to prevent his claiming any part of the family property, relatives and friends had him committed to a mental institution in Portland, Oregon. After a few weeks he walked home, secured a gun and ammunition and supplies and disappeared into the forest. He left word that he wanted only to be left alone and would not be returned to captivity.
He killed two men he thought were pursuing him and a massive manhunt followed extending over two years. He roamed the Satsop and Wynooche areas, contriving ingenious hideouts. The area was terrorized and few would venture into the woods. He killed five men who had been sent to track him down before a deputy sheriff stopped him. This account can be found in FAMOUS NORTHWEST MANHUNTS AND MURDER MYSTERIES by Hollis B. Fultz. NOTE by Dan Brown—Dan has a manuscript of the story but it has not been transcribed or scanned.
Boy meets girl
Roy had become enamored with a pretty young girl in Doty and who had promised to write him. He wrote her a letter, which she soon answered. He wrote her two more letters, which were never answered. He said that he had never cared for her anyway and didn’t care whether she wrote anyway. However, he continued to watch the mail for a while and finally gave up.
One weekend Roy and I went with dad to see a Mr. Dillard who owned a farm near Vesta. After they had concluded their business Mr. Dillard asked us to meet his family. We met his wife and sons and were introduced to his two daughters. Dad turned to the girls and pointing to us said “Here they are girls, take your pick.” Everyone laughed but we were embarrassed. On the way home Roy said “The older girl Naomi seems like a real nice girl. I think I will call on her someday.” Not long afterward he did go see her and they began going steady.
“Moclips, the end of the line”--at the Pacific Ocean, a family vacation
None of us had ever seen a body of water larger than a river or lake. Now our parents began planning a trip to the ocean beach. We were all excited about it and though we had read of the ocean it seemed remote and foreign to us. Our uncle Roby and his family were going along which made a sizable group. After much planning and advice from those who had gone there we all boarded the train for Moclips, the end of the line.
Our first view of the ocean was awe-inspiring. We had never imagined such an expanse of water and the roll of the surf was fascinating to watch. We saw a column of smoke on the horizon and were told that it came from a large ship. Virgie asked why if we saw the smoke we couldn’t see the ship. Patiently De explained that the water actually curved and that the ship was below the curve. Roy and I knew that water couldn’t curve but we didn’t argue because we always lost every argument.
We all had lodgings at the ancient hotel and after we had secured our rooms we spent the evening exploring the small town and all the different things to see. After we had retired the roar of the surf kept us awake for a while but after a time it seemed to lull us to sleep. We all slept soundly and awoke ready and anxious to get back to the beach.
It was a great day at the beach for everyone. All we younger ones were soon soaked to the skin but our mothers had been warned to take extra clothes so we were soon dried off and ready to go again. We found so many things on the beach we had never seen before and accumulated so much that we were told that we could take home only what we could put in a small bag we had been given. Sorting our treasures was truly a difficult task. When finally done we were told to get ready for the train trip home. Guarding everything carefully and everyone tired we boarded the train for our trip home. Everyone, young and old agreed that it had been a great time and unforgettable experience.
“The Church of God”
Since our earliest recollection our parents had been deeply religious with family prayer each evening and attendance at church when possible. We were now happy to have a church near our home. We all began attending the Church of God, which was a short distance from our home. All our relatives now in Montesano also attended which helped make a sizable congregation. At times in the absence of the minister, dad was asked to deliver the message at the services. Those attending always enjoyed his homey observations and dry wit. All our family attended there as long as we lived in or near Montesano.
“The winter of the big snow”
The first winter after we moved to Montesano the weather turned cold and a light snow fell which delighted all the younger ones and we had a great time for two days. Then the snow began again and continued heavily until there was nearly four feet of snow on the ground. People who had lived there most of their lives said that no such snowfall had ever been recorded there. Of course all woods work was halted and everyone was a busy shoveling trail to outbuildings and to other homes. Clearing snow was a community effort and everyone helped. Fortunately the weather moderated and the snow gradually diminished. It was nearly a month before all activity was back to normal. That winter was referred to for many years as the winter of the big snow.
Our father had said many times that he would like a small farm and would try to find something, which the family would like. One evening he came home and announced that he had been given an attractive offer on a small ranch about seven miles from Montesano. We all went to the farm and everyone was enthusiastic. Mother and dad went through all the buildings, checked the farm equipment and livestock included and all agreed it was just what we would like. We went home anxiously anticipating our move to the farm.
The farm area was about thirty acres with a railroad. The Milwaukee Line bisecting the property. The western half was a hillside about half cleared of timber and was our woodlot, pasture and excellent wild blackberry patch. It was also a great place to play and explore for the younger ones and the young visitors. The portion on the eastern side of the tracks, about the same area had the house, barn and other buildings. There was a large garden area, small orchard and several acres of grazing and farmland. This extended to and bordered by a slough, which had once been the riverbed. This extended about half the property and then by the Chehalis River.
Equipment included with the property was ample farm and garden tools and machinery, a new cider press, a buggy and a horse named Bill. On the slough there was a boat dock and a sizable rowboat. This was of particular interest to Roy and I although neither of us had ever had any experience. As it turned out we both had a lot to learn but we enjoyed the boat and often got into trouble when we neglected chores to use the boat.
Virgle, De and Mother were all excited and enthusiastic about the large kitchen, good wood stove and plenty of room for everything and for all the family. Dad said it looked like a real productive place. He was pleased with all the machinery and said he was sure Bill could do all the farm work necessary. One of the first things we did was to hitch Bill to the buggy and we all went for a long buggy ride.
Farm life was pleasant for all of us. There was plenty for everyone to do which always helps to promote cooperation and harmony. One thing we all enjoyed was hitching Bill to the buggy for a trip to town when it was necessary to secure house or farm supplies. It always seemed that Bill enjoyed these trips as much as we did. Dad said that he was very good at all farm work.
There was no regular stop for the trains, which passed regularly, but about a mile from our home there was flag stop where the train would stop when signaled. The flag stop called-Hall- was so named for the farm near the stop and the largest farm in the valley. When there was no stop for HALL when we were returning home the train would often stop by our house. We became quite well acquainted with some of the trainmen and Virgie and I would toss apples to the train crew as the train passed.
A dirt road, paralleling the railroad ran past our house. We learned that a gravel road was being considered and would soon be completed. Dad announced that when the road was completed he would buy a car. That seemed to be the slowest work we had ever witnessed. Eventually the road was completed and dad, true to his promise purchased a beautiful, to us at least, a 1915 model Ford open touring car. It carried five passengers and had side curtains, which could be installed in bad weather. The tire size was 30” X 3” in front and 30” X 3 ½” in the rear. The starter was a permanently installed crank in front. It was hardly a vehicle for muddy roads and a ride in it was a real adventure. Roy soon learned to drive and did the driving when it was necessary to take the car. It had a brass radiator, which we kept polished. 1915 was the last year of general use of brass trim and automobiles produced up to this time are considered as “Antique”.
Our home was a popular gathering place for the relatives. Nearly every weekend one or more families came for a visit. It was an ideal place for the younger ones. The large hillside with timbered border was great for climbing, exploring or games. The area around the buildings was a great place for play and games especially when the barn was filled with hay. The older folks loved to talk and when farm work was in season, harvesting or making hay everyone joined in to help. On sunny days our mother would set up the tables in the shade of the apple trees. Everything seemed to taste better outside.
Roy and I liked the rowboat and had become quite proficient with it. One fall day we decided to go duck hunting and gathered our equipment for the hunt. The day was ideal, early fall and we could see a lot of ducks flying. As usual Roy had conned me into rowing while he sat in the front of the boat with the gun ready. We crossed the river to a brushy, marshy area with many small channels. I was rowing as quietly as I could and as we rounded a clump of reeds a large flock of ducks flushed ahead of us. Roy jumped to his feet and in his excitement pulled both triggers of the double-barreled twelve-gauge shotgun. He didn’t hit any ducks and the recoil of both barrels upended him over the side. Fortunately the water was only about three feet deep and he climbed back into the boat. He wasn’t hurt but he was sure mad and accused me of rocking the boat. I told him he should have known better than to stand up in the boat or to fire both barrels at the same time. He finally laughed about it but he wasn’t too happy and he was wet and cold. We went home empty-handed.
When the fall rains came we learned to our regret that we hadn’t known to ask about the high water. Only the house, barn and other buildings were above the water level. This worried dad a lot but our neighbor told him that it was a good thing for the farm and when the waters receded he would have a rich layer of silt over all his low lands and this would be better than any fertilizer he could buy. When the waters did go down the area was covered with two to four inches of a rich deposit. The next year dad had this prepared and planted to potatoes. He harvested a real bumper crop of the finest potatoes he said he had ever seen. He was able to sell the entire crop at a top price.
There was a large farm directly across the river from us and they also had a boat dock on a slough there. We often left our car there and rowed across the river to our place. Late one evening Roy and I returned there from town and parked our car there. As we passed the barn we saw a tiny baby barn owl. Roy said it must have fallen out of the nest and we should take it home and care for it. When we arrived home both mother and dad scolded us saying that we should never touch any such wild thing. As it was now dark they said we should take it back the first thing the next morning.
We put the little owl in a small pantry and left some water and some small pieces of raw meat nearby. As soon as we retired and the lights were out that little owl set up the loudest and most incessant chatter that could be imagined. We couldn’t believe any creature that small could make that much noise and no thing would quiet it. We had only short naps during the night and at the first light of dawn we bundled it up and returned it to the barn. As we left we saw a shadowy outline of the mother owl hovering over it. We never saw it again.
One of the most interesting and fascinating experiences was that of the hummingbird. Just outside our dining room window a shrub had grown until it covered much of the window. Dad had said that he intended to cut it away in a few days. Before he got to cut it away we noticed a tiny hummingbird starting a nest in the shrub. It was only a few inches from the window but our presence did not seem to bother her in the least. The nest building was fascinating to watch. Tiny twigs and grass, each placed with care and then endless trips with bits of thistle down, feathers or bits of cotton. When done to her satisfaction she made herself comfortable in the nest and in three or four days had laid two tiny white eggs. They reminded us all of small white beans.
The little bird left the nest only rarely and then for only a short time. When the eggs finally hatched everyone was as excited as there was a new baby in the house. The little birds looked like large flies but were lively and kept the mother bird busy carrying nectar to the nest. They grew rapidly and were soon fully feathered. They tried short awkward flights then one morning they were all gone. We missed seeing them but felt it was a privilege to have watched them.
One evening the man who owned the adjoining farm came to see dad. He explained that he wanted to expand his herd of cows and needed more property. Also his house was not in good repair and being nearer the river they were sometimes isolated by floodwaters. Rather than build a new house and barn and as ours was in good condition he was prepared to make dad a very attractive offer for his farm. Mother and dad considered this for several days. They learned of a place in Montesano, which would be more convenient for work, and dad could be home every night. Also church and school would be much more convenient and both Virgie and I would soon be attending high school in Montesano. They decided to investigate the place and finally agreed to accept the offer for the ranch. They soon closed the deal for the property and made arrangements to move to town. We all felt that it would be better for all concerned but we still had more than a twinge of regret at leaving the ranch.
The new property was a full block in the eastern part of the town. There was a two-story house and small barn and chicken house. There was a large garden area and for water we had a good deep well. There was a small orchard and dad was happy with the deep rich soil and that there was ample room for a cow and chickens. It was about a mile to the business district and about half that to the school and church.
We all enjoyed the advantages of our new place. We were near school, church, friends and relatives. The town had two bakeries, meat markets, grocery, drug, hardware and general stores. There was also a moving picture theater, which showed silent pictures, and we could attend for a dime. We didn’t always have a dime for the show but thought them the greatest.
World War I
The United States was now fully embroiled in World War One, the war to end all wars. War fever ran high with patriotism acclaimed and evident everywhere. Draft boards had been established and while most readily enlisted there were some who attempted to evade the draft by fraudulent dependencies or other claims. These were known as slackers. De worked part time on the local board and exposed some of these. One man never forgave her but it was in reality a favor to him. He returned home unhurt and mature and went on to become a successful businessman.
During the war most things were in short supply, gasoline being the most critical, virtually all going to the military. The outcome of that war is, of course history but most noteworthy were the unified efforts of the country in its support.
De worked for the telephone company there as a telephone operator. As all calls had to be routed through the operators they were pretty busy most of the time. Some phones, usually a wall model had a crank on the side, which was turned to call the operator. Eavesdropping, especially on party lines was the rule rather than the exception. One could be confident that what was told over the telephone would soon be common knowledge. Our phone number there was 190J.
The days of “Prohibition”
Of much interest both locally and nationally was the enactment of the 18th amendment commonly known as the Volstead Act, which decreed that the country be legally dry. Immediately an illegal traffic in alcoholic beverages sprang up. Bootleg whiskey stills were set up and this helped spawn the age of gangsters and gangland families. Political corruption became rampant with local and other authorities offering paid protection for liquor makers and traffickers. Some authorities reaped dubious fortunes.
One election year a new county sheriff was elected. At the time of his election he owned one home. Within about two years he owned two large homes, a large chicken ranch and half interest in a motor freight line. Federal agents, charged and convicted on several counts of fraud, conspiracy, and malfeasance, investigated him. He served two years in jail and died shortly after his release.
“a letter edged in black”
Our mother’s parents, William and Rhoda Caudill had died during the time we lived at Ashlock. We all had a vivid memory of the notice of death of each of them. In the east it was a common practice at that time to send a letter edged in black. One such letter was sent announcing the death of each. It was a traumatic experience to receive such a letter. Delaying it as long as possible, everyone dreading to open the letter. Those were the last such letters we ever received.
George and Anna Brown move to Montesano
Grandmother and grandfather Brown wrote from Kentucky saying that as most of their family was then living in or near Montesano they would like to move there. Four of dad’s brothers were living in Montesano. They all met to discuss and plan then wrote advising them to sell their small farm and that a home would be arranged for them. Within a short time a letter was received saying that all had been done, giving the date of their arrival. When the time came we all met them at the station and there was a real family reunion.
After their arrival they lived for a time with each family, then dad and his brothers built a small house on dad’s property for them. It was a small but comfortable house and they lived there happily for several years. Grandfather enjoyed walking the neighborhood and getting acquainted. He often walked to town to pick up their needs, on one trip he went to the hardware store to secure a small kitchen utensil. When he asked the price the clerk said “You can have that for four bits”. In the east the price was always quoted in cents, fifty cents or twenty-five cents, so he didn’t know what was meant. Not wanting to appear ignorant of the price he went home to find out just how much four bits really was. After we had explained it to him he walked back to the store and told the clerk he had decided to buy it.
Dad and Roy were working for Ed Lester who had acquired a large tract of timber near Vesta, a small mill town about twenty miles south of Aberdeen. Dad worked as a timber faller and Roy as choker setter, the crew that brought the logs to the loading site. All men stayed in camp during the week. Dad and Roy had a small flat-topped one-room building for their sleeping quarters. All the other men stayed in bunkhouses and everyone took their meals in the dining hall. A one-gallon can was nailed to the doorframe and kept filled with toothpicks. One evening Roy wore a loose jacket with large pockets to the mess hall. On leaving he filled his pockets with toothpicks, then visited the bunkhouses and managed to sit on each bed, slipping a handful of toothpicks into each bed.
As with most camps there was a small gasoline powered generator, which furnished lights for the camp. Lights were out at nine and five minutes before that the lights were blinked once to signal lights out. All finished whatever they were doing and piled into bed just as the lights went out.
Immediately a howl of rage erupted and it was easily determined who the culprit was. The loggers get out in the dark to find Roy and toss him into the millpond. Dad of course, knew nothing about it or where Roy was. Meanwhile Roy lay flat on top of their shack watching in the darkness. He had a long wait before the loggers cooled down and went back to bed.
A nemesis of the loggers was the mountain beaver, a large burrowing rodent that pocked the hillsides with holes into which a logger might stumble, sometimes with injuries and always with anger and frustration. Whenever these pests were found the loggers tried to exterminate them. One evening dad and uncle Smith were returning from the small store at Vesta and it was nearly dark. As they waked along the railroad track Uncle Smith said, “There’s one of those pesky beavers, I’m going to stomp it.” Then he jumped into the ditch to dispatch the beaver and discovered too late that it was not a beaver but a nocturnal prowling skunk. When he attempted to enter the bunkhouse he was met with an immediate howl of protest. He had to strip and scrub off in the millpond before he could get in to bed. He said, “I’ll never stomp another beaver.”
Virgie was doing well in school. She was very studious and learned readily; also she had a good memory and retained what she learned. She was not forward or presuming and was important and she would finish her schooling before she became serious about anyone. She did well in whatever she attempted and entered into all the church and school activities. She took a memory course to improve her memory and we would give her a long list of things to recall and she never missed. We all marveled at it.
OUR GROWING FAMILY
De was now living in Seattle and wrote home regularly. She was selected associate editor of a fledgling northwest magazine based and printed in Seattle. She sent occasional copies, which were interesting, but regrettable we did not keep these. The publication dealt with many facets of northwest living, industry and general interest. The magazine was moderately successful but when she was offered the position of secretary to Mark Matthews, the foremost protestant minister in the northwest she accepted. She was interested in church work and enjoyed it and stayed with this position for many months.
In one of her letters she wrote that she had met a young man of whom she thought very highly and would like to have him meet the family. The following weekend they drove to Montesano and she introduced us to Clarence Elliott. He was friendly and intelligent and we all liked him and he told De that he liked our family. Then they announced that they had set a date and would be married in early October. We could not all go but mother and dad went to Seattle with friends and they were married October 4, 1921. De said she planned to work for a time. Clarence was employed as manager of a market in Seattle.
Roy and Naomi had been going together for some time and now planned to be married. Mother, who was a very good seamstress, had invited Naomi to spend a few days with us and she would help make her wedding dress. Roy was working in a logging camp and had bought a new suit for the wedding and was busy assembling household utensils and equipment and getting ready a new small house near Naomi’s parents farm.
One day at school I had a call to go home immediately as an emergency had occurred. I ran home as fast as I could and found Roy lying on a couch in the living room. He had been working as brakeman on a logging train and had cut several cars from the train and signaled the engineer to pull away. This he did and Roy started to walk between the two train sections. For some reason the engineer had failed to set the brakes and the train rolled back and Roy was caught between the draw heads and was badly crushed. Fortunately a trainman saw the accident and frantically signaled the engineer, probably saving his life. He was fully coherent and said he wanted to get married, as he might not survive and if not then Naomi would be given a sizable benefit. Also she would be allowed to go to the hospital with him and be with him.
The minister was called and they were married. Naomi in a housedress and Roy in his loggers clothes. It was a traumatic experience for everyone and the minister said it was one of the most difficult tasks he had ever performed. Roy had a long recuperation and said Naomi’s presence gave him encouragement and was a great help in his recovery.
At one time there were five of dad’s brothers living in Montesano. In order of age were: Joe with his wife Mary. Their children still at home were, Coy, Aaron, Joe Jr. and Carl. Smith and Leah with their two sons Joe and Elmer. Roby and Rebecca with children: Mattie, Lee, Ethel, Jess and Jean. Lillard and Iva with two sons Ira and Glen. Wilda and Ora with five children lived there for a short time and moved to Pennsylvania.
Most of them attended church regularly and each year the church had a picnic which all attended. It was always a very nice function with games for all ages and plenty of food. Many had no transportation and those with cars made trips to deliver everyone at their home. One trip I had several in the car including cousin Carl. When I stopped at his house to let him off he jumped out of the car and without looking ran directly into the path of an oncoming car. He was rushed to the hospital unconscious and badly hurt. He did recover enough to attend school but died about a year later of his injuries.
Graduation time arrived and there were forty-two graduates in the class. The boy chosen as the one most likely to succeed did go on to become a successful attorney. Most of the boys found work in the local sawmills in the logging woods. Japanese trade in logs and timber was growing and employment was available for anyone wanting to work.
An amusing incident occurred on one trip we made to Aberdeen. All lumber mills used lumber carriers to move lumber in the yards or to deliver to various lumberyards. The wheels were mounted on stilt like legs with the driver’s seat and controls on a platform about eight feet above ground. The carrier would straddle a sizable stack of lumber, and then transport it wherever desired. As we neared Aberdeen we saw a carrier returning to the mill after delivering a load of lumber. A motorcycle passed us and started to pass the carrier then slowed down and dropped in directly behind. He eased the cycle into the carrier space directly below the driver, who appeared almost asleep in the warm sun. Then opening the throttle wide he roared out of the carrier with a tremendous noise. The driver galvanized into instant action. He seemed to jump two feet into the air, then leaped to his feet, snatched his hat from his head, steering with one hand and waving his hat wildly with the other, shouting epithets at the motorcyclist. We could not hear what was said but were certain that it was not complimentary to his ancestors.
De and Clarence were still in Seattle and both working. They seemed happy and came to Montesano quite frequently, which pleased all of us. We never tired of hearing accounts of Seattle and their work. De wrote regularly and mother kept a file of her letters. One day she received a letter and read it through. Then she read it again, then turned with a smile and said, “I’m going to be a grandmother.” When dad came home she gave him the letter, which he read through twice then said with a big smile “That’s the best news we’ve had for years.” Our house was a bustling place for weeks. Mother making layettes and everyone in a state of excitement and anticipation. One evening we had a call from Seattle that it was a boy, had been named Robert and mother and son were doing great. Dad said that date September 4, 1922, was one of the happiest he had had for years and he could hardly contain himself until he could see his grandson. When all were able to travel they drove down and it was a happy gathering at our house. Most of the relatives dropped by and dad and mother were the two proudest people you could imagine.
De and Clarence came back within two weeks and announced that they had talked it over and had decided to move to Montesano. Seattle was too large and they did not even know their next-door neighbor and Montesano seemed more like home to them. We were all delighted and dad said he would make inquiry about a place for them to rent. Within a month they had moved and were to stay with us until their rental house was ready. Dad was elated. He loved children and delighted in carrying and taking care of Bobby. Also Bobby soon learned that he could work grandpa for whatever he wanted and he took full advantage of it.
In about ten days their house was available and they moved into their own home. They were very happy there as it was not far from our house and mother and De could see each other often. Clarence wrote his brother Hugh who was in Seattle and was unemployed that he could find employment in Montesano. Hugh came down immediately and stayed with Clarence and De. He was friendly and enthusiastic person and well liked by those he met. There was a large group of young people attending our church at the time and Hugh joined in for all our activities there. He found employment soon and became a welcome addition to our group. During one youth assembly he became enamored with a girl who led most of the sessions. He kept in touch with her and they were later married.
Clarence was working in the woods and enjoyed the outdoor work. He was working with the loading crew while dad was working as a timber faller. Clarence told De that he had watched dad work and he worked so easily that he would like to work with dad as his falling partner. This was a two-man operation with one man on each end of a long saw. Dad agreed to this and showed Clarence what was necessary for the work. The second day Clarence came home and told De “your dad almost killed me. He worked so easily but almost worked me to death while your dad didn’t even seem tired.” Clarence stayed with it and dad said he did become a pretty good timber faller. It always did seem that dad got more done with less effort than anyone I have ever seen.
Our parents had always been deeply religious and attended church services regularly. De and Clarence joined in all the church activities and Clarence would occasionally give the sermon when the minister was away. He was a good speaker and had a ready wit and good expression. After several months a delegation from a church in Aberdeen came to call on them. The minister of the church there had been forced to leave because of illness and as they had heard Clarence speak, they had been delegated to ask him to take the ministry there. The church was not large but the compensation would include living quarters and he could work elsewhere if he liked which made it an attractive offer. They moved to Aberdeen where he served as minister for some time. During his time there he was ordained as administer of the Church of God and the parishioners there told us that his was a good ministry.
De often drove to Montesano to visit and bring Bobby. He was now a lively little fellow and when dad was there he and Bobby were inseparable. Dad would always have a small treat of some kind for him and he always found it. He and dad seemed to have a mutual affection and understanding and dad would take him everywhere he went, patiently explaining every question and there were plenty of them. On one trip De confided to mother that she was expecting another child. Mother was quite excited and her comment was “I hope it will be a girl.” When we got the call on January 19th, 1925, that the baby had arrived, that it was a girl and had been named Frances mother said “Now I know prayers are answered, and they named it after me.” Frances was a prim little miss from the start and both dad and mother did their best to spoil her in spite of De’s objections. When we first saw her dad said, “She’s prettier than Bobby was.” Virgie said indignantly “Of course she’s prettier, she’s a girl.” Everyone laughed and it was easy to see that mother, dad and the grandparents were proud as peacocks.
After Clarence had served in Aberdeen for over three years and had also worked in markets there he received a call from a friend in Portland, Oregon, who told him there were markets there seeking managers or supervisors for their stores. After he and De had discussed this and after investigating the claims he was assured of a position there and they decided to move.
After giving notification to the congregation, making all arrangements and securing living quarters they were ready to move. Our parents seemed to be the ones most affected by the move. After having Bob and Frances with them regularly and becoming so attached to them they found the adjustment hard to make. They did exact promises that they would be brought or seat back regularly for visits.
During the time De and Clarence lived in Aberdeen mother was interested in a new sewing machine. She did much fine handwork and made many fine quilts and comforters on her old fashioned quilting frames. Many women joined in for quilting bees for the church or for others. She had called an agent from Aberdeen about a machine and he called one day while De was at our home. Mother had just removed a comforter from the frames. He was enthusiastic about the comforter and offered her a good price for one for himself, the price to be applied toward the purchase of the machine. Mother liked the machine and agreed.
She went at once and purchased the materials necessary for the comforter and set to work. When finally finished it was a fine bit of work and was very attractive. She had taken many pains with the work and was proud of her work. We all agreed that the man would be well pleased. When De came up she drove mother to Aberdeen to deliver the comforter, sitting in the car while mother went inside to deliver it. However, instead of accepting it the agent immediately begins criticizing the workmanship, the materials and the appearance, saying it was wholly unacceptable.
All this was of course, untrue and mother being of a gentle nature was crushed. She began to cry and went back to the car carrying the comforter. De asked the trouble and mother told her the whole story and what had been said. De went inside the store and in few words told his ploy to avoid paying for it would not work. She told him the sort of man he was and that she intended to write the company home office outlying the entire incident. The agent apologized profusely offering almost double the price originally offered. De told him he could not have it at any price as she could sell it for more than he had agreed to pay. He followed her to the car still apologizing but she left telling him that she still intended to do as she had said.
She did sell the comforter for a better price than he had offered and she did write a letter as only she could write to the home office. Mother received a nice letter from the company and for whatever reason the man did lose his agency. We all felt that justice had been achieved.
In the mid and late 1880’s Aberdeen was a thriving and fast growing town. Most of the industry was lumber and lumber related activities. A group of civic minded persons and businessmen conceived the idea of an opera house for the area. After much planning and financial arrangements a large opera house and theater was built. It was intended to attract traveling and entertainment groups and many Broadway shows appeared there.
Many of the people from Montesano went to Aberdeen to see these shows. Of those I attended there were three, which I particularly appreciated and enjoyed. One was the original cast of the long running Broadway show “Ligathin” and another was another long run Broadway show “No No Nannette” with the original cast. Both these were superlative productions and enjoyable in all scenes and parts. The most unforgettable was the personal appearance of John Philip Sousa and his band. He was one of the greatest bandleaders in the country and probably best known for the marching music he wrote and played. After seeing one performance many of us tried to get tickets for another performance but none were available. The opera house was torn down during the first part of the 1930’s.
VISIT TO ASHLOCK
My cousin Joe was an ardent fisherman and he and I had often talked of the fine fishing we enjoyed while at Ashlock. The more we talked the more nostalgic it became and we decided to take a fishing and vacation trip back to see the place. We asked Hugh Elliott if he would like to go along and he was enthusiastic about going. Hugh was not a confirmed fisherman but said he would take along his shotgun as he might bag some meat for our camp use or to bring home. After a lot of planning and preparation we set out in our Model T Ford loaded with fishing gear, camping equipment, bedrolls and enough food to last for at least a month. It was our first trip back and we enjoyed locating and pointing out different points of interest and places we had lived. When we arrived at the site where Ashlock had been Joe pointed out to Hugh the sites of the buildings, shops, school, depot, store and homes. All were now gone but it was nostalgic to recall them.
The area was all cleared and we found a good campsite by the creek about where our old school had stood. We explored the site, Joe recounting many things and events, which I did not remember. Then we unpacked our fishing gear and set out to try our luck. The fishing was as good as we had ever recalled and we had a real fine fish dinner, prepared by Joe who was our official cook and for good reason. Neither Hugh nor I could qualify as even a rank amateur cook. Hugh had bagged a grouse, which were plentiful there, and this he cleaned and put in a cool place to take home.
After dinner and after everything had been cleaned and stowed we built a campfire we sat by the fire reminiscing and telling stories. Joe was a past master at this and we all enjoyed it all. We sat on three sides so the campfire, Joe and I on each side and Hugh in the middle. On the other side we had set our coffeepot in the live coals. The sounds of the night birds and the hoot of a distant owl was a setting to remember. Hugh was cleaning his shotgun and trying some new shells he had bought. Suddenly there was a loud explosion. The shotgun had discharged accidentally the charge going between Joe and I and almost putting out the campfire. It was startling but the only casualty was our coffeepot. The bottom had been blown out and we had to retrieve some empty cans to make our coffee the rest of our time there.
We spent two days there and explored all the camp and took a trip to the scene of the logging works. We agreed that it was one of the best trips we had ever taken. We also agreed that seeing Ashlock had been memorable but now we had no desire to go back again. We went home with a fine catch of fish and two grouse, which Hugh had bagged.
Roy was now quite well recovered from his injuries and working for a shingle mill at Vesta as engineer. He and Naomi were living in the small house near her parent’s farm. They came to Montesano often and were always included in all our family gatherings. When everyone came and all the little ones were there we had quite a family group.
On one occasion Naomi confided to mother that they were expecting a baby. Mother was pleased and happy for her but Naomi was a little worried that she might have some trouble, as she had been ill for a time. Not long afterward we received a call that a baby boy had arrived, everyone was doing well and that he had been named Delbert, my middle name. Of course I felt proud of that.
Not long afterward Roy went to work for a logging company near Aberdeen. Dad and I were working at Wynooche Timber Co. near Montesano. Roy received eight dollars a day as choker man; dad received nine dollars as foreman of the cutting crew, the fallers and buckers. My wages were seven dollars as powder monkey. My job was to see that there were holes under the logs for the choker men. I carried a shovel and bag of dynamite sticks. When I was unable to dig a hole under a log I used a dynamite stick to blow a hole large enough to get the cable under and around the log.
Most of the men stayed in camp and slept in the bunkhouses, going home on weekends. All took their meals in the dining hall. There was cookhouse and one cook, usually a woman, who prepared all the meals. The dining hall had a dinner bell, a metal triangle made from a six foot steel rod bent to form a triangle with two-foot sides. When meals were ready the cook would take a short metal rod and run it around inside the triangle. The logger’s dinner bell.
All meals were served family style and the loggers ate well. The better the meals, the better the men who came to work there. Mealtime in a logging camp was the quietest and most orderly that could be found. There was no idle conversation, only an occasional request to pass something. This was surprising to many on their first experience.
As all meals were served family style, whenever a bowl or dish became empty it was taken to the kitchen and refilled. One man who came to camp persisted in stacking the dishes as they became empty. This necessitated a lot of extra dishes to be washed. The waitress, or flunky as she was called, asked the man not to. On one trip as she was returning from the kitchen with a refilled gravy bow, the man leered her and stacked three partly filled food bowls. Without saying a word she emptied the gravy bowl over his head. He jumped to his feet in a rage but as he did, two burly loggers on each side of him stood up with him. He sat back down and they sat down with him. Not a word was spoken and he never again stacked the empty bowls.
A very distressing accident occurred at the shingle mill in Montesano. Joe, uncle Smith’s son was working there, his job being to pull the large blocks away from the large circular saw as they were cut from the logs. He then directed these blocks toward another saw, which cut them into blocks of proper size for the shingle cutting machines. One block fell unexpectedly and he was thrown into the path of the large circular saw. The saw cut through the elbow almost severing the arm. He was rushed to the hospital and surgery performed to save the arm.
The injury did heal enough to permit some little use of the arm but did not ever regain full use. Being naturally right handed he had to learn to write and do virtually everything with his left hand. He went on to a successful teaching career. Being naturally studious he was a very fine teacher. His success in coping with and overcoming this was a fine object lesson and inspiration.
Roy and Naomi were living on the small farm near her folks. When Delbert was almost two years old Calvin was born. Delbert was proud of his baby brother and watched over him like a mother hen. Naomi often said she never worried about the baby when Delbert was around. He would come running at the first cry or hint of trouble. Both boys grew fast and when all three boys, Bob, Delbert and Calvin were together at our house it was pretty interesting. Roy often had Bob visit with them sometimes for several days. Bob, being the oldest of the three was always put in charge when Roy and Naomi were away and they all got along very well.
Delbert and Calvin, like all brothers had an occasional disagreement and being pretty well matched in size, sometimes becoming pretty physical but they never actually hurt each other. No matter how heated their arguments became if anyone stepped to take sides with one of them then both boys would turn on the intruder. It was all right for them to pummel each other but nobody else had better try it.
Roy went to work for a logging company some distance away and had to stay in camp, coming home on the weekends. While he was away Naomi sometimes stayed with her parents and both Delbert and Calvin thought this was great as it was a good place to play. North River ran through their farm and both Roy and Naomi worried about the boys getting too near the river. Roy bought a St. Bernard dog, a gentle animal and good with children. Bruno, the dog, and boys got along beautifully and he watched over them constantly. One day Naomi heard Calvin squalling and went to investigate. Calvin was trying to get to the river and yelling because Bruno was patiently sitting holding him by the seat of his overalls.
Bruno was a good watchdog and chased several intruders away. Roy had not gotten too well acquainted with him, being away most of the time. One weekend he was delayed by car trouble and when he arrived home it was nearly dark. The folks in the house heard the dog bark and someone yelling and went outside to find Roy up an apple tree. Roy made sure he and Bruno became good friends.
As had been promised Clarence and De would periodically call and make arrangements for Bob and Frances to come for a visit. They would take the children to the train, get their tickets and put them aboard. The folks knew the time of their arrival and dad would go to the depot and meet the train, then take them to spend a few days with grandma and grandpa. Both Bob and Frances looked forward to these visits as did both mother and dad.
On one occasion Bob was coming along and when he reached Centralia the train, which went to Montesano, had left. The train from Portland for some reason had been delayed and did not arrive in time for the transfer. Bob was at a loss and did not know what to do. After he had been sitting in the waiting room for a long time the agent came and asked where he wanted to go. Bob told him the story and the agent gave him his dinner, fixed a place for him to sleep and made sure that he was on the next train for Montesano. The folks were greatly worried and made frantic calls until they found out the trouble. Bob really got a warm welcome that trip.
Delbert and Calvin came to our house frequently and when Bob and Frances were there visiting Roy would often take them to his place on North River near Vesta. They always had a great time there, as there was so much to see and investigate. When time came to go back home they never objected and always went readily knowing there would soon be another time.
Both dad and mother were very fond of flowers. Mother liked the low bedding varieties while dad preferred the larger kind. Mother had some beautiful flowerbeds of primrose, marigold and zinnias. Her favorite was the large flowering pansies. She always had a beautiful bed of many colors, which was the envy of many.
Dad, gifted at growing things preferred the tall blooming plants. He had a dahlia garden of selected bulbs, which produced some of the finest and largest blooms we had ever seen. He got considerable recognition for his flowers and won several prizes at flower shows and at the annual fair. He enjoyed furnishing flowers for the church.
Radios were becoming popular and though few had purchased sets we decided to get a radio. The set we decided on was five tubes FADA considered to be one of the best of the day. The price of the set was $145 and the tubes were extra at $5 each. It was battery operated which necessitated a battery charger and other equipment. Also an outdoor antenna, which usually was a length of copper wire mounted as high as could be done and most had to be grounded, wire was attached. The speaker was a horn resembling the horn shown on Victor ads.
As there were not too many broadcasting stations the air was not glutted with different channels and many distant stations could be received. We did receive broadcasts as far as Buffalo New York and one station, which was received clearly was KFKX in Hastings, Nebraska.
Our home in Montesano was not modern and our water supply was a good deep well near the back of the house. However during extended dry spell it did at times go dry and dad decided to dig the well a little deeper to insure a constant water supply. Two of his brothers came to help him and dad went into the well to dig the gravel with a pick while the others pulled it from the well in buckets. After digging only about twenty minutes and sending the gravel out he swung the pick to loosen more gravel and broke through a shell, he said it reminded him of breaking the shell of an egg. The water began to gush into the well and he finally had to climb out, as they could not bail fast enough to keep ahead of the water. The well never again became low on water and it seemed odd that the well had been used for so many years when it was within just a few inches of a vein of pure water. Shortly afterwards dad cemented the top of the well and installed a pump and tank and modernized the house with running water and indoor plumbing. Mother often said that having a modern home was one thing for which she had hoped for and lightened her work more than she had ever dreamed.
Our house was almost a block from the county road and as we had rural mail service the mailbox was by the roadside, which meant that we had to walk the block to pick up any mail. It was quite a disagreeable chore in bad weather for mother who usually picked up the mail to walk to the mailbox and back. Roy secured some heavy wire and strung this from our porch to the post were the box was located. He then mounted a pulley at each end of the wire with a crank on the large pulley on our porch, attached the mailbox to the heavy wire and ran a flexible wire around the pulleys and attached each end to the mailbox. By turning the crank at the porch we could run the mailbox to the roadside and back without leaving the house.
This was quite a novelty and attracted a lot of attention and it worked beautifully. When the grandchildren came to visit they never tired of using this to send notes back and forth. Dad said it was worth more in keeping the kids occupied than for getting the mail.
Dad had an interesting and seemingly inexhaustible supply of experiences and anecdotes. One account, which he often told, was of a family in the east who was chronic borrowers but never returned quite as much as they had borrowed. Shortly after one farmer had completed the curing of his hams and bacon the borrowers called to borrow some bacon. The farmer obliged and loaned them a whole slab. A few days they returned the bacon but it was less than what had been borrowed. He put this in the curing house and when a few days later they came to borrow more. He gave them the same piece and it was later returned but was smaller than before. This was repeated until the piece was quite small. When they came again to borrow he gave them the balance of the piece and told them to not bother returning it. He then told them what he had done and also that he could not afford to loan them anymore. They never came to borrow again.
Our property in Montesano was bordered on the north by a county road and on the south by a graveled street. The street bordering the east side had never been improved and had become a brushy thicket, which in dry weather was a fire hazard. Hattie Hewitt who owned two blocks at what we thought was the end of the street owned the property bordering the other side of this. She had built a fence and erected a large arch in the center of the property. She was a salty character quick to rail at anyone with whom she could disagree, which was nearly always.
One-day dad went to the town council and asked permission to install a fence down the middle of the street to allow his animals to graze the area and he would clear this and eliminate a fire hazard. Also he would remove the fence if and when the city decided to improve it. They agreed, giving him written permission and he went home and began preparations to install the fence. Immediately Mrs. Hewitt descended on him asking just what he thought he was doing. He told her what he intended to do and she said that she would see that he never got to use it as the city would not permit it.
Dad finished the work and turned the animals into the area and he soon had it cleared. Within a few weeks he received a call from the town council with a summons to answer a complaint. I went with him and we waited until the matter came up and he was asked whether it was true that he had fenced off half of the street and what he intended to do. Dad told them that the complaint lodged by Mrs. Hewitt was true but that he could not understand why one person was not entitled to half a street while another had taken a whole street. They asked him to explain and he produced a large plat map of the town showing that Hattie Hewitt had expropriated an entire block of the street without permission or knowledge of the council. I was pretty proud of dad and the way he set the council back. They told him to do nothing until he heard from them. About three years later she lodged another complaint and he was notified to remove the fence. Hattie Hewitt also was ordered to remove her fence, arch and to open the street through her property. Dad said he didn’t mind moving his fence and he was satisfied.
RUTH AND COY
I was working at an oil plant at Carlisle near the ocean beaches west of Aberdeen. There were two other workers, Bert Gaylord and Vic Fliflet the plant manager. Bert’s wife Verna was expecting their first child and they had asked her sister to stay with them for a while after the arrival of the baby. One day I met Bert at the local store and he introduced me to Ruth Middlebrook, Verna’s sister. I thought she was attractive and as I was leaving the store I turned around to get another look and she was looking back at me from the window. The next evening I called at their home to see her and we began going to shows and dances before she returned to her home at Vail.
Not long afterward I was transferred to Centralia and drove to Vail to see her about twice a week. We attended school and other local functions, often taking her two brothers and younger sister, Helen. One evening we came back to her home after attending a show at Olympia and I proposed to her and she accepted. She was working at the Weyerhaeuser camp store and knew everyone in the community so she took a lot of good-natured ribbing about slighting the local boys.
I wrote my folks about Ruth and what a fine girl she was and wanted to bring her to Montesano to meet my family, also that she was anxious to meet them. We drove to Montesano the next weekend and she was introduced to everyone and everyone loved her. My folks set about arranging a shower for us, inviting my friends in Montesano. We drove down on the date they had asked us to come and found the house full of friends and family. It was a surprise to us but a great evening and Ruth made a fine impression on everyone.
We decided on a wedding date and were married at her folk’s home in Vail on November 30, 1929. It was not a large but a beautiful wedding with family and friends there. After the wedding I went to get my well-concealed car only to find it covered with “Just Married” signs, the work of her brothers and some of their cronies. We then drove to Centralia to a furnished apartment, which we had previously rented.
Centralia was a bustling town of about seven thousand people. There were a number of industries, lumber and lumber related products being one of the leading ones. It was also the hub of a large farming and dairying community. Being near the midway point between Seattle and Portland and as the main highway ran through the town it was a regular stopping place for tourists and travelers.
One of the most important, if not the most popular entertainment mediums was the movies, often attended by family groups as movie propriety was then strictly regulated and nay public film shown would be suitable for family viewing. We attended most of the films of the time and while we could not enumerate them, some of the personalities we saw were Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Clark Gable, Marion Davies, Mary Pickford and the Barrymore family Ethel, John and Lionel. They were considered the first family of filmdom and were superlative performers.
We visited my folks in Montesano regularly and visited with Clarence and De in Portland. We enjoyed our visits there and enjoyed seeing Bob and Frances as well. Both De and Clarence were proud of them and their progress in school. Bob was a fine looking young man and Frances a very pretty young lady. In our conversations with Clarence and De both Ruth and I predict that Bob, with his penchant for accuracy and detail would someday become either a chemist or engineer.
Arlene was born in Centralia, March 9, 1932, on Thursday and Ruth and I had planned on visiting her folks. When Ruth had to go to the hospital I forgot to call them. They tried to call us and when we were not home they were quite upset so when I did call I got a well deserved reprimand.
John was born on Saturday, July 18, 1936, and all our relatives within driving distance converged on our home on Sunday. Arlene, now four years old and was delighted and insisted on telling each one about her baby brother. As Ruth’s father was named John both he and dad said it was about time to get a namesake. Ruth visited the doctor a number of times before John was born and had to stay in the hospital for two weeks afterward. When we received the bill the amount was $65.
In Centralia a promotional committee decided to promote a Pioneer Days Celebration, which it was hoped, would become an annual affair. The men, particularly the businessmen were required to grow beards for several weeks and the women to wear pioneer day garb. Many old time vehicles and memorabilia were assembled and caravan trips made to other towns and cities. Beards were rare at the time it was odd to have old west types in stores and businesses. It was also odd but commonplace for friends and neighbors pass without any sign of recognition.
During the first such festival Arlene was just a few months old and grew accustomed to the beard as it grew. When the event was over most immediately shaved their faces clean, as did I, glad to be rid of the beard. When I emerged from the bathroom clean-shaven Arlene began to howl. She did not recognize me and it was two days before she finally decided that I belonged there. The festival was successful for a few years but was later discontinued.
We often visited Ruth’s folks in Seattle for weekends or family gatherings. Her two brothers Jack and Frank with Wilbur Gibson located and bought a Stanley Steamer touring car. We went up to see it and it was a beautiful car, upholstered in leather with a steam boiler under the hood. It traveled almost noiselessly and the speed was more than a person could safely drive. The fuel was usually kerosene and when ignited the fire under the boiler was visible for a long distance. On two occasions someone turned in a fire alarm thinking the car was on fire. The water reservoir for the boiler required a lot of water, usually about forty gallons at a fill. Service station owners being on meters for water would quickly take in their water hoses when the car drove in.
After several months they found the cost of maintaining the car more than they could handle. Their dad of course refused to pay their operating expenses and maintenance of the steam engines was difficult and expensive. While they were contemplating what to do a collector of antique automobiles approached them and they sold it. Everyone seemed happy to see it go.
The financial collapse which occurred in the early fall of 1929 triggered what has come to be known as The Great Depression. It was caused by an almost fanatical frenzy of speculation in the stock market with a fantasy of a never-ending spiral with fantastic rewards at the rainbow’s end. When the inevitable collapse occurred fortunes were lost overnight, businesses failed, many banks closed and the average as well as the affluent suffered great losses.
There were then no welfare or relief organizations but immediately soup lines were formed, emergency housing was developed and everyone volunteered to help in whatever way they could. Unemployment was high and many persons were very innovative in providing some income. One example was a painter who accumulated paint, brushes, stencils and supplies and made a fair income repairing, repainting and relettering and numbering rural mailboxes. There were thousands of such endeavors and a sense of self-help and of helping others emerged with resultant strengthening of personal relations and ties.
During this period many businesses cancelled some debts, placed a moratorium on others. A number of the larger businesses shortened the workweek for some employees to furnish employment for more persons. Public programs were soon developed and firm’s devised ways to promote production and employment and stability was gradually restored. During the recovery period many persons tended to rely for recreation on personal relations and enjoyment of the simpler forms of diversion, group meetings, picnics and friendly gatherings.
During this period the problems of prohibition were of major concern. The age of gangsters spawned many sordid public situations and it was voted to repeal the Volstead Act, which had previously made the country officially dry. In one speech regarding the subject the President made the following statement. “By abolishing prohibition and placing a proper tax on liquor we will eliminate the need for ever imposing any new taxes.” Work called and would work like beavers, seeming to feel that the faster they worked the quicker the work time would be over. They actually did learn to split shakes very well and Roy said they were the best helpers he ever had.
During the time we owned our lot we cleared away the brush and constructed a road. During the clearing we would remove our shirts and carry the brush to the fire. Too late we discovered that much of the brush we carried in our bare arms was poison oak. Nothing that could be imagined would quite compare with the itching caused by poison oak. That, coupled with several incidents of vandalism caused us to decide to sell the property.
ROY AND NAOMI
During the recovery period following the depression a highly successful federal youth employment program was inaugurated. This was the Civilian Conservation Corps, popularly known as the CC Camps. Roy was offered a position as manager of a camp near Randle. Being experienced in supervisory as well as in general construction he accepted. He was successful in establishing and completing a number of good projects. There were young men from all parts of the country and from every ethnic group. Their work was clearing trails and roads constructing buildings and bridges. They also did much work in clearing and improving public parks.
Near the Randle camp there was a high peak, the highest in the area accessible only by a trail, which had been cut out of the steep hillside. Atop the peak a small cabin had been built which was used as a lookout station during the summer months as a fire lookout. Being exposed to the most inclement weather it required frequent painting. One day Roy asked one of the boys to secure from the warehouse the necessary supplies and paint the cabin, which he estimated would take about three hours. However, the boy was gone the entire day returning just before dinnertime. When Roy asked why it had taken so long he replied that the paint was so thick he just couldn’t spread it any faster. Roy investigated and found that instead of paint the boy had taken high gloss clear varnish. Whenever the sun would shine on the cabin it would glisten like a reflecting mirror. Wardens from distant lookouts reported seeing this glistening object and would inquire as to the source. It became know as “Roy’s Shining Example”.
Roy got a number of commendations for his work at the camp and his success with the boys. When the camps were being phased out he returned to work in the logging woods and became foreman of one of the largest logging companies in the northwest. He purchased a small farm near Riffe (pronounced RIFE) where they lived for some time. Both Delbert and Calvin attended school in Mossyrock and both graduated from high school there. Both entered into the school functions and athletic events. Delbert was very good on the marimba and Calvin on the trumpet. Both received commendations on their musical as well as athletic achievements.
VIRGIE AND OTTO
Virgie graduated from high school with a good grade average and received notices that she was eligible to enroll in college if and when she desired. She worked for a time in the office of a department store in Montesano. One evening she announced that she had given much thought to future schooling and had decided to train for nursing. Dad and mother, knowing others who had tried this and found it extremely difficult, tried to dissuade her without success. Virgie had always been determined in whatever she undertook so the folks agreed and she applied and was accepted at the school of nursing at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
She found the course difficult, requiring intensive study and found little time to write but wrote whenever she found the time and kept us apprised of her progress. She told that a large percentage of the class dropped out finding it more demanding than they could or wished to comply with. We were all interested in her progress and the accounts were sometimes pretty graphic. She told of her first experience requiring all the concentration on procedures she could muster. She went on to become a highly competent Registered Nurse. When we received her class picture of her standing proudly in her white cap and gown we were all proud as though we had taken the course.
After she had practiced for some time she responded to a call for nurses to work as stewardesses. At the time it was required that flight attendants be registered nurses as this was in the early days of air passenger flight and the planes were not as well equipped to cope with airsickness or passenger discomfort as today. About two hundred applied for the three positions available. The examination and requirements were arduous and many did not complete the test. She was one of the three selected and flew with United Airlines, her main run being between Portland and Salt Lake City.
The work was interesting and she related many interesting and sometimes harrowing experiences. As most piloting was done manually the flight skills of the pilots were top grade. One flight she narrowly missed a call as she had returned from another flight too recently to be recalled. Another stewardess was called and it was reported that the pilot had erred in reading the earth inductor compass, crashed into a hillside on takeoff resulting in several casualties. Most of the passenger planes in service at the time were twin motored Boeing planes with twelve to eighteen passenger capacity. They were quite well finished and comfortable and were considered some of the best passenger planes at the time.
She later returned to nursing at Good Samaritan Hospital where she met a practicing physician, Dr. Otto George. They kept company for some time and were later married on June 5, 1934. Otto developed a large practice in Portland and at one time had the largest single practice in the city. Their first child, Paul was born in Portland. Otto had worked with the U.S. Forest Service and was well known in government circles. One day he received notice that he had been considered was being offered a position as physician with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Alaska.
They considered this for a time and he accepted finally making all preparations to move to Alaska. They moved north and served several communities in Alaska including stations at Akiak, Bethel and Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of Alaska. Virgie acted as his nurse and assisted in several surgeries, one being that of a fur trader who in appreciation gave her several fine fox pelts. Many of the natives referred to her as Lady Doctor. Virgie wrote regularly of their life and experiences, usually to De. Who would type several copies and send one to each of us. These letters were extremely interesting and gave us a very good picture of the country, the people, their customs and living conditions.
Otto faithfully kept a diary of his experiences and after he had returned to Portland the Oregon historical Society, based on this account, published a book covering their work and experiences in Alaska. The title of the book “ESKIMO MEDICINE MAN” and it was a fascinating work on the Eskimo and their life in the far north. They later resumed medical practice in Portland and nearby communities.
Beyond this point personal recollections become vague as each pursues life and endeavors with consequent lessening of personal ties and relationships. It is hoped that each will find some personal thread and will in turn complete their own personal family experiences, pursuits and achievements.
Also, our family unit is intact and personal ties are warm and firm. Thus, it is hoped that this will leave each of you with the warm glow of love and pride I feel for each of you!
Coy Delbert Brown ( 18 March 1905 – 19 April 1995 )