Salem Woods

Part 2 of 14: Memories of Long Ago

by Hiram Ellsworth Pearsall

Nellie Robertson paraphrased the opening paragraph of this excerpt as it was originally in the form of a poem.

On Jan. 20, 1885, I took a boat from Seattle to Snohomish City, and the next day went up the valley on a road that wandered between trees for eight miles. I stopped at Park Place for dinner and crossed the river on a ferry run by “Bluejay.” I crossed the valley where State Farm No. 2 now sits, and stopped with a family of neighbors called “Fitz.” The next day I traveled to the ranch of Mr. Woods, and staked a claim past Woods. I built a cabin of logs and split cedar. The next year it burned down and everything went up in smoke. I sat on a log and pondered, I thought and thought, “there are no ifs, ands or buts. The only one to make a go of this is the man with lots of guts.”

Pearsall then explained the poem this way:

The little boat referred to in the verses was a little sternwheeler called “Nellie.” The Nellie plied the waters of Puget Sound north to the Snohomish River, then came upriver to Snohomish City. The Nellie was the only way to Snohomish from Seattle. There were no roads and in many places, not even a trail through the great forest.

William Patterson [sic: Pattison] came to the Skykomish Valley in the early 1880s. He built and operated the first ferry to cross the Skykomish. When he got to the valley he found a bluejay feather, which he stuck in his hat and for years after was known as Bluejay.

Martin Fitzmaurice, with his family, settled in the Tualco Valley in an early day on what is known as the State Farm No. 2 operated by the State Reformatory. The Fitzmaurice family was the first family of my acquaintance in the county. Some of the neighbors called them Fitz.

The house mentioned was not the one that burned. The house that burned was a little four-room house built in the fall of 1885. All the framework was split and sized with an adze, the shingles were split and shaved by hand. The flooring and siding were hauled from Blackman Brothers mill at Snohomish City. When the house burned, I was away from home, working for a neighbor. I had left one hat, one shirt, one pair of overalls and one old pair of shoes and one cob pipe. Everything had gone up in smoke. The ranch of Mr. Woods was what was known as Wood’s Prairie.

In the early days of my settling in the Woods Creek country, there were none of the early settlers I respected more than Salem Woods. With him I had a great friendship which lasted until he passed away a few years later. My claim was but a short distance from Woods’ Prairie, as his ranch was known. I very frequently would visit him of an evening.

He was a bright man who liked to talk, especially about pioneering in the Woods Creek valley. He was the first sheriff of Snohomish County. He had come here with a party of young men all looking for adventure and a place to settle in this part of the country. Nearly all had taken native women and settled down to building homes and rearing families as when I came they had nice ranches and a family of children, many of them grown.

Mr. Woods, when trying to find a place to settle, happened to start up the valley and struck what they called a prairie, which was later called Cochran Prairie as John Cochran settled there a few years later. Cochran Prairie ran up the valley about one mile and covered about 300 acres. Then there was one half mile through heavy timber to Woods’ Prairie, nearly one hundred acres. In my visit to Mr. Woods, he told why it was called a prairie.

The Indians had camped there for hundreds of years, coming up the creek to catch and dry their winter supply of salmon which came up the creek by the thousands always camping at those two particular spots. Year after year of gathering fuel for their fires, the prairie grew larger and larger. And as the Indians were very fond of blackberries, they would burn off a spot each year so that they would grow.

Many of us traveling in the deep forests, especially in the Woods Creek country where the timber has taken hundreds of years to grow, often find the remains of a fire. Perhaps a dry cedar snag, or charcoal which is often found in the ground. Mr. Woods claimed that this fire might have been set by lightning, but he believed it was set years ago by an Indian who was trying to start a blackberry patch.

Thus Cochran and Woods’ prairies were made. It was thickly covered with heavy ferns, but the land was very productive after it was cultivated. All the surrounding country was heavily timbered.

Mr. Woods said that when he ran onto the prairie, he had started out alone up the creek. He had a small axe which they usually carried. Slipping from a log and falling on the axe, he cut his foot very badly. It was bleeding badly so he bound it up with a part of his shirt but it did not stop bleeding.

He said that he thought he had better try to get out when he thought he heard a noise of some kind not far away. He started for the noise and soon saw the prairie which later was called Woods Prairie, now known as the Bosch ranch. There was someone living there. He crawled to an Indian camp, almost out from the loss of blood. There was an Indian woman and three girls in a camp on the bank of the creek. The Indian woman stopped the flow of blood and made him comfortable.

It was nearly a month before he could walk around. He thought that he would like to stay and settle down on the prairie. The Indian family had been very kind to him and they wished to have him stay. He went out to a very small settlement and got tools to build a house to live in.

When it was finished and ready to live in, the Indian family was very good to him. they said that he could have one of their daughters for a “clootchman” (wife). His pick was the youngest, who was only twelve years old. Pretty young, I thought. He raised her up to suit himself. He taught her to read and write and to keep house, and when I met them, they had three children as old as I, and Mrs. Woods was as good a cook and housekeeper as any white woman.

Mr. and Mrs. Woods were among my best friends that befriended me and helped at any time when I really needed a friend.

The little old Indian woman that had bound up his cut, and as he said, had saved his life and became grandmother of his children, was still living in a little hut close by the place she had always lived.

–transcribed from the 1944 Monroe Monitor by Nellie Robertson

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