Looking Back — to a place called Mosher on the shore of Puget Sound

This 1910 map shows Mosher, at left.

About 1891, after Alderwood Manor/Lynnwood pioneer Charles Breed had built a cabin and prepared his 160-acre Swamp Creek homestead for residence, he gathered his family together, and with all their earthly possessions—clothing, household goods, food and grain, tools, farm equipment, and even their cattle—Mr. Breed and his wife Lillie, together with their five children, boarded a steamer to begin traveling to their wilderness home in south Snohomish County. The steamer carrying the Breed family landed on the shore of Puget Sound at Mosher—a place from the past. From there, the family headed up the steep hill to Ruby Ranch, their new home many rugged miles to the east. Charles Breed and son John are shown in front of the family’s original cabin in the wilderness.

A photo of the Breed cabin, courtesy of the Breed family collection.

Today if you stop near the 164th Street Swamp Creek Interchange in Lynnwood to fill your containers with some of the available-to-all cold clear artesian well water, you are on what was once the southern edge of Ruby Ranch, the former homestead of Charles and Lillie Breed.      

Mosher, located near today’s Picnic Point and Norma Beach, was in the lower Meadowdale area—along the shore of Puget Sound, about four miles north of Edmonds. Mosher was a flag station for Great Northern Railway. A post office was established there on June 23, 1892. Discontinued on Feb. 28, 1901, the mail was then sent to Edmonds.

Mosher was also an early-day steamer landing. (Postmark Washington). Before the naming of Meadowdale, when pioneers referred to the area, they often called it Mosher. Many of the local men worked for Mosher & McDonald, a large logging company with headquarters at Mud Lake (Lake Serene), located a few miles east of Mosher. The company was responsible for most of the logging of what became Meadowdale. For the pioneers, Mosher became a household name.  After Mosher & MacDonald had finished logging the area, the real estate company West and Wheeler platted and sold the land we know today as Meadowdale. Now, the place once known as Mosher is mostly a forgotten part of the history of Edmonds.

In the small section of the 1910 Plat of Township 28 North, Range 4 East, Willamette Meridian, Snohomish County, Washington, Mosher and Lake Serene are shown in the lower left portion. 

In 1952, another pioneer of the Alderwood Manor/ Lynnwood area, Gordon Chester Hunter wrote of his memories of the Mosher & McDonald logging camp. His writings not only told about the logging company and the camp, but also related some of his own remembrances of the place called Mosher. His story was typed and retained in the files of Dorothy Costa (now deceased), a former employee of the Alderwood Manor Countryside newspaper, a publication owned and published by Robert Farrar during the 1950s. Gordon Hunter’s story of his memories was retold in the September 2013 issue of the Alderwood Manor News Clipping, the newsletter of Alderwood Manor Heritage Association (now Lynnwood Alderwood Manor Heritage Association or LAMHA), located at Lynnwood’s Heritage Park. Here are some of Gordon Hunter’s memories.

Gordon Hunter (Photo courtesy of Lynnwood Alderwood Manor Heritage Association)

Memories of Mosher & McDonald Logging Camp

By Gordon Chester Hunter (1889-1971)

What an address! Mosher & McDonald, Seattle, Wash. And, in those days, the gay nineties, before there was a post office at Mosher, where Norma Beach is now. It did a rather ordinary amount of business, but there was nothing ordinary about the postmaster, Samuel L. McGhee.

The office was on a wharf, where steamers plying Puget Sound on various missions stopped occasionally with mail and food for the loggers. It was out-in-the-open sort of an affair, and anyone who had manners bad enough could ride his horse right up to the window and ask for his mail without taking the trouble to dismount. This, the postmaster protested should not be done, as it distracted from the dignity of the institution. One Englishman, Whitney Hayworth, did it once and made history while Postmaster McGhee was assuring him the place was “no blank blank blank horse barn!” Whitney couldn’t quite see the difference, and sadly enough, neither could his horse. McGhee cleaned the place out, and till his death nearly a half century later, he never forgave the Englishman.

The camp stood about a quarter of a mile north of where the Sno-King Theater is now. The foreman, when it first came into my memory was Cicero Demosthenes Matheny—perhaps his mother liked oratory. He was known as Charley, though, and his actual name was a carefully guarded secret.

The logs were dragged out by oxen when the camp first started; then by horses; and before the end of the story, the big day came—there was a Donkey,a one-cylinder steam engine whose duty was to get the logs to skid road, where horses dragged them over well-greased logs laying across the road, and at last they reached the railroad, and on flat cars without floors, they went to Puget Sound, to go by boom to saw mills.

The locomotive was much more interesting than the logs. The engineer, John Alden, was a minor deity with the neighborhood kids for the things he could make this engine do, just by pulling or pushing something. It could go ahead or backward, stop or whistle. There was one place where it always whistled to let the cook know that the men were coming, and ready for supper. That was the place for the neighborhood kids to wait in the evening.  The engine was a lovely thing to me until a boy a little older than I asked me what I would do if it jumped off the track and took after me. Never again did I take such chances, always when I waited to hear the whistle, there was a big tree handy so I could get behind it, just in time.

The cook in the earliest days of the camp was Charley, a Chinese cook. The legend had it that his long-pointed finger nails were to pick flies out of the stew. Some of his friends denied this and declared flies didn’t get into Charley’s cooking. Anyhow the neighborhood kids hoped it was true, for it was a good story.

At the time I came to know the camp, the cook was Charley Ellingson, and as all the cows of the countryside pastured on the logged-off land, the kids went each evening to get them home, and we stopped if there was any possible excuse, at the cook-house. There was always a chunk of pie for my brother and me.  This practice was deeply frowned upon, for as our parents told us, we had nothing to give the cook. But kids were a treat to him and his helpers, so I am not sure now that we didn’t pay for the pie.  Where the loggers had been there was a good pasture of white clover due to the work of the Deiner boys who had scattered the chaff of their hay in all likely places and gave everyone cow feed and more wild honey.

But, back to the logs themselves—the end of the railroad was up in the sky, as it looked from the beach, for it was the top of the bluff overlooking Puget Sound. A chute of logs reached the full height of the bluff, and down it came; the giants of the forest one at a time, each leaving a curling cloud of smoke from friction.  How such a chute could have been built, and how it could have been supplied with a barrel of water every few feet as a fire prevention measure, was something that as a boy I did not understand, and don’t yet. When a mighty fir or cedar hit the water of the bay, there was a splash equaled by nothing I have ever seen, except the ricochet of the projectile from a Navy gun.

Not far from the chute was McDonald’s summer house. The kids didn’t like Mrs. McDonald, we never saw her, but we saw her washing hung on the line and there was too much lace. That was to show off because she had more money than the rest of us.  Anyhow, the house was built of sawed lumber painted, in a dell backed by maple trees, where a cabin of cedar bark would have been a perfect gem in a perfect setting.

Among the loggers the one who stood out in the memories of his pals most clearly was an unusual fellow who kept away from the others, always wore gloves, and seemed to have something wrong with his mouth—it always bled after meals. Then one day one fellow who had said nothing about the unusual logger took a day off and went to Snohomish, then the county seat, and came back next day with a doctor and a sheriff. They looked the poor logger over, then took him away to Lepers’ Island! No one got the leprosy from him but it was a long time before the natives felt the need for any new excitement.

Identified with the camp as “boss” was Jim Currie. Almost the only Democrat in days of Republican supremacy, he was a perfect picture of Robert E. Lee, white beard and all. And to make it even better, he was usually seen on horseback as Lee was usually pictured. He succeeded Matheny as boss of the camp.

Two interesting Canadian Frenchmen cut wood for the cookhouse and locomotive, Joe Gamo and Ed Buzzno. Buzzno, being a good Frenchman spelled his name in a way that didn’t add up to “Buzzno,” few can remember how it was spelled, and I am not one of those few, anyhow, Buzzno is what he called himself. The partners had a cabin about a quarter of a mile west of where Sno-King Theater now stands in Levelton on U.S. 99. They kept a few chickens and did their own cooking. One Saturday, Ed Buzzno walked to Edmonds to get their mail and the weekly paper. As soon as he got home, one of the hens cackled, Ed poked the fire, went out to collect the new laid egg, cook it and eat it while Joe Gamo hung his head in shame. Opportunity had knocked and he had not heard! But then, there would be another Saturday, so Joe began to make preparations. First, he had to cackle like a hen, so he practiced faithfully. Then one egg which rattled the loudest had to be saved from a nest he knew about. At last he was ready; Saturday came and Ed went again to Edmonds. The rotten egg was put where it would slowly warm up, all the other eggs were hid. When Ed showed up, the rotten egg was sneaked out to the hen’s favorite nest, and Joe did his cackle. It was letter-perfect!  Buzzno cooked it, cut some bread and hit the egg with his knife. Joe was standing by discussing the latest news, then was as much puzzled as his partner to find that they had a hen who laid rotten eggs.

Joe left these parts to join the gold rush of 1898. Meningitis swept the camp in the North. He got no gold but came back to tell the “Man-Jesus” had killed most of his pals and almost got him.

In 1899, the timber owned by Mosher & McDonald had all been logged off, and the “barn boss,” Same Loudin, was left to take care of the horses and watch the place while the owners looked around for new fields. Loudin was a wonderful man! With little to do he used to busy himself digging angle worms for the kids to fish with. His slogan was “No Tobacco. No alcohol.” He died in Seattle in about 1942 at the age of 93. In the late fall of 1899, he left to work for Brace & Hergert, who had a sawmill on Lake Union in Seattle, and my father, Duncan Hunter, who held a variety of jobs at the camp during his active years, got the job of watchman.

The following spring, my parents decided that kids could watch for prowlers as well as grown-ups, so the whole family moved to the camp and my father went to work on the county road, thus doing two jobs at once. It was wonderful to be so close to that engine, locked in a square house which for some crazy reason everyone called a “round house.”

Kids were never allowed to go in, but we could look through a knot hole and see all the wonderful things that bobbed up and down when it ran. It was a geared engine with three cylinders on one side. Near the end of 1900, the Seattle Cedar Co. of Ballard bought the entire equipment, except the horses which had been sold about a year earlier. The following spring, Jim Currie, who had exercised a sort of guardianship over the place since it stopped operating, brought a crew and loaded cars, rails, engine, just about everything onto the Great Northern and away to parts unknown to me. But in parting, my father paid the Seattle Cedar Co. five dollars for everything they would leave. It was a good investment. Whatever Curried thought would be broken in shipping was added to the five dollars’ worth. This included a Seth Thomas clock which had been ticking the moments on the cookhouse wall before Admiral Dewey tossed his iron firecrackers among the Spaniards in Manila, and as I write this in 1952, it is still ticking on our kitchen wall. The moving out was in March 1901 and we moved home to the ranch, and the banquet-hall-deserted atmosphere settled over the old camp site.

With that the story ends; almost but not quite. There was still one tree, a Douglas fir, and while its companions had gone to make homes for the living and coffins for the dead, this fir stayed right where its mother had planted the seed about the time a young fellow by the name of William Shakespeare was asking for a job at the hiring of a London theater. Surely it earned some kind of an arboreal Oscar for an outstanding performance. At least we can say the tree which was rejected by the loggers became the keystone of a neighborhood legend. It had been rejected because of a twisted grain which made it useless as lumber. In 1904, Meadowdale came into being, conjured up by West & Wheeler who sold the land Mosher & McDonald had logged.

During that summer, lightning hit the fir with the twisted wood, followed the grain and dug a long spiral path the full length of the tree and went around it about three times in doing so. This was very interesting to the younger element of the community—we inspected it carefully and brought home a detailed report.

Not far from where this phenomenon happened there lived a family of Meadowdale people which whom we were well acquainted, and soon after the storm, they came over to pay us a call. Just to make conversation, my mother asked, “Well, Mrs. G, did you see the lightning hit that tree over beside your place? We were sure she had, for the dear old lady did get around, and her answer left us no doubt. “Yes, I did, I was mixing bread and Billy was standing in the doorway watching the storm. All at once, he yelled, ‘Oh, Mother, come here quick!’ he said, ‘the lightning is just more than running around this old dead tree out here!’  “So, I dropped everything and ran, and I just got to the door as the lightning reached the ground.”

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

 Longtime local historian Betty Lou Gang has recently moved out of the area but still occasionally submits columns for publication.





One Reply to “Looking Back — to a place called Mosher on the shore of Puget Sound”

  1. Thank you Betty Lou for submitting this story. I really enjoyed reading it. Gordon Hunter was a good storyteller.


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