North Bend in 1909

By Gardiner Vinnedge

North Bend was twenty years old in 1909. William H. Taylor had platted the town in 1889 when he learned that the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern Railroad would be building its line across the Sallal Prairie, heading for Snoqualmie Pass. Bankruptcy stopped construction at a dot on the map just east of North Bend labeled “Tanner City,” but supplies and tourists, timber, and crops could finally quickly move in and out of the valley. Will Taylor’s lots began to sell.

By 1909, the town had outgrown its 4×4 street plat, and included a train depot, general stores, two hotels, a barbershop, a confectionary, two livery stables, a steam laundry, a harness shop, a blacksmith, a jail, a church, a Ladies Aid Society, a baseball team, several saloons, a school for 96 pupils, two drugstores, a jewelry store, a boarding house, and several dozen residences. People living in town ran these businesses and groups, serving farmers and loggers from the country around. The most important employers were the South Fork Logging Company, the North Bend Lumber Company, McCann’s Mill, and the Northern Pacific Railroad, which had bought up the track of the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern. The merchants and farmers were mostly family people, and the farm families often included four or five children. Most local settlers had been born in the Great Lakes region or on the Great Plains, with a few from Oregon. The residents born in Washington were almost all children, and few of them had been born in the Snoqualmie Valley. Foreign accents were commonly heard on the streets of North Bend. Peter and Alida Drost and their children were all born in Holland. Andrew McCann was a Scot, his wife and in-laws, the Coopers, were English. Fred Scheuchzer was Swiss. Richard Mueller, the harness maker, was German and his wife Dora was born in Russia. Giichiro Miyuki and Toraji Horano, born in Japan, worked in one of the hotels. The boarding house and the logging camp bunkhouses east of town were full of Swedes and Finns. Peter J. Maloney was Canadian by birth.

Peter J. Maloney was also a booster, maybe by birth, and he and a small group of other enterprising citizens seized the initiative at the beginning of 1909 to bring about the first of four big changes that would secure North Bend’s future. On January 19, the minutes of the King County Board of Commissioners noted that “A petition signed by over sixty citizens of the town of North Bend [asking for incorporation]… was presented to the Board…” The County Engineer was instructed to confirm the proposed boundaries of the town.

On February 2, the Board called for a vote on incorporation: The names of the persons to be voted for at said election to fill the municipal offices of said proposed corporation are as follows, the same having been selected at a mass meeting of the citizens of North Bend on Jan. 27th, 1909 – Peter J. Maloney, 4th of July, 1908. Mayor, Peter J. Maloney; Treasurer, E.J. Siegrist; Five members of the Municipal Council, E. Catching; Charles Thaldorf; W.C. Weeks; Fred Damburat and A.R. Mason. There being no paper of general circulation published in North Bend, a notice of said election was given by the posting of twenty large [posters headed “NOTICE OF ELECTION FOR MUNICIPAL INCORPORATION” within the limits of said proposed incorporation.

On February 23 the boosters carried the day. The vote for incorporation was 60 yes, and 3 no. Mayor Maloney and Councilmen Catching, Damburat, and Mason were elected unanimously, Thaldorf won 62 votes, Weeks 61, and J.B. Allen, Frank Kelley, and J. Dickson each earned one. E.J. Siegrist won 59 votes for Treasurer against four for E. Parker. On March 1, the county issued a certificate declaring North Bend a fourth-class city. It appears that it all went according to plan.

The town’s founders were ambitious men. Maloney’s name was painted in large white letters on the side of his livery stable at the corner of First and Bendigo, where he rented horses and teams to townspeople, hunting and fishing parties, and construction contractors. He also sold railway tickets and newspaper advertising, and rented out space for meetings and band practices. On his farm east of town he built tourist cabins at Maloney’s Grove and filled the grounds with inventive amusement rides for children. He was the leading promoter of the town’s Fourth of July parades and celebrations.

Charles Thaldorf had worked on Mississippi steamboats as a young man and had tried his luck in the Alaska goldfields before arriving in North Bend. Thaldorf was superintendent of North Bend utilities for many years and also served on the school board and as town marshal.

Catching ran a general merchandise store and then a lunch counter, and later served as mayor. He had rushed to the Klondike as a young man.

Fred Damburat had come to North Bend as a teenager in 1891. He lived on the family homestead east of town, sold it in 1908, and eventually took up the real estate business. He loved hunting and fishing.

W.C. Weeks worked for pioneers Gustin and Tibbetts when he arrived from the East in 1889, then bought their general merchandise store, bought local house property and timberland, and by 1909 was a partner in the North Bend Lumber Company. He later served as mayor. He and A.R. Mason, the local druggist, were officers of State Bank of North Bend. Weeks also invested in Alaska mining.

The Treasurer E.J. Siegrist was one of two jewelers in town, but he was also a photographer, and perhaps driven by a sense of history, he climbed onto the roof of the Cascadia Hotel in 1909 to take a series of panoramic views of the new city. His photos of storefronts and street scenes provide the sharpest record of North Bend at that time.

On March 8, Snoqualmie Mayor Otto Reinig swore in the officers, and they began the business of improving the town. First, they wanted sidewalks to lift pedestrians out of the mud, so they assessed fees and ordered construction, block by block. The city’s great powers, The Modern Woodmen of America, the Northern Pacific, even founder Will Taylor were notified that they had to “alter, repair or rebuild” sidewalks in front of their lots. When a Mrs. Bolin petitioned to build her portion of the sidewalk with cheaper materials, she was told no. The school block had the city’s first cement sidewalk by September.

They wanted order, so at their third meeting they confirmed George Mead, local merchant and cigarmaker, as Police Justice, and they established a very small jail, mostly to lock up disturbers of the peace. Six badges were ordered. All councilmen were named marshals.

On March 26, a garbage dump was secured and all residents were ordered to remove their garbage once a month, hotels and restaurants twice a month. By the end of the first year, the council was cracking down on loose livestock, and by March, 1910, the dog-catcher was receiving fifty cents for every pet license issued. They wanted a town that tourists would visit. They spent $17 on flags and welcome signs, and ordered a thousand “booster buttons.”

Sensing opportunity, outsiders approached the city for major utility franchises. The National Development Company enquired about a franchise for water, electric light and electric street car lines. Issaquah entrepreneur W.W. Sylvester sought to expand the Snoqualmie and North Bend telephone exchange by one hundred customers.

Mayor Maloney and the council were also pushing bigger projects, and on April 2 the city opened a long negotiation with H. Rief over a gravity-fed water system. In 1909, residents were on wells. There is no discussion in the city council minutes about the quality of water in North Bend, or the health risks posed by the proximity of wells and cesspools, but water pressure quickly became a very important issue.

The city council minutes of April 12 end with the entry: “The Fire Alarm sounded and the Board adjourned.” The April 16 Issaquah Independent explained: “Fire swept out a large portion of the business section of North Bend Monday night. Had it not been for an organized fire department the damage would have easily been three times as heavy.” R.C. Mueller seems to have lost his harness shop, Siegrist his jewelry shop and perhaps his photography studio. In a newspaper ad, general merchandisers Mead and Dano told customers to “Watch for announcement of a BIG FIRE SALE.”

The council responded immediately. In May the city opened a new fire station, and Mr. Rief surveyed a water line that ran from Clough Creek, a mile south of the city. He was ready to build in the fall, but several property owners balked at easements, so the city brought in lawyers to examine the possibility of condemning property for the line. By March of 1910, the system was still not complete.

August was a terrifying month. A suspected arson fi re burned Kritzer’s meat market in North Bend, and in Snoqualmie, the Hotel Snoqualmie, the post office, Reinig’s general merchandise store and Kritzer’s butcher shop there burned. A fire east of town crept close enough to burn the cemetery fences. Crews fought forest fires above Tanner City.

The fire led to the second great change of 1909, the construction of reinforced concrete buildings. Joe Violet, one owner of burned properties, announced almost immediately that he would begin work on a concrete building. In December, the local aerie of the Fraternal Order of Eagles bought lots from A.R. Mason and R.C. Mueller on the south side of First, with the intention of building a two-story hall. That building is now owned by the Masons. In February of 1910, W.W. Sylvester invested in a lot and later built a concrete bank. He had reason to care – the Sylvester Insurance Company had issued policies on the buildings that burned in August.

Concrete structures were safer for their owners, but they could also serve as fire breaks if wooden buildings around them caught on fire. They made it less likely that the town could be burned out. They were forward-looking, built with an eye to permanence, and they set the standard that was met by the McClellan Hotel in 1918 and the McGrath Hotel in 1922. Smaller buildings on First were built of brick.

In August the fire danger passed, and September brought the third significant change of the year when the Issaquah Independent noted, “Miss Nita Baldwin returned home from Seattle Saturday and will attend high school in North Bend this season.” This date is not certain. The first yearbook of North Bend High School, the 1925 Lewain, reported in the “History of Our School” that the high school started permanently in 1908 (there had been a false start in 1890). A 1936 history of the school district lists 1910-1911 as the first year of the high school. All sources agree that in 1912 Nita Baldwin was the first graduate of North Bend High School, and the source of the 1909 news item was Nita Baldwin’s brother Charles Baldwin.

Schools were important in attracting families to a community, and there were one-room schoolhouses in the upper valley well before the town was platted. The primary and intermediate schools taught basic literacy and served as a center of social activity in North Bend. The Juvenile Orchestra played often at dances and local events.

Before 1909, however, students wanting a high school education had to leave their families to board in another community. Among many others, Nita Baldwin went to school in Seattle for her freshman year, and Hazel Catching attended in the Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma. The expense and separation undoubtedly kept many students from attending high school, and students who went away sometimes quit to return home. North Bend was also missing all the excitement that a high school could bring to a small town.

When school directors William Boggs, R.C. Mueller and Edgar Boalch agreed to open a high school, the town’s academic, social and athletic possibilities expanded enormously, but not quickly. Nita Baldwin was followed only by Ward Catching in 1913, Clarence Bell in 1914 and Eloise Boalch in 1915. In 1916, however, Floyd Brisack, Haidee Taylor, Archie Morgan, Zella Glazier, Audrey Catching, Ted Boalch and Mildred Allen graduated, and similarly-sized classes followed. High school caught on.

Finally, in 1909 North Bend continued to see the changes in transportation that would assure its businesses success. Snoqualmie Pass had connected Eastern Washington to the Puget Sound country for centuries, and horse drawn traffic was already well established. On September 17, 1909, Charles Baldwin reported, “Travel through Snoqualmie Pass has been quite extensive this summer. At present several teams are seen daily making their way east or west.”

The town did have the Northern Pacific line into Seattle, but in May a mysterious team of surveyors arrived in the valley. They turned out to be the advance party of the Milwaukee Road, which began purchasing right-of-way in December and started building the Everett Branch line in 1910. In July, the North Coast Railway was rumored to have 19 surveyors in the Middle Fork Valley.

Then, something new. The Independent reported on May 21 that, “Mr. {Dio} Reinig has invested in a monster auto,” and on June 18, “Mr. {Dio} Reinig of Snoqualmie drove through town Tuesday evening in his new auto.” The very next week Henry Ford himself arrived as two cars racing from New York to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle passed through North Bend. Dio Reinig was called upon to make repairs to the eventual winner, a Shawmut. Local residents plastered the car with North Bend booster buttons.

By 1911 there were three auto stage companies connecting North Bend to other eastside cities. The cross-state highway eventually bypassed Preston, Fall City and Snoqualmie in 1941, but North Bend’s merchants moved their buildings to provide enough right-of–way to keep customers coming through the heart of their town.

Much was accomplished in 1909, but in December the citizens of the town let the city fathers down just a bit. Though over 60 people had signed the incorporation petition, and 63 had voted for Mayor Maloney in February, in the December regular election only 29 voted. The incumbents were all returned, but perhaps the sidewalk assessments, the dog licenses and the talk of condemning property disillusioned some. Maybe it was the weather. It was a cold December, and the skating was reported to be excellent. In the first week of the new year, the sky cleared enough to give local residents their first sight of Halley’s comet, apparently a good omen. North Bend seemed ready for the future.

1909 North Bend

Nita Baldwin, Class of 1912 – First Graduate of North Bend High School

Peter Maloney – Marshall of the Day – July 4, 1908 Siegrist Parades

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