WA Secretary of State Blogs

Puget Sound Mail – News from La Conner, 1879-1880

From the desk of Marly Rudeen

Each newspaper has its own personality supplied in part by the editor, in part by its subscribers and correspondents, and in part by the events of the time period. The Puget Sound Mail from La Conner strikes me as an outward looking paper. Much of front page news comes from San Francisco and other west coast cities, including regular news from southern Oregon and the Willamette Valley. But the rest of that valuable space is given to international, East Coast and Midwestern news items. Local issues are covered on pages 2 and 3, with p. 4 used for feature items or essays. There is far less reporting of local visitors or social events than in some other papers.

I’ve explored several issues and found some entertaining stories. To browse through the issues of the Puget Sound Mail on your own go to: http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/newspapers_detail.aspx?t=27 and select issues from the list of dates on the left or from the calendar display on the right. A list of articles will appear at the bottom of the screen, click on any of the links.

BittersSept. 13, 1879
p. 1 “Foreign News” “… the British Embassy at Cabul had been attacked by several Afghan regiments which had assembled in that city…” (Some things remain constant.) Under “The India Insurrection” “A dispatch from Prome says that massacres in Mandalay continue…”
p. 3 In “Review of our Local Business Cards, &c.” – “Mr. Joseph Alexander, druggist at La Conner, has a very complete stock of drugs, medicines, &c., and is highly esteemed by the community for his obliging attention to business.”
p. 4 The day’s features include small treatises on “Clock Making in the Black Forest,” and the “Age for Legal Marriages” in different European countries.

Sept. 27, 1879
p. 3 Under “Local News and Comments” “While burning a lot of straw on one of the ranches adjoining this town, the other evening, 25 sacks of grain, which had been covered up, was consumed in the flames; which leads us to suggest that you remove all grain a safe distance from the burning straw.”
p. 4 This week articles cover the “Curiosities of suicide” and “The Last Polish Revolution.”

Oct, 11, 1879
p. 1 National news covers the collapse of a grand stand in Detroit, a quarantine in Nashville, and yellow fever in Memphis. Hostilities with Indians continue in the Denver area.
P. 4 There are brief essays on “English Home Life” and “Kissing the Baby,” a look at political campaigning.

Oct. 25, 1879
p. 1 International reporting covers “Trouble in Afghanistan,” “Inundations in Spain,” and a “Row in Hayti.” National news repeats with Indian conflicts and yellow fever. West Coast News reports on a suit over mining rights in San Francisco, an absconding bookkeeper, and Mendocino outlaws.
p. 3 Local news covers visitors, social outings, appointments and shipping news. “The Pacific Mail steamship China, a vessel of some six thousand tons, is now on the Sound taking in cargo… Residents are urged to visit the ship in port as she … is a monster in way of naval architecture.” New years ball

Nov. 8, 1879
p. 1 War with the Ute Indians continues, Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan dies, as does the Civil War general Jos. Hooker. Internationally there is a report on English crops, more floods in Spain, French communists, and political trials in Russia.
p. 3 A bill has been introduced in the legislature “proposing to cut down the per diem of County Commissioners from five to four dollars per day.”
“Preparations are being made here at La Conner for a grand masquerade ball on Thanksgiving night.”
There are also ads for the steamers Chehalis, Susie, Fanny Lake and Josephine.

Nov. 22, 1879
p. 1 Terrible storms damage mid-west cities, drought threatens Virginia, and there’s a nasty suicide in Texas caused by infidelity. Diphtheria ravages Russia, there is unrest in Cuba, and Afghans are hanged in Cabul – further trouble is anticipated.
p. 3 “It has been suggested that the Literary Society be revived, now that the winter season has set in.” “Mr. J. S. Magg’s, dentist of Seattle, will be in La Conner during the first week in December. Those desiring his services would do well to come early in the week as he intends to stop but a short time.”
p. 4 Readers can learn more about “Ammonia” and “Diphtheria.”

Dec. 6, 1879
p. 1 National news reports a terrible boiler explosion in Eauclaire, Wisc. A grand jury in Salt Lake is hearing testimony on Mormon polygamists. In the international column an appeal is made to raise money to alleviate suffering due to famine in Ireland.

Jan. 10, 1880
p. 3 The heaviest snowfall in memory hits La Conner with 3 ½ feet of the white stuff.
There is talk of running a steamship line between Port Townsend and La Conner to accommodate the miners rushing to the Skagit River gold fields, Port Townsend being a port of call for those coming from California or British Columbia, and La Conner being at the mouth of the Skagit River.
The deep snow proves a life saver for Thos. Lindsey who is attacked by a bull while feeding his cattle. When the bull charged he fell into the deep snow, “As the infuriated animal commenced to roll the man in the snow he became blinded thereby and finally desisted until his victim was rescued.”

Jan. 31, 1880
p. 1 “State and Territorial” Farmers near Hillsboro, OR are demanding that a law be passed “compelling every man to keep his stock from running at large.” Under national stories, negotiations with the Utes are underway to end hostilities. For Foreign News, a terrible disaster in a Newcastle coal mine is reported.
p. 3 “Land-slides were the order of the day during the recent thaw.” Locally it affected Indian residents from up the Swinomish Slough where “the building and a number of canoes were completely destroyed, the Indian occupants barely escaping with their lives.”

Feb. 21, 1880
p. 1 From “The Willamette Valley” – Eugene’s City Council received a petition “asking that saloon-keepers be required to procure signatures of a majority of the voters of the city before a license would be granted.” It failed to pass.
p. 4 ”The Rights of Teachers” defends teachers against charge of short hours and long vacations, and “Legislative Facetiae” quote the Sacrament Bee as it reports on plans for a masquerade party to celebrate the passing of a legislator’s first bill. Oregon Kidney tea

Mar. 13, 1880
p. 1 Under “Foreign News” there is a report of the execution of a Russian Nihilist for attempting to shoot Gen. Melikoff. Finns are making noises about independence, and there is a fatal boiler explosion in Glasgow where twenty-three people died.
p. 4 There is an interview with Frederick Douglass about the death of the man who had once owned him as a slave.

Additional newspapers for Washington can be found at Historic Newspapers at the Washington State Library’s web site. The State Library is a Division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

More Washington newspaper titles have been digitized through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under the National Digital Newspaper Program. These and many other American newspapers can be found online at Chronicling America at the Library of Congress.



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