WA Secretary of State Blogs

Con Artists take note, you’ve got nothing on J. A. Fallgatter!

September 22nd, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on Con Artists take note, you’ve got nothing on J. A. Fallgatter!

From the desk of Steve Willis, Former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Stories about con artists were a regular feature of early Washington newspapers. Some, like this article from the August 22, 1902 issue of The Lind Leader, are more amusing than others:


 Proved to be a Grafter from Graftersville.– He Left Debts Galore.

 J.A. Fallgatter, erstwhile proprietor of the Lind Art Studio, is gone– whither deponent saith not. He boarded a train at two o’clock last Friday morning and has not been heard of since.  Lind art Studio

 Fallgatter proved himself to be an artist in more than one line. As a photographer he was nothing extra, but he was a past master in the art of grafting and he worked not only Lind, but the adjacent country, right. He worked it to a finish, to a fare-you-well. For thoroughness his job of doing up the country would be hard to beat.

 He owes nearly everybody from Paha on the east to Hatton on the west. North and south hill stretch from the Odessa neighborhood to Washtucna.

 All he left to satisfy his creditors is a cheap building covered by a lumbermen’s lien and a fourth class photograph gallery outfit that is mortgaged for more than it is worth.

 Fallgatter came here a few months ago with a camera, rented a room of Sam Armstrong and commenced taking pictures. As soon as he became acquainted he asked the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber company for lumber, on credit, to put up a gallery. As he seemed to be a good rustler and stuck strictly to business he got it.

 In the meantime he had, by securing a few small loans, raised money enough to buy a new camera and other things needed to start a gallery. He told the Bruster brothers, the carpenters who put up his building, that he could not pay them for their work until fall and gave them a note for the amount owed them, secured by a mortgage on the outfit.

 It has been about two months since he put up the building. He has been doing some business right along but the “enormous expense” of starting up left him so short of money that he bought everything on credit that he could. Occasionally some creditor– generally an imaginary one– would press him for money and he would work the “rush act” on some acquaintance for a small amount.

 JA Fallgatter has skipped outWhen the Lindites got to comparing notes after his departure it was found that by borrowing money, making purchases on credit and “standing off” people who had worked for him he owed nearly every man in town and several of the women. The majority of these bills are small ones, ranging from a few cents to $5 or $10.

 Besides the stunts referred to above he had another one for connecting with cash and this one he worked on the country people. As soon as harvest commenced he traveled through the country taking farm views. Wherever he was given work he collected all he could on the pictures ordered as a guarantee of good faith and very few of these pictures were ever finished. He had been working that little graft for two or three weeks before making his sneak and is said to have made a nice little clean-up by it.

 It is very evident that Mr. Fallgatter did well here. He landed in Lind dead broke and is supposed to have left with not less than $500 in his jeans.

 Besides his numerous little bills he owed a few larger ones. He stuck Fred Irwin for $51, Jacob Koch for $28, N.B. Rathbone for $21, Dr. Smith for $30 and Riley Fry for $14.

 He owed Misses Ella Sturdivan $20 and Una Scott $15 for work in the gallery.

 When a later con artist showed up in Lind and relieved some suckers of money, the newspaper said the victims had been “Fallgattered.”

John A. Fallgatter’s biography is, as you might expect, somewhat murky and contains conflicting data. Born in Wisconsin ca. 1850, he was married twice, apparently fathered several children, and moved around a lot. He is on record as having lived in Afton, Iowa (1870), Buckeye, Kansas (1880), Lakin, Kansas (1900), Milton, Oregon (1908), Dufur, Oregon (1910), Redmond, Oregon (1911), Lynden, Washington (1920), and Everson, Washington (early 1920s).

In addition to working as a photographer, he was also a minister, a farmer, and a carpenter. He died in Northern State Hospital in Sedro -Woolley, May 29, 1924.








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Steve’s last post…

June 15th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, Uncategorized Comments Off on Steve’s last post…

Although this article was found at random in the January 23, 1914 issue of The Mason County Journal, the story actually concerns a man from Spokane, and one of the great unsolved missing persons cases in Washington State history. The subject in question had a perfect name for a Pacific Northwest character– F. Lewis Clark:


Wealthy Spokane Man DisappearsSanta Barbara, Cal.–F. Lewis Clark, one of the wealthiest residents of Spokane, Wash., heavily interested in mines, flour mills, real estate and other enterprises, has been missing ever since he attended his wife to the train last week. His disappearance is proving a deep mystery.

 Friends and the police believe Mr. Clark either was murdered or committed suicide. In support of one of these presumptions, Mr. Clark’s hat was found on the ocean beach, a mile north of the Santa Barbara wharf.

 Mr. Clark, who had been in this vicinity for the past three months, coming from Spokane for the benefit of his health, was staying at a hotel.

 It is said that Mrs. Clark does not believe her husband is dead and will institute a vigorous search for him on the theory that he merely wandered away. When Mrs. Clark left Santa Barbara Friday night for Spokane she left her husband in his usual good spirits. Immediately thereafter he dismissed his chauffeur at the depot and he has not been seen since.

 It was learned that the domestic life of the Clarks has not been entirely tranquil. Mr. Clark has been a sufferer for many years from a physical ailment.

Maine-native Francis Lewis Clark was 52 years old at the time he vanished. Starting in the 1880s he had established himself as one of the industrial giants of Spokane. He owned the largest flour mill in the Northwest. He was an executive with a railroad company. He was a yachtsman who was one of the founders of the America Cup race. He was a millionaire with two mansions: his main home in Spokane (by architect Kirtland Cutter) and his “summer home” on Hayden Lake, Idaho (called “Honeysuckle Lodge“), the latter of which was considered the most expensive home in Idaho when it was built in 1910.

At the time Clark vanished he left behind a wife, Winifred, and a son, Teddy, who was attending Harvard.

F. Lewis Clark’s disappearance has never been explained. Naturally many felt he had drowned himself, but Mrs. Clark initially suggested he had anonymously checked himself into a sanitarium. His valet told the press Mr. Clark was really in no physical shape to go anywhere unassisted. He was 135 pounds and believed to have been suffering from cancer.

The police dynamited the channel in hopes the blasts would dislodge his body, but to no effect. Some suggested that Clark faked his death.

The case grew murkier as police received a note from a purported group called the “Blackmailers” demanding $75,000 ransom for Clark. The kidnapping angle quickly fizzled. And ultimately the disappearance of F. Lewis Clark became one of the great missing persons mysteries in Pacific Northwest history.

Mrs. Clark had to sell off the estate by 1922 and died in 1940 under much more financially modest conditions. Both of the Clark mansions survive today as relics of an era of opulence. Just when I wondered why no one has dramatized this unsolved case, I discovered Northwest author Jamie Ford has used this mystery as a springboard for his latest story, Wish You Were Here at the Bottom of a Well.

F. Lewis Clark’s name can be found in our online Pacific Northwest card file!

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On the Eve of Prohibition…

April 6th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on On the Eve of Prohibition…

From the desk of Steve Willis, former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

After the voters of Washington State had approved a state-wide prohibition of alcohol in 1914, the clock started ticking for drinkers. The last legal drinks could be consumed on December 31, 1915. By that time, the town of Starbuck was the last town left in a two-county area that was still “wet.” The following article found at random in the January 8, 1916 issue of the Starbuck Standard describes the town’s transition into a Brave New World:

Starbucks standard

‘Mid Shrieks of Many Whistles Starbuck Sees a New Epoch

Starbuck, for the past five years the only wet town in either Columbia or Garfield counties is dry and for the first Saturday in over 25 years, liquid refreshments were not dispensed on New Years’ day.

 Many had anticipated an unprecedented New Year eve for the old town, and but for a shortage of malt, vinous and spiritous liquors, this might have been fully realized. At any rate there was “something doing” from early in the day Friday until the numerous engines in the yards proclaimed the dawn of nineteen hundred sixteen. mid shrieks

 The Star Hotel bar, owned by J.S. Fuller, for 20 years in business in Starbuck, was the first to run out of goods and closed its doors at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The Columbia Bar, J.R. Hill proprietor, held on until 8 in the evening when a shortage of goods compelled the closing of the doors. The Starbuck saloon, Mike Ray proprietor, seemed better supplied with stock and remained open until midnight, although during closing hours only whiskey was on sale. Mr. Ray has been in business here for nearly 15 years.

 Saturday apparently was a blue day for many, and a quiet one for the town. Many of the imbibers, however, had laid in a supply of refreshments and this helped in making the world look a little brighter, for the moment at least. The stores were open during the forenoon, but in the afternoon the town took on a graveyard appearance.

 The Star Hotel bar will be transferred into a pool and billiard room, where cigars, tobaccos and soft drinks will be sold, and will be open for business in about another week. It is probable that the Columbia bar will be utilized to a similar purpose, but as yet nothing definite has been announced. No announcements have been made regarding the old Starbuck bar, and it is reported that the building will not be placed in use for the present.

 James S. Fuller (1860-1933) remained in Starbuck, running a “cigar store” until ca. 1923, when he moved to the Spokane area. Fuller died right before Prohibition was brought to an end. Toronto-born Mike Ray (1869-1943) also stayed in Starbuck for many years and worked as an employee of the railroad. James R. Hill (born ca. 1882) returned to his native Michigan and worked in auto mechanics and construction.

Originally a railroad junction, the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company was a major economic concern in Starbuck in the early 20th century.

The Railway Carmen’s Journal, a labor union organ, mentioned all three of the above gentlemen in the April 1912 issue. Apparently there are a few inside jokes in this song:


(Air, Casey Jones)


Dedicated to the Strikebreakers of Starbuck, Washington.


Come all you scalies, if you want to hear

The story of the strikers here.

Recognition is the strikers’ aim,

On the Harriman lines she will win her fame.


Caller called the scalies at half past four

To calk the flues and look her o’er;

‘Twas the old switch engine, No. 24;

They found “Bad-Eye” York in the fire box door.


J.F. Killeen to the scalies said:

“Get Kid Yorke out or he will soon be dead.”

Then he gave them all the big glad hand,

Said, “I’ll write you transportation to the promised land.”


He weighed 200 pounds when he started the stunt.

Put on the overalls and cached his white front.

With Farry you can tarry just as long as you please,

In the bull pen with scalies, your crumbs, and your fleas.


Old Jim Fuller is a big fat slob,

With scab loving Beck he is onto his job,

Catering to the scalies and picking up the change,

Having no respect for his son’s good name.


Mike Ray stands in front of his bar,

Drinking with scalies, puffing a scab cigar;

Here’s where you can get your drinks and your smokes,

For this bunch of union men are nothing but jokes.


Mr. J.R. Hill is surely our pard,

Having due respect for a union card.

When a scalie approaches him for a drink,

He points to his card and says, I don’t think.



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Random news – Meteors, or UFOs?

February 13th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on Random news – Meteors, or UFOs?

From the desk of Steve Willis, former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Through pure randomness I ran across a couple mysterious events experienced by Washingtonians in the north central part of the state in late December, 1921.

Ball of Fire in Sky seen hereOne of the benefits of working in a library with the largest collection of Washington State newspapers in the world is that I can focus on singular events from a multitude of views. Such is the case with the twin meteors during the 1921 holiday season, over 90 years ago.

In the December 29th and 31st, 1921 issues of The Wenatchee Daily World, witnesses from Soap Lake were quoted as having seen a meteor light up the sky at 12:30 AM on December 27. One man, R.J. Cartmill was certain the object had fallen to Earth and crashed in a ball of fire.

Two days later, a more dramatic event took place around the 7 AM hour. Jim Ellis, a prospector, was quoted in the January 6, 1922 issue of The Oroville Weekly Gazette:

 “When I got outside my cabin there was no fire but the glare caused me to look up and there was a big ball of flame, bigger than the First National bank, heading right for Oroville. Sparks from the thing were dropping on the roof of my cabin and on the snow around. It made a big sound, like a heavy wind as it traveled, and it was going fast, I thought the world was coming to an end. I watched it until it went out of sight in the clouds and fog and little later I heard a big explosion. I thought Oroville had been wiped out and I started for town to see the wreck.”

 The explosive sound could very have been a sonic boom. In conjecturing the cause of this unusual event, the Gazette added, “So many persons in this part of the country saw manifestations of the phenomenon or felt the effects of the explosion that it is accepted as altogether probable that some stray wanderer from interplanetary space visited this locality and either buried itself in the hills hereabouts or exploded nearby, consumed by friction with the earth’s atmosphere.”

Brilliant MeteorThe Methow Valley News in Twisp reported in their December 30th issue that the meteor had “a flash of light equal in brilliancy to a near flash of lightning. A report as of thunder followed, but not so loud, only being heard by those out in the open. It is reported the meteor was seen to strike on the Crevling place above Winthrop, on Eight Mile.”

The January 3, 1921 issue of the Okanogan Independent of Okanogan, Wash. reported: “J.E. Crofoot, living on the reservation 16 miles east of here, was out near his granary at the time of the fall, and was thrown against a steel feed roller and stunned for several minutes. Crofoot’s neighbor reports a similar experience. The phenomenon was thought by them to be lightning. Crofoot, with whom we had a telephone conversation, says that the flash was quick rising, quick dying and all-embracing, and seemed to have with it no sound whatever. Crofoot’s sense left him, he says, so that he had neither eye to discover wherefrom it came, ear to catch any rumbling or booming; and was for several passing moments, totally without speculative faculty, so that, to this hour, he remains in a state of mere gloom and fog as to the exact nature of the phenomenon: saying, however, that it looked like lightning. ‘For a minute, I seemed to be in a ball of fire,’ says Crofoot. Mrs. Crofoot, who was within doors, detected a booming.”

The Tonasket Times and the Okanogan Record issue for December 30th reported on a good number of witnesses from the area. The descriptions were consistent with the other newspaper reports, with the addition of the object flying over with a hissing sound. Supposed Meteorite caused big sensation

So what were these things? The Ursid meteor shower usually takes place every year around December 22nd. This annual astronomical event was not named until the early 20th century. Could these two meteors be connected somehow with the Ursids? Or, as the Gazette suggested, did we have extraterrestrial visitors? If a crash site exists for whatever these flying things were, I have found no record of the discovery.




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The fugitive vanished into history…..

January 15th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on The fugitive vanished into history…..

From the desk of Steve Willis, Former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The dry humor of this reporter is fun to read in the January 18, 1895 issue of The Wilbur Register. The random article found this week relates a drama that took place in northwest Lincoln County:



 So Prisoner Dawson Left the Court Room to Escape Them.

 A young man named Tom Dawson has given our neighboring town of Almira her fill of sensations this week. It appears that on Tuesday Mr. Dawson assaulted William Twitchell, the village blacksmith, without due provocation, and pounded his face up considerably. Upon mature reflection Mr. Twitchell decided to get angry at this rough usage, and swore out a warrant praying that his assailant might be apprehended and dealt with according to law. This was exactly the turn Mr. Dawson had expected the matter to take, so he made tracks toward Wilbur. Along in the night he peered through the window of one of the saloons, and satisfying himself the coast was clear, entered and ordered refreshments. But he had counted without his host. He was unaware that any officer but ex-Deputy Sheriff Mike Flohr guarded the peace and dignity of western Lincoln’s metropolis, and as Mike was not in sight the fugitive walked directly into the arms of Chief of Police Keables, who, armed with the wired warrant and description, was awaiting the arrival. Constable McPheron of Almira arrived on Wednesday morning and took his prisoner back on the train. Attorney Lacey was retained to defend the prisoner, and accompanied the party to Almira, where the case was put on trial before Judge Otto. During one of the discussions between the counsel the prisoner got rattled over the flights of oratory and stepped outside to cool his fevered brow, and while his counsel was making an impassioned plea for his liberty was calmly taking a constitutional neath the stars which were just beginning to shed their chaste twinkles on the Big Bend plain. As it was reported that he had agreed to requite his lawyer’s services with $10 worth of stovewood, it is suggested that Mr. Dawson may be in Rocky canyon exercising with an axe and saw.

 Dawson was about a decade younger than Twitchell, who was a 40 year old Civil War veteran and a native of Maine. The fugitive vanished into history but Twitchell lived on Almira until he died in 1904.

This story reminds me of a tale concerning one of my Willis uncles. In the 1920s he was running some of his excellent moonshine through Centralia when he was caught by law enforcement. They took his car and gave him jail time at night and road crew work during the day. My uncle said it wasn’t so bad. He had a place to sleep and three meals a day. Then, as he put it, “I took up a notion to go home. So I sold the road crew wheelbarrow and shovel to a passerby and left.”

The Wilbur Register is still with us today. It has existed since early 1889, and catalog librarians will love this, without any title changes!


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Never let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.

December 29th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection 2 Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

My father was a master storyteller who had a saying, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.” I think some reporters must have that motto as well, or at least they did in 1890.

The following article was found at random in the Columbia Chronicle, September 20, 1890. This was the newspaper for Dayton, Washington:ghastly find


In the mountains near Spokane Falls, Monday, the decomposed remains of a man supposed to be Baron Von Strauss, an Austrian nobleman, were found by some hunters. The history of the baron is a sad one. For some mysterious reason he left his home two years ago and came to this country. After wandering about until his funds were exhausted he wrote home for more, but learned that his brother had made away with his property. He came to Spokane Falls and tried to find employment, but was repeatedly refused. His misfortune made him despondent and he wandered out into the country. For two or three weeks he was seen about the vicinity of Gentle’s ranch, six miles east of Spokane.

 He would apply to farm houses for a “morsel of food and shelter.” He was so courtly in bearing, so intelligent in his speech that the country folks thought that he was some poet whose strange moods had led him to seek the solitude of the mountains. To no one, notwithstanding that he spent several evenings socially with those who entertained him, would he reveal the deep secret of his wanderings in the fields.

 One day– the last day he was seen alive– he called at Gentle’s ranch and left an elegant but empty purse, saying that he was going into the mountains to starve. Little attention was paid to what he said. They thought that his utterance was merely the expression of a morbid nature seeking seclusion.

 He walked off toward Moran mountain and Sunday the horrible find of his body with bones protruding from the decomposing flesh, mutilated by wild animals, reveals the story of an Austrian count who literally starved himself to death in a strange country.

The story was national news for a couple weeks. Many of accounts were far more graphic in relating the gruesome details.

According to various news sources, Baron Von Strauss had departed Budapest ca. 1888 and made his way across the United States, from New York to Chicago, to San Francisco, spending freely until he ran out of funds. When he wrote back home for more money, the Baron discovered his brother had helped himself to the entire family treasury and fled to India. Left high and dry, the Baron made his way to Portland, Tacoma and finally Spokane, where he cut the figure of an elegant tramp.

The two pheasant hunters who found the Baron’s remains on September 8, 1890 were said to have buried the body on the spot.

The notion of a wayward member of European nobility, a stranger in a strange land stranded with no financial resources or skills, buried in the wilderness has sort of a melancholy romance to it.

But, The Spokane Falls Daily Chronicle ran a story on this incident on September 9 and 10, 1890 with a different set of facts, including that the Sheriff brought the body into Spokane. Somehow the other newspapers didn’t choose to run this more mundane version. Here’s the article from the 10th:


 The Identity of the Man Found on Moran Mountain Established.

An examination of the papers found on the body of the man who was found dead on Moran mountain revealed the fact that he was a shoemaker and thirty years of age. He had taken out his first naturalization papers, which were issued in the state of Wisconsin, county of Sheboygan. His name was Carl Krishner, and he was a native of Germany. He had served his three years apprenticeship in the shoemaker’s trade a certificate to that effect was one of the papers found on him. A copy of a Sunday school paper, “The Young Reaper,” and a prayer book was found in his pocket.




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The Philanthropic Ghost of Centralia Washington

December 16th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on The Philanthropic Ghost of Centralia Washington

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The random news for this installment was discovered in The Daily Hub (Centralia, Wash.), February 26, 1916. The following ghost story was top of the fold front page news:










Ghostly Manifestations Defy Solution In Spite of Family’s Best Efforts– Spirit Is Apparently Friendly

 Centralia has a haunted house.

 This piece of news may be a bit startling to those who always connect haunted houses with old, old mansions with a past of bloody deeds to cover, and they naturally inquire where in Centralia can be found a house that answers this description.

 The answer is that there is no such house.

 Centralia’s haunted house is modern in every respect and is inhabited by as peaceable, sociable and jolly a family as you could ask to meet. Neither are they a family given to becoming frightened at the noise of a mouse scuttling across the pantry floor or a board squeaking as the house sways to the spring winds.

No, the Kaestners are wholesome, sociable, unafraid folks and when they finally, after many manifestations admitted to close friends that certain things were transpiring about their home on Waunch Prairie that could not be accounted for under ordinary rules governing human agency and action, the admission had considerable weight that it held up under searching investigation. 

 But the strangest part of the “hant” that has taken up abode at the Kaestner residence is that it is a sociable and also liberal ghost. Unlike the ghost of fiction, it does not believe in needlessly scaring people, neither does it believe in taking away– in fact the Kaestner ghost’s actions bear more resemblance to the gyrations indulged in by Santa Claus than to the work of a soul-terrifying spirit.

 Now to get to the real story:

 About a week ago Mrs. Kaestner went home after a shopping trip down town, unlocked the door and went in. The cheerful singing of a tea kettle attracted her to the kitchen where she found a merry fire burning in the range– and not a soul on the place. Later, when the family assembled for supper she mentioned the occurrence, but each member of the family stoutly denied having started the range fire. This passed without comment, but next day Fred Kaestner took a heavy room rug out on the lawn to clean for his mother. He left it out to air while he did some chores and when he later folded it up to take in, there underneath the rug was a bright new one dollar currency note. This was talked over and it was finally decided that the bill had been dropped by some passer and not noticed when the rug was thrown out on the lawn for cleaning.

 The next visitation of this philanthropic ghost came the next evening. Mrs. Kaestner had gathered the eggs and left them on the screened back porch. Going out shortly after to get some eggs for supper she found, lying on top of the egg basket a nicely folded absolutely new and unwrinkled necktie that had every appearance of having come direct from some good store.

 Things began to look decidedly queer by this time and when the next afternoon the phonograph in the front room started to play with all of the family either out or in another part of the house, Mrs. Kaestner was forced to admit that she was becoming nervous to say the least. This action of the phonograph, however, seemed to have appeared to the friendly ghost as a bit out of its line, for the very next day while Mrs. Kaestner was sweeping the back walk she spied in the grass close to the walk a new $2 currency note.

 As has been intimated and as everyone knows who has the pleasure of their acquaintance, the Kaestners are not people to become stampeded into accepting any ghost stories or fooled by some easily explained prank, but, in spite of a careful investigation, watching and search they have been unable to explain the series of happenings related.

 In the meantime Mr. Kaestner has taken the bills to the bank and found that they are absolutely good, so he is patiently and hopefully awaiting the next visitation.

 Max (1851-1909) and Anna Kaestner (1862-1948) with their young son Frederick Frank “Fritz” Kaestner (1881-1947) came to the United States from their native Germany in 1887. Max had been a lieutenant of artillery in the German army. Initially they moved to Colorado but in 1889 set up home in Centralia, Washington. In a short time the Kaestner family had a reputation as running one of the most sanitary and progressive dairies in the area.

When Max died at age 58, several years before the above story took place, he had become very well known in Centralia. One obituary stated, “Mr. Kaestner was a man of sterling character, a man who held strong opinions, and was probably one of the most highly educated men in the county having received the best instruction obtainable in Germany.”

Fritz Kaestner continued to run the dairy for a few decades. If there was a follow-up story about who was jerking this family’s chain in 1916, I’d love to see it.





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Tramp Printers or Passing of the Old Time Print

December 11th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on Tramp Printers or Passing of the Old Time Print

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Oroville weekly GazetteThe January 2, 1920 issue of The Oroville Weekly Gazette introduces us to an occupation that even in the 1920s had become antiquated by technological advances– the tramp printer, also known as the tourist printer or hobo antimony jerker:

PASSING OF THE OLD TIME PRINTPassing of the old time print

One day during the week this office had a call from that extreme rarity nowadays, a tourist printer. He was not of the class of the old time tramp print. He was a clean faced American, neatly if not extravagantly dressed, and his breath did not announce his approach before he hove in sight. What a contrast to the drifting antimony jerker of 35 years ago, in the days when “The Pilgrim” and “California Dick” floated from place to place around eastern Washington, clothed in raiment that would put a scare crow to the blush and assisting very materially in the revenue of receipts by consumption of spirituous decoctions. They never wanted a steady job. A few days at the case, and their feet would commence itching for the road, and snatching a free lunch while squandering what they had made in joy water until lit up like the northern lights they would shake the dust of the town in which they had briefly sojourned from their feet and hike out for other pastures. Queer lads were the two old typos mentioned, considered somewhat off the clutch, differing disposition though partners in the way of the life they led. “The Pilgrim” quiet and taciturn in his cups, “California Dick” noisy, truculent, boastful, when loaded, and that was their normal condition. And yet for all that, in the days of the “stick and rule” these old stagers could set up a creditable “string” and they knew every mystery of the print shop. Gone to their last reward, those old boys, and we trust the recording angel dropped a silent tear of absolution when registering their arrival, blotting out those short comings which were really mild indiscretions, for which they were more to be pitied than blamed.

In his book News For an Empire (1952), covering the history of the Spokesman-Review, Ralph E. Dyar mentions “… the tramp printers, a characteristic feature of Western newspaper offices during the eighties and nineties. Their very names were individual, perhaps invented, as: Pilgrim the Printer, California Dick, Seneca G. Ketchum, Major Henby, and J. Peck MacSwain. Most of the itinerants never wanted a steady job. A few days at the case and their feet commenced itching for the road. They would either climb into a boxcar or hit the road on foot for other pastures.”

“California Dick” turns up in various newspapers in the Pacific Northwest as a defendant in court. This bit in the Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) from August 28, 1890 is typical: “A party who answers to the honorable name of California Dick, and another of the same class, were brought before Justice Randall yesterday morning to answer to a charge of drunk and disorderly. They were fined $6 and costs; in default they went up for three days.”

Supposedly California Dick did some hard time in Oklahoma for holding up a stage. He died in Grangeville, Idaho, September 26, 1899. The Spokane Daily Chronicle gave notice of his passing in their September 29th issue:

California Dick is Dead CALIFORNIA DICK IS DEAD

 Type of Tramp Printer of the Ancient Days.


 For Years He Has Wandered Through the Changing Northwest.


 Passed Away at Grangeville Last Tuesday — Richard Richards Was His Real Name.

 “California Dick” is dead. The famous tramp printer whose face and appetite have been familiar to every town in the northwest for nearly 20 years, will never count railway ties again. “Poor Dick,” says everybody– that’s all; if he hadn’t a real friend he hadn’t an enemy.

 Just who Dick was, where he came from or when or why he came to the northwest, nobody knows. It is doubtful if anybody ever took the trouble to find out. For a couple of decades the printers of the Pacific slope have simply accepted him as an established fact– a harmless and thirsty fact, to be humored, not questioned or argued down. Perhaps half the printers west of the Rockies have “loaned two bits” to Dick. Maybe he will repay it somehow in another world.

 It must be nearly two years since Dick’s last visit to Spokane. From this city he drifted to Grangeville, Ida. The report came a few weeks ago that he was sick in that town; and now comes the Grangeville Press of last Tuesday with this little obituary:

 Dick’s Obituary

 “California Dick” died about 1 o’clock this afternoon at the Moser house.

 His real name was Richard Richards, and he was a native of Pennsylvania. An uncle of his was at one time governor of that state, but in all the long years we have known him he never confided any of his past history with us. He is supposed to have been drawing a pension, and therefore it is to be presumed that he served in the federal army during the war.

 Our personal knowledge of him extends back to 1881, when “Dick” put in an appearance at the office of our Nez Perce News, at Lewiston, and from that day to this he has been in our employ from time to time, and helped us get out the first issue of the Free Press in 1886. Of late years, probably owing to the receipt of pension money, he has not cared much for work, and has not done anything for the past year, except a few days in this office.

 He was a typical tramp printer of a type common enough in the northwest in ante-railroad days, and their sole occupation in life was to roam from place to place, working for a few days, getting on a tear every Saturday night and finally departing as silently as they came. We have known “Dick” to walk into Lewiston in the middle of winter, when towns were more of a rarity and much farther apart than they are today, work for a few days and depart for new pastures as mysteriously as he came.

 In those days it was a point of honor with newspaper men to make employment for these tramps, but with the advent of eastern men who “knew not Joseph ” and keener competition in the business, the old-timers have had to watch their dollars more closely, and the tramps have consequently fared harder with the lapse of time. This, we believe, is the reason why “California Dick” has kept so closely around Grangeville for the past two years– to be out of the way of the railroads, where living is supposed to be easier than in civilization. Poor Dick was nobody’s enemy but his own, and now that he has departed hence we can throw the mantle of charity over his failings and believe that death came as a blessing and happy release.

 Pilgrim the Printer shows up in the Northwest around the late 1870s. His range appeared to be much broader than California Dick. The Pilgrim was born Samuel P. Haslett, December, 1838 in Butler, Pennsylvania. His Irish-born father, William Haslett (1816-1872), ran a newspaper in Butler and also held offices in the state legislature as a Whig and Republican.

An undated clipping from the San Francisco Morning Ledger, which was reprinted in a collection of newspaper stories in 1890, included this description of Haslett:


 Last night Hazlett, known everywhere as the “Pilgrim Print,” came up the Ledger stairs and walked into the composing-room just as naturally as if he had never worked anywhere else in all his life. As soon as he crossed the threshold he was welcomed from all sides, for everybody knew him by sight or reputation. Without taking the slightest notice of the chaff thrown at him from the cases, he shuffled up toward the centre of the room, and leaned against a composing-stone, looking about him like Marius inspecting the ruins of Carthage.

 To him a well-regulated printing office, where men work systematically for wages, is an abomination and a disgrace. He would scorn to be subservient to a master. He never took orders from anybody. When he strikes a place that suits him, he tackles a column of type and begins to distribute it. When he doesn’t like his work or his company, he throws on his coat and walks off, scorning to ask for pay. An old, dingy printing office, with worn and blackened cases, battered type and cracked composing stones, suits him best; where the galleys are all shrunk out of shape, the chases all indented, the quoins all mashed and the foreman’s mallet beaten down almost to the handle. Cobwebs on the wall give him genuine delight, and big breaks in the ceiling, denoting the long absence of plaster, are well-springs of pleasurable emotion. An expression of intense disgust shadowed his features as he saw that it was not over a month old. The newness of the racks made him shudder; the air of cleanliness paralyzed him. When he saw the printers around him taking orders from one man, he cast a sad look over the place, such as Napoleon might have thrown on the galley slaves of Toulon. He concealed his contempt as best he could, not desiring to wound their feelings, and when he sneered he did it so softly that few noticed it.

 By the late 1890s Haslett returned to the East, where he continued his occupation as a tramp printer. The US Census of 1900 actually caught him in Genesee, Pennsylvania. Haslett, who by this time was described as looking like Santa Claus, died January 9th, 1906 while walking down a street in Easton, Maryland, seeking work. He is buried in Butler, Pennsylvania.

As a WSL bit of trivia, our colleague Shawn Schollmeyer has pointed out that James P. Ferry, who served as Territorial Librarian from 1880-1881, and a son of Washington’s first governor, was not exactly a tramp printer, but was known to perform printing and type work of an itinerant nature.






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November 20th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, Uncategorized Comments Off on UNUSUAL BIRD IS MADE A PRISONER

The jumblies and other nonsense verses" (1910) http://bit.ly/1pNxtrZ

The jumblies and other nonsense verses” (1910)

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Edward Lear’s classic nonsense poem The Owl and Pussycat has such a charming conclusion:

 And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

 Well, er, that’s not exactly how this piece of Random News ends. It is an article that will mortify birders and make us cat lovers shake our heads sadly but knowingly. Our precious purring little pointy eared felines

dance at the thrill of the kill,

the kill,

the kill,

They dance at the thrill of the kill.

 But I am giving away the ending. owl newspaper

This installment of Random News comes from The Yakima Daily Republic, Jan. 15, 1910:


 What Is believed to Be an Elf Owl Has Wandered Far from its Native Haunts.

 Fowl Found Only in the Far South Is Taken on Nob Hill by J.B. Dougherty.

 What is believed to be an elf owl which naturalists say is seldom found further north than the border line of the United States, it rarely coming into California, has been captured in the Yakima valley. It was taken by J.B. Dougherty of Nob Hill Wednesday. The little bird offered no resistance, it appeared stunned by the cold weather.

 The little owl sat on the fence in front of Mr. Dougherty’s residence. As he approached the small fowl it showed no signs of fright and allowed its captor to put his hand around it without apparently the least alarm.

 Killed by the Cat.

 Mr. Dougherty released the little bird in the hope that it would fly away. It fell, however, a prey to the ever watchful eye of the house cat and was brought onto the porch of the house dead. The unusual appearance of the little bird aroused Mr. Dougherty’s curiosity and he took it to Taxidermist Harmer that he might ascertain the species.

 The body of the bird is scarcely larger than that of a canary, although its feathers, projecting almost at right angles from its body, gives it the appearance of being much larger. On the scales it tips the beam at less than two ounces.

 Mr. Harmer searched Dawson & Bowles’ Birds of Washington and was unable to find a description answering to this fowl. He went to the Color Key to North American Birds, a book known to the taxidermist as the bird dictionary. It is published by Frank M. Chapman and Chester A. Reed. There he found the elf owl, the description of which in every way answers to this unusual species.

 The book says that the range of the bird is on the tablelands of Mexico, from Pueblo north to the Mexican border of the United States and in lower California, rarely in California.

The birds of Washington : a complete, scientific and popular account of the 372 species of birds found in the state" (1909)  http://bit.ly/1uYfqGp

The birds of Washington : a complete, scientific and popular account of the 372 species of birds found in the state” (1909) http://bit.ly/1uYfqGp


 Its Colorings.

Its appearance is like that of any other owl except that it is very small. On the back it is a grayish brown, the head is spotted and the back is barred with rust. The under parts are irregularly spotted with an ashy gray.

The bird dictionary says the elf owl utters a tremulous “cha-cha” in different keys, sometimes low and distinct. There is no other description given than that already referred to.

 How this little species should have wandered so far from its native haunts is a wonder to all those who have seen it. Naturalists who have seen the little owl are even at a loss to give a theory as to how it ever became so far separated from its habitat.

 The bird will be mounted on the profile of a half moon.

 A modern work in the WSL collection, Elf owl : Micrathene whitneyi / Susanna G. Henry and Frederick R. Gehlbach (1999) confirms that the 1910 Yakima Elf Owl was indeed about 1000 miles outside its range. It is possible what Dougherty captured was in fact a Northern Pygmy Owl, which would be totally in range. However, the Pygmy Owl is included in Dawson and Bowles’ work and Harmer didn’t think his specimen in hand matched the description.

A viewing of that stuffed and mounted little owl would settle the issue, but the artifact has slipped away. Alfred Sterling Harmer, the taxidermist, had a variety of occupations. He was born in Ontario in 1879, became a United States citizen in 1901, and served overseas in the US Army during World War I. Harmer moved to Western Washington where he worked as an employee for Puget Power for 20 years. He died in Seattle, Nov. 12, 1951.

As for the fate of the feline, I guess the whole episode left a fowl taste in its mouth.elf owl

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The Koreshans, a World Turned Outside In

October 27th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection Comments Off on The Koreshans, a World Turned Outside In

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

There’s a great independent filmmaker in Utah I used to correspond with and even met once named Trent Harris. In his movie Plan 10 From Outer Space (1995) a character utters one of my all time favorite lines in cinema history: “Just because it’s made up doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” For some reason this little soundbite seems appropriate for the following story.

The random news article found in this round opened a door into the strange and bizarre world of a group with some Washington State connections, including one that turned out to be quite close to home.

The following news piece was found in The Tacoma Daily News (an ancestor to today’s News Tribune), Feb. 5, 1915:tacoma


Alleging James W. Gepford, 1521 South 57th street, assaulted him Wednesday night Dr. W.A. Bailey, an optometrist, swore to a complaint for Gepford’s arrest yesterday. Deputy Prosecutor Cramer is investigating. It is said Dr. Bailey is a leader of the Koreshans cult, the teachings of which, it is said, advocate celibacy and that the world is turned inside out so that humans are now living on the inside.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Cramer, Gepford complains that his wife took up the doctrine because of the teachings of Dr. Bailey and that through the advocacy of celibacy by the Koreshans his wife had grown cold toward him. The cult is said to have about a hundred followers in Tacoma.

At the time of this altercation, Dr. Wilson A. Bailey was 60 years old and Gepford was a logger about 15 years his junior. It was probably not a pretty sight.

But let’s back up a bit. Who were the Koreshans? Here’s a nutshell history:

The belief system was formed by Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed (1839-1908). Teed was, in the parlance of the time, an “eclectic” physician based in Utica, New York. He relied mainly on botanical cures and dabbled in alchemy. In 1869 he was rendered unconscious by an experiment when he employed the use of electricity– apparently a little too enthusiastically. During his blackout he had a vision where a Divine being told him he was the new Christian-based Messiah.

Being an industrious fellow, Dr. Teed set off to work, renaming himself “Koresh,” which is “Cyrus” in Hebrew. The religious/scientific movement he founded was soon known as “Koreshanity” or “Koreshan Unity.” The doctrine include a belief in reincarnation, immortality, communal living, alchemy and an acceptance of Teed’s role as the current Messiah. Oh, and there were two other little details in their theology: followers were expected to adhere to a strict code of celibacy, and according to Dr. Teed, Copernicus had it all wrong. The world was hollow and we existed on the inside concave shell. This was called “Cellular Cosmogony.”

After some not so successful attempts at establishing lasting communal settlements in Chicago and San Francisco, the Koreshans began to really get serious down in Estero, Florida, starting in the mid-1890s. By the early 20th century they had an incorporated town with 250 residents and appeared to be thriving. But then something bad happened that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Dr. Teed died.

It was Dec. 22, 1908. His followers held vigil over his body which had been placed in a bathtub, expecting him to rise again on Christmas. Two weeks later the County Coroner told them they had better get this corpse in the ground real fast. Dr. Teed was laid to rest in a mausoleum on the premises, but his coffin was washed out to sea in a hurricane in 1921 and was never recovered. So who knows? Maybe he did come back but hasn’t announced it yet.

Anyway, after the death of the founder, the sect and the settlement began to dwindle. The whole Leader-Is-Not-Immortal thing, coupled with the belief in celibacy, tends to put a crimp on future expansion. In 1961 the last of Dr. Teed’s followers gave the commune to the public and today the place is known as Koreshan State Park. Some of the original buildings are still there.
It is impressive that several years after Dr. Teed’s death, the Koreshans could claim 100 followers in Tacoma alone. Dr. Bailey survived his assault, and died in 1921. The Gepfords apparently remained together and moved on. But that wasn’t the case for Thomas Bellingham (1858-1920), who owned a plumbing company and served as a Pierce County Commissioner. His wife Martha (1860-1919) had been an active member of the group. Her name appears on a Koreshan broadside. She left her family and became a resident of the Florida commune about 1917, the same time Thomas assumed his political office. She died within two years.

Tacoma was not the only place in Washington where you could find Koreshans. A letter to the editor of the Morning Olympian, Aug. 15, 1914, began with the preface, “There are in Olympia a considerable number of persons who believe the war in Europe is the beginning of the end of the world.” This was soon followed with, “We are not making any predictions, but simply desire to call the attention of your readers to the warning given out and published in Koreshan literature during the past forty-five years.” Then a long and difficult to follow screed is presented.


Although he did not appear to join the group, there is some evidence from published correspondence in the Koreshan newspaper, The Flaming Sword, that Washington State Representative William Lowrey Freeman (1856-1936) was intrigued by and studied the theology of Koreshanity in 1897. Freeman had been elected as a representative for the 22nd District as a Populist during that party’s sweep in 1896. He was a a physician who had been educated at a medical college in St. Louis but also had “eclectic” medical interests, leading him to further studies at places like the Buchanan College of Therapeutic Sarcognomy, the Herring Medical College of Homeopathy, the Bing Swanger School of Electricity, and the Weltmer School of Suggestive Therapeutics.

Mildred Fischer Barager, who died in Seattle at the age 94 in 1995, provided a very detailed oral history in 1982 to the Florida Park Service concerning her childhood in the Koreshan commune. She was probably the last living person to give an eyewitness account of Dr. Teed himself.

And speaking of Dr. Teed, I am saving the best Washington State connection for last. Yes, it is confirmed, Dr. Cyrus Teed is a distant relation to our own Bill Teed, IT Guru here at the Office of the Secretary of State.

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