Saturday, March 01, 2014

Fishtown Woods Trial

Sam Cram’s Unerring Weather Forecast

Sam Cram had a farm outside of LaConner. If you met him at the post office it went like this.

“Hey, Sam, nice day we’re having.”

“…. So far. “

The Fishtown Woods Trial, 1988

You would need a scorecard to keep track of the litigants and their attorneys, but it went roughly like this:

The Great Blue Heron Society, and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, being the plaintiffs, and being the parties which objected


Chamberlain Farms and the State of Washington, being the defendants and being the people who owned the property and the trees, and believing it was their trees to log, as they so stated in court

The Interrogation

The dialog comes from a 25-page deposition in which the attorney for the defendants, aptly and truly named Ann Forest Burns, interrogated Bo Miller, president of the Great Blue Heron Society, representing the plaintiffs. Ms. Burns sought to determine if, in fact, the Great Blue Heron Society actually existed.

"Mr. Miller," quoth Ms. Burns, "did you bring the articles of incorporation as stated in the subpoena?"

“I did not,” said Miller.

"Did you bring the list of membership and subsequent bylaws and the minutes of previous meetings?"

“I did not bring any papers,” said Miller, “because there are no papers to bring.”

"Then who, would you say, belongs to the Great Blue Heron Society and when and where do you meet?" asked Ms. Burns.

“We meet very often or hardly ever, depending on the flow of the tide and the rising of the moon,” Miller said. “And membership is given to those who declare an interest in the proceedings.”

"And what are the proceedings?" asked Ms. Burns. "And I remind you that you are under oath."

“The proceedings, I suppose, are the care and protection of the Fishtown Woods,” said Miller.

The Logger

Notice of Appearance, dated May 27, 1988, in the matter of the Great Blue Heron Society and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, plaintiffs vs. Chamberlain Farms, and the State of Washington, defendants

"You and each of you will please take notice that William R. Welch hereby enters his appearance...."

That being William R. Welch of Welch Logging of Anacortes, being the logger himself who did remove all the trees in the Fishtown Woods, with his crew helping, of course, and despite the dedicated opposition of various parties who wished the Fishtown Woods to continue as they were, or at least not massively altered.

And Welch did appear, not smugly nor triumphantly, but as a humble petitioner before the court, and being no better and no worse than any other man in the state of Washington.

“This is how I make a living, and my work speaks for itself,” he said.

Richard Gilkey Objects

A letter to the Seattle Times, dated January 28, 1988, after Gilkey was arrested at the Fishtown Woods protest.

I am obliged to respond to implications in some local press coverage of the Fishtown clear-cut-logging issue.

I take exception to references to those in dissent as ex-hippies, indigents who pay no taxes, and radicals who put spikes in trees.

Because my name was reported on television and in newspapers, with reluctance I make the following statement in contradiction.

As a fourth-generation Skagit Valley resident, a World War II Marine Corps veteran who served in the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion in the invasion of Bouganville, Solomon Islands, I have painted landscapes in the area since 1946.

I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in painting for travel and study abroad in 1958. My work is in museums and public and private institutions, and has been shown in Europe and Japan. I own my own home, studio and truck free and clear.

As a matter of conscience and social responsibility, and as an individual concerned with aesthetic and environmental integrity, I stood in the path of logging trucks and was arrested for criminal protesting.

I was pleased to be standing with fellow artists, mothers and fathers, architects, a carpenter, writers, and university graduates, among others.

My position was that the logging operation should be halted until the outcome of the court hearing is known.

The fate of eagles, eagles, herons, and 400-year-old trees deserves our careful study. Also, I feel that Fishtown woods should be a refuge for wildlife, plants, and other threatened species, such as artists.

Affidavit of Margaret Lee

Margaret Lee lived her whole on a farm next to Fishtown. She thought Fishtown was a special place and here she tells why it was so special.

Her testimony was submitted before the court in writing.

I, Margaret Lee, on oath depose and state as follows:

I am of legal age, reside at 1180 E. Landing Road, Skagit County, Washington, and make this affidavit upon my own free will and voluntary act.

…. I am the granddaughter of Frederick Gage who purchased the homestead of DeWitt Dennison in 1885 which lies south of and adjacent to the present Chamberlain Farms property commonly known as the "Fishtown Woods" .... My grandfather Frederick Gage and my grandmother Elenore Gage lived on the property for the remainder of their lives. Their daughter Louisa, who was also my mother, and her husband Randolph Valentine lived on the property all of their lives. I was born in 1916 and lived on the property my entire life.....

I am familiar with the historic Indian occupation of our property (the “Lee Farm”) and the Chamberlain property in the area known as Fishtown and the larger area that forms the state historical district. I have both personal experience and the stories and information that I was told about by my parents and grandparents. My mother was quite good friends with an Indian woman named Mary. She and Mary spent many hours sharing tea, toast and jam and talking and sharing stories. Both of my parents would trade and talk with Indians that would bring clams and homespun socks. I remember my dad always wearing Indian-made socks.

Sometime around 1890, a partial dike was constructed along the Skagit River in front of Fishtown Bay which lies just west of Gage’s Point (named for my grandfather). A granary was built on the dike and a road was built in the valley that extends northward from Fishtown Bay connecting the granary to Dodge Valley.

At and before this time, Indians lived and used this area. Several Indian trails that predate the granary are still present and were used by my sister and I when we were young to go to school and to walk through the woods.

The Indian Valley Trail connects the old village area with Dodge valley to the north. It followed the hillside on the southwest side of the valley and was several feet up the side of the hillside. I would often walk this trail as a young girl and I recall my mother warning me to “look but not to touch anything.” Mother said this was a “sacred place” to the Indians and they told her that a big chief was buried there. She said that the chief continued to watch over the Indian people and the Indian spirits guarded the place.

The Lake Trail connected the old village area to a lake to the east up on the bluff on my property. Indian watchmen used to sit on the tip of Gage’s Point looking west….When Indian raiding parties approached, the Indians moved camp and retreated to the lake up on my property to hide out until danger passed.


Roy Larsen Skull. Around 1911, Roy Larsen discovered a human skull near the old village area in Fishtown Bay. Roy was a fisherman that lived in a shack on pilings near the old granary by the river.

Spruce Tree Skull. I remember personally discovering a skeleton under a log on the north side of Gage’s Point a few feet up the hill when I was nine years old. It was very near the old village site, and I remember covering the skeleton up the best I could.

Indians Move to Swinomish Reservation. When I was nine years old, I went inside an Indian shack next to the river on the dike where the granary used to be. It was small and contained bunks at opposite ends. Around the walls were cattail mats about waist-high and there was a hole in the roof to let smoke out. My mother told me that Indians who had lived there moved to the Swinomish Indian Reservation…. in the early 1900s.

Burial Ceremonies. When my grandfather planted the orchard next to my house about 1890, several Indians came up to him and told that there were Indian burials there. They warned that the spirits would be disturbed if the graves were not removed before planting. My grandparent agreed to the reburial and told me of loud ceremonies and involved a lot of chanting and wailing. A number of artifacts were removed with the bodies including gold coins and a children’s China ring. The bodies were taken to Little Dead Man’s Island to be reburied….

Indian Spirits. I also remember Indian workers and stories that my grandfather and mother told me about Indians that worked on our farm who would not go through the woods because of the Indian spirits they called “Skalatutes” that lived there.

Gravel Pit Bones. The sand spit that the old village site in Fishtown Bay was located on was used to supply gravel for the granary road and by farmers whenever gravel was needed. A big pit was dug near the big Spruce in the middle of the spit. Human bones from the pit were discarded in a pile next to the pit which grew larger over time as more and more gravel was removed. Bones discovered in the gravel … were discarded all along the south side of the road in the valley behind the old village. There were all kinds of bones: leg bones, arms and skulls.

High Water. The winter high tides fill up the Bay where the old village is. Just last year, the tide covered the boardwalk that runs along the river next to Fishtown Bay and several planks floated off. During those tides, the entire bay is under a lot of water all the way back to the hillside. These high tides are a regular occurrence and something my mother was continually warning us about.

I swear on oath that the above statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge. Dated this 19th day of April, 1988. _________________ [signed] Margaret Lee

Art Jorgensen Started It

Art Jorgensen could not abide the prospect of logging near his cabin in Fishtown. He gave me $600, which was all the money he had in the world. He told me to file a lawsuit against the Chamberlains, “Not One Tree,” he said.

I filed the lawsuit pro se and then we hired Jeff Bode, an attorney who worked for us pro bono. I forget what we did with the $600.

All this happened in 1988, a long time ago. Fishtown started quietly, as a haven and retreat, but it ended in almost violent conflict. Drama can be put off, but drama will have its day.

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cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

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