Leaving Nebraska

February 1900

Leaving Nebraska – Upon arrival in Skagit Valley

The advertising of the Northern Pacific Railway brought in 2000 new residents in a month Papa bought four tickets and Willie rode along for free.  The cold January wind blew my hat down the dusty platform just as we boarded.  My eyes watered, not for the sorrow of leaving that place behind, not for losing my hat to the ever present wind, but to the relief of being on our great adventure westward at last!  Having never ridden a train it was a great mystery and adventure for all of us.  GoodBoy ran after my hat but it ended up under the carriage of the train, never to be seen again—and hopefully, just like Nebraska.  I hate this desolate place and dream of the paradise we are heading toward!

Papa has said it a million times in the past months:  “Lizzie, it’s like we’re moving to Promised Land!  I heard down at the grange a fella reading about a farmer in this place called the Skagit River Delta.  This man raises oats by the ton and sells them for $18 for each ton!  Why, he has sheep that produce wool and he makes money selling it!  And you won’t believe it but there’s hay harvest twice in a yar sometimes!  A man can li well in this here place!”

So, we set out to buy a farm on the “Skagit River Delta” in a place called Samish.

We got settled into our train car just as the whistle bellowed, making the baby startle but he quickly went right back to sleep.  Las night I wrapped up his diapers, blankets, and knitted sweater that Annie gave him.  I don’t have a proper travel container so I tied it all in a bundle in another blanket.  It was so hard to leave behind so many things, but as our homestead is going to be foreclosed and the money we have from the mortgage is going to fund this big move, we had to be careful not to take or leave too much.

I didn’t sleep much last night and neither did anyone else since Willie was up most of the night.  A newborn cannot possibly know what’s going on but he must have sensed our excitement.  I fed him one last time before the drayman showed up at 6am to take us and our belongings to the station in the pre-dawn, starry, frozen darkness.

After a long week aboard the trains, we finally saw the glorious Puget Sound!  I had not been feeling well.  All this travel by train does not agree with me.  When I looked out the window as we pulled into Seattle, though, my heart melted as I saw the sparkling water, the tallest mountains and that clear blue February sky.  I am sure this must be heaven.  The sounds of the city are overwhelming.  So many people, especially scruffy, bearded, over-paced men heading for boats to the Klondike.  Papa made friends on the train with a fellow German who is heading there.  He go papa so excited about the idea of prospecting I had to interfere quite strongly!  Thankfully Papa has relented but it was really close! We left the city of Seattle, heading north.

The man heading to Alaska is Mr. Wells.  He has traveled there before and told papa all kinds of wild stores of riches galore and all the beauty of creation.  Mr. Wells and Mr. McLean were heading from Seattle to Edison to buy dogs for tracking in the Yukon.  He said he would had all kinds of dogs to take with him.  Mr. Wells and Mr. McLean will be spending the week in the area buying dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors to take on their great adventure north.

When we arrived in Belfast station, tired and hungry and with all our belongings—two crates of all we had been able to keep and bundles of clothing and bedding, Papa hired Mr. Otis, a drayman, and we were taken to Edison to stay at the “Freedom Hotel”.

Willie was a good baby all the way, thank goodness, just three weeks old.  We arrived the day before Valentine’s Day.  The bumpy, muddy road out there was difficult but I cannot tell how absolutely green everything was.  There were a million trees, hills, fields, farms, and stumps!  The river is narrow, much less a river than the one we crossed a couple days before—the Skagit was just so beautiful but the Samish is much more like a creek.

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