September 27, 1934
Mrs. Wilkeson Relates Events of 42 Years Ago
When one recalls the write-up given this section a number of years ago by the celebrated authoress, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and compares the historical detail of this section, with the facts as related by Mrs. Bayard Wilkeson, a pioneer woman of this section, who is now here again visiting old friends, one realizes that truth is stranger than fiction.
The early life of this woman needs no fictitious touch of the artist to make it “read like a book.”
Some 42 years ago, just as a young bride, she came West from St. Paul, where she had lived all her life, to join her young husband, whom she was to meet at Coulee City. The end of the railroad.
Imagine her consternation, to say nothing of her embarrassment, when she got off the train and did not even recognize her own husband, though they had only been separated about a month. The truth was, she had only beheld her husband garbed in a cut-away coat and plug hat, and when she saw a man approach her with rough pants stuffed down in high-top boots, and marked with sourdough finger marks, his shirt open at the front and a heavy beard on his face – no wonder she was a trifle frightened, and remained so, until he spoke and she recognized his voice.
Then Mrs. Wilkeson recalled, as does every other early day pioneer of this section, the long, dusty stage trip from Coulee City to Lake Chelan, and how they put up at Darnell House at Lakeside, which was considered a hotel in those days, but would be nothing more than a shack now.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson soon embarked on the Stehekin, with Capt. Watkins at the wheel and went by steam boat to Moore’s hotel, up-lake, where they spent the winter.
The young bride was left at the “hotel,” which was another shack, and she was the only guest while her husband left late that fall to stake some mining claims at Bridge creek bar.
Her husband and two other men were lost in the snow up there for nine days and were thought to have perished, but they managed to get out alive, though they did live fore several days on syrup, and nothing else.
Mrs. Wilkeson recalls those nine days as the longest days of her life, and she still vividly remembers that night, when she looked up the lake from Moore’s point and saw a light out in the lake. A sail boat, with a lantern hung out on the fore-mast, was coming down lake, despite the storm of the night. She remembers how the inn-keeper tried to get her to go in the house, fearing that the boat was brining news of the death of her young husband. However, Mrs. Wilkeson remained on the dock and was there to great her husband, who had made the trip downlake that night, knowing how worried she would be.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson spent the next winter in Chelan and their baby girl, Mary Catherine, was born at the old Campbell House, operated by Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Campbell, at Chelan.
The next spring, they moved back to Moore’s point, where Mrs. Wilkeson and baby were left, while Mr. Wilkeson and his father went on to Bridge creek to build cabins, do surveying and work on their claims. At that time the silver price was good, and they were planning on platting a town at Bridge creek bar. Had not the price of silver taken a decided slump shortly after, it is likely that today there might be the remnants at least, of a town at Bridge Creek.
Her husband was to build a cabin at Bridge Creek and then come and get her and the baby, but each trip home he told her the cabin would not be ready for a few more weeks. Finally Mrs. Wilkeson got tired of waiting and figuring that if her husband could live up there, she and her baby could too.
So one summer day a pack train plodded into camp at Bridge creek, with the lady astride one horse, and on another sat a confirmed bachelor, who had been hired as packer and guide, who was holding the baby. It was then that Mrs. Wilkeson discovered that the reason her baby made no fuss at all on the trip was because the mad had quietly secured a bottle and nipple and permitted the young lady to suck on it as they jogged along the trail.
The cabins were then completed and Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson remained there that winter. It was that winter, when a crust had formed, that Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson and baby walked down to the head of the lake and came to Chelan where they remained for a few weeks. This trek in the dead of winter by this young couple and baby, was elaborately written up by Editor Dewitt C. Britt, of Chelan and the story was widely copied in the east. One of Mr. Wilkeson’s relatives read the story back in a Pennsylvania newspaper and wrote to ask “where in God’s name have you got Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson.”
A later summer Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson and baby made a trip over Cascade Pass and down to the Coast.
Still a Babe
Such were just a few of the many interesting events in the early day life of Mrs. Wilkeson in this section, which all took place while the esteemed Mary Robert Rinehart was yet a little girl, playing at her mother’s apron strings.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilkeson, following the decline in the price of silver, moved away from Lake Chelan after living here about five years. They now reside in Seattle, and Mrs. Wilkeson is here this week, with Mr. and Mrs. Fred Pflaeging, who are themselves pioneers of this country, and are stopping once again at the Campbell Hotel.
The little baby who made the Bridge Creek trip many years ago, is now Mrs. Smith, of Kansas, who has never been back here since she was carried away in her parents’ arms.
She will return.