Tag Archives: Washington state

A few reflections on this serialization

I hope you’ve enjoyed this serialization of Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s history of this line of the family as much as I have.

Feeling there was a gritty honesty in the telling of these memories as they stood, I decided to refrain from correcting grammar or syntax or inserting details.

This account is full of telling particulars but also retains a sense of life for many on the western frontier in this period. For that, I’m deeply grateful.

Having lived for four years in the dry interior of Washington state, I can recall many obituaries of people his age that included the line, “A Pioneer,” people whose childhood had often included the first few years in a tent, even through difficult winters.

So it’s not just a genealogical document that adds much to our understanding of the family – many other lines also drifted out of the Quaker faith and westward like this – but also a vital history of the settling of a particular corner of the Pacific Northwest.

Many thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson for sharing this with us, and our best wishes in his ongoing research.

And our gratitude, too, to David Evert Sailor who keyboarded the manuscript and mildly edited the text in May 1987.


Don Fleck’s recollections dated March 2007

With thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson for providing this.

I knew Gerald growing up as a young man in Kettle Falls, He was my Great Uncle. My Grandfather was Victor Hodgson, my mother was Leona Hodgson /Fleck/. We did not see Gerald but about one or two times a year, he did not visit often, he would usually stop in sometime in the spring. My mom always had a “Christmas” gift for him. We would occasionally visit his place on Boulder Creek. I remember he had a large pasture and always there was a bull in the pasture. For some reason we were afraid of the bull. I told this story to Gerald a short time before his death and he just laughed. He thought it strange that we would be afraid his bull. He said that he treated him well and that he was not aggressive. I could have been my sister or my cousin that said that the bull was mean. Perhaps it was from watching too much TV, rodeo‟s etc that placed that idea in my head. When we didn‟t see him in the pasture we would explore the woods to the south west of this house. I remember many visits that he made to our home, he always stopped in after a visit to Colville, it was usually in the evening. I remember on one visit we ate dinner. We had shrimp that night, to his remembrance had never had them before. I thought it curious that he ate the tails and all. Being young I never really took the time to get to know him. For this I missed a great opportunity to learn a great deal from him. Gerald died July 21, 2002, a memorial gathering was held on August 18, 2002, in the Colville Park. I was honored to have known Gerald, a short time before his death, we visited with him and I asked him why he never married. He told me that, he had cared for his parents in their old age, well into his 40‟s and by the time they were gone he stated that “I had lived so long without a woman, I couldn‟t figure what I needed with one.” There are many that knew Gerald much better than, I but I always knew him to be honest in all his dealings. He was an avid reader and loved science fiction books and magazines. I asked him if he ever tried writing a science fiction story. He said that once he tried but by the time it was done it was too much like all the ones he had read.

The old Indian horse trail

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

In the good old days, the Indians had a well-defined horse trail through here. I am told it originally came down off Kelly Hill near the south end of Toulou Mountain, crossed Kettle River at a shallows which still exists, and climbed the steep hillside at the south end of the Sandcuts and just north of ‘Mayor’ Schmidt’s field, circling above the sand slide and crossing portions of the Charlie Anderson place and portions of the Hollenbeck Place, thence taking a course along the back (the sunny) side of the mountain on which my place is located. At the upper end, the trail crosses the west end of my place and drops almost straight down the steep hill to Boulder Creek where it crosses the main stream at what was called ‘The Ford’ before taking its course up North Boulder on its way to Curlew. Portions of this trail can still be located if you know where to look.

A very large and tall fir tree once stood on my side of The Ford. A dead man, believed to have been a murdered prospector was found at the foot of this tree at sometime during the early history of the locality. The tree later fell directly across Boulder Creek and I used it as a foot bridge many times during my growing years.

During my lifetime, the Old Indian Trail took off from the public road a little ways south of the old schoolhouse, and I have seen pack trains of Indians ascend the schoolhouse pipeline to take the route around the Hill — one writer says that Indians called it ‘The Little Mountain Trail.’

My sister Elva and I heard horses traveling along it when we were herding sheep. We did not see them, however, as we preferred to hide out.

The trail saw a lot of service during the old days — Indians, prospectors, frontiersman and, according to Lawyer Thomas Oakshott, its most famous traveler was General William Tecumseh Sherman who went through here in the 1870’s on a diplomatic mission to Canada and to parley with local Indian chiefs. He was accompanied by Lieutenant George W. Goethalls, who later superintended the construction of the Panama Canal.

Legendary citizens of Orient, Washington

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

There was the local storekeeper who had paid a visit to the ‘house’. Someone warned his wife and she headed for the joint with a horsewhip. He managed to dodge her but had to jump out a window in his shirt tail.

The saloonkeeper, ‘Farmer’ Jones, was bitten in the thumb by a drunk he was trying to roll and died of blood poisoning as a result.

‘Old August’ was a German immigrant and local handyman. Someone got him drunk at a dance one night and suggested that he play the piano, which he did with surprising ability. Under questioning, he admitted that he had once done a command performance for the Kaiser.

‘Old Man Schmidt’ was a cranky old bachelor who lived at Barstow, which at that time was just a siding and an openfronted shed by the railroad. He was sometimes called “The Mayor”. The Mayor had one fixed peculiarity. He ate lots of fried food and would use no other shortening than bacon grease which, of course, he carefully saved. Some newcomers, short on money, arrived nearby. They had, as he knew, just been to Orient and back, so assuming they had any money or credit, they should have come back well supplied with groceries. Well, in the evening they (the womenfolk) came over to borrow some lard. Naturally he had no desire to give away any of his precious bacon grease, so his reply was, “Borrow? Hell! I buys my grayse!” He shut the door in their faces. Courtesy of the Old West. The Mayor died in the Ferry County Poorhouse at the age of ninety. The Poorhouse was still a very real thing in the early days of the Great Depression, and was still known by that name.

On hawks and owls and free schoolbooks

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

Hawks and owls were much more common in my youth than they are today. People shoot them and their natural prey is more scarce. The hawks were mostly large grey hawks or the smaller blue hawks. I never saw a redtail until two or three years ago and they didn’t seem to frighten the chickens. Of course, a chicken knows when a hawk is acting threatening. Redtails are supposed to be harmless. The owls were horned owls with ears like a cat.

In recently reading the life of Huey Long, I could understand what a real talking point he had in his first campaigns when he advocated state purchase of books for school children. Under his control, Louisianans did buy books for all school children, black or white. regardless of the kind of school they attended. He got around state limitations by buying them for the children, rather than for the school. Great quantities of stored up books collected from small districts were fed into the Orient furnace after consolidation.


On 19th century economics

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

The economics of those days were considerably different than those of today. The only completely dependable money was either gold coin or yellow-backed gold certificates. Mortgages and leases were ironclad; that is, they tied up everything you had and to add injury to insult, they were made out payable in gold — a proviso that was not usually enforced because it was unenforceable. People who had gold and could, hung onto it and spent silver and silver certificates. I don’t know whether it was still legal for banks to issue money on their own authority in Dad’s day but in an earlier day it was common — if the bank failed so did the money. A form of greenback called the National Banknote was in circulation — a sort of carryover from the old banknote — guaranteed by the Federal Treasury and based on the National Debt. It was started during Lincoln’s time to finance the Civil War. A private bank could invest most of its deposits in government bonds, deposit the bonds with the National Bank and receive the National Banknotes in return for up to 90% of the face value of the bonds — changed to 100% during World War I.

The National Banknotes the banker received bore the name of the local bank and the engraved signature of its president — a sort of limited paper inflation and the Government paid the bank interest on its bonds for the use of its name. The National Banknotes were a political football up till the time they were all called in during the first years of FDR’s administration. The Federal Reserve Banks, started earlier, have pretty well replaced them with Federal Reserve Notes. We no longer have bimetallism, and the money is as good as the government behind it — and no better!  In due course, along came the depression of 1893 and the Election year of 1896 when William J. Bryan ran for president on the platform of free coinage of silver on a basis of 16 to 1 with gold — taken by itself, it wouldn’t have been a patch on some of things that have happened since. Through fear, concerted action or both — banks refused to lend money and business shut down. It wouldn’t happen today, but Bryan was defeated and McKinley went to his inauguration and later, death. With restored confidence, business picked up, gold ‘from the Klondike and McKinley’s Federal Reserve Law plus the war boom of ’98.

On the castration of animals

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

It is a relatively simple operation if you know what you are doing and most animals survive it without too much difficulty. Some animals die from infection or excessive bleeding. A good deal of superstitions have been associated with it the signs of the Zodiac — the moon phases, etc. My own conclusion — mild weather and reasonable cleanliness. Also the animal should be as young as other circumstances permit. With larger animals, I tie the main cord with string to prevent bleeding.

On Herbert Hoover and FDR

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

My personal opinion is that Hoover was one of the most conscientious men to ever hold the office — which doesn’t mean that I think he was always right. The thing that most people do not seem to comprehend was that he had no effective political support during his last two years in office. A good deal of trouble with elements of his own party during the first two. Executive power was far more limited in those days than it is today.

The only really good thing that I can say for his successor was that he was basically an iconoclast and accordingly more willing to accept change. My objection was not so much to what was done as to the way it was done. Nearly every word and act of the New Deal was designed to deceive the less informed members of the electorate — which includes most people. If Roosevelt had been a practical realist rather than a practical politician, he would probably have served only one term — two at most. Whatever they imagine few people would really like to turn the clock back. A right wing shift is long overdue but if it ever occurs it will probably go too far and to last, it will have to.

John M. Hodgson

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

The following is text of the first draft of a letter written by Gerald to Gordon G. Carlson, a Roseburg, Oregon, lawyer, January 10, 1958. It had to do with litigation over Uncle John”s estate.

John M. Hodgson grew up in the state of Iowa. He was the third child and second son in a family of six children. My father, Delwin W. Hodgson, was second child and oldest son. Uncle John was the first of our family to come west (about 1900). Prior to coming west, he married a Norwegian immigrant girl named Inga, who spoke broken English and had Old Country ideas and manners, characteristics which she never completely lost. Inga was either unable or unwilling to have children, so their marriage was without issue.

They homsteaded in Ferry County of this state in the community known as Barstow. They lived there a number of years, adding two more adjoining homesteads to their property. Later they moved to Colville, county seat of adjoining Stevens County, where they lived when I first knew them (I was born in 1913). Perhaps I had better interpolate at this point that I have no direct personal knowledge of most of what 1 am writing here. Most of what I am writing was told to me by my father, by other relatives, or were matters of general public knowledge.

After moving to Colville, they accumulated a large amount of real estate, mostly rural. John engaged in various activities, including a dairy and a second-hand store. He rarely stayed with anything very long, usually sold out to someone else at a profit.

Verelle Robinson, who later became his second wife, was left a widow by her first husband, Sam Robinson Sr. She had five children at this time, of which the two boys, Sam and Ray, were the youngest. She then married a man named Cosselman who is said to have been a religious fanatic who gave so much of his income to the Church that his family suffered. During her marriage to Cosselman, she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Naomi. Sometime prior to 1930, she left her husband and moved with her three youngest children to a farm belonging to Uncle John, in Ferry County.

Inga sued John for divorce in 1930 and obtained her decree. An approximately equal division of property was achieved at this time, leaving each of them with a considerable amount of money and real estate. Inga sold out her real estate and finally moved to Medford, Oregon, where she was still living at this time last year (1957) under the name Ina H. Renker.

Through the 1930’s, John lived intgermittantly in Ferry County, moving his unofficially adopted family from one farm to another as he bought and sold. Mrs. Cosselman eventually obtained a divorce from her husband through the courts of Ferry County. In due course, John recovered possession of his original homestead (he had sold it at least twice). He moved his ‘family’ there and went into the business of commercial gardening. By this time, both boys were old enough to do quite a little work, and they entered into a semi-partnership with Uncle John. Each boy owned cattle and other property separately. Ray, I remember, sold cream in his own name. And as Mrs. Buxton [Verelle’s daughter, Ailene] put it, “John and the two boys sat around the table after a selling trip and divided the money like three old misers.

John finally married Verelle at Post Falls, Idaho, in 1936. It has been stated that this action was inspired by financial and legal reasons and that he once transferred his entire property to his wife’s name for a short time. For these statements I cannot vouch.

Shortly before John moved away from this state which was, as nearly as I can remember, in 1938 or a little later, he sold out all the property he possessed in this region except the ten-acre tract just above the Barstow Bridge. Supposed to belong to Naomi — I think. Neglected today.] of which you have been informed. He retained this, partly as a speculation, and partly as a place to live while he made up his mind what to do next. He built a small house which burned down some years after he left. He had, at the time of sale, nearly a thousand acres of land in the Barstow vicinity, most of which he acquired before his marriage. He also had at least some property in Oregon at this time. He divided his Barstow property in two parts, selling one part to one Art Wagner for (as near as I can remember) a cash price of $3500. The other part he traded to one Homer Saxton for a dwelling house in Spokane and, I think, some other considerations of which I am not informed. He claimed to have sold the house in Spokane later for $12,000. Sam broke his business association with Uncle John at about this time, married, and went into business for himself. So far as I know, Ray kept up his association with John till he went into the service during the war. Of the succeeding years, I know very little except that he changed his address frequently, that he continued to deal in real estate, and that he engaged in other activities such as farming, carpentry, poultry raising, and produce peddling. Eventually, he settled at Sutherlin, the two boys and their oldest sister, Ailene, settling there also. My brother Lloyd visited him there shortly before his wife’s death and John told him at that time that he owned seventeen houses in the Sutherlin vicinity.

Now I suppose you wonder just where I come in? The fact of the matter is that I don’t, to any great degree. I never knew him well enough to feel any great affection for him, though I always though of him as a fascinating personality. After his departure for Oregon, I started a correspondence with him which I kept up in more or less regular fashion till the time of his death. I started this correspondence partly on my father’s account and partly because I took a real personal interest in his wanderings. So far as I know, I was the only one of his kin who wrote to him with any regularity. Perhaps my interest pleased him. The first intimation I had that John had remembered me in his will came from the stepchildren. Sam told me on a visit here that John had “sure remembered” me in his will. He didn’t say to what degree, and I didn’t ask. John didn’t discuss it with me when I visited him a year and a half before his death. His only direct reference to it was in a letter written for him by his housekeeper and it only stated that he was favoring me in his will.

[Final Note: Under the terms of the last will which John himself instigated and approved, he left half his estate to is various nieces and nephews “at the descrection of Gearld N Hodgson.” His deathbed will left everything to his stepchildren. After settlement and cost. I received $800 and some cents $300 of this. I divided with other heirs. I was out at least $100 in personal expenses.]

As the coda

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

This just about concludes the history as far I intend to take it except for a brief epitaph:

These ancestors of ours, even by their own standards, were not always wise, not always courageous, or even not always good or honest, but they had something — Luck definitely included — or I would not be here writing about them. They lived — they enjoyed life and they suffered.