The Lauries of Bonnie Brae



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This story was written by Helen Jewett in 1986 and provided by the Laurie family. Jewett compiled the accounts of her family, their travels to America from Scotland, where her forbears were Scottish Nobility. Her paternal grandparents, Isabel Stroyan and John Laurie, were married in Scotland, June 3, 1847. In 1849, with one son, they sailed to America, first landing and living in New London, Canada, where her grandfather worked on the Welland Canal during the time Zachary Taylor was president of the United States. They lived at Silver Creek, New York , where four more children were born including her father John. In 1860 they went to Madison, Wiscc., where two more sons were born. They left Wisconsin with covered wagons and cattle on June 3, 1869, and after a month enroute, they arrived in Stockham, Neb., were they lived many years. Her maternal grandparents, Margaret Cameron and William Gellatly were married in Scotland, April 10, 1856, and came to America. They settled in Verona, Wisc., where 10 of their 11 children were born, including her mother Margaret. In 1877 they left Wisconsin and settled in Sutton, Neb. Her parent Margaret Gellatly and John Laurie were married March 20, 1883, and made their home in the original Laurie home in Sutton where the family settle in 1898.


When the north half of the Colville Indian Reservation was opened for settlers, my father, John Laurie came to Washington state in the spring of 1901 and filed on a 160-acre homestead near Wauconda in Okanogan County. Since there were more immigrants than homesteads it was necessary to draw lots. Dad was one of the lucky ones. He returned to Nebraska to settle his affairs in Sutton and prepare to move his family to our new home. The house in Sutton was sold, but some of the furniture was shipped to Washington.


The first week in September 1901, my parents with nine children left Sutton by train for our new home in the West (at that time it was much of a wilderness). Jack, the oldest, was 17 and I was the baby, 8 months old. Mother said the conductor on the train told her we were all good kids. In later year when mother told about those good kids, I sometimes wondered about the sly look that passed between Jim and Lester! I don’t know if any meals were available on the train, but we did leave Sutton with baskets full of food.


While our train was in Trail, British Columbia, on September 6, newspaper extras were being sold in the streets announcing the attempted assassination of President McKinley. He died on the 14th; Vice President Theodore Roosevelt then became president.


We were met at Midway, British Columbia, by our future friends and neighbors, Mr. Moore, Mr. Rosenfeldt and Mr. Mayhew, each with a team and wagon to move us and our belongings to our new home. We arrived at the homestead Sept. 8, 1901. While mother was unhappy about leaving her old home, her relatives, her friends, and especially good schools in Nebraska, she reluctantly admitted it was kind of a pretty place, and immediately named it “Bonnie Brae” the Scotch name for “Pretty Hill.” She soon learned to love the West, as did all other members of the family.


After dad had the family settled, he went to Spokane where he bought a team of mares from Jim McDonald (a distant relative-in-law). He also bought a two-seated hack which the family used for many years. Soon after the mares, Doll and Bird, arrived at Bonnie Brae, their colts, Ben and Hank, were born. They were both dappled gray; my brothers broke them to ride, and they became our saddle horses.


We lived in tents for about two months until dad and the boys could build a one-room log cabin. They cut the logs for the wall and made shingles for the roof from timber on our own place. There was a sawmill somewhere in the area, though I don’t know who owned it. They had 1-inch-by 12-inche boards cut for the floor. Chinks were forced between the logs to make the wall weatherproof and newspapers were pasted on the walls inside in place of wallpaper, making the cabin comfortably warm. There were still wild animals prowling around the hills; always at nights the coyotes were howling, and frogs kept up a steady chorus near Toroda Creek, a short distance north of the house.


Sleeping arrangements in the cabin must have been a problem. Besides the beds, there was a home-made table large enough for eleven of us, the big woodburning cook stove; and I remember a small square table just large enough for the old family Bible. Trundle beds were used, sliding them under the big home-made beds during the day; at night there was scarcely enough space to walk through the room.


We lived in the log cabin for about two years, then dad and the boys build a one and a half story log addition. Jean and I used the attic bedroom on the east end, and four of the boys had their bedroom on the west end. Jim slept on a cot beside the big wood cook stove, and by this time Jack had gone to Republic to work in the gold mines. Mother and dad had one of the downstairs bedrooms, and Greta used the other one until her marriage in 1904, then it became the “spare” room. When the weather was cold a big rock was heated on the stove, wrapped in a towel, and it served to help warm our beds.


Candles furnished the only illumination upstairs, and kerosene lamps seemed adequate downstairs, but for obvious reasons bedtime came early. The lamp and lantern chimneys had to be cleaned every day, and the wicks trimmed for maximum efficiency. The mattresses and pillow ticks were filled with feathers or straw—they were comfortable and warm.


My play house was the little attic space at the head of the stairs between the east and west bedrooms. Mother made rag dolls for me, and sometimes used china heads with molded hair. My special doll was one with a kid body and real hair that aunt Jennie Gellatly gave me on my sixth birthday when mother and I visited in Nebraska. The doll became broken but I still have all the handmade clothes on another doll—almost identical—now in our heirloom cabinet.

Our bathroom “plumbing” consisted of a little building behind the cabin. Water was carried in pails for household use from a dug well several hundred feet south of the house. The boys kept the water pails filled, except when they were away from home or too busy with the farm work, then mother, Jean, and Greta helped. A lot of water was required for all the laundering, cleaning and cooking for eleven of us. A reservoir in the back of the big, black, wood burning cook stove helped heat water, and on wash days a large tin boiler with a copper bottom was filled and heated on top of the stove; with soap added it could be used to boil the white clothes—the only kind of bleach that was used at the time. Our laundry soap was homemade with lye and pork fat; later we used big bars of yellow Lenox soap. Clothes were scrubbed by hand on a wash board in a galvanized tub and dried on clothes lines outdoors. After several years we acquired a hand-operated washing machine and wringer.


We had very little money, but wild game, fish and several kinds of wild berries were plentiful. The lush grass and berry patches all over the hills looked as though no animal or person ever walked through them. We brought a 16-gauge shotgun from Nebraska and we also had a 30-30 rifle; dad and the boys knew how to use them and the deer, grouse, pheasants and ducks furnished much of the food for our table.


Dad planted a garden as soon as enough ground was cleared and plowed. Each year it got a little larger. He worked so hard in his garden and also cutting wood for cooking and to heat the house, but the boys helped. The underground cellar, with its slanting wood door, was well stocked with canned fruit and vegetables for winter. Milk was strained, put in pans in that cool cellar, and left long enough for the cream to rise. The cream was used for the table as well as all the milk we could drink, but we had an earthenware crock with a wood dasher to make butter. Mother was an excellent cook and neighbors and friends were always welcome to share our food.


Apparently we didn’t need many clothes. At first my mother did all of our sewing, but Greta, Jean and I learned very early to make our own clothes. Mother also knitted wool gloves and socks, and we had dozens of home-made quilts. The younger members of the family went barefooted most of the time during the summer. Before there were any horses available for anything but farm work, dad walked to Republic (about 20 miles), and bought a gunny sack full of shoes for the family; I wonder if it was possible for them to fit, but no one complained. Mother often walked to visit friends and I rode Hank with her leading him. She liked to visit her Scottish friend, Mrs. MacKenzie, who lived about three miles from our home. Kathie, the oldest of the MacKenzie family, was about my age, and we were best friends for many years.


It was several years before we had any farming equipment, other than a plow, pulled by two horses with the operator walking behind. The horses supplied the fertilizer, and we also had two cows. Dad sowed the fields by hand; he carried part of a sack of grain over his shoulder and scattered the seed. At harvest time he cut the hay and meadow grass with a hand scythe.

Until the arrival of our large family, there were not enough children in the area to authorize a school. It was largely through mother’s efforts that the first school at Wauconda was organized—Toroda Meadows, district number 11. School opened in the winter of 1901 in the little log cabin owned by Mr. Woodhouse, a photographer, who allowed it to be used for that purpose. This building and the property was subsequently purchased by our family. Ted and Sherri Laurie are the present owners of the original Laurie homestead, plus 640 acres “Stone and Timber Claim”, the Woodhouse place and part of the Mayhew property, a total of about 1,000 acres. Miss Mullins was the first teacher in this little cabin, and five of our family attended that first term; Jack was a junior when we left Nebraska, and Greta was a sophomore; Cameron and I were too young for school.


Dad and the boys caught many trout in both the creek and dam. During the winter, when the water was frozen over they fished through a hole in the ice. This little dam was Cameron’s favorite swimming hole; he usually got punished, because mother was afraid he might drown, but he always was ready to try again the next day.


Margaret, everyone called her Greta, was the first of our big family to leave home. On June 1st 1904, she married Loie S. Kurtz, who was superintendent of the Bodie gold mine. Grandma Gellatly and Aunt Jennie (mother’s sister) came from Nebraska; it was a pretty home wedding in the log cabin at Bonnie Brae. As was the custom, all the neighbors came to charivari the newly-weds. It was a special treat to hear the beautiful voices of the Walker brothers, Cliff, Charlie, and Harry as they sang some of the old favorite songs. The Kurtz’s first home was on the Vaughn place about a mile from the Bodie mine. Greta often let me come to visit and she taught me so many things: sewing, candy making, photography—including developing and printing our own pictures. Later, when Loie bought her a piano, about 1910, a Schmuller & Mueller, she taught me nearly everything I have ever learned about music. In fact, during most of the 88 years of her life she was helping someone—especially kids who needed help with their music lessons and sewing; she worked with 4H Club girls for many years.



In 1908 the new Toroda Meadows school house was built at the junction of Toroda Creek and the road leading through farms to the Ed Davis homestead. The school house was a one-room frame building painted white; the “bathrooms,” also painted white, were two little buildings on the hill behind the school. The double desks with attached seats were shared by two pupils. My first teacher was Odie Simmons, then Mrs. Rouse; she had a health problem, but unfortunately not much had been learned about epilepsy. Jean rushed Frank Moore and me out on the hill behind the school when everyone was very frightened when the teacher had an epileptic seizure. She resigned and was replaced by Mary Sidore.


Our home was about a mile from school; we carried lunches and walked most of the time. In cold weather during the winter my brothers often took us to school with a team of horses and a homemade sleigh with blankets and straw to keep us warm. Sometimes we rode horseback, and there was a shed near the school to shelter the horses during the day. When I was old enough to ride, my saddle horse was “Shorty,” a tired black gelding. Later, Cornelius, Jean’s husband, let me keep “Chicken” a lively little mare that I rode and loved until I left the ranch.


On June 20, 1911 John (Jack) Laurie married Marion Weston Hill; their first home was in Republic where he worked in the gold mines until 1916 when they left for the North country where gold was still being discovered. They spent several years in Carcross, Yukon Territory. In 1918 Madie and Ed went to Skagway via the narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon Route, intending to board the Princess “Sophia” for vacation in the states, they were disappointed when they learned that the ship had already sailed, but it was really fortunate; the Sophia was wrecked in Lynn Canal and everyone on board was lost. About 1920 the family moved to Juneau, Alaska, where they lived until his retirement in 1937. They bought an orchard tract near Tonasket. Jack died in 1940; Madie remarried and lived in Seattle.


In September 1911 when I was in fifth grade, Agnes Lorz came from Pennsylvania to teach our school. She boarded at the Harry Long home about a mile from school. Agnes taught four years, finishing the last year after she became Mrs. James Laurie, my sister-in-law. Sometimes there was as many as 30 pupils, all eight grades, in one room, with one teacher. Obviously she was very busy and expected us to keep quite and study. If we didn’t learn our lesson the first time, we had to keep working on them until we did learn them. She spent many evening correcting school papers. We usually had a spelling bee on Fridays. It was interesting, as well as an incentive to do some extra studying. We memorized many poems; the favorites were those written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Whitcomb Riley, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, Eugene Field, Robert Service, and probably many others whose names I have forgotten. Our school library contained such books as Hans Brinker, Five Little Peppers, Little Woman, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, the Horatio Alger books, and any others that were good reading for school kids.


During our one-hour noon and 15-minute recesses we played outdoor games such as hide-and-seek, run sheep run, volleball, basketball, baseball, statue, farmer in the dell, horseshoes, and many other games of our own invention. There was no planned entertainment. In the wintertime there was plenty of snow for sledding, tobogganing and skiing. At first, our sleds and the skis were homemade. Sometimes Agnes made fudge on a level area on top of the big wood stove. The candy was prepared and started cooking during the noon hour, and by recess it was ready to eat. What a treat that was for us.


There were many hardships during those early years, but there always seemed to be a solution to our problems. One time two sections of stove pipe became separated where it entered the nine-foot ceiling; it was probably full of soot and a fire could have started had it not been discovered immediately. One of the boys stood on the shoulders of another and they managed to repair it before any damage could be done, but with only a pail of water, no fire extinguisher and not even a ladder it would have been a disaster.


Many mornings during the winter the building was so cold we had to wear our coats for an hour or two until it could warm up. Sometimes the drinking water that was left in the pail over night was frozen solid in the morning. The older boys usually went to school early to get the fire started; wood was furnished by the neighbors. The boys carried water from a spring some distance from the school. It was kept in a galvanized pail with one long handled tin dipper for everyone to use. Maybe we hadn’t heard about germs. There was a wash basin on the bench beside the water pail, but I doubt if it was used very often.


About 1912 or 1913 our school bought a little organ—it folded up like a suitcase when not in use. The pupils lined up on the porch and marched into school to the music someone played on the organ. I even practiced the lessons Greta taught me on this little organ during noon, recess or before school in the mornings. We learned all the old songs that were popular at the time. We had Christmas programs, and sometimes parents and friends participated. We had home talent plays; Mrs. MacKenzie (Mona Kurtz’s mother) had a beautiful soprano voice, and everyone enjoyed hearing her Scottish songs. Mother gave a reading—the favorite and usually requested, was the “Exhibition.”


The last day of school was a time for picnic, games, foot races and a lot of good food—usually at a pretty spot near the road in the canyon northeast of our house, or at Old Toroda where most of the old cabins were still standing. It had been a mining town in earlier days. Many of our Fourth of July celebrations were also held there. Andy Marcuson lived in one of those cabins. While sober he was a nice person and played the violin beautifully. One time he started shooting a revolver “just for fun” and everyone left for home in a hurry.


Our little Toroda Meadows country school rated favorably in eighth grade examinations with all the others in the state. There was no high school nearer than Tonasket or Republic and no school bus, so it wasn’t possible for most of us to go further than the eighth grade, but in 1915 only 13 percent of the eighth grade graduates continued to high school (from Reader’s Digest). I spent one semester in the Republic High School and lived with Jack and Madie, but was homesick and quit. Dad told me that I would spend the rest of my life regretting that I didn’t go on, which indeed I have. However, I did take an examination and earned a high school equivalent diploma in 1950.


Lester was the next member of our family to leave home. On Oct. 12, 1913 he married Barbara Hafner; they lived in the Wauconda area until Barbara’s death in 1925. In 1928 Lester married Dorothy McGrath; she returned to Buffalo, New York where she was a Public Health Nurse, but he remained in Washington with his two daughters, Isabel and Barbara. In 1941 he joined Dorothy in Buffalo where they lived until his death May 28, 1955.


On Oct. 26, 1913, Allen married Mayme Doyle. They made their home near Wauconda for several years, then moved to Tenino Washington. After the death of their only daughter Vivian, in 1923 Allen and Mayme went to Juneau, Alaska, where they lived util his death on Christmas Day, 1932. Mayme remarried, and in 1946 she and her husband, Al Bucher, moved to Skagit Valley.


During those early pioneer days we had country dances and card parties, usually in one of the homes, or a school house—Wauconda, Eagle Cliff, Blevin, Aeneas Valley, Anglin and sometimes Chesaw. The favorite card games were whist, seven-up, solo, five hundred and pinochle. The old fashioned dances were one-step, waltz, square dance, three-step, polka, schottische and Virginia reel. No matter who a special date happened to be, everyone danced with the others—a good way to get acquainted. In the fall of the year when farmers had cleaned their haymows in preparation for storing hay at harvest time, we had a dance in some of them. Music was furnished by Andy Marcuson, Filo Hayes or Charlie Ripley playing violin accompanied by someone playing chords on an organ or piano when one was available.


Carol Beery Davis (a cousin of the movie actors, Wallace and Noah Berry) played piano for dances in Wauconda and Chesaw areas; in 1977 she became Poet Laureate of Alaska. Carol taught piano many years in Juneau, and her daughter play violin in the New York Symphony. Marilyn, Dona and Bob were Carol’s pupils.


We often had basket socials. Boxes were covered and decorated by the girls and filled with good food. The men bid on them, sometimes because they looked pretty, but often because they found out who had made them. In this way we raised money for various projects but the one I remember best, was the uniforms we bought for the Wauconda baseball team. Always at the country dances we had a big lunch at midnight, then dancing continued until early morning.


Our baseball team was well qualified to compete with other teams around the community—Anglin, Aeneas Valley, Chesaw, Eagle Cliff, or any place else where there were enough players for a team. It was a time for friends and relatives to get together for a potluck meal at noon. We started from our house in early morning; at least six of our family found room in our two-seated hack. Everyone enjoyed the afternoon and baseball game; win or lose—there were never hard feeling among the players.


There were baseball teams two or three years earlier than the team shown in this picture; one of them was called the Brotherhood Nine—composed of three Rounds, three Hafners and the Lauries.


During those first years there were no cars of telephones. By 1914 gasoline lamps and lanterns had replaced most of those burning kerosene. We were still driving horses, and the old two-seated hack had plenty of use. Mother, Jean and I often hitched up the horses to go on errands or to visit friends, and we were very capable of bringing the team in from the pasture, harnessing them, and driving any place we wanted to go. The boys did this for us when they were not too busy with farm work.


In 1914 my brother, Jim, with some help from the other boys, built the new house at Bonnie Brae. It was finished in time for a double wedding on December 29. Jean married Cornelius Lorz, and Jim married Agnes Lorz. It was a pretty home wedding; Jean and Agnes made their dresses of white crepe-de-chine, and the living room was decorated for the occasion. Greta played the Wedding March. Margaret Kurz was the flower girl and I was the maid of honor. The wedding was to have taken place at 2 p.m. Jim drove to Tonasket for Father Grieva who was to officiate; apparently he had a hard time locating him—it was 5 p.m. when they got home. Mother had prepared and excellent supper for the wedding party, but guests started arriving for the dance before supper was over. A big crowd danced until early morning, to music furnished by Filo Hayes accompanied by his wife on the piano.


Jim and Agnes lived with us until her school term was ended at Toroda Meadows. Then they lived in their little house near Wauconda school for two or three years. It was in this house that Dorothy, the first of their seven children was born Aug. 4, 1917. Jean and Cornelius spent their first year or two farming the Mayhew place, and Frederick, the first of their ten children, was born while they lived there, though he actually arrived at Bonnie Brae with Mrs. Wills or Mrs. Gregory in attendance. They lived at the Comstock ranch, then their homestead north of the Ed Davis place; they bought an orchard tract five miles north of Tonasket, where they spent the rest of their lives. Cornelius died in 1932 and Jean died in 1970.


During the next two or three years most of the dances and parties were held in the Laurie’s big living room. Quilting bees were enjoyed by the woman in the neighborhood, and often on Sundays and holidays a big crowd of relatives and friends gathered at our home.

Horseback riding was one of the pleasures of the younger generation, sometimes meeting at our house for breakfast prepared by mother, then a trip in the mountains, or to one of the lakes, usually Bonaparte.


In 1917 construction was started on the Wauconda Hall, and on June 14, 1917, a big crowd attended the dedication. There was a baseball game, horse races, bucking contests, a boxing match, horseshoe games and just a lot of visiting among friends and neighbors. A beef was butchered and distributed to most of the woman in the neighborhood to be cooked for the big dinner at noon. The Moore family owned a Ford car—one of the first in the Wauconda country. Frank drove it to deliver the packages of beef, and took Twila McMichael and me with him.


We had a little accident; the car tipped over on its side in front of the Thomason house and a few packages of meat we scattered but no on was hurt. Around the middle of June a similar celebration is being held to commemorate the opening of the Wauconda Community Hall each year. For our country dances in the new hall, music was furnished by Mr. Van Slyke on drums and I played piano. It probably didn’t sound like much, but everyone seemed to have a good time, especially Mr. Van Slyke and me. For special occasions, an orchestra from Republic or Tonasket was hired.


In 1917 Cameron joined the National Guard in Spokane and was later send to Walla Walla where the National Guard was inducted into the United States Army. His company, the 146th Field Artillery, left Walla Walla on Oct. 9, 1917, and sailed to England, they were sent to Bordeaux, France, and took part in numerous battles until the Armistice was signed Nov. 11, 1918. Cameron drove an ammunition truck at night without lights. The 146th Field Artillery remained in Germany station near Coblenz in the Army of Occupation until 1919. On their return, they received a rousing welcome in New York City, Walla Walla, Washington and again in Spokane, where they were discharged about the first of July. Considering the small population in the Wauconda area, we were well represented in the First World War – some were volunteers, and some were drafted. Cameron was one of the lucky ones. He came home without a scratch. Herman Schemlling was killed in action, and Ray Hafner and Tom Lawton were injured.


About 1918 or 1919, the Lauries bought a threshing machine; all the boy helped operate it. I don’t remember what each one did but sewing the filled sacks of grain was always Jim’s job. The machine was used at all farms in the neighborhood. Housewives cooked three big meals each day for the threshing crew for as long as it took to get the job finished. Sometimes it didn’t take all of one day, and there were usually 15 or 20 men in the crew.

Our family also owned a sawmill. I don’t remember when we bought it, but probably about 1913 or 1914.


We bought a Ford car in 1919. The road north of the house was on a steep hill, and many times it was necessary to use a team of horses to pull it back to the house.

During the school year 1918-19, a house was rented in Republic, and I stayed with Louie and Margaret Kurtz, Mildred Long and Violet Grey, while they attended school. I also spent half days studying shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. During the summer of 1919 I attended the Northwestern Business College in Spokane, and lived with Aunty Mary and Uncle Charlie Hope. After obtaining my diplomia, I worked in the Spokaeman Review office for several months.


After all the excitement of war, Cameron found it too quiet around Waunconda, and in 1920 he headed for Alaska. He worked in the Alaska-Juneau goldmine, and in other mines around that area. By that time Jack, Madie and Ed were making their home in Juneau.

On Oct. 8, 1922, Melvin married Hildegard Lorz. They spent most of their married life at Bonnie Brae, except for one year in Alaska and about two years around the Tonasket area. They had three children, Mildred, Bernard and Theodore. Hildegard is a registered nurse and came to Wauconda to visit her sister and brother, Agnes and Cornelius, who were married and living there.


In 1922, mother, dad and I went to Alaska to visit Jack’s family and Cameron. We sailed from Seattle on the SS Alameda December 13 and arrived in Juneau on the 16th. It was a beautiful trip through the Inside Passage; Wrangell Narrows could be navigated only on high tide. I immediately fell in love with Alaska, “The Last Frontier,” and was happy to spend the next 30 years in Juneau.


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