Bertha’s Correspondence: Walter Lorin Lane

By Julie Hunter, Collections Manager

(See “What Bertha’s Correspondence Tells Us” for an introduction to this series of posts)

1897 letter from Walter Lorin Lane to Bertha Wold.

1897 letter from Walter Lorin Lane to Bertha Wold.

According to records on Ancestry.com, Walter was born on October 8, 1873, in Shettlerville, Illinois.  His parents were Peter Holland Lane and his wife, Hannah Bradley Dunn.  They had two other sons and a daughter, as well as Mrs. Lane’s older daughter with the surname Dunn.  By 1885 they were in the Squak Valley area, recorded in the Territorial Census for Squak, Snoqualmie, and Tokul, (the latter was near present day Carnation).  In 1889 the Lane family was listed in the Newcastle and Gilman census.  During these years, Walter became acquainted with Bertha, and she remained in his mind after the family moved to California at some point before 1894.

Walter and Bertha had, in fact, the fabled “seven degrees of separation.”  It happened thusly:

In 1886 William Robert Bush, who was generally known as “Tap” (Mary Samantha Bush Wold Prue’s brother), married Eva Estelle Fisk.

In 1888 Walter Lane’s sister, Emma Gertrude, married Alfred A. Fisk, in Seattle; Alfred was Eva Estelle’s brother.

So the relationship degrees play out in this fashion:

Bertha’s mother, Samantha, was sister to Tap, who was married to Eva, who was sister to Alfred, who was married to Emma, who was sister to Walter.

Of these people, all of the Bush family members, including Eva, who married one of them, stayed in Issaquah.  The Fisks and the Lanes moved to California.  All of Walter’s letters to Bertha were written from Southern California.

Walter initiated the correspondence on January 12, 1896, writing from Oro Fino, California,

Dear Friend Bertha,

As I have no correspondences at Issaquah, would be pleased to correspond with you if you have no objection.

I thought that would be a good way to pass a way along the long winter evenings, also improve ones time.

He went on to recap his recently earned college degree in business, his current work as a mine superintendent and shareholder, and his aspirations.  He inquired after various people in Issaquah, including gossip about a supposed elopement involving Mrs. Frank Tibbetts, Cary Smith, W. Valentine, and someone named Davis, and said he would like to visit soon.  The elopement appears to have been misinformation; Mr. and Mrs. Tibbetts were still together in the 1900 census.  The letter embodies many of the aspects of the correspondence that would develop over seven years and at least twenty letters on his side and a commensurate number of replies from her.  Walter was ambitious and actively sought education and qualifications.  He was eager to advance himself and to make money.  He liked a good gossip, and touches of malice would come through.

When he answered a letter from Bertha the following April, he was working in the hydraulic gold mine run by the Eastlick Brothers.  Lafayette Eastlick, the founder of the town of Oro Fino and owner of the mine there, was brother to Mahlon Eastlick, who came to Issaquah in 1890.6  Two more of Walter’s recurring themes came up in this missive.  He wrote about wanting to exchange photographs and invited her to come to California:

You had ought to be down here Bertha this summer and take a trip out in the mountains there is a big crowd of Girls and boys going  There was a crowd of us went out to the marble mountain last summer and had a splendid time. I killed a big cinnamon bear and a deer.

By September 2, Walter was out of the mine and had been to court, as he wrote,

John J. Eastlick, c 1891

John J. Eastlick, c 1891

The Eastlick Bros & Co that I Worked for all spring and summer I had to file a Mechanics Lien. on  their mine in order to get my wages I worked one hundred and forty nine and a half nights at Two dollars and fifty cents per night. I thought that was more than I could afford too loose old Malin [Mahlon] Eastlick is one of the Co.

Front: Mahlon, Helen and Abbie Eastlick. Back: Nell, Mary, Grace, Iva, Glenn and John Eastlick.

Front: Mahlon, Helen and Abbie Eastlick. Back: Nell, Mary, Grace, Iva, Glenn and John Eastlick.

Since he was not mining, he had had time to go hunting and to provide music for a dance.  He said that he doubted he would have a chance to attend a large ball that was scheduled for a couple weeks later since it was to be a “leap year” ball, meaning that the women would invite the men.

In the only letter that survives from 1897, written on November 9, Walter was back in his own mine,

I am going to stay with my mine this winter and perhaps I can dig out a few Thousand dollars. mining for gold is nice work, but very uncertain.

One of his friends was about to leave for the Klondike, but Walter thought it was a hard time of year to make that trip.  Again he wrote about local dances and wished that Bertha could accompany him to the next one.  He signed himself, “Your ever loving Friend.”

No letters survive from 1898, but Walter started 1899 with a letter on the seventeenth of January.  In it, he reported that

I am working nights now runing a pipe for the same Company I worked for last year. I will no doubt be on night shifts until the latter part of August that will seem a long while to work nights without a vacation[.]

He wrote about dances and playing in the local orchestra.  His interest in the Eastlick family and gossip about them continued.

You heard about the same I think as most of us think about John Eastlick going to get married to his cousin they quit Lovingly anyway. She is about six years older than he is. .. . .I heard Eastlicks were going to move back to Washington but it is rather doubtful.7

On September 7 of that year, Walter announced,

I am going to be Initiated in the Rebekah Lodge week from Friday night I suppose that will be fun for the Ladies. if I ever go to Gilman I will visit your lodge. . .

How is everyone up there? I would like to see you and talk of the [sic] of the days gone by. and go too lodge and see all my old friends. I don’t suppose I would know hardly anyone up there any more as all the young people changed so much since I left there.

Six weeks later, he wrote that he had been to a major Odd Fellows celebration in San Francisco, during which trip he also visited the Cliff House.  He wanted to travel to Washington, and to see Bertha, but he had leased a mine so would have to stay and work it.  He seldom attended dances any more since he usually wound up as the musician because he could read and play the latest music instead of dancing himself.  He sent a picture of himself and asked for one of Bertha, and he ended by begging her

I always like to get good long letters from you as it gives me pleasure to read them. good bye. Write soon and often from your ever loving friend

W.L. Lane

Don’t wait so long to write. I thought you had entirely forgotten me.

 

Walter started the new century with a letter to Bertha on January 2, 1900.  He wrote about enjoying studying music, playing for dances, and going back to work,

I expect to commence working nights again before long in a Hydraulic mine running a Giant I always get the night shift some way I have been on the night shift for five seasons and this will be the sixth which I hope will be the last.

His interest in the Eastlicks continued, and this letter shows that he and his family had more of a connection with them than that of employee to employer.

We had a letter from Emma a few days ago.9  Mrs. Eastlick was telling her that they were getting awfully tired of so much rainy weather. I look for them back [in California] inside of a year. They are never satisfied any place very long at a time. Is John vain feeling up there he was very much that way when here.

Grace Eastlick Settem, 1910

Grace Eastlick Settem, 1910

Grace [Eastlick, John Jacob’s sister,] wrote to one of her Lady friends here that she was going to be married soon. I told her I thought she was joking.            

Walter’s analysis of the Eastlick family situations he was writing about proved correct half the time.  Mahlon and Abigail Eastlick did not return to California.  Instead, they raised their family on Vaughn’s Hill outside of Issaquah.  Their daughter Grace did not marry until ten years later.

Four months later, on April 28, Walter has high hopes for a change of profession.  His letter is full of enthusiasm for his new field:

I am Still working on night shift but expect this to be the last. I think Six years in succession is long enough for one to work night shift.

I am going to commence active practice in my new profession sometime during the summer if nothing happens.

I have learned method of Magnetic Healing whereby I can affect a cure in every known disease I have secured a Diploma from the International School of Magnetic         Healing of St.     Louis, Mo. I can also treat patients regardless of distance by the absent treatment method.

I am not sure just where I will locate yet. perhaps here for a while until I get a few cures to my credit. [end page] Every person has within him or herself that latent force to        heal every known disease when they know the law All things are possible to them that     believeth.

September 27 found him still running tunnel, tired of the social scene in Oro Fino, and contemplating commencing his healing practice.  He gave Bertha some confidential advice about a health problem that “Paul” was having.  Paul was probably her stepfather, Paul Prue.  Walter did not want to have an adverse effect on Paul by saying anything that would discourage him.

As the year wound down, Walter wrote again on December 12, 1900.  He had tired of dancing and been absent from the Rebekah Lodge for quite some time, but he remained thoroughly enthused and engaged in studying Magnetic Healing.

A month later, Walter had survived a harrowing prospecting trip, during which a freak snowfall had created snow depths up to twelve feet.  He and the man he was working with had to walk home, a distance of eighteen miles that took three days of hard work, walking in creeks and using a board to give them a passable surface over the snow.  The snow had played havoc with transportation and mail delivery for over two weeks.  Before the snow fell, he had been back to dancing and balls over Christmas and New Year’s.  The local Lodge was thriving and he wished he could visit the Lodge in Issaquah and Bertha could visit the one in Oro Fino.  Once again, when he wrote to Bertha, he had the Eastlicks on his mind—

John Eastlick’s old maid is still here she doesn’t go around very much since John left.

Bertha had sent him her photograph;

I was pleased to get your photo. You have changed some since I last saw you but every one changes in that length of time. It has been nine years this spring since we left Wash.

                1901 must have been an especially brutal winter in the California gold fields.  When Walter wrote on April 4th, 1901, from an isolated mine in the mountains, snow had fallen during the day and ice was still freezing at the rate of 1/8 of an inch each night.  Once again, he was still working in mining and dreaming of changing location and profession:

I am thinking of going to Los Angeles about the 15 of June or possibly sometime in May. I am going to quit the mining business for good after this year anyway if nothing happens, I am going to get a position keeping books. I could have gotten a position in Pomona a short time ago if I had been there to Accept.

Working in a store is much better than hard work a person has a chance for promotion in Business but if a person mines he will never be advanced any higher.

This time he followed his own advice, and when he wrote on May 25, 1901, it was from his new address in Pomona.  He had set up his office to practice Magnetic Healing.  Along that line, he offered sympathy and medical advice for “Paul,” whose supposed cancer on his arm had grown worse.  Walter enthused over the crops and climate and quality of life in Pomona, where there were 13 churches and no saloons for a population of about 8,000.  He and his sister Emma, her husband Al, and their cousin Eva Borst, who boarded with them, attended church regularly.8  He wrote enticingly,

This is a very pretty place there is nearley eight thousand inhabitants here, thirteen churches and no Saloons that speak pretty well of a place.

They raise Oranges, Lemons, and fruits of all kind in abundance there is one orchard of Four houndred acres of Oranges.

Flowers of all kinds grow out doors no house plants necessary as everything grows in the flower garden. It is a regular paradise too what Washington is for beauty and climate.           

I don’t really think this place can be beaten. It doesn’t get very hot nor cold. I am thirty-three miles from Los Angeles, Southern Pacific R.Y. it only takes a short time to get to Los          Angeles.  

In fact, Walter’s satisfaction with Pomona was such that he would spend almost forty years in the area.  He died in Pomona on November 16, 1940, and was buried in the Pomona Cemetery and Mausoleum.

When he wrote to Bertha on August 8, 1901, he had moved to San Francisco because he had had to stop his work with magnetic healing when the State of California outlawed “all methods of Healing other than Medicines.”  He was hoping that good sense would prevail and that the law would be declared unconstitutional, but he needed a job in the meantime.  He was hoping to find a job as a bookkeeper, but there were major strikes causing civil unrest and danger.  Regardless of his work situation, Walter was lonely.  He urged Bertha to come to California,

I wish you were here and we would go to some good Theatre I never caremuch about going alone you would also see many things here they do not have in Seattle.  There is a lovely park here all kinds of Flowers, Fowls, and animals are to be seen Buffalo Elk, Grizzley Bear and  others to numerous to mention. I went to the Park last Sunday but was alone so did not enjoy it very much if you could have been along.   We could have had a fine time. I would like awfully well to see you and will some of these days if you are willing. if you were here no one could   hire you to live in that rainy country again California is a better state every way. . . .

Well my dear, I must close as it is getting quite late hoping you will write soon and often.  From your very loving friend. . . .

Write soon as I may not be here more than a month or so.

Lovingly yours

W.L.L.

By the end of September, he had given up on finding a safe job in strike ridden San Francisco and had returned to Pomona.  He still liked life there and was working as a carpenter, expecting to return to mining the following winter.  It would be good to know what Bertha’s letter to him, between his of August and that of September 29, had said. This letter was less about his feelings and more about his surroundings.  Although he used the closure, “Your loving friend,”  he had preceded it with the rather distancing, “

There is no saloons in town well I have written about all the news I can think of for this time. I could tell you more news by talking with you than writing so will bid you good by. With the best of wishes for your future happiness[.]

December came, and Walter returned to Oro Fino, but he did not return to the mines.  Instead, he wrote on the fourth that he had recommenced working in Magnetic Healing.  He was also practicing hypnotism.  He hoped to travel through California, Oregon, and Washington demonstrating both.  If he could make the trip, he wanted to see Bertha.  Meanwhile, his whole family had arrived in California, and they planned to stay there.

When next Walter wrote, on February 14, 1902, he had had to wait a long time for Bertha’s most recent letter, and he thought she might have forgotten him.  He was still practicing as a healer, but had moved back to Pomona and was unsure whether to stay there, with some established clients, or to move into Los Angeles.  He gossiped about food, crops, recreation, dances, going to churches, travel, Christmas and New Year.  He continued to pass along negative rumors about John Eastlick and his “old maid,”

In regard to John Eastlick’s old maid she is supposed by many to be his wife but it doesn’t seem like they would be living so far apart if they were, she is living with her father           and mother at Oro Fino. her name is Eastlick and a first cousin of his, they are very queer people. It seems to be a fad among them to marry cousins. I suppose he tells people up           there how he used to mine in California, but he is far from being a good miner. he never  done any underground mining at all. 10

One wonders if there are letters missing from this sequence.  The next letter that exists is from three months later, May 11, 1902. Walter wrote about doing the “drilling and blasting” for a new water line for the San Antonia Water Co., fresh produce on the table, good weather, a festival in Los Angeles, and cousin Cora Gustin’s plan to move south to attend normal school in San Jose.  He never once mentioned magnetic healing, bookkeeping, or mining.

He was still working for the Water Company when he wrote on August 21, at the end of the summer.  In what is the final letter in the collection, he extolled the climate and local foods yet again, said he had become a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, and reported on his mother’s good health and successful canning activities.  He still wanted Bertha to visit, ending his writing,

I wish you were here to enjoy yourself for a while and just see some of the beauties of nature in the land of sunshine and flowers southern Cal. is considered the most beautiful part of the West where the Orange blossoms blow. I hope you are enjoying the best of good health Well I will close for this time hope you will not wait as long as I did in writing. I will have some photos taken and send you one by the next time I hear from you I would like one of yours also.

May peace love and happiness be with you always is the wish of your ever loving friend…

Charlie Baxter, circa 1895

Charlie Baxter, circa 1895

There is poignancy in this ending.  At the end of the year, Bertha would marry Charles Baxter, in Issaquah on Christmas Day.  Walter also married, in California, Josephine Cable.  Although I have not been able to locate their date of marriage, they were married by 1906, when the first of their three daughters were born.  Walter never did get away from digging.  According to the 1940 Federal Census, he was the owner of Buller Cesspool (probably a company name) when he died.  He had been in the cesspool business since before World War I; the 1910 census listed him as a self-employed cesspool digger.

Bertha and Charles Baxter raised three children, and family lore says that Bertha ran all of their lives and kept them all from marrying so that they would always take care of her.  She outlived Charles by thirty-five years, dying in Issaquah on November 1, 1965.  Her sons worked locally, and her daughter, Beryl, became well known as a quilter.  Beryl’s second cousin donated this collection of Bertha’s correspondence along with other artifacts from the Bush family.

Bertha’s correspondents reveal some of the variety of people who had ties to Issaquah and its environs at the turn of the twentieth century.  Settlers, farmers, teachers, prospectors, people with ambition, and those with a desire to find a better life came here.  The Bush family and many of the Wolds stayed.  Some of their friends and family members kept moving.  Most of them had to work hard, regardless of where they were.  Their letters share the adventure of “going in” to Dawson, Y.T., the hopeful struggle of moving to Arizona to recover from consumption, the difficulties of settling a will with half a continent in between the legacy and the legatees, the way family ties looped back and forth across the Cascades, family life and family strife, and the attempt to keep up a teenage friendship even as the parties grew through their twenties and eventually married other people. They form a good cross section of working America before the events of the twentieth century.

Previous: Other Correspondents

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6. See paper file for printouts of online information regarding the Eastlick family and Oro Fino. The town’s name means “fine gold,” and the Eastlick mine was successful. The town no longer exists, although Lafayette Eastlick’s fine home remains standing and some of his descendants still live in Siskiyou County.

7. I have been unable to ascertain which cousin J.J. Eastlick was linked with in the gossip of 1899. His granddaughter, Loralyn Young, had not heard any stories to this effect when I asked her in September 2016. She did recall that he had traveled back and forth between Washington and California, working in the family mine, going to college, etc. The only marriage of his for which Ancestry has a record is that to Loralyn’s grandmother, Wilhelmina Stevenson, on June 4, 1904, in Seattle.  The Rev. T. S. Winey conducted the ceremony.

Loralyn’s donation to the collections, accession 2016.17, includes a family Bible into which a sheet of paper with a chronology of John Jacob Eastlick’s travels has been tucked.  It reads as follows:

Born in Orofino, Siskyou Co

Northern Calif on Dec 24, 1876

Came to Seattle in 1884. To

Issaquah Valley in 1885—

Attended school at Mercer +

Denny schools in Seattle

Back to Calif in 1895 to Orofino

Scott Valley Siskiyou Co—

In 1900 Back to Issaquah

for rest of life

  1. Emma was Walter’s sister, married to Alfred Fisk. They were living in San Jose, California, at the time of the 1900 Federal Census. They also had Eva Borst, age 16, boarding with them.
    Eva Borst (at left) and Emma Lane Fisk, circa 1900

    Eva Borst (at left) and Emma Lane Fisk, circa 1900

    The Lane family and the Borst Family, with daughter Eva, who was born in 1884, were both in the same Territorial Census for Squak, Snoqualmie and Tokul in King County in 1885.  In another tight knot of intermarriage, Eva Borst was actually Alfred Fisk’s mother’s first cousin.  Helen Augusta Borst Fisk (born 1842) was daughter to David Borst (born 1814) and granddaughter to William Borst.  William had other children, including son Jeremiah W. Borst, who was born in 1829, fifteen years after his brother, David.  Eva E. Borst, David’s daughter, was born in 1884, when her father was in his mid-fifties and her cousin’s son, Alfred, was already twenty-four.  Her father died in 1890, leaving her Native American mother (nee Kate Smith) widowed with two young children.  By 1910, Eva had returned to Washington and was living with her mother and brother in Redmond, working as a servant.  In 1914, mother and daughter were included in a census of the Yakima tribe; Eva’s brother Bud was not listed.

9. Grace Eastlick did not marry, in fact, until 1910. The 1900 census lists John J. Eastlick, age 23, as living with his parents and siblings in the Gilman Precinct and working as a lumber sawyer.  When he filled out his World War I draft registration, he was the head sawyer for the Neukirchen Brothers Mill.

  1. In light of Walter’s continuing animus toward John Jacob Eastlick, it is tantalizing to know what lay at the heart of that. While that remains unknown and probably unknowable at this distance, it is important to note that I have been unable to find records of a marriage or a divorce between J.J. Eastlick and anyone other than Wilhelmina Stevenson, whom he married in Seattle on June 4, 1904. I have searched 1900 census records for Siskiyou Co., where Oro Fino was located, and find 3 of J.J.’s uncles and their families living there.  One uncle, Lafayette, had a daughter, Cassie, aged 28, living at home, but she supposedly was already married to Francis Marion Quigley.