Despite her genteel background, Lucinda Leach Davis had a strong taste for adventure and the courage to begin a whole new life in the wilderness of the Upper Skagit.
Born in Boston in 1848, Lucinda was the daughter of a Methodist minister. She received a college degree — uncommon for women at the time — from Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania, married Etsyl Clum Davis and gave birth to three children: Frank, Idessa and Glee.
In 1890, her brother Will wrote to Lucinda from Washington state that their brother George had drowned and asked her to come and take over George’s claim in the Upper Skagit. She promptly divorced her husband and set off for the West with her children.
The family lived close to the Cascade River near Marblemount. A flood in 1897 washed away the Davis’ cabin, destroying most of her homestead and all of their possessions. She moved the family to nearby Cedar Bar and opened a roadhouse, the Cedar Bar Hotel.
She served the miners, prospectors, trappers and surveyors who were headed in or out of the mountains. Since there was almost no other lodging available, her roadhouse served a vital purpose for these hardy explorers.
When her hotel burned to the ground, she and her children rebuilt it and carried on. In the summers of 1893 and 1895, she also ran a small store and roadhouse at Goodell’s Landing on Stetattle Creek while the owner was out prospecting.
The Davis family grew all the produce for the hotel in their garden, raised cattle, fished from the river, and procured additional sources of meat from the surrounding forest. Frank and Glee also built a powerhouse that provided electricity to the Davis Ranch.
The Davises grew hay for the pack animals hauling supplies to and from the mines. And as a result of Lucinda’s strict Methodist upbringing, no alcohol was served at the roadhouse at the Davis Ranch.
Lucinda and her family were creative and industrious. The children were raised to value education and social etiquette. Their home also served as a social center for the surrounding settlers.
In time, Lucinda’s youngest son, Glee, homesteaded 43 acres for the ranch. However, their homestead claim was on the last piece of flat ground west of the Skagit Gorge and was needed by the U.S. Forest Service for a ranger station and by Seattle City Light for the construction of Diablo and Ross dams. This ended an era.
The serenity of the family’s remote roadhouse was shattered by the arrival of construction crews and a railroad serving the dam construction. Now in her 70s, Lucinda stayed for a few more years and provided housing for these crews.
She finally left the valley in 1930 and traveled back east to visit family. She returned to the area and died at Glee’s house in Sedro-Woolley in 1931.
Lucinda’s spirit was indomitable and without her, life for the brave adventurers of the Upper Skagit in the 1890s through the 1920s would have been very different.
She had the courage to completely change her lifestyle, divorce her husband in a time when that was uncommon, raise three children alone, learn how to be a homesteader, and provide a place of refuge for travelers in the untamed wilderness of the Upper Skagit Country.
— Mari C. Densmore is the archivist at the Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner.