they sat, slept, and ate for the duration. On August 20th,
It was here that Ole Blacken built a log cabin and began working in the lumber industry. His daughter Anna began her early education, becoming proficient in English and Norwegian.
As time went by the American dream began to tarnish. Frigid winds of winter, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, and followed by stifling hot summers with unbearable humidity made
The luring tales of something better on the Pacific coast haunted Anna and her brother John O. Blacken until they could resist no longer.
Marie, boarded a train for
At Norman John had the good fortune of landing a job at McFadden's logging camp. Anna hired on as camp cook. Growing up in the woods of
At this time logging on the Stillaguamish was in its infancy. There were no steam donkeys until after the railroads came in 1890-91. Logging was done by oxen and horses, mostly along the river banks using six yokes of oxen on a turn of three logs, pulled over puncheon, a “road” of small logs laid side by side, perpendicular to the track. The nearest saw mill was at Utsalady on
It wasn't long until Anna's reputation took her up both forks of the river, cooking in makeshift tent kitchens and mess halls. She felt comfortable being poled up and down the river by an experienced Indian canoeman, Jim Harvey, with whom she remained friends until his death.
In 1887 Anna married Charles Carlson of
| Most of the early
loggers were Scandinavians, and it was
common practice at this time for laborers to ask logging foremen, "Who
the cook," before asking about the wages. With Anna's Norwegian
background, she knew how to satisfy their hungry appetites with
After four years of putting up with Charlie Carlson's weakness for booze, Anna divorced him.
She was goal oriented and had a dream of owning a hotel. With the coming of the Great Northern Railway in Silvana in 1890-91, she saw the opportunity of having a successful business of her own. She had culinary skills, a command of English, Norwegian and Swedish, as well as a reputation of being honest and compassionate.
In 1892 she married her second husband, Neal Swanson, but continued using her skills in the camps.
By 1894 Anna had saved enough money to build a two-storied hotel in Silvana directly across from the Great Northern depot. She offered meals family style for 25 cents and rooms 25 cents single or doubles, 50 cents.
At last she could retire from the hard work of the logging camps and their harsh conditions. The hotel was an instant success. She had a steady stream of railroad men, bolt cutters and mill workers to keep the hotel more than fully occupied. She offered laundry service as well for her boarders.
With all the cooking, washing and room cleaning it required more than her two diligent hands. During this time many young girls also immigrated from
| During the ensuing
years Anna took many of these young girls
under her wing, giving them a job, food, and a place to stay and
learn English until they had a chance to gain some self-confidence and
independence. Many of these immigrant girls found suitable husbands and
the remainder of their lives within eyesight of Anna's hotel in
Anna and Neal Swanson had two children, Nina and Arthur. Neal adopted her first son, Elmer. In 1899 Anna suffered the loss of her husband of seven years when he fell from the Great Northern Railway trestle and died. With renewed determination, she set about raising three children and running her hotel.
Two years later in March of 1901 another huge set back:
With some insurance money Anna quickly bought lumber, and as soon as the embers cooled she rebuilt the hotel. Many of her boarders took a leave from the woods to help rebuild their home. In two months the hotel was back in full swing.
third time Anna began construction at once for a new building, this one
larger than the first two. By winter the
hotel was up and running once again.
This time she maintained a vacant lot on either side as a fire break.
As the valley gave way to dynamite, grubhoe and guts, many large prosperous farms developed around Silvana. Often farmers who employed large crews for haying, threshing, silo filling and pea vining would treat their crews to a tasty noon feast in the hotel's large dining hall.
Anna was always there to meet special needs. She continued running the hotel with no further crises until 1925, when after 31 years of service to the community she decided to hang up her apron and sold the hotel to the "Sons of Norway" for their lodge building, renamed "The Viking Hall."
The lodge removed the partitions on the upper story and made it into a dancehall with a stage at one end. The lower portion continued as a dining hall and office space.
During the next 27 years the hall was frequently used for smorgasbords and Scandinavian dances. By 1952 it began to sway when 150 or more Norwegians began to dance the schottische and polka. In the interest of safety it was taken down and replaced with the present Viking Hall.
Upon retirement at age 60 Anna built a small house at the west end of Silvana and enjoyed another 20 years of traveling, visiting and entertaining old friends. She stayed active in the "Daughters of Norway, “and founded the Camilla-Collett Lodge No. 25 in Silvana.
With Anna's passing Jan. 1, 1946, just short of her 81st birthday, many heads were bowed in respect. Anna was known throughout the district for her hospitality and generosity. All her life she quietly performed many acts of charity, and it was said no worthy person was ever denied her assistance. The hardships of frontier life were cheerfully born by this witty, neighborly woman whose kindness and sympathy in the sickness and sorrow of others was typical of her early days. She was a woman of energy and talent, who was very influential in the early development of the social and cultural aspects of the Silvana community, leaving it a far better place than she found it sixty years earlier.
Note: Anna's brother, John O. Blacken, became proprietor of a hotel and general store in
Reference credits to:
Wilma Warner (grand-niece)
Mildred and Margaret Spoerhase (grand-nieces)
© 2010 Loren Kraetz, All Rights Reserved