Cicero

Some stories of a place known as Cabbage Patch, Hilderbrand Crossing, Harmony and later as Cicero
The Whitehorse Trail & Cicero Pond today, photo by Martha Rasmussen

The Cicero area is composed of a narrow fertile valley along the North Fork Stillaguamish River.  Grant Creek, named after early settler John Grant, is the largest tributary of the river in the area, flowing down from the northern slopes of the valley near Fraily Mountain.  Bridalveil  Falls, now called Ryan Falls, was a real show stopper for travelers easily seen driving the Arlington-Darrington Road or coming up by train.

The first white settlers to come to the area in 1884 were Ralph Collingwood & his wife.  Mrs. Collingwood recalled that big event in her life “ On the first day of March, 1884, Mr. & Mrs. Collingwood, Ed Fisher, & Mr. Parks pitched their tent at the McEwan place, three miles up the North Fork Stillaguamish River & took possession of an old bachelor cabin. They had been taken up the river by Siwash Friday & his klootchman.  They had reached the place the third day after leaving Stanwood. That night a heavy snow fell & the next morning the men began to cut a trail to Mr. Collingwood's homestead claim three miles to the westward, which required eleven days. Then a cabin was built, the supplies packed in & Mrs. Collingwood, the first white woman on the North Fork Stillaguamish River took her canine body guard 'Shep' & moved into her first home".   They farmed their homestead many years building a substantial dairy herd.  Her husband of 32 years, Mr. Collingwood died at his home on February 5, 1897.  Mrs. Jennie Collingwood sold their dairy farm to Alfred & James Cavanaugh leaving a wilderness life she knew so well and community called Harmony.


The current Cicero Bridge with the old bridge bulkheads just to the front of it, photo by Martha Rasmussen

Shortly after the Collingwoods arrived to the valley, Hiram Monty staked a claim in 1885 south of the river and built up a prosperous farm.  Other early homesteaders that settled around the Harmony community were the McNally brothers to the south of the river clearing land for a sheep ranch, John Grant north of the river toward Fraily Mountain was putting in a large orchard of fruit trees, Fock Brothers to the south of the river planted a large apple orchard.  Ben Hilderbrand north of the river  was building up a successful farm & also ran the local ferry.  In 1892 the growing settlement built a schoolhouse, the Fock brothers to the south if the river donated the land & Miss Kellogg came to Harmony as the first teacher. The school served also as a community hall & place for religious services.  The first road up the valley was to reach Harmony in 1897, anticipating this great accomplishment Ben Hilderbrand asserted the importance of building bridge over his land providing a right of way to cross the river & connect their divided community.  This was named the Hilderbrand Bridge and over time part of the settlement was referred to as Hilderbrand Crossing.  This bridge was where the current SR 530 bridge is today, the old bulkheads where this bridge once was is between the highway & the Whitehorse Trail.  Charles Hillis came to the valley in 1896 working as a hired man for the Hilderbrand Farm. Ben Hilderbrand's passed away the same year, April 9, 1896.  H.O. Siler & Charles Hillis bought the farm & later Charles built a road to his place from the new county road, this is still goes by the name as the Hillis Road. 

The old mill office at Cicero Pond, later a dwelling, photo by Martha Rasmussen

By 1899 the whole N.F. Stillaguamish Valley was anticipating the train that would go all the way to Darrington.  Local farmers got work building the grade and selling meat & produce to the work crew. The tracks up the valley were completed to Harmony in 1900 & with it bringing opportunities of new trade & businesses.  Wick, Christie & Murphy came to Harmony to build a shingle mill & sawmill.  Jacob T. Lohr took over the two mills with his broad range of experience from working on ships, prospecting, farming & sawmills.  Both mills, the Heath-Morely Sawmill & Robertson Shingle Mill incorporated & opened in 1901, the same year the train began operation.  The land where the sawmill was will later be owned by Charles Hillis.  The office for the sawmill will become the dwelling for his son John Hillis & Larry Taylor Sr. leased the mill while also operating the mill up by Shomet. 

At this time it was confusing to know what to call this settlement.  Some called it Harmony, the bridge crossing was Hilderbrand, the cabins that clustered closely near the mills were called Cabbage Patch.  With the arrival of the train, the Cicero's built a store with a post office.  Community came together & decided to be unified under one name & decided upon Cicero.  When the post office opened, November 29, 1901 the settlement will forever be on the map as Cicero & Mrs. Cicero became the first postmaster.  Cicero was growing, by 1906 was listed as having a sawmill, shake mill, store, post office, saloon, hotel & depot.

In 1910 the settlement of Cicero will become divided by the river once again.  This event was remembered for many years as "The Great School "Row".  As the children in the area increased many felt the school needed to be more centrally located toward the majority of the population to the north.  Several fought bitterly to keep the school at the original location south of the river.  This led to a very lively school election with North vs South. The north won the fight & the new schoolhouse & house for the teacher was built on the north side of the river.  The old "School Marm House" still stands today.

The not so serene N.F. Stillaguamish River during flooding, photo by Martha Rasmussen

1921 was one of the worst floods Cicero had ever seen, both the north & south communities suffered much loss but not as much as the Cicero place.  Living peacefully for 51 years on their farm with orchard & cozy home surrounded by Mrs. Cicero's flowers their live changed.  On December 11th during very high flooding a log jam broke loose on the N.F. Stillaguamish River. At 10 a.m. The waters began to fill their house & the couple brought bedding, the family dog & cat with her kittens upstairs. Mr. Cicero went to bring more provisions to the dry upstairs & saw that the water was now over the cooking range in the kitchen. All night long they slept fitfully as the dog seemed to watch guard. They could hear and feel the grind of washed out trees piling up against the house & windmill tower a short distance away.  At about 3 a.m. a strange thing happened, the dog leaps out of the upstairs window onto the porch roof.  Shortly after he returned indoors all frisky and happy.   Then the cat sniffed the dog up & down & leaps onto the porch roof.  She returned purring & went about tending her kittens. The Ciceros were filled with hope & within an hour following these events the water began to drop significantly. By 10 a.m. the next day the house was free of water.  Outside the picture was pretty bleak, with trees piled high on the house, the fences & poultry house with 100 hens were all gone. They had a 20 acre farm the day before & when the river was done flooding they were left with 9 acres, their lives, a faithful dog & contented cat.

Much of Cicero's past has disappeared, the store, hotel, school & post office are gone.  The depot is now a dwelling on the south side of the river. The house built for the school teacher is now a dwelling on the north side of the river. As you drive SR 530 or walk the Whitehorse Trail through Cicero today you will see subtle reminders of the past.  Watch for the  random fruit trees planted long ago, remnants of the old winding highway, the old railroad signs of the abandoned railroad & a pond that once was the millpond for a growing community, a place of dedicated pioneers and a name known as Cicero.
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