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Nels Bruseth

Nels Bruseth, renaissance man of Darrington -August 1, 1889 - March 24, 1957

Nels painted his home & surrounding garden in Darrington

Nels Bruseth was a man whose passions in life made him legendary, nothing ever seemed impossible, he kept himself very busy with all of his projects and studies yet he always had time to take in all the intricacies of the natural beauty that surrounded him.  He was the first white man to climb Whitehorse Mountain in 1901.  He was usually seen equipped with camera or painters pallet while he traveled the backcountry.  Nels and his wife Beate shared a love of gardening when living at their home in Darrington, their gardens spanned around the house and all the way across Emens Avenue to the east.  After Nels passed away in 1957 the gardens east of Emens Avenue was dedicated as a memorial garden for this legendary man.  Later the Sauk Prairie Road was rerouted through the southern end of the gardens.

Nels was born in Silvana, Washington, son of Nils Bruseth and Lina (Torske) Bruseth from Norway in 1886.  His parents ran a prosperous farm in Silvana and the old home and barn still stands today across the Pioneer Highway & railroad tracks to the west.  Both parents are buried at the cemetery of the old Peace Lutheran Church up on the hill over looking the valley. 

Fascinated by the night skies, Nels was a very accomplished self taught astronomer.  In 1913 joined the AMS, American Meteorological Society.  He was known for his work plotting out the Geminid Meteors on December 12 - 13, 1914.  His dedication to his work was mentioned in the AMS annual reports in the Popular Astronomy publication acknowledging  recording 340 out of a total 0f 540 meteors reported in 1914.  His work continued with the AMS until leaving for Darrington to start his career with the Forest Service in 1916. 

Nels Bruseth hiking on Jumbo Mountain at Old Man Jumbo, photo from the Darrington Historical Society

Coming Darrington, Nels joined the Darrington Ranger District and became the first lookout for Mount Pugh in 1916.  His first years as a lookout was in a "Rag House", a tent and alidade which was a sighting devise.  In 1919 a cupola cabin replaced the tent.  While serving as a lookout he met a young lady from Norway that came to stay with her uncle at the Bedal Camp and Beate Faulk became the love of his live.  Determined to win her hand he began courting, after making his Saturday report at 5:00pm he headed down from his lookout at an elevation of 7,201, traveling around 20 miles to visit with Beate taking her to the weekly dance, then returning to the lookout in time to make his 7:30am report.  Beate and Nels wed in 1921 and spent their honeymoon "manning" the lookout together.

Canoe Shed at the Nels Bruseth Memorial Garden

Nels and Beate raised their two daughters Liv and Betty in their home a short distance from the Darrington Ranger Station.  Not only did Nels put in long hours as a ranger he also put in many hours as a volunteer making Darrington a wonderful community!  He was a close to the people of the Stillaguamish and Sauk-Suiattle Tribes and saw the need for preserving their histories and heritages.  In 1926 in wrote the book Indian Stories & Legends of the Stillaguamish, Sauk & Allied Tribes. He also worked hard to preserve different types of Sauk-Suiattle dugout canoes carefuly crafted for different types of uses. You will find these four canoes on display at the Nels Bruseth Memorial Garden.  When looking at these canoes imagine being in a long shovel nose canoe navigating the swift waters of the local rivers as our first people did to travel to and from their various destinations.  These people were skilled canoe people traveling great distances, even as far as the salt water to gather needed food and supplies.  Two of these canoes were used at the Texas Pond Bolt Camp.  Nels Bruseth loved history and wanted to make sure this history was passed down generation to generation.  During the 1930s he set out to draw a map of the Darrington Ranger District. 
He was very active in the Darrington Improvement Club and the man behind developing Ski Hill in 1935, a Olympic Style Ski Jump now today used for sledding.  Nels retired from his many years of service with the Darrington Ranger District in 1951.  On March 24, 1957, Nels passed away at the age of 70.

Nels Bruseth in later years shows some of his many paintings, photo from Bruseth family

Today he left his legacy of many photos, paintings, a book and a map have become a way to look back to the decades preserved by this renaissance man.  This man shared his passion for life and his love to preserve the past.  He was a photographer, painter, musician, dancer, gardener, author and skilled skier.  He was at home in his mountains and contributed greatly to his community. He was a loving father to his daughters and devoted husband to Beate, the love of his life.  Next time you are at the Nels Bruseth Memorial Garden think about the name given to this special place and the legacy he left behind.

Nels Bruseth Memorial Garden:
  • Picnic tables are located at the garden and public restrooms are located at the ranger station across SR 530.
  • Dugout canoe display
  • Learn more...
History of Nels Bruseth:
Ski Hill
Dale K. Allen Interview, Nels Bruseth, Pacific Crest Trail
ArchiveGrid: Scrap Books 1910 - 1956, Beate Bruseth
Darrington Mining Town/Timber Town - Author Elizabeth S. Poehlman
Order A Book

In the News Papers: