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Pioneers preserve stump, kick off picnic

Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum caretaker Marty Rausch is dwarfed, in both age and size, by the stump in front of Pioneer Hall, which has served as a pioneer house and moved around more than some mobile homes. - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times
Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum caretaker Marty Rausch is dwarfed, in both age and size, by the stump in front of Pioneer Hall, which has served as a pioneer house and moved around more than some mobile homes.
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times

ARLINGTON Driving past, it might look like a Hobbit-house straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel, but for many settlers of the Stillaguamish Valley, hollowed-out tree stumps like the one in front of Pioneer Hall were simply home.

Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum caretaker Marty Rausch beams with a boyish enthusiasm that belies his years whenever he shows off the stump. It makes sense, since the stump is old enough to make Rausch seem like a kid by comparison.

Rausch cited the research of local historian Loren Kraetz, who has estimated the remnant of a Western red cedar to be approximately 2,100 years old. The stump had grown on the farm of Kraetz's great-uncle, 2.5 miles west of Arlington on Highway 530, before it was cut in approximately 1909 to be made into shingle bolts.

Such cedars were typically chopped 10-12 feet above ground, since that's where the wood tended to grow less twisted, with a finer grain that made it easier to cut.

Kraetz has interviewed pioneers who lived in the houses that were then fashioned out of such stumps, since the wood at the core of those trees was often softer and more easily hollowed-out, and many cedars were mostly hollow near the bottom anyway.

The Pioneer Park stump has moved around more than some mobile homes. After the tree was harvested, the stump was set up in the alley between Olympic and McLeod avenues by John Asplund. Asplund originally intended to send the stump to his home country of Sweden, but when funds proved insufficient, he turned it into a photography gallery behind his studio.

On Aug. 19, 1934, the stump made its final move to Pioneer Park, where it was dedicated in honor of pioneer physician Dr. William Oliver, president of the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association from 1912-1927. Pioneer Hall was built there in 1923.

Today, the stump serves as a storage shed, but Rausch is still pleased to show it off, hastily straightening up its contents before this reporter can take any pictures. He'll eagerly point out the numbers on the different sections of the stump that helped its owners take it apart and reassemble it in the proper order and he takes pride in the stump almost making a trip to a world's fair, although the money to send it once again came up short.

Rausch thanked volunteers such as the Boy Scouts for helping to clean up and dry out the base of the stump, to preserve it by preventing wood rot from setting in. Like the contents of the museum, he hopes to see the stump remain a fixture of the community, long after he's passed into history himself.

Pioneer Picnic Aug. 17

Another regular feature of the community is returning for another year, as the 96th annual Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Picnic takes place Aug. 17 in Pioneer Hall, at 20722 67th Ave. NE in Arlington. Registration starts at 10 a.m., in time for a potluck lunch at 12:30 p.m. Membership dues are $10 per person, and membership is open to anyone. Guests are asked to bring their own silverware, dishes and potluck items.

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