Blanket Bill and Alice Jarman and our prairie

So we bought this farm in 2002 on Jarman Prairie in Skagit County, Washington State.  The Jarman is sometimes misspelled as Jarmin, Jarmyn or German, but it was named after William Robert (“Blanket Bill”) Jarman, the first white settler in Skagit County.   Blanket Bill has a fascinating life story some of which he embellished in stories later in his life.  We own two great books on him: Ray Jordan’s book Yarns of Skagit County (1974) and Percival Jeffcott’s Blanket Bill Jarman- Northwest Washington Mystery Man (1958).  Excerpts from this books as well as an excellent site for Skagit County History is at the Skagit River Journal by Noel Bourasaw.

On June 15th 1868 he and his Clallam wife Alice travelled up the Samish River and selected a spot on the first prairie.  And in July built his first cabin.  In 1871 he was working at the Coal Mines in Sehome.   Here he was involved in a bar brawl in which he killed James Farmer January 15th 1872, but in March 1872 in Port Townsend it was found to be a justifiable homicide.  After this he returned to his claim and started clearing on the bluff.  In 1873 the Samish Valley was surveyed and that year he started building his second house there.  He unfortunately discovered that all of his improvements were not on his claim but this did not stop him from filing his preemptive land claim that year.  It was approved in 1876 and a patent was issued.    In around 1877 his wife Alice (for which Alice Bay is named) became ill and died within a few days.  Per Jeffcott’s book “On the brow of the bluff, not far from the lonely cabin, beside the resting place of a little daughter they had buried some time before, poor sailor Jarman sadly dug her grave and laid her to rest…..Devotedly, he rounded off the graves, and as the lonely days dragged by, he carried large white granite stones and tenderly made a border around each grave; then finally, to shield the sacred precincts from the tread of man or beast, he built a neat white picket fence around the plot that held what was closest to his heart.”  In 1880 he sold his land to Martin Van Buren Stacy (real estate and railroad promoter and speculator) for a healthy profit and left.  A quarter of a century later (presumably around 1905) he as an old man visited the new owner of the property and went up the zig zag trail to the top to visit the graves.  (The owners of his claim now live in a house built in 1915.  Across the road and not on his property is another home built in 1905).  He died in 1912 and is buried in Ferndale.  In the 1950’s when Mr. Jeffcott was investigating his book with Ray Jordan, a fire had destroyed the picket fence and the cabin, the forest had returned and obliterated every trace of the graves.   The shallow well he dug and one of the 50 orchard trees he planted was the only traces of his settlement there then.  Below is a photo of Ray Jordan pointing out the original Jarman homesite on the hill north of present Prairie Road to Percival Jeffcott.

So the claim record states that its location is Lots 3 & 4 and South 1/2 of Northwest 1/4 Section 4, Township 35 North, Range 4, East of Willamette Meridian and was 163 46/100 acres.  This is parcels 35768, 35869, 35753 and 35770 on the current Skagit County Parcel map.  These parcels are all well south of Prairie Road.  So the question that has been bothering me for a long time is where are Alice and their child buried?

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25 Responses to Blanket Bill and Alice Jarman and our prairie

  1. Jonathan Bates says:

    Cool. Do you know what year your house was built? Was there an earlier structure on your property?

    • Our house was built in 1940. We do not know of an earlier house here. The 1925 map shows our property as Boedel Donovan Lumber. One guys description puts the Jarman cabin and therefore the graves 1/2 miles west of the F&S Grade Road interesction and up the slope which is our property but the photos taken in the 1950 do not look at all like our place in the topography. So we’ll keep investigating. Next is interviewing more local people and going to the Archive at WWU. They have historic Skagit records there plus Percival Jeffcott’s research papers, photos and maps are stored there.

      • Karen Anne says:

        I have the dim idea there is some way to locate graves. My memory banks are empty of details at the moment.

  2. Karen Anne, if there is a way, let us know. This is a frontier grave so I do not think it was ever registered anywhere. I don’t know if something like a metal detector might be helpful?

    • Karen Anne says:

      I was thinking more of something the police use. I’m not sure how much metal is required to trigger a metal detector.

      That’s a very non-Indian looking little girl for having an Indian Mom. I wonder if you could find a birth certificate via or the state records. I wonder if that girl in the photo was from a later marriage.

      • Donna says:

        Hi Karen Anne, The girl in the photo is actually his niece so unrelated to Alice. I have not found any photos of Alice nor this child ( no name either). I am not sure what the police use. We actually talked to folks yesterday who have seen and tended the graves. They said there were three- one for Alice, an infant and a little bit older child was what they were told. They said with logging it was destroyed and unrecognizable now. But we have part if the name of the current landowner as well as for the original cabins.

      • Donna says:

        And I did find a thread of ancestors of Bill Jarman’s sibling on who is helping me with contact information.

  3. I am receiving some information that she wasn’t even buried here- that she divorced him and moved back with her tribe. I do have a divorce document but it says he divorced her, and the year was 1879. Even if she is not buried here, I would like to know where the cabins were.

  4. Jackie Craw says:

    That is very interesting, Donna. I LOVE local history. I hope you find the graves, or more information on where the cabin was built.
    Our area here where we live was called New Oklahoma. 2 German brothers settled our property about 90 years ago. They are buried in Chelan. the history of our area is written up in a book called, “Under the Guard of Old Tyee”, and has pictures of the brothers in it hauling their wheat harvest down Oklahoma Gulch to the Columbia to be barged to Wenatchee. Our area, and property was used for wheat.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Jackie, I was not getting replies initially so I thought it was only interesting to me. But I find it a great story. I love yours too. That book and those photos must be fascinating!

  5. Jody says:

    What a wonderful story and pics. I enjoyed reading it!

  6. Teresa says:

    I do hope you find out more information. It’s such a great story, although rather sad. I love genealogy and history, and I wish I knew more about my property. Someday, I hope I find the time to do the research.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Teresa! I feel I am getting closer. It is really important to preserve this information before it is lost. Maybe all of us should find out the history of where we live and pass it on.

  7. sheepsclothing says:

    Donna- Hey, so did you ever look into the archives at WWU? It never occured to me to look there, but I’m up there every day! I was thinking of going down to the Sedro Woolley museum to do some research on our place. Have you ever checked out their records?

    • Donna says:

      Denise, I have been meaning to go to the WWU Archives. I even have the information printed out for what specific records I would like to look at. So far other things have gotten in the way. And we have not made it to the Sedro Woolley museum either. Pretty embarrassing, but it is on the to do list.

  8. Rich Prange says:

    I know where the picture in question regarding the “Blanket Bill Jarman” well site was taken. It is in our back field. We are on the bench above Prairie Rd down toward the FS Grade intersection. I believe I filled in the original fug well site this past summer.

  9. Autumn Williams says:

    I know it’s been a while since this thread has had comments but my maiden name is Jarman I believe I may be a descendent of Blanket Bill. If we are directly related his family ended up in Barstow, CA where I was born.

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