Shown in this 1917 photo is Cordelia Watts at age 17 with her mules Jude and Jake in Arkansas.
Photo provided by Gracie Kendall
Below the roots of Spruce Grove Memorial Park are at least 18 individuals older than the trees. This article continues the series on folks who bivouacked 90 birthdays and are now remembered in the shade of that Grove.
Cordelia Watts was such an individual.
In 1958 she and Bunyan (1899-1977) sold their 110-acre farm near Tillamook, Ore. and came to Kasilof. The first winter they pitched a tent beside the bridge. Tents have a tendency for drafts and Cordelia caught a knockdown case of pneumonia. A kind family invited her in and she stayed with them to recuperate. Their name went unrecorded, so, they are lost among pioneers who typically behaved with a Samaritan spirit.
Probably, in 1959 Wattses filed for a homestead on what is now Crooked Creek Road. But there was only a creek -- no road. So they rethought that move and took out a 40-acre homestead at what is now the corner of Pollard Loop and Yukon Road. The Wattses built a house, dug a well, raised a garden and sold produce. They invited Frank Bush’s family, who lived nearby, to pick strawberries. The Bush children walked out a long driveway to catch the school bus. Cordelia often invited them in to warm up. Sometimes after school she waved them over for a snack.
“He would call her ‘Mrs. Watts,’ and she called him ‘Mr. Watts,’” Shiela Bush Teriell said.
The Wattses married in Arkansas about 1919. Many of their children had an impact on Kasilof. Eula Mae (1922-) lives in Oregon. Carman (1925-1982) married Jack Hatten. Of the Hattens’ six children, Jerry and Sandy still live locally. Denver (1927-2000) lived in Oregon but drifted in the Inlet. Bert (1930-) married Laural Thomack. Her parents, “Speed” and June, built the Clam Shell Lodge. Bert drifted briefly and they now live in Oregon.
Charlie (1934-’62) fished the “Skipper” but was killed in a logging accident. Janie (1936-) married Ralph Root and they drifted for Columbia Ward. She lives in California now. Jackie (1940-) is another Oregonian.
Gracie (1943-) was about 15 when her parents drove up. As a youngster she participated in their pioneering adventures and followed her siblings into the drift fishing industry. Gracie Kendall now lives in Sterling.
Linda Harris Hatten, Jerry Hatten’s first wife, used to visit the Wattses.
“They were wonderful people,” Linda said. “She made sourdough starter from potato peelings, collected yarn and knit little booties.”
The Wattses later bought land on Crooked Creek Road from Jack Grossl and built the blue house, which is still standing 11/4 miles in. They rented their Pollard Loop place to an older gent but it burned down. Eventually, Bunyan went to the pioneer home in Seward. Bert then built a cabin for Cordelia next to his own house on Kalifornsky Beach Road. About 1980 she went to Oregon to live with her daughter, Janie. At 96 Cordelia became mortal and was sent to join Bunyan in Spruce Grove.
“She never had an enemy in her whole life,” Gracie said.
This column was provided by Brent Johnson with the Kasilof Historical Society. Sources: Gracie Kendall, Issabella Grossl, Jerry Hatten, Linda Hatten, Nita Galloway, Shiela Bush Teriell, Frank Bush and Mike Wiley.
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