Life of Amariah Kalloch III

Born Dec. 22, 1837, South Thomaston, Maine Died Nov 16, 1889, Seattle

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore 2003

This story of Amariah Kalloch III is an introductory version. The full story will be in Issue 29 of the Subscribers Edition on July 1. We were asked by the Kalloch Society in Maine to provide a brief profile for their newsletter, which dates back more than a century, and this story expands on that profile a bit.

The story of the Kalloch family and the Halls that they married begins in East Thomaston, Maine, in the days of Andrew Jackson and continues through Boston, New York, Kansas and California before they came to Washington territory in 1883 and it is an epic saga in the grandest sense of the word. There are many stars of the family that you will meet in our multiple-part section. The most famous on the national scene is Isaac S. Kalloch, who began his public life as a boy preacher in Maine, became one of the firebrand abolitionist preachers of Boston and then decided a move to New York was a good idea after being prosecuted for questionable acts with one of his parishioners. When Bloody Kansas exploded in 1860, he was there, partly as a preacher but as time wore on, he became a pioneer newspaperman and railroad magnate and he owned hotels and saloons and hob-nobbed with and manipulated politicians up to the governor's office.

In the mid-1870s he moved his devoted wife and family to San Francisco and promptly immersed himself in the Sandlot politics of the Kearney machine and ran for mayor of the city in 1879. During that campaign, he called the mother of Michael De Young, the founder of the San Francisco Chronicle a whore and De Young took offense, along with two point-blank shots at Isaac, who survived. Isaac's son, Isaac M. Kalloch, took offense himself and then also shot the publisher in his office, rendering him rather dead. Father won the election and when his term expired, he and his son and members of their expanded family including Amariah Kalloch III moved to Washington territory. Isaac S. became involved with railroad interests in Whatcom county and Isaac M. who was acquitted of the murder and went on to become a lawyer was the first attorney sworn into the bar of the new Skagit county. Amariah III homesteaded in what we now call the Prairie district north of Sedro-Woolley.

Their most famous descendant is Glenn Hall, who taught chemistry, physics and other subjects to three generations of us at Sedro-Woolley High School and he turns 95 this winter. You will read about all of them in the Subscribers Edition, but here is a short introduction to Amariah, who cut quite a wide swath himself in Kansas, California and Washington. If you are related to these various families, please email us and maybe you can help fill in some gaps. We especially want to thank Paula Thomas, author of a book-in-progress about the Kallochs, and Marilyn Morrison, a Kalloch descendant in Poulsbo, Washington.

The profile

Amariah Kalloch III in Maine

Amariah Kalloch III was born in South Thomaston, Maine, on Dec. 22, 1837, in a religious family. His father, Rev. Amariah Kalloch, was a Baptist minister who also served as the chaplain for the Maine House of Representatives. The younger Amariah's mother was Harriet Sleeper, his father's second wife. She died young in 1841 and his father remarried the next year.

When news of the 1849 Gold Rush in California came to Maine, a whole group of men from the town decided to try their luck out West and Rev. Kalloch joined them. They sailed in October 1849 around Cape Horn and arrived in California four months later, and soon headed for Placerville in the Sierra Nevadas. He did well initially in panning for placer gold and also preached the first Baptist services in the little town. Four months later he contracted a fever and died there in June. In those days before the telegraph, communication was very slow. The Reverend's family back home did not learn of his death until December when the news arrived by ship along with a small purse. Very little is known about Amariah III's life from then on. He was not an orphan, although both his parents had died. He grew up with his stepmother's family and his older half-brother, Isaac Kalloch, took over the elder Amariah's pulpit. We have only a vague reference that Amariah III sailed out of Thomaston, which had become a major shipping center in the Northeast.

The first record of Amariah in his adult life is his enlistment in 1860 with the Second Regiment of the Kansas Volunteers after working on stage lines. He continued as a scout for the North during the Civil War, with one harrowing experience where he nearly drowned during one winter in the Marais des Cygnes River. That and a wound in an 1861 battle led to his mustering out with a disability in the first year of the war. Isaac Kalloch was also living along the river, having led a Baptist Mission to Kansas in 1860. Isaac soon excelled in the secular world of the rough-and-tumble frontier, becoming a town father of Ottawa Kansas, rising in politics, owning hotels and saloons and launching newspapers.

At that point, Amariah III's life becomes a confused tangle of reality and legend. One of Amariah's grandsons, Harold Kalloch, who eventually settled in British Columbia, researched Amariah's life and gathered enough material to interest Paramount Pictures in a possible movie but his files were all lost after his death. The few details that survive indicate a larger-than-life picture that is similar to many of the characters who gained fame during the days of Bloody Kansas on the frontier. He soon became a teamster and established the Kalloch Stagecoach & Freight Lines, which transferred freight for movement to the West. During the Cherokee Strip land rush, homesteaders used more than 50 of his wagons to stake their claims. We also know that today there is a ghost town near Coffeyville, Kansas, named Kalloch, and there was a Kalloch school and cemetery, but so far we have not learned Amariah's role there. He also became a deputy U.S. marshal and provided horses for the new Pony Express. Legends that he smuggled guns to John Brown and founded a railroad have proven to be groundless.

He appears to have settled down in 1869 when he married Mary Elizabeth Heck, a Pennsylvania native 12 years his junior, in Isaac's town of Ottawa. Their first child, Harriet Frances, was born that year and they had four children together in Kansas, but one died as infant in 1871. A newspaper report from the summer of 1872 indicates that he took an overland train to San Francisco but he soon returned to Kansas. Isaac moved his family out to San Francisco in 1875 and Amariah appears to have followed him there in the next year or two, working on the wharves on the bay. Mary and the children joined him there permanently in 1878.


North to Washington Territory

By 1882, people in San Francisco had been alerted to the rich Puget sound area and the forests and homestead farm land available there. With the children in school, Amariah left his family in California that fall and sailed north, taking a homestead about seven miles north of the Skagit river. At that time the closest town was Sterling and only a handful of families lived in the era that would become known as Prairie. Even with his rheumatism and war wound, 45-year-old Amariah soon set about logging towering timber on his claim and clearing land for a farm. He came back briefly in the summer of 1883, when his second daughter was conceived and planned for his family to join him up north in 1884.

Isaac had decided to join him in Washington territory, however, and he moved up the schedule. On Dec. 1, 1883, both Amariah's family, Isaac's family and Amariah's brother-in-law, Ezekiel [or Ezekial] Hall, boarded the steamship City of Mexico and the group arrived at Atlanta on Samish island on December 29. The timing was not auspicious since Amariah did not know about their arrival and, to make things worse, the Samish river was flooding as they arrived. Isaac's group headed on north to the town of Whatcom and a farmer loaded Amariah's family in a wagon and carried them humpety-bumpety 20 miles to Amariah's crude cabin near Cranberry lake, their luggage following in a log wagon behind an ox team.

The family was probably aghast when they saw a crude cabin where a family of six would have to squeeze in, but the neighbors pitched in and soon built another cabin 16 feet away with a connector that served as living room and dining room. The family was soon snug and settled and daughter Elena was born in the new cabin in May of 1884. Mary had brought her medical kit with her and she soon administered first aid to families for miles around; the nearest doctor was at Sterling. She soon became very busy as she delivered babies all through the hills and learned to hunt and fish like other pioneers.

Ezekiel Hall had planned for his wife Caroline Amariah's sister, to join them but she was ill and stayed behind in California; she died in 1885. His sons Woodbury and Fred Hall soon moved to the area, settling on homesteads near the Samish river, not too far away from the Kallochs. Amariah III soon became one of the leaders in his district and, starting in 1886, he cut Kalloch road through from the tiny town of Thornwood, north of his house, to Sedro, the town that Mortimer Cook founded on the north shore of the Skagit river in 1885. The lake by their cabin was also originally named for his family but it later became known as Cranberry Lake. Until the road was finished, any supplies had to be hauled in by packhorse from either Edison or Sterling. Charles Heck, Mary's brother, also moved out from Kansas to join them in 1885. Amariah and Mary's last child, Clarence "Tad" was born on June 17, 1886.

Harriet wrote years later that men then packed staples and goods in a backpack when they followed trails like the one to Sterling, seven miles away. The prairies around them resulted from primitive Indian agriculture over the centuries. Indians set fires to the dense brambles so they could plant edible roots and make room for wild berries. The trees around them were dominated by Western Red cedar, one of them 14 feet through at the butt, which was hauled to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. She wrote of how they coped with the very limited staples and goods that were more commonplace down south. In the wet climate on the west side of the North Cascades mountains, dry goods usually consisted of woolen underwear from ankle to neck that men, women and children wore eight months out of the year.

On May 30, 1888, Harriet married Albert S. Howard, an enterprising sawmill owner she met at Edison, at the mouth of the Samish river. Six months later, the first death in the family occurred when Ezekiel Hall died. Amariah III and Mary were doing very well as the town of Sedro grew to the south in anticipation of the Fairhaven & Southern railroad. In November 1889, a week after Washington became a state, Amariah took a sternwheeler down to Seattle to register a timber claim at the state land office there. When he finished his business, he went down to Yesler's Wharf early in the morning to board the Cascade steamer for the ride back home. Somehow he lost his footing and struck his head on a piling. He was carried uphill to the new Providence Hospital but his wound so too severe and he died there a few hours later at age 52. Mary and their son, Harry, went down to Seattle and brought his body back to Sedro for his funeral and burial.

Life for a widow in an isolate area with three children age five and under would have been a challenge for any woman. For awhile, Mary and the children lived in Whatcom county with Isaac's widow, Caroline Kalloch; Isaac died in 1887. But in the summer of 1890, Mary applied for a widow's pension based on Amariah's Civil War service. In her affidavit she wrote that "I live on unsurveyed government land. . . . I have a log house and small clearing usually assessed at $75; one cow and one two-year heifer, one dog, hens. . . . .The full amount of my income from all Sources is less than $150 per year." She received $8 per month plus $2 for each of the three children at home. The Depression years of 1893-96 challenged her further, but in 1896, she claimed 120.6 acres of land near Thornburn under the Homestead Act. Then, in 1897, she married Amariah's nephew, Woodbury K. Hall, and they moved back to be near her family in Kansas, but that is another story.


[Ed. note: we have been totally unsuccessful in locating descendants of the late Harold Kalloch, who was the son of Harry Lorrain Kalloch, son of Amariah III. He used to attend reunions regularly and had a full file cabinet of material on the family at his last known home at Duncan, British Columbia. If you know of any his relatives, could you please email us at with their names and email and mail addresses?]


This story is an exclusive feature of the Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore. The web address for this story and photos is at the Journal website:

Introduction to the separate subscribers edition:


Mailing address: 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

Editor: Noel V. Bourasaw


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