Chute Family Notes: Notes 65-1007 through 65-1007

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Notes on Felix Philip LaSota and Winifred Walton LaSota:

See Biography, Winifred Walton LaSota, below.

Article about Felix Philip LaSota, by Lee Taylor, The Newport Miner, 22 FEB 1975

Most energetic young men are satisfied with one Homecoming Queen.

Some consider it positively overwhelming to watch from a distance as she rides enthroned in the spectacle of the homecoming parade. And the chosen privileged few who actually reach the summit of dating royalty consider themselves lucky vassals indeed. But "Homestead Homecoming" for Phil LaSota back at the turn of the century "when the woods were full of people," makes homecoming in the ivy twined cloisters of gridiron hysteria look like a hat full of rain. The driver of the Colville stage had a big grin on his face as Phil climbed aboard and headed for his homestead west of Tiger on Rocky Creek. Spring was in the air, and after a hard winter's work all Phil could get from the driver was that "I would have the biggest surprise of my life when I got back to my cabin." It was customary in those days to leave one's cabin unlocked and well stocked with food and wood. Visitors made themselves right at home but always left everything in tip top shape with a "Thank You" note for the missing host. Phil trudged along through four feet of snow, surprised to discover that a fresh trail had been broken to his cabin four miles up Rocky Creek. His curiosity increased as he arrived to find his clothes line loaded with ladies lingerie, smoke rising from the chimney, and the sweet smell of dinner in the air.

"To greet me were two lovely young ladies wearing my clothes! I thought I was dreaming!" And well you should, Phil. It isn't every All American Homesteader who has two homecoming queens putting logs on the fire, fixing dinner, and wearing his clothes when he returns after a hard cold winter in the logging camp. Explanations are in order. It seems that our two "Homestead homecoming" queens were holding down homesteads about six miles up the mountain southeast of young LaSota's place. All night dances were nothing new in the good old days, and Christmas Eve in Aladdin found Phil's home-coming queens stranded the next morning in the snow at his cabin, where they had stopped to weather the storm. The longer they stayed, the deeper it got. They stayed until spring, and that's where Phil comes into the story, much to his surprise but not without a wee smidgen of delight. Being the gentleman homesteader that he was, Phil moved in with a friend, Herman Vermeer, and with his help proceeded to look after the stranded girls. Those were the days when chivalry was very much alive and doing very well, thank you, on Rocky Creek as Phil and Herm trooped into Aladdin on a mail pick up and shopping spree for their newly made acquaintances. It wasn't exactly news to anyone in the logging camps that Phil LaSota was the best camp cook in the entire Northwest, but somebody's got to cook for the cook when he's off duty. And since the snow was still too deep for the lovely young ladies to reach their cabin, they stayed on and cooked for Phil and Herm. Not to be outdone by their good deeds, Phil gallantly braved the two-thousand foot climb up the mountain to the girls' cabins which were completely buried in fifteen feet of snow. The purpose of his mission: to retrieve badly needed cosmetics, combs, mirrors, hairbrushes and lingerie. Standing in a clearing where cabins can be seen in the summer but not in the winter can mean only one thing: you're standing on them. Being the gallant woods man that he was, Phil refused to give up. "After two hours of looking, I noticed the sun shining right into a hole in the snow. I looked down fifteen feet and saw the front porch of one of the cabins. So I made the hole a little bigger and slid down, snowshoes, backpack and all. The door was jammed with snow, so I went through a window and found the cabin strewn with lingerie from one end to the other."

If Phil thought it was rough getting through the hole in the snow with an empty back pack, he was about to discover another challenge as he left the cabin with a stuffed pack of goodies for his two fair ladies. Burrowing through fifteen feet of snow with a loaded back pack, chopping your way through a hole that's too small, and finding yourself hanging by your snowshoes from the top of a tree, can be lots of fun .... if it's happening to somebody else. It took Phil an hour to dig himself out, only to discover while hanging upside down from the top of this tree, that what he thought was a harmless mound of snow, was really a tree trap waiting to be released when he stepped on it .... just an ordinary fir, bent to the ground by snow, an innocent but well placed snow-shoe on the tip of the tree, and PRESTO! A daring young man .... flying through the air with the greatest of ease. No "George of the Jungle," no Tarzan, and no flying trapeze. Just Phil LaSota gallantly braving the elements with a backpack full of cosmetics. The pack was first to reach the ground, but this only served to straighten the tree as Phil dangled high in the air. There is a very excellent possibility that no one has ever actually published the proper survival technique to be employed when one discovers himself suspended from the tip of a tall fir tree by his snowshoes, so this could be another "first" for Phil LaSota.

"I got hold of a branch, loosened the snowshoes, and climbed down the tree." So if you happen to find yourself in the late afternoon on the side of a mountain, looking down at fifteen feet of snow, from the tip of a fir tree, dangling from your snowshoes, and carrying a pack of cosmetics for the stranded lady friends living in your cabin and wearing your clothes ... think of Phil LaSota.

Phil's Mom and Dad met where Paderewski graduated in Warsaw; Poland, but Phil was born in LaSalle, Illinois in 1885. Three languages and four school years later he found himself on a dairy farm in Thorpe, Wisconsin. Little did he know that at seventeen years of age, he would already have been through Alberta, British Columbia and Washington. "We beat our way all the way to Spokane, working for a dollar a day, twelve hours a day, hooking rides on freight trains." Phil never graduated from high school, but he did graduate from Blair's Business College in Business Administration. Getting a job is no easy task for a one-hundred-ten pound lad in logging country. "The men used to line up for work, and employers would pick them out of the line. They walked right by me ... I was too light." Phil was down to his last fifteen cents and didn't have a job. "I about starved to death. The only job I could get was kitchen work." He had started learning the secrets of cooking during the summer months in his Dad's logging camp back in Wisconsin, and it wasn't long before he had worked his way into the Davenport Hotel. "I went where I got the most pay." Back in 1902, $1.50 a shift was considered good pay for a good cook. "You had to do everything; order supplies, bake your own bread, create new dishes, and cook - all without a refrigerator." One day Phil was experimenting with a pumpkin concoction when his boss came into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Phil had forgotten about the pumpkin experiment until his boss caught a whiff of it cooking away in the oven and asked what it was. "Pumpkin-de-wallop," replied Phil, hoping the name itself would fend off any further queries. No such luck! The boss tasted it, liked it, and Phil much to his surprise, had his first big break as a cook. Radio and newspaper picked up the news of the tasty new French experiment, and "pumpkin-dewallop" was soon to establish Phil LaSota as one of the best cooks in Spokane. "After I got known, I never had trouble getting a job. I was never fired and I never quit a job."

It was 1903 when Phil took his first look at Pend Oreille County, having hired out of a Spokane employment office as an experienced survey worker. But instead of surveying the Washington-Idaho border, Phil got stuck with cooking for the survey crew. He served biscuits as hard as golf balls, but still couldn't shake the cooking routine. The crew finished the Washington-Idaho border in ten days before surveying townships and sections.

Packing, trail cutting, cooking, and rescuing people like Delbert Looney from bears, Phil made it to Metaline Falls. It wasn't until 1908, when he returned from school, cooking in logging camps and restaurants, and traveling around British Columbia and Alaska, that Phil took his second trip down the Pend Oreille River. After cooking for a construction crew on the railroad at Kent Creek, the Fire of 1910 found Phil back in the logging camps of Big Creek, Idaho. "I was right in the middle of it. We could hear the roar twenty miles away, and when the fire got closer, you could feel the earth shake. It burned the nicest stand of white pine timber in the West, eighty miles long and forty miles wide, from Eastern Washington through the Idaho Panhandle and into Western Montana." The timber was dry and the wind was high as "The Big Blow Up" carried a crown fire which sent flames roaring 150 feet into the sky, throwing treetops from one mountain peak to another, and sending trees, rocks and earth down the mountain sides. Phil recalls a prayer meeting on Big Creek near the St. Joe River during the peak of the fire. Eighty people lost their lives as Phil cooked five weeks for seventy loggers and four hundred fire fighters on the fireline.

After such an experience, a young man deserves a pretty lady, lots of dancing, a good social life, and somebody else to do the cooking. "The best days of my life were right after I met Winifred," says Phil. The Waltons were homesteading across Deep Creek Valley on Mt. Rogers, not far from Phil's homestead on Rocky Creek. "She was fifteen and I was twenty-three when we met at a clearing in the forest on the 4th of July." There was feasting, dancing, games, and patriotic recitations from a platform. "We were young. Our time was our own ... we were freer then."

Pend Oreille became a separate county July 7, 1911, when Phil and Winifred were courting and pioneering at the same time. "We would meet at the Cronin Post Office to pick up our mail. I was very polite, always greeting her as "Miss Winifred" We're still polite." But Winifred was scared to death of the cows that munched the grass on the side of Walton's mountain homestead. Phil lead her bravely through the cows, observing, "By gosh, she had pretty darn good legs to make it up that mountain, 1500 feet in a mile and a quarter."

In 1912 Winnie's father died and she went back to Wisconsin. World War I broke out, and Phil was left deaf in one ear from a mastoid condition. He returned to the Pend Oreille valley and took charge of the boarding house for the Dalkena Lumber Company, feeding over a hundred people a day as the lumber business was booming. But work didn't stop the correspondence between Wisconsin and Washington as Phil and Winnie got back together in 1917 .... this time for good. Fire had a way of finding Phil, and in 1921 it hit both his mother-in-law's and his homestead. Some people look at problems and give up, but Phil saw an opportunity to set up his own mill and log the burned out homestead. But large lumber trusts were being formed to force small lumber companies out of business.

"The small businessman couldn't sell a board." Times were rough. Another fire struck Phil LaSota's mill in 1926 and burned him out. Exploring for silver and lead on Slate Creek and Aladdin Mountain for three years, working with the Ohio Match Company for two years, and working for the Pend Oreille Mine Company as a mill operator and diamond driller finally led Phil LaSota to be appointed Postmaster at Metaliine Falls in 1935. "I retired in 1955, when I really started to work. My hobby had always been prospecting, and my wife had the bug too. So after locating a couple of likely prospects, we bought a diamond drill and have been drilling holes ever since." Bunker Hill Mining Company is presently leasing and exploring one of these prospects on Slate Creek, and Winnie and Phil are still exploring, having a good time, and not ready to really retire yet.

Outside of that, Phil and Winnie have two daughters, Phyllis Brady of Tacoma, and Billie Hutchison of Kennewick. "Billie made me quit fishing and hunting. She'd cry every time I caught a fish, and once when I hung a deer up in the back yard, I found her crying and hugging the deer. That's when I quit."

Phil has been a 45 year member of the Metaline Falls Chamber of Commerce, a 46 year member of the Congregational Church, serving the church council and various boards, a 12 year member of the Metaline Falls City Council, a life member of the Rod and Gun Club, an honorary life member of the Northwest Mining Association, and a 35 year Chamber of Commerce Santa Clause for the kids in Metaline Falls.

One of the first and last things Phil said was, "I want you to understand that I couldn't have done any of this if it hadn't been for Winnie. She's the one who really deserves the credit!" And I get the feeling Phil means every word of it. He celebrated his Golden Wedding Anniversary with Winnie eight years ago. He loves and respects life, down to the smallest little birds, which stay in the "Bird Apartment" in his front yard, and eat out of Phil's hand.

Source: The Newport "Miner"
22 FEB 1975
Author: Lee Taylor

Other Records on Felix Philip LaSota On File
1. Biography and accompanying sermon, funeral, 1980. Name of pastor unknown.
2. "Early Pend Oreille Experiences Told by Homesteading Settler", by Felix Philip LaSota, Newport Miner, Newport, Washington, 4/13/1967, original, with Phil's handwritten corrections and additions in the margins.
3. Review of "The Big Blowup", by Betty Goodwin Spencer, source unknown, date unknown, original. Description of Phil LaSota's contributions to the book; two incidents during the 1910 fire are recounted.
4. "Golden Wedding Open House Set for the LaSotas", source unknown, August 1967, original. Brief invitation/article decribing plans for Golden Wedding celebration, two photos.
5. "F.P. LaSota Retired Postmaster", Metaline Falls newspaper, June 2, 1955, original. Biography, two photos.
6. "The Coldest Year of All?", by Minnie M. Horseman, Pend Oreille Horizons, Winter 1978, original. Three long-time residents, including Phil LaSota, recall their coldest winters in the area.

By Phyllis LaSota Ritter

Winifred (Winnie) Walton LaSota was born June 16, 1893 at Easton (now Adams), Wisconsin (north of the Dells). Her father was Rufus (Rufe) Stephen Walton and her mother Etta Henry Walton. Their home was about a mile away from her maternal grandfather John Henry, who was postmaster at Easton, served in the state legislature at Madison, and had a typical general merchandise store with a big stove where people congregated and talked mostly politics. She remembers him as being away a lot on political campaigns or serving in the assembly. Winnie liked to stop there, overnight sometimes, instead of going home after school, probably because of the candy and barrels of peanuts and little crackers and she liked a bowl of crackers and milk before going to bed. While Grandpa was away one of Winnie's five aunts, Belle (Henry), took care of the store and made clothes for all of them from the yard goods on the store shelf. She also played the piano beautifully without lessons. Another aunt, Ruth, took care of the kitchen work, and another, Vera, took nurse's training at her Uncle Frank Jones' hospital in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

Winifred's father had inherited the family farm, but the soil was becoming infertile and he decided to come west in 1907 (Winnie was fourteen) with a group of friends. They homesteaded on Mt. Rogers about thirty miles northeast of Colville in the Aladdin district then known as Cronin. Among those homesteading the area and helping each other build cabins and schoolhouse were (Judge) Tom Oakshott, George and Lily Stevens, Elmer Black, Dr. Kerr, Dr. Miles, the Oscar Kildows, Frank Kendalls and McTigues. But most importantly, Phil LaSota had a homestead nearby on Rocky Creek. The area had a steep hill to climb and tall cedar trees which Phil later helped them log and market with a mill. he set up on his homestead. Friends who had already come west and who had gone to the same one-room school in Easton with Winnie's parents included the Marion E. Hays family. Mr. Hays was the seventh Governor of the State of Washington, 1909-1913.

Winnie and Phil first met on the 4th of July, 1909 when the community gathered for a celebration in the Aladdin Valley at the Deep Lake pavilion. Winnie was barely sixteen, wearing a red fluffy organdie dress and floppy sunbonnet hat with red poppies made for her by Aunt-Belle in Easton. Phil asked her to go to dinner with him and she replied she'd ask her mother first. Her mother sized him up and said that he looked like a gentleman to her. So she sat beside Phil at the dinner table. Phil knew from his first glimpse that Winnie was the girl for him, but he politely called her "Miss Winifred" and waited until she "came of age" to "declare his affections for her." On their first real date a group went by buckboard to Lottie Jane Bowen's cabin across from Big Meadows west of Ione and square danced all night so they could have daylight for the return home. Winnie's mother and father provided the music for many dances, mother playing the organ and father the violin and coronet with good waltz music and peppy rhythms.

A number of things happened to delay their marriage for eight years, until September 16, 1917. Winnie finished school in Colville staying with homestead friends who had moved there, mainly Dr. Kerr and Dr. Miles, baby sitting and tending their offices when away on house calls out in the country. Her father died in Colville in 1912 when she was only nineteen and since she was the oldest of the five children she was determined to do what she could to help keep the family together. Her father's five then living brothers must have been a great help, as the family always seemed well dressed and cared for. Her Uncle Frank Walton was a Senator from North Dakota and lived near the state normal school, so she lived with his family while taking a business and secretarial course at the school. The rest of the family moved to Port Angeles, Washington to be near three more of the father's brothers. It was a new town then and brother Jim Walton had organized the Port Angeles Trust & Savings Bank, theatre, a real estate business, the Port Angeles Commission Co., a lumber business which brothers Mark and Wallace took care of. Wallace Walton had gone to Alaska in 1898 between the time of the Klondike Gold Rush and the discovery of gold in Nome in , 1899 and Fairbanks in 1903. Out in those "Thules" among natives who could only speak their own language, time hung heavily on prospectors' hands. Wallace became interested in their language and wrote the first Eskimo or Innuit Dictionary published about 1901 with articles about the Eskimos and his experiences with them.

After Winnie finished her business and secretarial training in North Dakota she joined her family in Port Angeles and thought she might do public stenography in her Uncle Jim's bank foyer. But instead he put her to work on the books of the bank. After he later moved to Florida, Winnie worked for attorneys for several years as a legal secretary. One of the attorneys, Lindsay Redden, also served in the state legislature. He liked how she "dressed with class" (such as a brown satin outfit), clothes beautifully and tastefully made by her mother as she had done even on the homestead with the same Singer Sewing Machine, which also has a story: when a forest fire was bearing down upon them, they dug a hole, wrapped the machine in wet blankets and buried it before they fled, where it remained safe until their return. We still have the machine. Later when Phil found out her pay was only $50 to $75 per month, he said he would gladly have paid that to help the family so they could have been married all that time.

In the spring of 1917 Phil became very ill with mastoiditis and was confined in Sacred Heart Hospital, Spokane, for several months. He had wanted to hasten their marriage, because World War I was coming on and he was to enter the services of his country. However, he was left deaf in one ear and could not qualify, but he has a medal for teaching women how to handle war flours (rice, barley, etc.). After release from the hospital when Phil was managing the boarding house for the Dalkena Lumber Co., Winnie "came to her senses" and Phil then arranged-to meet Winnie with her family in Port Townsend to get married. From Seattle he took a ferry boat planning that the Captain could marry them if he could not find a minister to do so. Winifred's Uncle Jim brought the family in his touring car from Port Angeles to Port Townsend, where Phil met them with two huge bouquets of roses. They found Reverend Bell and they had a lovely family wedding in the Presbyterian parsonage.

They lived in Dalkena, where in 1919 daughter Phyllis was born. Two years later a daughter Patricia was born but she lived only five months. Daughter Billie was born shortly after. In 1920 they had returned to the Aladdin-Deep Creek area where Phil started a logging pole and lumber mill with a store and home for employees (at Spirit). The mill and lumber stock ready to ship burned in the forest fire of 1926. They came to Metaline Falls in 1929. Phil worked for the Ohio Match Company which finished its timber cut about the time the depression set in. Winnie's positive outlook, pioneer spirit, resourcefulness and gentle supportiveness along with love for the area and its people contributed greatly to maintaining a happy family, home and close associations through the depression years.

Winnie was one of Phil's postal clerks when he became postmaster in 1935 at Metaline Falls (starting at $46 per month but later earning Civil Service status). For thirty-five years she was Mrs. Santa Claus, decking him out as Santa and freeing him from the vital Christmas mail for this big event. Through the years she had been an enthusiastic "sidekick" for Phil with his prospecting sideline, even going along to be his diamond drill helper thus earning among mining friends the nickname "Hard Rock" (at a petite eighty-six pounds). She was awarded an honorary pick (just her size) on retirement. The thrill and excitement of the prospects helped keep up a remarkably positive outlook, vitality, and esprit de vivre. The contacts and social aspects such as the mining conventions were also a great source of enjoyment. She worked with Phil to put both daughters through college. A big highlight in Winnie's life was when they drove deep into Mexico (in their '55 Dodge) where they spent the winter of 1960-61 and had a wonderful adventure.

Winnie was an enthusiastic and interested worker in the growth and record keeping of the Pend Oreille County Historical Society, gathering and showing information and pictures, composing stories, cataloging, labeling, researching, duplicating and typing the history which she and Phil were very much a part of themselves. By the time a broken wrist and ill health made it necessary to give up this project, she still had not written her own story. She left for me to use some unfinished starts and notes and many mounted and labeled pictures. Grandson Jim Brady, now a geologist, is continuing with the mining interests as well as he can on a part-time basis as he must work elsewhere. When Phil died February 4, 1980 part of Winnie went with him. Death, due to failing heart and kidneys was hastened by a fractured femur and she died at age eighty-eight on December 26, 1981 in Metaline Falls. They are buried together in the Metaline cemetery.

Winnie's three sisters Margie Howser, Florence Goodwin and Phyllis Young live in Seattle. Her brother Lester died some years ago. Daughter Phyllis Ritter lives in Centralia and children Judy Brady, Portland and Jim Brady at this time in Anchorage. Their father Frederic R. Brady died in 1966 and in 1979 Phyllis married Dr. Wm. Ritter, who also grew up in Metaline Falls. Winnie's daughter Billie (Mrs. Jim Hutchison) of Kennewick had one daughter, Camille Hutchison Wadleigh of Pullman who had two children, who would be Winnie's great grandchildren, Rafe and Gillian. Billie's husband Jim Hutchison succumbed to a brain tumor six months after Winnie. Those grandchildren and great grandchildren were very close to their grandparents and cherish their memories.

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