Men still outnumbered women in the area by a ratio of 2 or more to 1 as the century began. In the early days, when Caucasian women were scarce, loggers and farmers took Indian girls as wives. These young girls from the various Skagit Indian bands were called Klootchmen and were expected to literally keep the home fires burning on preemption claims and often worked as hard, if not harder, than their husbands. Early settlers were able to claim up to 160 acres of government land at a cost of $1.25 per acre in their own name, and another quarter section in their spouse’s name. As women began braving the trip from back east or California, the klootchmen were often unceremoniously sent back to the reservation near LaConner, but some stayed on the family farms, becoming babysitters for the children of the new wives. You may notice that we do not mention many women in this overview. That is partially because the wives did not start arriving until 1880 and were not present in great numbers until the 1890s. A frontier wife worked as hard as her husband and the older girls in a family had their hands full, caring for younger children in families with five to ten members.
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