July 2, 2015

Sweet Genealogy Surprises

Thomas Bordeaux Passport Application

For the last month or two I have been working on research for the Bordeaux family that came to Washington state around 1871 from Canada. In the process, I have put together a picture, at least in my mind, of the family and their history. It is limited to what documentation I have found, but when I was researching Thomas Bordeaux I found that in 1921 he had applied for a passport. What a goldmine of information was found in that one document! (Clicking on the image will show it full-sized.)

First of all, this document shows that Thomas Bordeaux had become a naturalized citizen of the United States prior to 1921. In the section above, also gives the name of Thomas’ wife as Sarah Ester, even though in other records I have she is called Essie. Getting her full name, date of birth and that location are definite pluses. It also shows that in 1921 Thomas and his wife were living in Seattle, King County, Washington and in Shelton as they had been for many years.

Why would they live in two places? Because Thomas was the President of where Shelton is located, but he was also a very wealthy (in his time) lumberman and no doubt he had to entertain according to his station in life. Doing so in Seattle would have been easier than in Shelton, a much smaller town.

This next section might be a little hard to read, but it gives a very important clue as to where exactly he was born which was St. Isidore, Quebec, Canada. While it is not proof of it, it also gives the family researcher a good bet that Thomas’ siblings, Joseph, Virginia and Gilbert were probably born there, or near there too. The next gem of information is Thomas’ father’s first name: Theophile. Having that makes it that much easier to find the family in Canada. We know from this document that Theophile died before 1921.

Next, we see that Thomas states he sailed from Montreal to the United States in 1870. It is unknown if it was a short sailing and most of the trip thereafter might have been overland, but it pinpoints the year, and having the knowledge of that date, it qualifies Thomas as a Washington State Pioneer.

The next tidbit of information Thomas’ passport application gives us is that he was naturalized as a United States citizen in Olympia, Thurston, WA Superior Court on 19 July 1892.

The bottom section of this document states that his permanent address is in Seattle, that he in fact was a Lumberman, and that they would be sailing on the ship Imperator on April 25, 1921. (I sure hope he got his passport in time! 😉 ) It looks like they had a very extensive cruise planned that must have cost a good amount of money, even in 1921.  Is this what they would have considered a “Grand Tour” in the day?

To me, the icing on the cake was finding one last and unexpected item on the document. It shows up on the facing page and here it is…. A lovely little photo of Sarah Ester Webb Bordeaux, Thomas’ second wife. While the Bordeaux family might have other photos with her in them, generations down the line might not know who she was if the photos don’t get labeled.

Sarah Ester Webb Bordeaux 1921

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Thanks! Also, please visit my other blog Pentimento for a little lighthearted doodle week art.

A Visit To Old Bordeaux


[Due to a blog glitch, I have re-posted this story.]

Bordeaux, WA circa 1910

Last Friday, my aunt Twyla and Uncle Wally Yates, my cousins Edris and Jack Harbeston, my brother Dave Yates and his wife Kathy, and my husband Jim and I, went on a little adventure so Wally could visit “one more time” the old town of Bordeaux here in Washington state. Actually, the town is not in existence anymore, but some things are still there.


Our trip on May 9th was made after we had a nice lunch at Dave and Kathy’s, and our weather couldn’t have been much better for this time of year. Warm and sunny enough to be comfortable, and we got lucky and bypassed any rain.



In our Suburban, and Dave’s Yukon, we drove from my brother’s place near Tenino, WA via Old Highway 99 North, turning left at 93rd Ave SE and we then headed west to the Littlerock Road. My uncle Wally was in our vehicle, so as we drove along he would spot different points of interest along the way and tell us about them. Some were known to us, some, were not. At one point on the Littlerock road as we rounded a curve, he said that it was where his brother Guy had been killed in a car accident in December of 1938. He said the curve had been straightened out considerably in the last 70 years and it doesn’t look dangerous at all now.

My Yates family settled in Bordeaux around 1925, even though Grandpa Will Yates had made the trip from West Plains, MO many times before that year. When Grandma and Grandpa moved to Bordeaux, Grandpa’s brother Lem and one of his sisters (Lydia) already lived there which always makes it easier for any new arrivals. My dad Gale was the oldest boy as he was born in 1920; the next boy was the previously mentioned Guy who was two years younger. The youngest boy, Waldo (aka Wally) was born in 1927, a couple years after they arrived in Bordeaux. So, Wally lived in this logging town from his birth until 1942 when the mill closed.



Even though Wally has macular degeneration in one eye and the town no longer exists, I know he could see it in his mind’s eye just like it was yesterday. As we drove up the Bordeaux road, and past one of the old vaults that had been in the hotel, he began to get his bearings even better. The old Bordeaux house where the family lived is still there, but of course is not owned by the family any more. My Grandmother, Minnie Yates died of botulism poisoning in 1932 from eating unheated home-canned corn. In 1936 my Grandpa remarried to a lady named Josie Scribner and she worked up at the Bordeaux house as a nanny and housekeeper for the two sons, Joe and Bruce. Wally had been one of the few kids allowed into the Bordeaux house to play with the boys when they were home because his step mother worked there.

The drive up to the house has a metal gate and a sign that says it is private property and protected by armed guards. This may be because most recently the house was owned by Curt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love. It may have been bought by someone else now, since it was up for sale at one time to pay off the debt, but for us, it was not a place we could visit on our trek.


After driving around on Bordeaux Road from Keen’s corner all the way up to the Cedar Creek Correctional Center at the end, we doubled back and stopped again at a wide spot in the road near the little creek that runs on the south side. This is most likely Cedar Creek (my family pronounces it “crick”) and it is now just a gentle caretaker of the old pilings and cement blocks that are the only evidence that the town and mill were once located there. We got out of our vehicles and began to meander around, first just by the road and taking pictures of the Bordeaux house through the now thick alder and fir trees. Someone found a trail on the south side of the road and while my cousin Jack explored the woods up on the house side of the road, Jim and Dave, with Wally following more cautiously behind, headed over the makeshift bridge and on up into the southern hillside where they found some old brick remains of the mill.


I don’t know for sure if Wally got a true reconnoitering of where the town and the old houses he remembered were, but I think he enjoyed the day immensely. The only downside to the day was when Twyla was trying to cross a little rivulet and she lost her footing and fell face first down into the mud. It wasn’t a total ‘face plant’, she landed on one side, but she was all muddy, and eventually cold and I am sure she was more than ready to get back to Dave’s and into some dry clothes!

Click here to see all 44 photos from this trip on Flicker