September 27, 2014


Lower Meadow at Rasar State Park, Birdsview, WA



Red Star indicates location of Birdsview, WA

Rasar State Park occupies August Kemmerich's former ranch

The Kemmerich Ranch HouseAugust Kemmerich's Huge Barn
August Kemmerich took up a homestead claim to land along the Skagit River in Washington Territory in 1878. Over the next six years he cleared land at the east end of his claim and built an imposing ranch house and barn.  In 1884 he visited friends in Iowa and Chicago and found a bride--Barbara Hommerding.  On April 1, 1884 August and Barbara were married and immediately boarded a train for August's ranch in the tiny hamlet of "Birdsview" in Washington Territory. Over the succeeding years, they filled the ranch house with nine children and gradually expanded their farmland as they logged off the huge old growth forest that covered the Skagit River Valley.

The Kemmerichs shared the Birdsview area with a few other pioneer families and the Native Americans who still used the river bank to fish in season.  For the first 12 years, all transportation was on the Skagit River--at first, by Indian canoe, and later by steamboat. August built a boat landing and oriented his ranch house so that the front door faced the river.

A typical Skagit River canoe

Birdsview, WA 1891
L-R: Anna, August, Mary, Barbara & Joseph
Birdsview, WA 1902
L-R, Standing: Mary, Joseph, John, Anna
Seated: August with Mark, Julius, Clara,
Barbara & Kathryn

On August 1, 1903 Barbara Kemmerich bore her ninth child, Alphonse, and died several hours after his birth. August and his family continued to live on the ranch and Barbara's mother, Maria Anna Hommerding, came from Chicago to help raise his family. 

In March, 1908, August left his Birdsview ranch in the hands of his older sons, and moved to Mt. Angel, Oregon.  Maria Anna ("Grandma") Hommerding came with them.  August purchased a home at 515 S. Main which is still occupied today.  

Through the succeeding years, various Kemmerich children lived on the Birdsview ranch.  Anna Kemmerich Ackerman and her family purchased the western portion of the ranch and built a home near the present Day Use area of Rasar State Park. The last portion of August's homestead was sold in 1946.

Maria Anna Hommerding,
at Mt. Angel, OR  1911

August's Mt. Angel Home ca. 1911


Over the years, various members of August and Barbara's family have visited the homestead site in Birdsview,WA. The ranch house burned to the ground in June, 1934. I don't know when the barn and other outbuildings disappeared. Those who visited before 1997 had to get permission from the property owner to drive onto the ranch land. In later years, the property was never developed beyond a small home near the site of the original ranch house.
 In 1969 Alphonse Kemmerich took three of August and Barbara's great-grandchildren to the ranch: Mark and Agnes Stupfel and Karen Halliday.

In 1972, Kathryn Kemmerich's son, George Stupfel, and his family visited the ranch.

In 1978, on the 100th anniversary of August Kemmerich taking up his homestead, several of August and Barbara's children and grandchildren walked through the property.

After 1978, to my knowledge, no family members visited the ranch until 2001 when I took our children on a "family history tour" of the Skagit Valley.  No one could tell us where the "Old Kemmerich ranch" might be located.  We paid a visit to Rasar State Park and quickly deduced that August's ranch was now a Washington State Park! We learned that Dan Rasar had purchased the property in the 1970's, but his plans to develop it did not work out.  Ultimately, he donated the land to the State of Washington in 1984 and in 1997 Rasar State Park was dedicated as the newest park in the Washington State Parks system.  Since my visit in 2001, we have had two formal family tours, in 2002 and the most recent, on Sept. 27, 2014.

George Stupfel Family visit in 1972
(George in yellow shirt), (??)
1978 100th Anniversary Visit
L-R: Clara K. Bartosz, Betty & Noel Kemmerich, Barbara K. Halliday, Alphonse Kemmerich, (??), Julius, Ross and Margaret Kemmerich


                  Barbara Halliday, at Rasar Park meadow. 2001

The 2002 Family Tour consisted mostly of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of August and Barbara Kemmerich. There is a web article on that tour. Pat Ackerman Napier, who lived in the Kemmerich ranch house as a girl, was able to identify the general location of the original ranch house when she spotted two old fruit trees, just west of the ranch house site.

May 18, 2002 Tour
L-R: Joe & Patricia Napier, Karen Halliday, Noel Bourasaw, Barbara Halliday, Beatrice Peters, Mark Stupfel, Dorothy Duyck and Mark Napier.

Sept. 27, 2014 Tour
L-R, front: Trevor Stupfel, Barbara Halliday,
Mike & Sharon Prange.
L-R, rear:  James Stupfel, Jason, Noel & Sarina Kemmerich, Paul Stupfel, Karen Halliday, Machelle Stupfel, Anita Souder,
Britt Stupfel, Jason Stupfel, Mark Stupfel,
Agnes Barry, Irene Robinson.

The 2014 Family Tour brought younger generations to the former Kemmerich ranch.  I represented the "grandchild generation" and others were from the great and great-great grandchild generations. In the intervening 12 years since the last Family Tour, time and weather had wrought some changes to the general site of August's house and outbuildings.  The fruit trees were gone and some erosion had caused the casing of the well to be visible.  In the photo above, I am sitting on top of the well casing. This is  an important "find" since the Kemmerich family records noted that August had built his ranch house OVER the well, providing water directly inside the house. With the help of a floor plan of the ranch house described by my father, Alphonse Kemmerich, it should be possible to know the exact location of the ranch house.

A photo album of our trip to the Kemmerich homestead is posted here

Barbara Halliday,
July 22, 2015
Unless otherwise noted, text and photos are the property of Glenn, Barbara, Mark and Karen Halliday, 2015