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A portrait of a Seattle Cavanaugh family

 Mark Cavanaugh


I have in my possession a letter written by Rose Cavanaugh Newel on 9 October 1940. Rose was one of the nine children (according to my grandfather, Milton Cavanaugh) of Martin and Mary Anne Mapel Cavanaugh. I have transcribed excerpts from the letter to the best of my ability, but note the letter is in long-hand, somewhat difficult to read, incorporates haphazard punctuation, and includes a great deal of Mapel family history. The Mapel (or Maple) family has been somewhat easier for me to trace than the Cavanaughs as, according to the letter, Mary Anne Mapel’s mother was Catherine Adams Mapel, a first cousin to sixth US President John Quincy Adams. Following are excerpts from her letter:

“My Great-Grandfather Daniel Cavanaugh (on my father’s side!), a native of Brooklyn, New York, was a soldier in the Continental Army. He met his death on the battlefield. His son, Timothy Cavanaugh, my Grandfather, was born in New Jersey, Mar. 6 - 1784. His wife, Mariah Moore Cavanaugh, was born Mar. 1791. They were married June 16, 1815. Grandfather fought in the War of 1812. He died on the old homestead in Monroe County, Ohio at the age of eighty six.

My father, Martin L. Cavanaugh and my mother, Mary Anne Mapel Cavanaugh, were married in Missouri in 1858. My sister Tabitha was born there. When she was two years old, they, with my grandfather Jacob Mapel, my Uncle Wes Mapel, Aunt Jane and Aunt Lucinda, with a train of twenty wagons, or more, started was for Puget Sound. Their covered wagons were drawn by oxen. They arrived at Uncle Sam Mapel’s place on Nov. 15 - 1862. (Note that the Mapel’s first arrived in Seattle in 1851).

Father purchased property on the Duwamish River (which is now Boeing Field), built a home where we were born, with the exception of my oldest Sister Tabitha. I was born Aug 16 -1874. We all attended the same school which was located south of our house on the banks of the Duwamish River. My first teacher was Mr. Easter, who lived in Mr. Dan Stephen’s home.

Our school house was just one room with about twenty pupils. Our drinking water was carried from the river in old tin buckets and sometimes quite muddy. Our games were similar to those our youngsters in these modern days. My playmates were my twin cousins, Cora and Dora Mapel (first white twins born here), daughters of Uncle Wes Mapel who lived just east of our house across the railroad tracks.

When I was 15 years old, I attended the Holy Names Academy, then located on 10th Ave + King sts. Father did farming and dairying and owned three houses for some time. I attended the Central School at that time. Then later on (after the Seattle Fire), in 1889 we returned to our farm in the Duwamish Valley. Father built two beautiful homes there. He also conducted a small general store near the road. Our large farm house burned down.”


“On June 21 ____, I married Fred Winfield Newel. We were married by Rev. Pickle. We first live in South Seattle. I had four sons, George, Harold (sp?), ____, and Fred Jr. Harold (sp?) died in South Seattle in ___- at an early age. I have on daughter (adopted) Virginia. I have 3 granddaughters, 3 grandsons and 9 great grand children.”

The 1880 census information lists Martin L. and Mary A. (ages 43 and 44 respectively) with six children at home:

Alvira C., 17; Albert B., 14; Emma J., 12; Frank F., 10; Fred B. (my great grandfather), 8; and Mary A., 5. Tabitha and Rose are not listed. Perhaps Tabitha had left the home by then to marry. Rose was my grandfather’s (Milton B., born 31 October 1907) favorite aunt and he never mentioned if her real name was Mary and “Rose” a nickname. The census age for Mary is certainly close as Rose was born in 1874 and would have been 5 years of age if the 1880 census data were gathered prior to her August birthday. This leaves Grandpa Milt’s contention that his father, Fred B. was one of one of nine children hard to calculate. Surely Mary Anne didn’t have more children after age 44?

The only other descendent of Martin and Mary Anne Cavanaugh that I know about was Frank Cavanaugh who I met near the end of his life and the beginning of mine. I was 4 or 5 years old and he gave me a watch that my mother Phyllis still has displayed in her home in a case near Seattle. I can still remember Frank's incredible head of white hair.

My Grandpa Milt said that his Aunt Rose and Uncle Frank were the only two of the eight uncles and aunts he knew well (obviously Albert was not in the picture, having drowned before Grandpa was born) and he reported that feelings were very hostile amongst the others. Consequently, I never met many of the other descendents of Martin Cavanaugh. Milt offered little about his Grandparents, Martin and Mary Anne although do believer that he knew them. I recall once that an Albert Cavanaugh (perhaps Albert's son) and his wife visited from California when I was young. I am told there was a dispute about the Cavanaugh Family Bible which was, and remains, in our possession. The meeting amongst the adults appeared to me to be friendly but I never saw or heard of Albert again. There was also (and may still be) a Cavanaugh Hardware Store in Auburn, Washington and was told they were cousins. I was never introduced to these Cavanaughs. In summary, relative to relationships with other Cavanaughs, my Grandpa Milt had very little good to say about any of them (including his own dad, Fred) except his Aunt Rose and Uncle Frank. When Martin died, there must have been a huge fight over his estate and the resulting bitterness in that generation resulted in the current generations not knowing each other.

Great grandfather Fred B. Cavanaugh married Edith Wrigley Cavanaugh. Great Grandma Edith’s father was Francis Wrigley, a graduate of Oxford University and a Congregationalist Minister. Fred and Edith went to Alaska with Fred's brother, Albert Cavanaugh, to provide river transportation service during the Klondike Gold Rush at the turn of the 20th century. Fred and Edith’s first child (also Fred B.) was the first white child born in Council City, Alaska in 1904. Fred and Albert Cavanaugh reportedly operated paddlewheel boats on the Yukon River until Albert fell overboard and drowned while trying the clear the paddle of debris. When Fred and Edith and baby Fred were to return to Seattle from Nome, Alaska, the original ship was overbooked and they had to wait for passage on another ship. The first ship was lost at sea with no survivors.

My grandfather, Milton B. Cavanaugh, was born to Fred and Edith Cavanaugh on 31 October 1907. Fred and Edith owned a dairy farm of about 80 acres on the Cedar River 4 miles southeast of Renton, Washington. In 1924, Fred bought an additional 135 acres approximately three miles from the farm in an area known today is Fairwood, between Renton and Kent and put young Fred and Milt to work digging tunnels for the purpose of mining coal. The grade of coal was eventually determined to not be of commercial quality. This property is near the present community of Fairwood and has never been developed. Approximately half the acreage was sold to King County in 1999 to facilitate streambed restoration on the two forks of Madsen Creek that traverse the property. The remaining acreage remains in the family.

Fred Cavanaugh also was involved as a partner in an automobile dealership in Seattle in the 1910s. He suffered from TB but lived until 1947. Edith was a locally noted pianist, singer, and painter. When Fred died, she was left without a source of income and Milt arranged a royalty arrangement for Edith with the Stoneway Sand and Gravel Company to mine gravel from the downstream end of the old dairy farm. Stoneway dug huge holes which filled with water migrating underground from the Cedar River. The man-made ponds stagnated and eventually the solution was to open a waterway to the Cedar River on the far downstream end of the property. The sockeye salmon found the ponds to be much preferable to the rapids of Cedar River for spawning and gradually moved into the pond in mass. What is known as Cavanaugh Pond today has the highest concentration of spawning salmon in the lower 48 states. The Fisheries Department took a dim view of a commercial operation endangering the fish and ordered an end to the mining (and the royalties). The family and King County came to an agreement and sold the land encompassing Cavanaugh Pond with the stipulation that the pond would always be known by the Cavanaugh name.

Milton and Fred Cavanaugh entered the food brokerage business in the 1930’s and Fred eventually moved to Portland, Oregon. Fred opened a recreational vehicle dealership in the late 1950’s and operated with his two adopted sons (my cousins), Fred Jr. and Milt, until his death at the age of 88 in the 1991 or 1992. My cousin Milt died of cancer shortly after his father. Fred Jr. lives in Salem, Oregon and is involved in the recreational vehicle business.

My grandfather, Milt Cavanaugh, never had an employer as he humorously recalled that no one would hire him during the depression. He felt he had to take things into his own hands, moved to Yakima, Washington, became very successful, and by the late 1940s, was the largest theatre popcorn broker west of the Mississippi River, carrying the nickname, “The Popcorn King.” He was an officer in the United Commercial Travellers and averaged over 50,000 miles a year driving before the days of freeways and comfortable automobiles.

Milt and Georgia France Cavanaugh were married in 1930. Her father Dr. Rowe France, a native of Cobleskill, New York married Katherine Mansfield in 1899. Dr. France was the Chief Medical Examiner (also known as a coroner) for either the City of Seattle or King County and was known by my father as “Daddy Doc”. Milton Ronald Cavanaugh (Ron to all) was born in the family home at 3940 Densmore Avenue in Seattle on 15 November 1932 and was baptized by his grandfather, Francis Wrigley. in his last official act before his death.

Ron Cavanaugh lived in Yakima until he was 16. After Fred B. Cavanaugh died, Milt sold the food brokerage business in Yakima and moved his family to Renton to be close to his mother, Edith. Ron served in the United States Air Force during the Korean conflict. Ron married Phyllis Nelson in 1954 and I was born at the Travis Air Force Base hospital on 27 December 1954. After leaving the Air Force, Ron and Phyllis returned to Seattle and had a second child, Ellen Cavanaugh on 31 March 1956. Ron entered business with his father, Milt, and began Cavanaugh Moulding Sand Company with a mine on Cedar Mountain, Washington. The major customer was the Bethleham Steel Company in Seattle.

In 1957 Milt and Ron Cavanaugh began developing a mobile home park and travel trailer site on part (upstream from Cavanaugh Pond) of the old Cedar River homestead. Ron Cavanaugh was the head of the out-of-state visitor committee for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and later President of the Washington Mobile Home Park Owners’ Association. Ron sold the mobile home park in 1974 and operated a 48 foot charter fishing boat out of Westport, Washington for several years. He was an avid outdoorsman and was active hunting elk and fishing. Milt moved to Arizona and lived a golfer’s life in retirement until dying 1986. His wife Georgia Cavanaugh died in 1997. Ron and Phyllis loved to travel and had many retirement plans cut short by Ron’s death from multiple myoloma (cancer) in 1995.

I grew up at the mobile home park on the old Fred Cavanaugh homestead. I was honoured to be nominated to the United States Naval Academy by United States Senator Henry M. Jackson, however could not pass the physical because of four knee operations resulting from football injuries. I played the drums professionally for several years and had the good fortune to have played with some world famous entertainers. Fortunately, I also recognized the limitations of a career in music and eventually graduated from Arizona State University with a BS in Operations Management. I also hold an MS in Systems Management from the University of Southern California.

Mark & Gill Cavanaugh

Mark & Jill on holiday in Cabo San Lucas.

I married Jill Gaulin in Tucson, Arizona in 1981 and we have two sons, Paul Daniel (b. 04 September 1984), a talented musician and aspiring screenwriter, and Stephen Patrick (b. 17 March 1987-St. Patrick’s Day!), a high school football and tennis player. I have worked in the aerospace industry for twenty-four years as a contracts manager (somewhat like an account executive for those that don’t know the aerospace terminology). My hobbies are playing music (mostly winery related events), working out at the gym-two rather unrelated activities, travelling with my wife, and enjoying wine (Jill works for a winery). We vacation annually in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and are looking forward to more extensive travel when the boys are finally gone.

My sister, Ellen Cavanaugh Mullins, has two sons, Douglas and David Mullins. She is a graduate of the University of Washington, is a Certified Public Accountant, and works for the Weyerhaeuser Company near Tacoma, Washington.