A History of the People of Lake Cavanaugh and the Village of Alpine
By Allan R. Wenzel

Alpine on the LakeIn late 1890, Albert Lowe became the first known person to settle at Lake Cavanaugh, then known as Minnie Lake, in Washington State’s Skagit County. Other homesteaders soon followed his lead. By 1892, seven additional men had built cabins near the shoreline at the foot of the forest. Before this time, knowledge of the pristine lake was known only to the loggers who cut trees on the south face of Frailey Mountain, which rises above the lake to the north and the town of Oso to the south.

Over the next few years, settlers, land speculators and entrepreneurs either purchased or homesteaded all the forested land encircling the lake. The small village of Alpine was established with the hope it would become a town. A hotel, post office and schoolhouse were built in Alpine with the idea that more people would be attracted to the temperate climate and stunning scenery. Then, as quickly as the lake and village were inhabited, they were abandoned. What became of all the homesteaders and why did they leave? This is the true story.

The history of Lake Cavanaugh can be divided into three distinct time periods: the modern history of the lake from 1890-1910, the logging years from 1923-1940 and the officially organized community of Lake Cavanaugh from post-war 1949 to present day. “Alpine on the Lake” primarily deals with the first period and the fascinating history of the people who comprised it.

There have been two villages named Alpine in Washington. The earliest was located on the shores of Lake Cavanaugh. The second was a small mill town located near the logging town of Skykomish along the banks of the Skykomish River, approximately eight miles west of Stevens Pass. This village — in existence prior to 1900 and called Nippon until 1903 — was destroyed in 1929. Currently in the United States, there are ten towns named Alpine — an Alpine Junction, and an Alpine County in California. Most, understandably, are located in the mountains but only the village of Alpine in Washington State was built beside a lake.

quote Having experienced the beauty and lifestyle of Lake Cavanaugh since 1948, I became fascinated with its history. For 30 years, I entertained the idea of putting together the fireside stories I had heard as a boy along with the historical research I located regarding the early years of the lake and village. In 2008, I began in earnest to organize this and prepare the project. In doing so, I’ve tracked down and created a biography on nearly every individual having anything to do with Lake Cavanaugh’s early years (1890-1910). Some settlers had interesting, even thrilling lives while others led more sedate existences. All are told in Alpine on the Lake. quote

— Allan Wenzel

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