Highlighting Lewis County: Mossyrock Pioneers Remained Patriotic While Enduring Heartache


Last week, I shared the story of Civil War veteran Daniel Shaner who was wounded in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and later served as a bodyguard to President Abraham Lincoln as part of the Ninth Regiment of the Veteran Relief Corps.

After the war, he returned to Pennsylvania, married Amanda Rodgers and started a family.

Then, in early 1886, he moved his family west to Washington Territory and settled in the Green River Valley south of Seattle. He established a post office at Christopher, Washington, north of Auburn in the Green River Valley in 1887. He later lived in Slaughter, which was renamed Auburn Feb. 21, 1893, and served as the community’s first marshal.

The Pacific Northwest was experiencing anti-Chinese riots when job competition spurred racial attacks that forced 350 Chinese from their homes. During the riots, King County Sheriff William Cochrane appointed Shaner to serve as a deputy and together they quelled trouble in the coal-mining town of Newcastle.

“A mob there hanged a man while the sheriff and his deputy were at dinner,” Marie Gershick wrote in 1976 in Mossyrock Memories. Later, Cochrane’s successor, Sheriff John H. McGraw, appointed Shaner as a deputy, a job he held during the Great Seattle Fire on June 6, 1889, when flames destroyed the city’s central business district.

Perhaps seeking a more peaceful life, Shaner moved his family to Lewis County later in 1889 and settled in a log cabin on Klickitat Prairie near Mossyrock, which at that time had one store, a saloon, three dwellings and a lot that sold for $3.

They lived in a cabin on the old Peabody homestead, what later was known as Graveyard Hill, Gershick wrote. Shaner was a farmer and “dealer in farmlands,” according to newspaper articles, and Lewis County Sheriff J.W. Barnett appointed him a deputy sheriff. He served as a delegate to the Republican state convention in Olympia Aug. 10, 1892. He also prospected rivers from the Fraser in Canada to the Cowlitz and found coal oil near Mossyrock and Harmony in 1900, Gershick wrote. And he bought and sold property in Mossyrock and ran a hotel in town. He and his wife lived in town during their senior years, always flying an American flag.

However, life wasn’t without its tragedies. The Tacoma Daily Ledger reported July 17, 1905, about a smallpox outbreak in Mossyrock that killed their son, Perry B. “Pat” Shaner, who was 22. His family was quarantined at home for smallpox after relatives from Pennsylvania visited. When Pat arrived home, he insisted on going inside the house.

“He was quarantined there with the others and took the disease,” the newspaper reported. “Recently, it developed into a malignant type, and his death resulted.”

Seven years later, their 39-year-old son Franklin Anderson Shaner, a blacksmith, died Dec. 23, 1912. I couldn’t find his cause of death. But five years earlier, in December 1907, he and Grace L. Nelson married. She died during childbirth in August 1909 and their twin sons were stillborn.

In 1916, the Shaners suffered another blow on Christmas Day when their son William, a barber, was murdered by another barber in the Morgan building in Portland. Daniel Shaner carried a revolver in his pocket to the inquest looking into his son’s death at the hands of a “surly” man named Marcus M. McCall. Daniel was booked on a charge of carrying concealed weapons. Police confiscated the revolver, and Daniel returned home with the body of his son for interment at the Klickitat Cemetery in Mossyrock.

According to the Dec. 27, 1916, Morning Oregonian, “Coroner Dammasch thought it best to adopt safety first methods last night, particularly when rumors had come to his ear that vengeance for the killing of Shaner was vowed by his father, a pioneer resident of the wilds of Lewis County, Washington. So officers attended the inquest in numbers, and a search disclosed the weapon carried by the elder Shaner.”

The article continued, “The man protested that he had no intention of killing anyone and said that he had carried a revolver for 26 years, and that he happened to have it in his pocket from mere force of habit. In the country about Mossyrock, he said, the weapon often came in handy.”

After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, their son Charles Alonzo Shaner joined the Army Nov. 1 of that year and, after two weeks at Camp Lewis, traveled to England on the SS Tuscania, landing on Christmas Day. Charles was quarantined, perhaps with the Spanish flu, so his 162nd Company M left for France without him. Later, he was transferred to the 18th Regiment, Company D, where he was gassed by the Germans while fighting at Chateau Thierry in France. After two weeks in the hospital, he returned to the front lines and continued fighting in the Ardennes Forest.

Charles and all but 14 of the men with him died after an Oct. 4, 1918, battle, during which a bursting shell filled with phonograph needles infected with gangrene poison exploded, according to Chehalis Bee-Nugget reports. He was wounded in the shoulder, arm and hips, and while treated in a field hospital, asked a nurse, Rose Peabody, to write to his parents, saying “he was wounded but would soon be all right.” However, he died Oct. 9, five days after the shell exploded.

The family learned that Charles, 23, had hunkered in the trenches, fighting for 93 days, without a cent of pay and few letters from home. Southwest Washington’s 3rd District U.S. Congressman Albert Johnson investigated when 13 letters sent by the family to Charles were returned, unopened. Investigators determined some mistakenly thought he had died Feb. 5, 1918, when a German U-boat torpedoed and sunk the Tuscania while transporting American troops, killing 210.

Several times during the fighting in France, Charles captured German soldiers, according to The Tacoma Daily Ledger, which reported Sept. 3, 1921, that his body was finally returned to the United States.

Daniel Shaner was known far and wide for his “patriotic fervor,” according to a Jan. 27, 1922, Chehalis Bee-Nugget article, which said he donated $5 to the Grant Hodge Post No. 17 of the American Legion in Centralia. He described the Legion post in a letter to the county clerk as “a living monument to many of my good friends who have answered the last roll call and for whom ‘taps’ and ‘lights out’ sounded at Centralia.”

“I wish this small token of my regards to be used for the four young men who were assassinated at Centralia on Armistice Day by cowardly traitors to our flag — the same flag my grandfather defended at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania in 1777, and my father at Cerro Gordo at Veracruz, Mexico, and I through the Great Rebellion of ’61 and ’65, and my son, Charles, gave his life to defend at the Argonne, France, in 1918. I wish you to hand this to the proper person to receive it to use in building a memorial building in memory of the noble young men who were murdered by I.W.W. traitors to our flag and country.”

During his later years, the old Union soldier liked to show visitors the American and French medals for gallantry in action bestowed on his son, Charles, including the Croix de Guerre. He told a visitor in the spring of 1919 that he never liked the brass buttons on his Union uniform and always kept them blackened. He showed off a bullet that tore through his arm during the Civil War, an old Army musket he carried and fixed, shoes he wore when wounded, a cartridge belt and an old faded blue Army cap.

Daniel and Amanda Shaner celebrated their golden anniversary March 12, 1922, in the basement of the old Mossyrock High School on the hill. About 70 people attended, including their surviving nine children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Among the gifts presented to the couple were a leather upholstered rocking chair, a gold-plated bread tray, a percolator, a large rug for their living room and a large portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the president who Shaner helped protect. Amanda Shaner gave each of her children a bedspread she had crocheted.

After 36 years in Mossyrock, Daniel Shaner died at home after a paralytic stroke on July 26, 1926. He was 81. His wife, Amanda Jane Shaner, died July 20, 1935. She was a member of the Methodist Church and the American Legion auxiliary as well as a Gold Star mother affectionately known to friends as “Grandma Shaner.” She was survived by two sons, six daughters, 22 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.