Courtesy of Allan Wenzel
Ballardite Allan Wenzel has written the first history of Skagit County's Lake Cavanaugh and Alpine Village.

Lifetime Ballardite makes history with new book

Lifetime Ballard resident Allan Wenzel has always been interested in history, so when the old-timers near his family's summer home on Lake Cavanaugh would tell him stories about the history of the lake and nearby Alpine Village, Wenzel would listen.

Now, decades later, Wenzel has used those old-timers' first-hand accounts as the springboard for his newest book, "Alpine on the Lake: A History of the People of Lake Cavanaugh and Alpine Village," the first book ever written on the history of that little-known area in Skagit County.

The book is a history of the people who were associated with the lake and village during the first period of its settlement, 1890 to 1910.

Since he was a baby, Wenzel was captivated by Lake Cavanaugh, which is situated a mile above sea level with mountains on all sides. In the summer, the surface of the water can reach 83 degrees, and in the winter, the one-mile-wide, three-miles-long lake can completely freeze over.

"It's very picturesque," Wenzel said.

Wenzel, who has been a professional historian for more than 20 years and written more than a dozen books on Pacific Northwest history, said he told himself 30 years ago that he would write a history of Lake Cavanaugh and Alpine Village as soon as he had the time to do it.

The right moment finally arrived, and Wenzel spent the next year tracking down nearly every known person having something to do with the history of the lake and village. It was quite a process to get the book written and published, he said.

"It was more a labor of love than anything else," he said.

Wenzel said he was excited when the stories he had heard from those old-timers when he was young began to sync up with his research. After writing the book, he now has a greater appreciate for the area, he said.

During his research, Wenzel stumbled across another Ballard connection to Lake Cavanaugh and Alpine Village besides himself.

Willard Allen, the founder, postmaster and teacher of Alpine Village, which was home to settlers, speculators and gold miners, moved to Ballard around 1915 and lived on Northwest 65th Street and Dibble Avenue Northwest until his death in 1937.

Wenzel said a number of Alpine Village's other founders moved to Seattle eventually and are now buried a stone's throw from each other in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Queen Anne.

"Alpine on the Lake," not only serves as a chronicle of the early settlers of Skagit County but as a history of Washington's people because the original settlers of Alpine Lake eventually abandoned it and dispersed through the state, spreading their mark as pioneers, he said.

Wenzel said he wants the book to remind readers there are still communities out there that do not have any history written about them.

In order to complete the history of Lake Cavanaugh and Alpine Village, a lake resident is working on a history of the area's second major time period, the logging boom of 1923 to 1940. Wenzel is writing vignettes for the community newspaper in the area to chronicle its modern history.

For more information or to purchase "Alpine on the Lake," click here.

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