Were there Really Bodies in the Fall City Bridge? And Now for the Rest of the Story…

[Guest post by Cristy Lake]

Did you know there had been rumors circulating for decades that the cremated remains of a local schoolteacher’s wife and son were in the Fall City Bridge? Everyone had heard the whisperings, but few, if any, knew the details.

Was it the act of a grieving family man or something more sinister? Were there even really bodies in the bridge?

In the fall of 1980, when the 1916 bridge was being replaced, the rumors were proven true when two copper urns of ashes were discovered in a piling. The remains of Anna Lavina Marriott Wiggle and her young son Raymond Oliver Wiggle were found.

Fall City Bridge Demolition, Issaquah Press, October 1980

And now for the rest of the story…

Anna Lavina Marriott was born in Albion, Illinois, in March 1886 to Albert and Rosena Marriott. The Marriott family were farmers. In August 1906, she married Richard James Wiggle.

James was born in Wales in June 1882 and moved to Illinois at three with his parents. James’ father, Evan Wiggle, had come from a family of coal miners but wanted better for his children.

In Illinois, they lived next to the local Professor of Sciences. James studied at this local college to earn his teaching degree. His father became the janitor at the college while also being a Congregational Church minister at two local churches.

After their marriage, James and Anna moved to Dusty, Washington, a small town between Walla Walla and Spokane, hoping to improve their prospects. They boarded with a local farmer while James taught school. For a time in 1911, they moved back to Illinois, but James had enjoyed the Washington climate and wanted to return.

James Wiggle’s Patterson School Class

By 1912 they had moved to King County, where their daughter, Florence, was born. James planned to teach in the winter and work a side job in the summer. In 1913 James took a position teaching at the Patterson Creek School just outside of Fall City, and they lived next to the school. 

After the Patterson Creek School consolidated with the Fall City School and the Little Mill School in 1914, he began teaching at Fall City and moved into town. By 1914-1915, Anna had become quite ill, and James hired one of his 8th-grade students, Silva Redman, to help look after Florence after school.

Unbeknownst to Silva at the time, Anna had Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Anna’s brother, Ralph Raymond Marriott, had died from it in 1909, followed by the deaths of her father and sister Bertha M Marriott in 1911. 

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can be inhaled or swallowed with food or drink. Harvard University and the CDC estimate that at the turn of the century, between 60% to 90% of the population had tuberculosis, with 80% of active tuberculosis cases ultimately becoming fatal.  

Anna and Florence Wiggle. From Errol Wall’s Wiggle Family Collection.

After a 1908 U.S. Office of Public Health declaration that Seattle’s record of fighting tuberculosis was the worst in the country, a group of leading citizens formed the Anti-Tuberculosis League of King County to help combat Seattle’s leading cause of death.  

The Anti-Tuberculosis League of King County worked to create a Sanatorium to help care for those infected. Firland Sanatorium, Seattle’s municipal tuberculosis hospital, opened on May 2, 1911.

In the winter of 1914-1915, Anna was moved to Firland Sanatorium to have help with her care. There, in May 1915, she gave birth to a son Raymond Oliver Wiggle. In April 1916, just ten days short of his first birthday, Raymond died, followed by Anna’s death in August. Anna and Raymond were cremated, as was encouraged in deaths from tuberculosis at that time.  

James and Anna Wiggle. From Errol Wall’s Wiggle Family Collection.

During this same time, a new bridge was being constructed in Fall City, just up the road from the school. Anna had always loved the river, and James thought that the hollow core of the new bridge support columns would be the perfect place for Anna and Raymond to be safe for all time while being next to the river Anna loved so dearly. 

One night in the late summer of 1916, James went to the bridge and buried the urns under the gravel used to fill the columns. He did not tell anyone until the construction was complete, and then once done, he informed the contractor.

The contractor kept it quiet because he didn’t want too much attention drawn to the bodies, both for public concern and because the construction company had been skimping on the amount of rebar for the project to increase profits. But, rumors persisted. 

Fall City Bridge, 1916

Shortly afterward, in December 1916, James remarried Anna Josefina Elizabeth Nelson. They lived a short time in the house next to the Fall City Masonic Hall. During this period, Florence also was at Firland Sanatorium like her mother and brother before her.

In March 1917, tragedy struck the family again when Florence died. At just six years old, she, too, succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis, only seven short months after her mother. In less than a year, James lost his wife and both of his children.

By 1918 James and his second wife had moved to Seattle. They planned for James to work in the shipyards during the off-season and teach in the winter. In 1919 he was working at the shipyards for Skinner and Eddy Corporation. The Skinner & Eddy Corporation was a Seattle, Washington-based shipbuilding corporation from 1916 to 1923.

The yard is notable for completing more ships for the U.S. war effort during World War I than any other American shipyard and for breaking world production speed records for individual ship construction. On May 22, 1919, while working there, James fell from a staged landing on the top of a tank fracturing his skull and died two days later. James’ second wife, Anna Josefina Elizabeth, lived until 1967 and was laid to rest next to James at Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle.

By 1979 the rumors of bodies buried in the bridge had persisted for six decades, but most people connected to the story were gone. The bridge was getting older and due for replacement. Valley Record reporter Hugh Grew looked into the story, uncovering many details of who might be buried there and why. 

Larry Watson finds Anna and Raymond Wiggle’s urns in the Fall City Bridge.

At that time, James was remembered as a kind and considerate man who was a good instructor, but no one knew what happened to him after he left Fall City. On October 8, 1980, two workers found the remains. The next day, October 9, the bridge collapsed, sending a crane operator to the hospital with a broken back. The bridge structure failed during the demolition because of the missing 1916 rebar.

Luckily, the crane operator was not killed. The bridge was then replaced with the current structure, and an investigation revealed that the contractor of the 1916 bridge had committed fraud.

Anna and Raymond were laid to rest in the Fall City Cemetery. Florence’s burial location remains a mystery. The surviving extended family did not realize that Anna and Raymond had been buried in the bridge and had assumed Florence was buried next to Anna and Raymond without a headstone, which is not the case. It can be assumed she was cremated, as was the practice with TB cases.

And that is the rest of the story.

[Reprinted with permission from the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum. See the original post here]

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