There had been rumors circulating for decades that the remains of a local school teacher’s wife and son were buried 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 one of the pilings. The cremated remains of Anna Lavina Marriott Wiggle and her young son Raymond Oliver Wiggle were found.
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 had moved to Illinois at the age of 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 and his father became the janitor at the college while also serving as minister in two Congregational Churches. James studied at this local college to earn his teaching degree.
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. They briefly moved back to Illinois in 1911, but James had enjoyed the Washington climate and wanted to return.
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.
Anna became quite ill by 1914-1915 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 the disease 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, which 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. 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 what was at the time 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 three months later in August. Anna and Raymond were cremated as was encouraged in deaths from tuberculosis to reduce the possible spread of the bacteria.
During this same time, in Fall City just up the road from the school, a new bridge was being constructed. Anna had always loved the Snoqualmie 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 being used to fill the columns. He did not tell anyone until the construction was complete, at which point he informed the contractor. The contractor kept it quiet because he didn’t want too much attention drawn to the remains, 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.
Shortly afterward, in December 1916, James remarried Anna Josefina Elizabeth Nelson. They lived for a short time in the house next to the Fall City Masonic Hall. During this period Florence was also 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 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. Their plan was 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 & Eddy Corporation, a Seattle-based shipbuilder that existed from 1916 to 1923. The yard is notable for having built more ships for the U.S. war effort during World War I than any other American shipyard, and also for breaking world production speed records for individual ship construction. On May 22, 1919, while on the job, James fell from a stage landing on the top of a tank, fracturing his skull. He 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 the bodies buried in the bridge had persisted for six decades, but most of those connected to the story were now gone. The bridge was getting older and was due for replacement. Valley Record reporter Hugh Grew looked into the story uncovering many of the details of who might be buried there and why. 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 of Anna and Raymond. The next day, 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 rebar from the 1916 construction. 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.
In 1980, 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 at Fall City Cemetery, which is not the case. It can be assumed she was cremated as was the practice with tuberculosis cases.
And that is the rest of the story.