By Chris Hendrickson, Contributing Writer
It is difficult to imagine Sultan’s River Park without the silent, reverent form of Chief T’seul-Ted watching over Main Street, but it has recently been determined that the 13-foot statue will need to be moved.
Sultan’s handcrafted Chief T’seul-Ted statue has stood in River Park for decades but will need to be moved to make room for the city’s new pedestrian bridge.
A committee called Friends of Sultan’s Chief T’seul-Ted Statue has formed out of concern for the future of the statue, and they will hold a public meeting on Monday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at Galaxy Chocolates in an effort to involve the community and discern how Sky Valley residents feel about the statue being moved. The committee would like to obtain public opinion while discussing different alternatives and potential locations.
“I believe that people will really miss that statue if it disappears,” said Friends Committee Chair Craig Young. “That statue is a living reflection of the history of this city.”
The statue was the vision of Jerry Carter, a Monroe resident who was very active in both the Monroe and Sultan communities. It was created as a means of honoring Chief John T’seul-Ted, also known as “Sultan John,” after whom the city of Sultan is named. It was also hoped that the statue would help instill a measure of pride and strength into the city.
Carter, an amateur sculptor, formed the statue entirely by hand out of sawdust and polyester resin. He constructed the figure at his home in Monroe, where he worked on it for approximately a year-and-a-half. Upon completion, the 4,000-pound statue was transported up U.S. 2 on a forklift.
Carter hoped that the iconic presence of the city’s namesake would reflect a strong and positive image.
Young feels strongly that Carter, who passed away in 2010, succeeded in his vision.
“It’s like a time machine,” said Young. “When you look at that statue it’s like it just walked up from the river. That water is just dripping off that fish.”
“We need to treasure that history,” he continued.
And many reflect that the chief is a large part of Sultan’s history.
Chief T’seul-Ted was born and raised near the Sultan River in what is presently known as the city of Sultan. Local historian Buddie Williams has documented what is known about “Sultan John,” but exact details are somewhat scarce. It is thought that his Indian name was so difficult to pronounce that it was simplified to a word that sounded similar; which is how the chief became known as Chief John Sultan.
Chief T’seul-Ted was closely associated with John Nailor and T.J. Atwood, both of whom are prominently infused throughout the historical documentation of Sultan’s early beginnings. Atwood, who was one of Sultan’s first teachers and eventually came to own the drug store, thought so highly of the chief that he penned a heartfelt obituary at the chief’s passing in 1906.
“He was the chief of his tribe and a medicine man of great repute among the Indians, who came sometimes long distances for treatment. Some of his cures were regarded by them as miraculous,” wrote Atwood.
Atwood wrote that the chief was “honest and upright and had the respect of a large circle of friends,” further stating that he was an excellent woodworker, fisherman and hunter. He also recommended that the town council honor his memory.
According to historian Williams, it is unknown whether or not the city followed through on Atwood’s recommendation, but recent efforts have been established through both proclamation and ceremony.
Last fall, on September 28, Sultan hosted the revitalized “Return of the Salmon Celebration” which was a festival that served both as a tribute to Chief John T’seul-Ted and also a celebration of the salmon that return every year to the Sultan River to spawn.
Despite extremely rainy weather, the festival, held at Osprey Park underneath the covering at the basketball court, was well-attended and considered a success by the committee responsible for planning the event. Chief T’seul-Ted’s great-great-granddaughter, Patricia Linn, was the guest of honor at the celebration, and committee members are looking forward to her involvement again this fall.
The Friends of Sultan’s Chief T’seul-Ted Statue Committee is seeking community input in regards to the statue’s future, and is additionally looking for pictures, stories and any memoirs that Sky Valley residents may have involving the statue. The main objective of the public meeting, which is open to everyone, is to simply listen to citizens and hear what they have to say.
Sultan resident Winn Maass is partial to the statue remaining where it is. He and his family enjoy sharing the statue with friends who come to visit.
“When we have visitors in town we make a point to have them visit the chief and tell them a little about the history of Sultan,” said Maass.
The committee has thus far discussed potential options regarding future placement of the statue including moving it out of the way of the proposed pedestrian bridge and keeping it in River Park, moving it to Osprey Park, or moving it across U.S. 2. There’s even been discussion about installing it within City Hall; however, this option may not prove to be feasible.
The committee is looking forward to learning how the community feels about these ideas and would welcome any suggestions. The public meeting will be set up so that folks who are not comfortable with speaking in a crowd can quietly slip their suggestions into a suggestion box.
Sultan sculptor Kevin Pettelle, of Soul in Bronze, is serving on the committee and has extensive knowledge about the chief’s composition, having performed repairs on the statue. The repair work, which took place from 1997 to 1999, involved transporting the statue from River Park down to the city’s shop where it was allowed to dry out for several months.
Pettelle then worked to complete cosmetic repairs like replacing broken fingers, and also to address structural deficiencies that were causing issues with stability. Pettelle has been able to share with the committee firsthand insight regarding the fragility of the statue and the complicated matter of moving it.
To become in involved in the Friends of Sultan’s Chief T’seul-Ted Statue Committee, contact Craig Young at (425) 359-8936 or email him at email@example.com. The committee’s Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/SultanJohnStatue.
The public meeting will take place on Monday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m., with discussion beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Galaxy Chocolates, 501 Main St. in Sultan.