The Story of Northport, Washington

~ Northport, Washington ~

 

Northport, WA 1917The town of Northport Washington, located approximately 7 miles south of the Canadian border, sprung up during the late 1800’s mining boom. Due to several surrounding mines it was the the perfect location for a smelter. That, along with the construction of the railroad, helped to create the town of Northport, once known as “one of the rowdiest mining camps in the west.”

 

When driving down from the Canadian border you can pull over and get a clear look at the town and the mighty Columbia River.  The river flows right through the town and the surrounding ranches and farms. It is a breathtaking view.

Mother nature helps paint the landscape with thick, Northport, WA - aerial view 2015rich green trees in the summer. Their leaves slowly change into the beautiful colors of fall, colors so amazing you would think they only existed on a painter’s paintbrush. When winter gradually sneaks in the town is covered by a smoky, violet hazed sky and appears to almost fall asleep. The sound of the rushing Columbia River seems to become louder as the town grows quieter with each falling leaf.  Eventually most of the trees are barren.  Smoke billows from the resident’s chimneys, which only adds to the atmosphere that invites hibernation.

 

Northport, WA - 1928 4th of July parade

Northport, WA – 4th of July parade (1928)

Northport is a community of families, some carrying with them the original settlers’ last names, as well as their ancestors fighting spirit and determination to stay on the land they so love.  The town itself seems to have a spirit and determination all its own. When the miners first settled in Northport the town seemed determined to drive away these hardworking, stubborn people.

 

By 1892 the miners camp grew into the actual town of Northport.  Unfortunately that summer a forest fire ripped through the town, destroying everything in its path. The town quickly recovered and rebuilt Northport.  By 1897 the LeRoi smelter began production and the railroad was finished. With all the jobs created by the smelter and the railroad Northport was booming.  Main street was lined with several saloons, mercantile shops, a barber, a post office, and a train depot described as one of the most elaborate designed depot of the time.

Northport, WA fireHowever, several more forest fires would burn through the tough little town. Once the smoke had cleared, all that remained in each fire’s extinguished path were piles of ashes and the sweat stained faces of those stubborn mining and farming families, their determination to stay growing more ignited after every blaze.

 

Due to labor problems the LeRoi smNorthport, WA - Engine Room at LeRoi Smelterelter was closed a few short years after it began production. So, like most booming mining camps, Northport went from a growing town full of excitement and hope, to a virtual ghost town. The booming town of over 1,200 people seemed to become empty almost overnight.

 

After the departing residents dust settled, what was left was a ghost of what the town once was. Northport’s bustling main street became an unused dirt road, lined with dark, empty store fronts and vacant buildings. The saloons sat silent, when once the piano players inside them would fill Main Street with melodies all day and night.  Northport, WA - Train DepotThe elaborate train station sat unused and unappreciated. Vacated houses sat side by side, the overgrown gardens and the empty clothes lines a painful reminder to the remaining residents of the loss of so many friends. Those that remained would fondly dwell on their stories of what the town once was and of the people, now long gone, who had made it the rowdy community it had been.

Several of the original structures of Northport still stand today because, ironically, after the last devastating fire destroyed the town the residents had rebuilt the commercial buildings with brick.

 

Kuk’s Tavern, the town’s watering hole, never had to be rebuilt.  Since 1888 the wood structure managed to stand

Kuk's Tavern after the 1914 fire

Kuk’s still standing after 1914 fire

unscathed after each fire.  Not only did it withstand all four major fires, it had to be rolled up the hill, of what was then Main Street, on logs in the early 1900’s.  The owners did this to distance the tavern from the river and the threat of flooding each spring.

The tavern still stands on top of that same hill today. It hosts one of the most exciting nights of the week, Taco Tuesday. Every Tuesday the stubborn, hardworking, determined residents of Northport gather at Kuk’s for the two tacos for one dollar deal and to visit with old friends and neighbors.

 

Most of the patron’s friendships span well over 50 years, beginning on a sandy bank by the river or the city park when, as toddlers, their parents introduced them to each other.

New Zealand Hotel dining room

Locals eating at the New Zealand Hotel – 1920’s

One of the reasons the town of Northport is so unique is because of these lifelong friendships. Lifelong friends are tied together by the unexplainable bonds of having shared their childhood, adolescents, and adult lives together.  Many of the men shared the thrill and fear of being sent off to the war as young boys. The women remember waving goodbye to those men, while with the other hand they desperately clutched on to their girlfriend’s hand for support. They held their heads high and kept their eyes dry, with a strength so relentless I have, to this day, only witnessed it in the women of Northport. Then they all shared in the deep sense of relief, pride and joy as they were reunited with their lifelong pals and loved ones, back from their tours of duty. They also wept and mourned those dear friends who they would not get the chance to welcome back.

 

Life moved forward with decades of ups and downs, happy times and sad ones. Struggling to survive in hard years, and bad crops, or when no jobs were to be found. Each resident either had a friend, or was that friend, who gave all they could to make sure the other friend made it Northport, WA - Sharon Weber, Jim Paparichthrough the tough times. Nothing needed to be said about how the favor would be repaid, no agreements needed to be signed, the favor would be returned, without hesitation, if and when the same trouble would fall upon the other.

Soon these friends watched as their children’s friendships began and grew much like their own. The older children eventually equipped the parents with plenty of willing babysitters, so they would kick up their heels at the local Grange Hall Dances every Saturday night. For at least one evening a week all in the world seemed right. They were with beloved friends, and family, in their home town, living and working on THEIR land. The land that, after pouring their blood, sweat, tears, a few curse words, and countless prayers into, finally seemed not only to be cooperating, but possibly feeling the same bond, respect, and love their owners had come to feel for it.

 

Northport, WA - Labor Day Parade

Northport Labor Day Parade – 2012

The children graduated, some moved on to start their own families, some stayed in Northport to follow a similar path their parents and grandparents had. No matter what path they took, or where life lead them, they did their best to keep in touch with each other, all friends since toddlers, much like their parents had been. Eventually the visits home became further and farther between. But no matter the amount of time, be it 3 years or 30, when they do return home for reunions or Labor Day festivities, the now middle-aged men become young boys again, smiling ear to ear when they recognize each other. Greeting each other with a firm hand shake.  Northport, WA - Julie Sowards, Cindy DayThey says more with the intensity of their grip then any hug or words ever could. These are friendships few people will ever be so lucky to have. With the women, when reunited, it is usually happy screeches and crushing hugs, and laughter that speak the words of the years of memories and secrets they share. Many of their parents, some siblings, as well as shared friends, have been gone years now, most much to early from diseases and illnesses that the community is well aware might have been prevented.  However, the hardworking, stubborn, determined residents of Northport do not waste their time on thoughts of self-pity. They play the hand life dealt them, thankful they are still in the game, and gracious when it is their time to fold.

 

If you are ever in Northport on a Tuesday evening I recommend you swing by Kuk’s Tavern. You can’t miss it, just look for the tall grey building that leans slightly to the right, it is just off main street standing atop the hill where it was rolled up to over 100 years ago. Or simply listen for the sound of laughter and bits of conversations, escaping through the tavern’s door, propped open to let in the cool summer breeze and to welcome any stranger who might wander by. Once inside you can listen in as the residents tell stories of the old days, people gone but not forgotten, or just funny jokes and memories they have retold each other a few hundred times over the years.

 

Before driving away make sure to take a moment and glance back at the tall, unbreakable tavern full of unbreakable spirits, of an unbreakable community.  Listen to the choir of crickets singing in the soft, warm summer evening breeze, and the rush of the  mighty Columbia River adding to the comforting, magical sounds and smells that flows through the old streets and buildings of this little ghost town.  You may catch a glimpse of what that rowdy little mining camp looked like over a century ago, and you just might understand why they all fought so hard to stay.

 


~ Jamie Paparich

 

32 responses to this post.

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your article on Northport. I am seeking information on a family who lived there 1890s to 1930s. Macfarlane and Euna Anderson. Mrs. Anderson taught school until her death in 1898. Mr. Anderson invented and patented the process of color photography. I think they lived on South Avenue, about 1.5 miles from town.
    Thank you.
    carolrobles@prodigy.net

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  2. Omg yes an I swore every year I wasn’t ever going again, but we live n the house right behind the church & I use to go an visit him all the time & he would promise not to do it to me again, boy he must of had his fingers crossed big time & many Hail Marys said for that one lol I so loved him& I was presperterian sorry for the spelling never was my strong suit…;)

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  3. Posted by Jerry Miller on February 27, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Does anyone remember trick or treating at Father Meyers house who was the Catholic Priest in Northport for many, many years. How he used a thimble with string on it to come up behind us when we knocked and pulled the string he had wrapped around it to scare the crap out of us.

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  4. Posted by Susan Montgomery Smith on September 5, 2015 at 5:33 am

    My mother, Ellen Kanaley, was born in Northport in 1902. She lived there until completing high school. She then went to San Francisco to go through nurses’ training. Later she moved to FL to work. She met and married my father, who was from KS. Later the moved to MO, which is where they spent most of their adult lives. They had 5 children. My mother took me to Northport when I was 12 years old. I am now 71 years old. I have only faint memories of the day we wandered about in Northport. It was the only time my mother returned to that town after leaving as a teenager. I have a photograph of what I believe to be all of her schoolmates in 1916. The photo has the words “Harkness will Win” at the bottom. I assume “Harkness” was the name of the school she attended. I have not been able to locate the name “Harkness” in my reading about Northport. I attempted to copy the photo in this comment box, but could not. Perhaps, someone reading this post will have information about Harkness.

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  5. Posted by Larry Stacey on August 5, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Interesting. I just visited the Wright/Sells family homestead this week. It’s been in the family since 1910. Mace and Ellen Sells still live there. They have been living there since 1953. They have a large sign at the entrance of the property on Wright Road. It was wonderful to visit. They are really nice people and we had a wonderful visit. Hope, to visit again. And have a chance to look around town.

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    • Posted by Larry Stacey on August 6, 2015 at 12:01 am

      To clarify my Great Grandfather Albert Wright married a Sells. I loved talking to Mace and Ellen, hearing the storing about everyone growing up there. Was wonderful.

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    • Posted by Audrey (Sell) (Weilep) Fleming on February 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      LARRY, the name is not Sells, It is Sell. I am Mace Sell’s sister. Annie Sell (Wright) was a sister to our grandfather Charles Sell. My great grand father Jacob Sell homesteaded on the place Mace lives on today. It has always been owned by a family member ever since.

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      • Posted by Larry Stacey on February 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

        Thank You, for the clarification. I was there for one afternoon last year. It was the first and only time I had been there or met anyone from the family. I also met the Wright family in Washington for the first time last year. I am grandson to Bill and Patricia Stacey/ Wright. It was interesting to meet the few I did get to meet. I hope to be able to go back again soon. It would be nice to meet others from the family. Is Mace still painting? I hope everyone is doing well.

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        • Posted by Audrey (Sell) (Weilep) Fleming on March 5, 2016 at 12:54 pm

          Larry, I think Mace is still painting. I live in town and would like to visit with you anytime you are here. Everyone knows me and where I live. Hope to see you.

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  6. Posted by Donald on July 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    My grandfather bought land back in 1950 up on the mountain and the town people are friendly and helpful…great area to visit if you have free time to explore and enjoy the many wonderful sites …….thanks from the Cannon family

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  7. Posted by Mike Clark on November 20, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Hi Jamie,
    My family moved to Northport in 1951 and left in 1956. My Dad, Burt Clark, worked for Isbell Const. Co. at ASARCO.
    I often wonder what became of the Class of1963. I was in town in 2011 and went to Gallo’s Market; but Tony wasn’t in that day and I headed back to Arizona.
    Thanks for putting up the site, I enjoyed reading it.

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    • Posted by Audrey (Sell) (Weilep) Fleming on February 29, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Mike. I knew your dad and mother well. The mine ASARCO bought our farm on Onion creek and we moved to Northport in 1952.I can remember Jerry Newton that was the boss for Isbell cont. He was killed in an accident between the creek and Colville. A tree fell across his pickup when he was on his way to town. Was very sad, as we all liked him a lot. I also knew the Jepsons that worked with your dad. They had a daughter named Judy. Hope this helps.

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  8. Posted by Phyllis Douglas on July 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    My grandparents had a bakery/pool hall combination in 1920. Is there anyway to tell where it was? They lived there at least 2 years. My 93 year old mother and her brother were born there.

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  9. Posted by Josie Ahearn on June 13, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    My grandfather Fredric Leon Mitchell was born around Northport in 1885. Mitchel Road, Mitchell Mountain and Mitchell point were named after his family. Grandfather horse logged along the Columbia River and when a young boy rode on horse back to the American Canadian border and shot a hole in the border line post! He was employed on the construction of the Great Northern Railroad at 14 years of age. He fished Salmon in the Columbia River before dams were put in.

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  10. That was amazing piece that u wrote Jamie, I have so many find memories of growing up n Northport , I’m for ever telling people that they r missing so much living n the big city’s . Planning on moving back as soon as my husband retires….:)

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  11. Love this small town All my life been to Deep lake and then Northport . Now live 10 miles away love it

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  12. Posted by Audrey(Sell,Weilep) Fleming on February 28, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    The person inquiring about Archie McCammoron. Archie Sr. lived in Colville and he worked for the state highway dept. He used to cone in to my parents Tavern/Sell’s Shell Service Station all the time. He has relatives in Colville, I think one owns the Beuna Vista nursing facility. Hope this helps.

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  13. Posted by Mickeal Okeefe on February 27, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I grew up in this little town and many generation of my family lived there I have many fond memmories and some not so fond of living there thanks Jamie for reminding me of the past I went to school with your sister I believe Stevie or maybe she was an aunt not sure most will not remember me but some will remember my dad Jack OKeefe or his dad Luke or my brothers Dennis or Pat and my sisters Dorren , Colleen , Molly ,Kathy , and Janeen

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    • Posted by Rose Paoarich-Kalamarides on November 18, 2015 at 4:20 am

      Michael, Jamie is brother Jim’s daughter and a family Dynamo. Your sister Colleen and I were in the same class. The Paparich’s bought the O’Keefe cabins on Deep Lake many years ago. I was looking at old plat maps and saw that your family owned the waterfront from what is now the Pierce dock down to Richie Halls. That was a big section of the lake.

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  14. Posted by Dan Breznai on December 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Wow, thank you for the beautiful stories and human interaction. Congratulations to all Northport residents for sustaining your strong family and community values through so many generations.

    I found your site while researching your area. I am retiring very soon. My plans are to move from the chaos and sirens of the I-5 corridor to a more tranquil and safer area, such as Northport. If I get lucky and find a new home near Northport that fits my needs (and budget). I promise do my best to volunteer and contribute what I can to your great community. And to respect your family and community values.

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  15. Posted by Geri Walker on September 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    That was such a sweet and endearing story. Northport will always tug at my heart strings. Chuck and I lived in Northport and Deep Creek many years. It’s wonderful to have a community so loving and caring. I love going to Northpot and stoping llby The Mustang Grill,but ‘back in the day’ it was Annie News Cafe. It would be fun to travel back in memory lane to the ‘good old days’. Thank you for the wonderful story about you and your grandfather.

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  16. Posted by Shayla on February 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this….I am in the eigth grade and I am doing a school project on Northport. There was so much info on Northport in this and I fully enjoyed reading. Im Stephanie and Levi’s younger daughter Shayla

    Shayla
    shotgunlover98@gmail.com
    68.186.74.213
    Submitted on 2012/02/09 at 7:38 pm
    I cannot thank you enough for writing this….I am in the eigth grade and I am doing a school project on Northport. There was so much info on Northport in this and I fully enjoyed reading. Im Stephanie and Levi’s younger daughter Shayla
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 12:06 pm | In reply to Shayla.

    Hi Shayla –
    Thank you for all the support you and your family have given me. It is actually because of you and your brother that The Northport Project even exists.

    A few months after I began The Northport Project in 2008, I was so frustrated with the lies and misconceptions the DOH and EPA had told the kind people of Northport, along with the difficulty in getting past and present residents to fill out health questionnaires in order to move forward, I almost just gave up.

    It was then that your Mom e-mailed me and told me of your brother’s diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis and about your struggle with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. That was the push I needed to not only keep going but to start pushing harder for the information the DOH and EPA were trying to avoid providing me and to push the past and present Northport residents to take the time to complete the questionnaires, necessary to get the information necessary to get epidemiological studies done in the area. Two years later we were able to get two physicians from the Crohn’s & Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital to conduct the first phase of their epidemiological study of Northport residents, past and present, diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. The Northport IBD Study, (designed specifically for Northport), just concluded phase I of this study, in which the physicians were able to conclude that there is a health cluster of these diseases currently in the community, and that there has been a consistent cluster of these diseases since approx. 1955-60. With this information they are currently preparing an abstract, which will be used to obtain grants and funding for phase II, and eventually a manuscript of their findings. The results of this study could very likely help in discovering the cause, or specific triggers, of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease, still unknown to the medical and scientific community.

    So it is you I should be thanking. It is because of your Mom and her description of the suffering both you and your brother have endured so courageously. As well as your parents unselfishness to contact me to contribute whatever information they could in order to ensure this did not happen to any other children. They were not looking to blame anyone, or for compensation for the pain and suffering your family had endured (although they have every right to!), they honestly just wanted to help.

    So thank you sweetie – and please feel free to e-mail me anytime – jamie_paparich@hotmail.com

    Sincerely,
    Jamie Paparich

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    • Hi Shayla –
      Thank you for all the support you and your family have given me. It is actually because of you and your brother that The Northport Project even exists.

      A few months after I began The Northport Project in 2008, I was so frustrated with the lies and misconceptions the DOH and EPA had told the kind people of Northport, along with the difficulty in getting past and present residents to fill out health questionnaires in order to move forward, I almost just gave up.

      It was then that your Mom e-mailed me and told me of your brother’s diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis and about your struggle with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. That was the push I needed to not only keep going but to start pushing harder for the information the DOH and EPA were trying to avoid providing me and to push the past and present Northport residents to take the time to complete the questionnaires, necessary to get the information necessary to get epidemiological studies done in the area. Two years later we were able to get two physicians from the Crohn’s & Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital to conduct the first phase of their epidemiological study of Northport residents, past and present, diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. The Northport IBD Study, (designed specifically for Northport), just concluded phase I of this study, in which the physicians were able to conclude that there is a health cluster of these diseases currently in the community, and that there has been a consistent cluster of these diseases since approx. 1955-60. With this information they are currently preparing an abstract, which will be used to obtain grants and funding for phase II, and eventually a manuscript of their findings. The results of this study could very likely help in discovering the cause, or specific triggers, of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease, still unknown to the medical and scientific community.

      So it is you I should be thanking. It is because of your Mom and her description of the suffering both you and your brother have endured so courageously. As well as your parents unselfishness to contact me to contribute whatever information they could in order to ensure this did not happen to any other children. They were not looking to blame anyone, or for compensation for the pain and suffering your family had endured (although they have every right to!), they honestly just wanted to help.

      So thank you sweetie – and please feel free to e-mail me anytime – jamie_paparich@hotmail.com

      Like

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  17. Posted by charlesdietsch on November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I am looking for proof of a birth dated 12 apr 1907 for an Archie Cameron,Jr. Parents were Archie Cameron and Marion I. Carter Cameron. Can you help me find any information or documents (newspapers, hospital records? Thank you

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  18. Wow what words of wonder. Thank you for posting the blog and fighting for Northport and her people. Warm thoughts and fond memories of my days below Rock Hill.

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  19. Posted by Gwen on December 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I remember many happy summers visiting my grandmother Irene, great-aunt & Uncle Lenore and Alex. Northport will always have a special place in my heart.

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    • Posted by Linda M Coleman Hunt on November 20, 2011 at 7:48 am

      I will always call Northport my home town no matter where in the world my life takes me,
      My memories take me to sledding on Rock Hill,I swear it was a much bigger hill than it is now. The old log gymn the brick grade school.Mrs Leadens the schooll cook her homemade rolls. Mrs.Maxfield ,Mrs.Rowe,Mrs, LeClaire,Mrs. Striker wow could she swing that paddle !! And friends , I’m loving Facebook because I’ve come in contact with friends from my childhood.Does anyone remember when Mrs.Hartenbower made us write our names on a list when we came Trick or Treating so she could check and make sure we didn’t come back again for more candy ? May this little town prosper and not be devided by petty little things you see your neighbor do.
      May the Columbia River flow forever.
      Thanks for being my friend. Linda Coleman Hunt

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  20. Posted by LorI on December 5, 2010 at 9:40 am

    This is an awesome story of a strong and determined little town.
    I was fortunate to have been able to call the area my home for a few years. I was married into the Phillips family and the BEST PART for me was to have Mike and Chic as my ‘grandparents’ and wonderful beautiful great grandparents to my daughter Jami Rose.
    Thanx for posting this Rose….it brings back lots of fun memories!

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  21. Posted by Rose Paparich-Kalamarides on December 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Thanks Jamie. I love you!

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  22. Posted by Gail Leaden on November 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    So glad to see that someone is finally fighting for this community and its citizens! Long overdue. Thank you for getting the word out and bringing these issues to light. It’s long overdue and well deserved.

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  23. Yes! Northport definitely has a wonderful and lasting spirit. This blog has great information on what is currently happening to this town. Please keep updating!

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    • Posted by Janet (Sell) Gregson on November 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      I enjoyed your post and I think of all of the family and friends from Northport. It is a unique little town that I still call home.

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