Mary Low Sinclair Arrives in Cadyville (future Snohomish City) on May 1, 1865.

mary low sinclair

On the last day of April 1865, Mary Low Sinclair and her one-month-old son, Alvin, board the small, unfinished steamer Mary Woodruff in Port Madison, Kitsap County, for a journey across Puget Sound and up the Snohomish River to a place called Cadyville, where her husband, Woodbury Sinclair (1825-1872), has purchased the Edson T. Cady claim that previous December. Mary remembers the day of her arrival in an article published 46 years later in the November 24, 1911, issue of the Snohomish County Tribune. She does not mention the fact that she was the first Caucasian woman to take up permanent residence in the place that was to become Snohomish City. She also fails to note that even by 1911, she is considered to be the founder of education in Snohomish by opening her home as the first classroom. Plus, she skips over the intriguing fact that by learning the native languages of the area, she served as a translator for visiting officials and journalists. The last recorded event was two years before her death, at 79 years of age, when she helps a reporter from Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer interview Snohomish’s famous Pilchuck Julia.

snohomish stories imageCadyville, 1865, the first photograph of the settlement that was renamed Snohomish by the Fergusons and Sinclairs in 1871. Ferguson’s Blue Eage saloon is pictured on the left, while the Sinclair store (and first classroom) is on the right. The structure is the center was an unnamed wharf building. Some accounts indentify the man in the foreground as Woodbury Sinclair.

A Clearing in the Woods

Born to John N. Low and Lydia (Colburn) Low in Bloomington, Illinois, on December 11, 1842, Mary and her family were members of the Denny Party that arrived at Alki Point in 1851. Many of the Denny Party became the first settlers of Seattle. The Lows, however, settled in Port Madison, Kitsap County, where Mary worked as a teacher, and ended up marrying her boss, the school district clerk, and lumberman Woodbury Sinclair, on March 4, 1862. Two years later, Woodbury found himself in Cadyville where he purchased the namesake’s claim on the north bank of the Snohomish River. The purchase included a small shack that Woodbury and a partner named William Clendenning planned to open as a store catering to the local loggers.

Mary, their infant son and the household goods arrived on May 1, 1865, which she described in her 1911 remembrance:”As the steamer landed at the gravel bank near the foot of Maple Street, a small clearing appeared in the otherwise unbroken timber. The town consisted of a rough log house on the bank in which supplies were stored. The store farther back, was a twelve by sixteen-foot shack. The old building still standing (1911) at the corner of Maple and Commercial Streets, without windows, doors, or floor, in time was used for the store, with living rooms in the back.”

The infant Alvin died 20 days after Mary’s arrival.

“There was no time to be lonesome …”

Mary’s remembrance continues: “There was much to do, but the pioneers were hustlers and could turn their hands to anything — no specialists in those days. The women, young and hopeful, fearing neither danger or privation, soon began to make things look homelike. A large fireplace assisted considerably in clearing the dooryard, in which later bloomed old-fashioned flowers — Sweet Williams, Marigolds and Hollyhocks. There was no time to be lonesome; frogs sang cheerily in the nearby marshes; mosquitoes kept the people busy building smudges. Wild game was plentiful. The Indians brought venison, wild ducks, fish and clams. Also the ranchers from Snoqualmie Prairie brought delicious hams and bacons of their own curing.”

A second son was born on November 14, 1866, who they named Clarence Wood Sinclair, and he lived to become a popular captain of the favorite steamship Nellie in the 1870s. Mary notes in her 1911 article: “For two years there was no regular steamer outside, and the only fruit available was wild berries. But living was cheap and good, and not a butcher shop in forty miles. The Indian wives of the ranchers made sociable calls on their white neighbors, conversing in mingled Boston, Chinook, and Siwash Wa Wa (talk).”

Mabel “May” H. Sinclair was born on April 28, 1869, and lived until 1935.

The First Cemetery

In 1872, Mary, age 29, with two children, lost her husband Woodbury to death from unknown causes. He was 46 years of age. Just two months earlier they had filed a plat of their claim on the east side of a growing town — now officially named Snohomish City. First, Second and Commercial Streets were parallel to the river, with cross streets named, Cedar, Maple, State, Willow, and Alder. They also sold the original store building, which they had turned into the Riverside Hotel. The hotel featured rooms surrounding a large hall on the second floor that was used by the community for meetings, dances, church services, weddings, court proceedings, and even funerals.

At Woodbury’s death, the Sinclairs were in the process of donating three acres on the eastern edge of their plat, alongside the Pilchuck River, to establish the county’s first graveyard. As the story goes, there was an accidental death of a young Caucasian woman the previous year, which left the frontier community helplessly aware that they had no burial ground — no proper place for a proper lady to rest in peace.

So negotiations with the Sinclairs were in progress when Woodbury passed away on June 5, 1872, leaving his widow — acting as guardian of her children’s estate — to successfully complete negotiations with the newly formed Snohomish Cemetery Association in 1876. (This was done just in time to bury 17 children claimed by an epidemic called “black diphtheria” the following year.)

Mary ordered a headstone of white marble, standing some three feet tall, to create a memorial for Woodbury in the new cemetery, where she also moved the remains of her infant son Alvin and added those of her second son Clarence in 1905, who died from a sudden illness. Mary died on a Sunday, June 11, 1922. She was 79 years old, still living in her home on Pearl Street and still active. She was cremated in Seattle, and, according to sketchy records dating from the 1940s, her remains were included in the family plot in Snohomish’s first cemetery.

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The Missing Memorial

The Catholic Church founded the second cemetery in 1895; but the largest cemetery today was established in 1898 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Veteran’s group, simply referred to as the GAR — both were located outside of town. Over the years, the picturesque cemetery alongside the river, framed by a white picket fence, was no longer needed for the newly dead, and so became neglected and eventually referred to as the “Indian Cemetery.” Consequently, not enough attention was paid in the 1940s when the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed that all of the pioneer graves had been moved to other cemeteries, when they extended 2nd Street north, cutting the historic cemetery site in two. There is no record of the Sinclair remains being moved to the GAR, nor those of Mary’s parents, the Lows, who had moved to Snohomish shortly after Woodbury’s death. Only his faded white headstone, the centerpiece of the Sinclair memorial, was found in the abandoned cemetery and it was rescued by the Snohomish Historical Society, where it has held a predominant position in their display of a pioneer graveyard since the late 1980s.

. . . .

More articles commissioned by HistoryLink.org:

Snohomish — Thumbnail History

Snohomish: Historic Downtown Cybertour

Snohomish incorporates as a city of the third class on June 26, 1890.

The Eye reports Gilbert Horton’s floating photography gallery to be in Snohomish on May 29, 1886.

Eldridge Morse dedicates the Snohomish Atheneum on June 5, 1876.

Snohomish County Tribune supports demolition of the old county courthouse portion of Snohomish High School in an editorial on June 16, 1938.

. . . .

#3. The Election: Billy Bottom, Part One

Wilbur Drug Store

snohomish stories imageCast of Imaginary Characters: (so far)

John T. Hardwick
Missus Nightingale
Billy Bottom
Ivy Williams-Bottom

“The open caucus held by the people at Odd Fellows’ Hall nominated the successful ticket, and not the convention ‘held last week’– in the saloons.”
The Eye, June 28, 1890

“The city manager is out, and Snohomish’s ‘strong’ mayor is in.”
Daily Herald, November 29, 2017

. . . .

With Rev. Hardwick loaded into the excavation pit’s basket, the crowd watching in silence from above could see the whites of his eyes. The new mayor was wide awake, practically naked, and manic. He was turning and twisting to take in the scene until his head was held still by hands meeting behind his neck. Missus Nightingale was in charge.

Wilbur Drug StoreMissus Nightingale was her sobriquet. Rumor had it she attended Hopkins Medical School back east, one of the first women to receive medical training, but who knows? Lot Wilbur hired her to help out with his new Drug Store, a handsome two-story brick building at First and C built by J. S. White, the same contractor responsible for the excavation pit where the new mayor now found himself on his back in a large, mud-coated basket of woven cedar, under a bright Sunday morning, tenderly tended to by Missus Nightingale.

“Whoa, Sadie!” Billy Bottom’s command to his mule broke the silence, to be followed by low-level murmuring and laughter among the crowd of men watching, some since dawn. Bottom had backed up his shabby buckboard to just under the pit’s excavation rigging as if he were picking up a load of dirt.

“That’s a good girl!” he added, handing the slacked reins to his wife, and jumping to the ground. It wasn’t clear to whom he was speaking. Bottom practically slid down the pit’s steep ladder to check-up on his brother-in-arms, John, the nearly naked Mayor of Snohomish.

Billy Bottom and Ivie Williams were recently married in a secret ceremony held in the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery west of town on Riverview Road. She was new to the town; whereas, Mister Billy and his mule Sadie were ubiquitous. He would anchor his mule to a hitching post, then stand in the buckboard and Rant. He claimed there was a spot in London that was famous for people Ranting and that Snohomish needed such a spot. However, none of Bottom’s Rants were original, written by him. He simply repeated quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers of America. But his speaking style oozed such a mysterious certainly, like fertilizer, that a fervent following grew. A devoted few believed it was God speaking through him. Over time, as the number of his followers increased, it seems many were misinformed malcontents; then again, complaining without knowledge is a God-given right in America. Non-followers, most people, believed Billy Bottom was unhinged.

He lived just outside of town up the Pilchuck River in a tent; Billy never did get the hang of building a shelter of woven cedar mats, and now that he was married to a proper Boston lady, there will be no Siwash hut for his white wife. Not much was known of Bottom’s life before Snohomish other than he was raised in Seattle. He is clearly of mixed blood and the story is that his mother didn’t tell him that his father was Indian until he was over 12 years old. He thought his father was white. Who knows where these stories come from.

Several years ago, as part of his Rants, Bottom started a petition to change the city’s charter to add the phrase: In God We Trust. His followers, the complainers, loved it. Especially members of the Temperance Union, which in turn urged Rev. Hardwick to run for mayor since he lived in town. Soon, the Reverend and Billy were inseparable. They went door-to-door talking up God and talking down Mayor Ferguson who once spoke up for (and yes, hired) Chinese workers back in 1885.

It was a brutal town meeting in the Masonic Hall on 2nd Street as reported in The Eye, October 24, 1885. In the past, the newspaper has labeled Chinese people as rat-eaters, and the headline for this meeting read: The Chinese Curse.

Mayor Ferguson was leading the meeting that began with this diatribe from the floor shortly after his introduction: “Let’s have a little sense. How are we going to get rid of the Chinese? We’ve no legal right to kill ‘em. I’d like to kill one; wouldn’t you, Ferg?”

There was “tumultuous applause from a portion of the audience” supporting a proposal to send ‘em all back to China and pay their expenses from a “fiery pioneer who had been indulging in ‘whiskey-row’ jim-jam syrup, and did not wait for an invitation to express his sentiments,” reported The Eye in 1885.

Only Ferg, as he was often called, spoke of the benefit provided to the county and the town by the Chinese. He reminded the gathering that the Chinese were already here, and there was work that would not get done without the immigrants.

The town’s population has nearly doubled since then. Many in town don’t know the history, while others have forgotten that Ferguson hired Chinese workers back-in-the-day; but Billy Bottom considered himself to be an amateur historian: “Billy remembers everything!”

To Be Continued.

Seasons Greetings with Gratitude

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Twenty-Seventeen — what a year!

Our book, J.S. White Our First Architect was released with a Gala Garden Release Party on July 13th, the 172nd Anniversary of White’s birth in Tamworth, NH.

Karen’s run to save our local government from a coup by social media fell short of votes but long on misogyny.

Following the election, a commission to write a thumbnail history of Lake Stevens for HistoryLink.org, Washington state’s free online encyclopedia, was a happy distraction. I enjoyed getting to know Lake Stevens, both its beginnings and its plans.

The first person to purchase lots on the lake was Charles A. Missimer, a renaissance-man who lived and worked in Snohomish. “The varied occupations of Charles A. Missimer (1857-1938) were reported in both the first and second newspapers of Snohomish, the Northern Star and The Eye, as a photographer, scenery painter, trombone player with the local Snohomish band at the Atheneum Masked Ball, deputy county surveyor, Circuit Court clerk, even co-publisher of The Eye for a short time,” as I wrote in the essay.

Combing through the 19th-century newspapers researching our book, I came across this mention that I wanted to use as an epigraph for the essay, but the editor cut-it so here it is instead.

Should the railroad touch the shores of Lake Stevens, a town will be built that will become a dangerous rival to Snohomish. Being situated near the geographical center of the county, could but with little difficulty secure the county seat.
June 13, 1888, The Eye.

Very curious because Missimer didn’t purchase his land until the following year. In 1888 when the railroad arrived in Snohomish there was no there-there in Lake Stevens–just the beautiful and very deep lake.

Best Wishes for the New Year Dear Readers, your comments are always welcomed.

. . . .

Our featured image is a video still from an excerpt from our book’s first essay “Methodist Church, 1885” posted one year ago to promote the book. The printed copy seen in the clip is the final version which had just been sent to the printer in China!

As I said: “what a year!”

. . . .

Discovering the White Building Hiding in Plain Sight

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We are marking the anniversary month of J. S. White’s death on October 22, 1920, with a slideshow telling the story of his masterpiece structure located at 924 First Street that was misidentified for over 40 years.

This event will be held at Snohomish’s historic Bauer Funeral Chapel, located at 701 First Street, on Saturday, October 21st from 4:30 to 5:30p.  It’s Free, thanks to the generosity of the chapel manager Brian Halbeisen.

This presentation was presented first at the 66th Pacific Northwest History Conference: “Hidden Histories, Diverse Publics” to be held in Spokane, October 12-14th.

Of course, this story of the White Building is told in our fine art book J. S. White: Our First Architect, available here online and at the Uppercase Bookshop on 2nd Street and Avenue B. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at the Bauer Chapel event.

. . . .

Karen, Warner & Otto “On-the-Air”

karenguzakontheair

A wonderful time was had by all at our book signing Sunday, July 30, at Uppercase Bookshop — and we sold seven books — thanks in large part to our Sound Living interview on KSER!

Barb and Bob were on their way out of town listening to a repeat of the show on Sunday morning when they turned around to stop by and pick up a copy. The KSER show motivated Dan and his wife to purchase a copy that will be added to Dan’s extensive collection of Pacific Northwest history. Matt from Bothell, learned about the signing on FB, stopped by to get a copy explaining that he travels a lot to visit architectural sites and wishes every community had a book like ours to describe the local treasures. Clay from Granite Falls was with us from the beginning asking twice for the ‘dark stories’ we couldn’t include in the book. Carlos showed up riding his bike in from just outside town, he quizzed Otto about his work in the book quite a while before purchasing a copy. Friend Kay and her son Ike purchased a copy and finally so did Otto’s photographer friend Dean who along with Kyra and their new puppy, who were the first to arrive.

A BIG THANKS to Ed Bremer and KSER for helping us spread the word. You can listen to the entire hour-long program below.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/335314241″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Book Signing Party

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With our fine art book officially released at our Gala Garden Release Party on July 13th, the 172nd Anniversary of J. S. White’s birth in Tamworth, NH, we now move forward with Book Signings and Promotional Events.

We have two to announce: First, tune in on Friday, July 28th to KSER (90.7) for the Sound Living Call-in Show. Hosted by veteran independent radio broadcaster Ed Bremer, Karen and Warner will be his guests talking about the creation of our fine art book, while photographer Otto will be standing by in Seattle to join us by calling-in — and you can too: 425.303.9070.

Second: You are invited to talk Snohomish history and photography while we sign some books on the outdoor deck of the Uppercase Bookshop on Sunday, July 30, 2-4p. Both Otto and yours truly will be on hand and it’s a grand time to purchase our fine art book and help support an independent bookstore as well as our publication. Those who have a pre-order copy are welcomed to join us for the signing.

(Thanks to Otto for setting up the group shot of the Angels & Publishers and to Karen for working the remote!)

suzan delbene

Finally, at a fundraiser for Congresswoman Suzan DelBene hosted in our studio, Karen presented Suzan with a signed: “as a friend of Snohomish,” copy of our fine art book, which she promises to keep on the coffee table in her DC office.

suzan delbene

We like that.

 

. . . .

Video: First Look!

Five Advanced Copies Arrived 5.4.17!

Carefully running my letter cutter up the space between the shrink-wrap and pages, I removed the clinging plastic and opened our book. Amazing! It looked so familiar, just as it looked in the digital files, edit round upon edit round … but the paper was so thick I had to check if two had stuck together. The clarity of the photographs was stunning, not just Otto’s but the historic images as well. These are images I know very well and they have taken on a new life in this book, on this paper and through the process of production by iocolor.  Thanks to the staff at Lucia Marquand and to all our Angels and Publishers.

My humble Thanks ~w.

Video: A Shooting Gallery?

Otto Greule

White’s corner lot next to the palace saloon is being graded for a shooting gallery. The Eye, December 22,1892.

Time has become years since I first saw the White Building basement — it was within days of reading the news of a “shooting gallery” in Snohomish’s 19th-century newspaper of record.

The long basement room was dark and empty except for a grease collection container. I didn’t bring a camera or a flashlight, always meant to return better prepared. So you can imagine my surprise when I finally returned and my host, the prep cook, Mitch, hit the light switch at the bottom of the stairs filling the basement with light.

The once level floor had mounds of dirt from adding footings for the posts with beams supporting the thick joists resting on the original granite foundation. Now the basement was a handy place to store a variety of restaurant supplies. There was a short row of sparkling water glasses on a plank sticking out of a scrap pile. Evidence of an interrupted story.

Speaking of which, there is no sign that the room was once a shooting gallery, even though it was certainly excavated for one as the paper reported. Plus, there is no mention of a shooting gallery in the papers, not even an advertisement.

Next month will feature the large room on the second floor intended to be a hospital! Would have been close by for shooting gallery accidents, but alas, neither came to be.

. . . .

So excited to report: July 13, 2017, is the release date for our book J. S. White Our First Architect, and the date of our Gala Garden Release Party for Angels and Publishers of the fine art book. July 13 is the 172nd anniversary of White’s birth in Tamworth, New Hampshire. White lived for 75 years, 36 of them in Snohomish.

If you would like to attend our release party but have yet to make a tax-deductible donation, this offer is for you: Contribute $75, come to the party and pick up your gift of the book personalized for you or yours! We need raise only $5,000 more to pay off the $21,000 cost of producing the book — your generous contribution will help.

Contribute online or by check, details are here.

. . . .

Video: “Disastrous Fire”

snohomish stories

Every town wishing to become a city requires a Great Fire Story in its early history and the one of 1911 is ours. Fortunately, it was documented by photographer William Douglas who was asleep in a downtown hotel room when the fire alarm sounded in the predawn hours. Backed up by his striking black-and-white photographs, it’s fun to tell the story about the fire which I have often: first here, then here. But the most rewarding telling was without the images when I led a group of Emerson third graders on a walking tour of our historic downtown and received the illustrated thank-you note pictured above.

Please enjoy this two-minute montage of Douglas’s photographs along with the story as reported in the Snohomish County Tribune on June 2, 1911.


“Disatrous Fire”

This story is included in our book about J.S. White but as a side-bar, of which there are four that use the newspaper accounts verbatim, and two of them are about fires! And speaking of our book, be sure to check out our Fun(d)raising Progress — we need your pre-order to raise the funds due when the books arrive in July.

For encouragement, I will be at the Snohomish Farmers Market on Cedar Street, every Thursday, from 3 to 7p., beginning May 4th. Every pre-order entitles you to join me for a guided Walking Tour of White’s 19th-Century Snohomish, Saturday mornings at 10a.

Questions? 206.914.4075   |   [email protected]   |   Subscribed?

3.22.17: Off to the Printer!

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Melissa Duffes’s desk shows evidence of her role as the hub of art book production at Lucia Marquand; for certain, it’s the last stop before the project is sent to the printer in China, Artron Art Group, and March 22nd was the date of departure for J. S. White Our First Architect. By the end of the month, we should have what is called a “plotter” from the printer.

Stand-by.

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APRIL 1, 2017: Angels’ Fools Party:  celebrating the passing of the J. S. White book into the hands of the printers in China. (Note empty take-out containers!) Seated is photographer Otto holding, the printer’s plotter, and behind him, from the left, is Karen, Denise with Jimmy, Terry, Janet and Mary Pat.

Up next: Five advance copies due May 17, 2017!

Video: Elwell House, 1888

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“The river has been bank full again this week,” was noted in The Eye on December 10, 1887, and it’s one of my favorite finds in the 19th-century newspaper of record for Snohomish. Consequently, the Snohomish River is the visual theme of this month’s video.

In October 2013, I wrote an article on the Elwell House with the title: “Built 1888; Divided 1913; Renovated 2013.” It’s written as a movie pitch with the hook that a new architect comes to town, Pete Hansen, who purchases the lot that contains the southern half of White’s Elwell House which requires him to separate it. Pete does and moves his half some 100 feet away, then forward toward the street, and remodels it for his family home.

This drama is mentioned in Essay #4 of J. S White Our First Architect, but the focus is on the extended Elwell family, all of whom migrated to the Snohomish valley from Maine just in time to celebrate the nation’s centennial in 1876.  John and Eliza had nine children with Edgar being the seventh, born in 1854.

The video excerpt is the beginning of the essay, Edgar has been in the logging business for ten years and he recently married his second wife, Emma.

I appreciate hearing from you and for your support.

Color Proofs: Round One!

snohomish stories image

On January 13 of the new year, Otto and I met with Leah Finger, Production Manager with Lucia Marquand, to go over the first round of color proofs produced by Seattle’s iocolor. Leah made precise notes on the proofs like, “make better.” I learned that iocolor was established in 2001 as a sister company with Marquand Books, and Leah has a five-year relationship working with the technician/artists at the company. Otto and I were so impressed by process that I took another picture.

snohomish stories image
Otto with Leah Finger, Production Manager, at Lucia Marquand.

We met for two more follow-up color proof sessions, each time with a smaller pile of images as they were fixed and approved.

Follow this link to visit the iocolor website, warning: the site contains beautiful books!

Video: A. M. Blackman Store, 1889

Blackman store detail

No one today calls the Oxford Tavern, the “A. M. Blackman Store,” its original name. It would mean ignoring an oral history involving ladies-of-the-night, bar fights, and ghosts. Even the third graders from Emerson on my annual walking tour wanted to know about the ghosts. The Oxford Tavern is Snohomish’s most famous place.

blackman store Arthur M. Blackman was a young man when he built his two-story grocery store on 1st Street, considered at the time to be the largest in the county. Engaged in both wholesale and retail sales, Arthur’s operation became a victim of the national depression of 1893 and the business folded the following year.

You will learn more watching the short illustrated excerpts from Essay #6: J. S. White Our First Architect. I appreciate hearing from you and for your support.

Video: Odd Fellows Hall, 1886

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Let’s welcome the first month of the New Year with a short video clip of excerpts from our art book J. S. White, Our First Architect, featuring the second building White built in Snohomish, the Odd Fellows Hall, dedicated in 1886.

The book is in production with the Seattle company Lucia Marquand, and I had to put off writing this post until the first round of edits were complete and returned to the Editorial Director, Melissa Duffes.  It’s an exciting time learning the process of Making an Art Book that you are invited to follow on the website.

Meanwhile, check out the visual tease from the essay, about the owner’s discovery of the large plaster chandelier medallion, still attached to the original ceiling above the drop-ceiling of acoustical tiles installed in the 1950s.

Please follow this link to pre-order your copy of J. S. White Our First Architect.

Layout Design Set

snohomish stories image

Working with our designer, Meghann, along with Otto and Susan, a layout for the book was set mid-December. Now, the process of making an art book passes to the editorial lead, Melissa Duffes, who in short order sent text proofs for editing. I’m working with a pdf copy, while editor Susan prefers a hard copy of the text. Plus, our contract with Lucia Marquand includes the services of a copy editor.

The “first text proofs” are due back to Melissa by January 12, next year!

Video: Methodist Church, 1885

We are celebrating Christmas this year in the original Methodist Church, taking us back to 1901. This is the first building J. S. White built in Snohomish, beginning in 1884, the same year he arrived with his wife and three daughters under the age of nine.

One or all of his girls could be turned toward the camera on the left, and the mustachio man on the right could be Mr. White himself? As for what’s going on on the altar, please check out this post from 2014.

This month begins a monthly video post reading from the manuscript for the J. S. White book, with cut-aways to historic images and footage of how the subject structure looks today. Perhaps we can get invited inside as we were in this case by Sharon St. Marie, owner of the Belle Chapel, its new name.

Please enjoy our first video post, your questions are welcomed in the comments below.

Please follow this link to pre-order a copy of J. S. White Our First Architect.

Meet Meghann Ney

meghann ney, designer

I met with Meghann Ney, our book designer, on Halloween for her design presentation of our book, and not one member of the small staff at Lucia|Marquand wore a costume to work.

Still exciting to get the first look at what our book is going to become. Meghann has put the framework in place before adding the text and images. Now it’s up to me to finish the manuscript in a word doc and send it along by November 7th — the day before we make history.

snohomish stories

 

Snohomish’s Famous Architect

Frances Wood

Around 1910, Ben and Nettie Morgan commissioned J.S. White to design and build a beach cabin on Whidbey Island. The story is told in the endearing memoir, “Down to Camp,” by Frances Wood, who is pictured above with the family cabin.

snohomish storiesBy 1890, it was the summer tradition among several Snohomish families to shutter their city home and board a steamship loaded down with enough supplies to last a generous part of August camping on a beach across Possession Sound. Since, for many years, the journey began by going down the Snohomish River, the annual event became known as going “down to camp,” well into the age of the automobile. At first platforms with tents were set-up on a relatively narrow shelf of land between the water and a steep bluff, then modest cabins sprouted up year after year, all in row, along a foot path still referred to as “Camper’s Row.”

Ben and Nettie purchased a lot in 1902 and around eight years later, commissioned White to build a cabin to replace their tent, a choice perhaps based on his association with Ben’s father. They christened the structure “Camp Illahee,” a word of the indigenous people carrying “a sense of home, and connections between people and living place,” according to Frances.

snohomish storiesCamper’s Row on Whidbey Island, 1914, Camp Illahee is the cabin with the flag in the center, note tents to the left. The steep bank was vulnerable to land slides, as the one pictured here, and in 2015 a major slide left the historic cabin filled with mud.

Three decades later, Frances tells us, her grandparents purchased Camp Illahee from Nettie, then married to a Taylor, who described the cabin in a letter: “… it could be rolled over and over and not come to pieces.” Regardless of this vivid pitch, Frances’s grandparents got the cabin for a low-ball offer of $1,100.

The cabin was renamed to “Drift Inn” by Frances’s parents when it was passed on to them. Fast forward through a childhood of summers spent at the beach cabin to the 1970s, when Frances and her sibling’s families are enjoying summer months at Drift Inn and the discussion of modifying the cabin comes up. The conversation involves three generations, including her grandmother Inez, the daughter of Nina and Charles Bakeman, who owned the furniture building that burned in 1893, sending the homeless city council members to White’s then-new building.

In a telephone conversation, Frances shared with me the family lore that White was given the commission because he was down on his luck and needed the work. She also remembers Inez advising the grandchildren, when remodeling, to not change the “lines” because it was designed by the famous Snohomish architect, J. S. White.

. . . .

This is an excerpt from my book in progress, “J.S. White: Our First Architect.

Milkman Finds Tam Elwell Dead

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Tam Elwell lived at 209 Avenue D, the second structure north from 2nd Street in the image above, circa 1885. Below is a blown up section of the historic image showing a gathering of men on horses and at least one carriage that we imagine is in front of Tam’s livery, which was next door to his home.

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Given the name Jacob Tamlin at birth in 1839, he was the eldest of ten children born in Maine to John Elwell and Eliza Crosby, and all ten siblings, along with their parents, migrated to the Puget Sound Country in the 1870s.

Tam and his wife Sarah gave birth to nine children, two of them after settling in Snohomish. At first, Tam worked in the family logging operations, but his passion grew to breeding horses. He is reputed to have brought the first carriage to Snohomish. By the time of his death in 1913, his livery operation on Avenue D was known throughout Snohomish County.

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Above: Tam Elwell’s livery operation on Avenue D.


Right: An ad for Elwell’s business published in a 1888 issue of The Eye. Not many early Snohomish residents could afford the expense of keeping a horse, much less, purchase a carriage. Instead, they rented a horse drawn rig when needed from a livery service such as Tam Elwell’s.


Tam Elwell was found dead in his home Sunday morning, where he had been living alone since the death of his wife Sarah, four years earlier. The obituary published in the Snohomish County Tribune on April 8, 1913, reads in part as if lifted from a mystery novel:

“The discovery was made by the milkman, who noticed that the milk he had left on Friday and Saturday had not been touched and that there were several unread newspapers on the porch. Looking through the window he saw Mr. Elwell sitting in his chair as though asleep.”

The funeral was held Wednesday afternoon at the Bakeman-Purdy undertaking parlor which was not nearly large enough to hold the massive turnout by the community. Tam was survived by five brothers, including Edgar who built his fancy home designed by the architect J. S. White, across the street in 1887; which he sold in 1901, and departed for the mines of Canada. At the time of the funeral, the home was being divided by the recently arrived architect Nels Peter Hansen, fashioning his family home in the southern half.

Tam’s body was escorted by the business leaders of Snohomish acting as pall bearers to his final resting place, alongside his wife, at the G.A.R. Cemetery, and where many of the Elwells are watched over by the steady gaze of a stone angel — one of the finest monuments on the well cared for grounds.

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Stone angel watching over the Elwells at the G.A.R. Cemetery.

. . . .

The Liberty Pole of 1892

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The liberty pole is visible in Gilbert Horton’s photograph above just right of center. The Masonic Lodge is on the left, across Avenue C from the Odd Fellows Hall. Joe Getchell’s home is on the other side of Knapp & Hinkley Livery whose roof appears on the right.

Joseph E. Getchell managed to keep his name out of the newspaper — since building “one of the finest residences in Snohomish” — until this item appeared in The Eye, February 10, 1892:

“The old liberty pole near Masonic hall was cut down this morning. It has for some time leaned toward the Getchell residence, and as the wood had begun to decay at the foot, it was felled as a measure of safety.”

According to a story in the first volume of River Reflections, published by the Snohomish Historical Society in 1976, the liberty pole was installed July 4, 1884. The Blackman Brothers, members of the Mason’s Centennial Lodge No. 25, donated the pole, a log really, which was 110 feet long, straight as an arrow with a golden ball 12 inches in diameter attached to the top. A two foot thick post was buried several feet into the ground directly in front of the entrance to the hall on 2nd Street, with 10 feet exposed above ground to which the pole was to be attached with heavy iron bands.

The raising ceremony of the liberty pole began at 10 o’clock in the morning. At 45 degrees, on its way to 90, the rigging jammed and it took the hero logger and former sailor Bill Foss climbing the rigging hand-over-hand to clear the jam-up, which he did safely, and up went the flagpole, raising to its 110 foot, highly varnished glory. At noon, the largest flag in Washington Territory was hoisted into place accompanied by the traditional gunpowder salute by the local Anvil Battery.

At some point over the eight year life of the flagpole, the Morton Post No. 10 of the Grand Army of the Republic assumed ownership and the Post demanded payment of $100 from Getchell to replace its flagpole. Getchell refused, said the pole was dangerous to his family and that he cut it down by authority of the City Council.

The Post raised another flagpole in July, several blocks up 2nd Street to Avenue A at the cost of only $20.00.

. . . .

Historic Chandelier Discovered Above Drop-ceiling

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Last month I invited readers to checkout our second essay, Odd Fellows Hall, 1886, written for a book project with photographer Otto Greule documenting pioneer architect J. S. White’s surviving structures from 19th-Century Snohomish.

It needs a new ending.

Just this weekend I’ve had the opportunity, along with Snohomish City’s Planning Manager Owen Dennison and my partner Mayor Karen, to checkout the historic lighting fixtures discovered above the acoustical drop ceiling system installed on the second floor of the historic hall.

The Eye described the interior of the hall in its April 24, 1886, issue in part:

“The floor is covered with a three-ply Brussels carpet of a very pretty figure, while a handsome burnished brass chandelier ornaments the center.”

For sure, no trace of the carpet remains, but above the drop ceiling, owners Nicole and Matt, discovered still hanging lamp fixtures — one in the center of the large open room, used for the lodge’s ceremonies, and two in the corners at the east end of the room. More research is required to date exactly the existing fixtures which are now electrically wired of course. During the era when the hall was built, 1885, it was uncertain if electric lighting would really displace gas.

With access to the attic, above the original ceiling, we would look for evidence of gas pipe installation. But one item that requires no more investigation is the floral themed chandelier medallion — it has to be original. A longer ladder will be needed to reach the medallion in order to determine what it’s made of, either wood or plaster.

My essay’s current ending, under the heading: “Building for Lease,” reads:

“The ponytailed man who renovated the historic structure in the late 1990s died, and ownership passed to his daughter in 2006. Lease negotiations with the realty company, once an owner and then a tenant for over 40 years, broke down. In 2013, both the realty company and the daycare center moved to new locations, while White’s Odd Fellows Hall sits empty and silent.

Since meeting Nicole, the “daughter” in the story above, I am happy to report that she is in negotiations with a party interested in the renting the building; and even happier to learn, that Nicole is exploring her options for historic restoration. It’s a brave intention.

We wish Nicole our best and look forward to following this story to its happy ending.

. . . .

Bids Wanted, circa 1885

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The call for bids appeared in the October 17, 1885, issue of The Eye on page three.

Wish we knew how many contractors answered the call. For all the good the Odd Fellows organization did and are doing, saving records is not one of them. In 2012, I tried to track down any records from the Snohomish Lodge and I came up empty handed except for meeting the wonderful couple of Frank and Betty Green.

From reading the accounts of circa 1885 Snohomish, I can remember coming across the names of only one contractor, A. H. Eddy; and one architect, P. Boyce — but J. S. White got the job.

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The Odd Fellows Hall, to the right of the Masonic Hall, was dedicated April 20, 1886. This scan of a newsprint photo by Gilbert Horton of the fraternal hall “face-off” across Avenue C was widely published. The Masonic Hall was built in 1879 and destroyed in 1958 by the members who sold the property as the parking lot it is today when the organization moved to it’s new building at 6th and Avenue B. Take note of the 100 foot plus flag pole, a very straight, long log, a little right of center — it has it’s own story.

. . . .

Christmas Greetings, 1901

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A newsprint copy of this rare historic photograph of a church service in progress was found in the Methodist church folder on file in the Snohomish Historical Society Archives, with the caption: “1901 was a good year to hold a Christmas pageant. This one at the First Methodist Church in Snohomish came complete with all the trimmings including ten angels on front stage. Photo, courtesy Everett Library Historical Collection.”

I contacted the always helpful David Dilgard, History Specialist with the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library, and he sent along a digital scan of the 4×5 inch negative of an original contact print in the Snohomish County Museum collection, now the Everett History Museum. The only information listed with the negative was the same as indicated above.

As to the service captured, evidently by a hobbyist, a proud parent most likely, it’s an intriguing mystery. Something to do with Advent, I guessed, and found a service called “Hanging of the Greens” that’s celebrated on the first Sunday of the four week Advent observance. Reader’s are invited to contribute their thoughts in the comments below.

A draft of the first essay of the J. S. White: Our First Architect, The Methodist Church, 1885 is available online

. . . .

When the Methodists Moved to be Higher Than the Catholics

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Working on the first essay of the J.S. White Story this past month, it appears that John and his wife Delia, along with their three daughters, Linnie, Alice and Elise, moved to Snohomish specifically to build the newly formed Methodist Congregation its own church.

Two newspapers reported that the White arrived in February 1884. Two months later, the April 12th issue of The Eye reports: “The Methodists of this place have purchased the vacant lot on the corner of C and Third streets and will shortly erect a church thereon.” Then in November we read: “About all of the lumber for the new Methodist church, which is to be built on the corner of D. and Third streets, is on the ground, and carpenters will commence work in a few days. Its dimensions are 28×50 feet.”

Further digging revealed that joining the Whites as Trustees of the new church, were Mr. and Mrs. Mudgett; and, Isaac Mudgett was born in the same New Hampshire town as John White. The Mudgetts arrived in town in 1883 and within two years they had a home in the Clay Addition on Avenue H, just a few doors North from where the White’s would build their family home. Isaac was a bootmaker by trade, but once settled in the Snohomish Valley, he added his own saw mill to the cluster of small, family run operations around Snohomish.

Without the exchange of letters between Isaac and John, we are left with our imagination to make the connection. But it’s also a matter of common sense to think that White had a promise of work before moving his family and household goods to this remote river front town.

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THEN: The Methodist and Catholic churches along Third Street photographed by Index resident Lee Pickett in 1910, just before the Methodists moved their church higher on the hill to its current location. The Methodist’s built the second church in Snohomish in 1885; and the Catholic Church was the third, dedicated in 1889.

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NOW: (Above) Looking west down Third with the Methodist Church on the corner of Avenue B. Architectural photographer Otto Greule is capturing the structure for our book project: J. S. White: Our First Architect, in 2009.

Karen and I renovated the former St Michael Catholic Church between the years of 1994 and 2000, when we moved to Snohomish. Several times we were told the story that the Methodists’ moved their church from Avenue C, up the hill, to B because they wanted to be higher than the Catholics. We laughed and got back to work.

Can you imagine that being the reason given in the church’s history, published in 1983, celebrating 100 years?

Of course not. It was because more room was needed to add a Sunday School and three lots on the southeast corner of Avenue B and Third were purchased in 1908. Two years later, White’s gentle structure was indeed moved uphill and placed on top of a full, concrete basement, that eventually included a kitchen. Church membership numbered around 200 at the time.

It served well until the 1980s, when it was clear that the historic structure was too small and five acres were purchased northwest of Blackman Lake. The 1983 account ends with completion of architectural plans for the new church — their current home.

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Captured from the internet in a search for “moving structures with horses.” Note the dirt path that was 3rd Street in the historic photo above — it was labeled “not fit for teams” on the Sanborn Insurance maps — meaning that it would be a tough go for the Fire Department horses pulling the pump and hoses!

. . . .