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.
By 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.
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.
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This is an excerpt from my book in progress, “J.S. White: Our First Architect.“
Eunice Blackman is pictured above in her costume for the Illuminated Bicycle Parade, the featured event of a day-long celebration. Eunice grew up in the house that is now the Blackman House Museum with her brother, Clifford, and parents, Ella and Hyrcanus.
Snohomish no longer celebrates the Fourth with a community gathering. Over 100 years ago the city moved its community celebration to the middle of July, and it has been called KlaHaYa Days since the 1930s.
Note in the schedule below, that First Place for the “Best Decorated Wheels” in the Illuminated Bicycle Parade is awarded $10!* Wonder how many people were looking at the wheels when Eunice peddled by?
*In 2015, the relative value of $10.00 from 1899 ranges from $248.00 to $9,110.00.(MeasuringWorth.com)
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A Sketch of Early Snohomish Life
On the first day of May, 1865, a small, unfinished steamer, The Mary Woodruff, slowly made her way against the strong current of the river, having left Port Madison, Kitsap county, the day before, with the families and household goods of W. B Sinclair and I.C. Elles, who were removing to Cadyville, as it was then called. Mr. Sinclair had bought out Cady the December previous and started a small trading post. Ellis also began logging for the Puget Mill Co. at the same time, building his camp in the dense forest near where the E.C. Ferguson home now stands. As the steamer landed at the gravel bank near the foot of Maple street, a small clearing appeared in the other wise unbroken timber. The town consisted of a rough log house on the bank, in which supplies were stored. The store farther back was a 12×16 shack. The old building still standing 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. During forty-seven years the Sinclair house has stood, the roof never having been renewed.
The original home of E.C. Ferguson is still standing, having been remodeled and now belongs to M.J. McGuinness.
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 no privation, soon began to make things look homelike. A large fire place assisted materially in clearing the door yard, in which later bloomed old-fashioned flowers–Sweet Williams, Marigolds and Hollyhocks. There was no time to be lonesome; the frogs sang cheerily in the near-by 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 bacon of their own curing. For two years there was no regular steamer outside, and the only fruit obtainable was wild berries. But living was cheap and good, and not a butcher shop within forty miles. the Indian wives of the ranchers made sociable calls on their white neighbors, conversing in mingled Boston, Chinook and Siwash wawa (talk). One of the aristocracy, Mrs. Jenny, dressed in red cotton velvet, surprised the hostess by asking for patterns of the latest fashions in clothes. Julia also came, young and buxom, the third wife of Jack Pillchuck, with her first born, Haqueos, sitting on a basket of blackberries carried on her back. Occasionally wild Indians, Klikitats, insisted on coming in to see the white women and babies.
The storekeeper, while blazing a trail up Pillchuck to get the cattle into their winter forage of rushes, cut his foot severely, limped home and with second aid dressed and sewed up the wound. One morning a hurry call came. A man had taken poison by mistake, but a pot of strong coffee and a basket of eggs saved his life. The first burial was that of a drowned stranger, who was laid to rest under a large cedar tree. Mr. Ferguson read the English burial service, and on the home-made coffin rested a simple bunch of daisies among the evergreens. Could the elaborated floral offerings of today express more?
Some one said: “Write something funny.” Life was too serious, amid such surroundings to be comical. The spirit of the Indians, perhaps, who paddled their canoes silently in the dusky shadows, and spoke in low tones, lest the Stick Siwashes (ghosts) came down and caught them. One Sunday two farmers with their native helpmates came to trade, bought $50 worth, and said it was time to go home, but those stubborn creatures sat on a log outside and would not move until an additional $10 shawl was given each. About dark Frenchy and Jake surrendered. It was dangerous to have words with the cook in those days, for after doing so a man came home to dinner and found his hanging to the limb of a crabapple tree. As the country began to settle up the town began to take on airs. The front of one house was painted. A man in a white shirt astonished the natives, as did the first horseman passing through. Finally an ox cart, with great wooden wheels was heard, as well as seen on the street. Clark Ferguson was the fortunate owner.
E.C. Ferguson found a bride in Olympia. Samuel Howe met his promised wife in Victoria. She left her English home and braved a five thousand mile sea voyage via Cape Horn to join the lover of her youth in making a new home in the wilderness. E.D. Smith, of Lowell, married Miss Margaret Getchell in San Francisco. She came out from Maine across the isthmus. W.M. Ward and wife, the Blackmans, J.N. Low and many other important families arrived. Our pleasures were few and simple, but none the less enjoyed
On Sunday afternoons, gathered in the first school house, we would repeat the Lord’s Prayer. Mr. Ward led the singing, which was followed by an original address by some one in the audience on moral, religious or philosophic topics. Varied social diversions at the homes promoted good will and friendship.
The early settlers will all soon have crossed the river, and have been forgotten, but while life lasts the associations and friendships of those early times will never be forgotten.
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NOTES: Photograph of Mary Low Sinclair was taken by the LaRoche Studio in Seattle, dated 1905, courtesy University Libraries Special Collection #26773.
Read more about Mary Low Sinclair on HistoryLink.org.
Bob Davis is standing in front of his grandfather’s former gas station and holding a photograph of him wearing a bow tie and white jacket as the owner of the first gas station in Snohomish on the corner of 1st and Cedar.
Yes the charming little red brick building that many have asked what was it built for? And now we know. With the first autos, gas was available only in cans at the hardware store. Knowing that, it’s easy to imagine how driving up and asking, “Fill it up,” plays a developmental role in our love affair with the automobile.
Within five years, Ralph is promoting the addition of a hydraulic lift with this dramatic ad published in the Snohomish County Tribune on March 3, 1929. It invites readers to: “Bring Your Car in and See How “She” Looks Underneath” — sounds like an invitation to first base of the affair to me!
The lift looks to be outside, but it was before Bob’s time so he doesn’t know its location. The building is best known as the office of the Thurston Insurance Agency, but now serves as the office for the Feather Ballroom in the former Eagles Hall across the street.
In the 1940s, Ralph opened a larger station on 2nd Street at Maple, where the SnoTown Brewery and Ixtapa Restaurant are located today. In addition to playing baseball with the Snohomish Indians for many years, Ralph served as president of the local association that sponsored the team and built the ball park featured in last month’s story.
Opening the new gas station with his son Neil prevented Ralph from continuing on as an elected council member and after ten and half years of service he resigned. For several years Ralph was the Mayor pro-tem, sitting in for the elected Mayor when needed.
His daughter Lorraine married Hugh Davis and Bob was born in 1947. In 1951, Bob’s family moved to Yakima, where his father got in on the ground floor of the local television business. Four years later his mother was stricken with a severe case of polio, just a few months before the Salk vaccine became available. Immediately the grandparents sold everything, including the Union Station on 2nd Street, and moved to Yakima to care for Bob, his brother Jim, and their baby sister, who was only three years old at the time.
In 1976, when Bob, Joan and their two daughters were living in Seattle, Ralph came for a visit, and Bob drove his grandfather to look up one of his old team mates, Eddie Blau, from the Kirkland team, circa 1904/10, “and the two 80 year olds had a grand time reminiscing – and remembering all the details — of their great plays,” Bob tells me with wet eyes.
Ralph died two years later on March 7, 1978, in Yakima, he was 86 years old. I couldn’t find an obituary for him in our local paper.
Ralph is pictured above with his two grandsons, Bob, age 5 on the left, and Jim, age 4 — all suited up for the Snohomish Indians’ Old Timers Game of 1952.
“This is my favorite picture,” Bob said, showing it to me last of seven photographs. We were meeting at the Snohomish Bakery to accept a gift of the photographs and Ralph’s baseball uniform for the Snohomish Historical Society. “I’m keeping the jock strap,” confessed Bob, confidentially.
Ralph began playing baseball in the 20s when Snohomish had a real baseball stadium right here in town, where the Boys and Girls Club, the skate park, playground and the closed Hal Moe Pool are located.
The Snohomish Ball Park, on 2nd Street, between Maple Street and the Centennial Trail.
The Snohomish Ball Park hosted the annual, “Averill Day game celebrating the return home of the local player, who is now starring with Cleveland Indians of the American League,” reported the Tribune on October 13, 1932. “The stands and field were jammed with fans from all over the Northwest here to see the game,” the account continued. Ralph’s brother, Ing, played first base while Ralph went in to catch.
Best guess is that I’m standing about where center field might have been in the old stadium, close to where the photographer of the historic photo from 1932 stood. The Boys and Girls Club’s building is to my back. The bleachers were removed to build the pool in 1973, and the baseball diamond was reduced for Little League play. Use of Averill Field for the skate park and the youth center was approved by city council in 2000.
What to do with the long closed Hal Mo Pool is currently under consideration by the Hal Mo Pool Advisory Committee, which meets monthly at the Senior Center through June 2016. Follow this link to learn more.
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Jennie and Lot Wilbur celebrated their wedding anniversary on April 8th; she was 24 years old and he was two years younger when they got married in 1868. The Michigan State marriage register for Calhoun County, with penmanship fit for a wedding invitation, lists Charles Proot and his wife as witnesses to the Wilbur’s union.
The union produced no children, but together they established the first drug store of Snohomish County at the corner of First Street and Avenue C, where their two-story brick building still stands.
Not so lucky for their three-story home on the corner of Second and Avenue B. It was on a hill, overlooking the town sprouting up on the north bank of the river, but was moved in three pieces and the hill lowered to street level for an automobile dealership.
Fortunately, it was long after they had stopped celebrating their wedding anniversaries — Jennie was gone in 1919, and Lot died in 1930.
PHOTOGRAPH BY G.D. HORTON | SNOHOMISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY ARCHIVES
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Pictured around the time of her marriage to Charles Sprau in the 1920s, this is the only known photograph of any member of the J.S. White family, that settled in Snohomish when Linnie was only eight years old. She was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Delia and John White as their first of three daughters.
Alice White was born around 1879 and Elsie in 1882, both in Topeka, Kansas, as well.
The family arrived in Snohomish in February, 1884, where it seems, John, as an architect and contractor, had a commission to build a church for a newly formed Methodist congregation where John and Delia served as trustees and remained members until their deaths.
Linnie was one of four graduates of Snohomish High School in 1889, a year after moving into the family’s new home at 310 Avenue H. She worked as a bookkeeper for the popular grocery store Bruhn & Henry. In 1906, Linnie married Charles Sprau and the 1920 Census recorded the couple living on a fruit farm in Chelan County, Washington. They did not have children.
Ten years later, the census showed Linnie living with her mother in the family home on Avenue H, while her husband was lodging across town. Apparently she was ill and her mother was caring for her. Linnie died in 1930, ten years after her father, who also died at home. Linnie was buried on the 13th of May at Woodlawn Cemetery alongside her sisters Alice, who died in 1898, and Elise, 1928.
On March 6, 1933, Delia White passed and was laid to rest with her daughters in a spot high on the hill overlooking the Snohomish River. John was cremated in Seattle and the location of his remains are not known but our imagination has the family members together again.
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Thanks to our favorite genealogist, Ann Tuohy, for her workup of the White Family; and to Dave Sprau for the photograph that included Linnie in a multi-family pose.
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June Gregory is certain she has found all of the members of Snohomish High graduating class of 1942, that are still among the living. “Our group is getting smaller every year,” she tells me, when I finally accept her invitation to join the 73rd Annual Reunion at Hill Park Picnic Shelter around noon on September 9th.
Of course, the class of 1942 has held reunions on the conventional schedule through the years, but 11 years ago, June, proposed to the dwindling numbers that they meet every year for a picnic lunch. “At first some still wanted go to a restaurant,” claims June, “but all seem to agree now that this is much less fuss.”
Five women and eight men of the class showed up this year, and just like high school, most of the men gathered at one end of the table and the women at the other. The group was joined by spouses, family members, even some who graduated in different years.
All were welcomed, including me with my movie camera.
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Pictured above is the “White House,” as it’s referred to by Donna Harvey, who wrote of her memories growing up in the home.
The image dates from around 1910, shortly after it was built by Nobel Harvey to use as a barn, even though it looked like the home it would become one day. The young person in the center is Eldon Harvey, who eventually raised his family in the structure. Behind him stands his mother, Edith White Harvey and next to her is Nobel, son of John who homesteaded the claim in 1859. Standing on the left is Maude Wheeler, a cousin, and alongside her is Bunny Bunstead, a family friend.
This significant piece of the Harvey Family heritage, empty of life for over 50 years, and listing badly to the south, was quickly demolished and disappeared into several large dumpsters during the last week of August 2015.
Doing all we can to preserve our historic structures is vital because of the stories our old buildings tell us. You may download the pdf of Donna Harvey’s Memories of the White House.
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While the 2014 Oso mudside got all the attention, a smaller slide destroyed one, maybe two, historic beachfront cabins on Brighton Beach, Whidbey Island, which shares historic roots with the city of Snohomish reaching back to the 1890s. The photo above is from the Ferguson family album documenting their summer days at the beach. Let’s revisit a story I wrote in August 2009, about going down-to-camp.
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Just as the leading families of Early Snohomish would do, we are going “down-to-camp” for the month of August.
Perhaps beginning as early as 1890, all three Blackman families would board a steamer at Snohomish and head down river loaded with tents, cots, and 30 days worth of supplies. The boat would head out into Possession Sound, past Hat Island, and aim for the sunniest beach on Whidbey Island. The overdressed passengers joyfully set up a row of tents along a narrow beach hemmed in by an unscaleable bluff of thick green woods.
The name “Camper’s Row” remains to this day. Even though a very steep road now allows the contemporary camper to park closer to the beach, it’s still necessary to walk-in, past several cabins to reach your destination.
I am looking for the cabin called “Drift-Inn” where I am to meet co-owner and author Frances Wood. We became acquainted several years ago when she visited the Blackman House Museum and introduced me to her book, “Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island.” The story begins when Nina Blackman arrives in Snohomish to begin teaching school and she stays with her cousin Hyrcanus Blackman’s family in the home that is now our museum. But her stay was short, for within the year, she married Charles Bakeman, an early Snohomish furniture maker who responded to the demand for coffins by becoming an undertaker. Saving that story for another time, the union gave birth to Inez who is Frances’s grandmother.
Frances’s story reveals another wonderful fact about our famous Blackman brothers: they had an older sister, Mary Ursula. With her husband Eugene and their son Elmer, the family arrived in Snohomish around the same time as Nina. Trained as a civil engineer, Elmer landed a job immediately as the city and county surveyor. Next, Elmer met and married Sylvia Ferguson, Emory and Lucetta’s eldest. With the birth of their only child, Norman, the Lenfest family eventually out grew tent camping and built a cabin on the beach around the time their son turned eight.
Online: “Clinton landside claims another Brighton Beach cabin.” Includes close-up image of the Wood family cabin.
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In the late 1940s, an automobile dealership on the south side of First Street collapsed toward the Snohomish River, its foundation compromised by continued flooding. A block-long row of connected, one-story storefront buildings, built of local brick, was condemned and sat empty for nearly twenty years.
During this time, Snohomish’s main drag moved to Second Street, which was extended to reach the new U.S. Route 2, north of town — splitting the old cemetery in two. By the 1960s, however, the question on business leader’s minds was how to bring people back into our empty downtown? Urban renewal funds supported a study that recommended tearing down all of the old buildings on the river side of First Street, along with those condemned two decades before, then update the remaining buildings to give Snohomish the look of a Riverside Shopping Mall!
An editorial on October 28, 1965, summed it up this way: “Snohomish hasn’t sunk that low, yet.”
Two buildings designed by J. S. White would have been lost with that scheme: the A. M. Blackman Grocery Store (913 First) and Wilbur’s Drugstore Building (1201 First). Gone, too, would have been at least two stories about the flourishing of frontier Snohomish. The Lot Wilbur story is told here. It’s Arthur M. Blackman’s turn this month.
Since the California Blackman’s had grocery store business experience in their background, we suspect that the Snohomish cousins requested Arthur’s help in opening Blackman’s first grocery store at the northeast corner of Avenue C and First.
Within in a couple of years, however, Arthur was ready to open his own store and commissioned the contractor J.S. White to build the handsome building that is currently home to the Oxford Saloon.
Arthur’s grocery store failed in 1894, as did a lot of businesses, victims of the 1893 nationwide depression.
“Then it was a furniture store, a shoe store, and became the Oxford Pool Room during the Prohibition,” reported David Dilgard, History Specialist with the Everett Public Library on his 2006 walking tour, “and apparently began its career as a tavern during the Second World War.”
It was on David’s tour that I first heard the name “J. S. White.”
Arthur turned to logging work on the river until appointed Snohomish Postmaster in 1896, serving with distinction until his retirement in 1913. He died in 1929, but records are not clear if he is buried in Everett or in our local GAR Cemetery where a simple stone marker with his name is holding a spot alongside his wife Adeliza, who preferred to be called “Buddy.”
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