Brief History of Our Water System

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Mayor Karen hosted an event called, “Coffee With the Mayor” on her birthday, May 21, just last month. The gathering was held at the local library and I brought along my new Nikon D5200. A question about water rates and its complicated answer gave me the idea to do this short history about Snohomish’s water system. I learned a lot — the central reason for doing these stories every month — and knowing the background helps to understand the Mayor’s answer. Here’s a toast to clarity!



Awonderful story from The Eye, the local newspaper in 1892, about the Snohomish Water Company competing with the new city system had to be cut from the clip. Here is the voice-over script instead:

“The story in the paper goes that the owner Mr. Allen, paddled a dugout canoe with the editor of The Eye on board out to the center of lake to show him that the water is as clear as crystal and as cold as ordinary well-water — much better than the Pilchuck water when humpy salmon go up the stream looking for a quiet spot to end their days, Mr. Allen added. The company just needed financing to extend their pipe to the center of lake. The pitch failed to sway the writer who wrote that it would be a better deal for taxpayers to purchase the company’s pipes and either collect rent or plug them up.”

Your comments are encouraged and always acknowledged.

. . . .

NOTES: Thanks to Fred Cruger with the Granite Falls Historical Society for help locating the dams.
CORRECTION: The term “water rates” was first used in 1887, not 1878 as stated in the video. Please make a note of it.

Mary Low Sinclair (1842-1922)

mary low sinclair

A Sketch of Early Snohomish Life

By Mary Low Sinclair, published in the Snohomish County Tribune, November 24, 1911.

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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?

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“A small clearing in otherwise unbroken timber.”
Photo attributed to E.M. Sammis, a New York photographer on his way to Snoqualmie Falls in 1865.
E.C. Ferguson’s Blue Eagle Saloon is on the left, Sinclair’s “shack” is on the right, and the figure in the foreground could be Woodbury Sinclair, Mary Low’s husband.

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.

. . . .

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.

Ralph Tronsrud, Business Man

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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.

snohomish storiesRalph Tronsrud in 1924, wearing a white jacket and black bow tie, ready to service the first automobiles of Snohomish at his station 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.

snohomish stories 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! (Click image to enlarge)

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.

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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.

Ralph Tronsrud, 1950s
Ralph Tronsrud, 1950s

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 Tronsrud, Baseball Player

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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.

2016-03_joan-bob-shirt Joan and Bob Davis holding up Ralph Tronsrud’s baseball uniform.

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.

snohomish storiesThe 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.

snohomish stories Site of the Snohomish Ball Park, renamed Averill Field, as it appears in 2016.

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.

. . . .

Jennie + Lot Wilbur, 1868

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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.

snohomish storiesRiverside Outing by Snohomish’s Elite c.1885. Identified in this defaced photograph are Mrs. Horton on the left (the photographer’s wife), seated next to her is Jennie Wilbur and husband Lot is on the right; seated behind him is Eldridge Morse, co-founder and editor of “The Northern Star,” Snohomish’s first newspaper — where he coined the term “Snohomish’s elite.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY G.D. HORTON | SNOHOMISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY ARCHIVES

. . . .

Linnie (White) Sprau, 1876-1930

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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.

snohomish storiesThe White graves at Woodlawn Cemetery.

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.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

Season’s Greetings from 1895

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This Christmas card, signed by the Lenfest family, is held in the archives of the Snohomish Historical Society, and it’s one of several cards left behind when the Blackman/Ford families sold their home at 118 Avenue B to the Society in 1969, which is now the Blackman House Museum.

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Three of Snohomish’s Leading Families: (first row) Norman Lenfest (1893-1978); (second row from left) Lucetta (Morgan) Ferguson, (1849-1907); Mary Trout Morgan (1829-1903); Hiram Morgan (1822-1906); E.C.Ferguson (1833-1911); third row, left) Sylvia (Ferguson) Lenfest (1869-1952); and Elmer Lenfest (1864-1938).

. . . .

Video: Ferguson’s Cottage

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Part 1:

David Dilgard, history specialist with the Everett Public Library and co-founder of its Northwest Room, first came across the name “E.C. Ferguson” in Norman Clark’s history of Everett, “Mill Town.” From then on, the name would come up frequently in old newspapers, several times in reference to Ferguson’s first house in Snohomish and David suspected that it may still be standing. If so, it would not only be the first structure built on the future site of Snohomish of milled lumber, but also one of the oldest in the state.

He found it and confirmed its authenticity in 1981.

. . . .

Part 2:

Rebecca Loveless purchased Ferguson’s Cottage around 1997 without knowing that it was the first residence of the future City of Snohomish.

The late Everett Olson showed me the structure just before Rebecca’s purchase and at first glance it had the look of a tear-down. The condition evidently did not deter Rebecca as she proceeded to add a new kitchen in the old storage room, along with a new roof, paint job for the original siding and has had no trouble renting the charming, up-to-date home since.

Following Rebecca’s account, we are treated to a tour inside the home by its current residents, Andrea and Kevin Springer with young son Bill in tow.

. . . .

NOTES: The Journal mentioned by David is a useful source on E.C. Ferguson’s founding of Snohomish and is available in your local library:“Adventures of Old Ferg” by David Dilgard, “Journal of Everett & Snohomish County History,” Number 2, Summer 1981 & Number 3, Winter 1982, Publish by the Everett Public Library, 1981.

. . . .

The First Residence

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2014-05_trib-web“The above building was the first dwelling built in Snohomish. It was the residence of the Hon. E. C. Ferguson and was constructed of material brought from Fort Steilacoom mill by boat.

Mr. Ferguson moved into his residence on the first day of March 1860 at which time he located his homestead upon which most of the present site of Snohomish now stands. He occupied this dwelling up until 1880 when his new residence was completed in the northern portion of the city.

The old house of Mr. Ferguson is still standing and habitable. It is located on the bank of the Snohomish river between A and Union avenues. The photograph shows Mr. Ferguson in the chair, M. J. McGuinness, the present owner, standing, and James Burton sitting on the porch.”

This story above was published in the obituary edition of the Snohomish County Tribune, October 13, 1911, under the head: “Hon. E.C. Fergusons first residence.”

. . . .

Calling Members of SHS 1942

June Gregory

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.



. . . .

Harvey Heritage Destroyed

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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.

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Going: 2012
This is when I learned from Kandace Harvey, owner of the Harvey Airfield, that she could not restore the historic home since it was in a flood plain and the county would not permit building a new foundation. I contacted Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers, and he contacted the appropriate people to work with Kandace Harvey….

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Going: 2014
…. two years later, the structure had only sunk further. (Kandace Harvey has not responded to my invitation to include her side of the story.)

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Gone: August 27, 2015.
The heavy equipment stands on the site as if on a grave, preventing the historic home from rising up.

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.

. . . .

Let’s Go Down-to-Camp Again!

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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.

. . . .

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.

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Brighton Beach at Clinton, Whidbey Island, 1914.
Several tents are visible in this image, which is how the habitation of this summer place began. Off the left hand frame are the cabins of the Blackman Families, still in use though expanded and updated over the years. The first structure in view on the left is the Lenfest Cabin, built in the early 1900s by Elmer and Sylvia. Elmer was the son of the Blackman sister, Mary and Eugene Lenfest; while Sylvia was the first daughter born to Emory and Lucetta Ferguson. In the center, is the cabin built by the Morgans, Lucetta’s parents, currently owned by descendants of the Bakeman family. The image documents a dramatic slide of the hillside behind the cabins, one of many through the years.

Online: “Clinton landside claims another Brighton Beach cabin.” Includes close-up image of the Wood family cabin.

. . . .

More Decorated Bikes and Less Boom! Boom! Booms!

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This month’s historic photo from the Ferguson Family Album leaves me wondering when the decorated bike parades celebrating the Fourth of July ended in Snohomish, and the shopping mall parking lots began, spawning tents selling “small explosive devices primarily designed to produce a large amount of noise, especially in the form of a loud bang; any visual effect is incidental to this goal?” (Wikipedia).

“I remember well the first Fourth of July celebration in Snohomish,” begins city founder, E.C. Ferguson’s remembrance, as recorded in the Everett Daily Herald, February 6, 1902. “It was in 1861 and on the day, without following any preliminary or elaborate program, I took the old Yeger musket that the government furnished in those days to its frontier army — and going outside, blazed away, volley after volley til I thought the day had been suitably observed, and then returned the musket to its accustomed corner. It was a patriotic observance of the day, though there was no one present or within hearing but myself to participate.”

One or two high-wheel bicycles, nicknamed “penny-farthing,” may have been in town on July 2, 1887, but certainly not enough for a parade, when The Eye, published this somber Fourth of July Program:

  • National Salute at sunrise.
  • Music by the Pacific band at 9:30 a.m. on Front street.
  • Exercises on the ground will commence at 10:20:
    Music by the band.
    Prayer by Rev. A. Marcellus.
    Vocal music by the quartette.
    Reading of the Declaration of Independence by J. L. Griffth.
    Vocal music by the quartette.
    Oration by Hon. O. Jacobs.
    Music by the band.
  • Dinner.
  • Races and other sports.
  • Fireworks, Balloon ascension and grand ball in the evening.
  • Sweet cider at Crossman’s.
  •  

    snohomish StoriesA decorated bike parade in 1907 looked promising with the discovery of this half page ad in the June 28 issue of the Snohomish County Tribune.
    (Click thumbnail to enlarge.)
    A column above the ad with the subhead “Decorated for the Celebration” boosted this promise, but alas, no mention of a bike parade. Instead, the copy reads in part: “All arrangements have been completed for the track meet and other sports, such as log rolling, bucking contest, amateur contests, and all other sports. Most of the business houses on First street have signified their willingness and intention of decorating and what would make a better impression on visitors than to see all the stores and offices, as well as private residences, decorated with evergreens and national colors.”
     

    Snohomish Fourth Celebration Quiet as a Quaker Meeting,” reads a subhead in 1910. This is the year Snohomish dedicated its Carnegie Library, seems the town went suddenly studious. In Everett, on the other hand, the celebration got out of hand, according to the story in the Tribune:

    “Thirty thousand people pushed and mauled one another on Hewitt Avenue. The air was full of talcum powder and flour which the unmindful people threw on one another without thought of clothes, or danger to eyes. The fire department drenched the mad joy seekers with a three inch stream. One offensive fellow was locked up and two thousand madcaps rushed to his rescue, overpowering the police and breaking the windows of the station house.”

    Reading this, it seems selling fireworks from a tent in the parking lot shows a slow evolution over the years toward a more composed celebration.

    Along with the newspaper ads and our photograph from the Ferguson Family Album, are the only records we have that decorated bicycle parades were once-upon-a-time a big deal in Snohomish. No less an authority on all things decorated than Martha Stewart reports online that tricked-out bikes have been parading down Main Street on the Fourth in Telluride, Colorado, for 130 years. (You may enjoy the slide show.)

    In any event, may all your Booms! be safe ones this year.

    . . . .

    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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    2015-05_elwell-ad-1888


    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

    snohomish stories

    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.

    . . . .

    What’s with the Goat?

    snohomish stories

    When the Odd Fellows took over the town of Snohomish to mark the 73rd Anniversary of its organization in America, it was front page news in the April 30, 1892, issue of The Eye.
    snohomish stories
    The procession began at the lodge hall on Second and Avenue C, led by a 16 member band and the “historical Goat, which on this occasion wore a Past Grand collar and attracted much attention.” The route took them down Avenue D to First Street, (referred to as “Front Street” in those days), turning left at Cedar, again at Second, then Maple and back down to First, coming to a stop facing the opera house, (Athenaeum or Cathcart Hall), where our local photographer, Frank Perry captured the impressive gathering pictured below.

    snohomish storiesTHEN: 73rd Anniversary of Odd Fellows in America, photographed by F.Perry in Snohomish on April 26, 1892.

    snohomish stories
    NOW: First Street, between Avenues C and D. Only the Wilbur Drug Store building remains, home to the American Legion Post 96, who also owns the parking lot and the former gas station building leased by Andy’s Fish House.

    Inside the opera house, every chair was taken facing the huge American flag covering the entire wall behind the stage. Following the musical opening, W. W. Hewitt’s three raps with the gavel brought the large audience to its feet, when Rev. Mr. Feese offered the prayer. With the audience seated, he followed with some lively remarks, including a “deserved tribute to the Goat who had borne himself so majestically through the parade.”

    Following another song by the choir, Past Grand Representative Kelly of Minnesota spoke of the origin of the order going all the way back to the middle ages, but that it was a “modern organization.” To illustrate his point to the overflowing crowd, he told of more recent beginnings with English working men holding meetings for “social intercourse and hilarity,” but they always came to the aid of a fellow in distress. “From this nucleus Odd Fellowship spread, and was introduced in America 73 years ago by Thomas Wilde,” The Eye’s report continues.

    Seventy-three years later, the American order has more than 700,000 members, and it expends $3,000,000 annually in charity. “Odd Fellowship, said the speaker, closes its doors to atheists, and no man can join unless he is white and believes in God.” However, Odd Fellows was the first national fraternity to accept women when it formed the Daughters of Rebekah in 1851.

    “The ball in the evening was one of the finest ever given in this latitude,” reported The Eye, with its entertaining style: “When it came to dancing the first quadrille, twenty-five sets took the floor. The goat, however was not there.”

    . . . .

    Bids Wanted, circa 1885

    snohomish stories

    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.

    snohomish stories
    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

    snohomish stories

    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

    snohomish stories

    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.

    pickett_methodist-web
    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.

    snohomish stories
    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.

    snohomish stories
    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!

    . . . .

    White Family Arrives, 1884

    snohomish stories

    Above: Stern-wheeler Nellie at Ferguson’s Wharf, 1877.
    The building behind Ferguson’s is Cathcart’s Exchange Hotel; and, the dirt path to the right is Avenue D — much improved by the the time the White family arrived seven years later.

    . . . .

    John S. White arrived in Snohomish aboard a slow steamer followed by a weak wake of records going back to his birth on July 13, 1845, in the small town of Tamworth, New Hampshire.

    The 1870 Census recorded White living in Walnut, Butler County, Kansas, age 25, single, working as a house carpenter and living in a hotel kept by his future wife’s brother, Charles Lamb.

    January 1871, John S. White married Delia R. Lamb, daughter of Galand Lamb and Lucy Weston, in Kansas. Delia was born about 1853 in Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana.

    The 1880 Census listed John, his wife Delia and daughters Linnie and Alice living in Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, where he was a carpenter.

    White’s young family, now including a third daughter, Elise, disembarks from the steamer by way of a precarious plank connecting the ship to the wharf. There, Delia huddles with her daughters, watching, as the picturesque tableau of people who were waiting for the steamer is now animated and it’s chaos. People shouting, dogs barking, horse-drawn buggies and carts jockeying for a position to load, and operators of a dozen Indian canoes jockey for a job hauling the Boston’s cargo. The stack of household trunks and packages that John has assembled behind his family is beyond our imagination. Still, they stand, watching, frozen — for an instant, they are a living monument to evidence that there is life outside Snohomish.

    The White’s new home town is a self-sustaining settlement sited in the sunshine on the south-facing bank of the river that gave this place its name. Located some dozen miles upriver from its fast growing rival, the port city of Everett on Port Gardner Bay to the west; but in February, 1884, Snohomish is not only the county seat, but it’s also home to two roller skating rinks.

    . . . .

    Photographer Otto Greule

    otto greule

    Exhibition of Photographs: Ten Surviving Structures by
    J. S. White from 19th-Century Snohomish by Otto Greule

    Along with the following programs at the Snohomish Library
    311 Maple Avenue

    Thursday, 10/23 at 7p —
    “Making the Photographs”
    with Seattle Architectural Photographer Otto Greule
    Free including refreshments
    Checkout the story in the Herald!

    snohomish stories Snohomish History Buffs Rewarded with Sunshine!
    Thanks to all for showing up and helping me with the expenses of this month-long event.

    Sunday, 10/26 at 2p —
    Guided Walking Tour of J.S. White’s 19th Century Snohomish
    with yours truly — suggested donation $10, space is limited —

    J. S. White’s Family Home, 1888

    Above: J.S. White’s Family Home.
    Built in 1888 at 310 Avenue H, John S. White, and his wife Delia (Lamb), raised their family of three daughters in this modest home. White died here on October 17, 1920, following a long illness. Seattle photographer Otto Greule captured this storybook image early one morning in 2011.

    . . . .

    Looking at the 1890 bird’s-eye illustration below, it could be said that all of Snohomish was built without permits. There are no construction records from this time. Only the sale and purchase of property was recorded in General Indexes maintained by the County Auditor.

    A researcher has to turn to the gossip pages of the early newspapers to learn who was building what for whom. Fortunately for this researcher, my historic person of interest, J.S. White, was a busy architect/builder of businesses and homes for the leaders of early Snohomish, and his doings were noted in The Eye and later in the Snohomish County Tribune.

    A favorite example is from the January 1, 1892, issue of The Eye where the arrival of council members is reported: “Councilman-at-Large White arrived next. He lives in Claytown and carries a lantern.”

    A little background is required to appreciate the editor’s jibe.

    js white story image
    Bird’s Eye View of Snohomish, 1888.

    Legally known as the Clay Addition, Claytown shows up in the bird’s-eye view above as the cluster of homes on the left-hand side. The undeveloped eight-block area between Avenues H and D is Ferguson’s 2nd Addition – lots that he was planing on selling at higher prices, it seems, once railroad travel was established in Snohomish. The “Eye Man” as the editor of The Eye referred to himself, rarely missed an opportunity to remind readers of the workings inside Ferguson’s Snohomish Land Company.

    But it’s the picture created of White walking through Ferguson’s empty lots, on a moonless night, (some council meetings stretched to midnight), enclosed by a flickering aura of bobbing lantern light, that captures the imagination.



    And it’s on this note that the printed version of this column will end. “Snohomish Then and Now” began publishing in the Tribune, January 2007. I appreciate the publisher and editor’s support for sharing the photos and stories of Snohomish’s then-and-now over the past seven years.

    Snohomish Stories will continue here with excerpts from the book I will be writing about J. S. White. My goal is for the words to match the quality of Otto Greule’s portraits of White’s surviving structures from 19th Century Snohomish.

    Otto’s work will be featured in an exhibition at our library for the month of October, 2014. Please save the Thursday evenings of October 2nd and 23rd for presentations by David Dilgard and Otto Greule respectfully.

    David is our favorite carpetbagger, as he refers to himself, from the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room, who travels frequently upriver with his magic lantern, showing and telling stories of our city’s beginnings. And on the 23rd, also at 7p., Otto will give a presentation about his process of photographing White’s structures.

    Wrapping up the month long exhibition, I will led a 90 minute walking tour of J.S. White’s 19th Century Snohomish, on Sunday, October 26, leaving from the Snohomish Library Branch on Maple Avenue at 2p. sharp.

    . . . .

    Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 17, 2014

    Blackman Grocery Store, 1889

    snohomish stories

    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!

    snohomish storiesArtist rendering of a First Street urban renewal proposal in 1965. Implementing this plan would have prevented Snohomish’s downtown from being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

    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.

    snohomish storiesBorn in the State of Maine in 1865, Arthur’s family settled in Oakland, California when he was only 11 years old. At age 20, Arthur set out for Snohomish arriving on Christmas day, 1885.

    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.”

    . . . .

    Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, August 20, 2014