4. Emory Cecil (1881-1964)

snohomish stories

Your guess at Emory Cecil Ferguson’s age, captured in this handsome childhood portrait by the short-lived Snohomish studio of Barnes & Evans, is as good as mine.

Commonly known as Cecil, he was born in 1881 as the youngest child of Lucetta and Emory, and the only one with descendants living today in Snohomish.

It was not until he was 28 years old that Cecil married Clara Schlieve from Minnesota, but wasting no time, the couple had a growing family of three children ten years later — Emory Albrecht, Burdette Alonzo, and Madeleine — all graduates from Snohomish High School in the 1930s and living on Maple Avenue. A fourth child, Alvin Gordon, died shortly after birth in 1911.

snohomish storiesCecil and sons Burdette and Emory, 1950s
Partners in the family caning business, Ferg’s Finer Foods, produced product that they sold by the railroad car in its heyday.
All images courtesy of the Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives

All three children joined Cecil in establishing the Ferguson Cannery, located in a building that still stands and recently renovated for the new home of the Eagles Aerie #195. Incorporated in the 1950s, the family business became known as “Ferg’s Finer Foods” – even producing a tongue-in-cheek can of Puget Sound Air for the 1960 World’s Fair in Seattle. (You may read more about the cannery here.)

Clara died the following year and Cecil three years later in 1964, and the family operation he founded in 1914 soon came to an end.

Burdette, married Ruth Christensen in 1940, a union that gave birth to three children, all who were saved from a future in the canning business — working summers through their high schools years was enough.

Eldest daughter, Sharon Lee, lives today with her husband in Bellevue.

Middle child, Gary Howard married Penny Lu Hazeltine, daughter of Robert who was the first mail carrier in Snohomish.

And Bruce Allen married Marie McGlinchy, who with their children all grown, live today in the North Snohomish Train Depot, a replica station they built in 2007.

Both Gary and Bruce remember exploring what remained of the original 32 acre Ferguson Farm as kids, especially the stream, then called Ferguson Creek, that bordered the property. It’s called Swifty Creek today, a “daylighted” stream held safely behind cyclone fencing.


Gary Ferguson at the Snohomish Aquatic Center.
Gary is the great-grandson of E.C. Ferguson, founder of Snohomish.

Please leave a comment below with your guess of Cecil’s age in the cover photo above.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, April 16, 2014

3. Sylvia Lenfest (1869-1952)

ferguson family

We continue our celebration of the Snohomish Aquatic Center, located on the site where the Ferguson family home and farm once stood, with this story of Sylvia Ferguson’s marriage into early Snohomish’s leading Democratic family at a time when politics mattered most.

Not only was Sylvia raised in a solid Republican home, but her father, E. C. Ferguson, had just been through the bruising incorporation battle of 1890, that ended with him losing the mayoral election in a stunning upset to Hycranus Blackman, Democrat, and her future husband’s uncle. However, Blackman’s duration in office lasted only until the regular election later that year, when Ferguson was returned to office.

The wedding notice was published in The Eye, on November 28, 1891, it read:
“There was a wedding Tuesday at the residence of Mayor Ferguson who gave his daughter Sylvia’s hand in marriage to Mr. Elmer Lenfest, our county surveyor.”

Elmer Lenfest, along with his parents, Mary and Eugene, arrived in Snohomish the year Washington gained statehood. Mary Ursula was the older sister of the famous lumbermen, the Blackman Brothers, who moved to Snohomish in 1872 from Maine and six short years later each brother had a home on Avenue B. Only Hycranus’s has survived to become the Blackman House Museum at 118 Avenue B.

With statehood, Snohomish’s existing articles of incorporation under territorial law became invalid, so while Sylvia and Elmer got to know each other, lines were being drawn to define a larger city. Ferguson’s contentment with Snohomish continuing on as Village was not shared by the majority of voters. The tally was 360 to 21 for incorporation as a city of the third class in the election of June 16, 1890 – the same election that interrupted Ferguson’s continuous run as mayor.

We imagine it was not an idyllic setting to carry on a romance, especially with the daughter of the man referred to as our “tax-dodging leader” in the press. Contemporaneous historian, William Whitfield wrote, “ For the first time in its history Snohomish enjoyed all the thrills of city politics.” And he didn’t even mention the Ferguson/Lenfest courtship.

Perhaps a residue of hard feelings explains why it was not a big wedding held the following year, only “parties immediately interested” were invited. It certainly was not because Sylvia was great with child – the arrival of their only offspring, Norman, was a respectful three years off.

snohomish stories
From the Ferguson Album, c.1905. Left to right: Norman Lenfest, his mother Sylvia, grandmother Lucetta, Aunt Ivy and Uncle Cecil Ferguson, and his father Norman, pictured in the Ferguson family home, the historic site of the Snohomish Aquatic Center.
All images courtesy of the Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives

Sylvia and Elmer became a leading couple of Snohomish, active in both civic and social affairs. Elmer died in 1938, at the age of 74, while Sylvia continued one to reach her 82nd year. It’s Sylvia we have to thank for saving and donating many papers of her father’s and of the city to the Special Collections of the University of Washington Library.

Perhaps you’ll remember this story while walking against the current of the Lazy River, a surprisingly vigorous feature of the Aquatic Center, and that Sylvia lived and loved on this very spot, not so many years ago.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, March 18, 2014

2. The Ferguson Family

ferguson family

ABOVE: Ferguson Family Portrait, c.1890.
From the left: Ivy Maude, born 1875, Lucetta, Sylvia M., born 1869, Emory Canda, with son Cecil, born 1881, on his lap. Taken around the time the family moved into their new home, a mansion, located on the site of Snohomish Aquatic Center.

All images courtesy Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives.

Our story about the founding family of Snohomish began last month with a photograph taken by Ivy Ferguson of her family home. It was under construction in 1889, and it’s possible that this month’s studio portrait of the Ferguson family was taken to celebrate the move into their grand new residence .

Let’s imagine we are going to call on the family to pay our respects and offer our congratulations on their new home.

20100104-fergusoncardFirst, we need to check Mrs. E. C. Ferguson’s calling card to confirm that “Wednesday” is in the lower left hand corner – this is the day the lady of the house receives visitors. Next, we will need to rent a horse and carriage, assuming we don’t own our own rig, since the home is too far out of town to walk with any dignity remaining once we arrived.

The oldest livery in town is Knapp and Hinkley’s on 2nd, but who among us knows how to a handle a horse and buggy? Chris Gee, president of the our historical society has the equestrian skills required, and with a little faith in time travel, we arrive at the Ferguson Mansion, north of town where the Snohomish Aquatic Center will be built in a 118 years.

Eldest daughter, Sylvia, greets us at the door. She is quite tall, with piercing eyes and a slow, knowing smile lights up her face as she scans our strange clothes. Sylvia thinks a lot about the future. The gossip around town is that her father is footing the bill for her journey to Hawaii, a destination made popular by Mark Twain’s book “Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii in the 1860’s.” Sylvia attended the Territorial University in Seattle, studying the Classics, and is comfortably self-possessed.

ferguson family

Her mother, Lucetta, is playing the piano, loudly, a tune we don’t recognize of course, but she stops immediately and stands to greet us, making us feel very welcome. Seated in the front room, we try to follow her plans for more furnishings, since the room seemed stuffed to our modern eyes, but we are fortunately interrupted by Ivy who has entered with a tray of tea cups, pot and a plate of really tiny cakes.

Lucetta was born in Iowa to Mary Jane (Trout) and Hiram D. Morgan. By the time Lucetta Gertrude Morgan turned 11, the family was living in Olympia Washington Territory. Eight years later, she met Emory Ferguson during his service as a legislator. What a lucky break for both seasoned pioneers. An eligible woman from hardy stock meets the founder of his own town who now wants to found a family. They were joined in marriage, July 11, 1868, at the home of her parents in Thurston County.

“And I was born 13 months later,” announces Sylvia, stopping the conversation cold.

To be continued….

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, February 19, 2014