#5. The Election: Going Down to Camp

snohomishstories image

snohomish stories imageCast of Imaginary Characters:
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

. . . .

The steamer Nellie carried a party of excursionists, numbering in all twenty-five persons to a point on Whidby island a short distance south of Holmes’ Harbor, where they have been enjoying themselves camping out, hunting, fishing, etc. The Eye, August 30, 1884.

The talk of Mayor Hardwick’s rescue, or ascension as it’s mockingly called, began while waiting for the tide to recede and take the giddy passengers downriver to camp. Steamship Nellie was filling up with the usual characters and their bulky camping gear. Their destination was a strip of beach a short distance across Possession Sound at the base of a steep bluff.

snohomish stories image
 
 
Edith Blackman, arrived in Puget Sound country with the Blackman families’ migration from Maine in 1872, as a babe in arms. (Snohomish Historical Society)
 
 
 
 

Young Edith Blackman held the rapt attention of a cluster of young women leaning in to hear her undercover eye-witness account of the action. From time to time, Edith would wear pants, which gave her access to public events without drawing attention to her gender. Following every word was Sylvia Ferguson, the first child of E. C. and Lucita; it was her father who lost the election to Reverend Hardwick. Her bright eyes seemed stuck open as she listened to Edith’s vivid telling of the newly elected, nearly naked mayor rising up in the excavation basket.

“What happened to his clothes?” she asked.

“This woman they call Missus Something-or-other removed his trousers and they were coated with mud and his leg was broken or something and she tore his shirt to make a splint – he was pushed from the sidewalk, you know,” explained Edith, pantomiming a pushing gesture and looking down. “My father told me that,” she said, looking up to see her father, Elhanon.

“Yes, our boy mayor got thrown out of the Palace Saloon for ranting in people’s faces, again! Yelling how they were all sinners and the whole lot of ‘em were going to hell!” Elhanon Blackman paused, staring into the eyes of each listener, playing the part a bit. “Finally this big guy says: How about you go to hell right now, and hits Hardwick square in the jaw, down he goes, one punch, while others drag him out onto the sidewalk.”

Mr. Blackman was on a roll: “A well juiced-up group followed the hapless Hardwick being dragged outside with their eyes on the deep, dark excavation pit for White’s foundation that was right next door to the Palace and,” pausing for maximum effect, “over the edge he went with barely a second thought or squeak from anyone. That’s when it started raining.”

Rousing cheers rose from the passengers sparked by the three sharp blasts of Nellie’s horn and she was set free. It was a bright, sunny day on the Snohomish River. It was full, bank to bank, yet very still, reflecting the blue sky and turning the tall cedars upside down in the slow current disturbed only by Nellie’s shallow wake.

Elhanon Blackman had taken over telling the story begun by his daughter. His wife, Frances, joined the group gathered at the bow of Nellie. She was tired of the story, as her daughter, Edith, told it to her over and over again, but she wanted to take in the mirror-like reflections of the water before “Nellie ran over them,” as she would say.

Elhanon and his brothers were lumbermen from Maine who quickly established a logging camp and mill in Snohomish and were rightly revered as the economic power of the community.

“This so-called Reverend Hardwick, with his crazy talk of some Jesus character sent here to save us, wouldn’t have gotten to first base without this Billy Bottom lowlife getting in everybody’s face,” Elhanon said. (Snohomish was a baseball town and its team, the Pacifics, was doing quite well.)

Young Jenny Durham jumped in. “He would make up a list of young women’s names in town that he accused of being witches, pagans, then post it at the Sisters of Mercy church … I, ah … I was horrified to find my name on that list,” she confessed to the group. Tears touched with rage filled her eyes.

“Me too!” claimed Frannie Churchill, suddenly, and all turned toward her as if rehearsed.

“And me!” confessed Sylvia, Frannie’s best friend. They were about to begin their first year at the University of Washington together. “A group of us would mock his rantings on the street corner; men did too, but only women’s names are on his list.” Sylvia continued, “It’s truly troubling how many people were intimidated by his crazy thinking.”

“What happened to Hardwick and his position as mayor?” Jenny asked.

“It was fascinating!” said Blackman with a loud sigh. “Our rabid mayor returned to council meetings a changed being – he would stare into space with a faraway look and spooky smile on his face. He couldn’t or wouldn’t talk, instead kept trying to say Je-sus!”

The conversation fell silent as Nellie passed Lowell on the port side. A group on the dock watched, then waved as the sternwheeler chugged slowly on, not stopping to pick up campers this year.

“And that Billy Bottom character, I tell you, he pestered White and the council members to the point of exhaustion until they finally passed an ordinance that prohibited shooting galleries in Snohomish just to shut him up. But White had already given up his original plan for one in the basement — that’s why the foundation pit was so deep – for headroom,” explained Blackman. “I could have told White that it was going to be tough to keep it dry because of the high water table.”

“But Bottom told anyone who would listen,” interrupted Edith, “that there will always be a puddle of water in that basement to mark the spot where his brother-in-arms, John Hardwick, fell to earth on that bright, Sunday, June morning!”

“Does anyone know what happened to this Bottom fellow?” asked Mary Low Sinclair, who was standing next to Charles Missimer, the founder of Lake Stevens. “We’ve been spared his ugliness around town for months, it seems.”

“Don’t know for sure, but heard that he and his wife moved to the brand new state of Montana … if so, good riddance!” said Blackman in a manner that brought the conversation to an end.

Shortly afterward, Nellie reached the mouth of the Snohomish River to a great cheer as she bravely entered the choppy expanse of Possession Sound, headed for Hat Island where they would stop for lunch. The wind picked up, but it was to their back, so all remained watching the horizon to the west – who would be the first to spot a tell-tale sign of their beach?

Come November there would be the regular election with the expectation that the civic life of Snohomish would return to its normal ups and downs; for now, thoughts were of sunshine, swimming, and clams — they were going down to camp.

. . . .

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This story is inspired by the wonderful book Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island by Frances L. Wood and available from Blue Heron Press. The featured image is from the Ferguson Album held by the Snohomish Historical Society. Postscript: To this day the basement of the White Building, 924 1st Street, is not open to the public.

. . . .

#4. The Election: Billy Bottom, Part Two

snohomish stories image

snohomish stories imageCast of Imaginary Characters:
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

. . . .

Leaning in close, his lips nearly touching the helix of Hardwick’s right ear, Bottom whispered, “John … It’s me, your Brother Billy!” Straining to see, Hardwick’s eyeballs jammed up against the corner of his eyes. Missus Nightingale was still holding his head with both hands. Hardwick’s mysteriously dilated eyeballs floated back to a lost stare, straight up into the dome of deep, bright blue.

“Talk to me John … Fuck man, please say something,” begged Billy.

His gaze was fixed through wireframe glasses which made his black pupils nearly double in size. Bottom’s pockmarked face was tough to look at and he knew it. Rather than shy and retiring, Bottom challenged people to look him in his magnified eyes while he kept talking, or ranting, depending on who was listening.

“Goddamnit! What’s the matter with him?” Bottom asked Missus Nightingale, who since dawn had been on the scene of newly elected Mayor Hardwick passed out in a mud puddle deep in the excavation pit for White’s new building.

“Cat ’s got his tongue… or something worse!” the Missus mumbled, not looking up, continuing to hold the manic man’s head.

Bottom leaned over him, came in nose to nose: “Goddamnit, John, we’ve come so far … You can’t let me down now. Shit! How stupid!” A small shot of spit landed on John’s lips.

“You’ve given voice to my life, Brother … Goddamnit say something,” whispered Bottom.

“You’re too close, Billy,” said the Missus. “Let’s get him out of this mud hole. He is in shock. He needs to be cleaned up and sleeping … with a dose of Jesus’s mercy!”

“Jeeeees….” Hardwick broke free from the Missus’s hold! He shot straight up. What was left of his white shirt fell to his lap, blending in with his white shorts. His naked torso, sitting on white cotton and surrounded by dirt walls and floor, radiated the morning sun as if the light were coming from him. Preacher Hardwick was all-a-glow, and it was terrifying.

Bottom rocked on to his back. Hardwick’s distant stare was unnerving. He held out his open palms to Bottom. “Suuuuus….” Hardwick said in his soft, deep preacher voice, slowly looking up to the sky.

Billy Bottom quickly stood. All eyes of the crowd were on him. So many faces, he thought, standing behind the barriers on First and around the corner up Avenue A. How can there be so many different faces? Crazy that such variety could come from one mind … from the one Mind-of-God!

Fuck God! He didn’t make my face.

“There Are Many Minds-of-God!” Bottom heard himself shouting, the anger surprised him. “This is One of Them at Work … Right Here in Our Town! We are witnessing Our Brother John Being Born Again! Don’t believe in Hearsay, Believe with Your Eyes, with What You are Seeing Right Here, Right Now!”

Taking a breath, Bottom continued, “And You Must Tell Others: Our Brother John, Our New Mayor, Fell to Earth On This Day!”

Billy Bottom looked down, took hold of John Hardwick’s hands, then lifted his eyes to the crowd. “Remember this Day. Remember this Place. Jesus loves Our Town enough to send us John to Lead Us Out of this Pit of Despair into the Light of Our Salvation,” he said like the experienced street corner speaker he was.

“Let’s bow our heads in awe and joy,” said Bottom. “All of Us Together!”

Bottom removed his ubiquitous handmade knit cap and bowed his head. Those in the crowd watching him instead of bowing and closing their eyes witnessed a bright white spot at the crown of his head surrounded by hair, most likely an early onset of male-pattern hair loss (MPHL), which meant either a blessing or a curse — known only by the life you lived.

He quickly replaced his cap, pulled it down close to his ears, and took Hardwick’s hands again, shouting: “We Will Rise You Up, Brother John!” with a voice of joy, perhaps for the first time in a troubled life.

A loud cheer rose from the crowd as Billy Bottom scampered up the ladder out of the excavation pit.

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Up on the street, Ivy Williams-Bottom had disconnected the wagon shafts from Sadie’s bellyband and had moved the donkey to under the excavation pit rigging for pulling up the basket. Four thick ropes were attached to the basket and threaded through a maze of pulleys and ropes hanging from a wooden tower. Only two lines were attached to the tug loops on either side of Sadie’s pathetic-looking harness. Contractor White used a team of two horses, big horses, but neither White nor the team worked on Sunday. It was up to Sadie. Preacher Hardwick was not nearly as heavy a load of dirt, often wet dirt; yet, he was quite a pull for old Sadie.

Billy Bottom was standing in his buckboard now, rallying the men in the pit below to claim a spot around the basket: “Old Sadie here is going to need your help, Gentlemen.” Bottom continued to cajole the men below, some who had been on the scene since early morning. Still dressed in their Sunday best. Their pacing around the basket holding their new mayor had turned the mud puddle into chocolate pudding. One by one, the overdressed men claimed a place around the basket and bent over to find a handhold in the woven cedar bark.

“If you are ready, Gentlemen…?”

Hardwick’s eyes darted from man to man, looking for eye contact from someone. Bent over from the waist, the men were looking down at their hands. “On the count of the three, Gentlemen!” Bottom barked.

“One … Two … “Three!”

It was amazing! The large basket rose and was soon out of reach for the men in the pit. All stepped back to take in the bottom view of the swaying industrial basket, holding the nearly naked Mayor of Snohomish, as it continued to rise toward the spectators watching in stunned silence.

With only inches to go, the upward motion slowed, then stopped; the basket twisted, and the crowd gasped in unison. A sudden rush of liquid from the basket fell on the men. John Hardwick appeared to be soiling himself. The men scampered up the ladder, barely keeping it single file, followed by Missus Nightingale.

“Pull, Sadie, you Bitch, Pull!” shouted Bottom as he cracked the whip even harder. Several bystanders had joined Lily Williams-Bottom, pulling on leads attached to the tug loops. John Hardwick was lying on his back now with an empty look in his eyes, as the large cedar basket swayed and twisted in the noonday sun, its shadow swaying on-then-off terra firma.

“Pull, you useless c…” Sadie took a step before he could finish, then another, and another. The crowd roared with each step.

To Be Continued

. . . .

#3. The Election: Billy Bottom, Part One

Wilbur Drug Store

snohomish stories imageCast of Imaginary Characters:
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.

#2. The Election: John T. Hardwick

snohomish stories imageCast of Imaginary Characters:
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

. . . .

“He was a stranger!” began Preacher Hardwick in a full, rich voice which suddenly caught in his throat. He was facing a standing-room-only crowd of the Temperance Union meeting on the first floor of the Odd Fellows Hall on 2nd Street. All of the long, narrow casement windows were open, top and bottom, but no air was moving that night; it was stuck like Hardwick’s voice in the emotion of the moment.

“A stranger named Levi Bowker,” he finally continued, holding up a page from The Eye. “Did you read this?” he shouted for dramatic effect. It wasn’t necessary. The news of Levi Bowker’s suicide was the talk of the town. Hardwick made eye contact with Pherlissa Getchell sitting in the center seat of the front row. As president of the Temperance Union, it was her suggestion that he give this address — to perhaps give words to the mystery of this stranger’s death in their midst — and it sparked his political ambitions.

John T. Hardwick rarely missed an opportunity to tell people that he was born right here in Snohomish Valley, sometimes bending over and tapping the ground with the tip of his index finger. As was his father. It was his grandfather who found his way here as a circuit preacher, looking to convert Indian savages, but he met a woman and he built her a log house with his bare hands — and with hired Indian help — his wife’s brother.

Hardwick’s union produced 12 sons, who lived beyond childhood, and all were named after Christ’s Apostles. It’s not clear how many daughters lived, as they were not baptized so no records of their births exist. The dark secret of the family was that John’s father, also named John, after one of the Zebedee sons, married one of his sisters to produce a family of four sons.

Since the Hardwick homestead was remote, the arrival of a white woman into the region would have been news woven into the oral history of the family. Instead, no one talked about the dark cloud hovering over the family until it broke open with a crack of lightning, sending forth a deluge of whiskey. The memory of his father’s death haunts him; look for it in his eyes if the subject should ever come up.

John was named after John the Baptist and given the letter ‘T’ for a middle name as it was a sign of the cross. Young John was called JT while his father was alive, and it stuck. He was the youngest of the four boys and showed no interest in joining the Hardwick Bros in the growing business of installing window glass. The Seattle company was on the cutting edge of the new plate-glass window market.

JT remained on the homestead. He was close to his grandfather even though he never learned his name. He was always a formal “Grandfather” to him, something he didn’t realize until preparing words to say at the burial. Grandfather Hardwick was buried under the scrub oak tree grown from an acorn he brought from the Midwest. It grew like a weed, along with young JT, who in his sermons often embellished the story of his childhood passion for climbing that tree to see the future.

Drawn into Snohomish’s temperance movement as a young man, John T. Hardwick was handsome and easy going. His square jaw was balanced with a carefully trimmed mustache and topped by lively, dark eyes. He was quick to smile, which men were quick to mock, but the members of the temperance movement loved him. They would often meet at Joe Getchell’s two-story home on 2nd Street, next door to the Knapp and Hinkley Livery. JT was one of the few men invited to join them.

Pherlissa Getchell was a natural leader. Childless since her marriage to Joe in 1874, the daughter of a Maine farming family, and only one of a dozen white women living in the Valley at the time, Pherlissa made civilizing the frontier town where she landed her life mission. Levi Bowker’s suicide hit her hard.

Getchell House, 2nd and Avenue C, undated photograph from a glass plate negative, partial view of the livery on the right; courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.

It seems Bowker had a summer job on a hops ranch east of town and had been in Snohomish for about a week – two weeks before the special election of incorporation. He retired to his room in the Exchange Hotel between 9 and 10 Tuesday evening,“considerably under the influence of free campaign whiskey,” said JT, reading from The Eye.

“The hotel clerk found him the next morning, lying in a natural and easy position on the bed with his clothes on. A nearly empty morphine bottle and three brief, poorly written notes were found on the bedside table.” JT let the newspaper float to the floor while he paused to loudly blow his nose.

“One of the notes was addressed to an E. N. Porter, Port Ludlow,” he began again, “with the instructions: ‘Give my shotgun to my boy Harry if he ever comes to the Sound.’”

He held up a small piece of paper between the tips of his thumb and index finger, as if it were contagious. “Written on the back of this poll tax receipt,” Hardwick explained, then turned the hand holding the note to show the backside to his audience who, of course, were leaning in to read the message.

“For your kindness to me, keep my things. I will soon know the great mystery.” The Preacher returned the note to the lectern, looking down and repeating softly, “I will soon know the great mystery.”

Slowly looking up to speak, he added, “The third note was impossible to read, something to the effect that he was tired of life … but we know, don’t we? Yes! It was the influence of the free whiskey that made Jesus a stranger to young Levi — he chose a false savior!”

All sorts of “Amens!” filled the Odd Fellows Hall that night, overflowing through the wide-open windows.

“Only 38 years old, and a native of Springfield, Maine,” said the newspaper. “Let us pray for this stranger’s soul who will never see Jesus, but will wander for eternity.”

. . . .

“Amen!” said Missus Nightingale, holding Hardwick’s hands. He had been placed in the excavation basket used for hauling dirt out of the pit. It was a scene of eerie silence. Missus Nightingale had removed his wet, muddy clothes and boots and had set his broken leg with improvised splints. She was trying to keep his naked torso covered with his blousy white shirt.

She had washed his face, cleaned the dried blood caked in his overgrown mustache from a bloody nose, and slicked back his long black hair with her hands. The men quietly watching from above, like birds on a wire, were trying to hear what she was saying to him, but could only hear her “Amens!”

Modern ears accustomed to internal combustion engines don’t know the silence of 19th-century Snohomish. Coming from the east end of town was the rhythmic sound of horse hooves … no, a mule pulling a buckboard on the wooden planks of First Street. Its squeaking wheels announced: Billy Bottom was in town.

To be continued

. . . .

#1. The Election: June 1890, Snohomish

snohomish stories image

Cast of Imaginary Characters:
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

. . . .

It had rained hard that night. All night long, for those with nowhere to sleep. When Rev. Hardwick’s body was discovered in first light, only his nose and toes were above water. The new mayor was lying in a substantial puddle of cocoa-colored water in the deep excavation pit for J. S. White’s new building at the corner of A and Front.

“He dead?”

Vagrants or loggers without a dime for a room were the first on the scene. An assortment of men in dark, wet wool jackets, showing no signs of urgency, were gathering behind the flimsy construction site barrier of stripped fir saplings. The excavation pit was an impressive site, a draw of attention on its own. It spanned 40 feet in width and nearly twice that in length. Starting at 10-12 feet below the wooden sidewalk, it pushed even deeper as it cut into the gentle slope of Avenue A.

“Morning Mayor!” sang out a big man wearing a top-hat and a colorful blanket of dyed goat fur over his shoulders. Unbuttoning his fly, he let go a proud stream into the pit.

Snohomish was founded on a sunny day. The picturesque town is sited on the gentle slope of the north bank of the river it was named after, which in turn was named after an Indian tribe. It’s Sunday morning; otherwise many of these boys would be in the Palace Saloon playing cards with the last of their greenbacks before heading back to their respective logging camps up the Pilchuck and French creeks.

“Nah, he ain’t dead … He was preaching again at the Palace … Jabbering on-and-on until someone hits him in the face … The only way to shut em up,” claimed the man with the large belly, struggling to button his fly.

snohomish storiesThe precarious foundation of the Palace Saloon was exposed on the east side of White’s excavation. It is a two-story wooden building that was quickly built three years ago to cash in on the town’s railroad boom. Before the excavation began, White’s attorney, Mr. Hart, presented White’s claim that it encroached four inches on White’s lot to the city council. The “city dads,” as The Eye referred to the elected members — and of which J. S. White was a new member — passed the entire awkward situation on to the city engineer, Mr. Carothers, who was charged with the task: “To survey First Street from Avenues D to A and fix the corners.” Mr. Carothers’ numbers have stuck to this day.

During the excavation, large baskets loaded with dirt, dug by hand, were pulled to street level using a wooden block and tackle rig set in a tower, pulled up by horses, then dumped into Avenue A, eventually to be graded. Alerted to the commotion, business owners timidly climbed into the pit on a steep, rickety ladder to get a closer look at the new mayor — but they seemed more concerned about the Sunday shine on their boots. Shifting from foot to foot, they mumbled, mixing the sandy glacier till with water into a creamy, chocolate mud.

“Yup, it’s Hardwick again, son-of-a-bitch … thought he’d cut out the preaching now that he’d done won.”

“Heard this is going to be a shooting gallery,” claimed a short fellow looking around and then back to the passed-out Hardwick as if he could confirm his claim.

“Has anybody seen Ferg this morning?” Asked another looking down at his mud-covered boots.

“A what?”

“An indoor shooting range,” replied the man with the news, “read it in the paper.”

“The world’s upside down … amazing the river don’t just rain down and wash us all away!” The man had untrimmed mutton chops that made him look like a puppet talking.

“We done got a good cleaning last night,” said the small man who was wondering about Ferguson.

“In the basement? How does that work? Bullets bouncing off the walls all over the place,” asked another, waving his arms around, happy to have the topic as a diversion.

“Here comes the sun!” quietly exclaimed another with his back to the group; he had removed his bowler as if paying respect to the mysterious orb as it rose above the Palace Saloon.

“They got ’em on the east coast, small bore rifles that use no gunpowder, I mean, I don’t know how it works … just overheard talk in the store is all,” explained the short fellow who works in Blackman’s grocery.

“Seems out of reach for this neck of the woods,” murmured another member of the elite group, looking for something to contribute.

“I can’t believe the dumb-shit won … what does he know about running a city? He can’t even control a horse and buggy. Saw ’em last week with a rig from Elwells, Heaven help us!” It was the puppet talking to no one in particular.

“He can learn on the job – at least he ain’t no tax-dodging moss-back like Ferg!”

The short, well-dressed fellow is referring to E. C. Ferguson, who had been mayor since he founded the town, and his loss in the election for incorporation was a dramatic upset, no doubt about it. Even the Sun, Ferguson’s paper, admitted as much under its two-word headline: “Snohomish’s Democratic.” The election divided the people between those who wanted to create a larger town and those, like Ferguson, who wanted no change. He had undeveloped lots west of Avenue D that wouldn’t be taxed if the town remained a village of the fourth-class.

In the election held on June 26, 1890, incorporation as a third-class city passed, 360 to 21 votes in a town of 2,012 souls living within the contested boundaries of the larger Snohomish City.

“Someone get word to Billy,” shouted Missus Nightingale from the top of the ladder. She started down, one-handed, as the other was holding up her extra-large skirt.

The men in the pit, all wearing dark clothes with white shirts, were standing in a loose semicircle around Hardwick so that the crowd, which had grown to wrap around the corner and up Avenue A, could look down from the behind the barrier and see the passed-out preacher. Yet, their view from above was obscured by the shadows falling across the body. As the men fidgeted about, flickers of sunlight illuminated Hardwick’s face and sparkled off the undulating puddle of muddy water, as if a message from Above; but now the group stepped back as Missus made her way to the unconscious Hardwick. She checked his pulse. She tapped his submerged shoulder — muddy water splashed across his face — as she called out his name: “John!” (She was way ahead of her time with CPR training.)

He stirs, begins to move, his belly rising as Missus reverently wipes the mud covering his huge belt buckle exposing the raised letters J-E-S-U-S. A sharp sliver of sunshine strikes the golden belt buckle. The men watching from above, who had grown into a noisy, jeering crowd, fall silent. Only faint, confused murmurs of “Jesus?” ripple through the men, like a soft, natural reverb. No one, to a man (only one woman was present), had seen such a thing in this riverside town. The fellow defending Hardwick earlier leans in for a closer look, then turns, looking at Missus Nightingale, “Where are his suspenders, Missus?”

Just like in a movie, the sharp, sudden sound of the whistle announcing the morning train to Seattle dominates this dramatic scene as Mayor J. T. Hardwick opens his eyes, in a close-up shot.

To Be Continued.

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About the title image above: The Odd Fellows Hall to the right was the place for a variety of public gatherings including debating the boundaries of incorporated Snohomish in 1890. The building to the left is the Masonic Lodge which served as the county courthouse until 1897; it was destroyed in the 1980s for scrap. Photo is by Gilbert Horton taken around the time the Odd Fellows Hall was built in 1886, and published in several publications of the time.