August 19, 1876. Local Items

“If any of the early settlers arrived on foot, it would have been Isaac Cathcart. Pictured here as published in The History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, the large-framed Irishman, recently from Michigan, had been working in the county since 1869, felling trees in the isolated logging camps. Within four years, he had saved enough money to build the Exchange Hotel.”

Early Snohomish, Arcadia Publishing, 2007
Audio version
The Northern Star, August 19, 1876, page 5
Stern-wheeler “Nellie,” tied up to the Ferguson Wharf. Photograph dated 1877 by unknown photographer. Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society. [+]

Another early photograph of Snohomish jam-packed with historical details. Unfortunately, we don’t know the name of the photographer but can assume it was taken on the occasion of the year-old Stern-wheeler “Nellie’s” addition to the list of steamships serving the young city of Snohomish. Snohomish County, An Illustrated History, edited by David Cameron who also contributed a two-page list of “Steamboats in Snohomish County” on pages 87-88, emphasizing the vital role the boats played in the development of the territory. In the immediate background is the Ferguson Building and beyond is Cathcart’s Snohomish Exchange Hotel — both are featured in the story of Cathcart’s wedding party to an unnamed woman from Seattle.

. . .

July 1, 1876. Local Items

Featured Image: Cathcart Opera House/Atheneum Hall being torn down. Photo by Picket, c. 1910

Audio Version
The Northern Star, July 1, 1876, page 5
The Northern Star, July 1, 1876, page 5
Now image, First Street and Avenue D, 2021.

The inscription in the featured image above reads: “Built in 1876 by Issac Cathcart — Wholesale + Retail General Merchandise for Loggers + Settlers, Torn down in April 1910, by Wm. Cathcart for a new brick building on the sight (sic).” The image is signed “Picket” in black ink in the right-hand corner which we assume is Lee Picket, a resident of Index, WA where the family home was preserved and is used by the Index Historical Society — well worth a visit.

No record of the cornerstone has been found.

. . .

Learn more about Early Snohomish at Stop #2 of the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail pictured on the Home Page.

Traveling in the Early Days

Featured Image: Snohomish Elite Outing, circa 1885.
Native-operated dugout canoes were vital to the growth of early Snohomish transporting both passengers and cargo.

Read along with the spoken version.

The Northern Star 25 March, 1876

Snohomish Elite Picnic, circa 1885. On the left is the photographer’s wife, Margaret Horton; next to her is Jennie Wilbur. Her husband, Lot Wilbur, is the first male on the right; and behind him is Eldridge Morse, the editor, and co-founder of the Northern Star, where he used the term “Snohomish elite” to describe the leaders of the community. Both photographs are by Gilbert Horton, courtesy of the Snohomish Historical Society. (Tap image to enlarge)

Learn more about the Wilburs at Stop #8 of the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail pictured on the Home Page.

. . .

Extracts from the Diary of an Early Settler

Featured Image: Alki Point Monument Dedication, 1905. An eight-year-old Mary Low traveled with her parents from Indiana, over the Oregon Trail all the way to land’s end at Alki Point, arriving on November 13, 1851. Mary, pictured above on the right is mentioned in the article below. With her, from left to right are Lenora Denny, Carson Boren, Mary Denny, and Roland Denny — all family names of the founding settlers of Seattle. (Photograph courtesy UW Special Collection Peiser 10088.)

The Northern Star, Volume 1, Number 2, 22 January 1876

The County Seat, 1865.
The County Seat, 1865. The first known photograph of Snohomish is attributed to E. M. Sammis, a New York photographer working in Seattle when he took the only studio photograph of Chief Seattle. A newspaper account, in 1865, tells of his trip up the Snohomish River on his way to “Washington Territory’s greatest wonder, The Falls of the Snoqualmie.” The structure on the right is the Sinclair store with a home in the back where his wife Mary Low started a school. On the right, across the path to be named Cedar, is E. C. Ferguson’s Blue Eagle Saloon. There is some speculation that the man standing in the foreground is W. B. Sinclair.

Read more about Mary Low Sinclair at Stop #4 on the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail pictured on the Home Page.

. . .

Christmas in Snohomish, 1875

Featured Image: Top half of the front page of Snohomish’s first newspaper, the report on Christmas pictured below was published on page 3 under Local Items.

The Northern Star, Volume 1, Number 1, 15 January 1876

Lowell on the Snohomish River. Photograph by Gilbert Horton, circa 1885, courtesy UW Special Collections 12433.

A popular activity of early Snohomish residents was taking moonlight excursions six miles downriver to Lowell for dancing on the wharf, weather permitting, otherwise in a hall, as they did on Christmas Eve in 1875, according to the first issue of the Northern Star.

Read more about our first newspaper at Stop #7 on the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail pictured on the Home Page.

. . .

Preview the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail

You are invited to an impromptu preview of all nine signs designed for the heritage trail on Sunday, October 13th, from 4 to 6p. at the AngelArmsWorks Studio, 230 Avenue B in Snohomish.

Inexpensive full-size prints of the signs are on display for a week while we fine-tune the designs. The image above is from our first preview on Sunday the 6th. The purpose of the preview is to receive feedback on the readability of the stories, and our first preview was very encouraging.

The sub-title of the project, or the tag-line if you will is, “Short Stories of Those Who Came Before Us.” My intention is for visitors to be drawn into the signs but stay to read the story and learn about the people who made Snohomish.

All good stories go with a glass of wine which I’m happy to provide.

Hope to see you on Sunday the 13th, around 4p.
(Karen’s handmade tote bags will be hanging around too.)

Thanks to all who showed up to preview the signs — got lots of useful suggestions, and thanks to Karen for the delicious lasagne supper!

Retelling the Story of Early Snohomish

It’s been a dozen years since Early Snohomish was published by Arcadia Publishers, which means that for over a decade, I’ve been promoting the idea of a heritage trail along First Street — and now it’s happening!

So happy to report that I’ve signed a contract with the City of Snohomish to create the content and design of nine interpretative signs that will tell the story of early Snohomish along First Street and beyond.

The city was awarded a grant from the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Program to create our first heritage trail. As you can see by the featured image above, a mockup shot with Karen’s help, work has begun.

Click to download pdf
Proposed interpretative sign for the first stop at Snohomish City Hall on Union Avenue featuring the portrait of E.C. Ferguson that hangs in city hall. The title “Rumors of a Ferry Crossing” is also the title of Chapter One in “Early Snohomish” which tells the story of how Ferguson came to be referred to as the “Founding Father of Snohomish.” [Click to download pdf]

. . .

heritage trail signPhotoshop mockup of the proposed interpretative sign for Trail Stop #3 that will be located at Union and First telling the story of the Ferguson Family. [Click to Enlarge]

trail sign #3 preview
The bottom third is the boiler plate for all signs that will include titles of the trail stops, the map (detail views below) and credits. Six of the heritage signs will fit inside the existing display cases which measure two by three feet but will not be covered by plastc. [Click the image to download a pdf file]

titles detail

Several of the trail stop titles are lovingly lifted from my book “Early Snohomish”.

trail map version aTrail Map version A showing a photo of the river and the trail masthead.

trail map verson BTrail Map version B showing a photo of only the River Front Trail, (masthead excluded for clarity). The goal of the map is to encourge visitors to walk the trail as a loop between First Street and the River Front Trail. Let me know which version you prefer.

The long wait for this project to meet reality has only multiplied my excitement by 10 and hope you will share that excitement by adding comments and suggestions below — you are the public in this public project made possible by funds administered by Snohomish County — I encourage and welcome your participation.

. . .

Three Brothers from Maine

blackman brothers

Alanson, Elhanan, and Hyrcanus were all born in a town named to honor their grandfather, Bradley Blackman. He assumed Leonard’s Mill on Nicolas Stream in 1828, and for the next 50 years, the family milling operation grew so successful that even the stream was renamed after the Blackman operation. It’s Blackman Stream to this day, though the mill was rebuilt in the 1980s as the featured interpretative activity of the Maine Forest and Logging Museum.

wayfinder repurpose

Act Two, Scene i of our proposed “Birthplace of the County Heritage Trail” will use the cluster of our former wayfinder display cases at Avenue B and First Street, located in front of the public restroom.


Evidently, by the 1870s the Blackman Mill was failing financially as all three brothers with their wives and one babe-in-arms migrated to the Pacific Northwest arriving in 1872 at Port Gamble on the Kitsap Peninsula, Washington Territory. There, a bustling logging operation was underway that was established in the mid-1800s by three men from Maine.

No record has been found that would tell us why all three brothers left Port Gamble for Snohomish. Named after the river, the recently platted settlement of a dozen blocks was located 12 miles upriver from Port Gardner, the future site of Everett.

blackman mill
Courtesy Northwest Room, Everett Public Library.

All three brothers built homes on Avenue B with the first milled lumber from the local Ferguson-Morgan Mill. Established as the Blackman Bros., they began logging operations on the local lake, Stillaguamish, called Blackman Lake today; and within four years, their first mill on the Snohomish River was in operation, employing ten men.

blackman house image
Crayon portrait of Clifford and Eucice, circa 1890.
Blackman House Museum exhibit.

In 1884, Clifford was born to Hyrcanus and Ella followed by a daughter, Eunice, three years later. Hyrcanus considered the business brains of the company, opened a general store at the intersection of First Street and Avenue C; then in 1888, he built the four-star Hotel Penobscot, in anticipation of receiving guests arriving in town by rail.

penobscot hotel
Courtesy Northwest Room, Everett Public Library.

The arrival of the railroad was a boom to the Blackman’s mill operation where it was producing kiln-dried red cedar shakes by the boxcar load intended for the east coast market. The Brothers arrived in town broke but with the invention of various logging and milling operations, sheer determination and keen business sense, Blackman Bros. was the economic engine of early Snohomish.

blackman house image
Ella and Hyrcanus Blackman photographed by Edith Blackman at the beach cabin, Clinton, WA circa 1900.
Snohomish Historical Society.

Based on Hycranus’s reputation as a business leader and as a legislator in Olympia for one season, he was elected Mayor of Incorporated Snohomish in 1890, for which his name still carries the title of “First Mayor,” though founder E. C. Ferguson won his seat back in the next regular election and served as mayor until his death in 1911.

edith blackmanAnother measure of growth in early Snohomish was the blossoming of Edith Blackman, the babe-in-arms who made the journey west with her parents Elhanan and Frances, who was now a young adult. There is evidence that she made the portrait of Ella and Hyrcanus, discovered in her album with the note on the back “For Ella and Family, Edith.”
Undated photograph of Edith Blackman courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.

blackman house museum
Blackman House Museum, 118 Avenue B, circa 2008.

Hyrcanus died in the home he built on June 1, 1921, followed by Ella in 1927. Their daughter Eunice and her husband William Ford lived in the house until the late 1960s when it was known as the Ford House. In 1969, it was sold to the Snohomish Historical Society and is known today as the Blackman House Museum.

. . .

The Founder Who Disappeared

snohomish stories image

snohomish stories image
The lead character in Act One, Scene iii of our proposed “Birthplace of the County Heritage Trail” is Edson T. Cady, pictured here in an undated daguerreotype courtesy of the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room.

People living on the Snohomish River could hear Ed Cady long before they would see him chugging up the river in his flat-bottom scow outfitted with a small, boisterous steam engine.

Christened The Minnehaha, it was the first steam-powered boat on the river that would eventually grow in number to 67 and a variety of sizes and styles. By that time, however, Edson T. Cady had moved on to parts unknown — he disappeared from the pages of history.

. . .

Edson T. Cady was born in 1828 in upstate New York, as was his co-founder E.C. Ferguson. They found each other in Steilacoom, Washington Territory, in a group of frontier businessmen scheming to invest in a ferry service across the Snohomish River — a vital link in a proposed military road from Fort Steilacoom to Fort Bellingham — a project the U.S. Army abandoned when called to serve in the Civil War.

Only three men of the original military road group staked claims near where the Pilchuck River empties into the Snohomish. Besides Cady and Ferguson, there was Egbert Tucker who staked a claim on the south bank.

With the road project abandoned, a new opportunity arose with the gold rush to the Similkameen and Kettle Rivers on the eastern side of the Cascade Range. Cady, Ferguson and a man named Parsons set out to establish a trans-Cascade pack trail to the goldfields. Again, by the time the trail was established, the gold rush petered out and this project was abandoned as well.

Yet, the route they discovered is called Cady Pass to this day.

Around this time, he came into possession of the Minnehaha and “Cady made a living by freighting supplies up and down the river for the few settlers along the river and logging camps near its mouth, and by bringing supplies from Port Gamble,” wrote William Whitfield, in his 1926 history of Snohomish County.

On February 28, 1861, Edson T. Cady was appointed the first postmaster for the settlement he named Cadyville. His post office was his scow, the Minnehaha. Cady held the post for two years when he sold his eastern claim of the future Snohomish City to Mary Low and Woodbury Sinclair.

snohomish stories image
Western and Eastern Plats of Snohomish City.

. . .

Featured Image above: Photograph of Snohomish City by Gilbert Horton, ca.1885, picturing Ferguson’s Cottage and Eagle Saloon on the left, Sinclair store and home on the right, and the Riverside Hotel in the center. Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.

. . .

Thanks for the genealogical workup by Ann Tuohy who notes that Edson T. Cady could be the “E.T. Cady” listed on the census of 1880 in Township 3, Mariposa County, California. This man’s birthplace was given as Connecticut rather than New York, but he was a miner, married, but living alone.

Act I, Scene i: The Founder Who Stayed


Following up on last month’s post proposing a heritage trail for Snohomish, we are going to take a closer look at what the content might be for this trail in the next several posts.

To review, the proposal is to re-purpose the three-pole wayfinder clusters on First Street which will display three interpretive signs. Each wayfinder cluster will be considered an Act in the story of Snohomish’s founding, and each sign will be a Scene.
wayfinder cluster

View of the existing wayfinder custer on First Street at Union Avenue, showing the location of the west facing interpretative sign.
Click image to enlarge

For example, this month we will use the wayfinder cluster at Union Street, it will be called Act One. The first Scene will be the sign facing west which will include the content outlined in this post titled The Founder Who Stayed.

Emory Canada Ferguson never returned to his home town in upstate New York after leaving at the age of 21 to find gold in California. He found instead a town in Washington Territory that he and his wife Lucetta gave the Indian name of the river that runs through it.

“Here he served as postmaster, mayor, realtor, saloon keeper, store proprietor, legislator — even justice of the peace — and was on hand to give birth to Snohomish County when it was formed in January of 1861.

A well-loved pioneer figure in his senior years, “Old Ferg” helped to humorously craft his own image through his writings and after-dinner speeches in which he depicted himself as a rugged pioneer once living alone in the wilderness.”

ferguson familyThe Ferguson Family Portrait, c.1890, the year Snohomish Incorporated. From the left: Ivy Maude, born in 1875; Lucetta, married to E.C. in 1868; Sylvia M., the first born in 1869; Emory Canda, with son Cecil sitting on his lap, born in 1881.
Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society; click image to enlarge

The Snohomish Daily Sun reported this talk before the Wranglers organization on December 19, 1889:

Ladies and Gentlemen — I have had very little time to prepare, or think over this subject so I will have to tell it just as it comes to mind. Snohomish County was up to about the year 1860 a part of Island County. At about that time it was separated from Island and the present county of Snohomish was created. I don’t know there was any reason for doing so unless there were more politicians than counties and the matter was adjusted by making another county rather than killing some of the politicians.

Ferguson familyA vital photograph of three generations of Snohomish’s Leading Family and it’s undated, but we can make a good guess based on guessing the age of the toddler Norman Lenfest, seated and dressed like a gentleman in the first row, who was born in 1893; behind him, seated in a neat row of chairs are his grand and great-grandparents, on the left is Lucetta (Morgan) Ferguson, (1849-1907); Mary Trout Morgan (1829-1903); Hiram Morgan (1822-1906); and E.C.Ferguson (1833-1911); finally, standing are Norman’s parents Sylvia (Ferguson) Lenfest (1869-1952), and Elmer Lenfest (1864-1938) who were married in the Ferguson home in 1891. As to guessing the date, some say 1897, but the museum label would read circa 1900, which means around that time.
Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society; click image to enlarge

The first election, I think was held in June for the purpose of deciding whether the county seat should remain at Mukilteo, then the largest town in the county. The election was a very hot one and owing to the large settlement which had located up on the Snohomish River they succeeded in moving the county seat from the metropolis to its present location. The vote after a long and tedious count was determined to be ten for Mukilteo and eleven for Snohomish.

The First ResidenceThis was Ferguson’s first residence, referred to as a cottage, which he built in Steilacoom and then disassembled it in order to ship the modest structure north. This was his favorite home he once said and it’s the only one of his three homes that is still standing and privately owned. Its location is indicated by a stone marker on the River Front Trail. It’s where Ferguson celebrated his first Fourth of July in Snohomish.
Courtesy Everett Public Library, Northwest Room; click to enlarge

I remember well the first Fourth of July celebration in Snohomish. It was in ’61 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 till I thought the day had been suitably observed, and then returned the old 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.

“He smiled as he recalled this reminiscence of early days in Snohomish, reported the Everett Daily Herald, February 6, 1902. “The audience was anxious for Mr. Ferguson to go on, but he said it would take all night to tell a small part of the story of the early life in Snohomish and that he might as well quit where he was.”

ferguson obit

Ferguson died on October 7, 1911, and is buried in Snohomish’s Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, as are the family members pictured in this post. Several descendants still live in the Snohomish area.

. . . .

Featured Image above: A crayon portrait of town founder E. C. Ferguson, ca.1890. Removed from its frame for preservation, replaced with a digital copy and returned to its place in today’s city hall.

. . . .

“Emory C. Ferguson Recalls Early Days in Snohomish County,” accessed March 17, 2019,

Why Not a Heritage Trail for Snohomish?

Have you ever visited a city and found yourself on a Heritage Trail? Without a brochure or even intention, you were following informative, eye-catching interpretative signs that took you back to the origin of the place where you were walking and so you continued to walk from sign to sign?

This happened to me in my hometown of Minneapolis when we returned for a family reunion and our mother wanted to visit the church of her childhood located where Minneapolis/St. Paul began — the St. Anthony Falls Historic District.

“Minneapolis’ once-thriving lumber and flour milling industries began at St. Anthony Falls — the only major falls along the Mississippi River. This industrial history is on display along the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, a 1.8-mile loop around the city’s riverfront within the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Zone.” (p.68 “Hitting the Trail, Twelve Urban Historic Trails Where You Can Explore a City’s Past and Present,” Preservation Winter 2019.)

Upon my return to Snohomish, I began talking up the establishment of a heritage trail to anyone who would listen. Before that, while still a weekend resident, I led my first walking tour of the First Street/Riverfront Trail loop that shows and tells the story of early Snohomish.

. . . .

The renovation of the former St. Michael Catholic Church into our home and studio would begin on Fridays when we drove up from Seattle to touch base with, Roland, our carpenter/confessor, before he headed back to Seattle until Monday morning.

The place was ours for the weekend.

We walked around inspecting/admiring the new framing … then began loading our white Astro cargo van with Roland’s outtakes, many times a pile waist high. We had to make the dump-run before it closes, and we were looking forward to our reward of an Indian dinner out. It was a hole-in-the-wall place on lower Hewitt that we loved as an instant tradition begun on our first date. Always ordered the large bottle of Kingfisher Premium and together we’d wait for our food to arrive.

We were weekend residents until the turn of the millennium, living in a 300-square-foot addition built over a carport on the south end of the church structure, vintage 1960s. No oven, but everything else, and best of all, it had a private entrance. Karen worked on her garden and her thoughts of running for a city council seat; I joined the historical society.

mary low sinclair banner“Snohomish is old enough for its own heritage trail,” I remember writing somewhere. My pitch for a trail was always enthusiastically received but never funded. In 2011, inspired by the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Snohomish led to the proposal for lamp post banners marking the event which was funded by the Historic Downtown Snohomish organization. Banners with the faces of the city’s founders hung from every lamppost up and down First Street for five years or so.

Working with Wendy, the city’s economic director, we have submitted a grant to the 2019 Historical Preservation Grant Program administered by the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission to establish the first trail for the City of Snohomish.

Its proposed name is Snohomish Heritage Trail #1. Birthplace of the County in Three-Acts.

The intention is to create interpretative signs that will lead visitors on a Heritage Trail loop of Snohomish’s downtown business district, including the River Front Trail, that shows and tells the highlights of the city’s 19th-century heritage, with emphasis on the people.

The plan is to repurpose the three, three-pole Wayfinder clusters installed on the south side of 1st Street at the former Visitor Center, Avenue D; Avenue B street end, near the public restroom facility and stairs to the River Front Trail; where Union Avenue also ends – and where our story begins.

interpretative sign
Mock-up of the proposed interpretative sign at Union and First Street –a new use for the existing wayfinding infrastructure.

. . . .

“Walking around Snohomish is enjoyable and educational. Because so much of its historical fabric remains, it is a place where one can experience (at least in moments of reverie) what our region’s towns were like more than a century ago. Although there are other places that offer similar experiences, Snohomish is conveniently close to Seattle.”

Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, UW Professor, Department of Architecture

. . . .

Featured Image above: An example of an interpretative sign, on the left, outlines a brief history the former St. Michael Catholic Church and the establishment of AngelArmsWorks Studio in 1993 which may be viewed at 230 Avenue B.