“Becoming Beatrice” A Novel

Frances Wood

Author Frances Wood listens to you with her eyes. Once you learn that Frances was a co-founder and writer of the popular NPR feature “Bird Note” — you understand — she must have listened to a lot of bird songs while looking for the singer.

In 2008, Frances showed up at the Blackman House Museum while I was on docent duty inquiring if the museum might carry her book Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island in our small store.

As we got to talking, I learned that her great-grandmother stayed in the museum when it was the home of its first owners and builders, Ella and Hyrcanus Blackman. Her name, Nina Blackman, was the daughter of George Blackman, Hyrcanus’s cousin living in Oakland, California. Hyrcanus, active on the school board offered Nina a position of primary teacher in Snohomish’s one school.

The year was 1887 and her brother, Arthur, had been managing the Blackman Grocery Store for the past year. Within three years, Arthur Blackman built and opened his own store at 913 1st Street, currently the Oxford Saloon, which was designed by J. S. White — a story told in Essay #6, J. S. White Our First Architect.

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Nina Blackman around the time she arrived in Snohomish.

In her book Down to Camp, Frances tells the story of Nina’s arrival in Snohomish:

Nina arrived on the steamer and, as church bells summon the faithful to prayer, the blast of the whistle gathered the town to the wharf. Among the faithful was Charles and, as he watched Nina disembark, he uttered the most quoted words in our whole family history, “I’m going to marry her and buy her a sky-blue dress to match her eyes.”

Nina and Charles were married on June 20, 1887, in the front parlor of her cousin Alanson Blackman’s home on Avenue B, just across the street from Hycranus and Ella’s where she had stayed in the second-floor front bedroom for a short five months.

Frances’s novel, Becoming Beatrice, tells the story of Nina and Charles using fictional names which allows her some room to embellish the story in ways not permitted with historical accounts. My favorite is the addition of a Native American girl, Twasla, who takes care of the home and befriends Beatrice — once she learns there is nothing to fear of this friendship.

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Nina Bakeman, 1925.

You are invited to join Frances Wood reading from her novel at the Blackman House Museum on Sunday, October 21, from 1 to 3p. The museum is located at 118 Avenue B, the reading is free, but hope you will pick-up a signed copy of her novel for $16.95, or Down to Camp for $13.95.

. . . .

Learn about Ms. Woods first reading at the museum in 2009.

Follow this link to my first story about the book Down to Camp.

Nina Blackman Bakeman: Snohomish Teacher and Civic Leader (1862-1941)

Finally, follow this link to a review of Becoming Beatrice.

. . . .

Featured Image: Frances Wood pictured in front of the family beach house “Drift Inn” taken on my first visit to Campers Row on Whidbey Island in 2009. Sadly, the cabin, designed by J. S. White around 1910 was severely damaged by a 2015 landslide.

#5. The Election: Going Down to Camp

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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.

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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.

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The 173rd Anniversary of J. S. White’s Birth

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John S. White was born in Tamworth, New Hampshire on July 13, 1845; and one year ago, we launched our book J. S. White Our First Architect with a Garden Release Party on the anniversary of his birth. This month, let’s learn more about Tamworth, New Hampshire.

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The Town of Tamworth was founded before we celebrated the Fourth of July (by terrorizing pets and poets) with the granting of a charter from George the Third of England to the town in 1766. Parson Samuel Hidden was ordained in 1792 and led the town in its early years of raising sheep growing corn, wheat, and rye. The Parson is credited with nurturing the cultural roots of Tamworth which today boasts of two public libraries, an arts council, historical society, a grant-making foundation, and churches, of course, all in a town of fewer than 3000 people.

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Cook Memorial Library, 1895.

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A Tamworth House.

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Remick Country Doctor Museum.

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Remick Country Doctor Farm.

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Summer stock theater going strong since the 1930s.

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Tamworth Distilling.

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Outdoor concert.

Thanks to this blog post “Destination Tamworth” where there are more photos and words.

Read more about the Town of Tamworth and its history.

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#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

. . . .

Mary Low Sinclair Arrives in Cadyville (future Snohomish City) on May 1, 1865.

mary low sinclair

On the last day of April 1865, Mary Low Sinclair and her one-month-old son, Alvin, board the small, unfinished steamer Mary Woodruff in Port Madison, Kitsap County, for a journey across Puget Sound and up the Snohomish River to a place called Cadyville, where her husband, Woodbury Sinclair (1825-1872), has purchased the Edson T. Cady claim that previous December. Mary remembers the day of her arrival in an article published 46 years later in the November 24, 1911, issue of the Snohomish County Tribune. She does not mention the fact that she was the first Caucasian woman to take up permanent residence in the place that was to become Snohomish City. She also fails to note that even by 1911, she is considered to be the founder of education in Snohomish by opening her home as the first classroom. Plus, she skips over the intriguing fact that by learning the native languages of the area, she served as a translator for visiting officials and journalists. The last recorded event was two years before her death, at 79 years of age, when she helps a reporter from Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer interview Snohomish’s famous Pilchuck Julia.

snohomish stories imageCadyville, 1865, the first photograph of the settlement that was renamed Snohomish by the Fergusons and Sinclairs in 1871. Ferguson’s Blue Eage saloon is pictured on the left, while the Sinclair store (and first classroom) is on the right. The structure is the center was an unnamed wharf building. Some accounts indentify the man in the foreground as Woodbury Sinclair.

A Clearing in the Woods

Born to John N. Low and Lydia (Colburn) Low in Bloomington, Illinois, on December 11, 1842, Mary and her family were members of the Denny Party that arrived at Alki Point in 1851. Many of the Denny Party became the first settlers of Seattle. The Lows, however, settled in Port Madison, Kitsap County, where Mary worked as a teacher, and ended up marrying her boss, the school district clerk, and lumberman Woodbury Sinclair, on March 4, 1862. Two years later, Woodbury found himself in Cadyville where he purchased the namesake’s claim on the north bank of the Snohomish River. The purchase included a small shack that Woodbury and a partner named William Clendenning planned to open as a store catering to the local loggers.

Mary, their infant son and the household goods arrived on May 1, 1865, which she described in her 1911 remembrance:”As the steamer landed at the gravel bank near the foot of Maple Street, a small clearing appeared in the otherwise unbroken timber. The town consisted of a rough log house on the bank in which supplies were stored. The store farther back, was a twelve by sixteen-foot shack. The old building still standing (1911) 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.”

The infant Alvin died 20 days after Mary’s arrival.

“There was no time to be lonesome …”

Mary’s remembrance continues: “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 or privation, soon began to make things look homelike. A large fireplace assisted considerably in clearing the dooryard, in which later bloomed old-fashioned flowers — Sweet Williams, Marigolds and Hollyhocks. There was no time to be lonesome; frogs sang cheerily in the nearby 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 bacons of their own curing.”

A second son was born on November 14, 1866, who they named Clarence Wood Sinclair, and he lived to become a popular captain of the favorite steamship Nellie in the 1870s. Mary notes in her 1911 article: “For two years there was no regular steamer outside, and the only fruit available was wild berries. But living was cheap and good, and not a butcher shop in forty miles. The Indian wives of the ranchers made sociable calls on their white neighbors, conversing in mingled Boston, Chinook, and Siwash Wa Wa (talk).”

Mabel “May” H. Sinclair was born on April 28, 1869, and lived until 1935.

The First Cemetery

In 1872, Mary, age 29, with two children, lost her husband Woodbury to death from unknown causes. He was 46 years of age. Just two months earlier they had filed a plat of their claim on the east side of a growing town — now officially named Snohomish City. First, Second and Commercial Streets were parallel to the river, with cross streets named, Cedar, Maple, State, Willow, and Alder. They also sold the original store building, which they had turned into the Riverside Hotel. The hotel featured rooms surrounding a large hall on the second floor that was used by the community for meetings, dances, church services, weddings, court proceedings, and even funerals.

At Woodbury’s death, the Sinclairs were in the process of donating three acres on the eastern edge of their plat, alongside the Pilchuck River, to establish the county’s first graveyard. As the story goes, there was an accidental death of a young Caucasian woman the previous year, which left the frontier community helplessly aware that they had no burial ground — no proper place for a proper lady to rest in peace.

So negotiations with the Sinclairs were in progress when Woodbury passed away on June 5, 1872, leaving his widow — acting as guardian of her children’s estate — to successfully complete negotiations with the newly formed Snohomish Cemetery Association in 1876. (This was done just in time to bury 17 children claimed by an epidemic called “black diphtheria” the following year.)

Mary ordered a headstone of white marble, standing some three feet tall, to create a memorial for Woodbury in the new cemetery, where she also moved the remains of her infant son Alvin and added those of her second son Clarence in 1905, who died from a sudden illness. Mary died on a Sunday, June 11, 1922. She was 79 years old, still living in her home on Pearl Street and still active. She was cremated in Seattle, and, according to sketchy records dating from the 1940s, her remains were included in the family plot in Snohomish’s first cemetery.

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The Missing Memorial

The Catholic Church founded the second cemetery in 1895; but the largest cemetery today was established in 1898 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Veteran’s group, simply referred to as the GAR — both were located outside of town. Over the years, the picturesque cemetery alongside the river, framed by a white picket fence, was no longer needed for the newly dead, and so became neglected and eventually referred to as the “Indian Cemetery.” Consequently, not enough attention was paid in the 1940s when the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed that all of the pioneer graves had been moved to other cemeteries, when they extended 2nd Street north, cutting the historic cemetery site in two. There is no record of the Sinclair remains being moved to the GAR, nor those of Mary’s parents, the Lows, who had moved to Snohomish shortly after Woodbury’s death. Only his faded white headstone, the centerpiece of the Sinclair memorial, was found in the abandoned cemetery and it was rescued by the Snohomish Historical Society, where it has held a predominant position in their display of a pioneer graveyard since the late 1980s.

. . . .

More articles commissioned by HistoryLink.org:

Snohomish — Thumbnail History

Snohomish: Historic Downtown Cybertour

Snohomish incorporates as a city of the third class on June 26, 1890.

The Eye reports Gilbert Horton’s floating photography gallery to be in Snohomish on May 29, 1886.

Eldridge Morse dedicates the Snohomish Atheneum on June 5, 1876.

Snohomish County Tribune supports demolition of the old county courthouse portion of Snohomish High School in an editorial on June 16, 1938.

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#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.

Seasons Greetings with Gratitude

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Twenty-Seventeen — what a year!

Our book, J.S. White Our First Architect was released with a Gala Garden Release Party on July 13th, the 172nd Anniversary of White’s birth in Tamworth, NH.

Karen’s run to save our local government from a coup by social media fell short of votes but long on misogyny.

Following the election, a commission to write a thumbnail history of Lake Stevens for HistoryLink.org, Washington state’s free online encyclopedia, was a happy distraction. I enjoyed getting to know Lake Stevens, both its beginnings and its plans.

The first person to purchase lots on the lake was Charles A. Missimer, a renaissance-man who lived and worked in Snohomish. “The varied occupations of Charles A. Missimer (1857-1938) were reported in both the first and second newspapers of Snohomish, the Northern Star and The Eye, as a photographer, scenery painter, trombone player with the local Snohomish band at the Atheneum Masked Ball, deputy county surveyor, Circuit Court clerk, even co-publisher of The Eye for a short time,” as I wrote in the essay.

Combing through the 19th-century newspapers researching our book, I came across this mention that I wanted to use as an epigraph for the essay, but the editor cut-it so here it is instead.

Should the railroad touch the shores of Lake Stevens, a town will be built that will become a dangerous rival to Snohomish. Being situated near the geographical center of the county, could but with little difficulty secure the county seat.
June 13, 1888, The Eye.

Very curious because Missimer didn’t purchase his land until the following year. In 1888 when the railroad arrived in Snohomish there was no there-there in Lake Stevens–just the beautiful and very deep lake.

Best Wishes for the New Year Dear Readers, your comments are always welcomed.

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Our featured image is a video still from an excerpt from our book’s first essay “Methodist Church, 1885” posted one year ago to promote the book. The printed copy seen in the clip is the final version which had just been sent to the printer in China!

As I said: “what a year!”

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Discovering the White Building Hiding in Plain Sight

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We are marking the anniversary month of J. S. White’s death on October 22, 1920, with a slideshow telling the story of his masterpiece structure located at 924 First Street that was misidentified for over 40 years.

This event will be held at Snohomish’s historic Bauer Funeral Chapel, located at 701 First Street, on Saturday, October 21st from 4:30 to 5:30p.  It’s Free, thanks to the generosity of the chapel manager Brian Halbeisen.

This presentation was presented first at the 66th Pacific Northwest History Conference: “Hidden Histories, Diverse Publics” to be held in Spokane, October 12-14th.

Of course, this story of the White Building is told in our fine art book J. S. White: Our First Architect, available here online and at the Uppercase Bookshop on 2nd Street and Avenue B. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at the Bauer Chapel event.

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Karen, Warner & Otto “On-the-Air”

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A wonderful time was had by all at our book signing Sunday, July 30, at Uppercase Bookshop — and we sold seven books — thanks in large part to our Sound Living interview on KSER!

Barb and Bob were on their way out of town listening to a repeat of the show on Sunday morning when they turned around to stop by and pick up a copy. The KSER show motivated Dan and his wife to purchase a copy that will be added to Dan’s extensive collection of Pacific Northwest history. Matt from Bothell, learned about the signing on FB, stopped by to get a copy explaining that he travels a lot to visit architectural sites and wishes every community had a book like ours to describe the local treasures. Clay from Granite Falls was with us from the beginning asking twice for the ‘dark stories’ we couldn’t include in the book. Carlos showed up riding his bike in from just outside town, he quizzed Otto about his work in the book quite a while before purchasing a copy. Friend Kay and her son Ike purchased a copy and finally so did Otto’s photographer friend Dean who along with Kyra and their new puppy, who were the first to arrive.

A BIG THANKS to Ed Bremer and KSER for helping us spread the word. You can listen to the entire hour-long program below.

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Book Signing Party

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With our fine art book officially released at our Gala Garden Release Party on July 13th, the 172nd Anniversary of J. S. White’s birth in Tamworth, NH, we now move forward with Book Signings and Promotional Events.

We have two to announce: First, tune in on Friday, July 28th to KSER (90.7) for the Sound Living Call-in Show. Hosted by veteran independent radio broadcaster Ed Bremer, Karen and Warner will be his guests talking about the creation of our fine art book, while photographer Otto will be standing by in Seattle to join us by calling-in — and you can too: 425.303.9070.

Second: You are invited to talk Snohomish history and photography while we sign some books on the outdoor deck of the Uppercase Bookshop on Sunday, July 30, 2-4p. Both Otto and yours truly will be on hand and it’s a grand time to purchase our fine art book and help support an independent bookstore as well as our publication. Those who have a pre-order copy are welcomed to join us for the signing.

(Thanks to Otto for setting up the group shot of the Angels & Publishers and to Karen for working the remote!)

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Finally, at a fundraiser for Congresswoman Suzan DelBene hosted in our studio, Karen presented Suzan with a signed: “as a friend of Snohomish,” copy of our fine art book, which she promises to keep on the coffee table in her DC office.

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We like that.

 

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Video: First Look!

Five Advanced Copies Arrived 5.4.17!

Carefully running my letter cutter up the space between the shrink-wrap and pages, I removed the clinging plastic and opened our book. Amazing! It looked so familiar, just as it looked in the digital files, edit round upon edit round … but the paper was so thick I had to check if two had stuck together. The clarity of the photographs was stunning, not just Otto’s but the historic images as well. These are images I know very well and they have taken on a new life in this book, on this paper and through the process of production by iocolor.  Thanks to the staff at Lucia Marquand and to all our Angels and Publishers.

My humble Thanks ~w.

Video: A Shooting Gallery?

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White’s corner lot next to the palace saloon is being graded for a shooting gallery. The Eye, December 22,1892.

Time has become years since I first saw the White Building basement — it was within days of reading the news of a “shooting gallery” in Snohomish’s 19th-century newspaper of record.

The long basement room was dark and empty except for a grease collection container. I didn’t bring a camera or a flashlight, always meant to return better prepared. So you can imagine my surprise when I finally returned and my host, the prep cook, Mitch, hit the light switch at the bottom of the stairs filling the basement with light.

The once level floor had mounds of dirt from adding footings for the posts with beams supporting the thick joists resting on the original granite foundation. Now the basement was a handy place to store a variety of restaurant supplies. There was a short row of sparkling water glasses on a plank sticking out of a scrap pile. Evidence of an interrupted story.

Speaking of which, there is no sign that the room was once a shooting gallery, even though it was certainly excavated for one as the paper reported. Plus, there is no mention of a shooting gallery in the papers, not even an advertisement.

Next month will feature the large room on the second floor intended to be a hospital! Would have been close by for shooting gallery accidents, but alas, neither came to be.

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So excited to report: July 13, 2017, is the release date for our book J. S. White Our First Architect, and the date of our Gala Garden Release Party for Angels and Publishers of the fine art book. July 13 is the 172nd anniversary of White’s birth in Tamworth, New Hampshire. White lived for 75 years, 36 of them in Snohomish.

If you would like to attend our release party but have yet to make a tax-deductible donation, this offer is for you: Contribute $75, come to the party and pick up your gift of the book personalized for you or yours! We need raise only $5,000 more to pay off the $21,000 cost of producing the book — your generous contribution will help.

Contribute online or by check, details are here.

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Video: “Disastrous Fire”

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Every town wishing to become a city requires a Great Fire Story in its early history and the one of 1911 is ours. Fortunately, it was documented by photographer William Douglas who was asleep in a downtown hotel room when the fire alarm sounded in the predawn hours. Backed up by his striking black-and-white photographs, it’s fun to tell the story about the fire which I have often: first here, then here. But the most rewarding telling was without the images when I led a group of Emerson third graders on a walking tour of our historic downtown and received the illustrated thank-you note pictured above.

Please enjoy this two-minute montage of Douglas’s photographs along with the story as reported in the Snohomish County Tribune on June 2, 1911.


“Disatrous Fire”

This story is included in our book about J.S. White but as a side-bar, of which there are four that use the newspaper accounts verbatim, and two of them are about fires! And speaking of our book, be sure to check out our Fun(d)raising Progress — we need your pre-order to raise the funds due when the books arrive in July.

For encouragement, I will be at the Snohomish Farmers Market on Cedar Street, every Thursday, from 3 to 7p., beginning May 4th. Every pre-order entitles you to join me for a guided Walking Tour of White’s 19th-Century Snohomish, Saturday mornings at 10a.

Questions? 206.914.4075   |   Hello@SnohomishStories.org   |   Subscribed?

3.22.17: Off to the Printer!

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Melissa Duffes’s desk shows evidence of her role as the hub of art book production at Lucia Marquand; for certain, it’s the last stop before the project is sent to the printer in China, Artron Art Group, and March 22nd was the date of departure for J. S. White Our First Architect. By the end of the month, we should have what is called a “plotter” from the printer.

Stand-by.

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APRIL 1, 2017: Angels’ Fools Party:  celebrating the passing of the J. S. White book into the hands of the printers in China. (Note empty take-out containers!) Seated is photographer Otto holding, the printer’s plotter, and behind him, from the left, is Karen, Denise with Jimmy, Terry, Janet and Mary Pat.

Up next: Five advance copies due May 17, 2017!

Video: Elwell House, 1888

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“The river has been bank full again this week,” was noted in The Eye on December 10, 1887, and it’s one of my favorite finds in the 19th-century newspaper of record for Snohomish. Consequently, the Snohomish River is the visual theme of this month’s video.

In October 2013, I wrote an article on the Elwell House with the title: “Built 1888; Divided 1913; Renovated 2013.” It’s written as a movie pitch with the hook that a new architect comes to town, Pete Hansen, who purchases the lot that contains the southern half of White’s Elwell House which requires him to separate it. Pete does and moves his half some 100 feet away, then forward toward the street, and remodels it for his family home.

This drama is mentioned in Essay #4 of J. S White Our First Architect, but the focus is on the extended Elwell family, all of whom migrated to the Snohomish valley from Maine just in time to celebrate the nation’s centennial in 1876.  John and Eliza had nine children with Edgar being the seventh, born in 1854.

The video excerpt is the beginning of the essay, Edgar has been in the logging business for ten years and he recently married his second wife, Emma.

I appreciate hearing from you and for your support.

Color Proofs: Round One!

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On January 13 of the new year, Otto and I met with Leah Finger, Production Manager with Lucia Marquand, to go over the first round of color proofs produced by Seattle’s iocolor. Leah made precise notes on the proofs like, “make better.” I learned that iocolor was established in 2001 as a sister company with Marquand Books, and Leah has a five-year relationship working with the technician/artists at the company. Otto and I were so impressed by process that I took another picture.

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Otto with Leah Finger, Production Manager, at Lucia Marquand.

We met for two more follow-up color proof sessions, each time with a smaller pile of images as they were fixed and approved.

Follow this link to visit the iocolor website, warning: the site contains beautiful books!

Video: A. M. Blackman Store, 1889

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No one today calls the Oxford Tavern, the “A. M. Blackman Store,” its original name. It would mean ignoring an oral history involving ladies-of-the-night, bar fights, and ghosts. Even the third graders from Emerson on my annual walking tour wanted to know about the ghosts. The Oxford Tavern is Snohomish’s most famous place.

blackman store Arthur M. Blackman was a young man when he built his two-story grocery store on 1st Street, considered at the time to be the largest in the county. Engaged in both wholesale and retail sales, Arthur’s operation became a victim of the national depression of 1893 and the business folded the following year.

You will learn more watching the short illustrated excerpts from Essay #6: J. S. White Our First Architect. I appreciate hearing from you and for your support.

Video: Odd Fellows Hall, 1886

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Let’s welcome the first month of the New Year with a short video clip of excerpts from our art book J. S. White, Our First Architect, featuring the second building White built in Snohomish, the Odd Fellows Hall, dedicated in 1886.

The book is in production with the Seattle company Lucia Marquand, and I had to put off writing this post until the first round of edits were complete and returned to the Editorial Director, Melissa Duffes.  It’s an exciting time learning the process of Making an Art Book that you are invited to follow on the website.

Meanwhile, check out the visual tease from the essay, about the owner’s discovery of the large plaster chandelier medallion, still attached to the original ceiling above the drop-ceiling of acoustical tiles installed in the 1950s.

Please follow this link to pre-order your copy of J. S. White Our First Architect.

Layout Design Set

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Working with our designer, Meghann, along with Otto and Susan, a layout for the book was set mid-December. Now, the process of making an art book passes to the editorial lead, Melissa Duffes, who in short order sent text proofs for editing. I’m working with a pdf copy, while editor Susan prefers a hard copy of the text. Plus, our contract with Lucia Marquand includes the services of a copy editor.

The “first text proofs” are due back to Melissa by January 12, next year!

Video: Methodist Church, 1885

We are celebrating Christmas this year in the original Methodist Church, taking us back to 1901. This is the first building J. S. White built in Snohomish, beginning in 1884, the same year he arrived with his wife and three daughters under the age of nine.

One or all of his girls could be turned toward the camera on the left, and the mustachio man on the right could be Mr. White himself? As for what’s going on on the altar, please check out this post from 2014.

This month begins a monthly video post reading from the manuscript for the J. S. White book, with cut-aways to historic images and footage of how the subject structure looks today. Perhaps we can get invited inside as we were in this case by Sharon St. Marie, owner of the Belle Chapel, its new name.

Please enjoy our first video post, your questions are welcomed in the comments below.

Please follow this link to pre-order a copy of J. S. White Our First Architect.

Meet Meghann Ney

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I met with Meghann Ney, our book designer, on Halloween for her design presentation of our book, and not one member of the small staff at Lucia|Marquand wore a costume to work.

Still exciting to get the first look at what our book is going to become. Meghann has put the framework in place before adding the text and images. Now it’s up to me to finish the manuscript in a word doc and send it along by November 7th — the day before we make history.

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Snohomish’s Famous Architect

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Around 1910, Ben and Nettie Morgan commissioned J.S. White to design and build a beach cabin on Whidbey Island. The story is told in the endearing memoir, “Down to Camp,” by Frances Wood, who is pictured above with the family cabin.

snohomish storiesBy 1890, it was the summer tradition among several Snohomish families to shutter their city home and board a steamship loaded down with enough supplies to last a generous part of August camping on a beach across Possession Sound. Since, for many years, the journey began by going down the Snohomish River, the annual event became known as going “down to camp,” well into the age of the automobile. At first platforms with tents were set-up on a relatively narrow shelf of land between the water and a steep bluff, then modest cabins sprouted up year after year, all in row, along a foot path still referred to as “Camper’s Row.”

Ben and Nettie purchased a lot in 1902 and around eight years later, commissioned White to build a cabin to replace their tent, a choice perhaps based on his association with Ben’s father. They christened the structure “Camp Illahee,” a word of the indigenous people carrying “a sense of home, and connections between people and living place,” according to Frances.

snohomish storiesCamper’s Row on Whidbey Island, 1914, Camp Illahee is the cabin with the flag in the center, note tents to the left. The steep bank was vulnerable to land slides, as the one pictured here, and in 2015 a major slide left the historic cabin filled with mud.

Three decades later, Frances tells us, her grandparents purchased Camp Illahee from Nettie, then married to a Taylor, who described the cabin in a letter: “… it could be rolled over and over and not come to pieces.” Regardless of this vivid pitch, Frances’s grandparents got the cabin for a low-ball offer of $1,100.

The cabin was renamed to “Drift Inn” by Frances’s parents when it was passed on to them. Fast forward through a childhood of summers spent at the beach cabin to the 1970s, when Frances and her sibling’s families are enjoying summer months at Drift Inn and the discussion of modifying the cabin comes up. The conversation involves three generations, including her grandmother Inez, the daughter of Nina and Charles Bakeman, who owned the furniture building that burned in 1893, sending the homeless city council members to White’s then-new building.

In a telephone conversation, Frances shared with me the family lore that White was given the commission because he was down on his luck and needed the work. She also remembers Inez advising the grandchildren, when remodeling, to not change the “lines” because it was designed by the famous Snohomish architect, J. S. White.

. . . .

This is an excerpt from my book in progress, “J.S. White: Our First Architect.

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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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.

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