Today, January 14, marks the creation of Snohomish County in 1861, following deliberations by the Washington Territorial Legislature meeting in Olympia while — “the white flakes drifted down upon our wintery scene,” reported the local press and recounted in Margaret Riddle’s excellent essay posted online at Historylink.org.
Margaret tells the story of the county’s birth in the lively, yet detailed precision of a gifted historian, bending adjectives over backward to tell how the Native Americans would not move quietly (and quickly) to the Tulalip reservation and leave the white settlers alone. There was the talk of the United States Army moving in which inspired a group of men in Steilacoom, a settlement south of Seattle, home to a military fort since 1847, to fantasize about a ferry service across the Snohomish River, a vital link of a military road heading north.
However, funding for the road was redirected for the Civil War and the Steilacoom group abandoned the ferry fantasy except for one man: E. C. Ferguson. He had his small house shipped to the future site of Snohomish City in pieces and reassembled near to where it stands today.
It was in this one-room home, referred to as Ferguson’s Cottage through the years, that a petition was drawn-up requesting the formation of Snohomish County by the Legislature. Besides the settlement on the Snohomish River, there was Fowler’s Store in Mukilteo and that was it within the proposed boundaries of the new county. A rough census of the non-native population counted 49 men and no women. The Legislature placed the temporary county seat at Mukilteo.
The first Snohomish County election was held July 8, 1861, when the yet unnamed Snohomish won the permanent county seat thanks to Ferguson’s superior effort to get out the vote with 17 to Fowler’s 10. Ferguson returned to Snohomish with the county records in his vest pocket, making his cottage the county’s first courthouse.
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Today, the City of Snohomish promotes itself as the Antique Capital of the Northwest and has since the 1980s when the tag line was coined by John Regan, the original owner of the Star Center Mall he opened in 1982. This was learned from an article posted on Herald.net “Something old for everybody in our state’s antique capitol,” January 7, 2019. “To be sure, it wasn’t antiques,” the article reports Regan’s thinking, “he felt like Snohomish needed a little something.”
Indeed, Main Street had become increasingly forlorn throughout the sixties & seventies. A city planner contracted with Urban Renewal funds proposed tearing down all of the buildings on the south side of First Street in order to open the city to the river but there was no money to act on the plan. As it’s said: Economic depression leads to historic preservation. Low downtown rents brought in more antique/collectible shops and the nickname stuck and is now “synonymous with Snohomish” as the Herald story pointed out. In other words, we are stuck with it.
Next month, I will make the case for an alternative tag line:
City of Snohomish: Birthplace of the County.
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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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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.
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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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.
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?
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.
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.
Mayor Karen hosted an event called, “Coffee With the Mayor” on her birthday, May 21, just last month. The gathering was held at the local library and I brought along my new Nikon D5200. A question about water rates and its complicated answer gave me the idea to do this short history about Snohomish’s water system. I learned a lot — the central reason for doing these stories every month — and knowing the background helps to understand the Mayor’s answer. Here’s a toast to clarity!
Awonderful story from The Eye, the local newspaper in 1892, about the Snohomish Water Company competing with the new city system had to be cut from the clip. Here is the voice-over script instead:
“The story in the paper goes that the owner Mr. Allen, paddled a dugout canoe with the editor of The Eye on board out to the center of lake to show him that the water is as clear as crystal and as cold as ordinary well-water — much better than the Pilchuck water when humpy salmon go up the stream looking for a quiet spot to end their days, Mr. Allen added. The company just needed financing to extend their pipe to the center of lake. The pitch failed to sway the writer who wrote that it would be a better deal for taxpayers to purchase the company’s pipes and either collect rent or plug them up.”
Your comments are encouraged and always acknowledged.
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NOTES: Thanks to Fred Cruger with the Granite Falls Historical Society for help locating the dams.
CORRECTION: The term “water rates” was first used in 1887, not 1878 as stated in the video. Please make a note of it.