Learn more about the Wilburs at Stop #8 of the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail pictured on the Home Page.
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Read more about Mary Low Sinclair at Stop #4 on the Early Snohomish Heritage Trail pictured on the Home Page.
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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.
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Mellisa Spada contacted me to learn what I might know about the former Stewart’s building at 709 First which they purchased with plans to expand their family business, the Spada Farmhouse Brewery. I was no help but suggested we search the old newspapers once the library reopens.
Then, pitched her the idea of replacing the brown paper with inexpensive bond paper prints of a historic image divided into sections. It’s an idea that comes to me every time a store on First Street changes hands and the windows are covered with kraft paper which eventually loses its battle with gravity and looks a mess!
Bill’s Blueprint in Everett prints color and black & white images up to 36 inches wide by any reasonable length, according to the website, starting at 35 cents a square foot for white bond paper. In the case of the 709 First building with 83-inch tall windows, each section of a photo mural would cost under $10 dollars, Mellisa did the calculations and came up with 19 sections. My pitch to Mellisa was for her to pay for the materials and I would donate the labor — (I wasn’t sure if the idea would work).
The prints were pasted to the windows with a thinned down wheatpaste — a method adopted from graffiti postering — it’s not intended for close-up viewing. Best of all, it’s ephemeral, like theater, after the run of performances we strike the set, said the former scenic designer.
The historic photo used is one of my favorites by Gilbert Horton taken in 1908 of an event marking the laying of cobblestones on First Street to replace the wooden planks. I wrote about it in 2008, when the “Snohomish Then and Now” column was published in the Tribune.
The “set was struck” during the last week of November and the windows cleaned to their reflective glory. When I showed up at the Grand Opening on December 4th, Mark Spada was checking his phone, I shared my congratulations. He confessed that the restrictions on indoor dining gave them room to breathe. The generous size room is limited to 120 people he said, then added, “can you imagine over a hundred people in here?”
He had a point. But one day the handsome space will be full of people, often. Just across First Street is the renovated Carnegie Library building getting close to its own Grand Opening.
This block of First Street is sure to become the “top-of-the-town!”
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Brown’s Theater Crowded As Opening Night Pleases Huge Audience, Two Full Houses
With more than 1,000 people in attendance, Brown’s Theater opened to the public Thursday evening.
Long before the opening hour, seven o’clock, an anxious crowd of theater fans blocked the street, awaiting the opening of the doors. This despite the inclement weather of the evening.
At five minutes after seven, every seat in the house had been taken, and the good-natured gathering spent the moments before the opening admiring the beautiful interior of the place.
Promptly at 7:30 lights were dimmed and the introduction began. This proved a novel thing. Instead of appearing on the stage and talking to the audience, Mr. Brown had a movie of himself made, showing him “close up” addressing a gathering. His words of welcome were then reproduced on the screen. At the end of the short film, a “hook appeared dragging him from the platform with the words “Let’s Go.” With that the program proper of the evening began.
Several excellent movie films followed, interspersed just before the big picture of the evening by a clever singing act in which James N. Mount and Mrs. Gladys Wallage appeared in several selections from modern songs. They were very well received being encored again and again.
The evening developed into a rather gala occasion for the entire city, with restaurants and confectionery shops filled to overflowing after the show.
Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, October 16, 1924
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Curious, no review of the “big picture of the evening,” Hold Your Breath –but your review is welcomed in the comments, where you will find a wonderful story from the Snohomish childhood of Candace Jarett attending a screening at the Brown Theatre with her class from Central School.
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A lingering notion I’ve had, probably since Early Snohomish was published a dozen years ago — if I were to write a sequel I’d call it Modern Snohomish.
In June 1926, Snohomish residents approved, by only three votes, the construction of a new fire station on the corner of Avenue A and 2nd Street to replace the 19th-century wooden building referred to as a shack in the news accounts.
Included in the vote was the construction of our first City Hall with offices for the police and a jail in the basement.
By then the new Lon Brown Theatre, a 40×100-foot structure of concrete, built on a lot purchased from the city for $2,500, and snuggled up close to the ten-year-old First National Bank (our first “fireproof” building) had been screening movies for two years. The Iron Horse, John Ford’s “blazing trail of love and civilization” played an extended run that past September.
Mac Bates, native son and retired middle school teacher, begins his remembrance of the Brown Theatre, as found on RootsWeb (posted in 2002), like this:
Every day as I cross the bridge into Snohomish, I turn onto First Street, pulled ineluctably by memory. I don’t really expect to see Schott’s Meat Market, Snohomish Drug, Mel’s Delicatessen, or J.C. Penney instead of the antique stores and boutiques, which have breathed life into downtown Snohomish, but, invariably, as I turn onto Avenue B, I look to see what’s playing at the old Snohomish Theater. Of course, nothing is playing. There have been no coming attractions for almost three years when the last movie ended, the credits rolled, and the screen went black forever.
Jackhammers three years ago leveled the lobby and exposed the darkened theater. Rows of sticky, soda-stained seats were ripped from the floor. For a few days, the patched movie screen was exposed to the last warm light of fall before workmen dismantled it, leaving a gaping black hole on First Street and in my heart.
I had never been backstage and had had little desire to see what lay behind the curtains. The screen was my window to the world of romance, adventure, terror, and fantasy. Movies enchanted me. The images came not from the projector but from behind the screen if one dared look (and I could not), an ethereal vapor spiraling out over the Snohomish River, wisping above cornfields and grazing cattle, and soaring over the forested foothills to Hollywood where almost anything seemed possible.
The late Carroll Clark, who posted Mac’s story on Rootsweb, I met in connection with the Annual Mother’s Day Vaudille Show produced by Eleanor Leight to benefit the Snohomish Historical Society for many years. His granddaughter was a featured dancer in the show along with other key dancers nicknamed the “Dawn Patrol.” In 2004, I followed the creation of the 26th Annual show with the documentary: To Dance with Eleanor.
Indulge me with a fantasy that could have been: The renovation of the Lon Brown Theatre in the 1970s for the Annual Mother’s Day Vaudville Show! Instead of screening the Northwest Premiere of Deep Throat, as told in Mac’s story.
Eleanor’s show was presented in the PAC — the high school’s Performance Art Center until a new center was built with many tax-dollars — its use was too expensive for Eleanor’s annual show to continue.
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A heartfelt thanks to Mac Bates, and your memories of the Brown Theatre are encouraged, please comment below.
Formally Titled: “DRB Meeting, Wednesday, August 12, 6p.” Nothing is certain in this Age of Zoom Meetings except the recordings.
First, one auditorium becomes two — the main floor and a balcony; then the lobby, balcony theater, and the auditorium were destroyed for a retail operation — a tourist trap; then the marque from the 1920s was replaced with a new, yet vintage looking sign with the name Pegasus; and, during a week in May 2020, the last straw — the fly-loft was destroyed and replaced with a “penthouse!”
The Lon Brown Theater is Dead to Snohomish Residents.
Long Live the Lon Brown Theater in Their Memories!
Please contact me with your memories of watching movies, dancing on the stage, and especially if you have pictures (i can scan them while you wait — make an appointment: 206.914.4075 Voice & Text; email@example.com.
Easiest of all, leave a comment below.
Please check your scrapbooks, your shoeboxes of photos and tell your stories — the library is closed to research we need to crowd-source this mission!
Coming in September will be the rich remembrances of Mac Bates, son of the late Bill Bates, once the editor of the Tribune.
Let me add yours.
And in October, the first movie screened on October 9th, 1924, “Hold Your Breath,” will be posted in celebration of the theater building’s 96th anniversary.
You provide the popcorn.
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“The bones found us! It was a f-u-c-k-i-n-g shower of bones!” Said the Boss, who was a fast speller.
Suddenly his arms went up, palms cupped, head back, eyes wide open — an act of submission to a higher power — as portrayed in the old movies, I thought.
Very slowly, Boss floated his arms down to shoulder height and aimed both index fingers at Jake, who turned around from looking out the huge window, that towered over him, to face Boss, with a sharp setting sunlight to his back.
Boss shuffled left and right looking for a view of Jake’s face, giving up, he began, “Jake, here, on the first day on the job, went up the old rod iron ladder to the rails just below the ceiling, what do you call all that?” he asked, looking at me.
The “Grid-Deck” I told him. “Was it made of metal …?” I tried to ask.
“When Adventure Boy, here, gets to the top of the ladder, the piece of shit comes off the wall, banging against the metal thingamajig….
“Grid-deck. Sounds like it was made of metal,” I said. “Amazing, an iron grid-deck in the 1920s,” I started but was cut short by the Boss who was on a roll (playing a role, for sure).
“Whatever, the ladder jammed against it and Adventure Boy, here, skidded down the ladder, ripping the shit out of his hands, but was almost beaned by an iron pulley thing that went sailing past him landing with a startling, deep thud that shook the goddamn flimsy stage house walls.”
“No one moved,” continued Boss, “we stood there looking up into the darkness of the fly loft.
“I swear I heard footfalls up there,” said a young-looking Eric, kind of whispering — looking at me with a disconcerting stare.
“When the bones began to fall,” said Boss, making sure everyone knew he was reaching the turning point of his story, “it was as if someone, or something … was, I don’t know … was … settling a score?”
“Know what I mean?” he said turning to look at me.
The Boss overused this tag line — as if I knew anything about it — I just nodded in the affirmative.
“Now is not the time, nor the place to be talking about this,” spoke up Jake, turning again in the light to face the Boss as a shadow or silhouette.
I could see he had his shirt off, built like a modern movie star, I could sense he was proud of his look, topped with a fire-engine red head-band corralling his wild blonde locks. He never did take his gloves off, come to think of it.
The bowl of burning Blue Dream was opposite me, across a loose, semi-circle gathering. Jake was on my right, turning towards me, he watched my eyes as he spoke.
“The fly loft walls were dangerously water damaged and I shit you not,” Jake said, sotto voce, “it was ready to collapse, with the iron grid coming down on all of us — instant decapitation! The failure of the ladder was the only warning I needed.”
Our intense eye contact was (thankfully) broken when Jake slowly turned toward the Boss, then on to Eric, and to the fourth crew member, whose name I didn’t get, Jake continues, “fortunately, the fly loft came down by our hands as fast as we could — you can wipe your ass with the permit!”
“Was there really, a shower of bones?” I asked, with air quotes.
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COMMENTS WELCOMED BELOW
Well, I thought they were talking about the structural parts of the building — its Bones. “This old building still got good Bones,” the crew chief would say, way too many times, accompanied by an obvious round of eye contact between the other three crew members who called him “Boss.”
The knowing looks between them seem obvious in hindsight but my mind at the time was on the 30-foot drop to the floor below, the old stage floor. The unfinished floor above ended at a large opening with a quickly built staircase along the west wall. The absence of a handrail gently pushed me toward the wall and I hugged it close, one step at a time, all the way up.
But the view!
High above the stage floor of the old theater, built where the fly loft once held scenic flats, painted drops, even a thunder machine, and a snowfall sling of black velour, the view took in the Cascade Mountain Range to the left, the Snohomish River Valley straight-ahead and the watery planet of Puget Sound to the west.
Plus it was a super bright, super clear day with a spectacular stack of clouds hovering just above the bright, thin line of the horizon. A burning bowl of sweet bud was passed to me and I welcomed the opportunity to experience this indigenous culture where I found myself.
The small crew was “stoked.” It took less than two weeks for the “dudes” to dismantle the old stage house tower piece-by-piece, then build an 800 square foot room with huge windows.
If the windows opened it would be tempting to fly, I thought, taking in the view, wondering where are the dreams d’anten?
The only bummer note was a visit from Sharon, the city’s building inspector. She informed them that once they got the building weathertight they would need to apply for a permit that specifies external changes — their current permit was for inside work only. The new permit would require application with the Design Review Board, she told them.
“What the fuck?” Was the crew’s unanimous, boisterous reaction egged-on by the Boss. The glass pipe came around again. “It’s Blue Dream from Hanger 420 — the three-gram bag is a nice price!” said the “dude” who passed me the pipe.
Started to explain “ordinances”… but I was intimidated by this group of blond young men with zero body flat and full heads of long hair held in place with their hats on backward. Only the Boss had a dark, bushy beard; and they were loaded, as high as this place in the sky, built by their labor.
Besides, I wanted to know more about what it was like in the old fly loft before they took it apart. Discover anything interesting, like old scenery, I wondered?
Stoned silence. All eyes were downcast suddenly studying their work boots. They looked brand new.
“Did you find any bones?” I joked, thinking of something to break the ice.
TO BE CONTINUED : SUBSCRIBE!
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The historic Lon Brown Theater building, at 1003 First Street, opened on October 9, 1924, with live theater acts and two sold-out screenings of the silent movie, Hold Your Breath, at 7 and 9 pm. Fans spilled out into First Street, blocking traffic … eventually dispersing over the years, it finally closed in 1999.
The theater building, fully equipped with a fly loft for raising and lowering scenery, plus dressing rooms for 60 persons, opened with the new millennium as the Pegasus Theatre Shops. A tourist trap kind of place that erased any trace of its previous life holding live theater. The business moved to Las Vegas a couple of years ago leaving behind a run-down building littered with unsold stuff too large to move.
New owners arrived with the new year, 2020, moving the abandoned stuff to the sidewalk to give away, then discovering a dangerously water damaged stage house tower. It was quietly taken down by a small crew that is now building out an 800 square foot perch featuring oversized windows high above the Snohomish River Valley.
On Friday, May 8th, Sharon Petitt, the city’s Building Inspector, visited the site to met with the contractor when she heard his story of the urgency and reasons for tearing down the stage house tower. Ms. Petitt issued a correction report that a permit is required and Design Review. The owner’s permit was for interior work only.
Owners planning external alterations to their structures located in the Historic District are required to submit their plans to the Design Review Board (DRB), a citizen board charged with maintaining design standards for the district. A copy of the standards is available from city hall or online. The public is invited to all DRB meetings and is encouraged in this case.
It’s my understanding that early in its history, the stage welcomed community presentations — I’d love to learn more — please comment below with your experience, or contact me. We will feature your stories in our October post: “Remembering the Lon Brown Theater.” Included as well will be an online screening of the theater’s first movie: Hold Your Breath.
This October, the Lon Brown Theater building will be four years short of its 100th Anniversary.
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Yet, this picture brings to mind the mess we made struggling for community acceptance to expose our historic Carnegie building.
This story begins 15 years ago when the Snohomish City Council established the Carnegie Preservation Committee, tasked with recommending an architect who would prepare a feasibility study of bringing new life to our small library building. The addition, built with a $150,000 bond issue approved in 1966, doubled the square footage and added twice the shelf space for books. Opened in 1968, it was again too small twenty years later.
Mayor Payson Peterson accepted the soft ochre brick addition for the city. Washington State librarian, Maryan Reynolds, gave the keynote address followed by a public open house for a proud, contented community. But with a man about to land on the moon, along with more people moving to town, Snohomish’s days of innocence were numbered. The Little Building that Almost Could
The Carnegie Preservation Committee selected BoLa Architecture + Planning, a firm homegrown in Seattle, and the choice was approved by all seven council members. With that done, the selection committee was disbanded. However, several members continued to serve on the board of the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to establish the Carnegie Educational Center — narrowed down with the tag: A Place for Families, — to be located in the renovated historic building.
Although the BoLa people offered planning services they were not called upon to consider the entire site, just the historic building. It seems the contract with the city called for the firm to essentially ignore the Annex (I know, odd) save for specifying cosmetic repairs once the Annex was separated — standing free and needing a new face.
Consequently, the city council asked the Foundation to pay for a feasibility study of what to do with the Annex: sell it to a third party; fix it up and rent it out at market rate; or demolish it. Working with two independent consultants, the three options were presented to the council members.
The third option was accepted by a unanimous vote: to demolish the Annex and create a downtown park. The year was 2008, yet the Annex stood, and stood, still attached to the historic building until February 18, 2020, a Tuesday.
A Leader Founds a FacebookGroup of Responsible Citizens
Snohomish residents grew increasingly restless during this time. Our police chief expressing his love for another male officer in an email was only the beginning.
He resigned and with the new chief the heretical discussion resumed — to contract with the county sheriff and dissolve the entity known as the Snohomish Police Department.
Residents imagined (so no need for facts) the worse: “Our police department is 150 years old!” claimed a misinformed malcontent in a letter to the editor.
When discussing the future of the Snohomish Police Department, let’s be clear about its past — the department is not 150 years old. Looking for the beginning of a paper trail establishing our Police Department led me to the unexpected discovery that legally, the entity called “The Snohomish Police Department” is only 38 years old.
Part 4: Snohomish Police Department.
Looking back, we should have known that the founder of a Facebook group for Snohomish residents practicing willful ignorance – would be the wellspring from which the Leader of the group emerged disguised as a humble truck driver.
At the time, I avoided looking into his eyes, his stare was troubling. He appeared to be a homeless person. My first encounter was at the door of our home, he rambled on about a donation of a historic home that appeared to be abandoned? (Karen and I looked at each other as he walked through the garden gate — how bizarre we both thought — but then non-followers don’t see a Leader.)
Odd too, he was a person of mixed race in a white town; moreover, he came with an incredible story, (learned later, towards the end), that his mother told him his father was white – until he was 10 years old. (So the story goes, yet, it’s a genesis story worthy of a Founding Leader.)
His Facebook Group was growing in members as the restlessness of the community facebooked each other up with the gall of a developer even applying to build small apartments (referred to as apodments) in a neighborhood of single-family homes. Apodments were successful for this developer in Seattle where a half dozen small studios share a kitchen – like a family.
The horror of who-would-live-in-such-a-place stuffed the city council chambers with the largest numbers yet of the gloriously uninformed. One speaker, I remember, stepping up to the lectern testified he was afraid for the family cat! I assumed the man imagined the family pet would be seen as food by people who didn’t want to pay for a normal-sized home. Who knows?
The timeline is fuzzy as it seems like everything was happening at once back in those days. Like out of nowhere came the horror of a cell-tower-in-a-park. An enterprising malcontent even built a mock-up of how tall the proposed tower would be compared to what I don’t remember.
The park in question was once an empty lot alongside the railroad tracks and where, over the years, was born a baseball park of community fraternity. Moreover, from this homegrown park, a tribute to the fertile American past time came Earl Averill: the first rookie in major league history to score a home run his first-time at-bat. Locating Home Plate
The ballpark was named Averill Field around the time Earl was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame – Earl is Snohomish’s most famous citizen – even though the ballpark with its homemade stadium seating and lighting towers eventually returned to its beginnings as a vacant lot. For many years afterward, the annual carny rides would use the lot for one week in July.
The outdoor swimming pool was the first thing built on the sacred site, which was eventually brought indoors by the Snohomish School District and named after the revered Superintendent, Hal Moe.
Next, the Kiwanis club finally built a modern playground for kids – a design unimagined by the founders of the Playground Association. Then a skatepark (smoothly poured concrete ritual sites built in even the smallest towns during those days) and finally, the Boys and Girls Club filled out the park known as Averill Field.
Which brings us back to the horror story of the huge cell tower, which was proposed by the city to be tucked in behind the Boys and Girls Club.
Then, the Leader discovered a covenant in the deed of the park lots: #for_playground_purposes_only!
With this imagined coup, the Leader mounted an imaginary white horse and carried a dark banner that read: “Restore the Deed.” From this perch, he led a movement to change the city’s government which would restore the strong mayor — one who lived in Snohomish, (rather than a city manager who lived somewhere on the way to Seattle).
The Leader’s #1 Boy Follower went door-to-door twice, first to gather signatures required to hold an election for the change, and a second time to gather support for his run as the strong mayor. The Leader and his #1 Boy Follower won both elections, even though the Leader’s #1 Boy Follower had not a lick of elected experience. He had never served on a commission. His only city government experience was yelling at council members during his time at the lectern.
The Boy Mayor
Just as the city staff released plans to give the Annex lobby a quick facelift if the 1910 Social Hall was to hold city council meetings — the flat roof of the Annex failed — no one was allowed inside.
Consequently, the city took over ownership of the property determined unsafe, a possible danger to the public. This got people’s attention. Funds were found, a new architectural firm was hired to (again) study what should be done with the (now leaking) Annex!
The numbers required to save the Annex was a million-dollar story. This didn’t stop the Leader, if he had even heard the news. He was still riding around town on his white horse while his followers stayed close to their computer keyboards rather than attend a town hall meeting at the new Aquatic Center.
Following the Leader’s presentation to save the Annex, a member of the audience asked those in attendance for a show of hands: “how many want the Annex removed?” An overwhelming majority of hands shot up.
The Leader’s fantasy plan went down with a cheer, then a second louder cheer when The Leader left the room. He was still on his horse, nearly banging his head on the door jamb.
Word has it that he is living in Texas, but who knows?
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The oldest element in our historic town is pretty much ignored most days until it flows free of its boundaries — then we come to watch the Snohomish River.
Over the years, I have adopted Kla Ha Ya Park, a riverfront park below First Street between Avenues B and C in Historic Downtown Snohomish, as a place to practice Tai Chi. For me, it’s a place to appreciate the historic beginnings of our town, and I’m not alone these days. Since the flooding began on the winter solstice (pictured above), people have been coming to check out the rising river. Some stand with their toes right up to the edge, others further back to snap a wide shot to share on social media.
On Sunday morning, the second day of February, I went a step further and set up my camera to capture my practice of Tai Chi alongside the rushing river several feet above the riverfront trail, and very close to my spot of green in the park.
Our riverfront park with the odd name translated as Welcome is the proud product of community action rising-up from the destructive powers of fire and water.
The first commercial buildings of 19th-century Snohomish were built of wood and on the riverside of Front Street, the buildings were built on tall wooden pilings, some 20 feet high, in order to bring the structures up to the street level.
The Great Fire of 1911 destroyed all the buildings on both sides of the street between Avenues B and C. As if named from a Dickenson novel, the three-story Burns Block at 1118 First Street built of brick in 1890, stopped the fire and saved the two wooden buildings still standing as neighbors to this day.
Both sides of the street were quickly rebuilt of brick, the south side completely (pictured above). Snohomish was railroad rich around this time as the Milwaukee Road had just begun passenger service on its line running on a trestle built over the north bank. The building at the far end of the photograph was the former Wilbur Drug Store, which became a train depot.
Instead of wooden pilings, the brick buildings were brick all the way down to the foundation, and flooding over the years weakened the brick foundations. In the early 1940s, the liquor store, and the restaurant had become home to Poier Motors, the local Chevrolet dealer in town and a floor displaying a new model collapsed toward the river, nearly killing an employee. The entire block of brick buildings was condemned immediately. The storefront structures remained vacant for over 15 years.
It was not until 1965 that funds were appropriated to finally tear down the abandoned structures and community groups rallied to create a riverfront park.
Download: 1998 Snohomish Riverfront Master Plan, Kla Ha Ya Park discussion begins on page 29.
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.)
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.
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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.
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Within weeks after mailing a donation of our book, J.S. White Our First Architect, to the Cook Memorial Library in Tamworth, NH, White’s birthplace, I received a complimentary thank you email from Chris Clyne, the local history librarian. However, the second paragraph read in part: “but found no record of his family in Tamworth.” Further, he was “wondering how [do] you know he was born here?”
Responding immediately, I told him our source was William Whitfield’s 1926 History of Snohomish County, Vol. 2, p. 343-4; John S. White:
“He was born in Tamworth, Carroll County, New Hampshire, on the 13th of July, 1845, a son of Isaac White, and was reared at home, attending the public schools of his community. At the age of eighteen years, he learned the trade of a carpenter, which vocation he followed in his native state for about fifteen years.”
And closed with the fact that Whitfield was one of the pallbearers at White’s funeral in 1920. (Always impresses me.) Then I sent the chain of emails to Ann Tuohy.
Ann Tuohy is a long-time volunteer genealogist with the Snohomish Historical Society, and big-time helper putting my two books together. But long before I started the book on White, Ann had completed a genealogical workup of him and it was Ann who located the source of his birth in Whitfield’s book — so for sure, she would want to know about this curious development.
It didn’t take but a week for Ann to write:
I think John S. White was actually John Mudgett, son of Isaac and Mercy (Hobbs) Mudgett, and brother of Isaac Newton Mudgett. 🙂
I had never seen an emoticon in any of Ann’s emails — come to learn she had found Isaac White’s will, dated 1871, where it seems the father, Isaac, had changed his name to White as well.
The son, Isaac Newton Mudgett and his wife, Ellen, built their home on Avenue H around the time White arrived with his family and who immediately purchased four lots on Block One in the Clay Addition. Eventually, White built his family home on Avenue H as well, just a few doors south from the Mudgett’s.
From the start, I imagined a connection between Mudgett and White in order for both families to end up in Snohomish … and now we learn, thanks to Ann’s imaginative discovery, they may have been brothers!
We met in the Snohomish Library where I had the opportunity to introduce Ann to the director, Jude, as he passed by our table — as a “treasure” for her genealogical research and documentation. “I’m curious about people,” is all Ann will say. As long as I have known her, Ann shies away from talking about herself, but her contribution to the history of Snohomish is immense.
Born in Snohomish to two journalism majors, the Dobbs, her father Tom was the publisher of the Snohomish County Tribune for many years until his death in 1955. A long marriage to the popular Dr. Cedric Tuohy produced a family of two sons and a daughter. Ann and Cedric lost their son Tom in 2007 and Cedric passed two years later.
“I like solving puzzles,” Ann told me, then added, “This is a good one, I am still working on it.”
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another 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.
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.
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The town Bradley was named to honor Bradley Blackman, the patriarch of the Blackman Brothers who drove the economic engine with their logging and lumber operations of early Snohomish.
This is where it began. The Blackman family took over Leonard Mills operation on Nicholas Stream following Leonard’s death 1828 and continued for 50 years, even the stream was renamed after the Blackmans.
Around 1870, the Blackman brothers, Alanson, the eldest, along with his wife, Eliza; middle son, Elhanan, his wife, Frances, and the babe-in-arms, Edith; the youngest Hyrcanus and his wife Ella, all migrated to the Pacific Northwest. The story is that the brothers’ operation went belly up in Bradley, but I could find nothing about this story during my visit.
It’s enough for me that the original Blackman operation is now the Maine Forest and Logging Museum.
Director Sherry Davis explained that when this site of “Leonard’s Mills” was discovered, archaeologists found evidence of five sawmills that were once located on Blackman Stream. A plan to create a “living history site” was first spoken of in the 1950s and ten years later the Penobscot Experimental Forest donated land to the newly incorporated museum. The water-powered mill in operation today was begun in the 1980s and its first plank was cut in 1991.
The brothers landed in Port Gamble where a logging and lumber operation had been underway since 1885, founded by men from the Penobscot area of Maine. How the Blackmans’ found their way to Snohomish might be best answered with a novel.
The local newspapers reported the doings of the Snohomish Blackmans, especially with death, for example, Hyrcanus’ notice in the Old Town Enterprise reported: “Mr. Blackman died in his palatial home on Avenue B ….”
Keep this in mind the next time you visit the Blackman House Museum on Avenue B.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Union Street marks the joining of the western and eastern claims that were platted and named “Snohomish” in 1871 by Emory and Lucetta Ferguson who had the western claim, then confirmed the following year by Mary Low and Woodbury Sinclair — the same year that Woodbury, age 47, suddenly died.
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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 (the first name for Snohomish) 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 remembered in 1911. “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. 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 bacon 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. Mabel “May” H. Sinclair was born on April 28, 1869.
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.
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 — which was lost to time.
Writing 46 years later in the November 24, 1911, issue of the Snohomish County Tribune about her earliest memories, Mary 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.
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“Mary Low Sinclair arrives in Cadyville (future Snohomish City) on May 1, 1865.,” accessed April 1, 2019, https://historylink.org/File/8327
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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“Emory C. Ferguson Recalls Early Days in Snohomish County,” accessed March 17, 2019,
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 the 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.
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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.
“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.
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“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.”
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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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