Nothing is certain in this Age of Zoom Meetings.
[Post in Progress!]
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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.
Our designs for the nine signs pictured here were submitted to the city for approval on November 4th. Many thanks to all who attended our preview at the studio for their useful feedback (and to Karen for the delicious lasagnas). A special thanks to copyeditor Melanie Kreiger, and graphic designer David Chrisman for their careful reviews — it takes a village.
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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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In August 1883 a movement was organized for the construction of Catholic church in Snohomish. A Protestant gentleman, Mr. E. C. Ferguson, first County Commissioner, first Justice of the Peace, and first Postmaster, all three at the same time, was the donor of the parcel of land on which the church was to be erected. Wrangling, however, among the members of the Catholic community halted the impetus given.
In 1886, Rev. Father M. McCauley was appointed and came to Snohomish as the first resident parish priest. He was possessed of unusually great zeal and determination; and having a certain amount of financial means of his own, he went ahead brushing all opposition aside and began at once to execute the plans Father Kuster had delineated before him. An old skating rink was acquired and dismantled, and the lumber there from was used in the construction of the new church, which measured 28 feet in width, 55 feet in length, and had a spire that towered 80 feet up in the air. One of the two Boyce brothers was the architect and H. A. Eddy the builder. The structure was dedicated in 1889 to the Bl. Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. How and when the title of the church came to be changed to that of St. Michael, is unknown to me.
The present pastor is the 6th at St. Michael’s. He took office on Sunday, the second day of February 1906, the feast of the Purification of the Bl. Virgin Mary. The parishioners impressed him very favorably and showed him unmistakable signs of kindness, respect, and goodwill. The rectory in which he was to reside was in a dilapidated condition and it needed immediate repairs. The pastor, therefore, called his trustees in consultation and spoke of an effort to be made to raise some 5 or 6 hundred dollars to provide for the most pressing needs. $600 sounded like an exceedingly big sum of money to them, and they shook their heads. The following Sunday the congregation was told that no trustees were further needed, that the pastor would henceforth look after the necessary work himself and try with their kind and sustained cooperation to defray the cost of it. In three months, new rooms were built onto the house, and from the top to bottom it was an almost new construction.
In 1920, the pastor suggested that the old church should be torn down in part, remodeled, and rebuilt; that a concrete basement should be built under it and another one under the rectory, too; that separate heating plants should be installed; and that every member do his bit to shoulder, and in the little time as reasonable, to liquidate the huge debt to be contracted. Everyone responded, and the pastor and flock have repaid the debt incurred; not only have they paid that debt, but to further obtain God’s blessing upon them, they have liquidated the debt that had long ago been outlawed, some of them dating back to the time the first church was built in 1888.
Today, St. Michaels’s with hardly 35 families left, some of them destitute, all of the poor, without industry of commerce to help them, many forced to commute, find help in neighboring towns or in logging camps, when in operation, unaided by agriculture or dairying, which is in the hands mostly of Scandinavians and Germans of the Lutheran faith, — St. Michael’s, I’d say, is still the sweet, peaceful, church it has ever been – ever since that eventful day, 20 years ago.
Truly the little parish in the valley where the Snohomish River flows is a little Paradise on earth; and the pastor may well exclaim with the sainted abbot de Clairvaux: “O beata solitudo, sola beatitudo.” (Oh blessed solitude, my happiness.”)
T. F. Van de Walle (circa 1925)
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FEATURED IMAGES ABOVE: Father A. T. Bourke with the First Communion Celebration, 1905, photographed by the Rigby Sisters Photo Studio, (courtesy Northwest Room, EPL); and Jami Sieber Concert in the studio, 2018.
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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.
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.
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.
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Abe Stein, “How Home Plate Lives Up to Its Name,” The Atlantic, March 31, 2014
“We should all put our shoulder to the wheel and see to it that our city has a park, where children may go to recreate.” The editor of the Snohomish County Tribune, April 1, 1921, was inspired by the volunteer action of residents Herb Halterman, R. E. Main and F. V. Bowen who improvised a baseball diamond out of a vacant lot alongside the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad on the east side of town in the spring of 1921.
Leading up to the metaphor of manual labor the editor had a specific list: “This park should be fitted up with swings, rings, teaters and everything that goes to make a playground for the children.” Immediately, the three men formed the Snohomish Play Ground Association with the “aim to equip the property in the vicinity of the N.P. tracks with all kinds of apparatus for the amusement of the children” — but it depended on the sale of season tickets for the Snohomish Baseball Association which had been taken over by the Play Ground Association. (Tribune, April 29, 1921)
As the world turns, there would no playground apparatus until the early 1990s when members of the Tillicum and Snohomish Kiwanis put their collective shoulders to the wheel and built the playground we see today. (“Kiwanis urge city move on Averill,” Tribune, June 19, 1990.)
It’s not clear when the field was officially given the name “Averill” — perhaps it was simply adopted when Earl Averill left the hometown team to play with the Cleveland Indians in 1929 — where he “became the first rookie in major league history to score a home run his first-time at-bat.” (Tribune, April 7, 1999.)
“Know How to Build a Pool?” the Tribune asked in its October 9, 1947 issue — but it was not until July 7, 1970, that its front page boasted: “Ground Broken for Moe Memorial Pool.” The headline stretching the width of the paper was accompanied with a large photo of Lila Moe holding a shovel, her right foot in place ready to push it into the ground. Her late husband, Hal Moe (1916-1968), was the beloved principal then superintendent of Snohomish Schools who died around the time the city was tearing down the grandstand (pictured above) to make room for the pool. The baseball diamond was eventually reestablished at the southwest end of Averill Field, but a smaller layout intended for Little League play, while plans developed to install a full-size diamond in new parkland alongside the Pilchuck River.
When two bond issues put before city voters to cover the outdoor pool failed, the Hal Moe Pool Working Group recommended that the school district take over the ownership and operation of the pool from the city. Bringing in voters from the school district, a $1.4 million bond issue passed in a September 20, 1988, primary election — a successful outcome following months of discussion between citizens, school and city representatives. Under terms of the agreement, the city transferred ownership of the pool and 20 feet of the north end of Averill Field to the district with “a guarantee that the public will have access to the pool no less than 65 percent of the time that it is open.” (Tribune, August 8, 1988.)
Plans were to open the covered pool with new locker rooms in the fall of 1989; meanwhile, a March 3, 1989 editorial in the Tribune read: “Time to consider Averill Field sale.” Seems it was in response to a city planning commision decision “to not consider a city staff request to designate the southern half of Averill Field for commercial use.” City Manager Kelly Robinson felt the remaining property was undersized and underused and selling it for commercial use “the city would have money to buy enough land in the valley to replace the field many times over, and put the balance into a trust fund for city parks.” The editorial points out that “some doubt Averill Field can be sold because of a clause attached to the deed which specifies the land can only be used for recreation purposes”– the first mention of the deed that 25 years later became the emotional protest tag: “Restore the Deed!”
“City leaders agree to keep Averill Field.” Councilwoman Ann Averill, daughter-in-law of the field’s namesake was quoted in the Tribune’s April 11, 1990 issue: “I think the city needs to preserve a green space for the people who live here now and the people who come after.” The field, including the pool in the process of being covered, is sandwiched between the now Burington Northern railroad tracks and Pine Avenue, west to east, and between 3rd Street and 2nd, north to south.
The property was deeded to the city in 1922-24 by the three men whose volunteer muscle started the wheel turning with the restriction that it be used for “playground purposes only” — the irony is that the Play Ground Association never did install a playground as baseball dominated the use of the field, to the timid chagrin of some citizens. Even Councilwoman Averill suggested the council arrange for experts to evaluate if the field is still practical for playing baseball. At the time, the two-acre site was being used for a variety of sports activities and the annual Kla Ha Ya Days carnival.
The grand opening of the Snohomish School District’s newly covered facility was greeted, on one hand, by neighboring merchants “predicting parking problems” reported the Tribune, June 20, 1990, which has a solid history of stirring the pot on parking issues in Snohomish. In 1991, the city council accepted the Park Board’s recommendations for Averill Field, explained by the late Bill Blake in the Tribune’s December 11, 1991 issue:”Planned improvements include a playground area for small children, picnic tables for families, an exercise area geared toward seniors and a new field for baseball and football.”
“Council approves youth center at Averill Field,” announced the Tribune’s September 27, 2000 issue. “The Snohomish City Council voted 5-1 last week to locate a youth center and skate park at Averill Field.” Howard Averill, son of Earl Averill, said he opposes the change because “it would do away with his father’s memory.” Part of the council’s action is to designate the baseball field at Pilchuck Park as Averill Field, “and directed staff to contact the Baseball Hall of Fame and inform the agency of the change and indicate that Averill Field is now a standard-size baseball field.”
The Snohomish School District’s boarded up Hal Moe Facility was sold back to the city in 2013, destroyed on May 14, 2018, and the site is now a field of new grass. This post is research for a proposed exterior interpretative sign located near the parking lot. The sign will feature a large photograph of the 1932 Old Timers Game pictured above, a brief timeline of the Hal Moe Memorial Pool and the interactive activity of locating home plate hidden in the new grass close to its original position!
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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
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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.
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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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.
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.
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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