J. S. White’s Building, 1893

snohomish stories

The graceful red brick building at 924 First Street was called the Princess Theater Building when I led my first walking tour of historic downtown Snohomish in 2005. Six years later I went digging for more news about the Princess Theater for a HistoryLink.org Cybertour, and came up surprisingly empty handed. Surprising because who ever heard of a theater that didn’t advertise?

snohomish storiesThe Princess Theater. This fuzzy image included on page 46 of the Snohomish Historical Society’s “River Reflections, Volume One,” published in 1975, evidently gave the building at 924 First Street its name over the years although no record has been found of the theater’s life in Snohomish; nor a better photograph.

Reaching a dead-end and a deadline, I wrote what I had about the building which you can read today on the HistoryLink.org website; but do it soon, because the entry will be changed to reflect its new name, “The White Building.”

The story begins with a four line report in The Weekly Eye, December 29, 1888:
“E. C. Ferguson this week sold a portion of the lot at the corner of First and A streets, with 25 feet frontage to J.S. White, the architect and builder; for $40 a front foot.”

But no follow up and no building appears on the Sanborn Insurance maps? Three years later, in the December 22, 1892 issue, a news item jumps out announcing that White’s corner lot is being graded for a shooting gallery! The plot thickens whenever guns are involved.

Fast forward to a mention in the April 27, 1893, issue:
“A scowload of stone for the foundation of J. S. White’s building at First street and Avenue A has arrived from the Chuckanut quarry.”

Picture a barge floating low, loaded down with stone coming upriver.

The following month, an issue over property lines was raised in the City Council Chambers by White’s attorney Hart who claimed that the Palace Saloon, next door, was four inches over its property line and asked the council to have it removed.
“The council were not convinced of their duty to do so and instructed Mr. Carothers to survey First street from D to A and fix the corners,” the report concluded. A subsequent meeting recorded the numbers without determination if the saloon was over the line.

White finished his two-story building and welcomed his first tenant, The City of Paris boutique occupying the first floor. The same issue, August 10, 1893, reported this tidbit about the odd layout of the second floor:
“People who have observed the arrangement of the rooms in the second floor of White’s new building have wondered what they were intended for. The plumbing is unusually elaborate, there are two bathrooms, a kitchen with a place for a range, a dining room, ample closets, and all necessary accommodations for housekeeping on a large scale. Yesterday Mr. White disclosed the fact that he put up the building and arranged the upper story as described at the instance of a city physician who desired to occupy it as a hospital. Mr. White added that the physician had changed his mind and that any responsible party who wants to rent a hospital is invited to call and inspect the premises.”

In a plot twist from the pages of a mystery, the new Bakeman Furniture Building, just down the street on the southeast corner of Avenue B, burns to the ground on September 15, 1893, following an unsuccessful incendiary incident in July.

SONY DSC

The Weekly Eye, September 21, 1893
No loss of life reported, but the city council lost its meeting place. The editor showed restraint with no mention of how fitting it was for our council members to be meeting in a hospital.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 18, 2014

5. “Old Ferg” 1833-1911

snohomish stories

May is Preservation Month, celebrating the establishment of the National Register of Historic Places in 1973; just in time, to get the Snohomish Historic District on the register the following year.

Reason enough to remember the founder of Snohomish, Emory Canada Ferguson, who “passed away at his residence last Saturday evening about 9 o’clock after a brief illness of a few days,” began the Snohomish County Tribune’s report of his passing on October 7, 1911. He was 78 years old and often affectionately referred to as “Old Ferg” in the press.

snohomish storiesSnohomish County Tribune, October 13, 1911. Reports the death of E. C. Ferguson on October 7th in his home located on the site of the Snohomish Aquatic Center. Click to download a pdf copy or visit the Snohomish Library to view the actual paper.

The front page remembrance continues: “His health was always of the best up until nine years ago when he was laid up for over a year with a stroke of paralysis. Since then he has gained in health continually up to three or four months ago when a noticeable decline took place and he gradually became weaker until his peaceful death Saturday Evening.”

The second paragraph reads: “The funeral services were held at the family residence at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning. A large crowd of his many friends were there to bid farewell to the father of Snohomish, who has given his attention to the many needs of the city for so many years. Every business house in the city closed their doors from ten until eleven to do honor to one of our last pioneers. The school children were allowed the hour off to enable them to attend the funeral. The Masons took charge of the funeral after the departure from his residence.”

2014-05_gar-card
Cemetery record courtesy Biff Reading

On Saturday, May 31st, I will be leading a guided tour of his family grave site, located in the Grand Army of Republic Cemetery (G.A.R.), along with visiting the burial plots of several of early Snohomish’s leading families.

Enter the cemetery at 8601 Riverview Road and follow signs to the tour’s starting point near the caretaker’s garage. Good shoes are advised, as the ground is uneven; and the tour goes rain or shine. A $10 contribution is suggested to benefit the Snohomish Historical Society. (Follow this link to read more about the GAR Cemetery.)

Hope you can join me, after all, memories require preservation as well.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, May 21, 2014

4. Emory Cecil (1881-1964)

snohomish stories

Your guess at Emory Cecil Ferguson’s age, captured in this handsome childhood portrait by the short-lived Snohomish studio of Barnes & Evans, is as good as mine.

Commonly known as Cecil, he was born in 1881 as the youngest child of Lucetta and Emory, and the only one with descendants living today in Snohomish.

It was not until he was 28 years old that Cecil married Clara Schlieve from Minnesota, but wasting no time, the couple had a growing family of three children ten years later — Emory Albrecht, Burdette Alonzo, and Madeleine — all graduates from Snohomish High School in the 1930s and living on Maple Avenue. A fourth child, Alvin Gordon, died shortly after birth in 1911.

snohomish storiesCecil and sons Burdette and Emory, 1950s
Partners in the family caning business, Ferg’s Finer Foods, produced product that they sold by the railroad car in its heyday.
All images courtesy of the Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives

All three children joined Cecil in establishing the Ferguson Cannery, located in a building that still stands and recently renovated for the new home of the Eagles Aerie #195. Incorporated in the 1950s, the family business became known as “Ferg’s Finer Foods” – even producing a tongue-in-cheek can of Puget Sound Air for the 1960 World’s Fair in Seattle. (You may read more about the cannery here.)

Clara died the following year and Cecil three years later in 1964, and the family operation he founded in 1914 soon came to an end.

Burdette, married Ruth Christensen in 1940, a union that gave birth to three children, all who were saved from a future in the canning business — working summers through their high schools years was enough.

Eldest daughter, Sharon Lee, lives today with her husband in Bellevue.

Middle child, Gary Howard married Penny Lu Hazeltine, daughter of Robert who was the first mail carrier in Snohomish.

And Bruce Allen married Marie McGlinchy, who with their children all grown, live today in the North Snohomish Train Depot, a replica station they built in 2007.

Both Gary and Bruce remember exploring what remained of the original 32 acre Ferguson Farm as kids, especially the stream, then called Ferguson Creek, that bordered the property. It’s called Swifty Creek today, a “daylighted” stream held safely behind cyclone fencing.


Gary Ferguson at the Snohomish Aquatic Center.
Gary is the great-grandson of E.C. Ferguson, founder of Snohomish.

Please leave a comment below with your guess of Cecil’s age in the cover photo above.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, April 16, 2014

3. Sylvia Lenfest (1869-1952)

ferguson family

We continue our celebration of the Snohomish Aquatic Center, located on the site where the Ferguson family home and farm once stood, with this story of Sylvia Ferguson’s marriage into early Snohomish’s leading Democratic family at a time when politics mattered most.

Not only was Sylvia raised in a solid Republican home, but her father, E. C. Ferguson, had just been through the bruising incorporation battle of 1890, that ended with him losing the mayoral election in a stunning upset to Hycranus Blackman, Democrat, and her future husband’s uncle. However, Blackman’s duration in office lasted only until the regular election later that year, when Ferguson was returned to office.

The wedding notice was published in The Eye, on November 28, 1891, it read:
“There was a wedding Tuesday at the residence of Mayor Ferguson who gave his daughter Sylvia’s hand in marriage to Mr. Elmer Lenfest, our county surveyor.”

Elmer Lenfest, along with his parents, Mary and Eugene, arrived in Snohomish the year Washington gained statehood. Mary Ursula was the older sister of the famous lumbermen, the Blackman Brothers, who moved to Snohomish in 1872 from Maine and six short years later each brother had a home on Avenue B. Only Hycranus’s has survived to become the Blackman House Museum at 118 Avenue B.

With statehood, Snohomish’s existing articles of incorporation under territorial law became invalid, so while Sylvia and Elmer got to know each other, lines were being drawn to define a larger city. Ferguson’s contentment with Snohomish continuing on as Village was not shared by the majority of voters. The tally was 360 to 21 for incorporation as a city of the third class in the election of June 16, 1890 – the same election that interrupted Ferguson’s continuous run as mayor.

We imagine it was not an idyllic setting to carry on a romance, especially with the daughter of the man referred to as our “tax-dodging leader” in the press. Contemporaneous historian, William Whitfield wrote, “ For the first time in its history Snohomish enjoyed all the thrills of city politics.” And he didn’t even mention the Ferguson/Lenfest courtship.

Perhaps a residue of hard feelings explains why it was not a big wedding held the following year, only “parties immediately interested” were invited. It certainly was not because Sylvia was great with child – the arrival of their only offspring, Norman, was a respectful three years off.

snohomish stories
From the Ferguson Album, c.1905. Left to right: Norman Lenfest, his mother Sylvia, grandmother Lucetta, Aunt Ivy and Uncle Cecil Ferguson, and his father Norman, pictured in the Ferguson family home, the historic site of the Snohomish Aquatic Center.
All images courtesy of the Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives

Sylvia and Elmer became a leading couple of Snohomish, active in both civic and social affairs. Elmer died in 1938, at the age of 74, while Sylvia continued one to reach her 82nd year. It’s Sylvia we have to thank for saving and donating many papers of her father’s and of the city to the Special Collections of the University of Washington Library.

Perhaps you’ll remember this story while walking against the current of the Lazy River, a surprisingly vigorous feature of the Aquatic Center, and that Sylvia lived and loved on this very spot, not so many years ago.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, March 18, 2014

2. The Ferguson Family

ferguson family

ABOVE: Ferguson Family Portrait, c.1890.
From the left: Ivy Maude, born 1875, Lucetta, Sylvia M., born 1869, Emory Canda, with son Cecil, born 1881, on his lap. Taken around the time the family moved into their new home, a mansion, located on the site of Snohomish Aquatic Center.

All images courtesy Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives.

Our story about the founding family of Snohomish began last month with a photograph taken by Ivy Ferguson of her family home. It was under construction in 1889, and it’s possible that this month’s studio portrait of the Ferguson family was taken to celebrate the move into their grand new residence .

Let’s imagine we are going to call on the family to pay our respects and offer our congratulations on their new home.

20100104-fergusoncardFirst, we need to check Mrs. E. C. Ferguson’s calling card to confirm that “Wednesday” is in the lower left hand corner – this is the day the lady of the house receives visitors. Next, we will need to rent a horse and carriage, assuming we don’t own our own rig, since the home is too far out of town to walk with any dignity remaining once we arrived.

The oldest livery in town is Knapp and Hinkley’s on 2nd, but who among us knows how to a handle a horse and buggy? Chris Gee, president of the our historical society has the equestrian skills required, and with a little faith in time travel, we arrive at the Ferguson Mansion, north of town where the Snohomish Aquatic Center will be built in a 118 years.

Eldest daughter, Sylvia, greets us at the door. She is quite tall, with piercing eyes and a slow, knowing smile lights up her face as she scans our strange clothes. Sylvia thinks a lot about the future. The gossip around town is that her father is footing the bill for her journey to Hawaii, a destination made popular by Mark Twain’s book “Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii in the 1860’s.” Sylvia attended the Territorial University in Seattle, studying the Classics, and is comfortably self-possessed.

ferguson family

Her mother, Lucetta, is playing the piano, loudly, a tune we don’t recognize of course, but she stops immediately and stands to greet us, making us feel very welcome. Seated in the front room, we try to follow her plans for more furnishings, since the room seemed stuffed to our modern eyes, but we are fortunately interrupted by Ivy who has entered with a tray of tea cups, pot and a plate of really tiny cakes.

Lucetta was born in Iowa to Mary Jane (Trout) and Hiram D. Morgan. By the time Lucetta Gertrude Morgan turned 11, the family was living in Olympia Washington Territory. Eight years later, she met Emory Ferguson during his service as a legislator. What a lucky break for both seasoned pioneers. An eligible woman from hardy stock meets the founder of his own town who now wants to found a family. They were joined in marriage, July 11, 1868, at the home of her parents in Thurston County.

“And I was born 13 months later,” announces Sylvia, stopping the conversation cold.

To be continued….

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, February 19, 2014

1. Ferguson Family Home, 1900

ferguson family

Above: The Ferguson Family Home, c.1900 A photograph from the family album credited to Ivy Ferguson.

One of the Ferguson family stories passed down to the living descendants is that Ivy Ferguson was an amateur photographer and family members credit her for this month’s deteriorated, but still a gem, taken of the family home, celebrating a recent snowfall.

Ivy (sometimes spelled “Ivie” even “Ivia”), was the middle child of E. C. and Lucetta Ferguson. Her father, Emory Canda, was often referred to as the “father of Snohomish,” in his lifetime, which means that Ivy, along with her older sister Sylvia and younger brother Cecil, could be referred to as “the first family of Snohomish.”

2014-02_nowNow: Apartments at 214 Maple Avenue.
The site of their family home is today the location of the Snohomish Aquatic Center.

North of the gracious home, its southern face appearing rather ghostly in Ivy’s photo, was the farm, labeled as “The Ranch” in the family album. (If any readers know when most of the Ferguson’s thirty-two acre farm passed on to the school district, please let me know.)

That’s Ferguson Creek flowing into the bottom frame of the historic photo. It’s called “Swifty Creek” today, and it flows into a culvert at the east end of the sports field, emerging for several blocks at Fifth Street, before going underground again all the way to the Snohomish River. This course of outflow from Blackman Lake created the infamous Snohomish Gulch that I have written about in the past.

ferguson familyRight: Ivy Ferguson, c.1890 (click to enlarge)

Ivy, a single woman in her late twenties, moved to Olympia for a position as a stenographer with the state insurance company. Returning to Snohomish for a visit, Ivy died “after an illness of a few days” on July 22, 1912, in the family home. She was only 37 years old.

At the time of her death, we imagine that the Ferguson family home looked pretty much the same as when Ivy captured it with her camera after a light snowfall.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, January 15, 2014