Act I, Scene i: The Founder Who Stayed

ferguson

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.
wayfinder cluster

 
 
 
View of the existing wayfinder custer on First Street at Union Avenue, showing the location of the west facing interpretative sign.
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.”

ferguson familyThe Ferguson Family Portrait, c.1890, the year Snohomish Incorporated. From the left: Ivy Maude, born in 1875; Lucetta, married to E.C. in 1868; Sylvia M., the first born in 1869; Emory Canda, with son Cecil sitting on his lap, born in 1881.
Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society; click image to enlarge

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.

Ferguson familyA vital photograph of three generations of Snohomish’s Leading Family and it’s undated, but we can make a good guess based on guessing the age of the toddler Norman Lenfest, seated and dressed like a gentleman in the first row, who was born in 1893; behind him, seated in a neat row of chairs are his grand and great-grandparents, on the left is Lucetta (Morgan) Ferguson, (1849-1907); Mary Trout Morgan (1829-1903); Hiram Morgan (1822-1906); and E.C.Ferguson (1833-1911); finally, standing are Norman’s parents Sylvia (Ferguson) Lenfest (1869-1952), and Elmer Lenfest (1864-1938) who were married in the Ferguson home in 1891. As to guessing the date, some say 1897, but the museum label would read circa 1900, which means around that time.
Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society; click image to enlarge

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.

The First ResidenceThis was Ferguson’s first residence, referred to as a cottage, which he built in Steilacoom then disassembled it inorder to ship the modest structure north. This was his favorite home he once said and it’s the only one of his three homes that is still standing and privately owned. Its location is indicated by a stone marker on the River Front Trail. It’s where Ferguson celebrated his first Fourth of July in Snohomish.
Courtesy Everett Public Library, Northwest Room; click to enlarge

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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.”

ferguson obit
 
Ferguson died on October 7, 1911, and is buried in Snohomish’s Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, as are the family members pictured in this post. Several descendants still live in the Snohomish area.

 

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Featured Image above: A crayon portrait of town founder E. C. Ferguson, ca.1890. Removed from its frame for preservation, replaced with a digital copy and returned to its place in today’s city hall.

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“Emory C. Ferguson Recalls Early Days in Snohomish County,” accessed March 17, 2019,
https://www.historylink.org/File/8492

The First Residence

snohomish stories

2014-05_trib-web“The above building was the first dwelling built in Snohomish. It was the residence of the Hon. E. C. Ferguson and was constructed of material brought from Fort Steilacoom mill by boat.

Mr. Ferguson moved into his residence on the first day of March 1860 at which time he located his homestead upon which most of the present site of Snohomish now stands. He occupied this dwelling up until 1880 when his new residence was completed in the northern portion of the city.

The old house of Mr. Ferguson is still standing and habitable. It is located on the bank of the Snohomish river between A and Union avenues. The photograph shows Mr. Ferguson in the chair, M. J. McGuinness, the present owner, standing, and James Burton sitting on the porch.”

This story above was published in the obituary edition of the Snohomish County Tribune, October 13, 1911, under the head: “Hon. E.C. Fergusons first residence.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, April 16, 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….

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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.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, January 15, 2014