Cast of Imaginary Characters:
John T. Hardwick
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
. . . .
With Rev. Hardwick loaded into the excavation pit’s basket, the crowd watching in silence from above could see the whites of his eyes. The new mayor was wide awake, practically naked, and manic. He was turning and twisting to take in the scene until his head was held still by hands meeting behind his neck. Missus Nightingale was in charge.
Missus Nightingale was her sobriquet. Rumor had it she attended Hopkins Medical School back east, one of the first women to receive medical training, but who knows? Lot Wilbur hired her to help out with his new Drug Store, a handsome two-story brick building at First and C built by J. S. White, the same contractor responsible for the excavation pit where the new mayor now found himself on his back in a large, mud-coated basket of woven cedar, under a bright Sunday morning, tenderly tended to by Missus Nightingale.
“Whoa, Sadie!” Billy Bottom’s command to his mule broke the silence, to be followed by low-level murmuring and laughter among the crowd of men watching, some since dawn. Bottom had backed up his shabby buckboard to just under the pit’s excavation rigging as if he were picking up a load of dirt.
“That’s a good girl!” he added, handing the slacked reins to his wife, and jumping to the ground. It wasn’t clear to whom he was speaking. Bottom practically slid down the pit’s steep ladder to check-up on his brother-in-arms, John, the nearly naked Mayor of Snohomish.
Billy Bottom and Ivie Williams were recently married in a secret ceremony held in the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery west of town on Riverview Road. She was new to the town; whereas, Mister Billy and his mule Sadie were ubiquitous. He would anchor his mule to a hitching post, then stand in the buckboard and Rant. He claimed there was a spot in London that was famous for people Ranting and that Snohomish needed such a spot. However, none of Bottom’s Rants were original, written by him. He simply repeated quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers of America. But his speaking style oozed such a mysterious certainly, like fertilizer, that a fervent following grew. A devoted few believed it was God speaking through him. Over time, as the number of his followers increased, it seems many were misinformed malcontents; then again, complaining without knowledge is a God-given right in America. Non-followers, most people, believed Billy Bottom was unhinged.
He lived just outside of town up the Pilchuck River in a tent; Billy never did get the hang of building a shelter of woven cedar mats, and now that he was married to a proper Boston lady, there will be no Siwash hut for his white wife. Not much was known of Bottom’s life before Snohomish other than he was raised in Seattle. He is clearly of mixed blood and the story is that his mother didn’t tell him that his father was Indian until he was over 12 years old. He thought his father was white. Who knows where these stories come from.
Several years ago, as part of his Rants, Bottom started a petition to change the city’s charter to add the phrase: In God We Trust. His followers, the complainers, loved it. Especially members of the Temperance Union, which in turn urged Rev. Hardwick to run for mayor since he lived in town. Soon, the Reverend and Billy were inseparable. They went door-to-door talking up God and talking down Mayor Ferguson who once spoke up for (and yes, hired) Chinese workers back in 1885.
It was a brutal town meeting in the Masonic Hall on 2nd Street as reported in The Eye, October 24, 1885. In the past, the newspaper has labeled Chinese people as rat-eaters, and the headline for this meeting read: The Chinese Curse.
Mayor Ferguson was leading the meeting that began with this diatribe from the floor shortly after his introduction: “Let’s have a little sense. How are we going to get rid of the Chinese? We’ve no legal right to kill ‘em. I’d like to kill one; wouldn’t you, Ferg?”
There was “tumultuous applause from a portion of the audience” supporting a proposal to send ‘em all back to China and pay their expenses from a “fiery pioneer who had been indulging in ‘whiskey-row’ jim-jam syrup, and did not wait for an invitation to express his sentiments,” reported The Eye in 1885.
Only Ferg, as he was often called, spoke of the benefit provided to the county and the town by the Chinese. He reminded the gathering that the Chinese were already here, and there was work that would not get done without the immigrants.
The town’s population has nearly doubled since then. Many in town don’t know the history, while others have forgotten that Ferguson hired Chinese workers back-in-the-day; but Billy Bottom considered himself to be an amateur historian: “Billy remembers everything!”
To Be Continued.