Teacher and Snohomish County School Superintendent
By Betty Lou Gaeng
One afternoon in the late spring of 1952, H. Phil Brandner, supervisor of the Mount Baker National Forest, and his wife, Beada, were spending a quiet Sunday afternoon visiting the old mining town of Monte Cristo. Tucked away in the Cascade Mountains on Barlow Pass, Monte Cristo had once been a rip-roaring camp. In 1952, half a century later, it was reduced to a few decaying buildings and rubble. Stopping at a pile of rotting boards, all that remained of what had once been a building, Mrs. Brandner read the posted sign. She turned to her husband in amazement; almost questioning what she was seeing:
THIS was a schoolhouse?
Fifty years and harsh mountain weather had left its mark on what was now a ghost town. Standing quietly nearby was a spry elderly lady; she was small, her long hair was white, and her face lined with a web of fine wrinkles. As she stood looking at the pile of boards, 89-year-old Eva Bailey McFall turned to Mr. and Mrs. Brandner and with just a hint of tremor in her voice told them:
Yes, this was the schoolhouse.
No one knew better than Eva Bailey McFall that this pile of rotting wood had indeed been just that. It was here the children of the mostly Welsh miners experienced the world of education under the tutelage of their teacher, Miss Eva Bailey. With many years of teaching already behind her in the Midwest, 33-year-old Eva Bailey had come all the way from Iowa to Everett. Monte Cristo had been her first teaching assignment since arriving in Everett. She also became the first accredited teacher in this isolated mountain-side one-room schoolhouse.
When Eva Bailey boarded the train in Everett on her way to Monte Cristo she may have been a little unsure of what she would find, but there can be no doubt she still looked forward to a new challenge. Raised in the flat lands in the mid-section of our country, she was sure to have been thrilled at seeing the farmlands change to valleys and imposing mountains. As the train began its steep climb, it went in and out of tunnels giving her glimpses of the snow-covered mountains peeking through the dark clouds. When the train arrived at the Monte Cristo camp and she walked along a rocky pathway, the sounds of men at work were all around her. Arriving at the school house, she found an unimposing twenty-four by thirty-foot building of unpainted boards.
On the first day, only six pupils came to register for school. However, more families were arriving each day, and soon she had 36 pupils, and at times more. Eva, found that in the mining camp more was expected of her than just teaching reading and writing. Eva organized picnics by the Sauk River, berry-picking get-togethers and even Sunday school classes.
Rosemary Wilkie in her book “A Broad Gold Ledge of Gold”, gives us a closer look at Eva Bailey—her appearance and her natural ability:
“When the mining companies brought in a doctor, they furnished him with a hospital, but no nurses. With the analytical exactness of his profession, Dr. Miles looked for someone who would serve in that capacity should the need arise. The school teacher’s fragile beauty and intellectual eyes told him she would keep her head under any emergency, and she found herself studying the rudiments of first aid and practical nursing.”
Eva learned to love the mountains, even though at first they intimidated her. She walked the trails, going further and further each time. With no place to go for amusement, she became appreciative of everything around her. She also learned to understand the people, especially their enjoyment of life, when they had so little. When the mine had to close for a while, she sympathized with these people as they struggled with the hardship of just hanging on. Mining was all they knew and they had no place else to go. She learned from them, and as the school teacher, they learned from her.
When she left Monte Cristo, Eva Bailey evidently taught for a short time at Snohomish where her brother was located. In 1901, she returned to Everett and her parent’s home; her next assignment was as a teacher at the old Jefferson School. She remained at Jefferson School until 1907 when she was appointed as the Superintendent of Schools for Snohomish County. Now 44 years old, Eva Bailey faced yet another challenge.
Without Missouri Hanna,* and her writings as the editor of the Edmonds Review, we may never have heard of the courage shown by Eva Bailey, nor of her incredible dedication:
“FORCED TO WALK: Miss Bailey, County Superintendent Walks 10 Miles Over Rough Roads
Miss Eva Bailey, county school superintendent, while pursuing her official duties last Friday, found it necessary to walk about ten miles through a wild region and over rough and sloppy roads. Miss Bailey had gone to Meadowdale to investigate the case of certain children who had been absent from school. Being unable to satisfactorily accomplish the object of her mission at Meadowdale, a further journey to the home of the children’s parents was necessary.
The course wound over rugged hills and through valleys obstructed by small lakes, bogs and brambles. The superintendent, however, persevered, finally reaching the locality sought and having transacted the required business, and being unable to procure conveyance to Edmonds, set out again through a densely timbered region toward the ranch of Hiram H. Burleson where she hoped to find some means of transportation to town.
Here again the tired traveler was disappointed. Mr. Burleson, with his horses and vehicle was away from home. After a short rest and refreshments, Miss Bailey continued her journey on foot to Edmonds, arriving very tired, but with a clear knowledge of the frightful and even impassable condition of some of the county roads heading out of Edmonds.”
This trip would have been rough for an experienced woodsman; definitely a real challenge for a woman all alone.
Eva Bailey was a strong advocate for education. On January 23, 1908, The Edmonds Tribune carried a warning from the superintendent that parents were required to send their children to school, otherwise warrants would be issued, such as the one served on one D. Hunter. The D. Hunter mentioned would have been Duncan Hunter, a well-known south county pioneer homesteader. Mr. and Mrs. Hunter must have heeded the words of the superintendent regarding education, as their four sons not only graduated from high school, but from college as well. Score a big win for Eva Bailey. In an age when women were expected to marry, stay at home, raise a family, answer to a husband, and just stay in the background, where on earth did this woman come from?
Eva Bailey was born in Carroll County, Illinois July 9, 1862. Her father was Ira L. Bailey, a farmer. Eva’s mother, Virginia Rupel, was born in 1833 while her parents were at sea aboard a ship from Germany. In 1895, the family lived in Grant Township, Page County, Iowa, and Eva now in her 30s was still living at home and teaching in the country school. In 1896, with the country in turmoil from an 1893 economic downturn, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey and their family, including 34-year old Eva, moved west to Puget Sound, settling in Everett. Mr. Bailey, now in his 70s, operated a nursery business at the family home at 3232 Oakes Avenue in Everett.
In December of 1911, Eva Bailey was still school superintendent when at the age of 48 she married a well-known and respected Everett business man, Elijah Palmer McFall, a 36-year-old widower with two children. Eva retired as school superintendent in order to help her husband with his business interests—mainly as a bookkeeper in his office. They lived at 1914 East Grand Street in Everett. Eva’s parents, now elderly, went to live with their daughter and her new family. The McFalls continued to live in Everett, where Elijah McFall died in 1941. Eva Bailey McFall died June 18, 1952, less than a month before her 90th birthday, and just a short time following her memory-filled journey back to Monte Cristo.
I would like to extend my appreciation to another remarkable lady, Rosemary Wilkie. Without her book telling of Eva Bailey’s personal attributes and life at Monte Cristo, Eva’s story would not be complete. Thank you, Rosemary.
Rosemary Wilkie, A Broad Bold Ledge of Gold: Historical Facts, Monte Cristo, Washington (Seattle; Seattle Printing and Publishing, ca. 1958).
he Edmonds Review, Edmonds, Washington; January 8, 1908.
he Edmonds Tribune, Edmonds, Washington; January 23, 1908.
U. S. Federal Census Records 1870–1940.
Everett City Directories.
Washington Digital Archives, Death and Marriage Records of Snohomish County.
Charles P. Warne, “Missouri Hanna: Mother of Journalism in Washington State,” Women’s Legacy Project Story # 61, the Snohomish County Women’s Legacy Project at League of Snohomish County Heritage Organization website, www.snocoheritage.org/wlp_61_M_Hanna.html.
**Many thanks to Charles LeWarne for discovering the 1908 article about Eva Bailey and her noteworthy walk, and to Margaret Riddle for sending it to me.
© Betty Gaeng 2015 All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 81