By Betty Lou Gaeng
“If I’m going out in the sticks, I’m going to start me a town.” With those words spoken in 1938 to her husband Carl, feisty Gertie Perrin and her husband moved to the sticks—a few miles northeast of their comfortable home in downtown Edmonds. Inspired to become a town founder, Gertie went to the courthouse in Everett and paid 10 cents to register a name for their acreage. With this act by Gertie Perrin, the community of Perrinville was born.
Jennie Gertrude Osborn was born in Nind, Missouri, a small town located in the southwest section of Adair County. She was the second child born to William and Mary Osborn. Eventually, the Osborn home was filled with children. Zelpha, Jennie Gertrude, Sherman and Charles were born while the family was in Missouri. William was born in Colorado. Thomas, Dora and Penny were born after the family settled in California.
Gertie was eight years old when Mr. Osborn, a carpenter and a man who liked to travel, had the urge to move to California. So, the family packed their belongings and headed west. After a short stay in Colorado for the birth of William, the Osborns continued their westward trek. Reaching California, they settled down in Redwood, Santa Clara County. Thus, in 1906 when the disastrous earthquake struck San Francisco, they were living a few miles south and east. From their yard, Gertie and her family watched as the flames and smoke arose from the stricken town. During an interview with Gertie which was published in “Centennial Profile” on page 46 of Edmonds, 100 Years for the Gem of Puget Sound (1990), she spoke of her remembrance of their house shaking a great deal, but no serious damage was done.
While living in California, Gertie had a very short teenage marriage to a young man with the last name of Warren. In April of 1910 when the federal census was taken, Gertie was living with her parents; she was listed as Jennie G. Warren, age 16, and she had been married for six months. It was evidently a very short marriage. When Mr. Osborn got another urge to move on, Jennie (or Gertie as she preferred) was again Gertie Osborn with no hubby tagging along.
As Gertie said, her father liked to travel. When Gertie was 17 years old and before 1910 came to an end, their new home was along the shores of Puget Sound in Edmonds, Snohomish County in the state of Washington. Mr. Osborn must have been satisfied with this move as Edmonds became the family’s final home. Many of Gertie’s family now are at rest in historic Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.
On January 4, 1913, Gertie, now almost 20 years old, decided to try married life once again. In Everett she married another Edmonds resident, 25-year old Andrew A. Henson. Andrew was from Illinois and employed as a sawyer at one of the numerous sawmills dotting the waterfront of Edmonds.
Prior to this marriage and following, Gertie, never long idle, waited tables and cooked. In 1918 she was cooking at the old Bishop Hotel at Second and Bell in Edmonds. However, another divorce ended her marriage to Andrew Henson. By 1930 Gertie was once again single. It was at that time she met 36-year old Carl Perrin, a newcomer to Edmonds. Carl was born in Greenwood, Arkansas and as a young man lived in Idaho and Eastern Washington with his widowed mother. He spoke of having been a Spokane police officer for five years. After moving to Edmonds, Carl became the manager of a restaurant and Gertie was a waitress. On April 2, 1931 in Seattle, Gertie (Osborn) Henson and Carl Perrin married. Carl O. “Skip” Perrin, Jr., the couple’s only child, was born June 18, 1932.
Gertie often said she had been cooking since she was nine years old. She must have enjoyed it as through the years Gertie operated or managed at least five restaurants in Edmonds. She also had one of the first antique shops in town. She then owned and managed a doll shop which she called “Gertie’s Doll Hospital.” Her business was destroyed by a fire in 1945.
In 1946 Gertie encouraged her friend Helen Reynolds to open a photography shop in Edmonds on the same property where Gertie once had a restaurant. In order to promote her talent as a photographer, Helen Reynolds displayed a striking photograph of Gertie’s husband Carl Perrin in the window of her studio on Main Street in Edmonds.
After purchasing 5-acre lots on three corners of the area that Gertie named Perrinville, the couple soon learned the lots were actually only three and one-half acres each. However, Gertie and Carl eventually acquired a total of 35 acres for their community of Perrinville. As shown by her vast business interests, Gertie was never idle, she not only established her “town” but she kept busy with her other enterprises in Edmonds. Carl also had his own business interest—Perrinville Roofing Company.
Cutting down trees from a nearby hill on their property, Gertie and Carl used the logs to build their first home at Perrinville. Eventually they would build and live in several different residences. As the years passed, Gertie promoted the concept of Perrinville as a solid investment for business interests and an eclectic assortment of enterprises soon developed on the corners at Olympic View Drive and 76th Avenue West. The Perrins also built a garage/gas station and sold part of their property for the construction of a grocery store.
After 34 years of marriage, Gertie became a widow with the death of Carl on June 9, 1965. Now without her partner, the always unsinkable Gertie continued to promote the ambience of Perrinville. In later years, a very noticeable car washing business flourished at the old garage building on the southwest corner of Perrinville. Featuring shapely scantily-clad young women as the car-washers, this business almost caused a few wrecks as drivers took their eyes off the road to take in the action. Perrinville, like its founder, has always been unusual.
In recent times, a colorful painting of a clown brought a bit of fame to the old garage building. The garage-art on the north side of the abandoned building was the work of a talented but unknown artist and was another eye-catcher for those traveling along Olympic View Drive. The painting is gone now and the old garage is once again just an unadorned and abandoned building.
As the years passed all of Gertie’s Perrinville property was sold except the house where she lived until her death at the age of 98. She died on October 4, 1991—feisty to the end. Their son Carl died May 18, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada, his home for many years.
Gertie lived long enough to see a partial realization of her dream of a town. Even though Perrinville never became an actual town, in 1990 the Perrinville Postal Service, Perrinville Carrier Facility, Edmonds, WA 98026 opened for business. In the eyes of the federal government, Perrinville became an official place name.
Through the years Perrinville has remained a viable entity as a community of businesses and homes. For many decades Gertie’s inspirational “town” has been a well-known landmark, its lands now shared by the cities of Edmonds and Lynnwood.
“Centennial Profile,” Edmonds: 100 Years for the Gem of Puget Sound (1990). Published by The Edmonds Paper and the Edmonds Historical Museum.
Carl Perrin’s obituary, the Edmonds Tribune-Review, Wednesday, June 16, 1965.
Gertie Perrin’s obituary, The Seattle Times, October 5, 1991.
U.S. Federal census and vital records, Ancestry.com
Washington State Digital Archives, Death and Marriage Records.
The author’s personal remembrances.
© 2010 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved