Marie Louise Anderson Wenberg

– Political Activist, Teacher and Postmaster & Park Namesake
Marie Louise Anderson (SAHS 2001_132_07)

Born in Minnesota October 4th 1884, this photograph of a determined and serious little girl is the first in which she never smiled. In 1906 she graduated from Pacific Lutheran Academy in Parkland, Washington. She studied to be a teacher and taught at Parkland Parochial School. Following that she also taught in Tacoma, Port Madison, and Quincy and Arlington public schools until about 1910. In May 1911 Marie Louise Anderson and Oscar Wenberg married at the Parkland Lutheran Church and two years later in 1913 Marie and Oscar Wenberg bought a farm near Florence Washington.

That same year Marie became Matron of Josephine Old People’s Home*; Oscar was Superintendant for three years. In an account by Bertha Logan who was a one of the caregivers there “Mr. Wenberg was chaplain and tended the coal burning furnace and various task, while Mrs. Wenberg kept the books and took care of business and social jobs”…the home had a barn and cows on the 10 acres with a garden large enough to grow produce for the 18-19 residents.
In the 1920 Census Oscar is listed as a wheat farmer, he and Marie have two children, Marie and Johan. She was active in many organizations during these years including Stanwood’s Monday Study Club and the Stillaguamish Grange. She joined the Snohomish County Federated Womens Club as a founding member. She was also a member of the Snohomish County Legislative Federation and the Womens Christian Temperance Union. She and Oscar both became political activists.

Photo from the East Stanwood Press Nov. 1, 1922

In 1922 (the same year East Stanwood incorporated) she appears in a newspaper promotion advertising her candidacy as the Farmer – Labor nominee for the Washington State Legislature from the 49th District. Her slogan was “Dare to do right” and “Wring Out the profits and operate for service.” The Farmer Labor party was a small third party primarily representing workers and labor rights at a time when companies didn’t provide sick leave or worker’s compensation. It won about 19 percent of the vote that year. In 1936 there were strikes and walkouts threatened at the mills and canneries. The local companies did not recognize the union but in most cases they already paid higher than union wages in so union activism in Stanwood was short-lived (see Echoes Winter 2019). She lost to Alonzo Willhite and R. D. Deselle (both Republicans) at a time when the top two vote became the two representatives of the district.
Marie never ran for office again but worked for her husband and continued to advocate for her causes. As a member of the Womens Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) she opposed amending the “dry law” to permit manufacture or sale of wine or beer, though it was upheld.
Marie and Oscar lived on a small farm near “Norman” in the Stillaguamish Valley through 1930. Oscar was farming and Marie continued teaching.

In 1929 Gunderson replaced his original Star Furniture storefront with a new building to house a new East Stanwood Post Office.  That building still stands with his name on it pictured above.**

In 1935 at the age of 50, Marie became postmistress in East Stanwood taking over from C. J. Gunderson who had established the East Stanwood Post Office in 1913. The post office building in East Stanwood was originally located in the building that later became a barber shop on the south side of the street. Later Gunderson, an influential businessman in East Stanwood moved it to his hardware / furniture / store (the Star Furniture Company building). Her husband Oscar had a partnership in the Gunderson’s hardware store at the time. Gunderson was also the local undertaker.
While working as Postmaster, in 1936 Mrs. Louise Wenberg was made President of the Snohomish County Rural Recreation Committee (Stanwood Story v. 2 p.90) In this role she began a campaign to purchase 20 acres on the east side of Lake Goodwin from C. D. Hillman for $1500 to be established as a park. 1939 Oscar elected to Washington State House of Representatives – served through 1952. His political platform included support for labor, pensions, the Grange program and the public utility. He also was influential in the effort towards funding the construction of the Stanwood Camano Mark Clark bridge and the new Camano Island State Park.

In November of 1939 Marie Wenberg, as President of the Snohomish County Rural Park Association dedicated the small County park at Lake Goodwin. Funds for the park came from the W.P.A. in the amount of $8,160 and the balance from the County. Though Rep. Wenberg’s standing as a legislator inevitably helped this cause an editorial in the Arlington Times Aug. 30, 1956 stated “It was Mrs. Wenberg who kept up a persistent campaign that came precariously close to failure until finally the plot became county property and was ad available to the State.” The Twin City News (Nov 9, 1939) reported that “the park will be known hereafter as Wenberg park, honoring Mrs. Louise Wenberg, through whose untiring efforts the work was carried on.”

Wenberg Park shelter – The Wenbergs (far left and second from right) and county officials who established Wenberg County Park named for Marie Wenberg. (photo from Wenberg files at the SAHS); Courtesy Stanwood Area Historical Society 2001_132_10

Various individuals and organizations also donated time and equipment for grading and graveling the road and building ball fields and picnic areas. The County park became a State Park in 1947 but went back to being a Snohomish County park in 2009.

After 10 years at the end of the ware in 1945 Marie Wenberg resigned as East Stanwood Postmaster at the age of 61. In 1952 her husband Oscar Wenberg died of a stroke where they lived with their daughter. Marie lived twenty more years and died Nov 15, 1972 at age of 84.

For more photographs and a slightly modified version of this story – see the Stanwood Area Echoes #64

“Farmer Labor Candidate for lower House” East Stanwood Press, Stanwood News, Arlington Times and Everett Herald. “Will incorporate Recreation body” Arlington Times Apr. 2, 1936 “Credit where is due” Editorial August 30, 1956 Arlington Times; Wenberg Luce Family Records Stanwood Area Historical Society; “Mrs. Wenberg Active in Civic Affairs” [paid advertisement] Arlington Times, Nov. 2, 1922 “The Emergence of the Farmer-Labor Party in Washington Politics, 1919-20” Hamilton Cravens The Pacific Northwest Quarterly Vol. 57, No. 4 (Oct., 1966), pp. 148-157 (10 pages). Interview with Louise Wenberg Luce (daughter – in – law) 2008

[*later Josephine Sunset Home now Josephine Caring Community]

**The East Stanwood Post Office was located in this new Gunderson Building until 1960 when the new Post Office building was built (now the Stanwood Camano News offices).  About that same time the towns and post offices consolidated and the post office operated there until 1976 when the new current Post office building was completed.

Stanwood and East Stanwood post offices were separate until they were consolidated under Lars Sagen in 1961 soon after the two towns consolidated.
In 1965 Sagen retired and Ray Brandstrom became Postmaster. At that time postmasters were appointed by the President through a patronage system of appointing postmasters and rural letter carriers. In 1969 that was finally changed by President Richard Nixon. The Postmaster General then appointed all postmasters from within the competitive Civil Service.
In 1976 the new (current) Post Office building was completed.

Copyright  Karen Prasse & Stanwood Area Historical Society; WLP Story #84



Anna Blacken Carlson Swanson

A short story about the life of one of the Stillaguamish Valley’s early Pioneers.

By A. Loren Kraetz

Courtesy Author

Anna Blacken Swanson was born Jan. 6, 1865 in Surendalen Khristiansund, Norway. Her parents, Ole and Maret (Toalge) Blacken, had a small farm, but like so many other Norwegians at that time, had heard of the alluring riches of America and dreamed of a chance for a better life in the new world. This meant leaving their home, friends and loved ones, with the probability of never seeing any of them ever again.

Anna was three years old when she sailed from Norway with her parents on a frigate headed for Quebec, Canada their final destination. Four hundred passengers, all Norwegians, paid $15 for their passage. Each person was allowed two quarts of water a day. They took all food necessary for the entire journey. Fifty-three days were spent on the ship without seeing land. During the crossing eleven passengers were buried at sea. The ship had a stormy crossing, one storm lasting three weeks. Passengers were forced to hang onto their bunks, and throughout the storm they could not use their deck stoves (which were bolted to the deck) except at rare intervals. Heartfelt prayers of thanks for deliverance were given as the ship docked.
The immigrant train waited to transport them farther to their destination. Jolting from side to side, they endured thick black coal smoke, belching from the tugging steam engine. These were merely freight cars with board benches fixed along the sides.
On these, they sat, slept, and ate for the duration. On August 20th, 1868 they finally reached Northport, Michigan, in Leelanau County, where they were to make their new home.
It was here that Ole Blacken built a log cabin and began working in the lumber industry. His daughter Anna began her early education, becoming proficient in English and Norwegian.
As time went by the American dream began to tarnish. Frigid winds of winter, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, and followed by stifling hot summers with unbearable humidity made Michigan less than paradise.
The luring tales of something better on the Pacific coast haunted Anna and her brother John O. Blacken until they could resist no longer.
Marie, boarded a train for Seattle in Washington Territory. Upon arrival they made their way to the wharf, where they booked passage on a steamboat for Florence, Washington on the Stillaguamish River. From Florence they were carried up the river to Norman by Indians standing and propelling by long poles their shovel nosed canoes, which were most efficient in shallow water.
At Norman John had the good fortune of landing a job at McFadden’s logging camp. Anna hired on as camp cook. Growing up in the woods of Michigan, she had learned how to “make do” in the kitchen. Word soon spread of Anna’s savory skills. Quickly she had job offers up and down the river.
At this time logging on the Stillaguamish was in its infancy. There were no steam donkeys until after the railroads came in 1890-91. Logging was done by oxen and horses, mostly along the river banks using six yokes of oxen on a turn of three logs, pulled over puncheon, a “road” of small logs laid side by side, perpendicular to the track. The nearest saw mill was at Utsalady on Camano Island. It was there that ocean vessels could deliver the necessary machinery to erect a saw mill.
It wasn’t long until Anna’s reputation took her up both forks of the river, cooking in makeshift tent kitchens and mess halls. She felt comfortable being poled up and down the river by an experienced Indian canoeman, Jim Harvey, with whom she remained friends until his death.
In 1887 Anna married Charles Carlson of Sweden. They had a son, Elmer, in 1888. Anna continued cooking in the logging camp preparing three meals a day and doing some laundry. She took her seven year old niece, Marie, along to care for her infant son and to keep the native Indian children clear of her cake dough and bag of raisins. Perhaps Marie was the valley’s first playground supervisor!
Most of the early loggers were Scandinavians, and it was common practice at this time for laborers to ask logging foremen, “Who is the cook,” before asking about the wages. With Anna’s Norwegian background, she knew how to satisfy their hungry appetites with familiar food.
After four years of putting up with Charlie Carlson’s weakness for booze, Anna divorced him.
She was goal oriented and had a dream of owning a hotel. With the coming of the Great Northern Railway in Silvana in 1890-91, she saw the opportunity of having a successful business of her own. She had culinary skills, a command of English, Norwegian and Swedish, as well as a reputation of being honest and compassionate.
In 1892 she married her second husband, Neal Swanson, but continued using her skills in the camps.
By 1894 Anna had saved enough money to build a two-storied hotel in Silvana directly across from the Great Northern depot. She offered meals family style for 25 cents and rooms 25 cents single or doubles, 50 cents.
At last she could retire from the hard work of the logging camps and their harsh conditions. The hotel was an instant success. She had a steady stream of railroad men, bolt cutters and mill workers to keep the hotel more than fully occupied. She offered laundry service as well for her boarders.
With all the cooking, washing and room cleaning it required more than her two diligent hands. During this time many young girls also immigrated from Norway. These girls found employment scarce and many became depressed. They had no money to go back home, spoke only Norwegian, and seemed lost in the jungle of virgin timber.
During the ensuing years Anna took many of these young girls under her wing, giving them a job, food, and a place to stay and helping them learn English until they had a chance to gain some self-confidence and independence. Many of these immigrant girls found suitable husbands and spent the remainder of their lives within eyesight of Anna’s hotel in Silvana.
Anna and Neal Swanson had two children, Nina and Arthur. Neal adopted her first son, Elmer. In 1899 Anna suffered the loss of her husband of seven years when he fell from the Great Northern Railway trestle and died. With renewed determination, she set about raising three children and running her hotel.

Silvana Hotel The hotel in the center of this photograph is thought to be the second Silvana Hotel which burned 1902. Courtesy Stanwood Area Historical Society. circa 1900? Photographer Unknown

Two years later in March of 1901 another huge set back: Ewing’s general store caught fire, burning Anna’s hotel and the Peterson’s residence. In spite of the fact that Silvana had little water and no fire department, much of the hotel’s contents were saved.
With some insurance money Anna quickly bought lumber, and as soon as the embers cooled she rebuilt the hotel. Many of her boarders took a leave from the woods to help rebuild their home. In two months the hotel was back in full swing.
Conditions were just looking good when seventeen months later, on Aug. 23, 1902, a second devastating fire burned her new hotel, Ewing’s new general store, Peterson’s new home and two additional business houses. The fire of unknown origin started in a woodshed at the rear of Anna’s hotel. Once again the residents of Silvana came running and saved most of the hotel’s contents.

Now for the third time Anna began construction at once for a new building, this one being larger than the first two. By winter the hotel was up and running once again. This time she maintained a vacant lot on either side as a fire break.
As the valley gave way to dynamite, grubhoe and guts, many large prosperous farms developed around Silvana. Often farmers who employed large crews for haying, threshing, silo filling and pea vining would treat their crews to a tasty noon feast in the hotel’s large dining hall.
Anna was always there to meet special needs. She continued running the hotel with no further crises until 1925, when after 31 years of service to the community she decided to hang up her apron and sold the hotel to the “Sons of Norway” for their lodge building, renamed “The Viking Hall.”
The lodge removed the partitions on the upper story and made it into a dancehall with a stage at one end. The lower portion continued as a dining hall and office space.
During the next 27 years the hall was frequently used for smorgasbords and Scandinavian dances. By 1952 it began to sway when 150 or more Norwegians began to dance the schottische and polka. In the interest of safety it was taken down and replaced with the present Viking Hall.

Upon retirement at age 60 Anna built a small house at the west end of Silvana and enjoyed another 20 years of traveling, visiting and entertaining old friends. She stayed active in the “Daughters of Norway, “and founded the Camilla-Collett Lodge No. 25 in Silvana.
With Anna’s passing Jan. 1, 1946, just short of her 81st birthday, many heads were bowed in respect. Anna was known throughout the district for her hospitality and generosity. All her life she quietly performed many acts of charity, and it was said no worthy person was ever denied her assistance. The hardships of frontier life were cheerfully born by this witty, neighborly woman whose kindness and sympathy in the sickness and sorrow of others was typical of her early days. She was a woman of energy and talent, who was very influential in the early development of the social and cultural aspects of the Silvana community, leaving it a far better place than she found it sixty years earlier.

Note: Anna’s brother, John O. Blacken, became proprietor of a hotel and general store in Lakewood, Washington. Her niece, Marie (great-aunt of the author), became the farm wife of Alex Spoerhase and lived to become a centenarian.
Reference credits to:
The Arlington Times
Wilma Warner (grand-niece)
Mildred and Margaret Spoerhase (grand-nieces)

© 2010 Loren Kraetz, All Rights Reserved

Rosamund Spoerhase

Rosamund Spoerhase

~  A Pioneer Midwife
By Louise Lindgren

By the time Rosamund Flick Spinner Spoerhase, age 47, reached Snohomish County as an accomplished midwife, she had survived the birth of a daughter, a Sioux attack on her town, death of two young sons by measles, years alone as her husband fought in the Civil war, the murder of that man after war’s end, re-marriage at age 26, the birth of ten more children (with the death of one of those), and a trip across the continent in a boxcar from Minnesota to Arlington, Washington.

Rosamund was born in Germany in 1844, but grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota. At age sixteen she married Lieutenant John Spinner of the Union Army, settling in the town of her childhood. A daughter and two sons were born, with both boys dying of measles at an early age. The young mother was only 18 years old in 1862 when New Ulm was attacked by desperate, starving Sioux, who revolted while most of the military were away fighting the Civil War. New Ulm had few defenders, and the settlers withdrew to four brick buildings.
Rosamund took refuge with her husband on the second floor of the brick Dakota House, where she molded bullets, loaded muskets, and fired on the attackers with one of only two rifles that were in town. When relief finally arrived from Fort Ridgely only the four brick buildings remained. All wooden residences and businesses had gone down in flames. Four hundred fifty whites had lost their lives, along with an unknown number of Sioux. (This was a key event in the tensions that culminated with the tragedy of Wounded Knee in 1890.)
Rosamund and John quickly rebuilt their home. He left to fight in the Civil War, and she lived alone with her remaining child until war’s end in 1865. Upon his return John went into the meat business with William Spoerhase, but on the day before Christmas 1866 he was stabbed in a local tavern, dying in Rosamund’s arms.
Several more years of widowed survival passed before January 1870 when Rosamund married the business partner, William Spoerhase. In her mid-twenties she began a new life that would result in the birth of ten more children, nine living to adulthood. She had plenty of experience with childbirth, assisting her mother who served as midwife to numerous friends and neighbors.
In 1891, after the death of their youngest child, William and Rosamund decided to follow friends that had moved to Arlington, Washington. Rosamund was forty seven years old when they packed their children aboard a box car bound for the wilderness of the Stillaguamish Valley. Arriving on a Saturday evening, the newcomers found Arlington to be a small village where thirsty loggers were unwinding after a hard week’s work in the forest. The Stillaguamish River at the edge of town was at flood stage.
Shelter for the night was to be the home of their New Ulm friends, the Schlomans, who had homesteaded across the river from town. After firing rifle shots to attract that family’s attention, a shovel nosed dugout canoe emerged from the darkness of the opposite bank. Ben Schloman welcomed them to climb aboard, but Rosamund said, “No way are we attempting to cross a flooding river in the dark. We didn’t come two thousand miles to be drowned ….”
How they spent that night, worn out from the journey, is not recorded, but eventually they made it to Schloman’s, where they regrouped and stored some of their belongings. Purchasing fresh supplies, they hired members of the Stillaguamish tribe to transport them by canoe 25 miles upriver to Whitehorse, where Spoerhase planned to claim a homestead. One canoe rolled over, dumping its precious cargo of grocery staples in the river. Quick retrieval and a hastily built fire salvaged some goods, including a huge and solid lump of sugar, but the flour could only have been used as paste. A sodden tent shelter had to suffice until they built a log cabin, with hollow cedar trees used to protect food, pigs and chickens from rain and wild animals.

Spoerhase Family, 1920 – Back Row – Bertha, Toni, Meta, (3 Kraetz sisters) William Spoerhase Sr., Cosi Schloman Center – Rosamund Spoerhase Front Row – Rose, Margaret, Almeda W. (three Kraetz sisters), Helen, John Kraetz, John Wrage. All cousins and Rosamond’s Grandchildren.

In mid-winter, after two months in the soggy forest, Rosamund decided she and the youngest four children would return to Arlington, so the children could go to school and learn English, German being the language they spoke at home. William and his older boys remained at Whitehorse, cutting shingle bolts for cash income.
Rosamund, an outgoing social person, sought out doctors Phillips and Teager, Arlington’s first physicians, as well as Matilda Teager, proprietor of the drugstore. The newcomer’s nursing skills were highly valued, and during ensuing years she became a well known pioneer midwife from Darrington to Silvana, traveling by canoe as well as horse and buggy.
This pioneer midwife never really retired. In 1898, they sold the Whitehorse land and business, building a new home on sixty acres south of Arlington which they cleared and farmed until 1912. That year, her 68th, she delivered two grandsons the same day, several miles apart. Also that year they sold the farm to their son Alex and built another home for retirement in Arlington. Her last midwife service was for one of her great granddaughters in 1926 at age 82. Rosamund passed away in August of that year.
By the time she died she had assisted six successive Arlington doctors not only with births, but with an incessant string of logging injuries. She had delivered all ten children for her grand-daughter, Anna Kraetz, who was proud that she never needed a doctor for a birth. Her home remedies for diarrhea and laxatives from the berries and bark of cascara trees, as well as a secret black salve for rash and boils were sought after by many.

Rosamund’s involvement in church, two lodges, and the grange was appreciated by all who knew her, and her death created a huge void, particularly with the many mothers who could no longer receive her ministrations in their time of need. It may be for the best that she did not live long enough to see that takeover of birth by the scientific medical community in mid-century, but she surely would have applauded the resurgence of respect that well-trained midwifery finally has achieved.

Interview and hand-written information provided in 2007 by Loren Kraetz of Arlington for primary information about his great-grandmother.
Dewees, William P. A Compendious System of Midwifery. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1837.
Varney, Helen. Nurse-Midwifery. Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1980
© 2009 Louise Lindgren, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story Number 60

Anastasia Spithill

Anastasia and Alexander Spithill (Source: Jack Kidder collection)

~ She has her day in court
By Betty Lou Gaeng

Anastasia had freckles! Her skin color was light! As a young woman, she married a well-known and prosperous white man from Scotland—Alexander Spithill. Dr. Charles Buchanan, a representative of the United States Government, decided that Anastasia was foreign and did not belong on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. Nor, according to Dr. Buchanan, was she entitled to the land allotted to her and her children in 1886. Even though the family had built a road and homes, and planted gardens and orchards on the property, he informed Anastasia it was not her land.

Anastasia was born about 1853 at Skagit Head on Whidbey Island. When she was two years old her full-blood Indian mother died, and her white father was long gone. Anastasia lived with her maternal grandfather Sadkok, or Wonnapot, as the Indians called him. To the white people he was known as Chief Napoleon Bonaparte of the Snohomish. Chief Bonaparte became one of the last survivors of the signers of the 1855 Point Elliot Treaty. The widowed Bonaparte and little Anastasia went to live on the newly designated Tulalip Indian Reservation. There, and at places her grandfather traveled, Anastasia was at his side or playing with other Indian children close by.

Anastasia was noticed, not only because she was always in the company of Chief Bonaparte, but because her little white face was covered with freckles. People wondered why this white child was always with the Indian people. Other Indians did not question Anastasia’s identity—they had always known she was one of them. She even had a special name—they called her Popstead, meaning Little Boston. The well-known Tyee Peter was her uncle.

Indications are that Anastasia was a very precocious child, and grew to be a woman with the same tendency. Not hard to believe as her grandfather, an important man with the Snohomish, was noted for his dignified air of superiority, and the red coat he wore. His attitude and appearance did not always endear him to the white men who had to deal with him. No doubt, little Popstead being in the company of her grandfather much of the time, adopted this same air of superiority, and her appearance was noteworthy.

Anastasia stayed with her Grandfather Bonaparte until she was 13 years old. She was then sent to Mission Beach on the Tulalip Reservation to attend Our Lady of Seven Dolors Indian Mission School conducted by the Sisters of Charity of Providence at St. Anne’s Catholic Mission. She attended the school until she left to marry an older man, the widowed Alexander Spithill. She became stepmother to his two young sons, Neil, age seven, and Duncan, age four. Mary, their mother, had been a full-blood Stillaguamish woman. Alexander and Anastasia were married February 27, 1870 at St. Anne’s Mission by Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse, O.M.I. Writing in French, Father Chirouse recorded this information, noting that Anastasia’s mother was a Snohomish Indian.

Nine children were born to Anastasia and Alexander. Eight would survive: Matthew, May, Alexander Jr., John, Cecilia, Inez, Zella and David. Neil and Duncan grew up knowing only Anastasia as their mother. In fact, Duncan must have developed a personality much like his stepmother. Father Chirouse writing in his diary in the winter of 1875 made the unusual statement “Mrs. Spithill and Donkan come to confession and behave well.”

The family first lived on the reservation at Mission Beach where Father Chirouse employed Alexander as carpenter. They then moved to Mukilteo and later Marysville. When Anastasia received an allotment, the family maintained dual residences. The first requirement on the allotment land was to build a road to make the property accessible. When this was done, a home was built and furnished. Land was cleared and gardens and an orchard planted. As the children grew, more land was cleared and homes built for them.

There had been early controversy in the agency as to whether Anastasia and her children were entitled to allotments. In 1886, the Acting Commissioner of the Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, A. B. Upshaw, notified the then Indian Agent Patrick Buckley that even though Anastasia had a white husband, she and the children were entitled to allotments.

Years later, Dr. Buchanan chose to ignore this ruling. In 1901 when Dr. Buchanan was appointed Superintendent and agent of the Tulalip Indian Agency, he was not convinced that Indian women married to white men were entitled to allotment land. He also demonstrated hostility toward the Spithill family and began a crusade, including warning them to vacate the property. He then awarded a portion of Anastasia’s land to William McLean, a man of Skagit and white blood. This began a seven-year dispute, ending only when settled by the courts.

On May 26, 1904, Anastasia filed a complaint in the Ninth Circuit Court of the United States (in Equity) against William McLean and Dr. Buchanan in his capacity as a representative of the U.S. Government. Later the United States was also included as a defendant. On March 4, 1908, after a very lengthy and bitter hearing before Eben Smith, Master in Chancery, with testimony by many witnesses, the court issued its decree stating that William McLean’s allotment was cancelled and he was “perpetually restrained and enjoined from asserting any claim whatever.” The court also stated that “Charles M. Buchanan, as Superintendent and acting Agent of the Tulalip Indian Reservation and his successors in office be and they hereby are forever restrained and enjoined from interfering with the complainant’s occupation and possession of the lands herein described.”

Little Popstead had won her lawsuit. The Heirship Ledger of the Tulalip Indian Agency records the land patent dated September 24, 1909 on behalf of Anastasia and her children, with the exception of her youngest son David who died May 19, 1908 at the age of 20. No portion was awarded to Neil and Duncan since they were not of Anastasia’s blood.

Anastasia Spithill, became a widow in 1920 when Alexander died at the age of 95. Anastasia lived another 12 years—her death occurring in Portland, Oregon on January 14, 1932.

Photo of St. Anne’s Catholic Mission and Our Lady of Seven Dolors School, Mission Beach, Tulalip Indian Reservation, was published in 1891 by the Northwest Real Estate and Building Review and appeared in The Seattle Times, Sunday, June 15, 1958.

Anastasia Spithill, et al., Plaintiffs v. William McLean, Charles M. Buchanan, as Superintendent and acting agent of the Tulalip Indian Agency, and the United States, Defendants. Case File No. 1194, The Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Washington, Northern Division, Ninth Circuit (1904). Record located at NARA, Seattle Office, RG21, U.S. Circuit Court, Seattle; Civil and Criminal Case Files. Oregon Death Index, 1903-98 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc. 2000. Original data: State of Oregon, Oregon Death Index 1903-1998. Salem, OR, USA: Oregon State Archives and Records Center.

Diary of Rev. Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse, O.M.I., September 1875 – April 1876. St. Anne’s Catholic Mission, Tulalip Indian Reservation, Washington Territory, USA. Translated from the French language.

© 2008 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 57

Lillian Sylten Spear

Lillian Spear 1941

~ Public Power Advocate
By Margaret Riddle

Her Early Years

Lillian E. Anderson Sylten Spear was an important player in Snohomish County’s public power movement. An educator and persuasive speaker, she once told the press that she loved tackling issues that helped to better democratize her community. Public power sparked her interest, a cause supported by the Washington State Grange. Lillian began working for the Grange in 1936 and never looked back.

Lillian was born in Portland, Oregon on July 26, 1897 to Norwegian immigrant parents Oline Mahlen and Alexander Anderson and was next to the youngest of thirteen children. In the early 1900s the Andersons moved to Everett where Lillian attended city schools. She earned a teaching certificate from Ellensurg Normal and worked as Principal of Silver Lake Elementary, which is now part of the Everett School District. Already married by this time, Lillian was able to serve as a school administrator but would have been discouraged from teaching as a married woman. Wed in 1920 to Arne Sylten, a lumber inspector, the couple had three daughters, Olene, Daphne and Joann. This marriage eventually ended in divorce. Lillian remarried in 1944, this time to Harrison George Spear, a marriage that lasted five years.

Public Power for Snohomish County

Passage of the Washington State Grange Power Bill on November 4, 1930 spurred action to create public power districts in those areas that had not already done so. With the 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and public power advocate Homer T. Bone as Washington State Representative, the state seemed ready for public utility ownership. Both Grant and Spokane counties created public utility districts that year.

Snohomish County’s struggle took longer. Puget Sound Power & Light had organized a farm electrification department in 1924 and, despite high and unfair rates, they dominated Snohomish County.   The Grange aggressively opposed Puget Power’s hold and placed a measure on the 1932 ballot to create a Snohomish County public power district. But ten Snohomish County mayors and the Everett Herald, worked to defeat the initiative. Herald editorials warned that the law would give PUD commissioners power to condemn and confiscate property, thus reducing tax revenue. An organization called the Snohomish County Tax Reduction Association implied that this measure was an effort to seek public payroll jobs. Underlying their opposition was a fear of socialism or, as some perceived it, communism. The measure was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

The Tri-Way Grange in Silver Lake

The federal government’s creation of the Grand Coulee Dam in Eastern Washington and the Bonneville Dam near Portland gave momentum to organize for public power since public utility districts were given priority to receive electricity generated from the two facilities. With this incentive, Snohomish County PUD was formed by county vote in 1936. But the struggle to acquire Puget Power’s Snohomish County properties—so that the district could begin selling electricity—continued for over a decade.

Becoming Involved

Lillian adult life began as a mother and an educator. In addition to serving as the Silver Lake Elementary principal, she was also president of the Snohomish County Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Her organizational skills quickly led her to a position on the PTA’s state board. Lillian also worked actively in the Democratic Party but it was the Grange and their support of public power that interested her most. In a newspaper article Lillian stated that she had to learn about public power. At the start she still cooked on a wood range and didn’t even have a refrigerator. But Sylten soon was a knowledgeable spokesperson. In 1936 she ran for Public Utility Commissioner and, although she did not win, her name became known. She quit her job as school principal to actively work for public power. From 1940 to 1946 Lillian served as District Auditor for the Snohomish County PUD.

She became an influential public speaker and in 1941 told a reporter:

“We had two bad years when our county was pointed to as a bad example. We had inefficient commissioners. The only way we could educate people about the power projects was to go out and talk to them and answer their questions. That was my work.” (Spear, Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Everett Herald editor and publisher Gertrude Best was an outspoken opponent of public power. Without Herald support, the Grange relied on speaking campaigns. Lillian spoke to clubs and organizations, particularly taking the message to Snohomish County women. She also helped organize distribution of literature and when it came to fundraising, she often simply passed the hat. In telling her story later to historian Richard Berner, Lillian recalled her battles with Gertrude Best, saying that the only time she received front-page coverage in the Everett Herald was when she was ticketed for speeding. The headline had read: “Mrs. Sylten Arrested”.

More Organizing
In 1939 Snohomish County PUD joined six other Washington State public utility districts to buy Puget Power. Lillian Sylten became secretary of the negotiating group named the Puget Sound Utility Commissioners’ Association (PSUCA). The group soon realized that Puget Power was not bargaining in good faith and were attempting to stop the buyout. A Washington Public Ownership League (WPOL) was formed and Sylten became its secretary.

Negotiations stalled then were renewed many times in efforts to establish a fair price. Snohomish County PUD joined other PUDs in filing a condemnation procedure against Puget Power. Boxes of Lillian S. Spear material in the University of Washington’s Special Collections attest to her involvement in Initiative 12, sponsored by the WPOL. Passed by the legislature, the initiative allowed for joint suits by PUDs. Lillian also supported Referendum 25 which put the measure to public vote in 1943. But by this time factionalism was developing among the ranks of public power advocates. Some disliked the WPOL for their socialist bias. Sylten—a Democrat, not a Socialist—served as the president of the Women’s Committee for Referendum 25. She wrote articles in favor of the measure in Public Power News, a journal issued by the WPOL. Referendum 25 was narrowly defeated. Now with no joint suit possibilities, the PSUCA once again became active.

Squabbles continued to divide public power advocates and Lillian (now Spear) became disenchanted with the movement and resigned in 1947, two years before publicly owned power truly came to Snohomish County on September 1, 1949.

Lillian Sylten Spear moved to Santa Rosa, California in 1953 where she continued her activism working to rid the state of pollution. In her final years, she struggled with bone marrow cancer and died in California in 1963 at 66 years of age. A plain headstone marks her grave in Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery.


Wendy Brush, “Lillian Sylten Spear, Outspoken Advocate of Public Power”, University of Washington Women Studies Class 283, December 12, 1984, Lillian S. Spear files, Everett Public Library;
“Biographical Note”, Guide to the Lillian S. Spear Papers 1931-1963, University of Washington Manuscript Collection No. 0381; Boxes 2, 5 and 7,
Lillian S. Spear Papers, 1931-1963, University of Washington Manuscript Collection No. 0381;
“Woman Is a Power In P. U. D. Movement”, Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 26, 1941.

© 2008 Margaret Riddle, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 55

Lucy Spada

Lucy Spada

~ Small Town Postmaster Earns Community’s Respect

By Louise Lindgren

Lucy Spada, retired postmaster of the Town of Index, lived by two rules–Help where you can and keep your own counsel – Good advice on how to get along in a small town from one who knows. Born in her parent’s home in Index, Washington in August 1923, she lived there with her parents most of her life. And, in over three decades of managing the post office, she stubbornly kept her own counsel and earned a reputation for discretion that is unrivaled among the people of that town.

What goes into the upbringing of such a lady? Certainly strong Italian Catholic parents and the traditions they brought with them from the old country in 1922 were factors. Lucy spoke Italian until she started school, but from then on English was encouraged at home. Her father was strict in training her to blend in and live as an American citizen. If he’d had a crystal ball, he would have been pleased to see her raise the American flag in front of the post office every working day for thirty-five years.

However, back in the twenties and early thirties such a future was far from the imagination of the little girl who played Run Sheep Run, Hide and Seek, and took pleasure in walking on tall wooden stilts.

Winters often meant trekking through snowdrifts five feet deep, following the path stamped out by her father’s heavy hip boots to the base of School Hill. Then a slippery climb up the broom-swept boardwalk would bring her to the top from which she could see out over the little town along the river with towering mountains as its backdrop. When school was out, the hill became the scene of daredevil sledding and toboggan runs.

In the summers, time was spent in the gardens, for in those early Depression years, every empty lot became “fair game for those who needed to raise their own produce to survive” she recalls. Some summers the circus came to town, and put up its tents in an empty field – giving Lucy’s little brother and other boys the opportunity to haul water for the animals in exchange for a ticket. “We didn’t need much money back then,” she said. “It wasn’t like today. We didn’t need the ‘right’ jeans or running shoes. Back then we were happy to have shoes!”

Lack of money didn’t stop the community from providing its young people with the pleasures of group activities. When it was clear that fees involved with joining Girl Scouts and Campfire were beyond the reach of most families, a Girls Club was formed with no fees required. Members could earn “merit medallions” by completing public service and learning projects.
In 1941, graduating at the top of her class in high school brought Lucy to her first public crisis, the dreaded valedictory speech. Four typewritten pages had to be memorized. She had been in several school plays (always pulling the parts which had plenty of lines to learn), but this was different. In rehearsal for the ceremony, the Superintendent would sit at the back of the vast gymnasium and listen for the clarity of each and every word. A drop in volume would bring the command, “Begin, again!” She said, “I can’t do it.” And he said, “You will do it because it’s part of your senior English assignment.” So, she did!

There was an innovative post-graduate course offered at the high school back then. Students could return to take whatever they had missed out on, such as a special subject or foreign language. Lucy availed herself of this, as well as working part time at the general store. Four-hour Saturday morning housecleaning stints brought in an extra fifty cents per week.

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the townspeople mobilized for the war effort. Lucy remembers the scrap drives, rationing, Red Cross training, and the ladies meeting at a local hotel to knit socks and make bandages. Settled deep in the mountain valley, Lucy took her turn at the twenty-four hour watch from the porch of City Hall, scanning the small patch of sky above for enemy planes. The wider world had intruded on a peaceful existence.

Soon, she joined that wider world, taking a job as clerk in Hammer’s Department Store in the “big city” of Monroe, twenty-three miles away. Two hours of every working day were spent sitting on an Index Stage Company bus. Another hour and a half was spent in the bus station after work, waiting for the “seven o’clock” to carry her home to an eight o’clock dinner.

Lucy’s big break came in 1951. Index’s long-time postmistress was forced to retire because of her age, and the best job in Index was open. “I’d no more thought about applying than flying to the moon!” she said. But her friends persuaded her to try. It was an arduous process, and much depended on letters of recommendation, preferably with one from a Congressman. Fortunately, Lucy’s public-spirited father was a personal friend of Congressman Henry M. Jackson, who willingly wrote the appropriate missive. A grueling all-day civil service exam followed for the young woman who admitted to being “scared to death.”

On April Fool’s Day, 1951, the postal inspectors came to finger-print Miss Lucy Spada, Postmaster, at her place of business in back of the general store. She was “on-stage” again – ready to meet the public every day of her business life. Her duties included providing a physical space for the post office. It was expected that ten percent of her salary would pay the rent for her small office and all the post office boxes. She even bought two empty lots next door for building a new office in case the store closed down.

During her thirty-five-year tenure, Lucy was privy to the most private information about each person in town. She knew who was being hounded by the bill-collector, who was receiving nasty I.R.S. letters, who received the summons and the lawyer’s letters. And, she said not a word. Of course, it was “postal regulations” to respect confidentiality, but on the other hand, there’s always the human factor which can break most any regulation. Not in Lucy’s case. And for that, she is respected by every person in the Town of Index.

Retirement meant an increase in public service and domestic projects. Whether it was crocheting an afghan for the church bazaar, cooking for a bake sale, or helping the museum – whatever needed doing, she was there. She upheld her father’s standard of maintaining immaculate gardens. Often she was seen quickly pushing her hand-mower across the manicured lawn for one last pass before a storm hit. After retirement, and with the illness of her mother weighing heavily upon her, Lucy Spada finally left her girlhood home to live nearer to her mother, who was in a senior facility in Monroe. The Town of Index is the less for her leaving, but her lessons of community service and discretion have been passed on to good advantage.

Source: Interview with Lucy Spada by Louise Lindgren, June 4, 1990

© 2006 Louise Lindgren All Rights Reserved; WLP Story 39

Grace DeRooy VerHoeven

~ An Everett Childhood
By Phyllis Royce

“Housework is so much easier here. “ Clazina DeRooy wrote in a letter to her family in Holland. “Almost everyone has electricity.”

It was 1926 when Clazina, her husband and their six children first arrived in Everett. Although the new house did indeed have electric lights, it lacked the other labor-saving electrical appliances she had heard so much about.

According to her daughter, Grace, her mother’s first electrical appliance was an iron. Wrinkle free ‘wash and wear’ fabrics did not yet exist. Clazina, like other respectable homemakers, had, until that time, pressed almost every article of her family’s clean clothes with a heavy flat iron that had to be continually reheated on her wood stove. Her new appliance was light enough for a child to use, and it heated itself with the flick of a switch.

It was an even greater triumph, when, a few months after she acquired the electric iron, Clazina was able to write to her family in Holland that she now had: “a maid who never talks and who, when she works, murmurs softly. She washes everything completely clean, and if I just flip a little thing she wrings everything out. This servant is an electric washing machine. Oh Mother, that thing is such a delight. ‘Til now I’ve had to stand the whole day rubbing on my washboard. Now I can finish up completely—the washing, the bluing, and everything, in two hours or less.”

Although Clazina did have an electric washer and an iron, she continued, much as her foremothers had done for generations, to clean house with mop, broom and dust rags, to sew clothing, not with a sewing machine but with needle and thread, to cook on a wood stove, and to try to protect food from spoiling in a “cool” corner chest or—later—in an icebox. It was 1947 before she finally acquired a real refrigerator.

The following are vignettes of growing up in Everett as a member of a Dutch immigrant family during the 1930s and 1940s:

My nine brothers and sisters and I all had our jobs. As we grew, we progressed to various duties. We enjoyed and begged to do them when we were little, but when the work became a regular assignment, the novelty quickly wore off. Our ‘entry-level’ assignment –about age five—was to dry the silverware. For twelve of us, this wasn’t a small job. From drying silverware we progressed to setting the table, peeling the potatoes, drying the dishes, and apparently a more responsible job, washing them. Serious ironing commenced with ‘doing the hankies’ (small square clothes used for blowing one’s nose before Kleenex was invented). One child would iron the dozens of hankies and carefully place them on a stack to one side; another stood by to fold and sort. Checking stockings for holes and rolling them into pairs was another job. For a family of twelve there would be several dozen pairs a week.

By the time we were seven or eight, we were helping with the annual spring cleaning and with the canning, taking peas out of pods, looking for worms, taking strings off the beans, shucking the corn, peeling and coring apples, etc. And always, Mom was around and on top of what we were doing….

Spring housecleaning began the day school was out. It meant completely emptying every room, stripping it of bedding, curtains, pictures….even the clothes from the closets. We washed what could be washed, including walls and woodwork and ceiling. We painted and varnished and wallpapered, as necessary and affordable. We never had a vacuum cleaner, so we took the living room rug— $3.00 at the Salvation Army—out to the yard and hit it with sticks. We cleaned the ceilings, beat the mattresses and the pillows and sometimes changed the ticking, washed blankets, furniture and bedsprings (which at the time were bare metal) —and then replaced everything where it belonged.

The work went on for two or three weeks, usually one room a day. Everyone was assigned chores. The boys moved the furniture and mattresses, carried ladders, took the beds outside, things like that; the girls washed and polished and remade the beds. I always thought that the boys had it a little easier than the girls, though the boys carried wood. We burned a lot of wood. Spring cleaning was usually completed—sometimes interrupted for a day or two when fruits ripened early—just in time for the jam and jelly making and summer canning.

When I was twelve in 1938 (the older girls were now in junior and senior high school), I inherited the responsibility of hurrying home at lunch time on Mondays to help hang out the laundry. Before the boys left for school, they would have helped carry the double boilers of hot water from the stove to the back porch and poured it into the washing machine and the large round tubs used for rinsing and bluing (bluing is a mild blue dye which counteracts the cream/gray color in white cloth).
Mom began the laundry early, and two large baskets were usually ready and waiting. After a very quick lunch of either cocoa and dried bread crusts or fried potatoes and rhubarb sauce or applesauce, I was in the yard, wiping the fine gray residue from the mills off the clotheslines with a damp cloth.

Mom would not permit haphazard hanging of the laundry. We hung the sheets together on the outside lines on either side of the yard. Towels, shirts and dresses hung on inside lines, and underclothing was hung on the very middle, far away from prying eyes. I figured our neighbors had more to look at than our clothesline, but it was important to Mom that our laundry look as neat as possible to the neighbors. She was always careful about appearances. With all this work, our house should have been spic and span. It wasn’t. But if it wasn’t neat, it was clean. With twelve people in the house, Mom did a remarkable job, especially without many electrical appliances. Of course she was home all day and had ten lackeys to do her bidding. But she must be given a good deal of credit for supervising ten apprentices and keeping us as organized as she did.

Religion was another important aspect of the DeRooy family’s life. Grace’s parents, Arie and Clazina, joined the Christian Reform Church immediately after they arrived in Everett. The entire family attended both morning and afternoon services on Sundays, Arie read to them from the Bible after supper, and the children attended Saturday catechism.

We were taught by example that life’s most important institution after family, is the church. We might misunderstand; understanding it, we might become angry with it, but we didn’t take it lightly. The entire family was active in the church.

We often congregated in the living room on Sunday to sing hymns as Tina (one of Grace’s sisters) played the piano. We also sang popular songs, but had to be selective to avoid Mom’s coming in and quietly but decisively picking up the piece and placing it aside or closing the piano. She liked to sing and often joined us, but to her, some songs were appropriate for Sunday, some were not.

Women were not permitted to vote in church matters, but were active in the Ladies Aid and undoubtedly advised their husbands in church matters they did know about. Church matters were often discussed at home, but kindly. We did not “serve up” the minister for Sunday dinner.
Movies were strictly forbidden, except for those offered free by local merchants just before the beginning of the school year. The ‘back to school’ movie was usually a cowboy movie and a cartoon—not something guaranteed to lead us down the path to sin. Ice cream was forbidden on Sunday, “verboten op Sundog”, and we were not allowed to play cards. I don’t think we had a lot of time to play games except during long summer evenings when we played out in the street with the neighbor kids.

At the end of our block stood a Roman Catholic Church, “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”, and the Catholic school. We played with our Catholic neighbors, but at times we would bicker, throw mud at each other and call each other names—never, of course, in our parent’s hearing. It had nothing to do with the difference in religion—it was just that we were different. We were Dutch; the Soriano family across the street, with almost as many children as ours, was Italian. They were recent immigrants, too…vocal and demonstrative…. Had it not been for the law, there would have been serious altercations at times. A final thrust at the end of a disagreement, always first checking carefully to see whether Dad or Mom was within hearing was our catcall: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”

Phyllis Royce on left.

© 2007 Sources: Grace DeRooy Spillman VerHoeven interviews with Phyllis Royce. DeRooy family journal and letters. Ten Little Dutchmen, Second Edition, Everett Washington, GVD Publications, 1998. Abstracted and edited from Phyllis Royce’s manuscripts and notes by Ann Duecy Norman
All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 42

Emma Serepta Yule

Emma Serepta Yule, Photograph courtesy Everett Public Library.

~ Legendary Educator
By Lawrence E. O’Donnell

She was young, single – and on this December day in 1891 she was more than 2000 miles from home to start a job in a place she never had seen before. Already a seasoned teacher, Emma Serepta Yule had traveled from her native Iowa to accept a teaching position in the fledgling industrial city of Everett, Washington. When Everett opened its first school house on December 14, 1891, she was there to greet the 26 youngsters who had trudged through the mud to school. Her willingness to tackle this challenge typified the adventurous spirit and independent pluck that marked life. She would stay in Everett for nearly a decade, keeping Everett in her heart the rest of her life.

A Yule family history prepared in 1975 by Robert B. Yule XIV tells us that Emma Serepta Yule was born March 25, 1863 at the family farm home in Red Oak Township, Cedar County, Iowa. She was the seventh and final child of Samuel Yule XII and Serepta (Clark) Yule. Four days after Emma’s birth, her mother Serepta died. The family history states that Emma was living with the Rigby family (presumably her older sister Delia who married Allen T. Rigby in 1867) and attending school in 1880. She is reported to have graduated from Iowa State Normal School and then to have taught in rural schools around Aurelia, Iowa.

At age 28, she came to Everett. The city, which had been founded just a few months earlier, was proud when the Broadway School opened in the winter of 1891. Yule was the lone teacher for those students who arrived that first day. (Note: Technically, Emma Yule was not Everett’s first teacher. In the spring of 1891, Henrietta J. Freer taught a 10 week session somewhere in the district.) In January, Miss Yule was joined by Nettie Boucher. Each of these teachers was paid $60.00 a month. School board minutes show that Emma Yule was appointed the school principal on February 19, 1892, thus making her the first school principal in the Everett School District. Before the school year was over, the Broadway building was overflowing and the district was renting space in several buildings around town.

On July 4, 1892, the school board of directors hired Professor J. W. Shepherd as the principal and Emma Yule to the “position next to principal”. In the white male dominated society of the era, it marked the first of three times the school board would “demote” Miss Yule in favor of a man.

In the fall of 1892, the school district started a high school program in the Broadway School. While the record is not totally clear, it appears that Emma Yule was affiliated with the high school for the remainder of her career in Everett though on December 23, 1896, Emma Yule was elected superintendent of the Everett Public Schools on January 7, 1897 at a salary of $85.00 per month. She was re-elected to the position for the 1897-98, 1898-99 and 1899-1900 school years. Again, it is unclear if she also was the high school principal during this period, although anecdotal records indicate she probably was.

School board minutes from the January 22, 1900 meeting indicate that Miss Yule may have been in disfavor with the board by this time. In response to a letter from teacher applicant Beth Banks, the board instructed its clerk to inform Miss Banks that “Miss Yule has nothing to do with the hiring of teachers and that her application would not be considered.” Whatever the case, on July 23, 1900, the school board named George St. John the superintendent of schools and Emma Yule the principal of Everett High School. Another “demotion” and this time she did not stay. On October 9, 1900, the school board rejected her request for an increase in salary and released her “without prejudice” to assume a position in the schools of Juneau, Alaska.

Despite the trials and tribulations, it is clear that Emma Yule was a remarkable individual who left an indelible imprint in Everett. Though she held administrative posts, it appears that she also taught during most of her time here. In her era, the school system grew from those 26 students to an average daily attendance of 1032 in 1900. There were five permanent schools by 1900, still at least one rented facility and nearly 40 teachers.

In a “Development of the Everett Public Schools” article for the February 6, 1902 edition of the Everett Daily Herald, Margaret Clark, the first graduate of Everett High School, describes Miss Yule as “our beloved friend and helper at all times.” When an Everett High School Alumni Association was formed in 1894, Emma Yule was unanimously elected an honorary member. In those early years of Everett High, with Miss Yule in a leadership role in significant academic and activity programs there is little doubt that Emma Yule had a key role in these Everett High School milestones and she held students to high standards. Insight is provided from an article in the February 9, 1898 edition of the Everett Times newspaper. After a high school program of readings and recitations by students – several of whom became community leaders – Miss Yule was unimpressed. The reporter stated that, “Miss Yule delivered such a scornful wrath at the close of the program that we were afraid we would be obliged to avail ourselves of the fire escape.” Apparently, it was in a student’s best interest to meet Miss Yule’s standards.

Several of Emma Yule’s relatives followed her to Everett but the record is murky as to exactly when they arrived. Her niece Alice Rigby (daughter of Emma’s sister Delia Rigby) applied for an Everett teaching job in 1893. She did become an Everett teacher and may have arrived that year or later. Alice’s sister Clara also came to Everett, as did their mother, Delia, who was divorced from Allen Rigby in 1895. Delia and Allen’s oldest son William was another who migrated to Everett. His son Donald, who stayed in Everett, provided a portion of the Rigby family information in the aforementioned Yule family history. Donald’s son Jim Rigby is still living in Everett as of this writing (2008) and has been a source of information about his great-great aunt Emma Yule. Also, he has given the Everett School District and this author books and other materials that belonged to her. Jim is a 1953 Everett High School graduate.

After leaving Everett, Emma Yule is reputed to have organized the public school in Juneau, Alaska and then to have taught in Japan. Eventually, she went to Los Banos in the Philippine Islands where she became a professor of English in the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines. After about 20 years at the University, she retired in the mid-1930s and moved to Los Angeles, California, one of two individuals who received the title Professor Emeritus from the University.

During her career she authored a number of books and papers, most relating to the history of Japan and the Philippines. She traveled extensively and took a number of now historic photographs on trips( s) to the part of southeast Asia known then as the “Orient”.

On at least one occasion she made a triumphant return to Everett. On Saturday evening, October 19, 1929 she was feted at a banquet in the Monte Cristo Hotel. The gala event was attended by about 50 of her former Everett High School students. On this occasion, she spoke about her experiences teaching in the “Orient” and her observations from visiting many of the world’s countries.

Emma Yule died in her home in Los Angeles on April 16, 1939. She was buried in Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery. Her grave marker identifies her as “Everett’s First School Principal.” She rests next to her nieces, Alice, who died in 1915 and Clara (Casperson), who died in 1953. An article in the Everett Daily Herald nearly five years after Emma Yule’s death reported that more than $20,000 from her estate had been given to the University of Washington. The Associated Press stated the money would be used to help girls at the University.

In terms of community history, it would be easy to judge Emma Yule on her obvious career landmarks – first teacher in the first school, first principal, first woman superintendent. But those observations would shortchange her real accomplishments. In a greater sense, she was a pioneer leader in a pioneer town. Arguably, the public school system is a community’s most important social institution. More than anyone else, she crafted a school system that was exemplary in serving the growing young city. Everett of yesterday and today owes a debt of gratitude to Emma Yule.

©2008 Lawrence E. O’Donnell;  WLP Story # 51

Maria Sneatlum

~ Tulalip Tribal Member, An Inspiration to a New Generation

By Wendy Church

Maria Georgina “Wyatalute” Sneatlum, a 1950s opera star, died April 25, 2007 at her home in Seattle. She was born, September 29, 1928, at Tulalip Washington to George and Amelia (Snyder) Sneatlum. Maria spent her younger years in Tulalip and graduated from Marysville High School in 1949. She went to Boston Conservatory of Music for professional training as an opera singer and performed professionally in Everett and Seattle. In May of 1994, Wendy Church wrote the following article which was published in the “See-Yaht-Sub”.

It was the little girl belting out church hymnals at St. Anne’s Church on the Tulalip reservation over fifty years ago that caught the attention of one of the Catholic sisters at the church.

Like many children, Maria dutifully sang in church on Sundays. “I was a little moppet of seven or eight years old,” she recalls. The sisters had the children divided into two sections, one for the younger children and the other reserved for the seniors.

ST. ANNE’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, West of Marysville on Mission Beach Road , photograph courtesy Everett Public Library

One of the sisters “perceived that there was a voice there” said Maria, and sent her upstairs to the choir loft to join the senior choir. The sister upstairs soon began asking Maria to perform solos. Asked if she was in the least nervous, “I guess I wasn’t. I was later on, but at that time, I didn’t care. I was just a regular old ham,” she said with a laugh.

This sparked interest from one of the church attendees, Hubert Coy. He sponsored Maria for a short time with voice lessons with Verna Miler in Everett. “That’s where I got started with a concert career, you know.” From there, Mrs. Mailer took over. Maria was about sixteen at the time. Mrs. Mailer took her under her wing to live with her and study. “I was one of the family and she gave me free lessons. I used the studio to practice and she developed the voice. Then I got this scholarship to study at the conservatory in Boston,” said Maria. Mrs. Mailer was also an expert seamstress and made Maria’s gowns for performances.

To finance her trips to Boston, Maria gave concerts at the Everett Civic Auditorium. There she gained a lot of her experience singing. She coached with Bruno Mailer (Verna’s husband) who at the time was a violinist at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He would coach her on the different composers Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Haydn, Faure and Duaparc. She also had to learn French, Italian Spanish and German. “I was never fluent in it, but I could understand it and then I could read too. It got so I could understand it quite well, but you have to keep it up, working on it all the time,” said Maria.

Maria also spoke Tulalip’s native tongue, Whulshootseed (Commonly spelled and pronounced today as Lushootseed). A lot of it she has forgotten, but get her around old pals and the beautiful exchange of speaking the language was a sound to hear.

Felix Wolfes, a world renowned German composer, coached her in her repertoire. “I enjoyed studying with him for a couple of years” said Maria. She also studied under Frederick Jagle (pronounced Yagle), a German composer who was her main teacher in Boston. He too was a prominent figure in the opera world, often flying back and forth from Boston to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “Sometimes the leading tenor at the opera would fall ill or couldn’t appear and they wound send a telegram for Mr. Yagle and he would be off to New York singing at some big opera. He had a vase repertoire,” Maria remembered. “He was so nice and such an inspiration to me. I enjoyed studying with him for my voice production”.

“The first time I heard her I was about twelve and this was at the Old Dining Hall, at a Christmas dinner. Maria sang Ave Maria and it was just so beautiful….it actually gave me goose bumps” says Bernia Brown, Tribal member. Maria sang mezzo-contralto, the lowest range of voice sung by female vocalists. The other end of the spectrum is soprano, the highest range of voice.

Maria worked and studied hard those years, often traveling back and forth from Everett to Boston. She would return to Everett to give concerts and raise money to go back to Boston and study. She did this for four years. She auditioned at a church forty miles on the outskirts of Boston. The director, impressed, immediately hired her. “I was the church soloist at this huge church in Worcester, Massachusetts. I would go there for rehearsals, then go there for the actual performance on Sunday morning. So that was quite draining. At the end of the day, I would be so tired from the pressure of classes. I would get on the bus and go way out to Worcester.”

After two years of this grinding schedule, Maria landed a job in Boston. “That was a glamour job. Everyone wanted that job because it paid relatively well. It was right there in Boston. I didn’t have to get on the bus and ride for a couple of hours like I always did. I always thought that might have been the beginning of my physical downfall,” said Maria quietly.

Maria fell ill with tubercular meningitis, a debilitating disease that left her in a coma for several months. She was admitted to a diagnostic hospital in Boston. There they had made an exception for her and let her stay longer than the usual four or five weeks. At the time, they were experimenting with a medicine that helped her recover somewhat from the disease. They had a nurse escort Maria back from Boston and flew her to Tacoma where she remained at Cushman Hospital for six months.

“My brother died of the same thing a couple of years earlier. They worked on me and they pulled me out of it,” said Maria. After that were the long years of convalescence. Sadly Maria lost her voice entirely and her equilibrium.
Despite the hardships she has endured, her faith remains strong. “I had a strong mind. Otherwise I think I would have collapsed entirely, like most people did at that time. Of course, I’m a believer in the faith. There were a lot of people that prayed for me.”

Today Maria resides in Seattle and has made a full recovery. Although she no longer sings, she has recently begun thinking about “shaking up the voice a little bit and maybe renting a studio and giving some lessons, because I certainly know what I went through to learn and develop my voice,” she says.

Maria looks back at the bittersweet memories but bears no regret for that time in her life. She offers some sound advice to the young for their dreams. “Don’t give up. Anything that’s worthwhile isn’t just going to drop into your lap. It will take sacrifice, hard work and lots of patience. Keep your dreams focused. Keep on Keeping on.”

© 1994 Wendy Church All Rights Reserved, used with permission from Tulalip Tribes.; WLP Story #38

Mary Low Sinclair

Courtesy UW Libraries26773

~Forgotten Founder of Snohomish, Washington

By Warner Blake

Walking through the oldest part of our largest cemetery on a sunny afternoon, I easily locate large, even multiple markers with the names Ferguson and Harvey, but none with Sinclair. And amongst the living in our small town the names of Ferguson and Harvey are easily recognized while the mention of Sinclair usually fails to ring a bell.

Emory C. Ferguson and John Harvey settled their claims on opposite sides of the Snohomish River in 1860. East of Ferguson’s claim on the north bank was the Edson Cady claim, which he sold to Mary and Woodbury Sinclair in 1864. Woodbury died suddenly in 1872, just after he and Mary had platted their eastern section of the officially named Snohomish City. Emory and Lucetta Ferguson platted their western section, and John Harvey established a farm and mill on the south bank. The site still has a mill today, but the farm has given way to a busy airport. The Harvey claim is located on the other side of the tracks that marks modern Snohomish’s southern border.

With the death of Mary’s husband, ownership of their claim passed to their two young children, Clarence and Mabel, and the single mother became executor of her children’s estate. Her first act in this later role was to donate three acres alongside the Pilchuck River for a cemetery, which led to the establishment of the Snohomish Cemetery Association, the county’s first public burial ground. Here she buried Woodbury, along with the remains of their infant son Alvin who died shortly after his arrival in this place. Mary purchased a two-foot tall white stone marker, the first in the county.

Secondly, Mary donated “all of block 18” for the first school building in 1874, and within a year a creditable building was on the site, just north of where the Carnegie Library was eventually built. Since the beginning of their residency in Snohomish, classes were held in the Sinclair home and in 1866, Mary’s friend Ruby Willard was paid as the first teacher of School District No. 1, most likely by E. C. Ferguson, the county superintendent of schools. In 1878, Mary married Myron Packard, publisher of The Eye, Snohomish’s second newspaper, but ten years later they were legally separated and Mary petitioned the court to restore her name to Mary Low Sinclair. It was not front-page news.

Sinclair was an early investor in the Athenaeum Society shortly after Woodbury’s death. This was a regionally recognized literary society that published a monthly, handwritten newsletter, established the first library by the pooling the books of members, and built the grand two-story Athenaeum building in 1876. The spirit of the organization later inspired the populist petition of the Carnegie Foundation for funds to build a library that was awarded in 1909. She is credited with starting the local dairy industry with her cow “Rose” a gift from her father; and she donated property for the railroad. In fact, both the arrival of the first train and the filing of her divorce papers took place in 1888 when she was listed as one of the leading taxpayers for Snohomish County.

Because the students coming to Mary’s home were children of Indian mothers, Mary became conversant in the indigenous languages and dialects over the years and was often called upon by journalists and government officials to act as interpreter. The last recorded such event was in 1920, when she helped a reporter from Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer interview Snohomish’s famous Pilchuck Julia. Three years later, “Princess Julia” died from small pox and was the last person buried in the cemetery established with the Sinclair donation fifty years earlier.

    The Low Family Arrival in Puget Sound, 1851

Mary Elizabeth the first of four children of Lydia (Colburn) and John N. Low was born on December 11 1842, in Bloomington, Illinois. Four months into her ninth year, the family left Illinois to migrate west via the Oregon Trail. Just outside of Fort Laramie the Low party passed the Arthur Denny party, who were also from Illinois. Both parties met again at The Dalles, Oregon, and traveled together to Portland. Finding passage aboard the schooner Exact, the expanded Denny party, which now included Mary Ann (Boren) and Arthur Denny’s new baby, plus the William N. Bell family, along with the Low family of six, disembarked on a rainy beach at Alki on November 13, 1851.

While the Denny party moved across the bay to establish the future town site of Seattle, the Low family remained at Alki where John began producing pilings for wharves in San Francisco. Low sold his lumber business and the family moved to Olympia then to Port Madison on Bainbridge Island. Ten years had passed since their arrival at Alki, and nineteen year old Mary was teaching at a school where her future husband, her boss, was the district school clerk.

Woodbury B. Sinclair, born in Penobscot County, Maine July 20, 1825, arrived in Seabeck, Kitsap County, Washington Territory in 1856, as co-founder of a lumber company. In the census of 1860, he was listed as single, age thirty-three, a farmer, had $5,000 invested in real estate and $100 worth of personal estate. He and Mary were married at her father’s home in Kitsap County, March 4, 1862. The couple was described as “Mr. Sinclair, the handsome clerk and Miss Mary Low, the vivacious little teacher.” Two years later Woodbury went on ahead to Snohomish, then called “Cadyville,” in order to establish a logging camp for a local company, and ended up buying out Edson Cady. With William Clendenning he opened a small trading post on the north bank of the Snohomish River that catered to local loggers. “As the steamer landed at the gravel bank near the foot of Maple Street, a small clearing appeared in the otherwise unbroken timber. The town consisted of a rough log house on the bank in which supplies were stored. The store farther back, was a twelve by sixteen foot shack. The old building still standing [1911] at the corner of Maple and Commercial Streets, without windows, doors, or floor, in time was used for the store, with living rooms in the back.” The Sinclair’s infant son Alvin died 20 days later.


On the last day of April 1865, Mary Low Sinclair and her one-month-old son Alvin, boarded the small, unfinished steamer Mary Woodruff in Port Madison for a journey across Puget Sound and up the Snohomish River to the place called Cadyville, arriving the next day, the first day of May. Forty-six years later, Mary remembered that day in an article for the Snohomish County Tribune, published in 1911:

“There was much to do, but the pioneers were hustlers and could turn their hands to anything — no specialists in those days. The women, young and hopeful, fearing neither danger nor privation, soon began to make things look homelike. A large fireplace assisted considerably in clearing the dooryard, in which later bloomed old-fashioned flowers — Sweet Williams, Marigolds and Hollyhocks. There was no time to be lonesome; frogs sang cheerily in the nearby marshes; mosquitoes kept the people busy building smudges. Wild game was plentiful. The Indians brought venison, wild ducks, fish and clams. Also the ranchers from Snoqualmie Prairie brought delicious hams and bacons of their own curing.”

    Sinclair Property

A second son was born on November 14, 1866, whom they named Clarence Wood Sinclair, and he lived to become a popular captain of early Snohomish’s favorite steamship the Nellie in the 1870s.
“For two years there was no regular steamer outside, and the only fruit available was wild berries. But living was cheap and good, and not a butcher shop in forty miles. The Indian wives of the ranchers made sociable calls on their white neighbors, conversing in mingled Boston, Chinook, and Siwash Wa Wa (talk).”

Sinclair gravestone

Sinclair 1905 Mabel “May” H. Sinclair was born on April 28, 1869, and lived until 1935. Son Clarence died in 1905 from a sudden illness. And Mary died on a Sunday, June 11, 1922, following three days of illness. She was seventy-nine years old, still living in her home on Pearl Street, and still active as far as we know. The June 16th issue of the local paper carried no mention of her passing. The following week’s issue published a paragraph on the front page that read: “Mrs. Sinclair Was Earliest Settler In Snohomish. E. C. Morse, former Snohomish resident, in a letter to the Tribune concerning the death of Mrs. L. Sinclair, pioneer woman of this city, who died last week, states that Mrs. Sinclair was the first white woman to settle and make a home in Snohomish county, and was also the original owner of the town site Snohomish, eastern part.”
The Everett Herald, on the other hand, published an extensive obituary beginning on the front page, June 12, 1922, which told the story of her childhood and her parents, Lydia and John, who also settled in Snohomish around the time of Woodbury’s passing. The remains of all family members were interred in the town’s first cemetery.

The Catholic Church founded a second cemetery in 1895; but what was to become the largest cemetery was established in 1898 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Veteran’s group, simply referred to as the G.A.R. — both were located outside of town. Over the years, the picturesque cemetery alongside the river, framed by a white picket fence, was no longer needed for the newly dead, and so became neglected and eventually referred to as the “Indian Cemetery.” Consequently, not enough attention was paid in the 1940s when the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed that all of the pioneer graves had been moved to other cemeteries, when it extended 2nd Street north, cutting the historic cemetery site in two. There is no record of the Sinclair or Low remains being moved to the G.A.R. Only Woodbury’s faded white headstone, the imagined centerpiece of the Sinclair memorial, was rescued by the Snohomish Historical Society in the 1980s, and it was reset in a prominent position in the Society’s display of a pioneer graveyard.

Writing this in 2008, I can report that city funds have been allocated to create a memorial on the eastern side of the divided cemetery site, the part that borders the river, and we hope that both the Sinclair and Low names may be remembered along with the Indian dead who rested in this spot long before the coming of the white people.

—Mary L. Sinclair, “Sketch of Early Snohomish Life” (1911) reprinted in The Snohomish Story: From Ox Team to Jet Stream, Official Program, Snohomish Homestead Centennial, July 1959, p. 12;
—Stuart Eskenazi, “The Misplaced Pioneers,” The Seattle Times, September 2, 2001, pp. B1-2;
—“River Reflections: Snohomish City 1859-1910,” Snohomish Historical Society, (undated), pp. 54-55
—“Mary L. Sinclair Called by Death: An Early Pioneer,” The Everett Daily Herald, June 12, 1922, p. 1;
—“Mrs. Sinclair was Earliest Settler in Snohomish,” Snohomish County Tribune, June 23, 1922, p.1;
—Junius Rochester, “Low, John Nathan (1820-1888) and Lydia Low (d. 1901),” Essay 1049, November 2, 1998;
—Warner Blake, Early Snohomish (South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2007);

©2008 Warner Blake;  WLP Story # 53