Phyllis Royce

Independent and Determined to Stay that Way

By Teri Baker

As a young girl Phyllis Royce made up her mind to become independent. And she did just that. “I didn’t think I couldn’t do things so I just went ahead and did them,” she says. “I like women who get out and do things.”

Phyllis, 74, of Marysville explains, “My mother never did anything but take a ride on a Sunday afternoon. She couldn’t drive, and everything had to go through my dad.” Phyllis had no patience with what she called her mother’s “just be helpless and pretty and whine for what you want” attitude. The girl was more like her father, a man who worked hard as a grocer and later as a delivery driver, tended the garden at home, and kept himself informed via the newspaper and radio. My brother was the good child,” she says with a laugh. “I was always in trouble, always building stuff, always in motion, roller skating, riding bikes, playing at the park. I was also curious and read six books a week.”

Phyllis lived in Bellingham until eighth grade, when the family moved to Blanchard. She worked part time in a mercantile store washing windows and wrapping cookies. “It was the third year into the war,” she says. “There were things you couldn’t get and other things that were rationed. Everybody just dealt with it.”

She married at 16 and went to Nebraska with her new husband, who had joined a major league baseball farm team. “He was on the road all the time. and I was stuck in a tiny, one-room apartment with nothing to do,” she recalls. “I said ‘forget that!’ and I moved back to Blanchard.”
Barely 17, she rented an old railroad depot, complete with outhouse, (she bathed next door at her parents’ house) for $11 a month. Single-handedly, she turned the two rooms into three by putting up a wall and making an archway. She acquired an ancient wood stove for cooking and central heating, turned discarded planks into cupboards complete with doors, and scrounged up some cast off furniture. Located at the base of Chuckanut Drive, the depot is now Blanchard Community Center.
Her husband returned after the baseball season and went to work in a mill. The couple lived at the depot for a year and a half, but with a child on the way, had to move to larger quarters. They bought a house in Bellingham for $2,000. Phyllis did the lion’s share of the home improvements herself. The sale of the house netted them enough to buy a new one for $4,000 two years later. Eventually, buying and selling houses would become a way of life for Phyllis.

The couple had a daughter, then a son, but little else in common. Phyllis divorced her husband after six years of marriage and moved with the children to Everett to start over. “I got a hundred dollars a month in support money,” she says. “We lived frugally, but we managed just fine. I had no employable skills. They didn’t want women who could build things, even though I could even use an electric saw, so I worked in restaurants on weekends.”

In 1955 she met Bob Royce, a Navy chief stationed at Whidbey Island, who was soon transferred to California. The two corresponded and married three years later. Phyllis stayed in the states when Bob was sent to Japan and other foreign places, but the two still managed to do some traveling together. On one trip they had been to England, Belgium and Germany when Bob’s leave ran out, so he left Phyllis in Munich and flew home. For five weeks she traveled by train all over Italy, Switzerland and Greece, staying at out of the way places, hopping a plane to check out a Mediterranean island, and soaking up sun, art and history to her heart’s content.

During the 14 years before Bob retired, Phyllis says her independent spirit rose up to help her hold her ground when her husband, used to giving orders, would “come back home and try to take over as if I hadn’t been doing just fine for months.” She adds with a smile, “He’s still a Navy chief at heart, but we’ve managed to stay married for 42 years.” After Bob’s retirement, the couple returned to Everett, and Phyllis, then 38, who had never graduated from high school, enrolled in a class at Everett Community College.

“Over the years I took art history, photography, design, things that were enriching my life,” she says. “I never thought I would do anything with it. I just started one class at a time for my own education and enjoyment and the next thing I knew I had an Associate of Arts degree.”

She entered the Central Washington College extension program, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in law and justice, graduating at the age of 50 with a 3.8 grade point average. “If you want to go to school, no matter what age you are, do it!” Phyllis advises. “I just had a ball. It was so much fun going to school with police officers, jailers and so forth. They were just a kick. Wise guys, almost all of them, but I gave as good as I got. We were pals.”
Part of her class work involved the Volunteer for Credit program, which gave her on-the-job training in the parole office. “The first thing I learned was that probation and parole was a high stress occupation,” she says. “Caseloads were large and the paperwork was staggering. Arrest reports in some cases, especially crimes against children, were very graphic, sometimes more than I could handle. As interesting as it was, it didn’t take long to decide I would not want to choose that as a career.”

Still, during her junior year, Phyllis returned to the parole office as a volunteer coordinator in the Pre-sentence Investigation Division. Much of her work involved searching through prosecutors’ files. Her research skills have made her a valuable asset in her current volunteer work with Snohomish County Women’s Legacy Project, which she helped start and for which she has put together a remarkable file of information at the Everett Library Northwest Room.

After graduation, Phyllis was hired by Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department as a correctional officer in the Work Release Program in the county jail. She came to believe the supposedly first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes in her charge posed a danger to the community. One turned out to be the infamous Everett Rapist.

Phyllis was sent to the Correctional Officers Academy in Seattle, where she graduated third in a class of 36. Not bad for probably the oldest person in the class. Less than two years into her career as a corrections officer her father died. She quit so she could go to Bellingham to help her mother who was still so dependent she did not even know how to write a check.

Although Phyllis did not return to work in the justice system, she was not idle. She and Bob continued to invest in real estate. She says, “We bought cheap, fixed up and sold for a modest profit.” Today, they own two older houses in Everett that have been turned into apartments. Phyllis still does tile work, repairs cabinets, and can tear out a wall if she needs to. Her husband, who handles the plumbing chores, says Phyllis knows more about carpentry than most men do.

“I like to keep busy,” she remarks. “I don’t like power saws; just give me a hand saw any day. I don’t mind hard work. I’m physically able to do a lot and I always got tired of waiting for the guys to do things.” Part of her hard work went into building the Royce’s home, where they did pretty much everything but the frame and the roof themselves.

Phyllis also volunteers. She has contributed well-researched articles to Riverside Remembers, a history of part of early Everett, and to Voices of Everett’s First Century. “I didn’t know if I could do it, so I just did,” she says. “I liked it. I enjoy talking to old people and get really interested in what they have to say.” She has interviewed more than 100 people and is still at it with the legacy project.
Her interest is obvious as she talks about her collections of obituaries and other articles culled from local newspapers over the years and her work with Snohomish County Museum, where she was president for 11 years. Because she owns property in Everett, she was asked to be on the city’s historical commission, where she also served as president.

To learn more about antiques, Phyllis also volunteers at major regional antique shows. And somehow, Phyllis still manages to find time to read. “There are a jillion books at my house,” she says. “I never go anywhere without a book.” She also cares for five cats of her own, plus six adult cats and seven kittens that were dumped on the dead-end road near her house to be eaten by coyotes or to slowly starve to death. “They’re expensive to feed and care for,” she says, “but I can’t see a cat starve.”

A hard worker with the energy level of people 20 years her junior, Phyllis is in pretty good shape, although she has had her share of physical challenges. She has battled cancer three times, the first beginning with a wart in her nose. Two years later she developed throat cancer and underwent radiation that left her throat so scarred she has difficulty eating. Five years ago, the cancer returned to her nose and skin had to be grafted from her shoulder to cover the removal of the tumor. “It doesn’t show much because I just use makeup,” she says, adding that she got through the ordeal because she was “working with the museum at the time and didn’t have time to worry.”
There is little that stops Phyllis. She still travels when she can, alone or with her husband, and speaks fondly of past trips to Mexico, Spain, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Egypt, the place she always dreamed of going. “I found out Egypt was a magical place, but hotter than heck,” she says. “I think I’ll try some cooler places.” She plans to continue traveling, working on houses and volunteering. She is a “woman who does things.”

It would never occur to her to be otherwise.

Source: Interview with Phyllis Royce

© 2003 Theresa (Teri) A. Baker 2003 All Rights Reserved ; WLP Story Number 5

Addie Fielder Lane

Pioneer and Builder of Religious Communities 1870 – 1943

WLP Story 4 ~ By Sandra Schumacher

Cowgirl, pioneer, farmer, business woman, mother and religious leader were all apt descriptions of Addie Lane. But the one quality that exemplified her life was her belief system in a God who spoke to her and worked through her to help establish and strengthen the religious life of her family and neighbors.

“Called to serve” by God at age fourteen, Addie believed strongly in the efficacy of faith healing, and throughout her life consulted spiritualists for guidance in making major decisions. It was at church that she met her future husband, John Lane whom she married in 1889. Together they would have a large family and pioneer both the territory of Oklahoma and the new state of Washington. In both instances, she would be active in building a religious community.

Addie grew up in a religious home. She was born to C.J. and Mary Painter Fielder in 1870 in Redfield, Kansas. Her father was a farmer and ordained deacon at the Baptist church in Redfield for forty-five years. Her childhood prepared her well in many ways for her adult life. Like many young women of her era, she learned how to milk cows and make butter. By age nine, she was skillfully herding the cattle a mile and a half to the Marmaton River, and by age eleven was saddling her own horse. When her father sold the farm and opened a store in Redfield, Addie went to work for him. She learned business skills that would serve her well later in life.

In 1893 the Land Run to Oklahoma attracted approximately 100,000 new settlers, among them John and Addie Lane. Their son, Robert, was only two years old when the Lanes went to Guthrie, Oklahoma, then the capital of the territorial government, and the family took a covered wagon to the Sac-Fox Agency, an Indian tribe, where they planned to homestead eighty acres. Addie joined the local church and immediately began working with the Indians who were converting to Christianity.

The Lanes grew cotton for a living, but in the 1894 harvest, John became extremely ill. Although Addie had a new baby, the cotton had to be picked, and it was up to Addie to pick it. Picking cotton and caring for two small children in the fields was torture, both because it was heavy work, and because poisonous snakes and spiders the “size of saucers” lay in wait among the plants. When a neighbor’s daughter died from snakebite while fetching water at the well, Addie began lobbying John for a change.

Although it was not settled and had no schools, the Lanes decided to lease land in the Creek Nation (now Muscogee Tribe). Even as she packed the wagon, the older members of the Sac-Fox Agency begged Addie to stay. She had made a positive impact on their lives in the three years she had worked with them at church. Several had tears streaming down their faces, but she could not be swayed.

John and Addie settled near the Creek tribe. John’s work took him miles away, leaving Addie alone for days at a time with three small children. The Creeks, who opposed the resettlement of their land and attempts to convert them to Christianity, kept Addie in a state of fear as the tribesmen rode around the house on ponies all night. It escalated to the point that she was afraid to build a cooking fire because it might alert them that she was in the house.

When bears and wolves attacked her pigs, Addie finally convinced John it was time to sell out and go back to Kansas. The tribesmen that had taunted Addie for over a year, followed them until the Lanes crossed the state border. Addie turned back to look at them, and for years the sight of their blankets blowing in the breeze as their horses headed back to the reservations, was engraved in her memory.

In 1897 the Lanes settled back into their life in Redfield, and Addie had two more children. John heard about the opportunities that awaited men willing to work in the new state of Washington, and in November 1902, John, Addie and their five children boarded the train amidst loud protestations from Addie’s family. Addie was undeterred. She had been to a “reading” at which a move was predicted that was described as an important change for their future.

Their first home in the new state was on Everett Hill, where a pole camp provided full time work for John. Addie began raising hens, cows, pigs and vegetables and made butter to sell. When the Lanes joined a new young church with no minister or Sunday School, Addie organized one and hired a Christian preacher to come twice a month to address the congregation. Elected superintendent, Addie was able to raise enough money to start a school. She also opened her home every Thursday night for prayer meetings.

Opportunities were growing for hard working men like John Lane. Logging camps and shingle mills in Machias offered work, and the Lanes earned enough to buy twenty acres in the woods. John and his oldest son worked at the shingle mill for several years and built a new cabin on their property. Now mother to six children, Addie had a business raising carrots to take to market. Although life was not easy, the children were safe and income was steady. In 1908 the Lanes leased a place at Spring Hill Farms eleven miles from Machias that had more cleared land where John could have a large farm and more time for the family. Addie continued selling eggs and butter, driving to Three Lakes in her horse and buggy every week to see old friends and sell her products.

None of life’s travails could have prepared her for the horrific event of November 4, 1908 when her son, Roy, was killed in a hunting accident. Neighbors brought Roy’s body back on a stretcher and placed him on the kitchen floor. “I was almost paralyzed with grief,” she recalled in her journal. “His blood flowed like a stream all the way out the kitchen door.”

Two days later, friends joined the Lanes for the funeral service, and then like most pioneers, had to face the reality that they had to resume their chores the following morning. Addie recounted years later, “After the funeral, I realized that I had to get back to milking and other work. It was horrible going to the barn because Roy would always meet me there, and I missed his smiling face.”

Eventually, the Lane family moved back to Everett where Addie joined the United Brethren Church and became a true believer in faith healing. She had a severe infection in her leg and foot, and her doctor announced that she was terminal and could pass away at any time. Her toes had turned purple and her leg black. She was unable to stand or sit, but insisted upon having her newborn baby in a basket on the floor near her. She demanded that the doctor leave. She asked the family to summon her pastor so that he could pray over her and try to heal her.

The minister and two other church members came, and as Addie reported, “laid hands upon her and prayed.” She sat up, and was then encouraged to stand. She tried and succeeded and finally took her first step. When the doctor returned, expecting her demise, there she stood. Addie said that he “flew into a rage, neck and face red with anger” and left the home. It is not known if Addie ever tried to heal others, but she continued to have leg problems, and faith healers were her ongoing method of recovery.

In 1916 her mother, Mary Fielder, became very ill, and Addie was distraught that her mother might die before she could get to her side. Money was tight, and there were nine children that would need care. Addie referred to herself as a “sensitive dreamer,” a person who has premonitions or strong feelings about a future event. A trip to see Mrs. Jackson, pastor of what Addie referred to in her journal as the “Spiritless Church” in Everett, was in order. At her reading, Pastor Jackson revealed that Addie was seen traveling east by train, and told her she should do so quickly. Addie convinced John to sell the cow for $60, and she got on the train to Kansas and was able to see her mother. Upon her return to Everett, she received a telegram that her beloved mother had died.

Faith healers had been so successful during Addie’s own recent recovery that she turned to them again when her daughter, Rosey, came down with pneumonia. This time Addie asked several people from the church to come, as she needed help “fending off the doctors.” Rosey was hallucinating, seeing angels at the end of her bed, and telling her mother she was soon going to be with the angels. The members of the church prayed over her, laid hands upon her, and the fever that had tormented the girl for twenty-one days went away. All the while, John was working at a job at Discovery Bay, not knowing the serious condition of his daughter and the methods being used to return her to health.

During an influenza epidemic, five of Addie’s children, as well as two neighbors, fell ill. Addie, who cared for them all, did not get sick or lose a patient. She continued going to séances to “commune with God,” and told the children that “Your unseen friends will care for you when your earthly friends don’t.”
Life went on for the Lanes. Work was scarce after World War One, but there were opportunities on the Tulalip reservation, and so the Lane family became one of the earliest white settlers at Priest Point, where John resumed cutting shingles. By 1921 they were living in an old Indian cabin and had added a room so that Addie could start a Sunday School. “There were so few people living between Marysville and the reservation, and there was no local church,” Addie said. Members of the community, regardless of religion, were invited to the Lane’s home every Sunday for services and the pastor was….Addie Lane.
Around 1924 Addie opened a general store, complete with a gas pump, at Priest Point. The family moved in upstairs, and John continued making shingles. Addie raised turkeys, commercially during this time, and became a charter member of the Grange, a rural family fraternity founded in 1867. She was elected chaplain and remained a Grange member for the rest of her life.

As a child, Addie was a competent cowgirl; as an adult, a woman who regularly communed with her God. Addie Lane was a true pioneer, wife, mother and farmer who lived her life for her biological family, as well as her religious family. Silent unseen friends moved in and out of her life, helping her during times of need and in June 1943, Addie Lane moved out of our world into theirs.

Sources: Journal of Addie Fielder Lane; Grandson Joe McDonald; Granddaughter Shirley Wicha.

© 2006 Sandra Schumacher, All Rights Reserved

Mary Jane Green

Survivor of Slavery

by Margaret Riddle

Once as a child, twice as an adult, Mary Jane Green had been sold, her family divided on the auction block in the dark days of slavery. We know of her life only from an article that appeared in the Everett Herald on May 5, 1911. She died one year later and was buried in Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery. Her caretaker in her final days was granddaughter Sarah Walker who had become a widow when her husband, a porter for the Great Northern Railway, was killed in the famous Wellington avalanche of 1910. Both Mary Jane’s and Sarah’s lives remind us that the large events of history are really, at heart, made up of many smaller, personal stories.

WLP Story Number 3 

Nancy Coleman Bolton

Movie Actress and Broadway Star
By Margaret Riddle

When actress Nancy Coleman died in New York in January of 2000, her hometown Everett newspapers failed to note her passing. Yet her acting career of nearly four decades left its mark in film and print, with 16 movies, numerous radio and television appearances and both Broadway and off-Broadway plays to her credit.

Nancy Coleman was born and reared in Everett, Washington to parents Grace Sharpless and Charles Coleman (managing editor at the Herald for thirty years). Tall, thin and with auburn red hair, Nancy was a bright student, a year ahead in school. She attended North Junior High and graduated with the Everett High School class of 1930, a class whose challenge was to begin adult life at the beginning of the Great Depression.

Despite hard times, Nancy was able to enroll in the University of Washington. It was here that she gained her love of theater, although she stated in later press interviews that she was “a washout” in the university’s drama department. “I was difficult to cast”, she stated. “Since I was no ingénue and certainly no leading lady, what could they do with me?” Nancy was a down-to-earth-person, however, who felt that she would approach acting as a job like any other, as “something to which you must give your best every time you step onstage.”

Nancy Coleman had a good speaking voice, so in 1936 she went to San Francisco determined to begin a career in radio. While operating an elevator in the Emporium, Nancy struck up a conversation with a shopper who led her to an audition with a casting director. She won the year-long “ingénue menace” role in the serial Hawthorne House and then played subsequent radio roles in Winning the West, Death Valley Days and One Man’s Family.

Nancy Coleman stars with Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan and Arthur Kennedy in Desperate Journey (1942)

With two years’ of savings amounting to $1,000, Nancy, now 24 years of age, was Broadway-bound. She began in New York radio, but then walked into the stage role of an awkward 15-year old in Gertrude Lawrence’s play Susan and God. Her performance in this and a starring role in Philip Barry’s Liberty Jones resulted in a movie contract with Warner Brothers (1941 to 1945).

While at the Warner Studio, Nancy Coleman met publicist, writer and drama critic Whitney Bolton. They married in 1943, and in October of 1944, in Los Angeles, Nancy gave birth to twin daughters Grania Theresa and Charla Elizabeth. The Boltons moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island, close enough to New York City for both to pursue their careers. Nancy was homemaker and mother and still starred in an occasional off-Broadway play.

When Whitney died in 1969, she decided once again to resume her full-time career. Closing up the big Sea Cliff house, she moved into a Manhattan apartment in the heart of the theater district. While Nancy continued to live in New York City until her death, she kept ties with friends and relatives in Everett and occasionally visited them.

Ida Lupino and Nancy Coleman on the set of the 1944 movie In Our Time.

Speaking of her lifetime career, Nancy said, “The minute one is off the screen, or not on the New York stage, people assume your career is over. That is one of the unfortunate things about our theater today. I don’t believe in Fate. You just have to be ready when a chance comes, and all the luck in the world won’t do you any good. Work is the answer.”

Nancy Coleman’s movie credits include: Dangerously They Live (1942); Kings Row (1942); The Gay Sisters (1942); Desperate Journey (1942); Edge of Darkness (1943); In Our Time (1944); Devotion (1946); Her sister’s Secret (1946); Violence (1947); Mourning Becomes Electra (1947); That Man From Tangier (1953); the Edge of Night (1956 TV mini-series); Ryan’s Hope (1975 TV series).


David Ragan, “Nancy Coleman: She’s Starring in a Broadway Success”, Seattle Times, Sunday, May 15, 1955, p. 2; David Ragan, Who’s Who in Hollywood, 1900 to 1976 (New Rochelle, NY, Arlington House, 1976); “Nancy and the Twins”, Everett Herald, October 7, 1944 , p. 8; Nancy Coleman filmography, website accessed June 6, 2007.

© Margaret Riddle, 2006 All Rights Reserved;  WLP Story Number 2

Alice and Clara Rigby

Independent Photographers in an Age of Few Women Owned Businesses.

WLP Story Number 1 ~ by Margaret Riddle

Clara Rigby
Clara Rigby

Iowa – born Alice and Clara Rigby arrived in Everett, Washington at the dawning of the 20th century and did what few other women of their time dared to try: they owned and operated a professional photo studio. From 1905 to 1915, the Rigby and Rigby Photo Shop successfully competed with prominent local photographers J. D. Myers and Bert Brush, as well as half a dozen smaller firms, and found a niche for themselves in a profession dominated by men.
The Rigby sisters were part of a growing number of women in the early 1900s who sought social and economic independence, and the West was fertile territory for this progressive kind of thinking. Issues of the day included the rights of working women and, more significantly, a woman’s right to vote. By 1910 Washington State would grant women suffrage.
But the need for independence had more immediate and personal roots for Alice and Clara. As the result of an unhappy marriage, their mother, Delia, encouraged her daughters to seek professions, not husbands. And, in like manner, Delia’s sister, Emma Sarepta Yule, was a highly successful and independent lady. Arriving at the Everett town site in 1891, Emma Yule became Everett’s first school teacher. When other teachers were hired, Emma became Principal. From 1897 to 1900, she served as Everett’s Superintendent of Schools. In 1900, Emma Yule left Everett to teach in Alaska. Showing such independence, intelligence and ability, Emma was likely a significant role model for her young nieces.

The Rigby sisters chose professions that were considered acceptable for women of their time. Alice became a teacher, and Clara pursued photography. In Washington State, female teachers could not be married, a requirement that continued until after World War II. And photography was, as the Kodak Company advertised at the turn of the century, an appropriate occupation for women. It was considered a proper artistic endeavor, and work could be done in or near the home. Photography studios routinely employed women in this area, although most worked as silent partners in the darkroom or as retouchers, their identities invisible behind a male studio name.

Alice Rigby

Rigby family stories recall that Delia came to Everett with daughters Clara and Alice at the turn of the century, but city directories indicate otherwise. Alice seems to have come to Everett first, arriving alone in 1900. She is listed that year as teaching at Lincoln School, in the elementary grades, and living with Aunt Emma Yule at Everett’s elegant Monte Cristo Hotel. That year, however, Ms.Yule became involved in a dispute with the school district over her pay and departed to teach in Alaska.

Clara began her career working as a retoucher in 1892 for the J. C. Wilson Studios in Cherokee, Iowa, moving next to Colorado where she did similar work for various studios. In 1904, she and her mother came to Everett. Photographer Loren Seely hired Clara as his retoucher. One year later, she bought the Seely studio, acquiring both his studio location and negative collection. Alice quit teaching to work with Clara, and for nearly ten years, the Rigby sisters operated the business with considerable success.
Rigby family members say that the sisters called their studio Rigby and Rigby in an attempt to conceal the fact that they were women, but Clara and Alice also found ways to capitalize on the pluses of their gender. The Rigbys advertised as “Portraitists” who specialized in baby pictures, and it can be imagined that Alice drew on her teaching experience to aid in photographing the young.
By 1900, times were changing economically for the region. With the severe depression years of the 1890s now in its past, the Pacific Northwest was once again feeling prosperous and optimistic, and Everett gained its share of new arrivals, many of them immigrants, seeking to better their lives in a new place. In the century’s first decade, Everett’s population tripled.
Everett now had families, and families had “Kodaks”. By 1900, photographic advances and cheaper prices made it possible for amateurs to take their own pictures. Working with either a small glass-plate camera or a new popular roll film model known as the postcard Kodak 3A, they photographed their families, their homes and businesses, as well as activities on their city streets. They also recorded heavy snowfalls and floods and documented their vacations and trips abroad.
Often poor exposed and usually of poor composition, these photographs were, nevertheless, priceless ways of sharing experiences with family and friends miles away. Studios processed and duplicated these amateur views, often printing them as postcards, which could be mailed. Over the years, these amateur postcard images have become historical treasures because they often documented events of everyday life in a way that studio views do not.
Film processing offered steady work, and the Rigbys gained their share of this business. However more money was being made in portraiture and commercial photography. Professional portraits were highly prized. Photographed with balanced lighting, set against a studio background and retouched to make its subjects look their best, the professional portrait was considered a work of art, and professional photographers were held in high regard. Competition was keen, and to prosper in the work, a practitioner needed to be good at business as well as art. The Rigby sisters skillfully balanced both and survived in competition with other excellent photographers. The Rigbys even opened additional studios in Monroe, Snohomish and Arlington, and commuted by train between towns.

In 1913 they temporarily closed their studios to visit Japan. Scrapbooks assembled by the sisters document their trip. Upon returning to Everett, the Rigbys relocated their studio at 2802 Colby. But the joyful years were behind them. Alice soon was diagnosed with cancer and died at 44 years of age. Clara continued the business for only a few months after Alice’s death, then closed the studio for good.
Above: Alice Rigby

The Rigby negatives were stored for many years and then dispersed, some finding their way into the files of Lee Juleen, which are now housed at the Everett Public Library. Few of their photos remain. Only a small number of negatives and postcards in the Everett Public Library are easily attributed to them. What the Rigby family has retained are priceless photos that Clara and Alice took of each other, showing the fine quality of their portraiture.
In the 1920s Clara married James Casperson, an employee of the Everett Pulp and Paper Company. The couple moved to California where they grew and marketed nuts. Clara eventually returned to live in Everett. She died August 27, 1953.
Rigby descendants speak of Alice as the quieter and gentler sister, but while Clara was a stern and imposing figure to her relatives, it is Clara they remember, since she lived long enough to be a presence in their lives. What made the sisters different from other Snohomish County women working in photography at that time? Were the Rigbys wealthy enough to be able to buy a photo studio while the average retoucher was not? “No,” the family says, “they didn’t have money.” Perhaps just the skill, the drive and the dream. And that, the sisters certainly had.
Sources: Donald Rigby, an oral history interview circa 1980 by Margaret Riddle and David Dilgard;
Iris Broad, an oral history interview, August 20, 2001, by Margaret Riddle;

Polk’s city directories for Everett; Washington, 1900 to 1915. © 2006 Margaret Riddle;

Previously Published in Snohomish County: An Illustrated History
Kelcema Press, 2005.