The Frohning Women ~ Generations of Farm Wives

By Nellie E. Robertson

Photo Courtesy of the Frohning Family circa 1890s.

The Frohning Farm has been farmed since the 1860s and still is. From left to right the people in the photo are unidentified man, Robert Enos Smallman, Adelaide Smallman (in white dress), unidentified man (in background) and Louisa Smallman (Robert’s wife – white hair, seated).

Betty’s story
Betty Frohning, 77, and her daughter-in-law Sandy, 42, are prime examples of the women who have always been the backbone of rural Snohomish County. Both married into the family dairy farm. Th

e Frohning family, which was among the early settlers in the Tualco Valley (near Monroe) as far back as the 1860’s, still occupies part of the original Robert Smallman homestead. Sandy Frohning’s lineage goes back to the Foyes, another historical Tualco Valley family.

Betty had never seen a cow close up before moving from Los Angeles to Duvall with her spouse and two sons. Her husband worked on a dairy farm, but they lived too far away for her to be involved. When she married her second husband, Elmer Frohning, in 1952, she became espoused to dairying. “We had to hurry home from the wedding to milk the cows,” she said. “Elmer told me to get down and see how to milk a cow. I squatted down and thought, if the cow fell on me, I’d be mush.”

Although the dairy used milking machines, Elmer wanted Betty to get the feel of milking a cow. Sandy explained, “There’s something about the feeling between you and the cow when you actually hold her teats in your hands. It’s more real by hand.”

Betty’s responsibilities early on reflected what most farm wives did, including caring for the calves. She fed them twice a day, cleaned their bedding out daily and put in new sawdust. Sandy added, “Women make the best calf feeders, statistically speaking.”

The mysteries of the milking machines for more than 30 H

olsteins occupied Betty at first, and she fed the cows after they had been milked, being careful not to startle the placid creatures. She also cleaned the cows’ stalls. The farm used the open free stall system wherein cows chose their own places rather than being herded into selected stalls. It helped organize the cows easier and cut down on the use of sawdust.

In the old days, Betty hand-scraped manure and loaded it into a wheelbarrow, and then a farm hand wheeled it down the ramp and dumped it. When the Frohnings got a blade for the tractor to do the job, Betty drove it to clean out the barn. “I hurt my leg a couple of years ago and told them I wouldn’t drive the tractor any more until they put a running board on it,” she said. That hasn’t happened.

Besides outdoor farm work, Betty cooked, cooked and then cook

ed some more. With the couple’s offspring and extended family, she had a lot of mouths to feed. Betty recalled, “I made oven meals and came in to check them between chores.” They ate the big meal at noon, followed by a lighter supper in the evening.

Soon after they were married, Elmer told her he had another job for her. He introduced her to a stack of jeans, higher than her head, that needed mending. At night she plied her needle and did the housework. Her day lasted from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.

She grew vegetables in her garden. “As a city girl, when we wanted vegetables, we went down to the store and bought them,” she said, “I had never grown anything.” She canned her produce and also made vinegar and syrup. When they had a wood stove, she made cottage cheese, but liked the kind sold in stores better. Betty baked many batches of her famous cookies at Christmastime to fill little gift parcels for everyone. One year Elmer and son Tim kept filching cookies here and there until there were none to fill the boxes, and so Betty worked all day and all night to replace the purloined cookies. “They had to do my chores that time,” she chuckled. Widowed in 1998, she still cooks for everyone morning, noon and night. “My door is always open and I cook for anyone who’s here.”

In the early days, she washed the cows’ udders with a sponge dipped in an antiseptic fluid then washed them again after milking. These days, the cleaning is done with treated towels, and although she doesn’t clean the udders, she does wash the cloths used. She also serves as bookkeeper for the Frohning Dairy Farm south of Monroe.
Sandy’s story
Sandy married Tim Frohning in 1983. They traveled by tractor from the Monroe Community Chapel, the site of their wedding, to the Wagner Grange Hall for the reception. A photo of that ride appeared in the local weekly paper, the Monroe Monitor.
The year she married, Sandy earned a teaching degree, but consciously decided she wanted to be a farm wife. “I’d always been outside with my dad, and I loved the animals,” she explained. Tim and Sandy have four sons, all but one home-schooled by Sandy.

While Sandy assumed the care of the calves and worked alongside her husband, Betty took care of the little boys. “Calf feeding starts with birth and lasts to the time they give birth themselves,” Sandy said. “Tim feeds the cows.” They have 150 milk cows and 150 head of other livestock in various stages of development. They now hire milkers instead of doing the job themselves. Vitamilk picks up 8,000 pounds of milk daily.

Sandy has become an expert dairy farmer and can easily discuss breeding cows by artificial insemination, gestation periods and so forth. Reams of paper work and computer matching every two months determine the right bull as mate for the cow to correct any faults she might have and to improve her longevity. The cows have it easy, she said, adding, “Their job is to eat, rest and get fat for the calf they carry.” After the calf is weaned, the cow keeps producing milk for the dairy.

Her children are carrying on the family tradition. Second son, Danny, was eight years old, when he bought his first Jersey cow. He fell in love with Bambi, and thought a young Jersey looked just like Disney’s famous character. He now has 16 Jerseys of his own. In the summer of 2002 as a teenager, instead of other pursuits, he chose to go to AI school to learn the trade. Oldest son Matt, 18, enjoys the equipment on the farm and keeps it in good repair. Timmy Lee, 11, is the head manure scraper, and youngest son, Doug, 8, is a hand scraper.

Sandy has never regretted her decision to be a farm wife. “It’s the best of two worlds,” she said. “You work alongside your husband, and if you have a disagreement, you settle it right away because you’re together instead of brooding about it. Farming is good for marriages and raising children. It’s the best responsibility builder for kids.”

Word has spread, and often town kids come out to the farm, get into the chores and find the road to responsibility and self worth. Some call it a halfway house for the young people. Both Betty and Sandy have been active in 4-H, Betty for 37 years, and Sandy for 11. “It’s a fundamental builder,” Betty said. “It teaches constructive responsibility.” Sandy added, “They learn public speaking and have the opportunity to travel.”

Tuesdays are long-lunch days when Sandy cooks enough for 15 grown men, which usually means preparing six pounds of hamburger. Everyone is welcome, kids and adults alike. Sandy said that the feed salesman who dropped by periodically was the one who started the tradition. Sandy likes it. “It’s a time eat, listen and laugh,” she said. That’s one of the joys of being a farm wife.
Sources: Monroe Monitor articles & interviews with Betty Frohning and Sandy Frohning circa 2003.

© 2003 Nellie E. Robertson All Rights Reserved

Katrina Bagley

Bah – Hahtlh (Return to Good)

By Betty Lou Gaeng
Picture a sturdy little girl, her dusky skin glowing, her cheeks flushed from the fresh air. Her dark hair is held in place by a strip of leather. Her brown eyes are alert and sparkling. Her little bare feet flash as she joins the other little ones in the games the native children along the Snohomish River of Washington Territory play in the 1870s. She runs to keep up with her cousins William and Henry Shelton. Her family and playmates call her Bah-hahtlh (Return to Good). She grew up near what is now the town of Snohomish where the family lived in a longhouse with about 20 other family members, including her Shelton cousins.

Bah-hahtlh was given the English name Katrina and sometimes called Katherine or Katie. She grew from childhood to become a strong woman. In those early days it took strength to adapt to the foreign ways of the white invaders. She had that strength, and she also learned the ways of the foreigners. She became a savvy businesswoman and learned to hold what was hers—no one took it from her—especially her land. It wasn’t considered the best land—the Government didn’t allot the best to the Indians. However, it was hers and she wasn’t going to let go.

It is estimated that Bah-hahtlh was born during the early to mid-1870s. Her parents were Dan Ned Laclous-y-son and Katie Bod-lutz-za Simmons.

At the age of 15, Katie married a man from Skagit named Campbell. He was murdered and she became a 16 year-old widow. Her second husband was a man from LaConner by the name of Henry Tukius (Towheuse) Willup. Soon widowed once again, in 1894 Katie married Maurice Jim of the Tulalip Reservation. They were blessed with six children. She was widowed again in 1907 when Maurice died, and none of their children lived to survive Katie. About a year after Maurice’s death, she married for the fourth time, this husband a 20-year old Tulalip man, Francis (Frank) Sese. Once again, Katie became a widow when Francis died in 1912 at the age of 25. Two children from this marriage did not survive Katie. However, one of them, daughter Agnes lived long enough to give her mother grandchildren.

Katie’s final husband was Ambrose Bagley, from the Duwamish tribe. They married in 1921, and Katie and Ambrose worked her farmland together. A daughter named Katherine was born to them. Daughter Katherine was the first of Katie’s children to survive their mother. Katherine grew up on her mother’s land, as did David Spencer, son of Katie’s daughter Agnes. Daughter Katherine married William Campbell and gave Katie grandchildren

Katie’s large farm home was often filled with family and friends, many of them fellow church members from the old Shaker Church on the Tulalip Reservation. Katie had joined the church in 1910, where she and Ambrose in the 1920s donated the bell for the steeple.
When Katie died October 31, 1950, her age given as 74, she had survived four husbands. Her fifth husband Ambrose Bagley survived her by six years. Katrina and Ambrose Bagley are buried at Priest Point Cemetery on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.
Katie’s family still has the deed dated February 25, 1904, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, allotting land on the northeast corner of the Tulalip Indian Reservation to Katrina Jim. This is the land where Katie built her home, worked the land and survived loss after loss of her loved ones.
Katie left a wonderful legacy for her descendants. Through all the upheaval and adversities in her life, Katie retained her allotment land on the Tulalip Reservation, which is now considered to be one of the most valuable properties in Snohomish County. The front page of the September 22, 2008 edition of Everett’s Herald featured the story of Katrina Jim’s land.
Ancestors have a special place in the hearts of the First People. Katie’s descendants have not forgotten what her diligence and steadfastness have done for them. At 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning in September of 2008, 104 years after as Katrina Jim she was granted the land patent, Katie’s descendants gathered on 60 acres of what is now their land. With heartfelt love and appreciation of her legacy to them, they held a blessing for Katrina Bagley, a special woman they will always honor.

Elson James

In World War I, Katie’s son Elson James, at the age of 23, lost his life in France while serving in Company F, 30th Infantry, U.S Army. Pfc. James guided patrols in what was called No Man’s Land near Bois de la Cote, Lemont, France. It was early winter and the weather was extremely cold and damp, Elson contracted a fever, which eventually developed into pneumonia, and he died December 11, 1918 in the line of duty. Katie’s family recorded that even though she was a strong woman, Katie was heartbroken. She had just received a letter from her son telling her he would soon be home; she didn’t realize that by the time the letter arrived, she had already lost another child. Elson’s commanding officer considered Elson to be one of his best men and recommended a citation be issued citing Elson’s “exceptional skill, courage and coolness under fire in guiding patrols.” Elson James now rests at Priest Point Cemetery on the Tulalip Reservation.

Donald Campbell

Grandson Donald Campbell, son of her daughter Katherine and William Campbell, was less than a year old when Katrina died. As his uncle Elson James had done, Donald gave his life for this country. He was killed in action July 3, 1970, while serving as a corporal in the 588th Engineers Battalion in the U.S. Army in Tay Ninh, South Vietnam. Donald is buried at Mission Beach Cemetery on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.
Donald Campbell’s two older brothers, Walter and John and cousin David Spencer also served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. David Spencer who had lived with his grandparents and provided information for Bah-hahtlh’s story said this about his Bagley grandparents, “they showed me how to walk my life.”


Sources: U.S. Indian Census Schedules, 1885-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M595, 692 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Washington State Digital Archive’s Death Records; Probate Records for Katherine Sese Bagley; information.

Interview with Katherine Campbell, and photos provided by Katrina’s grandsons—John Campbell, Walter Campbell and David Spencer on Nov. 15, 2008;

Donald Campbell’s photo from “Faces From the Wall” (permission to print granted); NARA, Vietnam War: U.S. Military Casualties.

Mason, William H. Snohomish County in the War; The Part Played in the Great War by the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Patriotic Civilians of Snohomish County, Washington, U.S.A. Everett, Wash: Mason Pub. Co, 1926.

“Tribal family’s land a treasure : Theme park, theater, shops: All are options for tribal family’s land.” 2008. The Herald, [Everett] September 22, 2008 (accessed December 3, 2008).

© 2008 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved;  WLP Story # 54 ~