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

Eleanor Leight

Beloved dancer shares talent with her community

By Teri Baker

Former Rockette Eleanor Leight, shown here in her late sixties, is now an octogenarian. She still teaches dance and can still do impressive kicks.

She has about her that elegance and effortless grace of which poets speak with silver tongues. Long, slender legs exquisitely positioned, Eleanor Leight demonstrates a ballet move. A moment later she executes a complicated tap dance. It is hard to believe that this supple, youthful woman is an octogenarian.

Eleanor teaches dance classes for children after school in Snohomish, as well as adults in tap, ballet, exercise and ballroom dancing for adults through the community schools program. The former Rockette also directs The Leight Fantastics, a group she began 26 years ago after a woman approached her and said that she had always wanted to tap. That woman was the first of a long line of adults to discover the joy of dance and the magic that is Eleanor Leight.
Prior to forming the Leight Fantastics, Eleanor, who has lifelong experience in the performing arts, had already written and produced the first four of Snohomish Historical Society’s annual vaudeville shows and was one of the driving forces of the Snohomish Bicentennial Committee, helping put together a production involving 300 people.
Born March 13, 1922 in Philadelphia, Eleanor started dancing when she was eight. Stage shows were all the rage, and her uncle, a stage manager, used to sneak little Eleanor and her sister, Frances, backstage.

“The first time we saw the dancing, we knew!” Eleanor says, recalling the delight and wonder of that moment. The sisters took free lessons at the local recreation center and were soon performing. Eleanor was fascinated by all the forms of dance, but her real love has always been ballet. At age 17 she began teaching at Philadelphia’s Littlefield Ballet, but at 5’ 7” she was simply too tall to be part of the cast. She concentrated on tap dancing and when she was 20, auditioned for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
“I guess I could do the kicks and had the ‘look’ they wanted, so I got in,” Eleanor says modestly. She had traveled the vaudeville circuit with George White’s Scandals doing four or five shows a day as accompaniment to movies. Doing four shows a day with the Rockettes at New York’s Rockefeller Center was a walk in the park for her.

“It was not as demanding as some things are,” she reflects. “There would be only one big number that was maybe five minutes long. Then, we’d often do one other thing, like dress up in gowns and furs for a nightclub scene or sit in a swing and be pushed during another number.

Eleanor was with the Rockettes for a year in New York and then another year in Europe on a USO tour as part of Radio City’s contribution to the war effort. The war in Europe ended while the show was in rehearsal, but the danger had not passed. The show involved 80 people and 20 tons of scenery, all transported from New York by a ship forced to negotiate mine fields, and then moved throughout Europe on weapons’ carriers and trains. “In the countryside, the SS was still coming down and capturing people,” Eleanor says. “It was a scary time. The girls didn’t go very far away and always went by twos for safety.”

Eleanor and her companions saw for themselves the unspeakable horror the Nazis created. She visited concentration camps and sat in the press box, wearing a headset that provided instant translation, at Nuremberg when Hermann Goering was tried for war crimes.

A shadow clouds her eyes at the memory, and then her positive nature asserts itself. Eleanor chooses to concentrate on how well she and her fellow performers were received. She says, smiling, “It was my experience that people really liked Americans.”

After her return to Philadelphia, Eleanor taught dance and, using the stage name Eleanor Russell, appeared in a solo act for nine years. Booked out of New York, she performed numerous club dates and at lavish private parties. She says she shunned the nightclub scene because it depended on “mixing with people who were not always sober” and “staying up until all hours.”

She married Wes Leight, a boat builder, and moved to Long Island, NY. As the family grew, Eleanor continued to teach dance. Wes went to Eugene, Oregon to go into construction work and sent for his family a year later. Eleanor packed up her five boys, an Airedale and a guinea pig and headed west on the train. In the 1960s, the Leights moved to Snohomish County.

Eleanor’s family is still a big part of her life and of her annual revue. Steve serves as stage manner, Cliff takes publicity photos and David helps with art work. When he’s in the area, Andrew, helps with the music and plays trombone in the show’s Dixieland band. Peter helps whenever he’s needed and runs the spotlight.

“We all used to dance in the shows,” Peter says with an affectionate glance at his mother. “Now we do other things to help out.”

Eleanor is proud of her sons and of her husband’s influence on the family’s life. But during the spring, the family ball is definitely in Eleanor’s court. There are more than 100 people involved in the vaudeville revue held each Mother’s Day weekend. It’s sometimes hard to get Eleanor to acknowledge her own considerable contribution to the productions because she would rather spotlight the talent and accomplishments of others.

At 85, her kicks, although not quite as high as when she was a Rockette, are still impressive. She remains a model of professionalism, patience, hard work and perseverance. With these qualities, along with her considerable talent, warmth, grace and spirit, it is little wonder that Eleanor Leight is one of Snohomish’s most beloved citizens.

Sources: Personal interviews with Eleanor Leight, 1994 and 2007.
© Theresa (Teri) A. Baker, 1994 – 2007
All rights reserved.;  WLP Story # 43

Martha Kraencke

Martha Kraencke on her Bench

~ The Walking Lady of Edmonds
by Betty Lou Gaeng

“Martha! Martha!” As the children chanted her name, Martha Kraencke appeared not to notice. Her steps seldom faltered as she walked along the sidewalks and alley ways of downtown Edmonds. Children can be cruel, especially when they view someone a little different. Martha Kraencke was not only different—she had an aura of mystery.
If you spent time in Edmonds in the latter part of the 1940s through the early 1970s, Martha was a lady you would have noticed and wondered about. For almost 30 years, Martha Kraencke was probably the most visually recognized person in Edmonds. Yes, Martha was recognized, but she was also an enigma.
Resting from her walking, she could sometimes be seen seated at her favorite bench on Sunset Avenue and Casper Street in Edmonds looking out over the waters of Puget Sound. It was here that Helen Reynolds’ camera captured Martha’s visage on film to display in the front window of her photography studio on Main Street in Edmonds. Martha was wearing a favorite Navy blue suit, pristine white blouse and straw hat—the jacket of her suit neatly folded over the back of the bench. [This photo of Martha was displayed in photographer Helen Reynold’s Studio and was reprinted in the Edmonds Tribune Review (date not known), please contact us if you know more!].
What did Martha see? Perhaps she was recalling a much earlier time—a time when her beloved husband’s body was discovered floating in the waters of the Pacific near California’s Los Angeles Harbor. Yes, Martha had a story—a very unusual one. One that included glamour, tragedy, and finally, a life of solitude.
Martha was born Martha Giersch in Berlin, Germany on February 27, 1894. She completed her schooling in 1912 and went to work as a secretary for a German movie studio in Berlin. An attractive, slender grey-eyed blonde, she appeared in small roles as an actress or an extra in several silent films. It was during this time she met another Berliner, Fritz Kraencke, already a well-established set designer and cinematographer in the German film industry. Martha and Fritz were married in Berlin in 1914.
Martha’s husband Fritz was exempted from military service during the First World War, and continued a successful career in silent films in Germany. In later years, Fritz also designed sets for the German Staatsoper, an opera house, and Bayreuth, an opera festival. On March 21, 1920, their only child, a son, Herbert Guenter Kraencke was born in Berlin, Brandenburg, Germany.
In 1926, Fritz accepted the position as set designer for the Los Angeles Grand Opera, and the family left Berlin to become members of the Hollywood/Los Angeles entertainment world. The Kraencke family sailed from Bremen, Germany to America on the SS George Washington, arriving in New York Harbor on October 22, 1926. They then headed for their new home in Los Angeles and on January 21, 1929, in the U.S. District Court of Los Angeles, California, Martha and Fritz each signed papers declaring their intention to become citizens of the United States—renouncing their allegiance and fidelity to any foreign sovereignty, including the German Reich.
Martha’s husband’s theater career was a successful one for many years. Before WWII, they traveled to Germany, Hawaii and Mexico, and finally back to Europe for the last time in 1937. Judging by the trunks of beautiful clothes found in Martha’s home after her death, they lived a glamorous and elegant life. Among Martha’s stunning wardrobe were many Paris and New York originals.
Martha’s world collapsed in 1947. As reported in the Los Angeles Times of December 2, 1947, early Monday morning, December 1, Martha telephoned her son Herbert because Fritz was missing from their home on West Bluff Place in San Pedro, a section of Los Angeles. As Herbert told police, he contacted the Coast Guard after going to Point Fermin, near their home. There he had dropped a dime in one of the telescopes pointed out to sea and saw what he feared was his father’s body floating in the ocean. It was the body of Fritz Kraencke. Because of the bruises on Mr. Kraencke’s face and head, the police were at first suspicious that the death may have been by foul play. However, both Martha and Herbert said that Fritz was despondent and had been having financial problems. To them, suicide seemed to be a possibility. Officially, the coroner’s ruling was death by drowning in the Pacific Ocean—suicide.

Following Fritz Kraencke’s death at the age of 57, Herbert, a surveyor, moved to Snohomish County, Washington—to a home at Lake Ballinger, a few miles from Edmonds. Martha joined her son. Shortly after this, Martha began catching an early morning bus to downtown Edmonds, and there she would walk all day and in the evening she would take the bus back to her son’s home at Lake Ballinger.
In the mid-fifties, Herbert decided to move back to California. However, by this time, Martha had grown attached to the Northwest. She moved to a small bungalow near downtown Edmonds at Phillip’s Court, 303 Fourth Avenue North, #3. She remained in her little home for the remainder of her life. From this handy spot, Martha continued her solitary walks.
Doug Margeson in an article about Martha Kraencke, written following her death, stated that “Everyone who lived and worked in downtown knew who she was, but only a few knew her.” He continued: “Local kids believed she lived in a haunted house and worked as a foreign spy.” Mr. Margeson’s article included remarks from the few that did get to know Martha. Once or twice a week, she stopped by D Drive-In, once a well-known and popular gathering spot on Sixth and Main, to have a cup of coffee with a young man who worked there. She exchanged hellos with people as she passed by. Helen Reynolds knew her for almost thirty years, and Martha became one of her favorite photo subjects, but even Ms. Reynolds admitted that no one was allowed to come too close.
The newspaper article went on to say, “Once or twice a week she stopped by the Edmonds West Tavern—or the Sail Inn, or Engel’s—to have a loganberry flip. Usually she kept to herself. Occasionally, however, her carefully cultivated reserve dropped away and she showed flashes of warm, sometimes ribald humor.
Martha seemed to have set routes for her walks. Downtown store keepers claimed they could set their watches from the time she walked by their stores. Her coffee-time friend remembered her schedule: “She left her bungalow at 4th Avenue and Edmonds Street at 7 a.m. She walked down to Sunset Avenue, took in the view and then went over to Main Street. She usually had breakfast at Brownies Café on 4th Avenue. From there she walked various routes. She usually stopped for a cup of coffee at D Drive-In. After a little conversation with the cook and other customers, she was on her way again. Sometime in the afternoon, she usually stopped at the IGA store at 5th and Dayton where she visited with acquaintances. The she walked some more, often well into the night.”
Martha was an accomplished pianist and sometimes played from memory to a noisy crowd at Edmonds West Tavern—a crowd that would sit in silence as Martha would play a complicated piece by Beethoven.
In 1974, Martha fell and broke her hip. She wasn’t even fazed. Soon after leaving the hospital, Martha, with the help of a walker, was out and walking again.

For many years, Martha’s next door neighbor kept an eye on her. At night before she went to bed, Martha waved to her neighbor across the yard and then she pulled the window shade. In the morning, she would raise the shade to let her neighbor know that all was well. On the morning of September 8, 1977, the shade remained closed. At the age of 83, Martha’s walking days were over. She died peacefully in her own bed. Lynnwood’s Floral Hills Funeral Home handled the cremation, and at the request of her son and daughter-in-law, Martha’s ashes were sent to California to be placed next to those of her husband.

Edmonds Tribune-Review, Wednesday, November 30, 1977—“Martha Kraencke; she walked” by Staff Writer, Doug Margeson; with photograph.
New York Passenger Lists –
Naturalization papers, Martha Kraencke –
Naturalization papers, Fritz Kraencke –
Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1947.
Certificate of Death, Fritz Kraencke—State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Social Security Death Record, Martha Kraencke — Washington Digital Archives.
1930 and 1940 U.S. Federal Census Records –
Various passenger lists from

© 2012 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story #73

Marjorie Duryee – Everett author and artist

by Margaret Riddle

Artist, writer, photographer and world traveler Marjorie Ann Duryee kept journals during most of her adult life and wrote her own biographical sketch in 1972. Born on July 18, 1913, she was the second child of Dan and Clotilde Robinson Duryee, when the family lived at 1316 Hoyt in Everett. Sister Clotilde was the first born, with brother Dan, Jr. arriving in 1916. The Duryees were prominent Everett residents from its beginnings in 1892. Although the Duryee parents were a quiet couple, they raised their children to be free spirits and, as family remembers, each sibling’s personality was enough to “fill a room.” Clotilde was expected to dress and behave like a lady, but Marjorie was given more freedom since she was a sickly child and, under advice from their uncle Dr. Albert Duryee, she spent lots of time outdoors. She soon excelled at various sports.
In 1918 the family moved to 501 Laurel Drive in Everett. Writing about the family’s early years in this Rucker Hill home, Marjorie recalled Monday wash days—the hand-crank wringer, the bluing used to brighten white clothes, the starching and the gas stove. At this time, the Duryee’s extended family numbered eight. Marjorie attended Jackson Grade School, North Junior High and graduated from Everett High School with the class of 1930. Two of her classmates were the future Senator Henry M. Jackson and film and stage star Nancy Coleman. Both remained her lifelong friends. Marjorie Duryee
While the 1930s Great Depression was hard on young dreamers and many had to put their plans on hold, the Duryee family had the means to pay for Marjorie’s freshman year at Mills College in California. She transferred to the University of Washington and graduated in 1934 with a B.A. in English Literature. A “horrible fifth year”, as she described it, gave her a teaching diploma. From 1935 to 1937 she taught English, World History and Physical Education (one year) at Arlington High School. But she was bored and wrote in her journals that she had hoped to be away from Everett at this point in her life. A trip to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934 had given her a taste of the life she wanted. In her words, “I saw the paintings exhibit at the fair and have never been the same since.” They inspired her to become an artist.
Marjorie spent 1937-38 in Europe studying at the Institute of International Studies in Geneva, skiing in Austria, visiting a Paris Expo and, on Christmas Eve 1937, she bought her first camera — a Leica. But Europe was in turmoil and in 1938 Marjorie was residing at the Halfmoon Chambers flat in Newcastle, England, worried about the situation with Hitler. She set sail for home on October 19, traveling out of Liverpool aboard the Aquitania.
Marjorie Duryee, Photographer Photography changed Marjorie’s life and she set out to become a professional photographer. She joined the local Camera Club in 1939 and won a Washington Salon Exhibit Grand Award that year. To further her career, she needed an agent, so she hired Monkmeyer Studio of New York who began marketing her photos to magazines. In the following years, she won many awards at regional and national shows, her work done in both black and white and color transparency.
By the early ‘40s she had three passions, photography, tennis and golf. She continued to take pictures, printing them in her own home darkroom and in 1942 was on the Ladies Handicap Golf Committee. Marjorie was listed in Who’s Who in American Pictorial Photographers in 1942-43.

American Red Cross

It is clear from Marjorie’s journals that one of her happiest times was working as a journalist for the American Red Cross during World War II. This was her chance to combine writing, photography and travel. She served as editor of the ARC magazine Boomerang which, over its lifetime, would have five homes and five editors, including Marjorie Duryee, who worked with the publication beginning in Brisbane in October of 1944 and moving to Hollandia (Netherlands E. Indies) then to New Guinea, Manila and finally Tokyo in 1946. During this period, she photographed extensively and assembled her best views in scrapbooks. For security reasons, Marjorie often was not allowed to take photos so she began to draw the scenes instead. When the war ended, she returned to Everett to visit and then went to New York City to study at the Art Students League.

The Painting Years

She returned to Everett in 1947 to attend her father’s funeral and it was at this time that she met Whidbey Island painters Peter and Margaret Camfferman and began to seriously study painting. The Camffermans were highly respected regional artists and teachers. Through them, Marjorie’s talents and contacts grew. From 1948-49 she again lived in New York City, meeting lots of interesting writers and artists yet keeping in touch with old Red Cross contacts and her Everett and UW friends.

Bringing it all together

Marjorie attended Robert Frost’s Breadloaf Writers Conference in Vermont in 1950 and the following year drove across country to study art at the Jerry Farnsworth School in Saratoga, Florida. Back in Puget Sound, she attended Theodore Roethke’s writing class at UW and in 1952 was able to meet Dylan Thomas who came to read on campus. Marjorie was awed by Roethke and wrote about hearing Dylan Thomas’s performance. She sat very close to the front, heard his muscular intonations and saw how he swayed, vibrating from head to foot while he read—every word seemed an echo.
Monkmeyer Studio continued to market her photos. One of special importance to the family was published in the November issue of Today’s Health in 1952—a photo of newly-born niece Margaret Duryee, at the hospital meeting her older sister Maureen, their happy parents watching. Boat trips, family outings and other personal events became subjects for Marjorie’s photos during this time and she was able to publish them in various magazines.

Marjorie presented a solo show at the Vera Tenney Art Studio, Everett, in December of 1951. The following year, she displayed photos in the Baltimore Salon of Photographs, then took a freighter trip through the Panama Canal to Madrid on what she dubbed a “slow boat to France”. The Everett Herald published a feature on her trip on Nov. 27, 1952 as an introduction to a travel series of 72 articles that Marjorie would write for the Herald during a 10 ½ month stay in Spain. During this time, she continued taking photos which she exhibited through the 1950s.

Actress Nancy Coleman had married critic Whitney Bolton and the couple moved permanently to Long Island, NY. The Colemans visited Marjorie in 1954 when she was living in a cabin she had built by hand at Priest Point (Tulalip). Following the visit, Whitney wrote a piece about Marjorie and her achievements. Marjorie spent the second half of that year in Spain, taking more photos. She continued to show her Madrid photos, some as slide shows in 1957. That year her mother died, followed by the death of Peter Camfferman. Marjorie sold her beach cabin in 1959 and bought the Duryee family home at 501 Laurel Drive. At home again in Everett, Marjorie began a series of shows at Cuthbertson’s Little Gallery at 2936 Colby where gallery owner Tom Johnson gave her wall space to use as she liked. Her first show was Oct. 1960 and she continued to exhibit there, showing paintings, watercolors and photos.

The gift of a bicycle from niece Maureen led Marjorie to taking photos of her hometown. These remain in the family collection. But the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962 inspired her. She made an entry in her 1962 journal that reads: “Marge, don’t you play golf anymore?” She answered herself, “No, not since the Seattle World’s Fair and seeing the painting exhibit there. It made me want to stay home and paint!!” And paint she did, by the following year exhibiting 14 monoprints and collages.

In 1963 she wrote the first of 9 self-published books of poems in a series she called the Image Collector. When Margaret Camfferman died the following year, Marjorie handled her estate. Margaret was included in a traveling exhibit celebrating Washington Women Painters in 2005 and Marjorie’s journal entries and art collection contributed to the exhibit.

Shifting exclusively to using color film, Marjorie abandoned her own darkroom processing. This gave her more time to paint. She exhibited at Black and King in Everett, won more exhibits and prizes in 1965, received a royalty check from Monkmeyer Studio for her photos taken in Spain and in 1967 had a one-person show at the Monroe Fair where she received special recognition for her work, judges noting the “excitement inherent in her color and content.” Marjorie continued showing at local and regional galleries throughout the 1970s, published Image Collector 9 in 1972, traveled to England for the wedding of her niece Maureen in 1976, then stayed in Oxford and London the following year.

Sadly by the 1980s Marjorie was showing signs of Alzheimer’s. Her last art show took place in fall of 1986 at the Snohomish County Arts Council Gallery in Everett, a collection of her paintings, poetry and photos, including her Everett waterfront series. Marjorie Duryee died in 1992 at Merry Haven Care Center in Snohomish and the family home at 501 Laurel Drive eventually was sold. Her life’s work is cared for and shared by family members.


Margaret Riddle conversations with Maureen Duryee (niece of Marjorie Duryee) who shared memories, insights, scrapbooks of news clippings and a wealth of photographs, 2009-2012;

Marjorie Duryee diaries/journals, 1930s to 1970s.

Photographs and access to unpublished diaries and journals courtesy of the Duryee Family
© Margaret Riddle 2012 All Rights Reserved  WLP Story # 75 ~

The World is Advancing

“The World is Advancing – Advance with it” –

The Motto of Stanwood’s Monday Study Club
By Nancy Leuschel, May Palmer & Karen Prasse

Photograph, courtesy Monday Study Club.


The Monday Study Club was started in 1913 by a group of Stanwood women to read, study and share what they learned. There was little opportunity for education beyond the 8th grade in Stanwood at that time. It was a really small town – paving of streets with bricks was to begin a year later. The usual means of getting around was by horse and buggy, though a few Ford motor-cars were seen. A public library was not to be built until nine years later. Most of the women lived in the neighborhood that is now the west end of Stanwood near the Stillaguamish River waterfront just north of where the mills and saloons were clustered. Twin City Foods has since replaced the lumbering and shingle businesses that supported the town at the time. To remind us of these days, the 100 year old dilapidated Stanwood Hotel remains along with many of the finer first residences, the D. O. Pearson House, Masons Hall and former Odd Fellows Hall (now the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center.)
Each year the Monday Study Club chooses an annual theme to study. In the early days they gathered on alternate Mondays after the wash was done at 2 p.m. to share what they learned on their study topic. The group has met continuously since then, still learning from one another and keeping abreast of world events.
There were 17 charter members. Later the membership varied between 12 and 25 and finally settled on 24. Dues at each meeting were 10 cents each meeting in the beginning and are now $10 annually.
In July of 1915, the annual MSC picnic at Ellingson’s Grove above Port Susan was held. Invitations were extended to families and near relatives. The women pretty much had the day to themselves to meet and play. In the evening the men joined the group, a huge bonfire was built, weiner-wurts were toasted; some played games in the light of the camp-fire. The party didn’t break up until 10:00 pm.

Prior to 1928 members were, with few exceptions, always referred to by their husband’s name such as Mrs. John Brown. Nineteen thirty-one was the first year that they were referred to by their given names and in 1938 they reverted to using their husbands’ name. It was not until 1973 that members finally regained their own names for good.Each new member was invited as an opening occurred. This was to make sure that each member had a chance to present a program. Their meetings do not include food because they want to concentrate on the topics of the meeting. Many were very musical; singing was an important part of the meetings.

The Charter members were Ida Brown, Rube Brown, Regina Christianson, Virginia Cook, Florence Durgan, Mabel Holgren, Hattie Howard, Julia Knutson, Sophia Leknes, Elsa Lien, Theresa Dunlap Lien, Marie (Lien) McKean, Tillie Myron, Anna Nicks, Blanche Parsons, Jessie (Hosum) Pearson, and Louise Wenberg. In spite of being addressed the Mrs., if they didn’t have separate careers, many of these women were influential in the schools, businesses and politics of the town. Elsa Lien remembered in an 1973 interview that Blanche Parsons, from Iowa, was an active Women’s Club member and within two years of her arrival, she was the main organizer of the Stanwood Monday Study Club established as a chapter of the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs. Monday Study Club was represented at the 1913 Convention of the Snohomish District of the Federation of Women’s Clubs by eight members. Blanche Parsons went to the convention as a delegate and was elected Vice-President of the County Federation.

Though the backgrounds and occupations of the members are more diverse now, several early members worked in addition to raising children. Of the charter members, Louise Wenberg served as Matron of Josephine Sunset Home, later ran for State Legislature as a Farmer Labor Candidate in 1922. She served as Postmistress of the East Stanwood Post Office throughout World War II and assisted in her husband’s career as State Representative. They had a farm in Norman in the Stillaguamish Valley. Jessie Hosum Pearson was a schoolteacher at Utsalady until she married D. Carl Pearson and they moved away. Mrs. Theresa Lien operated a millinery shop in Stanwood among other business and real estate interests. Elsa Matthies Lien worked as a telephone operator for decades and was an advocate of many social causes – she helped establish the local WCTU and often was the sole fund raiser for the Red Cross. Mabel Holgren is listed as a teacher in the 1916 Polk Directory. Harriet Kalloch Howard came to Washington in 1883 from Kansas. Her husband, A. S. Howard was the owner of the Stanwood Lumber Company. Ida Brown, born in Texas was the wife of the local barber was recognized as a tireless advocate and fund raiser for the library. Marie McKean, born in North Dakota was also the wife of a barber. Julie Knutsen never married and worked as a bookkeeper in the First National Bank of Stanwood until she retired. Sophia Leknes is listed as seamstress in the 1916 Polk Directory. We are still seeking more details of the lives of some of the others mentioned.

Members were active in many community organizations, especially the Four-Leaf Clover Club (organized also in 1913 with 19 members) which raised money for the library building. They also promoted town rallies, launched a series of socials, bazaars, dinners and other benefits.

Mr. and Mrs. Frances  Durgan, Mrs.Parsons, Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Cook at the County Convention of Snohomish County Women’s Federated Clubs at the State Reformatory at Monroe, July 1915

Among their many projects was the refreshment booth during the 5 day Chautauqua of 1916, where they served old-fashioned fried chicken cooked on old-fashioned wood ranges. Their efforts netted $65, a princely sum in the 1916 economy. Generous in their giving, the also contributed to the Education Fund of the Federation, the Belgian Relief Fund, the Chicago Women’s Shelter, the Red Cross.
Minutes of the December 1914 state that MSC puts work first, social occasions after. That said, the club hosted a dinner for 36 (including husbands) in the millinery parlors of Mrs. C.P. Lein, a place big enough to handle to crowd. In 1915, Miss Mary Rauch of the UW Extension Department was asked to hold a 3-day school for housewives – assumed meaning how to be better housewives.” In 1915, The Pictorial Review, a magazine for women, offered to give MSC $150 if they sold 250 subscriptions. The women got right to it, and earned the $150. In 1916, MSC distributed many books to the public and sent a 5-year subscription for “Popular Mechanics” to the state reformatory at Monroe. In 1969, the club discontinued its association with all federations and has since been independent. The Snohomish County Women’s Club itself officially dissolved in 1985.
Currently (2009) there are 17 meetings each year with 12 set aside for talks (2 each time) starting the third Monday in September with the big reveal of the year’s program and our assignments. This meeting is held at a member’s home and is much anticipated. In addition to the 12 meetings with reports there is a Christmas party at a member’s home, a guest day at a restaurant; and the final meeting is a picnic the first Monday in June. The additional meeting is a field day to visit places that relate to the topics: a play when we studied playwrights, river cruise when we studied rivers, visits to a Greek Orthodox Church and St. James cathedral when we studied religions. Those having been members for 20 years may choose to be emeritus members and no longer had to serve on committees or give reports.

The earlier days seemed to be a time of great civility. Pace slower, but the work was harder. Many the Stanwood women then, as now, were born somewhere else and now the members note that no matter what geographic location they study, one of the members has been there. The world is advancing, and they are determined to advance with it 90 years later.

“Monday Study Club”, typewritten article Nancy Leuschel, later published in the Stanwood News, 1990s.

Stanwood Monday Study Club, Archival materials, photographs and yearbooks, 1913-2008

Interview with Elsa Matthies Lien, interviewer: Marion Duff; recorded for the Stanwood Area Historical Society, Jan 12, 1973.

Member obituaries, Stanwood News, Twin City News

Snohomish County Federation of Women’s Clubs archival Materials, Snohomish County Museum of History, Everett, Washington.

U.S. Censuses 1910, 1920

© 2009 Monday Study Club, edited for by Karen Prasse, Stanwood Area Historical Society. All Rights Reserved WLP Story #63

Grace Wilcox Bargreen: The Career of a Twentieth Century Woman

Her life has been a medley with three themes—Family, Community and Music

by Ann Duecy Norman

What was amazing was that she got the job.
Grace Wilcox had just graduated from college. Her dream was a career in music. She’d starred in college musicals and won vocal competitions. She’d been the featured vocalist on one of the new live music request programs, broadcast via radio, the cutting edge communications technology of the day. But it was 1930, The Great Depression was eroding employment, and there were few jobs in her field. She had no teaching experience, but when she’d heard the Arlington School District was about to hire its first Music Supervisor, she’d sent her resume and a plan.

Music Supervisor was an enviable position, and it paid well. Her $100 a month salary was more than that of most women, including experienced classroom teachers. She spent her mornings teaching in the district’s seven grade schools and her afternoons experimenting with ways to capture the attention of bored rural high school students.

Grace was up to the challenge. She’d grown up on a farm with parents who had a passion for music. They’d made sure that their five children not only fed the chickens and attended the one-room school, but also took turns cranking the Edison phonograph while the family listened to classical records. Grace’s favorite times were the evenings when her family gathered around the piano and sang, and she hoped to inspire a similar love and knowledge of music in her students.

When she’d figured out that participating in regional music competitions sparked student interest, she’d felt she was making progress. As it turned out, her most difficult problem was not with the students, it was in dealing with one man—the high school principal. He felt musical competitions were a waste of time and, although the school district transported athletes to sporting events, he drew the line at transporting vocalists. Her selection of a Native American for the high school quartet had provoked even more strenuous objections. “Keep him down where he belongs.” he had insisted. When no one would support her in challenging him, Grace quit arguing and simply ignored him. For the most part her strategy was successful. The talented minority student was the star of the high school quartet. Parents provided transportation. The quartet won first place and the girl’s glee group placed second. Although the principal got his revenge by ignoring their victory and refusing to display the pennants they won, there were consolations.

Grace enjoyed teaching, had a growing circle of friends, and was dating some interesting fellows. Then she met Howard Bargreen. She was enchanted. So was he. According to Bargreen family lore, when Howard arrived home after their first date, he awakened his mother, showed her a picture of Grace, and said, “Look, this is the woman I am going to marry.”
Grace and Howard were engaged that spring, but for Grace, their relationship posed a painful dilemma: at that time, married women were not allowed to teach. It was a difficult decision, but romance prevailed. They were married in the summer of 1931.
Once the honeymoon was over, Grace was, in her words, “bored to tears”. Howard worked all day, and although she was pleased that his friends invited her to their teas and luncheons, she did not intend to fill her days with social functions. Did women attend these affairs, she wondered, “just to be busy”. Then, as if in response to her wishes, she received a telephone call offering her a part-time position as a vocalist in Seattle. She was elated, but Howard asked her not to accept it. “I’m afraid we’ll drift apart,” he had told her. Like her mother, when faced with a decision in which her desires differed from her husband’s, Grace chose the latter.

A few months later she became pregnant, and disappointment was replaced by delight. For Grace, parenting was rewarding, and household management became her occupation. “Instead of going out on my career,” she says, “I had four children.”
In time, she found other ways to pursue her love for music. She joined the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle and participated in an Everett women’s group that performed “Musical Readings” at social events and fundraisers. As she describes her life, it is clear that her participation in these activities was one of the keys to her happiness. As she says, “It let me sing.”

Once the children were in school, Grace began to address community problems. Throughout her life, she contributed in numerous, creative and often unsung ways, leading campaigns –sometimes clandestine, sometimes overt –to address needs ranging from passing school tax levies to clothing low income children, helping found a guild to support Children’s Hospital, and –along with her friend Neva Stuchell—successfully plotting to assure that Camp Fire girls got a much needed lodge.

Grace typifies her relationship with Howard as a partnership. “We were so different in many ways,” she says, “but we were a good pair.” He was a successful entrepreneur, served as a state senator for sixteen years, and played a major role in organizing the 1962 World’s Fair. She was the traditional homemaker and community volunteer, providing the support he needed for his successful career, and, from time to time, contributing in other ways. For instance, when the position of personnel director for merchandising at the World’s Fair was unexpectedly vacated, he turned to her to fill it. She enjoyed the challenge, but notes that her “working wardrobe” always included a couple of cocktail dresses hanging from a hook on the back of her office door. It is perhaps a metaphor for her life that when evening came, she easily made the transition from marshalling a diverse army of workers to being a supportive spouse, accompanying her husband as they entertained visiting dignitaries from around the world.
Grace’s life has been a medley composed of three themes: family, community and music. She experienced both great good fortune and profound personal tragedy. Her daughter, Teddy, a talented professional photographer, was killed in a tragic accident. Howard passed away. Shortly after that, her son Sam, died. Following these losses, and perhaps as a way of coping with them, her community volunteer role became more than a full-time job—it consumed her life. But, as she explains it, one day, she experienced a conceptual breakthrough. She realized she wanted more time with her family, she said “No” to volunteer activities, and, as she puts it, “I took up golf.”

While she occasionally sounds wistful when she talks about the musical career she didn’t pursue, Grace is quick to say, “I’ve no regrets. It’s been an interesting life.” However, as she talks about her granddaughters’ lives, she applauds their greater freedom to combine professional and family life, while also recognizing the extraordinary personal effort that choice still entails.

Having read Grace’s story, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that in 2002, a year after this interview, her son Howie reported that he and his mother had just completed a round of golf, that she had recently remarried, and that at the age of 94, she was beginning a new chapter in her remarkable career.
Interviews with Grace Bargreen, September 2001
Videotape, Greater Everett Community Foundation, recorded September 2001
Conversations with Grace’s son, Howie Bargreen, September 2002; February 2007
Phone conversations with Grace Bargreen, January and February 2007

WLP Story Number 31 ~ 
© 2007 Ann Norman All Rights Reserved

Sarah Andrews Thornton: Teacher and Lecturer

By Margaret Riddle

Sarah Andrews Thornton’s name was well-known in Everett social circles in the early years of the 1900s. An educator, lecturer, writer and volunteer committee woman, Sarah’s name appeared weekly in the local newspapers who covered her many speaking engagements. Sarah taught speech training and physical education, and as one senior citizen who knew her recalled, “Everybody who was somebody took elocution lessons from Mrs. Thornton.”

Sarah graduated in 1893 from Emerson College of Oratory in Boston and then taught as Director of the School of Oratory and Physical Culture for three years at Cornell College in Iowa. Though odd-sounding today, physical education and speech training were paired in the early women’s curriculum, marking the formal beginnings of women’s physical education. Gesture, physical control and public speaking were considered important social training for young women.

But males enrolled in her classes too, and it was during this time that she met and fell in love with one of her students, Snohomish County’s first professional baseball player, pitcher Walter Thornton who played for Chicago’s National League team.
Sarah and Walter were married in July of 1896, and Sarah continued her studies, completing post-graduate work at Emerson University. She then opened a studio of oratory and public speaking in Chicago. Walter had roots in Snohomish County, Washington, and in 1899, the couple moved to the town of Snohomish and later to Everett. Sarah immediately set up a studio in her home, the Thornton School of Expression, for which she listed herself as Principal and she continued teaching elocution and physical culture. In a few years, she was able to rent studio space on Colby Avenue in Everett, just across the street from the Everett Theater. For a time she taught classes out of the Everett Public Library’s Carnegie building. From 1909 to 1910, Sarah was on the faculty of Bethania College Conservatory of Music in Everett.
Sarah had wide experience as a stage reader and was nationally known as a club speaker from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. Her copyrighted outline charts on the subject of Physical Culture and the Evolution of Expression were used extensively by teachers in all parts of the United States. Sarah was active in volunteer charities, serving as third vice president of the Ladies Board of Governors, the women who established the first Everett Hospital. Sarah also helped to start the Snohomish County Orphanage (located in Everett) and was the orphanage board secretary in its early years.
There are many unanswered questions about the last years of Sarah’s life. She was born May 29th, 1866 in Leeds, Androscoggin, Maine, but her death date and place are a mystery. From city directory listings, it appears that Sarah and Walter separated around 1915, for they are listed as residing at different addresses. According to a newspaper story as well as a later interview with Walter Thornton, Sarah moved from Snohomish County to Seattle and died young. There is something very contemporary about Sarah and Walter’s story. Intriguing as a couple and individually, they seem much like neighbors and friends we know and meet today.

Resources : Much of this information was shared by baseball historian David Larson who gained his information from extensive Everett Herald research in the time period, the Polk’s City Directories for Everett, Washington, census searches and contact made with Cornell College in Iowa.
© 2006 Margaret Riddle, All Rights Reserved

Nellie Robertson A Lifetime of Writing

By Teri Baker

From the time she was little, Nellie Robertson has been enchanted with the way words could bring color and drama to life. Her father wrote wonderfully descriptive letters and read them to her, instilling in her a desire to write that has never diminished.

At age 12 she went door-to-door “getting the news,” rushed back to her grandmother’s house to write the stories, then produced a “newspaper” that kept the neighbors informed and entertained. In high school she wrote short stories and worked part time at the library. Author of Monroe: The First 50 Years, Nellie maintains, “I’ve always written. I probably always will.”
Another skill, conducting meetings, eventually brought her into the life of Bill Robertson. They met through a citizens band radio organization while Nellie, a certified teacher of parliamentary law, was working on the group’s bylaws. The Robertsons, who have been married 30 years, moved to Monroe in 1972, and a year later, Nellie began her career at The Monroe Monitor. She started out composing ads, but within two weeks was writing a recipe column. “I hate recipes,” she confides, adding that while she admires the culinary skills of others, she finds cooking “quite boring,” and was “much happier describing it than doing it.”

Her duties soon included writing the “social page.” A feature about a pilot earned her a bonus and was so well remembered that for years Nellie was known as “the girl who went flying.” When Bill took a job in Petersburg, Alaska, in 1976, Nellie went to work for The Petersburg Pilot as feature writer, typesetter and circulation manager rolled into one. “It was an incredible experience,” she says. “The messy, physical work of producing a newspaper was offset by the joy of writing.”

The couple moved to Dillingham, Alaska, where Nellie managed the dock for the city and was office manager for a couple who owned five diverse businesses: a hotel, hardware and lumber store, restaurant, marina and fur buying operation. She also taught parliamentary law for the University of Alaska. On a lark, she agreed to run for mayor against two men, both lifelong residents of Dillingham. She says she didn’t really care if she won until the radio station had a debate, and her opponents called her a politician.

“I was outraged,” she recalls. “I told them the only reason I was running was because I knew how to conduct the meetings.” Voters, tired of the haphazard way city meetings were held, responded by electing her outright in the primary. Dillingham lost its new mayor eight months later when Bill’s health forced him to resign as head of maintenance for the school district, and the couple returned to Monroe, where they still owned a home.

In 1982 Nellie found herself back at The Monitor, where she remained until she retired ten years later with five writing awards to her credit. She wrote a lot about local history, started a health page and wrote a column called “Nellie’s Knick Knacks.” She says, “I always included people. That’s what I think newspapers are all about.”

While her fiction is based on historical events, Nellie’s book about Monroe, Monroe: The First 50 Years, is a factual, chronological account of that city’s beginnings. Filled with information and insights into everyday life on farms, in mills and logging camps, along the river, etc. Attitudes about business, civic responsibility, education, social life and morality are recorded, as are accounts of community celebrations, church news, “current” fashions, entertainment and sports.

“I wrote the book because it had never been done, and I felt it needed to be,” Nellie says. “It soon became apparent that I couldn’t do the entire history, so I decided to do the first fifty years. The Monroe Historical Society kindly let me keep their film and reader here at the house, or it would have taken me forever to get this written. As it was, it took four years.”

Nellie says she enjoyed the research, but “had the most fun including vignettes that make it human.” She writes of Sam the Hugger, so named for breaking into homes to hug the lady of the house before dashing out again, and Louisa Smallman, a pioneer who successfully fought off claim jumpers, but jumped up on a table whenever she saw a mouse.

These days, Nellie concentrates on writing fiction four hours a day. Careful to maintain a balance in her life, she plays computer games while she eats lunch, cross-stitches designs on sweatshirts and spends as much time as she can.

For Nellie, the accolades that meant most came from her husband and children. A warm smile spreads over her face as she tells of a speech her daughter gave before a service organization. The message that age should not make a difference was focused on “the best mom in the world, Nellie E. Robertson, who published a book shortly before her seventieth birthday.”

Nellie’s writer’s mind is always seeing possibilities, always figuring out the best way to string words together. It is part of who she is – and part of the world her father showed her when she was just a little girl.

Nellie Robertson now lives in Olympia Washington and is still writing. She has since completed Monroe: The Next Thirty Years, Kathryn’s Courage, Wellington Wisdom and its sequel, Beyond Wellington. Even though she decided that “Discoveries” wouldn’t sell that well she had it printed rather than published, selling out twice. Her newest book is titled “Hannah.” For more about her see the Monroe Historical Society page.

Source: Interview with Nellie E. Robertson, 1997 and 2006.
© 1997 – 2006 Theresa A. (Teri) Baker, All Rights Reserved

In Search of Nora Burglon

In Everett , from the 1930s to 1976, lived a woman who made her mark upon society, her physical environment, and the minds of countless children whom she taught and who read her books. She was Nora Burglon, author, artist, teacher, world traveler, and Scandinavian folklorist. Born April 28, 1900 in Minnesota, she came from, as she was proud to say, “sturdy Swedish stock,” She researched and shared that heritage for much of her life. For someone who was so well known nationally and internationally, little was known about her private life. In 1935 she was listed in Polk’s City Directory, as a writer and as managing director for “Scandinavian Crafts”, a small business in Everett. Also in the 1930s she began to fulfill a life-long dream to build a little cottage in the Swedish peasant style on Rucker Hill.
Burglon became known in the ’30s and ’40s as a prolific author. Six books of fiction for children were written from 1931 to 1939, another four between 1940 and 1947. Add to that a large number of magazine articles. Her stories were carefully researched, for accurate detail and a sense of place, through her many travels-to Europe and Scandinavia, the Carribean and Hawaii, even to the Arctic.
One book, Children of the Soil, A Story of Scandinavia ,1933 (serialized 1931-32) was named an Honor Book by the Newbery Foundation. That award placed Burglon alongside Laura Ingalls Wilder and Isaac Bashevis Singer in the pantheon of writers who won similar Newbery awards. The story follows the adventures of two children and their widowed mother as they struggle to rise from the status of poor crofters to respectable farmers. It is filled (as are all her books) with adventure, moral lessons, cultural and environmental education, and (usually) a young girl as heroine, who has the commonsense, will, and faith enough to turn every ill to the good.
Burglon’s observations on fairness and justice ran through all her work and society fell short of her ideals much of the time. In Children of the Soil she spoke of feeding weeds to goats: “That was one fine thing about goats. It was as if they were related to the crofter folk, for they did not believe in wasting anything they could make good use of. Now cows, on the other hand — well, cows were more finicky – they were more like the gentry: nothing was ever just exactly enough, nor ever just exactly good enough, either.” At a point in the story when the heroine’s little brother is falsely accused, Burglon wrote, “Nicolina wanted to fly at the big red-faced woman – she who always made the girl feel as if being a crofter were something akin to being a thief or a beggar.” She had no patience with people who act as sheep and sweep along with the crowd: “People never knew half the time what they themselves really wanted to say. Somebody said, ‘Cry-lunta [crybaby].’ Then all the rest said the same. Somebody else said, ‘Bravo!’ Then they all said that.”
One of Burglon’s traits was a talent for description that painted in words a picture so clear that she might as well have applied it to canvas. On the appearance of children dressed in many layers against the cold: “A red nose and a pair of bright eyes shone out through each bundle. There was a pair of heavy overshoes under each bundle which kept it moving along, and a pair of red mittens which helped it get up when the bundle fell down.”
[Book cover on left is for Ghost Ship : a Story of Norway Published in 1936.]

In 1941, Burglon was in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. After watching the catastrophe from her hotel window she spent days helping the injured. During World War II she organized dispatch of thousands of relief packages to Scandinavia. She spent time in Hawaii as a teacher and had, as a mentor, Mrs. Moriama, “whose deep and kindly understanding of children supplied the model for Mrs. Urago” in the book, Shark Hole, A Story of Modern Hawaii, published in 1943. In the story Nani, the young girl, observes, “Mrs. Urago understood that some people were untamed spirits. Their work was to give light and understanding to others, not to store knowledge within themselves.”

Burglon didn’t shy away from the war, but tried to help children understand their feelings and those of others in that time of turmoil. In one part of the book she spoke of the legend of the Black Shark which terrorized the Hawaiian people. Years before, it had promised to stop if the people brought offerings to the sea once a year on the seventh day of the last month in the year. In the story, it was believed to have returned. ” Nani’s face lighted with sudden understanding, ‘….. That’s the seventh of December. Pearl Harbor was bombed on that day and the people forgot.’ Her eyes widened with fear.”

Another observation on the war deals with black-outs and the emotional toll they took: “[Before Pearl Harbor] the hamlet had bloomed with the lights of a thousand windows. Now there was no light except the glimmering of the moonbeams upon the cane sheds. It was this darkness, more than anything else, that reminded the three children that their country was at war.” For balance against the gloom, Burglon wrote, “War had changed many things in the Islands, but the sound of the cane rushing down through the flumes over the valleys, had not changed at all. Neither had the sweet smell of cane juice, which rose like a warm breath.”

Another point she had to make regarded the discrimination against Japanese-American citizens that was prevalent in that time. In the story, a teacher speaks to a student who injured a Japanese-American child, “‘My grandfather came here from China as a coolie laborer,’ Miss Chun went on. ‘Yoshio’s grandfather came from Japan as a poor farmer. Your grandfather came from Puerto Rico as a contract laborer to work in the sugar cane. It is the people who have come from all these various lands that have made Hawaii the wonderful place it is. Not one of these people could have done it alone. All of us, not any one people, are called Americans.'”

Burglon was also an environmentalist before the word was even coined. Her writing is full of vivid descriptions of nature, guided by her artist’s eye. She appreciated all aspects of the natural world and decried mankind’s ignorance in upsetting the order. In Shark Hole she speaks of the damage caused by imported species and plants: “Because the original Hawaiian birds had become nearly extinct, bird lovers had brought in others. The imported birds, lacking the food to which they were accustomed, became fruit eaters and the Hawaiian orchardists paid dearly for their birdsong.” Crawfish had been brought in to eat mosquitoes, but fell on the taro roots instead. Lantana had once been grown in gardens. Now it made miles of highland country all but impassable.” Although Burglon’s head-on approach to the world’s problems was accepted without a blink by her many young readers, it was not necessarily so with their parents or teachers. I was told by one former student of 1944, that when she suggested that Burglon be read aloud, the idea was put down because of the impression that Burglon had “communistic leanings.” Her deep faith in Christianity might have surprised her detractors. For instance, how many kitchens do you know that have the entire Lord’s Prayer written in Swedish (or any other language, for that matter) surrounding the room in a border? Or “Blessed are they that do” and “Work is Love made visible” written in decorative script on a cupboard door or ceiling beam? Burglon’s little cottage had these and more.

In Better Homes and Gardens magazine (Sept.1940), Burglon described her motivation for building her home, “I suppose it was those hearty, stubborn Swedish pioneers, my grandparents, who bequeathed to me my life-long hunger for simple walls of white, for bright rafters and flowering beams, for vibrant homespuns, gleaming copper-studded chests, and sunny braided rugs.” And build it, she did, throughout the 1930s, and often at odds with the advice of her carpenters. Her books were typed out from a desk by the window of the small loft bedroom, designed as “the maiden’s bower” where unmarried daughters slept. She described this room as containing “great quantities of manuscripts in various stages of construction or decomposition.
“Mine is a joyous little home of singing colors and great peace. In my many authoring trips to the north countries, I had gathered the weavings and chests, the buckets and kettles, the color harmonies and folk designs that would make it truly Scandinavian, completely my own. I built a harmony of vermilion and royal blue, hues as strong and hearty as the Swedish peoples themselves. The motifs on doors, rafters, and beams I drew from the peasant art of these people, …..” “The limb [of the tree of life] was their first symbol, the wheel of the sun-worshiper, the second, the “sacred heart of Jesus” their third. The heart has become a heart-shaped leaf, the base of a flower, or the center of the design from which stalks and buds appear to grow.” Burglon lived, surrounded by the beauty she created, for the rest of her life in the little cottage in Everett.
Nora Burglon died in 1976 at the age of 75. Her books were out of print, most of the print forms having been melted for scrap during the war. A short obituary stated that she was a retired teacher with the Everett School District and left numerous cousins across the country and a niece and nephew in Sweden. But, what of her life before and after that prolific and public period of the ’30s and ’40s? The Women’s Legacy Project members are writing a book about Snohomish County women. Burglon deserves a prominent chapter. If you have any information about her, please contact us (see menu above). I want to fill in the gaps and do justice to the story of a remarkable woman.

© 2003 – 2006 Louise Lindgren, All Rights Reserved

Mary Gertrude Stockbridge Allen

Artist, Musician, Mother and Wife

By Annabelle Birkestol
The arrival in Stanwood of Mary Gertrude Stockbridge Allen over one hundred years ago marked the beginning of a new era in the cultural life of old Stanwood. She was an accomplished artist, as well as musician, and her achievements were notable.

She was born October 7, 1869 in Mendota, Illinois. Her parents were David Henry and Ann Elizabeth Murry Stockbridge. She was a descendant of John Alder and Elder Brewster who came over on the “Mayflower”. She was also descendant of Sir John Stockbridge of England.

When she was just a young child she displayed a natural aptitude for painting and gift for art. By the time she was ten years old she was working in color. She attended elementary school in Springfield, Illinois and graduated from the Morrisonville High School, also in Illinois. In later years she enrolled in various college and university courses, mainly by extension.
On December 23, 1890 she was married to Dr. Orville Reid Allen. Dr. Allen was born in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois October 11, 1965. His father, Samuel C. Allen was a native of Virginia. His mother, Jane E. (Gore) Allen was born in Ohio. The father was a well-educated and successful farmer. He figured prominently in Macon County affairs and served in a number of public offices. He and his brother in partnership with Abraham Lincoln operated a country store for a period of two years. In 1858 when Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas over the issue of slavery, it was his good friend Samuel Allen who accompanied Lincoln during these debates. Samuel Allen’s son Orville was born only a few months after Lincoln was assassinated. One of Dr. Allen’s prized possessions was a death mask of President Lincoln.
Following his graduation from Decatur High School, Orville Reid Allen studied medicine at Rush Medical College of Chicago, graduating in 1887. He first practiced medicine in southwestern Missouri for one year. In 1888 he returned to his hometown of Decatur where he remained for the next ten years. He married Mary Stockbridge in 1890. Their only son, Everett S. Allen was born in Decatur July 4, 1893. In 1898 Dr. Allen and Mary and their 5-year-old son moved to Stanwood where he established his medical practice. His first office was located on Market Street.
In 1904 the Allens built a new home which was considered one of the finest in Stanwood. It was described as a “three-story residence containing twelve rooms and six closets. It was piped for city water and serviced with steam heat and electricity from the hospital. Entrance to the residence was from the front piazza into a hall that led to a spacious living room with a large old-fashioned fireplace. Music room, library, dining room, pantry, kitchen and laundry were on the two upper floors, much of which was done in Washington fir and Alaska cedar. A hand-carved mantle was a special feature of the house.”
In January 1905 Dr. Allen opened Stanwood’s first hospital. It was located at the corner of Broadway and Augusta Streets and was described a “a modern two-story facility, complete with surgery, six private rooms, a large ward, two baths, X-ray equipment and hot air cabinet for treatment of rheumatism and inflamed joints. Also included were nurse’s quarters, doctor’s office, two sitting rooms, spacious dining room and kitchen, heating plant and its own electric light plant.” Dr. Allen also built a hospital in Burlington, although I haven’t been able to determine exactly when that occurred.

Mary Allen’s relatives played an important role in the development of early-day Stanwood. In 1887 her brother William R. Stockbridge, who came to Stanwood from Puyallup, purchased all the holdings of the original town proprietor, Henry Oliver. In the following year, 1888, a town site of twenty acres was laid out. This was surveyed by Peter Leque and filed on September 28, 1889 as a plot belonging to William R. and his wife, Augusta M. Stockbridge. The shortest street in Stanwood–Augusta Street–was named in honor of Mrs. Stockbridge. She was also noted for her patchwork quilts. One of her quilts is displayed in the D.O. Pearson House Museum. In later years, William R. Stockbridge served as president of the Bank of Commerce in Everett.

Stanwood was incorporated as a fourth class town on September 29, 1903. Dr. Allen was one of the five people chosen to serve on the first town council. He was also known as one of the early canoe doctors. Automobiles were introduced to Stanwood in May, 1907 and Dr. Allen was one of the first people to own one.

Meanwhile, Mary Allen’s paintings were bringing her fame among Northwest artists and her legacy remains to this day. The first time Mrs. Allen exhibited any of her work occurred in March 1906 when she entered one of her paintings titled “Street Arabs” at the third annual exhibit of fine are sponsored by the Women’s Century Club of Seattle. According to an article that was published in the Stanwood Tidings “this painting showed a style absolutely individual in technique, coloring and choice of subject and was the subject of many complimentary criticisms by all who visited the exhibit.”

Some time after that, Mary Allen was commissioned to paint the altar piece for the First Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon. She also painted portraits of two Japanese heroes–one was a General, the other was a Major–who had served in the war between Russia and Japan shortly after the turn of the century.

Tragedy struck the Allen family on July 11, 1910 when their son Everett lost his life in a drowning accident while learning to swim in the Stillaguamish River. Dr. Allen and Dr. McEacheran and two nurses worked for three long hours trying to revive him, but they were unsuccessful. Just one week before, on July 4th, Everett had celebrated his seventeenth birthday. He had attended the Hill Military Academy in Portland where he held the rank of second corporal of his company. He had been home only about two weeks when the tragedy occurred. A story that circulated at the time was that a few days before he lost his life, Everett was lying on the ground one day and looking up at the sky he casually remarked to his mother, “I wish I could lie on a bed of roses”. At his funeral, his coffin was literally smothered with fresh roses. In the years following the loss of Everett, the Allens raised and educated a total of six children.
Mary Allen painted and generously donated the altar piece in time for the dedication of Freeborn Lutheran Church in September 1911. She did not sign the painting because it’s a copy of the painting, “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane” by Hofmann, a 19th century German artist. I have been told that she also painted the altar piece for the Lutheran Church at Port Madison on Bainbridge Island.

One of Mrs. Allen’s best-known works is the idealized portrait of Marcissa Prentiss Whitman hanging in Prentiss Hall at Whitman College in Walla Walla. This work was painted on a commission from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Dr. Allen retained his medical practice in Stanwood until August 1911 when the O.R. Allen Hospital was purchased by Dr. L. H. Jacobsen of Seattle and Dr. Donald McEacheran of Stanwood. Dr. and Mrs. Allen moved to Lake Stevens where he continued to practice medicine. In 1937 the Snohomish County Medical Association honored him at a formal dinner in Everett for having completed fifty years of serving as a medical doctor. The Allens observed their fiftieth wedding anniversary December 23, 1940. They lived for a time in Laguna Beach, California and also in Everett.

Resources :
Essex, Alice. The Stanwood Story, vols. I and II, 1971, 1975 Stanwood/Camano NEWS, Stanwood, WA
Whitfield, William. The History of Snohomish County Washington, vols. I and II, Pioneer Historical Publishing, Chicago, 1926
Pollard, Lancaster, A History of the State of Washington, Vol IV, Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon 1937
Trip, Dode & Sherburne F. Cook, Jr. Washington State Art and Artists, 1850 – 1950, Olympica Washington Sherburne Antiques and Fine Art, 1992
Sharylen, Maria, Artists of the Pacific Northwest / A Biographical Dictionary, 1600’s – 1970, McFarland, Jefferson N. C., 1993
Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West, vol I & II. Chicago, Sage Books [1974] – 1985
Fielding, Mantle. Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers, Poughkeepsie, N. Y. Apollo, 1986
Who’s Who in the State of Washington, 1939-40
Newsclippings from Stanwood Tidings, Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer

© 1999 Annabelle Birkestol All Rights Reserved; WLP Story Number 7 ~