– Political Activist, Teacher and Postmaster & Park Namesake
Born in Minnesota October 4th 1884, this photograph of a determined and serious little girl is the first in which she never smiled. In 1906 she graduated from Pacific Lutheran Academy in Parkland, Washington. She studied to be a teacher and taught at Parkland Parochial School. Following that she also taught in Tacoma, Port Madison, and Quincy and Arlington public schools until about 1910. In May 1911 Marie Louise Anderson and Oscar Wenberg married at the Parkland Lutheran Church and two years later in 1913 Marie and Oscar Wenberg bought a farm near Florence Washington.
That same year Marie became Matron of Josephine Old People’s Home*; Oscar was Superintendant for three years. In an account by Bertha Logan who was a one of the caregivers there “Mr. Wenberg was chaplain and tended the coal burning furnace and various task, while Mrs. Wenberg kept the books and took care of business and social jobs”…the home had a barn and cows on the 10 acres with a garden large enough to grow produce for the 18-19 residents.
In the 1920 Census Oscar is listed as a wheat farmer, he and Marie have two children, Marie and Johan. She was active in many organizations during these years including Stanwood’s Monday Study Club and the Stillaguamish Grange. She joined the Snohomish County Federated Womens Club as a founding member. She was also a member of the Snohomish County Legislative Federation and the Womens Christian Temperance Union. She and Oscar both became political activists.
In 1922 (the same year East Stanwood incorporated) she appears in a newspaper promotion advertising her candidacy as the Farmer – Labor nominee for the Washington State Legislature from the 49th District. Her slogan was “Dare to do right” and “Wring Out the profits and operate for service.” The Farmer Labor party was a small third party primarily representing workers and labor rights at a time when companies didn’t provide sick leave or worker’s compensation. It won about 19 percent of the vote that year. In 1936 there were strikes and walkouts threatened at the mills and canneries. The local companies did not recognize the union but in most cases they already paid higher than union wages in so union activism in Stanwood was short-lived (see Echoes Winter 2019). She lost to Alonzo Willhite and R. D. Deselle (both Republicans) at a time when the top two vote became the two representatives of the district.
Marie never ran for office again but worked for her husband and continued to advocate for her causes. As a member of the Womens Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) she opposed amending the “dry law” to permit manufacture or sale of wine or beer, though it was upheld.
Marie and Oscar lived on a small farm near “Norman” in the Stillaguamish Valley through 1930. Oscar was farming and Marie continued teaching.
In 1935 at the age of 50, Marie became postmistress in East Stanwood taking over from C. J. Gunderson who had established the East Stanwood Post Office in 1913. The post office building in East Stanwood was originally located in the building that later became a barber shop on the south side of the street. Later Gunderson, an influential businessman in East Stanwood moved it to his hardware / furniture / store (the Star Furniture Company building). Her husband Oscar had a partnership in the Gunderson’s hardware store at the time. Gunderson was also the local undertaker.
While working as Postmaster, in 1936 Mrs. Louise Wenberg was made President of the Snohomish County Rural Recreation Committee (Stanwood Story v. 2 p.90) In this role she began a campaign to purchase 20 acres on the east side of Lake Goodwin from C. D. Hillman for $1500 to be established as a park. 1939 Oscar elected to Washington State House of Representatives – served through 1952. His political platform included support for labor, pensions, the Grange program and the public utility. He also was influential in the effort towards funding the construction of the Stanwood Camano Mark Clark bridge and the new Camano Island State Park.
In November of 1939 Marie Wenberg, as President of the Snohomish County Rural Park Association dedicated the small County park at Lake Goodwin. Funds for the park came from the W.P.A. in the amount of $8,160 and the balance from the County. Though Rep. Wenberg’s standing as a legislator inevitably helped this cause an editorial in the Arlington Times Aug. 30, 1956 stated “It was Mrs. Wenberg who kept up a persistent campaign that came precariously close to failure until finally the plot became county property and was ad available to the State.” The Twin City News (Nov 9, 1939) reported that “the park will be known hereafter as Wenberg park, honoring Mrs. Louise Wenberg, through whose untiring efforts the work was carried on.”
Various individuals and organizations also donated time and equipment for grading and graveling the road and building ball fields and picnic areas. The County park became a State Park in 1947 but went back to being a Snohomish County park in 2009.
After 10 years at the end of the ware in 1945 Marie Wenberg resigned as East Stanwood Postmaster at the age of 61. In 1952 her husband Oscar Wenberg died of a stroke where they lived with their daughter. Marie lived twenty more years and died Nov 15, 1972 at age of 84.
For more photographs and a slightly modified version of this story – see the Stanwood Area Echoes #64
“Farmer Labor Candidate for lower House” East Stanwood Press, Stanwood News, Arlington Times and Everett Herald. “Will incorporate Recreation body” Arlington Times Apr. 2, 1936 “Credit where is due” Editorial August 30, 1956 Arlington Times; Wenberg Luce Family Records Stanwood Area Historical Society; “Mrs. Wenberg Active in Civic Affairs” [paid advertisement] Arlington Times, Nov. 2, 1922 “The Emergence of the Farmer-Labor Party in Washington Politics, 1919-20” Hamilton Cravens The Pacific Northwest Quarterly Vol. 57, No. 4 (Oct., 1966), pp. 148-157 (10 pages). Interview with Louise Wenberg Luce (daughter – in – law) 2008
[*later Josephine Sunset Home now Josephine Caring Community]
**The East Stanwood Post Office was located in this new Gunderson Building until 1960 when the new Post Office building was built (now the Stanwood Camano News offices). About that same time the towns and post offices consolidated and the post office operated there until 1976 when the new current Post office building was completed.
Stanwood and East Stanwood post offices were separate until they were consolidated under Lars Sagen in 1961 soon after the two towns consolidated.
In 1965 Sagen retired and Ray Brandstrom became Postmaster. At that time postmasters were appointed by the President through a patronage system of appointing postmasters and rural letter carriers. In 1969 that was finally changed by President Richard Nixon. The Postmaster General then appointed all postmasters from within the competitive Civil Service.
In 1976 the new (current) Post Office building was completed.
Copyright Karen Prasse & Stanwood Area Historical Society; WLP Story #84