Lucy Spada

Lucy Spada

~ Small Town Postmaster Earns Community’s Respect

By Louise Lindgren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2006 Louise Lindgren All Rights Reserved; WLP Story 39

Blanche Edith Shannahan

~ Teacher and Historian of Pioneer Life, 1891- 1968

By Donna Perkins Wylie

Blanche Shannahan’s career as a teacher along with her strong sense of family and desire to preserve the pioneer stories she heard from her family and others motivated her to contribute two valuable pieces of research material to future generations. She compiled and wrote a family journal in 1964, We Were Eight. Her niece Margaret Strum Schmidt recently donated the unpublished family book to the Monroe Historical Society. Blanche also transcribed the November 1870 through 1888 diaries of Charles Harper Stackpole, an early pioneer, and donated her transcription to the Sno-Isle Regional Library.

The photograph above is the original Shannahan cabin where Blanche Shannahan was born in 1891. The cabin is still on exhibit at the Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe. Courtesy Monroe Historical Society.

She was born April 11, 1891, the first of eight children, in a log cabin on the Shannahan homestead near the Snoqualmie River at Mount Forest south of Monroe. May Stackpole Bradbury, the daughter of Charles and Anna Elizabeth Stackpole, was Blanche’s lifelong friend and the one who loaned Blanche the diaries of her father.
The Stackpoles lived north of the Shannahans. May told Blanche that she was welcomed into the family of John and Elizabeth Shannahan with four women assisting her birth while her father kept the fires going and the water boiling. The midwife was Auntie Stackpole, “Auntie” being her term of endearment for May’s mother. Also helping were Mrs. Ella Harriman, her mother’s close friend, and Mrs. E. Treen, the Shannahan’s closest neighbor. A native woman, the wife of Squire Brewster, sat in a rocking chair and sang softly in her native language at Blanche’s birth.

The image on the left is a 1901 photograph of the Mount Forest School. Blanche Shannahan is the second girl from the teacher and her sister Kitty is standing between her and the teacher
The Mount Forest District was south of Monroe toward Duvall on the west side of the Snoqualmie River near the King county line. [Photo reprinted from “We are Eight”]
Blanche went to school in a one-room log schoolhouse, the Mount Forest School in District 8.

Since Monroe did not have a high school at the time she lived with her grandmother so she could attend Snohomish High School. Her maternal grandparents, Robert and Louisa Smallman, had moved to Snohomish at 224 Avenue B in 1900 after living in the Tualco Valley for 30 years and her grandfather had died in February 1902.

Her mother Elizabeth Smallman Shannahan was born in a little cottage on the corner of Second and Cherry in Seattle in 1867 when Seattle was a mere village. Elizabeth’s mother Louisa Spencer Morrish Nowell was born in London, England on May 31, 1839 and her father Robert Jesse Enos Smallman was born December 1, 1837 near Maidenstone Kent, England.

Blanche graduated from high school with honors in 1909 and from Bellingham State Normal School in 1923. She had over four years accredited work at the University of Washington but never graduated because her responsibility of caring for her brother, Robert, a paraplegic, kept her from fulfilling the required years of campus credit. In 1929, Robert had injured his spine in a fall at age 14 and their mother died a few months later.

Blanche’s first teaching job was in a one-room schoolhouse, the Ben Howard School near Monroe. She went on to teach in elementary schools in Issaquah and then in the Seattle Public Schools. During that time she commuted from the family home just south of Monroe to Seattle so she could take care of her brother. After about 44 years of teaching she retired in 1956 and dedicated the rest of her life to preserving pioneer history.

Blanche’s grandfather joined the English navy at age 16 and was sent into the waters of Puget Sound. In the spring of 1855 at age 18, Robert Smallman left the British service through the “back door” and came to Washington Territory from Victoria, British Columbia. He had a claim on the Snoqualmie prairie from 1860 until he sold it in 1865. He returned to England for a visit and on August 19,1866 he married Miss Louisa Nowell in Kent.

Her grandmother Louisa had forebears who had been a higher class than she found herself in a country with definite class distinctions so Louisa pursued her education while working in the home of Lord Rothschild and saved her money so that one day she could own land. The Smallmans emigrated from England to Seattle by way of the Isthmus of Panama on railroad in the fall of 1866. When Elizabeth was about three years old her parents took up a homestead at the Forks, also known as Qualco. The area is now known as the Tualco Valley in unincorporated Snohomish County south of Monroe.

The United States Postal Department in Washington D.C. in response to her letter of September 30, 1958 confirmed that the records of the post office in the National Archives reflected that a post office was established at Tualco, Snohomish County on August 4, 1880 and it was discontinued on July 12, 1892. It confirmed Robert Smallman was the first appointed postmaster of the Tualco Post Office. The letter also reflected that Mrs Sarah J. Evans was the next Tualco postmaster on April 12, 1888, followed by Mrs Amelia J. Austin on July 12, 1889. The Tualco Post Office was discontinued when the town of Monroe was removed to its present site, one mile east of Park Place. When Mr Smallman applied for a post office the U.S. Postal Department changed the name from Qualco to Tualco. The earlier territorial maps show the town of Qualco above the forks where the Snoqualmie and Skykomish Rivers form the Snohomish River. Early settlers had interpreted the native name for the area as “Qualco” and also referred to this area as the Forks.

Blanche’s father, John Shannahan was born September 13, 1867 in Seaforth, Ontario. As a young man in 1883, he came west on the first Northern Pacific train to make an uninterrupted trip to the Pacific Coast. At age 22, he built the log cabin where Blanche was born in 1891. (The cabin was donated to the State of Washington and moved to the State Fairgrounds in Monroe where it now stands.) He married Elizabeth Smallman on December 12, 1889 at the Plaskett House in Snohomish. Blanche’s father made “ship knees” (spruce ribs from selected logs) and ferried them to ship builders across Puget Sound. He was also a road and bridge builder and was active in the establishment of local schools.

Shannahan Family in 1914 Standing at back from left to right: Elizabeth, Martha, Anne, Kathryn, Blanche, and Wallace. Sitting from left to right: Elizabeth holding Robert, John (Jack), Harriette, and Louisa Smallman (Elizabeth’s mother). Courtesy Monroe Historical Society #1157

Blanche gained a lot of her knowledge about such things from her father and inserted parenthetical clarifications and helpful information she learned from him and others in her Stackpole diary transcriptions. She also noted things that seemed important to her at the time such as, after Mr. Stackpole’s October 13, 1871 entry about the birth of Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Reeves’ son that morning Blanche wrote in parentheses “first white child born at the Forks”. Blanche wrote in the Preface that she hoped her transcription of the diaries and her inserts would help researchers in the future. She signed and dated the Epilogue on October 5, 1964. Blanche died August 24, 1968 at the age of 77.

“We are Eight” by Blanche Shannahan, 1964, unpublished Margaret Strum Schmidt interview
The Stackpole Diaries transcribed by Blanche Shannahan, 1964, unpublished
Preston, Ralph N. Early Washington Atlas Overland Stage Routes, Old Military Roads, Indian Battle Grounds, Old Forts, Old Gold Mines. Portland, Or: Binford & Mort, 1981.
Snohomish Historical Society.   River reflections Snohomish City, 1859 to 1910 : a popular narrative history of Snohomish City. Snohomish, Wash: The Society, 1975.

© 2007 Donna Perkins Wylie, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story #47

Lillie Hayes Radley

by Betty Lou Gaeng

There are many wonderful stories of Snohomish County women who have led lives that have made a difference and inspired us in many ways. However, there were others who were little noted. They were the women native to this area. They were born here before the white men came—before the treaties. Even though little is recorded about them, their fight for survival, their successes and failures led the way for the women who followed. One of these native women was Lillie Hayes Radley.

Lillie Hayes Radley

Lillie was born, as she would say, a long time ago. She was a full blood Indian woman living during a time when it was not easy being female or Indian. Lillie’s story is not a happy fairy tale. Her prince charming turned out to be neither princely, nor charming. She was a victim of the time, and her life ended much too soon.

Lillie never became famous. She never learned to read or write. She never had the chance to become active in a community. Most of the time, she was just known as Lillie or Lilly, and it was a battle just to survive. She had no rights, and no one to protect her. Circumstances forced her to eventually turn the care of her daughter over to others. She hardly knew her grandchildren, and never knew that she had great grandchildren. Lillie would be surprised to learn she has a great-great-granddaughter who respects her, and wanted to learn more about her great-great-grandmother. Because of this caring descendant, some of Lillie’s story has unfolded.

The young native women of today have many opportunities. They can go to school, and on to college. They can have careers—they have many choices. Lillie had none of these advantages. Even so, Lillie and many other native women influenced the early development of Snohomish County. They were often used, abandoned, and little is known of them. However, they are part of this county’s history.

James Hayes
There is no record of Lillie’s life before the 1860s. Census records indicate she may have been born about 1843. She had a sister, but what had become of their parents is unknown. Like so many of the young native woman in the Puget Sound area during the early 1860s, when the white men began arriving to work in the woods, Lillie met and married one of them. His name was James Hayes and he came from a culture foreign to Lillie. In fact, he came from the other side of the country—New York City.

Carrie Hayes Tilton

Many of these men coming to this primitive forested land took Indian wives, either by legal marriage, according to native ways, or by cohabiting. Most came from the well-settled areas of the East Coast and some from England and Scotland. They had no knowledge of survival in this wilderness land. Much of that survival was taught to them by their Indian wives. These ladies knew the ways of living off the land, and how harsh and unforgiving the damp and cold winters could be. They had been taught to be hard working, knowledgeable of the environment, and obedient. Some of these marriages survived and others did not. Some of the native women adjusted to the foreign ways, were respected by their husbands, and became active in the developing communities. They taught their children the ways of living in a different cultural environment, enabling the generations that followed to take part in the building of communities.
Lillie and James were legally married according to Washington Territory’s 1866 law. Lillie’s name appears as Caroline Lily on the marriage certificate. Lillie and James Hayes were married by a justice of the peace at James’ home in Monroe, Snohomish County, Washington Territory on May 14, 1867, with John Elwell and Charles Harriman as witnesses. At the same time, these two witnesses, friends of James, also married young Indian women. John Elwell married Sarah Smith and Charles Harriman married Elizabeth Pero. The Harrimans and Elwells had solid, long-lasting marriages. This was not to be for Lillie and James Hayes.
A daughter, Catherine Hayes who was known as Katie and sometimes Carrie, had been born to Lillie and James in 1863. Throughout most of the years of this marriage, James Hayes did not provide for the care of his wife and daughter. They lived near Monroe and then in Snohomish City near the homestead of John Harvey and his family.

In April of 1879, Lillie divorced James Hayes citing his abandonment of both her and their daughter, and also his addiction to drinking. In the divorce papers, Lillie stated “I have one child Katie Hays…she is at John Harvey’s across the river, she has been there for a long time.” Lillie asked the court to allow that John Harvey be the guardian of daughter Katie. The divorce was granted on April 22, 1879, and it was ordered and adjudged that Katie Hayes, the child of James and Lillie Hayes, be left in the custody of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey. Carrie Hayes Tilton

Lillie went to live near the Jimmicums/Chimicums south of Monroe, where she labored at field work. About 1881, Lillie married for a second time. This time she made a better choice. She married Englishman Joseph Radley.

Lillie and Joseph’s marriage was to be a short one. Lillie had a long illness and died Friday, October 9, 1885 at approximately 40 years of age. Joseph Radley cared for his wife with the help of friend and neighbor Mrs. George Allen. After Lillie’s death he wrote to daughter Katie. Katie (now called Carrie) was married to Oliver Tilton, and living in Clearbrook, Whatcom County.

Lillies Descendants

Lillie’s son-in-law Oliver Tilton surrounded by Lillie’s surviving grandchildren and great grandchildren. This photo was taken about 1912 or 1913, and shows Oliver Tilton with his and Catherine/Carrie’s children still living at the time. Betty Muzzall’s grandmother is the one in the back row on the right–Stella Tilton Swanson. Lillie Hayes Radley is buried at Priest Point Cemetery on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, near her sister who had died seven months before Lillie’s death. However, no grave markers have been found for them. Joseph Radley went back to living alone and died in 1889 at the age of 38. He is buried at Mukilteo Cemetery—a headstone marks his grave.
Lillie’s daughter Catherine/Carrie Hayes Tilton died from a bout of measles in May of 1898 at the age of 34. She is buried at Clearbrook Cemetery next to her husband Oliver. Through this daughter, Lillie has a long list of descendants.
James Hayes never married again. In spite of his admitted love for whiskey, James lived a long time, dying in Monroe in 1920 at the advanced age of 95. James Hayes is buried at the Monroe Memorial Cemetery.
If Lillie were around today, she would no doubt be proud of her large family, and especially the great-great-granddaughter who wanted to know more about Lillie and her life. Also, Lillie would assuredly be pleased at the advancements made by other native women. Lillie didn’t have the chance, but she helped in leading the way.

Family photos, letters, and documents provided by Betty Muzzal, gr-gr-granddaughter of Lillie Hayes Radley. These have been used with her permission.
Washington Territorial and State census records.
U. S. Federal Census Records.
Information from the Washington Digital Archives < >
Cemetery information from < >
Article from the Everett Daily Herald, March 1, 1913.
© 2010 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 65

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

Minerva Healy Lucken

~ Keeper of the family flame

By Tammy Kinney

Minerva Healy Lucken, devoted daughter and wife, exemplified the resilient women of the early 20th century who experienced tragedy early in life, accepted it with grace and quietly carried on. Minerva’s life in Monroe – from 1909 until her death in 1997 at age 94 – mirrors the town’s growth and development both in population and industry. Minerva’s history also provides an example of the life and times of women who worked outside the home and found fulfilment there. Her succession of jobs shows the variety of employment options available to single and married woman of her generation.

Minerva’s parents were Bartholomew and Minerva Illif Healy. They married in Minneapolis in January 1900 and came west, settling in Tolt, Washington. Bart was a partner in a logging operation with John Joyce named Healy & Joyce. After that, he ran a logging operation of his own and owned a lumber yard in Tacoma called Healy Lumber Company.

Minerva’s mother took a position as a teacher in Tolt soon after they arrived, and they welcomed their first child in 1901, a daughter named Mildred. In September 1903, a second daughter arrived who was named Minerva after her mother. Next followed a stillborn boy and in 1907, twins Marjorie and Marguerite. In 1909, son Harold arrived. Minerva’s mother contracted tuberculosis (called consumption in those days) a common and deadly illness. The family moved from Tolt to Monroe in 1909, to a new two-story home, to help her recover. Minerva’s mother struggled valiantly in their new home, as she recounted in a 1989 interview.

“We moved because there was no one in Tolt to take care of my mother. Dr. Cox was here in Monroe to take care of her. Treating TB now is different, but he wanted her to get up early, go to work and stay busy all the time, which is the opposite of now. She died the next year. We were having breakfast one morning. I remember the nurse came down the hall and into the dining room and she looked at Papa and said ‘she’s gone.’ I understood immediately. I jumped up and ran up the stairs but she wasn’t quite gone because when I knelt down by the bed, she said ‘You be a good girl, won’t you?’ “

By the time Minerva’s mother died on March 11, 1910, the family had already experienced tragedy. First-born daughter Mildred passed away three months before her mother in January of 1910 and the year before, six-month-old son Harold died. Bart was left alone to raise young Minerva and the twins. He devoted his life to them and never remarried.

“Mildred was my mother’s pride and joy. After she died, her class from school came to the house and they stood in the front room next to the casket and all the children were singing.”

Despite losing her mother and siblings, Minerva persevered, displaying the positive attitude and sunny disposition that was a hallmark of her personality. She remembers a carefree childhood of playing hide and seek with her sisters and neighborhood friends in the big white house on Hill Street and Bart allowing just about anything, as long as the children were at home.

“We would run up and down the stairs and hide in the attic and under the beds and ride and play with the horses, Dolly and Bill. We climbed all over those horses and no one ever got hurt. Marjorie beat all the boys at (the knife game) Mumbley Peg. I wasn’t much on that but I played marbles a lot. My husband picked some of our marbles out of the garden years later.”

Bart sold his business interests in 1906 and focused on raising his three daughters. As the oldest, Minerva also shared this duty, doing well in school, helping out at home and graduating from Monroe High School with high marks in 1922. After high school, she attended Washington State University in Pullman for two years.

During breaks from college, Minerva worked for J.D. Woods in Monroe, which became a full-time job after college. She also worked at the Frye Lettuce Farm in 1933, one of the major sources of employment for Monroe residents in the 1930s.

“I remember Elizabeth Nelson came by and said that our friends were going to work at the lettuce farm and asked if I wanted to go. We earned a dime an hour. She picked me up and brought me a pair of boy’s overalls. We crawled around weeding and I almost wore my trousers out in the knees. One day, Pauline Oster came out (she did more cussing than speaking ordinary English) and said ‘Everybody get busy, here comes Charlie Frye.’ We were working like the dickens and all of a sudden along came Charlie Frye and I saw those shiny shoes down in front of me. He said ‘What’s your name?’ and I said ‘Minerva Healy.’ He said ‘You’re not Bart Healy’s daughter?’ And I said ‘Yes, I am, Mr. Frye.’ I came home that night and asked my father why he didn’t tell me he knew Charlie Frye. He said he thought it was better that I didn’t!”

After discovering her tie to Charlie Frye, Minerva was moved into the office at the lettuce farm and then went to work for the Frye’s meat packing plant in Seattle. She lived with a family during the work week and took the bus home to Monroe every weekend to take care of her father and sisters.

Minerva’s work life also included teaching Works Progress Administration (WPA) adult education classes in “sewing science” in 1933-34, working as a freelance seamstress in the community, as office manager for Pictsweet Foods in the 1940s and for Monroe physician and surgeon Dr. Percy Cooley in the 1950s. But the job that most people associate with Minerva was at Dever’s Furniture store in Monroe. Over 40 years, she served as office manager, salesperson and became the face of the business to countless shoppers and local residents. She retired at age 75.

Minerva married Even Lucken on Sept. 1, 1940 and the couple lived at the family home with Bart and Marguerite. Even Lucken died in 1986 and she followed on Sept. 4, 1997.

Minerva’s family history lives on in the 1885 oak pump organ that was donated to the Monroe Historical Society Museum from her home. It came west with her mother from Minnesota and stood in the house for almost a century. The family home at 321 Hill Street, that saw both tragedy and joy, is being restored by a local Monroe businesswoman intent on preserving the Healy-Lucken memories and pioneering spirit.

Minerva’s memory also lives on in the many Monroe residents who knew her. “Minerva was a very good friend of my mother’s and we would go visit her at her home,” says Monroe native Harriett (Ohlsen) Barr. “She was a very happy person and a pillar of the community – always well dressed and immaculate. The house was the same way; beautifully kept with a lovely yard. She was a gracious lady and well-respected by everyone.”

In November of 1989, Minerva was recognized as a Pioneer of Snohomish County by the Snohomish County Centennial Committee.


David Abbot letter to Monroe Historical Society. 6 January 1989.

Tami Kinney interview with Harriet Ohlsen Barr, January 2015.

Minerva Healy and Bartholomew Healy personal papers.

Amy Beavers interview with Minerva Lucken, (on CD), January 27,1989.

Nellie Robertson, “Minerva Lucken House Filled with Antiques and Family Memories.” Monroe Monitor, October 1, 1986.

H.L.Squibb. Letter of Recommendation for Minerva Healy to Snohomish County Centennial Committee.

© Tami Kinney 2015 All Rights Reserved

Grace Kirwan

By Nellie Robertson
Of all the roles Grace Kirwan has played in her long life, the one she considers most important is that of babysitter for her great-grand niece, named for her. She’s also cared for, in turn, the tot’s two brothers. She reads to them and carries on conversations with them, providing a wonderful start in their young lives.

Her mother, Bertha Shrum, arrived in Monroe in 1903 and her father six years later. A family history of community service began with her great grandfather who served on the town council and her great uncles, also councilmen, one of whom went on to the state senate. Both her great-grandfather and one of his sons served on the town council when the town hall was built in 1908.

Kirwan’s father, Walter Camp, spent time on the town council and was mayor two different times. She followed his footsteps when she served on the council for four years then two terms as mayor of the town that had become a city in the late 1960s.

Camp and his brother, Bert, founded the Camp Brothers Drug Company. When Bert returned to Texas a couple of years later, William Guy Riley joined Camp and the business became the Camp-Riley Drug Company, Monroe’s only pharmacy for a number of years. Both graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy where each earned a doctorate in pharmacy. It was the premier pharmacy school in the nation. Kirwan’s first job was as a soda jerk at the pharmacy’s famous soda fountain. “I stirred the special chocolate sauce from the time it was put on the stove until it cooled,” she recalled. The fresh strawberry topping was made from Marshall strawberries only since they were red all the way through.

The Camps first lived in an apartment in the back of the pharmacy. Kirwan’s older sister was born there. Kirwan joined the family in the house on W. Main Street with a peaked roof across from the Nazarene Church. The family moved to a safer location on S. Blakely after a runaway team of horses crashed through the fence in 1914 while her sister Eileen played in the yard.

The family went back to Texas in 1928 because of Camp’s health but returned to Monroe four years later. Kirwan speaks of her father with the greatest respect and love. “He wanted everyone to get an education. Camp Riley provided scholarships for a number of students.”

Kirwan began her higher education at Texas Women’s University then continued at the College of Puget Sound in Tacoma now the University of Puget Sound in 1934. The college had no library science program so off she went to Texas again where she earned a bachelor of science degree in library science and a bachelor of arts degree in English. She wanted to work in Texas where any school over 200 students had to have a full-time librarian.

With the advent of World War II, Kirwan joined the Navy in 1943. She first attended aviation machinists’ school and became a machinist’s mate third class before being sent to Officer’s Candidate School at Smith College. As an ensign, she was assigned to the Office of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. After going on inactive status in January 1946, she retired from the Naval Reserve in 1970 with the rank of lieutenant commander.

In 1945, she married Gerald Kirwan and moved to his home town of Boston for a short period of time before the newlyweds returned to Monroe in 1946. Her husband said it was like the Northeast but king size. He worked as a cost analyst for the Air Force at the Renton Boeing plant.

Prior to that time, Walter Camp urged his wife to take over a ladies’ shop and in 1932, Milady’s Frock Shop was born. Grace Kirwan worked in the shop for 47 years first as a clerk, then manager, and finally as owner in 1961 when her husband died of lung cancer. As the years passed, merchandise turned over faster that spawned innovations in marketing to keep up with the demand. Many valley women shopped at the store and mourned its closure in 1993.

Kirwan received an appointment to the Monroe Library Board in 1950 and according to her entry in Who’s Who, she served on that body for the next 15 years. At the beginning of her tenure, Old City Hall housed the library upstairs. To match a federal grant, library board members and other citizens including Mayor Jack Law went door to door soliciting funds. They garnered enough to build the library at the corner of Hill and Blakely streets. Kirwan successfully urged the board to affiliate with the Sno-Isle Regional Library System.

She recalled the time when two men came to see her at Milady’s Frock Shop urging her to run for city council. “I didn’t really want to, but agreed to try.” She was elected and after serving as a councilwoman for four years, Kirwan’s fellow councilmen appointed her to act as mayor pro tem. Citizens elected her mayor for two terms and she served from 1973 to 1981. The present city hall is named for her. Then police chief, Chuck Nauman, spearheaded the movement. “I felt the police department and the utilities department needed decent places to work,” Kirwan said. “The chief didn’t forget that.”

Along with her other activities, the Public Hospital District No. 1 Board that oversees Valley General Hospital appointed her to serve out Irving Faussett’s term in 1970. After election in her own right, Kirwan served on the board for a total of 20 years, 10 years as chairman. Many improvements and expansions took place at the hospital during those 20 years.

As a world traveler, she’s trod the grounds of Southeast Asia including Fiji, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia. That first tour director and she became good friends. She’s made four trips to Israel. On one of those trips, the tour group followed the route of St. Paul through Greece, Turkey Jordan and Syria. “I was very glad to see the Near East when it was at peace,” she said.

In 1987, she took a trip around the world, first flying to London. On the Orient Express, she passed through Europe and Bulgaria, ferried across the Black Sea, boarded a train and watched Turkey and the lower part of the then USSR pass by her window on her way to China. In all, she’s made five trips into China. Her other itineraries have included Siam (now Thailand), Nepal, a trip down the Amazon River in South America, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. In 1979, she traveled to Iraq where she saw a partial restoration of the Hanging Gardens and the walls of Babylon

On the Latin side, she spent a month in Spain in 1973, went to Morocco and visited the Casbah made famous by actor Charles Boyer. She’s also been to Mexico several times.

“I’ve been to lots of places, but I’m always glad to get back to Monroe. It’s a wonderful place,” she added.

During her younger years, she was an accomplished violinist loving to play on the G string. She performed at assemblies and on the radio. She now keeps her fingers busy knitting caps for Valley General Hospital’s newborns. She also makes altar linen for her church.

One of Kirwan’s greatest contributions to Monroe’s history is her clear memory of people and events out of the past. She compiled photographs of many early buildings in Monroe along with their histories. The Monroe Historical Society received a Malstrom Award from the Snohomish County League of Heritage Organizations for the publication that’s available in the society’s museum and the Monroe Public Library.

Kirwan has continually supported the Monroe Historical Society serving as a board member and hosting at the museum in the past. Not only is she providing an excellent start in life for the little ones but gives meaning and voice to the past.

Resources: Personal interviews &
Who’s Who In Finance and Business – 2004-2005, 34th Edition (pub. 2004)
Who’s Who in America – 2000 – 2006, 54th Edition (pub. 1999)
Who’s Who in the West – 1996-1997, 25th Edition (pub. 1995)
Who’s Who in the World – 2001 – 2004, 21st Edition (pub. 2003)
Who’s Who of American Women – 1989 – 2007, 26th Edition (pub. 2006)
© 2006 Nellie Robertson All Rights Reserved;  Women’s Legacy WLP Story #34

Hiroko Haji

A True Patiot and Citizen

By Gail Dillaway

Hiro at the posthumous awarding of a diploma to her brother Tom Haji, who was killed in World War II ; Monroe High School March 2, 2009; photo taken by Dan Armstrong.

Hiro Haji was a member of the only Japanese American family living in Monroe, Washington at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. As such, in 1942, she and her family were subject to executive order 9066 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and were subsequently required to move to Tule Lake, an internment camp in northern California. Hiro was born in the United States but was still subjected to a mandatory move to an internment camp due to her Japanese heritage. Regardless she remained loyal to the United States government and its efforts in World War II. During the war, her family made the ultimate sacrifice of losing her brother, Tom, who had enlisted in the army and fought against Germany. Her story is one of loyalty and patriotism to her government in spite of the limitations applied to her rights of citizenship during World War II.
Hiro Haji was a member of the only Japanese American family living in Monroe, Washington at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. As such, in 1942, she and her family were subject to executive order 9066 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and were subsequently required to move to Tule Lake, an internment camp in northern California. Hiro was born in the United States but was still subjected to a mandatory move to an internment camp due to her Japanese heritage. Regardless she remained loyal to the United States government and its efforts in World War II. During the war, her family made the ultimate sacrifice of losing her brother, Tom, who had enlisted in the army and fought against Germany. Her story is one of loyalty and patriotism to her government in spite of the limitations applied to her rights of citizenship during World War II.

Hiroko (Hiro) Haji was born in 1923 in the tiny community of Bluestem Washington. Hiro was the second of three children in the family, with an older sister born in 1921 and a brother Tom, born in 1925. Hiro and her siblings were known as Nisei, or second generation Japanese Americans. Hiro’s father Ichimatsu (Nick) Haji and mother Ko Kawata Haji were both born in Japan. Mr. Haji worked for the Great Northern Railroad for much of his life. While living at Bluestem, Hiro attended a two room grade school where each room contained four grades. The classes were small and Hiro helped some of the younger children learn how to read.
In 1933 Mr. Haji was transferred by the railroad to Skykomish where the family was to live for five years. Hiro completed 5th through 9th grade in Skykomish. At Skykomish High School Hiro was freshman class secretary in 1938, active in sports, on the honor roll and was also in the glee club where she sang as an alto. In 1938 the family moved to Monroe where Hiro continued her education. She became involved in many activities. Hiro was remembered for her friendly demeanor, her academic skill and her all-around athletic ability. Upon graduation Hiro was co-valedictorian of her 1941 graduating class.Hiro as student

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, things changed for Hiro and her family. Although Hiro stated that she could not remember any prejudice or racial slurs, even in Monroe there were some who were wary of the Haji family. At the time of the attack, Hiro was attending Business College in Seattle and along with her brother and sister decided not to attend school on December 8th, the day after the attack. Hiro was reluctant to go to Business College on Monday morning as well, but with the encouragement of the people with whom she boarded and the President of the college, she tried to continue her studies. However the signing of executive order 9066 by President Roosevelt resulted in Hiro‘s forced migration to Tule Lake in Northern California where she and her family joined 18,000 other Japanese Americans from northern California and the Northwest. Barbed wire fences constrained the internees from venturing outside the 40,000 acre camp. Armed guards in towers and on the ground outside the fence had instructions to shoot anyone who tried to escape. Each family was assigned a space in a barracks type building usually just one room about 400 square feet in size. The only furniture provided was army cots for sleeping. Their bathrooms and showers were in a central building and their meals were eaten in a central mess hall. In spite of the severe living conditions, Hiro was able to work as a bookkeeper until June of 1943 when the Haji family was allowed to leave the camp in recognition of their loyalty and good citizenship. Great Northern had a job waiting for Mr. Haji and the entire family moved to Spokane.

Hiro remained in Spokane for several months, staying at a hotel with her mother while she tried to figure out what to do next. She finally took the train to Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, where the Army had a language school. Ft. Snelling was a top security clearance facility where the Army trained soldiers who were becoming interpreters and analysts in the Pacific. Hiro became an administrative assistant here, involving herself in service to her country. She continued in this position until late 1945 when she learned that her brother, Tom, was missing in action and later declared dead at the hands of the Germans.

She left Ft. Snelling at this point, travelling by train to Spokane. Eventually moving to Oregon she married Mr. Ishida who had served in the all Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team during the war with her brother, Tom. She nursed her injured husband back to health but the marriage eventually ended. Hiro never remarried. She was able to secure a job working for the legislature as an executive assistant in Salem, Oregon where she had responsibility for the drafting and passage of legislation. She continued working in the public sector until her retirement.

On March 2, 2009 Hiro Haji Ishida received the posthumous presentation of a diploma from Monroe High School to her brother Tom Haji, who had only been a junior in high school at the time of the family’s internment. Speaking at the ceremony she said “This brings back a lot of memories”, as she clutched her brother’s diploma “It’s so nice so many of his friends remember him.” As a junior, Tom Haji had been on his way to joining his sister, Hiro, as valedictorian of his class at Monroe High School. Hiro commented that from the moment the Haji family arrived in Monroe, they were made to feel welcome. After the ceremony, Hiro was greeted with open arms by the mother of a fellow student. What made this act of kindness even more extraordinary was the fact that this mother’s son had been killed while fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific. Hiro’s positive attitude and gratitude to her country and community continued until her death. She felt that her family was judged in Monroe on their merits and not on their race. She even went so far as to say that Monroe, unlike Seattle, was supportive in spite of the anti-Japanese sentiment of the day.
Hiroko Haji died in November of 2012. She left a sizeable bequeath to the Monroe Historical Society to sustain and invigorate the museum but also to promote good will in the community and to make Monroe a better place to live for minorities. Hiro Haji remained to her death, one of Monroe’s most loyal supporters. She loved her family, her community and her country. In spite of the politics of war, she had absolute appreciation for the people of Monroe who supported her family during the 1940’s and welcomed her back cordially after the war.


Hiro Haji. photo. 2009. By Dan Armstrong.
Keary, Polly. “Not Forgotten.” Monroe Monitor 31 Mar. 2009. Print.
Parry, Tom. Tom Haji. Monroe, 2008. Print.
Gail Dillaway interview with Tom Parry. October, 2014.
Monroe High School Yearbook. photo (1941).
© Gail Dillaway 2014 All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 77

Jean Bedal Fish

Jean Bedal, July 23, 1986 when Jean and Edith were teaching at David Cameron’s week-long class on the history of Monte Cristo, held at Monte Cristo. Photograph Courtesy Louise Lindgren, 1986.

~ Elder of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe

By Louise Lindgren

Jean Bedal Fish, elder of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, was dedicated to the preservation of her Native American culture. Her legacy included not only the recognition of her mother’s tribe, but its written history as well.
Jean was the daughter homesteader James Bedal and Susan Wa-wet-kin, only daughter of Sauk Chief John Wa-wet-kin. Born in 1907 in the cedar cabin Bedal built on his homestead, Fish entered a world dominated by towering trees, the Sauk river, and rain. The sounds of two languages entered her consciousness from the cradle. One language, English, could be written – the other, Lushootseed, remained only sounds, with no written record.
The Bedal children attended school on their own homestead southeast of Darrington and in Fish’s words, “eighteen miles from nowhere.” Learning to read and write in English was important, but after school she followed her mother’s instructions, given in the Sauk language and by example. Her father voiced no displeasure at the arrangement as long as his children kept up their English studies.
Jean Bedal’s first teacher was a lonely lady who found her surroundings highly disagreeable. She stayed only one term, but in that time made a lasting impression on the girl. When a sewing assignment, a doll’s dress, turned out badly, the angry teacher threw it in the fire. This prompted a strong parental protest and words that were a prophetic compliment, “Our Jeannie doesn’t need to be taught how to sew – she learns by observation!”

And observe she did – the changing of the seasons, the growth of forest plants and animals, the handling of her family’s horses, fishing, and the great shake bolt drives down the river. She observed her mother’s habits and housework, the cooking of fish on camping trips, and making fried bread. She observed her new and favorite teacher, a vibrant Dutch lass named Edith Froom, who taught by example and even instructed her students in the fine art of swimming in the river on the way home from school. And, she listened as the teacher read novels to her charges as a reward for work well done.
In 1916, life changed dramatically. James Bedal was stricken with a paralyzing stroke, ending his work as a shingle bolt producer. Survival was tough, and the family moved to the town of Darrington where the children enrolled in the much larger school there. Although their school had only “white” children, they at times had contact with Indian friends and relatives, staying overnight on special occasions.

One Christmas gathering was memorable for the drama that began at 3:00 a.m. A man rushed in shouting, “Pray, pray – the river is coming!” The Sauk river had become a raging torrent in full flood. For three days people listened to the deep earthshaking rumble of huge boulders under the water. Catholic prayers of her Sauk relatives were spoken in a language new to Jean – the Chelan dialect used by the traveling priests — more learning by observation for a young girl pacing the rain-sodden riverbank.

In a few years, another language was added to her mental storehouse. Her high school principal was a Catholic and tutored her in Latin, a language that Jean Bedal Fish could speak even in her elder years.

Jean and Edith with their packhorses at the Penn Mining Co. office at Monte Cristo, circa 1930

James Bedal’s illness eventually caused such hardship in the family that the young woman felt the need to stay and help on the original homestead two long hard winters. That put her behind one year for graduation and another year before she had the opportunity to go to college in Bellingham for a quarter of teacher training. Money for tuition came from her small savings earned doing work unusual for women of the time — working for the Forest Service, checking on hikers who passed the homestead on their way into a restricted logging area.
Even more unusual, both she and her sister Edith were excellent horse-packers and guides. Interviewed in her elder years, Jean Fish remembered, “I guess I was about six or seven years old. There was [my Dad’s] horse by the name of Pete, … a wonderful horse. So I used to sneak to the barn and had a hard time putting the saddle on – it was heavy. And then I tried to tighten the strap, and the horse would just blow his belly up every time. But I led him to a log to get on him and rode maybe a quarter mile and back again.”
At age 13, Jean led two attorneys into the mountains as a solo guide trip. A few years later she was lone packer on a 50 mile round trip to both White and Indian passes. That trip included dealing with a mean horse after spending the night at the pass and tracking down horses who had wandered off in the middle of the night. After delivering the family safely to the railway station in fading light, she returned to the homestead in the dark.

Jean Bedal on the right, circa 1930?

Another skill, also learned by observation and practice, was put to use for the rest of her life – cooking. She cooked for family, Forest Service workers, and beginning in 1929, guests at the hotel in Monte Cristo. In 1932, she married Russell Fish, son of the proprietor.
When the hotel closed in 1941 and her husband went off to war, she moved to Quinault and then Seattle, cooking for the Y.M.C.A., until an exploding gas range seriously injured her. After a slow recovery, she cooked for hundreds of war workers at Pier 90. When her husband returned from war they spent a number of years in Hoquiam, then returned to Monte Cristo to manage the lodge there before separating in 1956.
Two years of study at Edison Technical School in Seattle helped prepare Jean Fish for the important challenge that would follow. She had begun working with her sister, Edith, on the job of proving the enrollment and status of the Sauk Tribe, which never had been recognized by the U.S. government. For many years, they and others continued the work, and in 1972 Jean Fish finally stopped cooking in order to work even more on the tribe’s recognition. On September 17, 1975 the tribe received formal recognition as the “Sauk-Suiattle.” The dual name was not traditional, but was written in by a lawyer who connected the area of the nearby Suiattle River with the Sauk Indians. During the late ‘70s and ‘80s Fish worked for the tribe and served on the Tribal Council. From 1979 to 1983 she was Tribal Chairman, the equivalent position of being the President of the United States, and with a similar structure of government to administer.
Jean and her sister Edith then began the important work of writing their tribe’s un-written language and history. Jean finished Glimpses of the Past, which is now part of a larger work including the writings of both sisters, Two Voices: A History of the Sauk and Suiattle People and Sauk Country Experiences, edited by Astrida Blukis Onat.
From a dual-culture upbringing, through experiences of the wider world, to the homecoming of a tribe complete and recognized in a many-cultured country, Jean Bedal Fish saw and experienced it all.

1. Interview with Jean Fish by Louise Lindgren, February 20, 1990
2. Jean Bedal Fish and Edith Bedal, with editorial assistance by Astrida R. Blukis Onat, Two Voices: A History of the Sauk and Suiattle People and Sauk Country Experiences, privately published for the Memorial Pow-Wow of June 9, 2000
See also the biographical article about James Bedal and Jean’s sister Edith in the Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore.

Revised and edited from a Third Age News (now Senior Source) Article published April 1991

© 2007 Louise Lindgren All Rights Reserved

Enid Thrall Nordlund ~ Naturalist, Historian, Mountaineer

By Louise Lindgren

Enid Thrall Nordlund, born in 1906, was steeped in the mystery of growing things from an early age. In later years, the yard of her 1898 home was filled with old-fashioned perennials and delicate forest plants. Red and white trilliums grew side by side with little-known mosses and ferns. Birds flocked to the feeders with their varied menus as her cat, trained to watch but not pounce, sat idly by. Watching too, was this lady who spent much of her lifetime nurturing nature’s offspring.

Anna Thrall in her garden.

As a child Enid observed as her mother carefully tended the perennials which brightened their modest home on Everett’s “Riverside.” The family had inherited eight lots with an orchard on the high end and swampland lower. Slowly, the property was transformed with gardens.
In 1920 her mother, Anna Thrall, opened the first commercial nursery in the area, specializing in perennials and rockery plants. Enid became her mother’s employee at age 14 and spent after school hours transplanting and learning. Often she was observed studying the huge, unabridged dictionary at the library with a long list of plant names in Latin on the table beside that tome. She attempted to decipher pronunciation and find out why the plants had been given such strange names by long-dead botanists.

In addition to normal nursery duties, Enid and her sister Dorotha would spend hours each fall gathering holly for Christmas wreaths. Over 300 holly trees of various types were planted around the perimeter of the property. Enid could make a wreath in six minutes flat. She said, “Our sign said ‘Holly Wreaths – 25 cents – Delivered,’ Can you imagine that? Delivered!” The sisters continued the sideline of making wreaths for 55 years.

Sundays were days of rest and family outings. A love of exploring and hiking far hills was instilled early. One hard lesson was learned in May of 1918 when Enid and Dorotha went on their first serious hike up to Lake Serene on Mt. Index. She reflects, “You know, that’s too early to go up there on your first real hike. There was snow, and we had to hike clear up from the Stevens Pass highway. We crossed a swinging bridge and went two and a half miles just to get to the start of the trail. We didn’t have slacks in those days, just dresses. Of course, we were soaking wet. It’s a wonder that experience didn’t turn us off to hiking.” Clearly it didn’t.
Enid and her friends continued to explore mountain areas, including one that was to become very special to her – Monte Cristo. In 1924, the Royal Hotel in the old mining town was the “place to go.” Even the ride in was an adventure, aboard the gasoline excursion car along the old Everett and Monte Cristo railway tracks.
When the railway bed washed out, groups of friends made the pilgrimage on foot. She developed a habit of taking along flower seed and planting all along the way from Granite Falls to Monte Cristo. Trays of leftover sedum plants were carefully inserted in the crevasses of the natural “rockery” walls of Robe canyon, at that time a treacherous stretch of abandoned train tracks (now converted into the Robe Canyon hiking trail).
In 1934 she married Ed Nordlund, inviting him to share in her love of the mountains and planting flowers in the wilderness. Their first home was in Kenmore, where she started her own rockery planting service as well as continuing to help in her parents’ Everett nursery several times a week. However, they continued their mountain excursions, always taking plants and seeds along, and with the seed of an idea germinating in their minds – to build at Monte Cristo. In 1948 they purchased three lots on Dumas Street, where buildings were left as deteriorating ruins.

Nordland Cabin, 1959

The Royal Hotel was no more, but the old Boston American Mine cookhouse, converted to a resort, continued to attract visitors. By 1951 the Nordlunds, who had moved back to Everett, built a small cabin at Monte Cristo entirely from salvaged lumber and windows from snow-crushed buildings. Enid soon became the old mining town’s volunteer naturalist, leading trail tours and giving illustrated lectures for resort patrons.
The cabin was decorated with artifacts dug from collapsed structures of the old town site. Colorful, broken bottle necks hung from strings like garlands framing the windows. The Nordlunds collected, sold, and used antiques all of their lives. The kitchen in their Everett home sported a fine old woodstove with warming ovens, a fancier cousin to the one they used at their cabin.
Visitors to Monte Cristo in succeeding years began to notice the flowers Enid planted. Near the townsite, paths were bordered by daffodils in early June (later than normal because of heavy snow). Swiss blue-bells and the non-native, but more colorful Russell’s lupine lined pathways. In more inaccessible areas, she planted edelweiss and trolius imported from Switzerland.
Often visitors, in those days before environmental sensitivity, would dig up the flowers and take them back to the city, prompting her to plant farther and farther from established trails. “It has been said that city people come to the mountains to pick it, dig it or, if it moves, shoot it,” she observed.

Wildlife was a common sight and a joy. A marten would sit on the woodpile, looking in the cabin window, waiting to be fed a piece of banana or other treat. Mountain goats were visible more than a thousand feet above their home, and the chipmunks and birds would always be fed with a sprinkling of seed atop an old pot-bellied stove beside the fir tree. Enid recorded all in her journals – the animals, native flowers, mosses, ferns, trees, mushrooms, even the insects. (An entry, “deerflies,” has an exclamation point after it – they bite viciously!)

The loss of a favorite deer hit hard. They had named her “Mercedes,” and though thoroughly wild, she was accustomed to spending time in the area with her fawns on the way to the high country. Her visits continued for 12 years until the game department decided to allow the shooting of does. One summer she simply vanished, causing the Nordlunds to view every hunter in the area with suspicion.

This woman of the mountains absorbed her losses over time. Her husband died slowly of Alzheimers disease. Her sister Dorotha, who lived with her in later years, preceded her in death as well. Still, in spite of failing eyesight, she continued to help those who wished to learn. She sold the cabin at Monte Cristo to close friends who maintain it as she left it, in her honor. Her vast collection of historic photos was shared with both the Everett and University of Washington libraries. The Snohomish County Museum in Everett was the recipient of many artifacts from her collection.

Painting of favorite deer by Enid Nordlund [date unknown]
Enid died at the age of 97 in October 2003. Still, for those who drive the Mountain Loop Highway or hike to Monte Cristo, there remain a few flowers that have adapted and survived, tucked away in crevices to puzzle and delight those who discover Enid Nordlund’s legacy.

Source: Interview with Enid Nordlund by Louise Lindgren, December 5, 1991.
© 2006 Louise Lindgren All Rights Reserved

Jane Berry ~ First Businesswoman of Monroe, Washington

Jane Berry bears the distinction of being the first woman business owner in Monroe. Her saloon on East Main Street proved to be a focal point for both gatherings and controversy.

Aunt Jane Berry, as residents called her in later years, was both picturesque and peculiar but not one among the earlier settlers was better known than she. She was born in Newry, county of Down, Ireland in 1843. She came to America as a young woman at the age of 22. She sailed from New York for San Francisco around Cape Horn. In 1869, she arrived in the Monroe area. During her long residence in town, she prospered and acquired eleven different parcels of land. Her estate at the time of her death in 1925 amounted to nearly $40,000, a fortune in those days.

Controversy seemed to follow Aunt Jane. In February 1900, thirty-one citizens signed a petition to the county commissioners citing Berry for using obscene language between 5 and 6 p.m. on January 29 in the presence of women and children, brandishing a gun, and allowing loud and abusive language along with boisterous noise to emanate from her saloon. The petition asked that her license be revoked for the sake of decency in Monroe. It appeared the petition fell on deaf ears since Berry continued to operate her saloon.
Aunt Jane Berry owned a number of property parcels and had built a brick building on her East Main Street site. Rumor had it that she ran a house of ill repute on the upper floor of her building. At one time, mothers petitioned the school board to change the route of the school bus carrying their children past Berry’s saloon to protect them from the seamier side of life. The school bus at that time was a horse-drawn wagon.
Aunt Jane’s next battle occurred when Snohomish County sheriff‘s deputies discovered a large quantity of booze in Monroe. A big crowd dolefully watched the confiscation of the liquor and its trip out of town. Sheriff Donald McRae and Prosecuting Attorney O.T. Webb arrested Berry on the charge of violating the state prohibition law in 1917.
Newspaper accounts said that county officials staged one of the best-attended raids ever held outside of Seattle and they had located 26 bottles of contraband. The officers arrived unannounced and searched the Berry place. They arrested her and the news spread throughout the community. Within a few minutes several hundred people called around to have a look at what the sheriff had in his wagon.
Officers searched several other buildings owned by Berry but located no additional caches. At the time of the raid, Berry had been a resident of Snohomish County for more than forty years, and had arrived in Monroe before the town’s incorporation.
She married Frank Donahue 13 years before her death. He helped look after her properties during the last years of her life. Aunt Jane had a generous, and in her own quaint way, a good heart. She never forgot a friend nor overlooked a slight. She was generous to her friends when they were in need. To point up the respect the community had for this controversial woman, Mayor Bascom asked businesses to close during her funeral services.

Aunt Jane’s death created a legal stir when her relatives contested her will that left most of her assets to her husband. They claimed she was mentally incompetent. In the end, Aunt Jane defied them. In early 1926, the court ruled her will valid.

There was no more colorful character in Monroe than Aunt Jane Berry. For a slight woman, she cast a huge shadow that remained in the community for years. Her building still stands on the north side of East Main Street.

From left to right: Stretch Chop House at the very edge of the photo, Dolloff’s Store, Sanders Hotel, railroad tracks, Mrs. Berry’s saloon, and Vanasdlen’s Store and Post Office, which had been moved from Park Place. Running through the middle is the Great Northern mainline with engines under steam with railroad cars. The current Main Street crossing would be roughly at the center of the photo. The view is looking south and slightly east across the site of what is now the old Monroe Shopping Center.
Photograph Courtesy Monroe Historical Society, Monroe WA.