Anna Blacken Carlson Swanson

A short story about the life of one of the Stillaguamish Valley’s early Pioneers.

By A. Loren Kraetz

Courtesy Author

Anna Blacken Swanson was born Jan. 6, 1865 in Surendalen Khristiansund, Norway. Her parents, Ole and Maret (Toalge) Blacken, had a small farm, but like so many other Norwegians at that time, had heard of the alluring riches of America and dreamed of a chance for a better life in the new world. This meant leaving their home, friends and loved ones, with the probability of never seeing any of them ever again.

Anna was three years old when she sailed from Norway with her parents on a frigate headed for Quebec, Canada their final destination. Four hundred passengers, all Norwegians, paid $15 for their passage. Each person was allowed two quarts of water a day. They took all food necessary for the entire journey. Fifty-three days were spent on the ship without seeing land. During the crossing eleven passengers were buried at sea. The ship had a stormy crossing, one storm lasting three weeks. Passengers were forced to hang onto their bunks, and throughout the storm they could not use their deck stoves (which were bolted to the deck) except at rare intervals. Heartfelt prayers of thanks for deliverance were given as the ship docked.
The immigrant train waited to transport them farther to their destination. Jolting from side to side, they endured thick black coal smoke, belching from the tugging steam engine. These were merely freight cars with board benches fixed along the sides.
On these, they sat, slept, and ate for the duration. On August 20th, 1868 they finally reached Northport, Michigan, in Leelanau County, where they were to make their new home.
It was here that Ole Blacken built a log cabin and began working in the lumber industry. His daughter Anna began her early education, becoming proficient in English and Norwegian.
As time went by the American dream began to tarnish. Frigid winds of winter, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, and followed by stifling hot summers with unbearable humidity made Michigan less than paradise.
The luring tales of something better on the Pacific coast haunted Anna and her brother John O. Blacken until they could resist no longer.
Marie, boarded a train for Seattle in Washington Territory. Upon arrival they made their way to the wharf, where they booked passage on a steamboat for Florence, Washington on the Stillaguamish River. From Florence they were carried up the river to Norman by Indians standing and propelling by long poles their shovel nosed canoes, which were most efficient in shallow water.
At Norman John had the good fortune of landing a job at McFadden’s logging camp. Anna hired on as camp cook. Growing up in the woods of Michigan, she had learned how to “make do” in the kitchen. Word soon spread of Anna’s savory skills. Quickly she had job offers up and down the river.
At this time logging on the Stillaguamish was in its infancy. There were no steam donkeys until after the railroads came in 1890-91. Logging was done by oxen and horses, mostly along the river banks using six yokes of oxen on a turn of three logs, pulled over puncheon, a “road” of small logs laid side by side, perpendicular to the track. The nearest saw mill was at Utsalady on Camano Island. It was there that ocean vessels could deliver the necessary machinery to erect a saw mill.
It wasn’t long until Anna’s reputation took her up both forks of the river, cooking in makeshift tent kitchens and mess halls. She felt comfortable being poled up and down the river by an experienced Indian canoeman, Jim Harvey, with whom she remained friends until his death.
In 1887 Anna married Charles Carlson of Sweden. They had a son, Elmer, in 1888. Anna continued cooking in the logging camp preparing three meals a day and doing some laundry. She took her seven year old niece, Marie, along to care for her infant son and to keep the native Indian children clear of her cake dough and bag of raisins. Perhaps Marie was the valley’s first playground supervisor!
Most of the early loggers were Scandinavians, and it was common practice at this time for laborers to ask logging foremen, “Who is the cook,” before asking about the wages. With Anna’s Norwegian background, she knew how to satisfy their hungry appetites with familiar food.
After four years of putting up with Charlie Carlson’s weakness for booze, Anna divorced him.
She was goal oriented and had a dream of owning a hotel. With the coming of the Great Northern Railway in Silvana in 1890-91, she saw the opportunity of having a successful business of her own. She had culinary skills, a command of English, Norwegian and Swedish, as well as a reputation of being honest and compassionate.
In 1892 she married her second husband, Neal Swanson, but continued using her skills in the camps.
By 1894 Anna had saved enough money to build a two-storied hotel in Silvana directly across from the Great Northern depot. She offered meals family style for 25 cents and rooms 25 cents single or doubles, 50 cents.
At last she could retire from the hard work of the logging camps and their harsh conditions. The hotel was an instant success. She had a steady stream of railroad men, bolt cutters and mill workers to keep the hotel more than fully occupied. She offered laundry service as well for her boarders.
With all the cooking, washing and room cleaning it required more than her two diligent hands. During this time many young girls also immigrated from Norway. These girls found employment scarce and many became depressed. They had no money to go back home, spoke only Norwegian, and seemed lost in the jungle of virgin timber.
During the ensuing years Anna took many of these young girls under her wing, giving them a job, food, and a place to stay and helping them learn English until they had a chance to gain some self-confidence and independence. Many of these immigrant girls found suitable husbands and spent the remainder of their lives within eyesight of Anna’s hotel in Silvana.
Anna and Neal Swanson had two children, Nina and Arthur. Neal adopted her first son, Elmer. In 1899 Anna suffered the loss of her husband of seven years when he fell from the Great Northern Railway trestle and died. With renewed determination, she set about raising three children and running her hotel.

Silvana Hotel The hotel in the center of this photograph is thought to be the second Silvana Hotel which burned 1902. Courtesy Stanwood Area Historical Society. circa 1900? Photographer Unknown

Two years later in March of 1901 another huge set back: Ewing’s general store caught fire, burning Anna’s hotel and the Peterson’s residence. In spite of the fact that Silvana had little water and no fire department, much of the hotel’s contents were saved.
With some insurance money Anna quickly bought lumber, and as soon as the embers cooled she rebuilt the hotel. Many of her boarders took a leave from the woods to help rebuild their home. In two months the hotel was back in full swing.
Conditions were just looking good when seventeen months later, on Aug. 23, 1902, a second devastating fire burned her new hotel, Ewing’s new general store, Peterson’s new home and two additional business houses. The fire of unknown origin started in a woodshed at the rear of Anna’s hotel. Once again the residents of Silvana came running and saved most of the hotel’s contents.

Now for the third time Anna began construction at once for a new building, this one being larger than the first two. By winter the hotel was up and running once again. This time she maintained a vacant lot on either side as a fire break.
As the valley gave way to dynamite, grubhoe and guts, many large prosperous farms developed around Silvana. Often farmers who employed large crews for haying, threshing, silo filling and pea vining would treat their crews to a tasty noon feast in the hotel’s large dining hall.
Anna was always there to meet special needs. She continued running the hotel with no further crises until 1925, when after 31 years of service to the community she decided to hang up her apron and sold the hotel to the “Sons of Norway” for their lodge building, renamed “The Viking Hall.”
The lodge removed the partitions on the upper story and made it into a dancehall with a stage at one end. The lower portion continued as a dining hall and office space.
During the next 27 years the hall was frequently used for smorgasbords and Scandinavian dances. By 1952 it began to sway when 150 or more Norwegians began to dance the schottische and polka. In the interest of safety it was taken down and replaced with the present Viking Hall.

Upon retirement at age 60 Anna built a small house at the west end of Silvana and enjoyed another 20 years of traveling, visiting and entertaining old friends. She stayed active in the “Daughters of Norway, “and founded the Camilla-Collett Lodge No. 25 in Silvana.
With Anna’s passing Jan. 1, 1946, just short of her 81st birthday, many heads were bowed in respect. Anna was known throughout the district for her hospitality and generosity. All her life she quietly performed many acts of charity, and it was said no worthy person was ever denied her assistance. The hardships of frontier life were cheerfully born by this witty, neighborly woman whose kindness and sympathy in the sickness and sorrow of others was typical of her early days. She was a woman of energy and talent, who was very influential in the early development of the social and cultural aspects of the Silvana community, leaving it a far better place than she found it sixty years earlier.

Note: Anna’s brother, John O. Blacken, became proprietor of a hotel and general store in Lakewood, Washington. Her niece, Marie (great-aunt of the author), became the farm wife of Alex Spoerhase and lived to become a centenarian.
Reference credits to:
The Arlington Times
Wilma Warner (grand-niece)
Mildred and Margaret Spoerhase (grand-nieces)

© 2010 Loren Kraetz, All Rights Reserved

Grace DeRooy VerHoeven

~ An Everett Childhood
By Phyllis Royce

“Housework is so much easier here. “ Clazina DeRooy wrote in a letter to her family in Holland. “Almost everyone has electricity.”

It was 1926 when Clazina, her husband and their six children first arrived in Everett. Although the new house did indeed have electric lights, it lacked the other labor-saving electrical appliances she had heard so much about.

According to her daughter, Grace, her mother’s first electrical appliance was an iron. Wrinkle free ‘wash and wear’ fabrics did not yet exist. Clazina, like other respectable homemakers, had, until that time, pressed almost every article of her family’s clean clothes with a heavy flat iron that had to be continually reheated on her wood stove. Her new appliance was light enough for a child to use, and it heated itself with the flick of a switch.

It was an even greater triumph, when, a few months after she acquired the electric iron, Clazina was able to write to her family in Holland that she now had: “a maid who never talks and who, when she works, murmurs softly. She washes everything completely clean, and if I just flip a little thing she wrings everything out. This servant is an electric washing machine. Oh Mother, that thing is such a delight. ‘Til now I’ve had to stand the whole day rubbing on my washboard. Now I can finish up completely—the washing, the bluing, and everything, in two hours or less.”

Although Clazina did have an electric washer and an iron, she continued, much as her foremothers had done for generations, to clean house with mop, broom and dust rags, to sew clothing, not with a sewing machine but with needle and thread, to cook on a wood stove, and to try to protect food from spoiling in a “cool” corner chest or—later—in an icebox. It was 1947 before she finally acquired a real refrigerator.

The following are vignettes of growing up in Everett as a member of a Dutch immigrant family during the 1930s and 1940s:

My nine brothers and sisters and I all had our jobs. As we grew, we progressed to various duties. We enjoyed and begged to do them when we were little, but when the work became a regular assignment, the novelty quickly wore off. Our ‘entry-level’ assignment –about age five—was to dry the silverware. For twelve of us, this wasn’t a small job. From drying silverware we progressed to setting the table, peeling the potatoes, drying the dishes, and apparently a more responsible job, washing them. Serious ironing commenced with ‘doing the hankies’ (small square clothes used for blowing one’s nose before Kleenex was invented). One child would iron the dozens of hankies and carefully place them on a stack to one side; another stood by to fold and sort. Checking stockings for holes and rolling them into pairs was another job. For a family of twelve there would be several dozen pairs a week.

By the time we were seven or eight, we were helping with the annual spring cleaning and with the canning, taking peas out of pods, looking for worms, taking strings off the beans, shucking the corn, peeling and coring apples, etc. And always, Mom was around and on top of what we were doing….

Spring housecleaning began the day school was out. It meant completely emptying every room, stripping it of bedding, curtains, pictures….even the clothes from the closets. We washed what could be washed, including walls and woodwork and ceiling. We painted and varnished and wallpapered, as necessary and affordable. We never had a vacuum cleaner, so we took the living room rug— $3.00 at the Salvation Army—out to the yard and hit it with sticks. We cleaned the ceilings, beat the mattresses and the pillows and sometimes changed the ticking, washed blankets, furniture and bedsprings (which at the time were bare metal) —and then replaced everything where it belonged.

The work went on for two or three weeks, usually one room a day. Everyone was assigned chores. The boys moved the furniture and mattresses, carried ladders, took the beds outside, things like that; the girls washed and polished and remade the beds. I always thought that the boys had it a little easier than the girls, though the boys carried wood. We burned a lot of wood. Spring cleaning was usually completed—sometimes interrupted for a day or two when fruits ripened early—just in time for the jam and jelly making and summer canning.

When I was twelve in 1938 (the older girls were now in junior and senior high school), I inherited the responsibility of hurrying home at lunch time on Mondays to help hang out the laundry. Before the boys left for school, they would have helped carry the double boilers of hot water from the stove to the back porch and poured it into the washing machine and the large round tubs used for rinsing and bluing (bluing is a mild blue dye which counteracts the cream/gray color in white cloth).
Mom began the laundry early, and two large baskets were usually ready and waiting. After a very quick lunch of either cocoa and dried bread crusts or fried potatoes and rhubarb sauce or applesauce, I was in the yard, wiping the fine gray residue from the mills off the clotheslines with a damp cloth.

Mom would not permit haphazard hanging of the laundry. We hung the sheets together on the outside lines on either side of the yard. Towels, shirts and dresses hung on inside lines, and underclothing was hung on the very middle, far away from prying eyes. I figured our neighbors had more to look at than our clothesline, but it was important to Mom that our laundry look as neat as possible to the neighbors. She was always careful about appearances. With all this work, our house should have been spic and span. It wasn’t. But if it wasn’t neat, it was clean. With twelve people in the house, Mom did a remarkable job, especially without many electrical appliances. Of course she was home all day and had ten lackeys to do her bidding. But she must be given a good deal of credit for supervising ten apprentices and keeping us as organized as she did.

Religion was another important aspect of the DeRooy family’s life. Grace’s parents, Arie and Clazina, joined the Christian Reform Church immediately after they arrived in Everett. The entire family attended both morning and afternoon services on Sundays, Arie read to them from the Bible after supper, and the children attended Saturday catechism.

We were taught by example that life’s most important institution after family, is the church. We might misunderstand; understanding it, we might become angry with it, but we didn’t take it lightly. The entire family was active in the church.

We often congregated in the living room on Sunday to sing hymns as Tina (one of Grace’s sisters) played the piano. We also sang popular songs, but had to be selective to avoid Mom’s coming in and quietly but decisively picking up the piece and placing it aside or closing the piano. She liked to sing and often joined us, but to her, some songs were appropriate for Sunday, some were not.

Women were not permitted to vote in church matters, but were active in the Ladies Aid and undoubtedly advised their husbands in church matters they did know about. Church matters were often discussed at home, but kindly. We did not “serve up” the minister for Sunday dinner.
Movies were strictly forbidden, except for those offered free by local merchants just before the beginning of the school year. The ‘back to school’ movie was usually a cowboy movie and a cartoon—not something guaranteed to lead us down the path to sin. Ice cream was forbidden on Sunday, “verboten op Sundog”, and we were not allowed to play cards. I don’t think we had a lot of time to play games except during long summer evenings when we played out in the street with the neighbor kids.

At the end of our block stood a Roman Catholic Church, “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”, and the Catholic school. We played with our Catholic neighbors, but at times we would bicker, throw mud at each other and call each other names—never, of course, in our parent’s hearing. It had nothing to do with the difference in religion—it was just that we were different. We were Dutch; the Soriano family across the street, with almost as many children as ours, was Italian. They were recent immigrants, too…vocal and demonstrative…. Had it not been for the law, there would have been serious altercations at times. A final thrust at the end of a disagreement, always first checking carefully to see whether Dad or Mom was within hearing was our catcall: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”

Phyllis Royce on left.

© 2007 Sources: Grace DeRooy Spillman VerHoeven interviews with Phyllis Royce. DeRooy family journal and letters. Ten Little Dutchmen, Second Edition, Everett Washington, GVD Publications, 1998. Abstracted and edited from Phyllis Royce’s manuscripts and notes by Ann Duecy Norman
All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 42

Mary Low Sinclair

Courtesy UW Libraries26773

~Forgotten Founder of Snohomish, Washington

By Warner Blake

Walking through the oldest part of our largest cemetery on a sunny afternoon, I easily locate large, even multiple markers with the names Ferguson and Harvey, but none with Sinclair. And amongst the living in our small town the names of Ferguson and Harvey are easily recognized while the mention of Sinclair usually fails to ring a bell.

Emory C. Ferguson and John Harvey settled their claims on opposite sides of the Snohomish River in 1860. East of Ferguson’s claim on the north bank was the Edson Cady claim, which he sold to Mary and Woodbury Sinclair in 1864. Woodbury died suddenly in 1872, just after he and Mary had platted their eastern section of the officially named Snohomish City. Emory and Lucetta Ferguson platted their western section, and John Harvey established a farm and mill on the south bank. The site still has a mill today, but the farm has given way to a busy airport. The Harvey claim is located on the other side of the tracks that marks modern Snohomish’s southern border.

With the death of Mary’s husband, ownership of their claim passed to their two young children, Clarence and Mabel, and the single mother became executor of her children’s estate. Her first act in this later role was to donate three acres alongside the Pilchuck River for a cemetery, which led to the establishment of the Snohomish Cemetery Association, the county’s first public burial ground. Here she buried Woodbury, along with the remains of their infant son Alvin who died shortly after his arrival in this place. Mary purchased a two-foot tall white stone marker, the first in the county.

Secondly, Mary donated “all of block 18” for the first school building in 1874, and within a year a creditable building was on the site, just north of where the Carnegie Library was eventually built. Since the beginning of their residency in Snohomish, classes were held in the Sinclair home and in 1866, Mary’s friend Ruby Willard was paid as the first teacher of School District No. 1, most likely by E. C. Ferguson, the county superintendent of schools. In 1878, Mary married Myron Packard, publisher of The Eye, Snohomish’s second newspaper, but ten years later they were legally separated and Mary petitioned the court to restore her name to Mary Low Sinclair. It was not front-page news.

Sinclair was an early investor in the Athenaeum Society shortly after Woodbury’s death. This was a regionally recognized literary society that published a monthly, handwritten newsletter, established the first library by the pooling the books of members, and built the grand two-story Athenaeum building in 1876. The spirit of the organization later inspired the populist petition of the Carnegie Foundation for funds to build a library that was awarded in 1909. She is credited with starting the local dairy industry with her cow “Rose” a gift from her father; and she donated property for the railroad. In fact, both the arrival of the first train and the filing of her divorce papers took place in 1888 when she was listed as one of the leading taxpayers for Snohomish County.

Because the students coming to Mary’s home were children of Indian mothers, Mary became conversant in the indigenous languages and dialects over the years and was often called upon by journalists and government officials to act as interpreter. The last recorded such event was in 1920, when she helped a reporter from Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer interview Snohomish’s famous Pilchuck Julia. Three years later, “Princess Julia” died from small pox and was the last person buried in the cemetery established with the Sinclair donation fifty years earlier.

    The Low Family Arrival in Puget Sound, 1851

Mary Elizabeth the first of four children of Lydia (Colburn) and John N. Low was born on December 11 1842, in Bloomington, Illinois. Four months into her ninth year, the family left Illinois to migrate west via the Oregon Trail. Just outside of Fort Laramie the Low party passed the Arthur Denny party, who were also from Illinois. Both parties met again at The Dalles, Oregon, and traveled together to Portland. Finding passage aboard the schooner Exact, the expanded Denny party, which now included Mary Ann (Boren) and Arthur Denny’s new baby, plus the William N. Bell family, along with the Low family of six, disembarked on a rainy beach at Alki on November 13, 1851.

While the Denny party moved across the bay to establish the future town site of Seattle, the Low family remained at Alki where John began producing pilings for wharves in San Francisco. Low sold his lumber business and the family moved to Olympia then to Port Madison on Bainbridge Island. Ten years had passed since their arrival at Alki, and nineteen year old Mary was teaching at a school where her future husband, her boss, was the district school clerk.

Woodbury B. Sinclair, born in Penobscot County, Maine July 20, 1825, arrived in Seabeck, Kitsap County, Washington Territory in 1856, as co-founder of a lumber company. In the census of 1860, he was listed as single, age thirty-three, a farmer, had $5,000 invested in real estate and $100 worth of personal estate. He and Mary were married at her father’s home in Kitsap County, March 4, 1862. The couple was described as “Mr. Sinclair, the handsome clerk and Miss Mary Low, the vivacious little teacher.” Two years later Woodbury went on ahead to Snohomish, then called “Cadyville,” in order to establish a logging camp for a local company, and ended up buying out Edson Cady. With William Clendenning he opened a small trading post on the north bank of the Snohomish River that catered to local loggers. “As the steamer landed at the gravel bank near the foot of Maple Street, a small clearing appeared in the otherwise unbroken timber. The town consisted of a rough log house on the bank in which supplies were stored. The store farther back, was a twelve by sixteen foot shack. The old building still standing [1911] at the corner of Maple and Commercial Streets, without windows, doors, or floor, in time was used for the store, with living rooms in the back.” The Sinclair’s infant son Alvin died 20 days later.


On the last day of April 1865, Mary Low Sinclair and her one-month-old son Alvin, boarded the small, unfinished steamer Mary Woodruff in Port Madison for a journey across Puget Sound and up the Snohomish River to the place called Cadyville, arriving the next day, the first day of May. Forty-six years later, Mary remembered that day in an article for the Snohomish County Tribune, published in 1911:

“There was much to do, but the pioneers were hustlers and could turn their hands to anything — no specialists in those days. The women, young and hopeful, fearing neither danger nor privation, soon began to make things look homelike. A large fireplace assisted considerably in clearing the dooryard, in which later bloomed old-fashioned flowers — Sweet Williams, Marigolds and Hollyhocks. There was no time to be lonesome; frogs sang cheerily in the nearby marshes; mosquitoes kept the people busy building smudges. Wild game was plentiful. The Indians brought venison, wild ducks, fish and clams. Also the ranchers from Snoqualmie Prairie brought delicious hams and bacons of their own curing.”

    Sinclair Property

A second son was born on November 14, 1866, whom they named Clarence Wood Sinclair, and he lived to become a popular captain of early Snohomish’s favorite steamship the Nellie in the 1870s.
“For two years there was no regular steamer outside, and the only fruit available was wild berries. But living was cheap and good, and not a butcher shop in forty miles. The Indian wives of the ranchers made sociable calls on their white neighbors, conversing in mingled Boston, Chinook, and Siwash Wa Wa (talk).”

Sinclair gravestone

Sinclair 1905 Mabel “May” H. Sinclair was born on April 28, 1869, and lived until 1935. Son Clarence died in 1905 from a sudden illness. And Mary died on a Sunday, June 11, 1922, following three days of illness. She was seventy-nine years old, still living in her home on Pearl Street, and still active as far as we know. The June 16th issue of the local paper carried no mention of her passing. The following week’s issue published a paragraph on the front page that read: “Mrs. Sinclair Was Earliest Settler In Snohomish. E. C. Morse, former Snohomish resident, in a letter to the Tribune concerning the death of Mrs. L. Sinclair, pioneer woman of this city, who died last week, states that Mrs. Sinclair was the first white woman to settle and make a home in Snohomish county, and was also the original owner of the town site Snohomish, eastern part.”
The Everett Herald, on the other hand, published an extensive obituary beginning on the front page, June 12, 1922, which told the story of her childhood and her parents, Lydia and John, who also settled in Snohomish around the time of Woodbury’s passing. The remains of all family members were interred in the town’s first cemetery.

The Catholic Church founded a second cemetery in 1895; but what was to become the largest cemetery was established in 1898 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Veteran’s group, simply referred to as the G.A.R. — both were located outside of town. Over the years, the picturesque cemetery alongside the river, framed by a white picket fence, was no longer needed for the newly dead, and so became neglected and eventually referred to as the “Indian Cemetery.” Consequently, not enough attention was paid in the 1940s when the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed that all of the pioneer graves had been moved to other cemeteries, when it extended 2nd Street north, cutting the historic cemetery site in two. There is no record of the Sinclair or Low remains being moved to the G.A.R. Only Woodbury’s faded white headstone, the imagined centerpiece of the Sinclair memorial, was rescued by the Snohomish Historical Society in the 1980s, and it was reset in a prominent position in the Society’s display of a pioneer graveyard.

Writing this in 2008, I can report that city funds have been allocated to create a memorial on the eastern side of the divided cemetery site, the part that borders the river, and we hope that both the Sinclair and Low names may be remembered along with the Indian dead who rested in this spot long before the coming of the white people.

—Mary L. Sinclair, “Sketch of Early Snohomish Life” (1911) reprinted in The Snohomish Story: From Ox Team to Jet Stream, Official Program, Snohomish Homestead Centennial, July 1959, p. 12;
—Stuart Eskenazi, “The Misplaced Pioneers,” The Seattle Times, September 2, 2001, pp. B1-2;
—“River Reflections: Snohomish City 1859-1910,” Snohomish Historical Society, (undated), pp. 54-55
—“Mary L. Sinclair Called by Death: An Early Pioneer,” The Everett Daily Herald, June 12, 1922, p. 1;
—“Mrs. Sinclair was Earliest Settler in Snohomish,” Snohomish County Tribune, June 23, 1922, p.1;
—Junius Rochester, “Low, John Nathan (1820-1888) and Lydia Low (d. 1901),” Essay 1049, November 2, 1998;
—Warner Blake, Early Snohomish (South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2007);

©2008 Warner Blake;  WLP Story # 53

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

Tillie Winkler Robinson’s Letters Home

HOW WE ARE PROGRESSING: Tillie Winkler Robinson’s Letters Home
Edited by Ann Norman

Late in 1889, at about the time President Harrison was declaring Washington a state, Tillie Winkler and Tom Robinson were planning their wedding. In January of 1890, the newly weds boarded a train and, like hundreds of others, headed for “Oregon Country” and the opportunities they hoped to find. Tillie corresponded regularly with her family during that journey and the following years, sharing her perceptions and describing events that were important to her. Remarkably, several of these letters have been preserved.

Thanks to the generosity of the Robinson family and the archives of the Everett Public Library, we have access to this rare first person account of one woman’s journey from Germantown, Pennsylvania to the newly declared state of Washington. Through her letters, Tillie gives us her first impressions of Port Gardner where the “magic city” of Everett was about to emerge and she provides us with glimpses of turn-of-the-century everyday life..

A portrait of Tillie as a young woman, probably taken at about the time of her marriage and trip to the west coast. Courtesy Robinson family

The following excerpts from her correspondence focus on her journey across the country, her first glimpses of the Pacific Northwest and her early attempts at homemaking. They illustrate Tillie’s unique experiences and reveal some of the realities of late nineteenth-century frontier life as well as showing what the journey to Everett may have been like for other Snohomish County foremothers.

Jan 22, 1890: “Dear sister … We are doing bravely. There is a fine cook stove on the train and we bake potatoes & make tea & coffee. We saw the Allegheny Mts & it was lovely going through…. Cold last night but we are going south right soon now. Love to all and a big share of it from Tom & Till.”

Jan 24: “We stopped at Chattanoga & bought a coffee pot…The potatoes were the best thing we had, tell Kate & the butter was so good we have it all eaten but a little bit. The potatoes were finished last night. Tell mother the pears were splendid. They are half gone. We will soon be in New Orleans….The journey is not half as bad as I expected but every thing is black in the morning. The dust gets in at the windows….”

Jan 27: “We are still traveling over prairie land and it is very dusty. It is too warm to keep the windows shut so we must have the dirt. We are 187 ft below the level of the sea & see some lovely mirages…You might think you saw lots of water & trees & cattle, but for miles around there is no water or anything but cactus & grease wood & mesquite. It will be dark tonight when we get to Los Angeles.”

Jan 28: “ We have to go to San Francisco…we can’t get a car to Portland. There has been a wash out & we will quite likely go by steamer….You should have seen our car yesterday and day before….nothing…but dust all over everything. Now it is all right…. We hear very good accounts of Portland all along the route….The mountains are something I shall never forget so long as I live. It was grand, for hundreds of miles…. If I had time I could tell you so much… “

January 29 [San Francisco]: “We…are nicely fixed, a lovely room with red plush furniture and …marble top table, at which I am writing… Brussels carpet on the floor & and an open fire place all for $1.00 or.$2.00, we don’t know which yet…We have seen lots of Chinamen….I must keep all the folks informed about our doings. Tom don’t write. He did all the cooking on the train so we are square….”

February 5: “We are now in the great Portland and have still to find out if it is as great as represented….It is very wet…the river is very high up into some of the streets… we saw a cabin washed down the river yesterday….The trip up the Pacific was stormy and rough. We were tossed about dreadfully and after the first meal… did not appear at table until Monday breakfast, in our berths all day Sunday…poor Tom, he fared badly…. We could not get to see each other. We were very sea sick, but if I had known that the steward neglected him I would have crawled over to him….

…we dream of you as well as think of you often. We are not going to get home sick of course, we have enjoyed every thing (except the sea voyage) ever so much. The trip on the Columbia & Willamette was something lovely….the sun shone…we saw a rainbow very low & then reflected in the hills…. I would not have missed it for a great deal, the trip over the mts & prairies, it was something grand….There are some folks came on the boat with us….They want us to go to Tacoma with them. It is a better place than Portland & not so wet…. I wish we could hear from you, it has been such a long time now all of two weeks…”

May 21: “I have been to the [Tacoma] P.O. so much that I am getting tired of it and will be so glad when all my letters come…Tom is going to make a table right away & on Saturday we are going for the stove & some other things for our kitchen & as we have our blankets & sheets we may possibly manage to get a bed to sleep on until ours comes…” Later letters boast of their two large rooms, enumerate their growing possessions and lovingly praise the wooden china closet Tom is building (a piece of furniture that still remains a cherished Robinson family heirloom). Tillie marvels at the mountains and the mild climate and describes bouquets of wild roses and weekend excursions in a borrowed rowboat. In November, she announces baby Willie’s birth and later notes when Tom takes the baby to the grocery store to weigh him, that he’s doubled his birth weight to 22 pounds.

She outlines her husband’s dreams of owning a mill. When Tom abruptly loses his job, she tells about their moving to a remote “shanty” and marvels at how Tom repairs its badly damaged stovepipe. “Everything is topsy turvy, but as soon as Tom gets some shelves & pegs up, I will get things fixed up a bit.” She covers the floor with paper and a carpet to make it “warm and cozy”, loyally contends the tiny cabin will eventually “look much nicer that those two immense rooms” and brags that she is helping Tom cut down and saw the immense trees around the house. “We have a 6 foot double handed cross cut saw & it was such fun…. Tom and I are eating as heartily as we used to at picnics….” Willie is put in front of the window or bundled up and taken outside “to watch the sawing & he likes it immensely too.”

Tillie and Tom’s first Everett house can be seen in the center of this early 1892 photo, next to Parminter Robinson & Co. (sash and door factory,) at the foot of 24th Street Bayside. King and Baskerville photographers. Courtesy Everett Public Library

Two years later in August, Tillie writes about their first excursion to Snohomish County: “…we had a delightful trip.,,, a very large & new boat went up the Sound to Port Gardner, where Tom has two friends who are putting up a factory there. He thought he would go to see them & take them some stuff to eat, as they are doing their own cooking & don’t have things of the best & not much time to cook, it being a new town & only one store & a few houses….”
When the boat arrives at Port Gardner, they can’t land. “The wharf was not quite finished…we were very much disappointed, but we saw the place where the new city is to be. It is a beautiful town site. Did not see the men & had to bring our things back…” She reports they stopped briefly in Mukilteo and Willie “played with the pebbles & enjoyed himself for all he was worth….”

In her next letter, Tillie tells her sister they plan to go to Port Gardner “as soon as possible…”. Existing correspondence does not indicate when that was, but the next letter in the collection, the only one written by Tom, was mailed from Everett on October 30, 1892. It was to Tillie’s sister Laura, announcing the arrival of their second son and assuring the family that Tillie and the baby were “resting nicely”. It was written on Parminter, Robinson & Co. letterhead.

Subsequent letters and family stories indicate that in addition to caring for her babies, cooking, sewing, gardening and maintaining a frontier home, Tillie became an active force in her church and ran a boarding house to supplement the family’s income. Eventually, as hoped, some of her sisters joined her in Everett. Later letters describe their active social lives and many suitors, along with her perceptions of Everett’s early economic and natural disasters. Tillie lived until 1957 and is fondly remembered as the beloved grandmother and matriarch of her extended family.

Tillie Winkler Robinson and grandchildren. Courtesy Robinson family

Sources: Tillie Winkler Robinson’s Letters and Postcards in Everett Public Library archives; Interview with Tillie’s great grandchildren, Dick Robinson and Terry Fithro.

© 2007 Ann Norman All Rights Reserved;  (WLP Story #41)

Jennie Gertrude “Gertie” Perrin

By Betty Lou Gaeng

“If I’m going out in the sticks, I’m going to start me a town.”  With those words spoken in 1938 to her husband Carl, feisty Gertie Perrin and her husband moved to the sticks—a few miles northeast of their comfortable home in downtown Edmonds.  Inspired to become a town founder, Gertie went to the courthouse in Everett and paid 10 cents to register a name for their acreage.  With this act by Gertie Perrin, the community of Perrinville was born.

Jennie Gertrude Osborn was born in Nind, Missouri, a small town located in the southwest section of Adair County.  She was the second child born to William and Mary Osborn.  Eventually, the Osborn home was filled with children. Zelpha, Jennie Gertrude, Sherman and Charles were born while the family was in Missouri.  William was born in Colorado.  Thomas, Dora and Penny were born after the family settled in California.

Gertie was eight years old when Mr. Osborn, a carpenter and a man who liked to travel, had the urge to move to California.  So, the family packed their belongings and headed west.  After a short stay in Colorado for the birth of William, the Osborns continued their westward trek.  Reaching California, they settled down in Redwood, Santa Clara County. Thus, in 1906 when the disastrous earthquake struck San Francisco, they were living a few miles south and east.  From their yard, Gertie and her family watched as the flames and smoke arose from the stricken town.  During an interview with Gertie which was published in “Centennial Profile” on page 46 of Edmonds, 100 Years for the Gem of Puget Sound (1990), she spoke of her remembrance of their house shaking a great deal, but no serious damage was done.

While living in California, Gertie had a very short teenage marriage to a young man with the last name of Warren.  In April of 1910 when the federal census was taken, Gertie was living with her parents; she was listed as Jennie G. Warren, age 16, and she had been married for six months. It was evidently a very short marriage. When Mr. Osborn got another urge to move on, Jennie (or Gertie as she preferred) was again Gertie Osborn with no hubby tagging along.

As Gertie said, her father liked to travel.  When Gertie was 17 years old and before 1910 came to an end, their new home was along the shores of Puget Sound in Edmonds, Snohomish County in the state of Washington.  Mr. Osborn must have been satisfied with this move as Edmonds became the family’s final home.  Many of Gertie’s family now are at rest in historic Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

On January 4, 1913, Gertie, now almost 20 years old, decided to try married life once again.  In Everett she married another Edmonds resident, 25-year old Andrew A. Henson.  Andrew was from Illinois and employed as a sawyer at one of the numerous sawmills dotting the waterfront of Edmonds.

Prior to this marriage and following, Gertie, never long idle, waited tables and cooked.  In 1918 she was cooking at the old Bishop Hotel at Second and Bell in Edmonds.  However, another divorce ended her marriage to Andrew Henson.  By 1930 Gertie was once again single.  It was at that time she met 36-year old Carl Perrin, a newcomer to Edmonds.  Carl was born in Greenwood, Arkansas and as a young man lived in Idaho and Eastern Washington with his widowed mother. He spoke of having been a Spokane police officer for five years. After moving to Edmonds, Carl became the manager of a restaurant and Gertie was a waitress.  On April 2, 1931 in Seattle, Gertie (Osborn) Henson and Carl Perrin married.  Carl O. “Skip” Perrin, Jr., the couple’s only child, was born June 18, 1932.

Gertie often said she had been cooking since she was nine years old.  She must have enjoyed it as through the years Gertie operated or managed at least five restaurants in Edmonds.  She also had one of the first antique shops in town.  She then owned and managed a doll shop which she called “Gertie’s Doll Hospital.”  Her business was destroyed by a fire in 1945.

Carl PerrinIn 1946 Gertie encouraged her friend Helen Reynolds to open a photography shop in Edmonds on the same property where Gertie once had a restaurant. In order to promote her talent as a photographer, Helen Reynolds displayed a striking photograph of Gertie’s husband Carl Perrin in the window of her studio on Main Street in Edmonds.

After purchasing 5-acre lots on three corners of the area that Gertie named Perrinville, the couple soon learned the lots were actually only three and one-half acres each.  However, Gertie and Carl eventually acquired a total of 35 acres for their community of Perrinville.  As shown by her vast business interests, Gertie was never idle, she not only established her “town” but she kept busy with her other enterprises in Edmonds.  Carl also had his own business interest—Perrinville Roofing Company.

Cutting down trees from a nearby hill on their property, Gertie and Carl used the logs to build their first home at Perrinville. Eventually they would build and live in several different residences.  As the years passed, Gertie promoted the concept of Perrinville as a solid investment for business interests and an eclectic assortment of enterprises soon developed on the corners at Olympic View Drive and 76th Avenue West.  The Perrins also built a garage/gas station and sold part of their property for the construction of a grocery store.

After 34 years of marriage, Gertie became a widow with the death of Carl on June 9, 1965.  Now without her partner, the always unsinkable Gertie continued to promote the ambience of Perrinville.  In later years, a very noticeable car washing business flourished at the old garage building on the southwest corner of Perrinville.  Featuring shapely scantily-clad young women as the car-washers, this business almost caused a few wrecks as drivers took their eyes off the road to take in the action.  Perrinville, like its founder, has always been unusual.

In recent times, a colorful painting of a clown brought a bit of fame to the old garage building.  The garage-art on the north side of the abandoned building was the work of a talented but unknown artist and was another eye-catcher for those traveling along Olympic View Drive.  The painting is gone now and the old garage is once again just an unadorned and abandoned building.
Gertie Perrin
As the years passed all of Gertie’s Perrinville property was sold except the house where she lived until her death at the age of 98.  She died on October 4, 1991—feisty to the end.  Their son Carl died May 18, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada, his home for many years.

Gertie lived long enough to see a partial realization of her dream of a town. Even though Perrinville never became an actual town, in 1990 the Perrinville Postal Service, Perrinville Carrier Facility, Edmonds, WA 98026 opened for business.  In the eyes of the federal government, Perrinville became an official place name.

Perrinville near Edmonds WAThrough the years Perrinville has remained a viable entity as a community of businesses and homes.  For many decades Gertie’s inspirational “town” has been a well-known landmark, its lands now shared by the cities of Edmonds and Lynnwood.


“Centennial Profile,” Edmonds: 100 Years for the Gem of Puget Sound (1990).  Published by The Edmonds Paper and the Edmonds Historical Museum.
Carl Perrin’s obituary, the Edmonds Tribune-Review, Wednesday, June 16, 1965.
Gertie Perrin’s obituary, The Seattle Times, October 5, 1991.
U.S. Federal census and vital records,
Washington State Digital Archives, Death and Marriage Records.
The author’s personal remembrances.

© 2010  Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved

Ruth Morrice

Part 2 of Ruth Morrice and her pioneer early life; continued from WLP Story #19

By Betty Lou Gaeng

Ruth Morrice portrait

The obituary for Ruth Morrice (WLP Story No. 19) presented a small glimpse into the life of this unusual woman, but there is much more, and if she were still with us, what a story Ruth could tell us.

As her obituary shows, Ruth was born December 13, 1901. A copy of her actual birth return tells a much fuller story of her entrance into the Morrice family. The return states: Ruth Morrice, was born five miles east of Edmonds, Snohomish County, Washington; fourth child born to Elizabeth Stevenson [Stephenson] and William Morrice. It is signed by R. L. Chase, M.D. of Edmonds, a doctor who served the entire area of South Snohomish County during its early days.

Ruth’s aunt Jennie Hunter, her mother’s sister, lived a short distance from the Morrice family, westward and up the hill on the 80-acre homestead of the Duncan Hunter family–another pioneer family on land that would become part of Alderwood Manor, and then Lynnwood.

Ruth had an older sister and brother, Jessie and William Jr. Another sister, Ruby Agnes, the eldest child in the family, died in 1899 at the age of nine from an inflammation and gangrene.

Log House of Morrice Family

Ruth’s birthplace, the 160-acre homestead of her parents, today is a bustling collection of stores and other businesses. It is a place where hundreds of cars can be seen in the parking lots each day. Their owners gather to shop, attend the movies, or eat at the variety of restaurants. Opened six years after Ruth’s death, this is Alderwood, the largest shopping mall in Snohomish County.

At the mall people can shop at the flagship stores of Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Penney’s and Sears, or at any of the vast array of smaller shops which are part of this huge complex. Teenagers find it a great place to gather and meet with friends, and of course there is the huge movie complex where all the latest movies are available. Each morning before the stores are open for business, walkers make use of the protection from the weather as they stroll amid the still barred businesses. We can only wonder what Ruth would think of her birthplace if she could see it today.

Ruth was a woman born too soon. She was an independent woman who would fit perfectly into our world of today. As noted, Ruth never married. Her picture shows her as a very pretty girl, so we can assume she had beaus and the opportunity for marriage. Rumors have abounded that as a young lady she was in love with her long-time beau, and that this man whom she expected to marry, broke her heart when he chose another as his mate.

Maple Leaf schoolchildren

However, there is a possibility that she yearned for someone else entirely. As a young girl attending the old Maple Leaf School, before the community was named Alderwood Manor, she had a very good friend, a classmate whom she had known all her life, David Ward Reid. In the c. 1916 picture of the school children, Ruth is the second girl (left to right) and David is the boy next to her. In 1920, while working as a stump blaster on Puget Mill Company land near Hall’s Lake in the nearby community of Cedar Valley, David lost his life. He was only 20 years old. David’s death must have been a great tragedy for Ruth.

Another, and a very possible reason may be that Ruth always found life as a single woman much more suitable. After all, as her obituary states, she often had a houseful of the children belonging to her family and friends to enjoy. She also had her long-time service at the post office and her friends at Eastern Star, many of whom she had known for a lifetime; she had many hobbies, and she enjoyed traveling. Her life was always a busy one.
After her mother’s death in 1934 and having lived all her life on the property where she was born, Ruth decided to make a change. In 1936, she hired carpenters to build a house for her on property left to her by her uncle, Duncan Hunter. Emil Stadler, a local man, was one of those men who worked on the construction. Built on Spruce Way (now Lynnwood’s 40th Street West), her new home was adjacent to her Hunter cousins’ land–only a short distance from her childhood home place.

Ruth was living in this house on Spruce Way when the 1940 U.S. Federal Census was taken. Released to the public on April 2, 2012, the 1940 census furnished information regarding income from 1939 employment. Ruth listed her income for that year as $720 from her work as a clerk for the U.S. Postal Service, plus other resources. A very meager salary compared to the earnings in today’s world.

On Sunday, February 4, 1973, while at home and sitting in her favorite chair, Ruth died at the age of 71.

Ruth Morrice’s Lynnwood home, surrounded by tall evergreens, still stands today. The current owners of the house realize and respect the fact that they are living in the former home of an icon of the historic community of Alderwood Manor.


Photo of log cabin birthplace of Ruth Morrice used with permission of Alderwood Manor Heritage Society from Images of America Alderwood Manor by Marie Little, Kevin K. Stadler and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association (2006), Arcadia Publishing.
Photo of school children and teacher courtesy of Mary (Reid) Emerson, niece of David Reid.
Birth Return for Ruth Morrice – Washington State Digital Archives.
Death Return for Ruby Agnes Morrice – Washington State Digital Archives.
Information from Karl Stadler and Halide (Lobdell) Patterson, residents of the community who knew Ruth Morrice personally.
Death information regarding David Ward Reid—The Tribune-Review, Edmonds, Washington.
1940 U.S. Federal Census –
Photo of a young Ruth Morrice — From the Northwest Room Collection, Everett Public Library.
© 2012 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story Number 72 ~  (see part 1 (WLP Story # 19)


Mary (Knott) Langrill

A Survivor & a Mapping Mystery

by Betty Gaeng

The name M. Langrill printed on a plat map was the first clue to lead me to the intriguing and poingant story Township 27 Section 35d poignant story of a lady who came from far away to join the sisterhood of women who were part of Snohomish County’s past.

This discovery was made when I was a co-worker on a project involving landholders listed on the 1910 Plat Map of Township 27 North, Range 4 East, W.M., Snohomish County, Washington. As I observed the names, for some reason the name M. Langrill shown as the owner of a mere 10-acre parcel of land caught my eye. At the time I had no idea whether the name referred to a man or a woman. All I could tell was that amidst the large platted acreages, M. Langrill owned only 10 acres in his or her name. In our day this piece of land would be located in the city of Brier in Southwest Snohomish County. In 1910, I imagine it was ten acres of virgin forest—no building is shown on the plat.

My first discovery was that M. Langrill was female, a widow by the name of Mary Langrill and she had lived in Edmonds since 1891, never on the 10-acres she owned several miles southeast of the town. That land was most likely an investment toward her future welfare. From then on, bits and pieces of her life story and its many tragedies emerged.

Mary Knott was her birth name. Mary and her twin Martha were born in Plymouth, Devonshire, England on February 6, 1860. Their parents were John and Mary Knott, both born in England. Of this family, consisting of five girls and two boys, six came to the United States. At the age of 20, Mary traveled alone on her journey from England to Canada and then to the United States in 1882. She came to join an older brother and sister who had established a pioneer home in Minnesota in the small county of Rock situated in the southwest corner of the state. When the Minnesota State Census was taken the first day of May in 1885, Mary was enumerated as residing with her older brother John E. Knott in the village of Kanaranzi in Rock County. Nearby a young man by the name of Frank Langrill was also listed in the same census.

Franklin Langrill was born in Canada in 1859. He and Mary Knott met and they soon married. The couple did not remain in Minnesota; instead the newlyweds loaded their few belongings onto a covered wagon and with their one cow tied behind, they traveled to Seneca, Faulk County, South Dakota. Mary and Frank began farming on a small parcel of land. It was a hardscrabble life for the couple. Three daughters were born to them in Seneca: Nellie in 1886, Ethel Frances in 1888 and Edith Mary in 1890.

Mary told the story of one event happening at their little home site; an event that almost had a tragic ending. The three little girls were playing outside when a stampede of cattle came roaring towards them. They were carried to safety by their mother— just in time. This may have been the final straw that led to the couple’s decision to move elsewhere in order to find a better way of life than trying to eke out a living in South Dakota with its heat in the summer and cold snowy winters.

In 1891, Mary, Frank, and the three little girls headed west to Washington State’s Snohomish County and the town of Edmonds along the shore of Puget Sound. In Edmonds they lived on Maple Street and Frank found work as a teamster. Their life as hardscrabble farmers was ended.

Three more daughters were born to Mary and Frank. Emma was born in 1895, but died August 31, 1897. Jessie Marie was born November 7, 1897 and died just before Christmas of 1898. These were tragic times for the Langrill family. The two little girls were buried in the historic I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Edmonds—a cemetery now known as Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

Mary and Frank’s sixth and last child was another daughter. She was born in July of 1899 and they named her Ruth Evangeline.

Less than two years later, Mary endured another loss. While her husband Frank and a friend were hunting near Mud Lake (now known as Lake Serene) a few miles northeast of Edmonds, tragedy struck again. The two men had become separated and during the darkness, about 3 o’clock on Sunday morning, June 9, 1901, Frank’s hunting companion mistook him for a bear and fired his rifle. The shot struck Frank in his right leg just above the knee. Frank fell into the lake, and was pulled from the water by his friend. Miles from the nearest hospital located in Everett, they did not reach it until 10 o’clock that morning—seven hours after the accident. The shock and loss of blood was too much; Frank died at Everett Hospital that day. The shooting was officially ruled as accidental. Frank was buried at the I.O.O.F. Cemetery near the couple’s two small daughters. He was 42 years old.gravestone

With her husband gone and four young daughters still at home, one just a toddler, Mary became a laundress. Working from her home in Edmonds, she somehow managed to support her family and to save a little money to invest in the 10 acres of timberland.

Frank’s death was not the end of sorrow for Mary. Daughter Nellie Langrill died from tuberculosis during September of 1907 at the age of 21. Nellie was laid to rest next to her father and two little sisters. All in all, Mary outlived her husband and five of her daughters. Ruth Evangeline, who had been the toddler when her father was killed, died in March of 1920. She was not quite 21 years old.

Daughter Ethel Francis married George E. Davis and went with him to live on a farm in Lincoln County, Eastern Washington. Ethel and George had ten children; Mary’s only grandchildren. Ethel died when she was just 40 years old, in October of 1929. Ethel was also buried at the I.O.O.F. Cemetery beside her father and four sisters.

After Ethel’s death, several of her children were sent to live with Grandmother Mary and Aunt Edith (Mrs. Joseph Miller) in Edmonds. There they attended the Edmonds schools, graduating from the highgravemarker school.
Having endured one loss after another, Mary must have been very thankful she still had her daughter Edith. During the last few years of her life, Mary resided in south Edmonds with this one surviving daughter and her husband. Mary died there on August 15, 1933 at the age of 73. She was buried next to her husband Frank and five of their daughters.

On the January 3, 1978, surviving daughter Edith Mary Langrill Miller died and she now lies beside her Langrill family at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery. Mary and Frank and their six little girls are together now. Their graves occupy a large area of the original section of the old cemetery. Through the years, a few grandchildren have also joined Mary and Frank there. In visiting their graves, I felt as if I was standing amid a family’s reunion.

Mary Knott Langrill was not famous with a spectacular career as a mover and shaker in life’s affairs. She left only a few reminders for us. One a paper trail on a plat map showing her as the owner of 10 acres of land. She left a few other trails along the way as she buried a husband and five daughters in the soil of Snohomish County. As a young woman of 20, she began her travels alone, crossing an ocean from her home in England. She had a long and difficult journey before she reached her final destination. Now she sleeps in the soil of her adopted home, and her name is woven into the fabric of this county’s history.

Anderson Map Company, and James W. Myers. Plat Book of Snohomish County Washington. Seattle, Wash: Anderson Map Co, 1910. Plat map of Township 27 North, Range 4 East, W.M., Snohomish County, Washington.
Washington State Digital Archives < >
Everett Daily Herald – Monday, June 10, 1901 < >
Edmonds Tribune-Review—August 18, 1933 and January 11, 1978.
© 2010 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved;  WLP STory #68

Mary Webb Duryee

Small Town Girl, Big Time Communicator

A young fireman on a fund drive in North Everett approached a little lady out sweeping her front porch. She asked bright pertinent questions, was kind, reassuring and happy to donate. However, by the time he walked away, he had volunteered to help raise money for her latest cause, the Imagine Children’s Museum. He had met a veteran fund-raiser, Mary Webb Duryee.

Born in 1918, Mary Webb was the only child of “O.T.” and Mandy Webb, whose modest house stood in a North Everett neighborhood where everybody knew everybody. Back in the early 1920s Mary could be found sweeping the porch of her back-yard playhouse or fixing sandwiches for the neighborhood kids; she hated being an only child, but not one to brood, surrounded herself with friends. School gave her more friends and bigger groups to organize, and in the eighth grade she won a Rotary Achievement Award. The awards luncheon proved to be a watershed event in her life: her interest in people had led her to community service, and she met Daniel Duryee Sr., who would one day be her father-in-law and real estate mentor.

Mary’s father, O.T. Webb, an Everett attorney, instilled in her a desire to take initiative, work hard and appreciate what she had. The Webbs were Norwegian immigrants from Wisconsin who had come to the Everett/Lowell area by boxcar in 1899. O.T’s sisters (Mary’s aunts) all had put themselves through nursing school. He had worked his way through University of Washington Law School, graduating in 1905. O.T organized and became Grand Lodge President of the local branch of Scandinavian Fraternity of America (SFA) and often gave long speeches encouraging members to help the needy, respect women, and be kind to mothers! Mary often accompanied her father to SFA events, such as a picnic in June 1930 where she heard him give one of his rousing speeches to 600 Scandinavians. She was embarrassed when he introduced her to people as his “promising daughter”, but it also made her realize he had great confidence in her.
Mary was a natural leader. Like her father, she had a knack for public speaking. But leadership itself was not her goal, she just wanted to be INVOLVED. She was President of her 9th grade class, and later Everett High School Girl’s Club president, but her 1935 commencement speech was titled “The Homemaker”. Mandy, Mary’s mother, the daughter of Swedish immigrants, had had little education herself but it was she who made sure Mary learned to sing, dance, speak in public, sew, cook, garden, and, of course—entertain, important in the world of organizing community functions.

At the University of Washington, Mary seriously considered a degree in law, something much promoted by her father. But the depression was in full swing and the five year law course was expensive. Instead, she majored in history, became president of her sorority and in 1938 represented her sorority at their national Convention. After college, Mary moved home, enrolled in Mrs. Rogers’ Business School and got a job at a bank.
Her marriage in 1941 to Dan Duryee, Jr. was the beginning of a great partnership, a love affair that lasted until his passing in 1990. When they married, Mary was welcomed into an “old” family, which had been in this country for 8 generations, and included women of great strength and character. One of Danny’s grandmothers, a single parent and businesswoman, had staked a claim in Alaska during the Gold Rush. His other grandmother, an Everett pioneer, well-educated for her time, had been a founding member of the Everett Women’s Book Club back in 1894. And Mary had suddenly acquired siblings: Danny’s two dynamic and creative older sisters.

In return, Mary cherished her role as Mrs. Dan Duryee Jr. In Danny, she had found a soul-mate: both found PEOPLE endlessly fascinating. Like Mary, Danny was an early-riser, a list-maker, problem-solver, and good organizer; like Danny, Mary loved children, animals, sentimental movies, popular music, dancing, and bringing people together. They were both absolutely committed to Everett and exceptionally unselfish and low-profile about their good works.
Dan and Mary were just beginning their lives together when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States entered World War II. Assuming he would be drafted, Dan asked Mary to join the staff of the family company, D.A. Duryee and Co., learn the real estate business, and get the credentials to run the company. Thus, in 1942, Mary became one of the first women in Washington State to have her own real estate license and, at age 24, when Danny joined the army, she began coordinating every aspect of the business.

Real estate was very different then from what it is now. Multiple Listing Service and office computers didn’t exist. She opened and closed the office seven days a week, inspected property, showed houses (being careful not to compete with the veteran salesmen), wrote and posted ads, handled escrow, banking, payroll, rents, bills, repairs, and leases, and loyally chauffeured her father-in-law.

She gave pep talks to boost morale and mediated staff, tenant, and family dramas. But, somehow, she found time to read and answer the long, detailed letters her husband wrote during the war…love letters of a unique kind because they focused on Everett, on the challenges Mary faced, and on their future together.

Mary Duryee at Lake Bosworth on a bright day, Feb. 22, 1944. Daniel Duryee, Sr. took photo. “The person in the picture is so enthused, I assume, that she is already practicing her gestures to emphasize to a customer at some later date, some of the attractive points of this property.”

Mary adored her father-in-law, Daniel Sr. and while working along side him during the war years, she learned as much about community service as she did about real estate. Dan Sr. had grown-up with the town, graduated from EHS in 1898, and personally helped rescue the struggling YMCA in 1900. He understood and actively supported the town’s backbone of human services. In his quiet, hard-working way, Dan Sr helped Mary see how much a single individual could contribute to strengthening a community.

When Dan returned home in 1946, Mary handed over the big stack of nearly completed contracts that happened to be on her desk and became “the Homemaker”. Within a year, Dan Sr had passed away, Mary was pregnant, and Danny was re­invigorating his company; DA Duryee & Co went on to grow and prosper for 50 more years, but Danny used to say of the war years: “we couldn’t have done it without Mary”. She gladly became a full-time housewife, and then Mom to her two daughters, but she was never really out-of-the-loop of her husband’s working life. She had enjoyed the action of real estate, its potential for meeting people’s wants and needs, and for several decades she kept her real estate license current…..just in case.

While Danny worked 12 to 15-hour days both at his office and with various community boards, Mary kept her desk at home piled high with to-do lists, agendas, and her ever-growing card file of names. Like many others, she began soliciting door- to- door for Children’s Orthopedic Hospital and then worked with their North Everett Guild for many years. She served for 13 years on the YMCA board, worked as fund-raiser and board member for UGN (later United Way) and helped organize and run her church bazaars, for which she’d spoon 10-gallon kettles of mincemeat into jars every November for decades. She was a life member of the Children’s Foundation at Everett General Hospital, organized many charity auctions and fund-raisers for the local Junior Club and supported Volunteers of America and Campfire USA.   A highlight of her life was her decade as Campfire group leader for each of her daughters. “Miss Mary” held meetings in a cabin-like room above her garage. It had plain wooden floors, an upright piano, a big table for art projects and a special row of coat hooks, each with a little girl’s name on it. While it may have felt like a “play-room”, one wall was also covered with a big map of the world, and while Mary wanted the girls to find fun and friendship, her primary goal was to teach them to be responsible. She was just as comfortable helping the shy Campfire girl earn her first service beads as she was when speaking to a big crowd at a charity banquet.
Mary continues to live just three blocks from the house where she was born. Her own Everett Women’s Book Club group, now down to eight women, has been meeting regularly since 1947. Her Campfire girls stay in touch and still call her “Miss Mary”. She quietly supports many charities and non-profits around town, including the Emma Yule Society. However, when the opportunity came to help organize support for the Imagine Children’s Museum in the early 1990’s, she put on her old walking-shoes, and went, with cane, to the meetings, thrilled once again, to be making lists and stuffing envelopes.
In September 2007, at the United Way Spirit of Snohomish Co Breakfast, Mary was given the Reeves/Sievers Award for Lifetime community service. The keynote speaker that day, Lou Tice, said about people like Mary: “You can’t control how much you get, but you can control how much you give.”

Sources: Personal remembrance and family photographs, Maureen Duryee.
© 2008 Maureen Duryee All Rights Reserved

Eva Jones Davis—Everett Pioneer

Eva Jones Davis as Phone operator, circa 1903

One stormy summer day in 1891, Mary Jones and her eight-year-old daughter Eva boarded a small steamer in Olympia and journeyed north. A newly built one-room house was waiting for them, near the Snohomish River, at a place that would soon be called Everett, Washington.

From the start, Eva and her family considered themselves “pioneers.” Traveling to Washington State by train from the Midwest, the Joneses first settled in Chehalis, then Olympia, and finally Everett, a pattern that, in variation, was repeated by hundreds of new arrivals to the Pacific Northwest over the next twenty years. For many, the journey was a movement west. For others the journey was south or north or east, depending on their place of origin. Their experiences were as diverse as their numbers. What they held in common was a strong sense of independence and the dream of improving their lives. Many, like the Joneses, came with adventure in their hearts.

Eva’s father Bert Jones, a millwright, had arrived earlier to help install machinery for a paper mill in Lowell (now part of Everett) and a concentrator for the mining town of Monte Cristo, east of town in the Cascade Mountains.

The Puget Sound waters were rough on the day they traveled and most of the passengers aboard the steamboat became seasick. Eager to end their trip, Mary and Eva disembarked at a dock on Port Gardner Bay and walked two miles through brush across the peninsula to their house. The steamer continued its journey to a wharf on riverside and the crew unloaded their belongings, including the family cat and a caged bird, on the grassy riverbank.

Recalling her childhood memories of that day nearly eighty years before, Eva told what she had seen when she first arrived. The town wasn’t really a town yet. Mostly it resembled a battle field strewn with stumps, mud and bogs. Few families had arrived. Eva and her mother may have thought of the challenges ahead trying to live in such a primitive place. The only people Eva saw were workers clearing the land and others who came to sell goods and lodging to the workers. There was a general store and post office on the bayside and a grocery, a cigar stand and a hotel near the river. Eva recalled seeing their makeshift, temporary structures. Some had tent roofs. Workers cut trees, cleared land and burned stumps, prompting one journalist to describe the town site as “an inferno where smoke filled the air and smoldering stumps glowed red at night.”
Everett Townsite, 1891, courtesy of Everett Public Library, Everett, WA

By the fall of 1891, there were enough children at the town site to start a school. Temporary classrooms were set up in the Brue Building on Everett Avenue. Eva’s best friend and playmate was neighbor Gracie Spithill whose grandfather and grandmother had homesteaded years before the city of Everett was imagined. Gracie was part Scot and part Snohomish Indian. While Eva was to live a long life, Gracie died as a child.

Eva and the Brue building school, circa 1890s, courtesy Everett Public Library Northwest Room

Eva quickly learned to care for herself since her father was often at Monte Cristo and her mother was a midwife who sometimes was away for days delivering babies. Mary Jones trusted in home remedies and Eva continued to use her mother’s recipes throughout her life. She made her own cough syrup and remembered once making a salve that helped to save a young boy’s injured leg. When asked what ingredients she used, Eva replied “That’s a long story. We were standing on the ocean beach in Oregon. And we see something shining way out in the water. Well the tide was coming and that tin came to us and it was a jar of Stockholm tar. Of course it was runny and I didn’t know what to mix with it, so I got Vaseline and melted the Vaseline and mixed half and half and made a salve out of it. It was a gallon can and it lasted a long time.”

As a young woman, Eva was a telephone operator. It was here that she met James H. Davis, a lineman who came to town with a traveling work crew stringing telephone lines. Eva and James began dating and married in 1903. The couple lived in the Jones’s family home for four years and Eva gave birth to their first child, a daughter. The Davises eventually had a home of their own on riverside and a son was born.

In 1977 Eva was interviewed in her home by Margaret Riddle and David Dilgard of the Everett Public Library and shortly before her death, photographer Carolyn Kozo Cole took pictures of her [see photo to the right]. Eva described herself as a “homebody”, a person who “didn’t neighbor much.” She was not involved in church or club activities. Her life revolved instead around her home and her family. Since arriving in Everett, she had lived in only two houses and both were on Everett’s riverside. Her home was filled with treasures from the past including cyanotype photos made by an aunt which were then printed on 4” x 5” pieces of cloth and quilted as pillows. There are quite a lot of Everett pictures in there,” Eva had said. “I’ve had those for years and years and years…..they never fade.” When Eva reminisced, she occasionally pointed to an item that reminded her of someone from the past, such as a clock that once belonged to early pioneer and bicycle shop owner Arthur Baily.

Eva Jones Davis; Photographer Carolyn Kozo Cole

Eva loved to garden and each plant in her yard had its own story. Less a feat of professional gardening than a personal statement, Eva’s property had the look of land that has been cared for over many years by the same person. One glorious cedar tree dominating her back yard had been planted by Eva when she was young.
Throughout her long life Eva Laura Jones Davis had never “doctored much.” When at 97 years of age she was diagnosed with cancer, she simply said to a granddaughter “Take me home”, which is where she died on March 21, 1980. When asked for her secret to a long life, she replied “I haven’t any secret. I’m just allowed to live this long and I like it. I have seven grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren, so that makes me a great lady!”

Sources: Interview with Eva Jones Davis by David Dilgard and Margaret Riddle, July 25, 1977; Riddle, Margaret, “Oral History: Eva Jones Davis”, Journal of Everett and Snohomish County History, Vol. 5 (Everett, 1983) p. 23-31.
© 2006 Margaret Riddle All Rights Reserved;  WLP Story # 36 ~