Marie Louise Anderson Wenberg

– Political Activist, Teacher and Postmaster & Park Namesake
Marie Louise Anderson (SAHS 2001_132_07)

Born in Minnesota October 4th 1884, this photograph of a determined and serious little girl is the first in which she never smiled. In 1906 she graduated from Pacific Lutheran Academy in Parkland, Washington. She studied to be a teacher and taught at Parkland Parochial School. Following that she also taught in Tacoma, Port Madison, and Quincy and Arlington public schools until about 1910. In May 1911 Marie Louise Anderson and Oscar Wenberg married at the Parkland Lutheran Church and two years later in 1913 Marie and Oscar Wenberg bought a farm near Florence Washington.

That same year Marie became Matron of Josephine Old People’s Home*; Oscar was Superintendant for three years. In an account by Bertha Logan who was a one of the caregivers there “Mr. Wenberg was chaplain and tended the coal burning furnace and various task, while Mrs. Wenberg kept the books and took care of business and social jobs”…the home had a barn and cows on the 10 acres with a garden large enough to grow produce for the 18-19 residents.
In the 1920 Census Oscar is listed as a wheat farmer, he and Marie have two children, Marie and Johan. She was active in many organizations during these years including Stanwood’s Monday Study Club and the Stillaguamish Grange. She joined the Snohomish County Federated Womens Club as a founding member. She was also a member of the Snohomish County Legislative Federation and the Womens Christian Temperance Union. She and Oscar both became political activists.

Photo from the East Stanwood Press Nov. 1, 1922

In 1922 (the same year East Stanwood incorporated) she appears in a newspaper promotion advertising her candidacy as the Farmer – Labor nominee for the Washington State Legislature from the 49th District. Her slogan was “Dare to do right” and “Wring Out the profits and operate for service.” The Farmer Labor party was a small third party primarily representing workers and labor rights at a time when companies didn’t provide sick leave or worker’s compensation. It won about 19 percent of the vote that year. In 1936 there were strikes and walkouts threatened at the mills and canneries. The local companies did not recognize the union but in most cases they already paid higher than union wages in so union activism in Stanwood was short-lived (see Echoes Winter 2019). She lost to Alonzo Willhite and R. D. Deselle (both Republicans) at a time when the top two vote became the two representatives of the district.
Marie never ran for office again but worked for her husband and continued to advocate for her causes. As a member of the Womens Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) she opposed amending the “dry law” to permit manufacture or sale of wine or beer, though it was upheld.
Marie and Oscar lived on a small farm near “Norman” in the Stillaguamish Valley through 1930. Oscar was farming and Marie continued teaching.

In 1929 Gunderson replaced his original Star Furniture storefront with a new building to house a new East Stanwood Post Office.  That building still stands with his name on it pictured above.**

In 1935 at the age of 50, Marie became postmistress in East Stanwood taking over from C. J. Gunderson who had established the East Stanwood Post Office in 1913. The post office building in East Stanwood was originally located in the building that later became a barber shop on the south side of the street. Later Gunderson, an influential businessman in East Stanwood moved it to his hardware / furniture / store (the Star Furniture Company building). Her husband Oscar had a partnership in the Gunderson’s hardware store at the time. Gunderson was also the local undertaker.
While working as Postmaster, in 1936 Mrs. Louise Wenberg was made President of the Snohomish County Rural Recreation Committee (Stanwood Story v. 2 p.90) In this role she began a campaign to purchase 20 acres on the east side of Lake Goodwin from C. D. Hillman for $1500 to be established as a park. 1939 Oscar elected to Washington State House of Representatives – served through 1952. His political platform included support for labor, pensions, the Grange program and the public utility. He also was influential in the effort towards funding the construction of the Stanwood Camano Mark Clark bridge and the new Camano Island State Park.

In November of 1939 Marie Wenberg, as President of the Snohomish County Rural Park Association dedicated the small County park at Lake Goodwin. Funds for the park came from the W.P.A. in the amount of $8,160 and the balance from the County. Though Rep. Wenberg’s standing as a legislator inevitably helped this cause an editorial in the Arlington Times Aug. 30, 1956 stated “It was Mrs. Wenberg who kept up a persistent campaign that came precariously close to failure until finally the plot became county property and was ad available to the State.” The Twin City News (Nov 9, 1939) reported that “the park will be known hereafter as Wenberg park, honoring Mrs. Louise Wenberg, through whose untiring efforts the work was carried on.”

Wenberg Park shelter – The Wenbergs (far left and second from right) and county officials who established Wenberg County Park named for Marie Wenberg. (photo from Wenberg files at the SAHS); Courtesy Stanwood Area Historical Society 2001_132_10

Various individuals and organizations also donated time and equipment for grading and graveling the road and building ball fields and picnic areas. The County park became a State Park in 1947 but went back to being a Snohomish County park in 2009.

After 10 years at the end of the ware in 1945 Marie Wenberg resigned as East Stanwood Postmaster at the age of 61. In 1952 her husband Oscar Wenberg died of a stroke where they lived with their daughter. Marie lived twenty more years and died Nov 15, 1972 at age of 84.

For more photographs and a slightly modified version of this story – see the Stanwood Area Echoes #64

Sources:
“Farmer Labor Candidate for lower House” East Stanwood Press, Stanwood News, Arlington Times and Everett Herald. “Will incorporate Recreation body” Arlington Times Apr. 2, 1936 “Credit where is due” Editorial August 30, 1956 Arlington Times; Wenberg Luce Family Records Stanwood Area Historical Society; “Mrs. Wenberg Active in Civic Affairs” [paid advertisement] Arlington Times, Nov. 2, 1922 “The Emergence of the Farmer-Labor Party in Washington Politics, 1919-20” Hamilton Cravens The Pacific Northwest Quarterly Vol. 57, No. 4 (Oct., 1966), pp. 148-157 (10 pages). Interview with Louise Wenberg Luce (daughter – in – law) 2008

[*later Josephine Sunset Home now Josephine Caring Community]

**The East Stanwood Post Office was located in this new Gunderson Building until 1960 when the new Post Office building was built (now the Stanwood Camano News offices).  About that same time the towns and post offices consolidated and the post office operated there until 1976 when the new current Post office building was completed.

Stanwood and East Stanwood post offices were separate until they were consolidated under Lars Sagen in 1961 soon after the two towns consolidated.
In 1965 Sagen retired and Ray Brandstrom became Postmaster. At that time postmasters were appointed by the President through a patronage system of appointing postmasters and rural letter carriers. In 1969 that was finally changed by President Richard Nixon. The Postmaster General then appointed all postmasters from within the competitive Civil Service.
In 1976 the new (current) Post Office building was completed.

Copyright  Karen Prasse & Stanwood Area Historical Society; WLP Story #84

 

 

Lillian Sylten Spear

Lillian Spear 1941

~ Public Power Advocate
By Margaret Riddle

Her Early Years

Lillian E. Anderson Sylten Spear was an important player in Snohomish County’s public power movement. An educator and persuasive speaker, she once told the press that she loved tackling issues that helped to better democratize her community. Public power sparked her interest, a cause supported by the Washington State Grange. Lillian began working for the Grange in 1936 and never looked back.

Lillian was born in Portland, Oregon on July 26, 1897 to Norwegian immigrant parents Oline Mahlen and Alexander Anderson and was next to the youngest of thirteen children. In the early 1900s the Andersons moved to Everett where Lillian attended city schools. She earned a teaching certificate from Ellensurg Normal and worked as Principal of Silver Lake Elementary, which is now part of the Everett School District. Already married by this time, Lillian was able to serve as a school administrator but would have been discouraged from teaching as a married woman. Wed in 1920 to Arne Sylten, a lumber inspector, the couple had three daughters, Olene, Daphne and Joann. This marriage eventually ended in divorce. Lillian remarried in 1944, this time to Harrison George Spear, a marriage that lasted five years.

Public Power for Snohomish County

Passage of the Washington State Grange Power Bill on November 4, 1930 spurred action to create public power districts in those areas that had not already done so. With the 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and public power advocate Homer T. Bone as Washington State Representative, the state seemed ready for public utility ownership. Both Grant and Spokane counties created public utility districts that year.

Snohomish County’s struggle took longer. Puget Sound Power & Light had organized a farm electrification department in 1924 and, despite high and unfair rates, they dominated Snohomish County.   The Grange aggressively opposed Puget Power’s hold and placed a measure on the 1932 ballot to create a Snohomish County public power district. But ten Snohomish County mayors and the Everett Herald, worked to defeat the initiative. Herald editorials warned that the law would give PUD commissioners power to condemn and confiscate property, thus reducing tax revenue. An organization called the Snohomish County Tax Reduction Association implied that this measure was an effort to seek public payroll jobs. Underlying their opposition was a fear of socialism or, as some perceived it, communism. The measure was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

The Tri-Way Grange in Silver Lake

The federal government’s creation of the Grand Coulee Dam in Eastern Washington and the Bonneville Dam near Portland gave momentum to organize for public power since public utility districts were given priority to receive electricity generated from the two facilities. With this incentive, Snohomish County PUD was formed by county vote in 1936. But the struggle to acquire Puget Power’s Snohomish County properties—so that the district could begin selling electricity—continued for over a decade.

Becoming Involved

Lillian adult life began as a mother and an educator. In addition to serving as the Silver Lake Elementary principal, she was also president of the Snohomish County Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Her organizational skills quickly led her to a position on the PTA’s state board. Lillian also worked actively in the Democratic Party but it was the Grange and their support of public power that interested her most. In a newspaper article Lillian stated that she had to learn about public power. At the start she still cooked on a wood range and didn’t even have a refrigerator. But Sylten soon was a knowledgeable spokesperson. In 1936 she ran for Public Utility Commissioner and, although she did not win, her name became known. She quit her job as school principal to actively work for public power. From 1940 to 1946 Lillian served as District Auditor for the Snohomish County PUD.

She became an influential public speaker and in 1941 told a reporter:

“We had two bad years when our county was pointed to as a bad example. We had inefficient commissioners. The only way we could educate people about the power projects was to go out and talk to them and answer their questions. That was my work.” (Spear, Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Everett Herald editor and publisher Gertrude Best was an outspoken opponent of public power. Without Herald support, the Grange relied on speaking campaigns. Lillian spoke to clubs and organizations, particularly taking the message to Snohomish County women. She also helped organize distribution of literature and when it came to fundraising, she often simply passed the hat. In telling her story later to historian Richard Berner, Lillian recalled her battles with Gertrude Best, saying that the only time she received front-page coverage in the Everett Herald was when she was ticketed for speeding. The headline had read: “Mrs. Sylten Arrested”.

More Organizing
In 1939 Snohomish County PUD joined six other Washington State public utility districts to buy Puget Power. Lillian Sylten became secretary of the negotiating group named the Puget Sound Utility Commissioners’ Association (PSUCA). The group soon realized that Puget Power was not bargaining in good faith and were attempting to stop the buyout. A Washington Public Ownership League (WPOL) was formed and Sylten became its secretary.

Negotiations stalled then were renewed many times in efforts to establish a fair price. Snohomish County PUD joined other PUDs in filing a condemnation procedure against Puget Power. Boxes of Lillian S. Spear material in the University of Washington’s Special Collections attest to her involvement in Initiative 12, sponsored by the WPOL. Passed by the legislature, the initiative allowed for joint suits by PUDs. Lillian also supported Referendum 25 which put the measure to public vote in 1943. But by this time factionalism was developing among the ranks of public power advocates. Some disliked the WPOL for their socialist bias. Sylten—a Democrat, not a Socialist—served as the president of the Women’s Committee for Referendum 25. She wrote articles in favor of the measure in Public Power News, a journal issued by the WPOL. Referendum 25 was narrowly defeated. Now with no joint suit possibilities, the PSUCA once again became active.

Squabbles continued to divide public power advocates and Lillian (now Spear) became disenchanted with the movement and resigned in 1947, two years before publicly owned power truly came to Snohomish County on September 1, 1949.

Lillian Sylten Spear moved to Santa Rosa, California in 1953 where she continued her activism working to rid the state of pollution. In her final years, she struggled with bone marrow cancer and died in California in 1963 at 66 years of age. A plain headstone marks her grave in Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery.

Sources:

Wendy Brush, “Lillian Sylten Spear, Outspoken Advocate of Public Power”, University of Washington Women Studies Class 283, December 12, 1984, Lillian S. Spear files, Everett Public Library;
“Biographical Note”, Guide to the Lillian S. Spear Papers 1931-1963, University of Washington Manuscript Collection No. 0381; Boxes 2, 5 and 7,
Lillian S. Spear Papers, 1931-1963, University of Washington Manuscript Collection No. 0381;
“Woman Is a Power In P. U. D. Movement”, Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 26, 1941.

© 2008 Margaret Riddle, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 55

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

Mabel Boyes Neisinger

Long Time resident of Monroe Washington

By Gail Dillaway

Mabel Boyes Neisinger was born on June 5th, 1916 in Edmonton, Alberta where her father was a school teacher and her mother was a “stay at home” mom. Mabel grew up during a challenging time that included the Great Depression and a major war, World War II. In spite of the challenges she encountered, Mabel was able to earn an education with top honors, achieve a career, and balance family needs while holding down a variety of jobs. Mabel Boyes Neisinger is an example of a woman who was able to change with the times and find opportunities in the midst of challenges. She was an example of the strong resilient women who populate this country.

For most of his life, Mabel’s father was involved in the horse and livery stable business. In 1919, the family moved to Bencough, Canada where her father owned a livery stable. Here Mabel’s brother, John Robert (Bob), was born. In 1922 the family moved to Shelby, Montana where her father did custom farm work. Mabel’s Aunt owned a laundry and a large farm in Shelby, a reason that the family was drawn to the area. In 1923 Mabel’s second brother, William Hugh (Bill) was born and a year later Mabel’s father, Charles, moved his growing family to Monroe, Washington where he was hired as a teamster at the Great Northern Fruit Farm, one of the largest employers in Monroe at that time. There in 1926, another brother, Mervin Russell (Merv) was born. In 1927 a job offer for Mabel’s father, Charles, led the family to return to Shelby, Montana. In 1929, another brother, Calvin Richard (Cal), was born and in that same year a job offer from a friend, James Stirton, brought the family back to the Monroe area for the final time so that Charles could become a partner in a large chicken farm. The farm was located on South Lewis Street and to the West was the Great Northern Berry Farm where Mabel’s father cared for the teams of horses and cultivated the fields.

From 1929 the family was permanently located in Monroe. Mabel started public school late due to illness and at first was home schooled by her father who had a teaching background. In Monroe she attended Monroe Central Grade School which had been built the same year Mabel was born, 1916. As a young girl, Mabel was a Mother’s helper, taking care of their growing family. From time to time her mother worked at various jobs to help support the family leaving Mabel in charge. Mabel was not only busy with chores and child care but she was always busy tutoring her brothers since she was an excellent student. Mable even tutored some of her classmates. One of these classmates, Emil Anderson, said that he would never have made it into college or even through high school without Mabel’s help. She was especially skilled at Mathematics. Mabel was named Valedictorian of her Monroe High School graduating class in 1936. As a teenager Mabel also worked picking berries, weeding and helping with the harvest at the Great Northern Berry Farm. She also remembers working at the Frye Lettuce Farm, a large employer in Monroe, for 10 cents an hour for 10 hours of work.

Mabel Neisinger Class Picture as Valedictorian

One of Mabel’s closest friends while she was growing up was the daughter of the Superintendent of the Great Northern Berry Farm, Sue Stewart. Sue had a pony that she and Mabel rode double to various places including Snohomish. Mabel remembers many hours of fun riding the pony with Sue. In 1929 The Great Depression quickly spread across the country and affected Monroe as well. It became increasingly difficult to find jobs in the area, especially for young women.

When Mabel graduated in 1936 from high school, she took a job as a nanny for Mr. Honzell’s family in Everett. Since Mr. Honzell was the superintendent of Robinson’s Plywood Company, he was quite wealthy. Working for the Honzell family allowed Mabel to attend Everett Business College. She was one of the state’s fastest typing and short hand students and in recognition received a Palmer Certificate. Armed with her experience from Everett Business College, she was able to successfully land a job in 1938 with the Washington State Employment Office in Everett. Mabel returned home to live with her family and to help out after her father Charles died of a heart attack in 1937 at the age of 61. She helped her family and was an example for her brothers. With Mabel’s encouragement her brother Bob graduated from high school in 1937, Bill in 1941, Merv in 1945 and Calvin in 1947.

Mabel was married to Fred Neisinger on July 25, 1942, just before he joined the Air Force. Fred was stationed several places while in training to be an airplane mechanic and Mabel was able to find work nearby. In 1943 Fred was sent overseas to Northern Africa and then to Italy and Mabel returned home to once again live with the family in Monroe. Fred was discharged in 1945 and in 1946 Mabel and Fred built their home on North Dickensen Street where Mabel still lives today. The one acre site was given to them by Frank Wagner and was located next to Frank Wagner Elementary. Mabel and Fred had two children, a daughter, Suzanne, born in 1946 and a son, Steven, born in 1949. In 1960 Fred died of a heart attack. Mabel returned to work at the office of the State Reformatory in Monroe where she censored mail and performed office work to support her family. She retired in 1980. For the next two years she took care of her mother who was suffering from dementia until her mother eventually passed away.

Mabel’s life spans almost a hundred years over which time she has been forced to deal with a series of difficult situations. Moving frequently in the 1920s, followed by the Great Depression and World War II all took their toll on Mabel. Three of her brothers and her husband all served in World War II causing much anxiety for the family. The death of her husband in 1960 and worry over her son’s service as a marine in Vietnam were sources of stress. Her mother’s dementia was a challenge along with having to help raise multiple grandchildren. She even had to work out a conflict with the City of Monroe over a drain field at her home which eventually cost her almost $100,000. Throughout all of this, Mabel continued to work hard to support her family. Mabel is a woman of many talents and was able to balance several working careers with the challenges of supporting a family. Her determination and drive helped her to succeed. At 98 1/2, Mabel remains active in the community. Weekly she walks a mile to have breakfast at Denny’s and then to shop at the local Fred Meyer store. Mabel represents a woman who embraced the idea of hard work and active living, a philosophy she continues to hold today.

Sources:

Gail Dilliway interview with Mabel Boyes, January 2015.
Gail Dilliway interview with Mervin Boyes, December 2014.
“Great Crowd on Hand Honor H.S. Graduates,”. Monroe Monitor, June 12, 1936.
© Gail Dillaway 2015 All Rights Reserved  WLP Story #79

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.

Sources:

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 – Ancestry.com.
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)

 

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

Anna Agnes Maley

Anna Agnes Maley 1872-1918

Anna Agnes Maley, an author, journalist, and lecturer of national reputation, arrived in Everett in September 1911 to become the third editor of the most successful of these papers, The Commonwealth, Washington state’s official Socialist newspaper.   For the rest of the story, please see an updated version in www.historylink.org.

Earlier version published as Women’s Legacy Story # 40

Ruth Morrice

Full Time Career Postal Worker ~ 1902-1973

By Sandra Schumacher
During her long career as a postal clerk at Alderwood Manor, Ruth Morrice witnessed mail delivery from the horse-drawn, red wagon to air mail. In the early days there were inkwells to be filled, and all work was done by hand, including making money orders. Until the mid-1930s, all dollar bills were counted and serial numbers listed by hand as well.

Everett Herald photo, 4/1/1965
Everett Herald photo, 4/1/1965

Miss Morrice welcomed modernization. She liked to say that she loved the past, but “did not live in it.” In fact, she wanted to work for the United States Post Office “as long as possible, and never retire.”

Her own past actually made her a historical figure. She was born December 13, 1902 in a log cabin on the family homestead. They were one of the first white families in the area. She spent her entire life on that homestead, which became Alderwood Manor. Hers was a life full of both travel and community service. She saw the entire continent of North America, from Alaska to Mexico. She was a member of the Eastern Star, and served as their secretary for over forty years.
Everett Herald photo, 4/1/1965

Ruth Morrice never married, yet always seemed to have a house full of children, including grandnieces, grandnephews and children of friends. She loved music and was as proud of her record collection as she was of her beautiful garden.

At the end of her life she lived in a home that was bordered by some of the last remaining woods in Alderwood Manor. At the time, her cousins owned the nearby wildlife sanctuary. Loving and loved in return by her family and her community, Miss Ruth Morrice passed away on February 4, 1973.

WLP Story Number 19 ~ The beginning of her story can be found at this link ~ Women’s Legacy story #72

Sources: The Everett Herald
© 2006 Sandra Schumacher All Rights Reserved

Alice White Reardon

Newspaper Publisher 1867 – 1951

By Nellie Robertson

Ink ran in the veins of Alice White Reardon nearly from the time of her birth in 1867 until her death in 1951. Born in Ft. Dodge, Iowa of pioneer stock, she was the second daughter in a family of five children. When she was two years old, her father established the first newspaper in Soda Bar, Iowa. Her newspaper heritage followed her throughout her life.

In 1890 Alice married John J. Reardon. The couple had six sons, one of whom died in infancy, and one daughter. In 1893 Reardon entered into partnership with Alice’s brother in the newspaper business. When John left the partnership, the family came to Washington in 1911 and to Monroe in 1913. Reardon bought the Monroe Independent and settled down to report on life in the small town. It became Monroe’s official newspaper. Ten years later the Reardons bought the Monroe Monitor and merged the two publications.

Alice helped in the newspaper office and still managed to take good care of her family.
When tragedy struck, not once, but twice, in a matter of weeks, Alice responded with courage. Her husband died on March 20, 1928, and on May 18th of the same year, John and Alice’s oldest son, Joseph, who had served in France in World War I and had been associated with his father in the Monroe Monitor, died in an automobile accident.

Alice White Reardon, circa 1945? Born in 1867 at Fort Dodge, Iowa, the second of five children, she died in 1951. Photographer: Bruno Art Studio, 416 SW Alder, Portland, Oregon. #506504 Photograph Courtesy of the Monroe Historical Society, Monroe, WA
Alice White Reardon, circa 1945?
Born in 1867 at Fort Dodge, Iowa, the second of five children, she died in 1951.
Photographer: Bruno Art Studio, 416 SW Alder, Portland, Oregon. #506504
Photograph Courtesy of the Monroe Historical Society, Monroe, WA

Alice bought her daughter-in-law’s interest in the Monitor, and her son Keiron, who would later serve in the state legislature, joined her as editor. Newspapers often spawn confrontational episodes, but Alice did not allow herself to become embroiled. She handled the business part of the publication with equanimity. She published the newspaper until she sold it in 1943.

Descendants and friends characterize her as a kind person, always busy. Great-niece Catherine Hammond said, “I never saw her mad or cranky.” She made crazy quilts out of velvet and embroidered with silk thread. Her family treasures those quilts. She also crocheted and knitted.

Alice was a well known and beloved member of the community. Of the things she is best remembered for, donuts top the list. When the goodies appeared at the Congregational Church bazaars, they disappeared before they hit the shelves. She generously shared her confection – but not her recipe. Not even her descendants learned how to make her donuts. A gifted storyteller, Alice did, however, share her life experiences with her family and friends such as former Monroe mayor Grace Kirwan, who sums up Alice Reardon in five words: “She was a wonderful lady.”

Sources: Monroe Monitor, Interviews with Grace Kirwan and Catherine Hammond;
WLP Story Number 17 ~
© 2002 Nellie E. Robertson