Walburga Eisen ~ Early Day Entrepreneur

by Betty Lou Gaeng
Nostalgia—a sentimental yearning for the past. To return to our youth is often a cherished wish. For some of the older folks who grew up in southwest Snohomish County, the name Walburga Eisen may invoke some pleasant memories of that lost youth. Well, they may not recall her given name—few knew Mrs. Eisen even had one. She was always just Mrs. Eisen. Mrs. Eisen with the sharp eye for troublemakers. Nothing got past her watch.

Summertime in the 1920s, 1930s and the early 1940s was a more simple time—a time for fun and meeting friends at the beach. It was a time before TV, cell phones, I-Pods, hanging out at the mall or showing off your wheels.

If you lived in the southwestern part of Snohomish County, Washington State, especially Cedar Valley or Seattle Heights, you knew the best place to hang out during summer vacation. Mrs. Eisen’s resort at Hall’s Lake was the fun place to be. Before it closed in 1944, this was where young people of the area kept in contact with their friends from school. They flirted a little, showed off their water skills, or just basked in the sunshine on the float a little way offshore. Some of these friendships lasted for a lifetime, and some young folks even found their marriage partners. Parents didn’t need to worry when their children were at the resort, Mrs. Eisen was always there, keeping her watchful eyes peeled for any hanky panky.

The resort was a favorite spot for group picnics. Because Hall’s Lake had once been a major part of the lumber industry in the area–sawmills had been along its shore. The lake remained a yellowish brown color from the ever present cedar logs. The shingle-weavers who had worked in the sawmills remembered Hall’s Lake and when it came time to hold their annual summer picnic, Mrs. Eisen’s resort was the place they gathered. Sometimes it was a little noisy and rowdy, but it was always a day of joy in remembering old friendships. Many other groups including the Seattle Elks also found the Halls Lake Resort a good place to hold their annual picnics. The resort during the summer months was also a favorite for the county’s politicians to meet and greet, and garner votes for the upcoming elections.

Old Settlers Picnic, click for link to more information

The most notable of the picnics was in August with the long-held annual Old Settlers’ Picnic. These were the old settlers of Alderwood Manor, Cedar Valley, Seattle Heights, Esperance, Edmonds, Meadowdale and all the surrounding area. There were good times for people of all ages, including a variety of contests—three-legged races, swimming races, foot races for different age categories, largest family, oldest person. There was even dancing at night in the dance pavilion—with live music. For many of the young people, this is where they learned to maneuver around a dance floor. The picnic was a fun time in August for the whole family.

Money was scarce, but resorts such as Mrs. Eisen’s were places where you could enjoy a day of getting together with others, sharing your basket of food, and just forgetting the cares of the world. In our busy and changed world of today, these simple days of summer have mostly faded away. Society has lost a great tradition.

Walburga Hagel was born December 20, 1860 in Rogers, Hennepin County, Minnesota, the daughter of Peter and Helena Hagel—one of ten children. In 1882, she married Simon V. Eisen, also a Minnesota native. The couple made their home in Minneapolis, and by the end of 1901, they had eight children: Lawrence, Albert, Frank, Amelia, George, Matthew, Helen, and the baby Carl.

In 1905, the family moved to Seattle. In Seattle, along the western shore of Lake Washington, Simon and Walburga began their career of running amusement parks. Simon became the manager of Leschi Park, a popular spot for the people of Seattle and the communities across the lake. The park was owned by the Seattle Electric Company and they ran a cable car from Pioneer Square to the park. Before the Eisens arrived in Seattle, there was even a collection of animals located at the park. However, in 1903 the menagerie was donated to Woodland Park and became the nucleus of the newly established zoo on Guy Phinney’s land.

Simon and Walburga remained in Seattle until 1913. That year they bought land along the eastern shore of Hall’s Lake in Snohomish County, about a mile east of the highway community of Seattle Heights. They opened Hall’s Lake Resort, and with its close proximity to the Seattle-Everett Interurban, the resort soon became a favorite destination for recreation seekers.

Walburga became a widow in 1919 with the death of Simon. For a time she was assisted by her sons, but she continued as the force in the management of the resort. Walburga Eisen was the mainstay, she was the one always on hand, keeping a sharp lookout over those enjoying the offerings at the resort.

Walburga Eisen took the lead in many community projects for Seattle Heights, often lending her facilities at the resort for fund-raising events. One of her major accomplishments was a volunteer fire department at Hall’s Lake in the latter part of the 1920s. The department was led by her youngest son Carl with volunteers from the area. They had no fire engine, instead using a truck with barrels of water carried in the bed of the truck. This was the beginning of the very first fire department for miles around. In 1929, the operation was moved to Carl Eisen’s garage at 212th and Highway 99. This volunteer fire department gave birth to Snohomish County Fire Protection District 1, and for many years Carl Eisen served as a chief.

Another son of Walburga was well known to the people of the area. Matthew, or Matt, as he was more commonly called, served for many years as a member of the school board for Edmonds School District 15.

Getting on in years, Walburga Eisen sold her resort to the Church of the Nazarene in August of 1944. That month the Nazarene held their first camp meeting as new owners of the resort at Hall’s Lake. The loss of the well-loved public entertainment spot was deeply felt by the residents of the area. After a short illness, Walburga Hagel Eisen died in a Seattle Hospital on Sunday, February 10, 1957 at the age of 96. She is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle. Of her eight children, all survived her except son Matt, who died in 1949.

Death Records < http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov >
Obituary for Walburga Eisen, Edmonds Tribune-Review, Edmonds, Washington, Feb. 14, 1957
Edmonds Tribune-Review, Edmonds, Washington, July 27, 1934 and August 3, 1944
1870 U.S. Federal Census–Hassan, Hennepin County, Minnesota
1900 U.S. Federal Census–Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota
1910 U.S. Federal Census–Seattle, King County, Washington
Department of Neighborhoods < http;//web1.seattle.gov >

© 2010 Betty Lou Gaeng, All Rights Reserved