Clara J. Stanwood Pearson

Stanwood’s Grade School on North Street. Photographer John T. Wagness

Stanwood’s Namesake

At the mouth of the Stillaguamish River in the late 1860s and early 1870s, the saloon, logging camp, and mail stop now known as Stanwood, Washington was called Centerville. Confusion over the many Centervilles all over the United States and its Territories (Washington was still a territory at the time) compelled the Postal Service to ask the local postmaster to select a more unique name. In 1877, D. O. Pearson and his wife, Clara and young children had recently arrived to establish a general merchandise store. D.O. also took over as Postmaster – he was the 7th in 7 years at this outpost. He submitted his wife’s maiden name, Stanwood, and it was made official.
Clara Jane Stanwood was born in Lowell Massachusetts and raised by her grandmother because her mother died when she was only 4 years old. Her father left to serve in the Union Army in the Civil War and never returned. She must have formed an attachment to D. O. Pearson and his family because she followed them out to Whidbey Island in 1868 on her own at the age of 19. They married and farmed for seven years until D. O. invested in the mercantile at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River and brought his family there to live.
Clara Stanwood left no writings to our knowledge. She collected news clippings in a scrapbook now held at the University of Washington Special Collections. From those clippings you learn of a person who had contacts in all of the Puget Sound area – at these early times a relatively small world of people from the East Coast engaged in the lumbering business.

In the 1870s, when she arrived there were no regular steamboat stops at Stanwood and people were scattered on their homesteads, clearing land, building dikes and logging. The mail arrived from Utsalady twice a week. In the 1880s, while she was raising her children, Stanwood was still unplatted land and the store and wharf competed for trade with the commercial businesses upriver at Florence. But apparently she was able to raise funds and convince supporters of the need for this proud school building for her children and others.

Clara Stanwood Pearson, Stanwood’s Namesake

In 1905 she was honored by Mary Allen as the “Mother of Stanwood” when they and others from Stanwood attended an exposition in Portland, Oregon representing their community and Snohomish County. When she died, the Stanwood City Council adopted a resolution recognizing her “life work and best efforts dedicated to the upbuilding of our social conditions and municipal progress…” The following notice of her death in the Stanwood Tidings in 1910 leaves a record of her accomplishments.
“Clara J. Stanwood Pearson was born in Lowell, Massachusetts March 18th, 1849 and came to Puget Sound, by way of the Isthmus of Panama, when she was 19 years of age, in which year, June 3rd, 1868 she was united in marriage to D. O. Pearson in Coupeville, Washington. In 1877 the young couple moved to Stanwood [then Centerville Postoffice]…
At the time they came to Stanwood, Mrs. Pearson was one of three white women then a resident of what is now the town of Stanwood and she bore the part of a pioneer woman with courage and fortitude, always ready, always willing and anxious to lend a helping hand, an encouraging word to her neighbor who was in distress or met adversity in those trying pioneer days of the valley. Her early life was devoted to the up-building and beautifying of her home and her energies were directed toward the up-life of the social conditions around her. She organized the first Sunday School in town and although never the member of any church, was the leading spirit that founded the first Methodist Church of Stanwood. Later she caused shade trees to be planted in the then isolated places about town, the large elms that now surround the city lots and town hall were planted there many years ago by Mrs. Pearson.
D. O. Pearson & Clara Stanwood Pearson sitting in front of her roses that grew on the south side of their home. The House still exists and new old roses grow in their place.
Photograph courtesy SAHS, circa 1905.
“But her work as a public spirited woman did not cease to manifest itself everywhere until later in life. Many perplexing questions came up for solution as the town developed and in these she was always consulted and perhaps the most gratifying result of her efforts was the construction and building of the present public school building on North Street which she lived to see become a high school. At the time this school was thought of, Mrs. Pearson was elected director and against a large opposition she led the fight for the school and won. It may seem rather strange to the present generation why there should exist in those early days an element of people who should oppose the building of schools yet this is true and proves that every advancement that has been made by the pioneers of this country has been an uphill struggle which made life in a sense a sacrifice.”
Her life was gentle, but like the still waters it was deep. In her heart of hearts she carried those she loved, and her hand was never weary, her step never failed in ministering unto, caring for, waiting upon those who were in any way dependent upon her.”

D. O. Pearson abd Clara Stanwood sitting near the back porch of the Pearson House

Twelve years after her death, while recognizing D. O Pearson on his 76th birthday, O. B. Iverson noted “Both Pearson and his wife were decided optimists — saw only the bright side and refused to see the other side and they became either leaders or strong boosters for everything of interest to the community….she was fully his equal….While giving other important duties much of her time, she raised a large family and gave them the best training that brains and mother love could give to qualify them for life in this difficult world.” Such recognition of women, though patronizing even for its day, is appreciated.
The house D. O. and Clara built in Stanwood about 1890 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is now a historic house museum operated by the Stanwood Area Historical Society. In 2001 the Stanwood City Council proclaimed March 18th as the town’s Clara Stanwood Day. In September 2003 an honorary marker was placed at the D. O. Pearson House in her honor by the Ann Washington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. .

Resources :

Introduction written by Karen Prasse
History of Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington…Portland, Oregon / North Pacific History Co., 1889, v. 2 p. 517
An Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties their People, Their Commerce and their Resources… Interstate Publishing Co., 1906., p. 975-6.
“Pioneer Woman Passes Away”, Stanwood Tidings, July, 1910;
Iverson, O. B. “Throws Interesting Light on D. O. Pearson’s Life.” Stanwood Tidings (June 8, 1922): 3
“Council Proceedings, July 18, 1910”, Stanwood Tidings July 22, 1910
Other sources include vital records (copies) and files held at the Stanwood Area Historical Society, Stanwood, WA
© 2007 Stanwood Area Historical Society, Stanwood, WA All Rights Reserved;  WLP Story # 23

Nancy L. Weis ~ Professional Volunteer

By Roberta Jonnet

It is said that the leaf does not fall far from the tree. When Nancy Leaf Weis was asked what made her want to reach out to her community, she said, “Well, I just remember my mother volunteering.” Nancy helped, too. Referring to a time that her mother was a Red Cross volunteer working at a flood site, Nancy says, “I remember standing on a bank serving mash potatoes out of a brand new garbage can to all the workers.”

Nancy arrived in Snohomish County in 1953 and began her long term of service to the people of this county. The Human Services Council of Snohomish County’s Liz McLaughlin Award of Excellence presented to Nancy in 2000 says, “(this) award epitomizes an individual committed to excellence in the delivery and maintenance of quality human services to the citizens of Snohomish County.” The award is given to “acknowledge a lifetime of contribution which expands contributions in the actual development and delivery of services and includes contributions in the area of public policy.”

Nancy sums up her commitment to community with her business card, which reads, “Nancy L. Weis, Professional Volunteer, A People Caring Person.”

Nancy was born at Scofield Erickson Army Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. Her father was a 1923 West Point graduate. Nancy terms herself “an Army brat” and says, “I went to twelve different schools before I graduated from high school.” She attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. She met her future husband, Don, who was a pre-med student at the University of Iowa. They married and began life in a Quonset hut on the Iowa campus.

In response to the Navy’s call upon Don, Nancy says, “We got out the map and thought, ‘We can have an internship in Massachusetts, Florida or Bremerton, Washington.” We (looked at Bremerton and) thought, ‘We’ve never been there.’ We took one look at the Northwest and said, ‘Forget the rest of the country!’”

The Weis family was comprised of four children at that time, and a fifth was on the way. The couple bought a “beach house” on Lake Stevens. Nancy laughs and says, “That first year the pipes froze, and there were rats. The kids had mumps for Thanksgiving and chicken pox for Christmas.” Asked why she became involved in the community with so much going on at home, she replies, “I just couldn’t stay home and be a mother. We started our own childcare center at Lake Stevens because I had this three-year old who had an imaginary bus driver. And I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this child in reality.’ We started in the basement of one of the gal’s houses. It was a volunteer thing, and the parents took part. I was the music director (because) I played the piano, and somebody else did the art. We had two scooters and an inner tube; that was our gym stuff.”
Nancy always enjoyed being part of the community, whether at work or at play. “I always tell people I’m too stupid to play bridge,” she laughs, “and I like to play nine holes of golf, and not keep score, and go out to lunch. I don’t want to play eighteen holes of golf.” She continues, “I did a lot of volunteering at the school. I was a room mother for a hundred years.” When five school levies failed, the district had no library. Nancy and some of the other parents volunteered to keep the library open. She also supported her children’s participation in extracurricular activities. At one time Nancy had a daughter each on the cheer squad in elementary, junior high, high school and college teams.

As the wife of an anesthesiologist, Nancy was deeply involved with the Medical Auxiliary. The auxiliary went beyond giving away “Mr. Yuk” stickers and began a reference list for medical students so they would know where the scholarships were and what courses they had to take. “There were no computers,” Nancy says, “We just looked it up, typed it out, and got it on a card that was kind of like a Rolodex.”

When United Way of Snohomish County asked for a representative to start a new Social Planning Committee, Nancy volunteered. Asked to serve on United Way’s board, Nancy was the first woman president in Snohomish County. She went on to represent Snohomish County at the state level, and became the first woman president of the United Way of Washington. “It was a real education,” she says. “I met people from all over the county and learned about programs.” Nancy paid her own way across the country. “Most of the men who were on the board, their companies would send them,” she says. “I didn’t have anyone to underwrite me.”

In 1965 Nancy became a charter member of the Assistance League of Everett and served as the first Operation School Bell chairperson. “Each community started a program their community needed,” she recalls. “We started Operation School Bell because we learned from the teachers that there were kids who were unable to come to school because they didn’t have school clothes.”

The school district gave the Assistance League a portable building – with no bathroom. “We had to work there for hours!” she remembers. The women started by collecting their children’s outgrown clothing. Nancy says, “We outfitted one hundred children that first year, most of them in Everett.” More than 850 children had been clothed by the start of school in the year 2000.

“I loved that job because you knew you’d taken care of kids and changed their lives that day!” Nancy states emphatically.

Nancy was asked to serve on a Department of Social and Health Services pilot program called the Foster Parent Citizen group. She stayed for six years. “It was really exhausting,” she says. “You hear about kids who have had thirteen placements and they’re only ten years old. And it’s not the department’s fault. I want to ask these people who criticize, ‘How many foster children do you have?’ It’s a hard job. I had foster children. I took teenage girls and had five over a three to four-year period.” Nancy remained close to her foster children. One of them had her wedding at the Weis home on Rucker Hill, and years later Nancy was able to be in the delivery room with another foster daughter when the had her first baby.

Nancy also served on the Homeless Task Force for four years and became chair. “We learned there was some money available, and it makes a lot of sense to cooperate because a person may have a hotel room from the Red Cross and it gets you out of the cold, (but) you need to make a plan; you need a caseworker or a bus ticket home,” she explains. “We needed to have everybody talking to everybody.” At one time a person had to go to five different agencies, but the Homeless Task Force streamlined and computerized the process through the Red Cross of Snohomish County.

“I have a passion for people taking care of one another,” Nancy says. Her children know that she is such a person herself. One of them says, “Through the years, we as a family have relied on her for her knowledge, her willingness to always be there to support, teach, organize, direct, respect and always love us, no matter what.”

And Nancy wants people to know her children are active in the community as well. Beth, an emergency room nurse, gives her free time to place dogs and cats in special homes; Sue, an Intensive Care Unit nurse, volunteers for youth conferences and camps; Bill, known as “always the guy that helps you move, build a ramp, fix a deck,” donates handmade items to auctions; Patty has worked as a volunteer teacher’s assistance, chaperoned choir trips and raised money for the school; Peggy has been a United Way team leader at her work and donates her own flower arrangements to auctions.

Perhaps when asked why they do all this, Nancy’s children will give the same reply that she did. “I just remember my mother volunteering.” It is a legacy worth repeating.
Source: Interview with Nancy L. Weis 10 December 2001
©2004 Roberta Jonnet All Rights Reserved

Martha Solie Muckey

Martha Muckey

Career Social Worker ~ 1895 – 1967
By Sandra Schumacher
“Everett has been very good to me, and I’ve had an interesting life.” Martha Muckey made that understatement in 1952. But the life that this woman lived was more than interesting. It was remarkable.
Martha Muckey, who was born in Wisconsin in 1895, studied music at St. Olaf’s College in Minnesota, then journeyed west during the Depression to teach high school music. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, music teachers were not in demand. Rather than wring her hands and bemoan her fate, she found a job at a bank in Everett.
She married and settled into family life, but was widowed when her twin sons were only eight years old. Knowing she needed a career that would support her children, she enrolled at the University of Washington and studied social work. She spent twenty-eight years working for the Department of Welfare, twenty-five them as a case worker on the Tulalip reservation.
Martha MuckeyAlthough she worked full time, Martha somehow still found time for volunteer work with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Volunteers of America, as well as with the blind in Snohomish County. She was named Snohomish County’s 1951 “Woman of Achievement” for her service not only in the community, but for her work state and nationwide as well. Even after retiring from social work in 1963, she continued to give of herself to the community as long as she was physically able.
Martha Muckey died in 1967, leaving behind many whose lives she had made healthier and happier, her own life a testimony to what an “ordinary” woman can accomplish.
Resources : The Everett Herald.
© 2006 Sandra Schmacher All Rights Reserved
Originally published as WLP Story #18

 

 

Marian Harrison

She Never Let Color, Gender or Age Stop Her

By Teri Baker

Don’t try to stereotype Marian Harrison. It just won’t work. She’s a woman, she’s black and she’s a senior, but belonging to three “categories” prone to discrimination has never stopped her from making her own way in the world or, from being a positive influence in the lives of others.

Marian Norwood, the second child of Glenna and George Norwood Jr., was born in Everett in 1931. The family home was located on State Street. The Norwood family traded their home for a farm of 62 acres near Arlington on the Jordan Road. Marian was eighteen months old at the time. A second son was born while they lived on the farm. Her mother and father divorced, but her mother stayed on the farm for seven years. “At least with the farm, we could always eat,” Marian says. “We never had money, but we weren’t ever poor.”

Marian started school in Arlington, but during the war went to Marysville for fourth and fifth grade. She describes a different experience than many might expect about growing up the only black child in her grammar school class. She says, “There wasn’t much teasing, perhaps because I wasn’t as dark, but I think it was more that I grew up in an area that was mainly Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and German. They didn’t come from a prejudiced society. Also, it was the Depression and it was neighbor helping neighbor.”
She attended Catholic school for awhile, went back to Marysville High School in tenth grade, graduated in 1949 and then attended the University of Washington for a few months. She married Lyman Lewis and had a son her husband never got to see. “Before I knew it,” she explains, “I was the 19-year-old widow of the Korean War.”

Glenna Barton (Courtesy Marian Harrison)
Glenna Barton (Courtesy Marian Harrison)

A few years later she wed Van Harrison, but the couple eventually divorced, leaving Marian with a son in college and six children at home. She says her older children had less difficulty growing up black in Arlington than the younger ones. “It was at the time when all the civil rights stuff had gone on,” she says. “Boeing was laying everybody off, and they were all leaving, while people from the rest of the country started flooding the area, bringing their prejudices with them. One year’s time can make a lot of difference in a high school, but it didn’t stop my kids from doing what they want to do.”
Glenna Barton (Courtesy Marian Harrison) Much of her children’s success can be attributed to the love, determination and perseverance Marian personifies. “There are no welfare moms in this family,” Marian states. “My mother, Glenna Barton, was a college graduate. She came here from Normal, Illinois with a degree in home economics. After we kids were grown, she went to nursing school at Old Edison Tech in Seattle and became one of the first LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) at Veteran’s Hospital in Seattle.”
And so, Camp Fire and Cub Scout leader and PTA member Marian did what had to be done to help her children succeed. “When my son went to college, I went to college,” she says. “I got a special degree at Everett Community College and went to work at Arlington High for eight years as a teacher’s aide, then transferred into custodial because they got a man’s wage. So I worked in that for 14 years.”

It was hard, honest work and Marian did it and more. She was required to join the Public School Employees of Washington Union, and at one time or another held every chapter position there was, became zone director for all chapters in the county and sat on the statewide board of directors. Two-time recipient of the Employee of the Year award, she is a lifetime member of the union and still represents it on the state retirement advisory committee and the employee retirement benefits board.
Marian is pleased that her children are also productive citizens. “I’m so proud of them,” she says. “One went to college on his dad’s GI Bill. The others got scholarships and student loans. One child was an exchange student to Japan, another to Iran. They are all very accomplished.” Best of all, Marian says, is that they learned to know themselves, and to be themselves.
And they have much reason to be proud of the woman who says, “My children went much farther than their mother ever did.” Marian has never used her gender or color as an excuse for anything. Yes, she has encountered prejudice, but she refuses to let it make her bitter. She volunteers her time and expertise for the good of others. She works with the State Family Policy Council and is on the Snohomish County Health and Safety Network and the Snohomish County Children’s Commission. She is also on the board of Evergreen Manor, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
She works tirelessly on the Foster Care Review board, which she describes as “A bunch of citizens trained to look at out-of-home placements of children and make recommendations to the court for disposition.” The main focus, she says is to see if parents are following the court order and getting into court-ordered services. “We don’t let these kids languish going from foster home to foster home,” she says. “I am passionate about monitoring so kids don’t get shuffled around.”
Marian has also been politically active since attending her first Democratic caucus in 1984. She has worked on at least 30 campaigns, has been a national delegate to the Democratic Convention, was chair of the 10th District Democrats and currently chairs the 38th Legislative District Democrats. She is also a member of the League of Women Voters.

Louisa Donalson, Marian’s great grandmother (Courtesy Marian Harrison)

In addition, Marian has a well-developed interest in history, particularly her own family’s. As a child she would visit her great-grandmother Louisa Donalson’s store on the east end of Everett Ave. Mrs. Donalson had been born a slave and along with her second husband and family came to Everett from Abbeville, South Carolina before 1900. Louisa Donalson was a founding member of Everett’s Second Baptist Church. Marian’s grandfather, George Norwood worked in the woods at Granite Falls because black were not allowed to work at local mills.

She searched tax records, business directories, newspapers and family photographs and discovered her own father, George W. Norwood, Jr., served in World War One. She also learned about her family’s history as far back as the Civil War. “I hated history as a kid,” Marian says. “I didn’t care about elephants that went over the Alps. Now look at me. I’m involved in history all the time.” Louisa Donalson, Marian’s great grandmother, courtesy Marian Harrison

While working on the county’s Black History Project, she and fellow researchers discovered an old Ku Klux Klan membership form and an article about a gathering of 10,000 Klan members in Arlington. She learned about black ball players, military men, barbers and others who came to the Northwest after the demise of slavery looking for a chance to own property and make a fresh start. Her research has led her to become a member of Snohomish County Women’s Legacy Project, which seeks to recognize the contributions that women, including women of color, made, and are still making to the county.
Even with all this volunteering, Marian still finds time to enjoy her 11 grandchildren, be active in church, root for the Seattle Mariners and go to the symphony. She loves music and was a member of Everett Chorale until a car crash in 1994 broke several of her bones, including her spine, taking her five-foot-six frame to four-foot-eleven. But she hasn’t let even that become an excuse to sit back and become idle either.
How could anyone dare stereotype such a woman!

Source: Interview with Marian Harrison, February 2005
© 2005 Theresa (Teri) A. Baker All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 16

Vernal Gay Love

She Fought for Prohibition, 1890 – 1964

By Sandra Schumacher
WLP Story Number 8

Baptized as an infant in 1890 in the pure waters of Vernal Falls at Yosemite, California, Vernal Gay dedicated herself to the pursuit of a better life for all human beings. Perhaps due to her Methodist upbringing, she believed that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union provided the light that could illuminate the way for people struggling with vices that ruin lives.

After the turn of the century, as a young teen, she moved to the Puget Sound area with her family, settling in Des Moines. She eventually became engaged to Grover Love, and even though she was concerned he would be sent overseas, married him in 1918. At the end of World War I, the couple settled in Snohomish, where Grover became principal of both Snohomish and Monroe High Schools. After a few years, the Love family moved to Everett, and Vernal’s husband began a thirty-five year career as principal of Garfield High School.

Meanwhile, Vernal had begun a lifelong devotion to two things – her family, of course, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She admired the WCTU for being among the first to work for child welfare, the eight-hour workday, legislation for the security of the home and equal suffrage.

She was especially pleased WCTU efforts led to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which brought prohibition in 1919, and most displeased when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. A true WCTU activist, Vernal joined others in educating the female electorate on the importance of voting. She served as a judge at the 1936 state WCTU convention which voted to continue pushing for prohibition rather than moderation in drinking. She was treasurer from 1937-1945 and elected vice president in 1946. That year, still convinced that alcohol was the root of most of society’s problems Vernal wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Everett Herald reiterating that “there never was a time in the world’s history when clear brains were more desperately needed than today in the solving of monumental problems. Surely alcohol, a narcotic drug, cannot help.”

Although the sale of alcohol was not abolished, Vernal’s dedication to the progress of social good touched many lives in many ways. Perhaps her future had been set under the pure waters of the Falls for which she was named. The strong convictions she developed as a young woman continued to course through her until her death in Long Beach, California in 1964.

Sources: Shirley Love Liska; 1942 minutes of the WCTU, State of Washington Chapters, held at the University of Washington Library.

© 2006 Sandra Schumacher;   All Rights Reserved