Choon Lee and Priscilla Roberts

Mother and Daughter’s Love Forged by Time, Circumstance and Sacrifice

WLP Story Number 15 ~
By Teri Baker

“And her children shall rise up and call her blessed.”

For Priscilla Roberts, Solomon’s words ring as true today as they did nearly 3,000 years ago. She feels humbled and honored that she is the daughter of Choon Y. Lee, and is quick to say so. Choon was a tiny, graceful woman who, at age 100 reads her Bible every day and still worked in her flower garden.

Choon was born the youngest of 10 children in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. She still remembers going into the rice fields at the age of two. Girls were not allowed to go to school, and so this farmer’s daughter worked in the fields until her mid-teens. Although the family was Catholic, tradition was observed, and Choon was cloistered at home until her marriage was arranged by a negotiator, whom Priscilla likens to a real estate agent. By custom, the bride retains her own last name.

When she was 25, Choon Lee married Myang C. Young, an educated man who owned a hotel where his wife soon went to work. Eager to help, the young bride taught herself math and learned to read. “She made my dad’s business prosper,” Priscilla says. “She was always kind to the servants and worked with them instead of being bossy. She taught me that no matter what you do, you have to be humble. Only then will you prosper in ways that really matter.”
Choon and Myang were blessed with a son, Chang Young. Ten years later, Priscilla was born. Korea was under Japanese occupation, and all boys and girls were educated through elementary school. However, only one in 100 could attend high school. When Chang did not pass the test, his parents sent him to Japan for high school, and then college.

Priscilla shyly admits she passed the high school entrance exam the first time. At the tender age of 12, she traveled alone 300 miles south to Seoul, where she attended a school established by educated women in America. “It was wonderful,” Priscilla says, “We were exposed to continental civilization. We had toilets! It was a different world.” She graduated in June 1945 and was looking forward to seeing her family again, especially since Chang had returned to Japan. But it was not to be. “All my family was in the north,” she says wistfully. “We could never foresee that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt would divide Korea.”

Priscilla was accepted at medical school. Her father, who did not trust the communists, wrote that she should stay in Seoul with his friend, the secretary of labor for the Korean government, and that the family would move south to join her. He dared not risk further communication. Priscilla studied hard, attending classes six days a week. Eventually, her parents got word to a friend and asked him to see how their 16-year-old daughter was faring. The friend visited her at school, then crossed the barbed wire barrier to tell her parents that Priscilla had little food and was poorly clothed. In August, Choon packed a single bundle and set out to see her daughter. There were communist spies were in every neighborhood. Choon’s plans were discovered, and soldiers prevented her from leaving. The guards were more relaxed when winter came. A concerned Choon once again packed a bundle and set off on foot across the frozen earth.

“She walked 300 miles in snow storms,” Priscilla says softly. “She cut through the wires at the border and made her way to the medical school. She looked awful, like an urchin. She was so thin and so shabby.” Choon had come to care for her daughter. She took whatever job came along, no matter how hard or menial. She prayed, sold everything she had, worked, bartered, and managed to provide food and proper clothing so that Priscilla would be acceptable to her fellow students. She was determined her daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor would come true.

The sacrifices Choon made were not just material. That bitter winter night she started the grueling trip to Seoul 50 years ago was the last time she ever saw her husband or Chang and his wife and three children. The communists confiscated the hotel, and Russian soldiers took everything of value the family had. They also prevented Chang from going back to Japan.

Many years later, Choon heard that her husband had opened another hotel, but that is the only news she ever had. Many have tried, even recently, to locate Myang and Chang, but Choon simply says, “No, don’t try to find them. It will only jeopardize them, and my family will all get shot.”

Priscilla knows this is wisdom on her mother’s part. North Korea attacked South Korea while Priscilla was a senior at Women’s Medical College, and the school, along with the South Korean government, fled south to Puson. “My mother and I were riding on top of the train,” Priscilla says. “They were shooting at us, and people were trying to get off the train and kept falling off. We had no food except maybe one boiled egg a day. It was a terrifying trip.” Mother and daughter believe it was a miracle from God that they made it to Puson. “My mom is such a strong Christian,” Priscilla explains. “She prayed, and we escaped alive, and the Episcopal church (in Puson) provided us a shelter.”

Priscilla graduated in 1951, and at the age of 22 was Korea’s youngest doctor. She became an intern in a field hospital staffed primarily with American army physicians. Her first assignment was to perform two autopsies. She bristled inwardly, having done her share of working on cadavers at medical school, but remembering her mother’s admonition to be humble, she did what she was asked. Her supervising physician, Capt. Walter Coker, watched her closely, then asked her if she would like to go to the United States to do post graduate work. Excited, she told him how she had studied six languages, including English, in case she got such a miraculous offer. Coker helped her get a fellowship from Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. The fellowship provided her ticket, room and board, books, even a salary. Happy that her daughter’s dream was being realized, Choon once again said goodbye to a child for what might be the last time.

After finishing her internship in North Carolina, then her residency in Odgen, Utah, Priscilla met Wayne Roberts, an economics student at the University of Washington. “I didn’t want to get married,” Priscilla says. “I was ambitious. I wanted to train in America and go back to Korea to help in the orphanages. There were so many children …” In 1954 she followed her heart, wed the man she loved, and the couple settled in Seattle. Daughter Gwen and son Loren were born. Priscilla stayed home for five years to learn more about her new culture and to improve her English. But Priscilla was a doctor, and she wanted to use her knowledge and skill to help as many children as possible, without neglecting her own. “I went to Children’s Orthopedic Hospital and told them my story,” she says. “They hired me the next day and I worked there (part time) for 24 years.”

As delighted as she was with her new situation in America, Priscilla ached to see her mother. Letters were exchanged, but Priscilla’s heart was breaking at the thought of Choon, then 68, in Korea, unable to get permanent employment and living alone in a single, rented room where the water froze every winter. Choon’s church helped her get a passport, but the immigration quota was filled and a visa was denied. It had been eight long years since she and Priscilla had seen each other. “I had no power to bring her over here,” Priscilla says. “We could only pray and wait.”

When Priscilla became a US citizen in 1961, she received a letter from Senator Henry Jackson saying that if there was ever anything he could do for her, to let him know. Priscilla promptly wrote back, and the senator sent a letter to the American consulate. “The embassy contacted me and said to send a ticket and they would bring her here next week!” Priscilla says, soft brown eyes shining at the memory. “I sent her a ticket and a letter. The letter was all in Korean, except for one line in English where I wrote my address.” That line in English proved to be of great importance. Choon caught an earlier flight than expected and landed at Sea-Tac Airport at 4 a.m. with no one to greet her. There she was, a wisp of a woman in Korean dress, clutching a scrap of paper and unable to speak a word of English.

“People were so good,” Priscilla said. “Somebody read the letter. Somebody took her to a cab. She showed the letter with our address. The taxi driver knocked on our door at 5 a.m., and there was Mom!”
Just recalling that reunion brings joy to Priscilla’s face. She delights in telling how much she appreciates Choon, how loving and giving her mother is. “She visits people and calls people who have no family,” Priscilla says. “She’s always giving. Someone will give her a new purse, and a couple of weeks later we’ll see someone at church with that purse. Mom will just say, ‘If you’re looking for a job, you have to look good.’”

Giving was a way of life for Choon. No visitor left empty handed. Each must have a flower from her garden or a container of jam made from blackberries she picked and preserved herself. The only English words she knows are “Thank you,” but her eyes speak a wealth of caring, understanding and wisdom.

Priscilla, who retired in 1985 to stay with her mother full time said fondly “My mother is 100 years old and has no enemies. She doesn’t have any hatred or bitterness for anyone. She’s a wonderful blessing to everybody.”

The 150 people who attended Choon’s hundredth birthday party thought so, too. Priscilla is especially pleased that President and Mrs. Bill Clinton sent a letter commemorating the occasion. Snohomish County and the City of Mountlake Terrace both proclaimed a Choon Y. Lee day in her honor. Good Morning America’s Willard Scott sent his regards. Priscilla says, “This is a wonderful country to show such respect.”

She and Wayne have taught their children that valuing people, that giving respect and dignity, are far more important than money or possessions. Priscilla says serenely, “My mother taught me to be content with health and food and clothing and shelter. She taught me the importance of not thinking you are better than other people. She taught me to always do the right thing.”

On September 20, 1996, Choon Lee died. A decade later, Priscilla lovingly describes her mother’s last day on earth. “She had breakfast as usual, took a shower, put on clean clothes, then went to bed and went to heaven.” In accordance with Korean custom, and as Choon had asked, Priscilla and her family prepared a seven-course feast. Two hundred people came to celebrate Choon’s life, and Priscilla fed them all, as well as 50 more in the church choir. So beloved was Choon Lee that a life-size picture of her was hung in the church.

“Mom had no power, no wealth,” Priscilla says, “but every day she did three or four things for other people. She wanted every single thing she left behind to go to the church to help people. When we had the service for her, there were lots of donations, and we gave every penny to the church. “After she passed away, I was so sad,” Priscilla says. “Then my mom came to me in a dream. My mother always loved flowers, and in my dream, the sky was blue and there in the sky was every kind of flower my mom loved. She was in a beautiful white dress, and said, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’m fine,’ I still miss her, but I know she is in heaven, and that makes me happy.”

Choon’s daughter and grandchildren still speak of Choon with deep affection, respect, gratitude and joy, often commenting that Choon Lee’s life and legacy will forever be a blessing in their lives.

Source: Interview with Choon Y. Lee and Dr. Priscilla Roberts, March 1996; interview with Dr. Priscilla Roberts, December, 2006

© 2002 Theresa (Teri) A. Baker All Rights Reserved.

Local Women start Alderwood Manor Community Library

by Marie Little

Above is the old logging camp building donated to be used as the library that burned in Nov. 1941. The librarian standing in the door is Mrs. Hildreth Engler who was the librarian at the time. She circulated books from her house until the new library opened in May 1942. Photographer: Bob Downing (One of Mrs. Engler's young patrons). Photograph Courtesy of the Photograph courtesy of the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association, circa 1940.
Above is the old logging camp building donated to be used as the library that burned in Nov. 1941. The librarian standing in the door is Mrs. Hildreth Engler who was the librarian at the time. She circulated books from her house until the new library opened in May 1942. Photographer: Bob Downing (One of Mrs. Engler’s young patrons). Photograph Courtesy of the Photograph courtesy of the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association, circa 1940.

It is no surprise that the rural library district was proposed by the Snohomish County PTA Council and endorsed by Federated Women’s Clubs. Since the turn of the twentieth century, women in small towns and rural communities had worked to start libraries, struggling, during the Depression years to maintain access to reading materials.

In May 1945 the Alderwood Manor Community Library became the district’s first branch. This successful library was born in the early summer of 1921 when a group of women, including a teacher, Mrs. Viola Riff, met for a picnic at Lake Serene (then known as Mud Lake). The ladies met with Miss Mabel Ashley, the librarian of the Everett Public Library, and Mr. J.C. Roscoe, the City’s prosecuting attorney, in August at the home of Mrs. W.T. Ross for the purpose of organizing a Library Club, which was incorporated the following month. Mrs. Riff made room for the first books in a corner of her living room.
Soon the community library moved into an old logging-camp building donated by the Puget Mill Company, and then relocated to Lake Road on property owned by Puget Mill. The library flourished, supported by monthly dues paid by members and more ambitious projects such as bazaars, community dinners and plays. In addition to donated material, the fledgling library circulated books from the Washington State Traveling Library. By September 1941 their inventory of books reached 4,000. Two months later the small frame building burned.
The ladies courageously voted to use the insurance money to rebuild. They purchased a small unfinished house (pictured on the right) and moved it onto the property, which the Puget Mill Company deeded to them. Meanwhile, Hildreth Engler, the librarian, circulated books, donated by neighbors, from her home. The new library (declared by many to be better than before) opened in May 1942.
Above is the old logging camp building donated to be used as the library that burned in Nov. 1941. The librarian standing in the door is Mrs. Hildreth Engler who was the librarian at the time. She circulated books from her house until the new library opened in May 1942.

Photograph Courtesy the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association. Circa 1921
Photograph Courtesy the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association. Circa 1921

Encouraged by the county board to relocate the Alderwood Manor Branch to the town center when that rural area could be served by the bookmobiles, the Library Club worked with other community groups to establish a branch in the Fire Station and opened it in 1952. A branch was started at Monroe in 1954, and the new City of Mountlake Terrace joined the system in 1955.
The Lynnwood Library opened in 1960, and when the city limits were extended in 1962 to include Alderwood Manor, the little library that the local women had started 41 years earlier had the distinction of being the first branch in the Snohomish County system to be closed.

Resources : Jean Engler, interview with author, October 1996; Alderwood Community Library Minutes currently held in the Edmonds Museum; Historical Files relating to the Alderwood Library at the Sno-Isle Libraries Community Relations Office.
© 2006 Marie Little All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 14

 

Amelia Austin

Tualco Valley Pioneer 1879 – 1908

By Nellie Robertson
WLP Story Number 13

Amelia Wellman Austin fought the battles of life undaunted by the significant challenges she faced. From the time of her birth in Joliet, Ill. in 1849 until her 1908 death in Monroe, the intrepid Amelia refused to concede defeat. Her life encompassed the roles of pioneer wife, mother, nurse, churchwoman, widow and community activist.
Her odyssey from Illinois to Tualco Valley south of Monroe began while Amelia was still an infant. Her father had crossed the American plains by ox team to discover California riches, returned to get his family and with several others headed again for the Pacific Coast, this time choosing a route through the Isthmus of Panama. The men slogged their way through the steamy jungle while the women and children rode on the backs of native bearers.

Amelia met Grannis Austin in California, married him in 1865, and bore three children in the Golden State. Grannis yearned to move on. The family booked passage on the Prince Albert, an old blockade runner, and on June 10, 1873 at last reached Snohomish County. The Austins took a pre-emption claim on the land still occupied by their descendants.
The first white woman to travel the trail from Snohomish to Tualco Valley made the journey just five months before she gave birth to the first white child born in the valley. She bore four more children in Washington Territory. In her precise handwriting, she listed her children in the family Bible. The first, Benjamin Grannis Austin, she wrote, was born in “Calafornia” in 1866. Of her nine children, only three sons and one daughter grew to maturity. Amelia met challenges of motherhood, including the death of her firstborn at the age of four, with the stoicism of a pioneer woman. Three more died in childhood, and her last child died when he was six months old.
Her children, who were happy to have Indian youngsters as playmates in the sparsely-settled valley, inherited Amelia’s bold nature. Once, when the elder Austins were on a day-long trip to Snohomish, two of their sons took advantage of parental absence to slake their hunger for brown sugar, which was sold in large wooden boxes. Amelia had carefully stowed the box under her bed specifically to keep it from her rambunctious sons. Undeterred, the boys wrestled the box out from its hiding place and gorged on the confection to the point that by the time their parents returned, both boys were thoroughly sick. Although a few swats were probably applied to the boys’ backsides at some point, Amelia lovingly applied her nursing skills to restore them to health.
Amelia nursed anyone who needed her. Not only did she care for those who came to her for help, but time and time again, traveled far and wide on foot or horseback or by team and wagon to tend her fellow pioneers. Tending the sick meant measuring medicinal doses, child care, laundry and wood chopping. Her granddaughter, Doris Reiner, said, “Being a Good Samaritan in those days was much harder than staying home and doing your own thing in your own surroundings.”

Used to traveling over difficult terrain, audacious Amelia added another “first” to her list. She was the first woman to take a pleasure trip to Sultan, an occurrence unheard of in 1891. She and a friend visiting from Colorado rode mules for their miles-long journey.

A highly respected woman in the Monroe community, Amelia found outlets for her boundless energy in the Ladies of the Maccabees and the Rebekah Lodge. Her moral strength led her to start a Sunday school in the Austin livery stable, and after two years of hard work, the first Monroe church stood on the present site of the Monroe United Methodist Church, known then as the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church. Not only did Amelia provide a place for the church, but also for the post office that had been moved from the neighboring Smallman place to the Austin homestead. A boat delivered the mail to the Snoqualmie River landing, and then a rider carried it on horseback for the final few miles.
Grannis Austin’s obituary in 1906 said that his wife had helped him turn a wilderness into a ranch valued at $20,000. Amelia spent little time in her widow’s weeds feeling sorry for herself. In mid-summer that same year, she erected a two-story building on Monroe’s So. Lewis Street that still stands. With its lodge room upstairs and a couple of business spaces downstairs, it became a popular site for community meetings. When schools overflowed with students, classes met there, and at one time the Austin building housed a skating rink.

Her business acumen was legendary among men and women alike. Her estate had doubled in value since her husband’s death. Amelia Austin lost her battle with breast cancer in 1908. She left behind a moral fiber that remains enshrined in the church she helped start. Her community spirit blazed a path women are still following today.

Sources. Monroe Monitor newsclippings & Austin family documents and Austin family interviews

© 2002 Nellie Robertson All Rights Reserved

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

Mary Burgess

Braiding Multiple Talents into a Full Life

By Louise Lindgren
~ Braiding Multiple Talents into a Full Life
It’s a wonder the Burgess’ dump truck doesn’t have braided rug seats. After all, one of the drivers of that truck has made rug braiding a specialty.
Mary Burgess is admittedly a “country girl,” and has acquired all the skills normally ascribed to those of that upbringing, plus a few more. She can bake, garden, sew and braid rugs. She can pound nails swift and straight, ride a horse, act as a packer to a hunter or helper to a surveyor. Her paintbrush might hold house paint one day and oil paints for a canvas the next. And, she can drive heavy machinery if road work must be done.
What sets her apart is her willingness to learn just about anything and become not only proficient, but a perfectionist in each pursuit. She doesn’t just braid rugs – she teaches the art. She doesn’t simply cook – she researches exceptional magazines and books to find the most nutritionally sound methods of preparing foods. As for heavy machinery, years of helping her husband maintain roads for their Mt. Index community has given her more experience handling intimidating large machines than most men will ever have.
Why would a petite, seemingly “normal” woman who keeps an immaculate house be interested in mastering so many skills? Perhaps it goes back to her childhood; perhaps it’s just personality. Who knows how adventurous minds are bred or why they develop?
The background is clear – pure country. Born in Star, a now-defunct spot on the map in the Bohemia Mountains of southern Oregon, Burgess learned early on about sagebrush farming, including how to milk a cow at age six. Several moves were made during early childhood – from valleys to mountain territory, Oregon to Northern California. Finally, the family made the long trip north to homestead 80 acres in the Kittitas Valley of eastern Washington. The nearest town was Ellensburg, definitely just a town, not a city, when she was a girl. There they dug the canals and ditches which would bring irrigation to that sagebrush country and forever change the face of the land along the Columbia River.
Lessons ingrained upon young Mary’s consciousness included frugality and water conservation. “We used to re-use the water several times,” she recalls. “Leftover wash water was used to mop floors, and water left over from that was poured on the plants. We didn’t waste a drop! Those were Depression years [of the 1930s],” Mary remembers. “Still, I think we had as much fun as the kids of today – maybe even more, because we were forced to use our imaginations.” She learned to sew when flour sacks were the ever-present fabric for dish towels, curtains, aprons, and dresses for small children.
Mary learned by acute observation. There were all the normal farm chores to do, fences to mend, animals to care for, buildings to maintain. Always one who enjoyed being out “doing things” with her father rather than pursuing the gentler arts of the home, she became adept at such skills as pounding nails. This stood her in good stead at the Salinas County Fair when, years later as a young woman, she entered a nail pounding contest. On her initial attempt, she tied for first place. A glance at the technique of her competition immediately taught her how to win. The second time around, instead of “placing” the nail with just a tap on the first swing, she says, “I hit it hard, ‘Pow!’ and won myself five dollars!”
Married at age 16, she began raising a family of three boys. During the Second World War she worked at a motor company in Indiana that was making airplane parts. She discounts herself as a “Rosie the Riveter” because, she says, “We didn’t rivet. We drilled three holes in each part, then reamed them smooth, over and over again. The hard part was that they kept rotating shifts, and though I had to work graveyard, I couldn’t sleep during the day.” There was always the challenge of providing adequate childcare for three small boys.
Finally, with her marriage ended, Mary settled in Washington, becoming a cook, first on a ranch, then in restaurants. “At the ranch they left me on my own from the first, and it was pretty bewildering, but I got the hang of it,” she recalls. “The workday was a lot longer [than cooking for restaurants], but the time between meals was your own. I would help on the farm or do craft work until it was time to start food preparation again.” Restaurant work won out because the money was better and the schedule more regular.
Many years passed, and Mary endured her full share of personal tragedies before she met and married Neil Burgess, a trained surveyor. Tempered steel is strongest, and Neil appreciated that strength in her as their lives evolved at the base of Mt. Index. For the first time, she had a home on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. The soggy climate and moisture-laden cold that creeps into one’s bones in the mountains did not dampen her enthusiasm for trying something new. The newlyweds bought three lots on the South Fork of the Skykomish River and proceeded to build a home from rough-sawn lumber they cut and milled themselves on the site. At the time there were only two families living full-time in the area; others came for weekend stays in their mountain cabins.
Access was by unpaved road that required constant maintenance. Gradually, the Burgesses became maintainers of the road, acquiring equipment as needed. If a job needed doing, Mary Burgess wanted to help. Thus she learned her first hard lessons in handling heavy equipment. One time while dumping a load of wet gravel, the back truck-gate refused to open. She had already learned that to spread gravel evenly, the truck must be in forward motion as the gate opens. As she moved out, raising the bed and expecting a flow of gravel from the back, the gate stuck, trapping thousands of pounds of gravel at the rear and tipping the whole truck on its hind end.

“It sure looked like a long way down to the road from my perch up in that cab,” she remembers with a laugh. “I had to climb out and sort of slide down the side to the back wheel before I could jump down. Then we shoveled and shoveled to lighten the load, but eventually Neil had to pull that truck down with a chain hooked on to the grader.”

Lessons are learned quickly when fear becomes a factor. There was a time when the airbrakes failed as she drove the truck down a steep hill. She says, “Somehow I managed to stay in control and just kept shifting into lower gears until I could coast out onto Alder Flats.” Mary observes that when you lose your brakes, the vehicle seems to lurch forward even though the speed remains the same. In a truck of several tons that is a frightening feeling.

As the area became more settled, Neil Burgess was much in demand as a surveyor. Since that is definitely a two-person job and part-time help hard to come by, Mary offered to work with him. For years she watched the art of surveying change from the chain and transit method to modern laser equipment, and tramped many a section line to go ahead with the target while her husband made his calculations. It is not an easy job on rough terrain in dense underbrush, which has to be cleared to provide a “line of sight.” When she started there were no women that she knew of doing that sort of work. Now she says, “You see more and more of them. I guess I started a trend.”
The Burgesses were always amused when starting their surveys at a documented monument in a town. Invariably, someone would ask, “Are you surveying this town again?” In fact they were not surveying the town at all. One has to start at a documented marker in order to legally arrive at the survey area, which may be quite a way from that marked point. Mary says, “People don’t realize that they can’t just tell you where they think their property corner is. They expect you to go from that to find the other corners, but it’s totally illegal.”
The Burgesses were always amused when starting their surveys at a documented monument in a town. Invariably, someone would ask, “Are you surveying this town again?” In fact they were not surveying the town at all. One has to start at a documented marker in order to legally arrive at the survey area, which may be quite a way from that marked point. Mary says, “People don’t realize that they can’t just tell you where they think their property corner is. They expect you to go from that to find the other corners, but it’s totally illegal.”

In her rare spare time, Mary reads ancient and western history extensively and paints with oils and acrylics. While the dream home had to be put on hold to deal with her husband’s increasing health problems, she pursued medical knowledge to help solve some of those problems and get them “back on track.” With the passing of her husband in 2006, she has moved to the east coast where she continues to share her special skills with family and new friends. In the end, many are benefiting from her relentless pursuit of knowledge and perfection.

“Photo courtesy of the Burgess family album” 1988.
Sources: Edited from an article first published in The Third Age Newspaper, February, 1993; interview with Mary Burgess, December, 1992
© 1992 Louise Lindgren All Rights Reserved. WLP Story # 11

Clara Morris Young

Her Granddaughter Remembers …1886 – 1983

By Roberta Jonnet

clara Morris YoungClara Morris Young lived what some may say was a common life. But what brought my grandmother west to Washington State and Snohomish County must have been an uncommon sense of adventure. She came to work, socialize and dance, and stayed to marry and raise a family. She adored being called “Mom” and “Grandma” and cooking and keeping house for a husband and two sons.

Clara Edith Morris was born February 7, 1886 outside the town of Mitchell, Indiana. She was the second of five children born to Robert J. Morris and Sarah Belle Terrell. Her older sister, Margaret, had married Frederick McCormick, and they were living in Snohomish County when Clara decided to join them
Arriving in Everett in 1907, Clara Morris was part of an influx of mid-Westerners to Snohomish County. The Polk City directory of 1907 states “Fifteen years ago the site…on which today stands this thriving manufacturing and commercial center, was an almost impenetrable virgin forest.” The directory reveals that the city was equipped with “electric street railways, first-class waterworks…two telephone systems, gas works, electric lights…two well equipped hospitals, a theatre that would be a credit to any eastern city…thirty-three miles of graded and improved streets…Nineteen buildings make up the public school property…the total number of school children is 4,700.”

Clara arrived at a time when the city was expanding rapidly. Lawrence O’Donnell writes in his book, Everett: Past & Present, that the city population grew from 8,000 in 1900 to 24,814 in 1910. New arrivals came from all over the United States and from overseas. The 1907 Polk directory lists Clara Morris as a “domestic” at 2614 Wetmore Avenue. She would have been twenty-one years old. In 1909 she was living in a boarding house at 2132 Oakes, which meant she had to walk a mile to work as an “ironer” for Independent Laundry at 28th and Cedar because streetcars did not serve that area. In 1910 she got a job as a maid at the Merchant Hotel at 1501 ½ Hewitt Avenue.
Her days were spent earning a living as a single, self-supporting woman, but her life was not all work and no play, as her family discovered when Clara’s keepsakes were found some 75 years later. Among her personal papers are invitations to numerous dances held in Everett from 1909-1911. Some invitations are addressed to her residence, some to her place of employment. One invitation reads “Gentleman One Dollar” and “Ladies’ Complimentary.” It was for the Opening Dancing Party for Rennie’s Dancing Academy, featuring Stormfels’ Orchestra at the Masonic Hall for Wednesday Evening, September 8, 1909. G.W. Stormfels was a violin- maker who owned a music store and boasted a five -piece band. “Dancing,” the invitation continues, “begins promptly at 9 p.m.” Clara had a late night.

In 1910 Clara was invited to attend a “Special Pre-Lenten Dancing party”. Ladies complimentary and “ten minutes devoted to the introduction and instruction on the latest dance ‘The Royal.’ Another invitation to a dancing party at the Eagles Hall in Snohomish advises a “special car leaves Wall and Colby at 8 p.m.” for the Saturday night dance. A note at the bottom directs, “Come prepared to make fun and enjoy fun.” Who could resist?

Clara’s life changed forever when she met and married Frederick R. Young of Sultan. Frederick was the son of Daniel and Sophia Kropf Young, who brought their family to Sultan in 1892, a year before the railroad reached the town. Clara’s sister and her husband introduced the couple. Clara and Frederick were married in the McCormick’s living room July 10, 1912. Fred said he was particularly struck by Clara’s “stylish” manner of dress when he met her.

There is a studio photograph of Clara seated on a stool, wearing a gauzy, shirtwaist blouse with embroidery on the bodice; a slim, straight skirt and a hat. Lifestyle records report 1908 was the year slim dresses without petticoats became popular. Also, no fashionable woman left her house without a hat in the first decade of the 1900s. Clara was evidently a fashion slave.
Frederick and Clara lived at corner of 4th and Fir in Sultan and raised their family. A daughter, Irma, born in 1916, died at the age of four months. Maurice was born in 1919 and Forrest in 1921. Clara always claimed that her sons were well mannered and easy to raise. A cousin of the two boys, however, told another story. He witnessed Clara standing by the front gate, tears running down her face, telling the boys she was leaving home because they “would not mind.”

Clara had the company of her sister-in-law, Sophia Young Jenft, as well as her husband’s sisters-in-law, Hilda Wolters Young, married to William Young; and Olive Humphries Young, married to Daniel Young, Jr., in raising their families in Sultan. Olive Young and Sophia Jenft were widowed early in life and left to raise their sons alone. The four women and their families visited each other’s homes, held dinners, celebrated birthdays and holidays, and mourned their losses together.
One of Clara’s activities later in life was participation in the Congregational Ladies Aid Society in Sultan. Family members recall that the group met for many years after the church had ceased holding services and closed it doors. The women gathered in one another’s homes to socialize and to complete a quilt for each member of the society in turn.

Clara’s activities were curtailed when she fell at the age of 60, breaking a hip. Arthritis set in, making walking difficult and keeping her on crutches until her death at age 97. Being a “shut-in,” so to speak, did not hamper her social life, for Clara had her phone and kept the party line busy. It was typical to come into her home and find her chatting away to a neighbor, friend or family member at all hours of the day and night. The Sultan “Home Chats” may have been a regular column for The Valley News, but the ladies of the town kept the real news alive via telephone.

Clara’s many gifts included cooking. She made a chicken that just smelling it frying in the pan made one’s mouth water. Her potato salad, made with plenty of mayonnaise, onion and sliced eggs, was a family favorite, and was often a special request for birthday dinners. Clara, who made and rolled out her own pie dough until she was 95 years old, would sit on a metal stool with a padded seat covered in blue plastic. Her sons had built and put in her kitchen cabinets, making the countertops lower so she could sit to work. I recall helping her cook by collecting the ingredients for her. The kitchen cabinets, which held the spices, flour and sugar, went up to the ceiling by the back door and gave off a rich aroma when the doors were opened. Clara always wore a bib apron in the kitchen, and a spare apron hung in the corner behind the stove.

Fred and Clara always attended the annual Pioneer’s Picnic, later called the Old School Mates’ picnic. These were annual gatherings in Sultan in August for anyone who had lived in town or attended school there. People from across the country would return to Sultan, bringing their hampers and picnic baskets of food to share at the high school. Tables were set up on the lawn, and the day was spent visiting and eating. Clara packed a mean hamper of food: cold meat sandwiches, potato salad, and apple pie.
My grandmother had a way of making life enjoyable for everyone, no matter what their ages. My cousin, Pam, and I would play “dress up” at Grandma’s house. We reveled in the hats, coats and dresses we found in her closet. We would put on an outfit, complete with hat of course, and then parade into the living room to show her, much to her delight. Some years later, when I was shopping for a wedding hat, I went to Chaffee’s on Colby in Everett. Grandma always asked to be taken to Chaffee’s when she wanted a new hat.

I remember that Clara did not have stomachaches or headaches, and took few if any, medications during her life. She ate sliced onion sandwiches with mayonnaise and used lard in her frying pan. She would ask about the health of her daughter-law’s father, who was ten years younger than Clara, referring to him as “the old man.” She shunned anything associated with being an “old lady.” She did not care for the shawl her son brought her from the Holy Land, and she would not be caught dead in lavender or purple because as far as she was concerned, these were “old ladies’” colors.

Clara lost Fred in 1963. He died the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. She outlived her siblings and nearly all her friends and neighbors, a fact that troubled her in her last years. Clara missed her contemporaries, the people with whom she shared her life and times. However, her independent spirit, which brought her west as a young woman, served her to her last days. She lived alone from 1963 until a home care worker moved in to assist her a year before Clara’s death. Her sons honored her wish to live in her home and kept in close contact with phone calls and daily visits. She cooked Sunday dinners up until her last year of life because it was her joy to cook for family.

Clara’s was an ordinary life lived well to the end. Her mind was clear and she knew everyone down to the great-grandchildren by name. Her legacy was living well every day.

Sources: American Decades, 1900-1910; Polk City Directories, 1907, 1909, 1910; O’Donnell, Lawrence. Everett Past and Present; a Centennial [Evertt, WA Cascade Savings Bank] 1993.
Personal Experience, Interviews with Clara Morris Young’s family; Clara Morris Young family records.
© 2005 Roberta Jonnet, All Rights Reserved; WLP Story # 10

Mabel Monsey

Chronicles of a Farm Wife, 1891-1903

Originally published in the Third Age News: June 2001;  updated in 2006 by the Womens Legacy Project (WLP Story Number 9) and again in 2018 on Historylink.org.  Please see that link for the most recent version.

Photo credit: Lake Stevens Museum Information and photo gathered from the Mabel Monsey album held by the Lake Stevens Historical Society Museum, Lake Stevens, Washington

The Monsey family came west from Ohio in about 1888, first settling in Snohomish and then, in 1890, taking a forty acre preemption claim near Hartford, a railroad junction northeast of Lake Stevens. They brought four girls with them, ranging in age from nine years to eighteen months. In an article describing their arrival, which Mabel wrote for a publication back east, she told of their trek from the train station at Hartford to their new property: “ …we walked the mile and three-quarters down the railroad track, then one-quarter of a mile to our new home, over a good road. … on either side of the road, was dense forest, and to see the sun one must look straight up.”

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©2001-2018  Louise Lindgren  All Rights Reserved

In Search of Nora Burglon

In Everett , from the 1930s to 1976, lived a woman who made her mark upon society, her physical environment, and the minds of countless children whom she taught and who read her books. She was Nora Burglon, author, artist, teacher, world traveler, and Scandinavian folklorist. Born April 28, 1900 in Minnesota, she came from, as she was proud to say, “sturdy Swedish stock,” She researched and shared that heritage for much of her life. For someone who was so well known nationally and internationally, little was known about her private life. In 1935 she was listed in Polk’s City Directory, as a writer and as managing director for “Scandinavian Crafts”, a small business in Everett. Also in the 1930s she began to fulfill a life-long dream to build a little cottage in the Swedish peasant style on Rucker Hill.
Burglon became known in the ’30s and ’40s as a prolific author. Six books of fiction for children were written from 1931 to 1939, another four between 1940 and 1947. Add to that a large number of magazine articles. Her stories were carefully researched, for accurate detail and a sense of place, through her many travels-to Europe and Scandinavia, the Carribean and Hawaii, even to the Arctic.
One book, Children of the Soil, A Story of Scandinavia ,1933 (serialized 1931-32) was named an Honor Book by the Newbery Foundation. That award placed Burglon alongside Laura Ingalls Wilder and Isaac Bashevis Singer in the pantheon of writers who won similar Newbery awards. The story follows the adventures of two children and their widowed mother as they struggle to rise from the status of poor crofters to respectable farmers. It is filled (as are all her books) with adventure, moral lessons, cultural and environmental education, and (usually) a young girl as heroine, who has the commonsense, will, and faith enough to turn every ill to the good.
Burglon’s observations on fairness and justice ran through all her work and society fell short of her ideals much of the time. In Children of the Soil she spoke of feeding weeds to goats: “That was one fine thing about goats. It was as if they were related to the crofter folk, for they did not believe in wasting anything they could make good use of. Now cows, on the other hand — well, cows were more finicky – they were more like the gentry: nothing was ever just exactly enough, nor ever just exactly good enough, either.” At a point in the story when the heroine’s little brother is falsely accused, Burglon wrote, “Nicolina wanted to fly at the big red-faced woman – she who always made the girl feel as if being a crofter were something akin to being a thief or a beggar.” She had no patience with people who act as sheep and sweep along with the crowd: “People never knew half the time what they themselves really wanted to say. Somebody said, ‘Cry-lunta [crybaby].’ Then all the rest said the same. Somebody else said, ‘Bravo!’ Then they all said that.”
One of Burglon’s traits was a talent for description that painted in words a picture so clear that she might as well have applied it to canvas. On the appearance of children dressed in many layers against the cold: “A red nose and a pair of bright eyes shone out through each bundle. There was a pair of heavy overshoes under each bundle which kept it moving along, and a pair of red mittens which helped it get up when the bundle fell down.”
[Book cover on left is for Ghost Ship : a Story of Norway Published in 1936.]

In 1941, Burglon was in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. After watching the catastrophe from her hotel window she spent days helping the injured. During World War II she organized dispatch of thousands of relief packages to Scandinavia. She spent time in Hawaii as a teacher and had, as a mentor, Mrs. Moriama, “whose deep and kindly understanding of children supplied the model for Mrs. Urago” in the book, Shark Hole, A Story of Modern Hawaii, published in 1943. In the story Nani, the young girl, observes, “Mrs. Urago understood that some people were untamed spirits. Their work was to give light and understanding to others, not to store knowledge within themselves.”

Burglon didn’t shy away from the war, but tried to help children understand their feelings and those of others in that time of turmoil. In one part of the book she spoke of the legend of the Black Shark which terrorized the Hawaiian people. Years before, it had promised to stop if the people brought offerings to the sea once a year on the seventh day of the last month in the year. In the story, it was believed to have returned. ” Nani’s face lighted with sudden understanding, ‘….. That’s the seventh of December. Pearl Harbor was bombed on that day and the people forgot.’ Her eyes widened with fear.”

Another observation on the war deals with black-outs and the emotional toll they took: “[Before Pearl Harbor] the hamlet had bloomed with the lights of a thousand windows. Now there was no light except the glimmering of the moonbeams upon the cane sheds. It was this darkness, more than anything else, that reminded the three children that their country was at war.” For balance against the gloom, Burglon wrote, “War had changed many things in the Islands, but the sound of the cane rushing down through the flumes over the valleys, had not changed at all. Neither had the sweet smell of cane juice, which rose like a warm breath.”

Another point she had to make regarded the discrimination against Japanese-American citizens that was prevalent in that time. In the story, a teacher speaks to a student who injured a Japanese-American child, “‘My grandfather came here from China as a coolie laborer,’ Miss Chun went on. ‘Yoshio’s grandfather came from Japan as a poor farmer. Your grandfather came from Puerto Rico as a contract laborer to work in the sugar cane. It is the people who have come from all these various lands that have made Hawaii the wonderful place it is. Not one of these people could have done it alone. All of us, not any one people, are called Americans.'”

Burglon was also an environmentalist before the word was even coined. Her writing is full of vivid descriptions of nature, guided by her artist’s eye. She appreciated all aspects of the natural world and decried mankind’s ignorance in upsetting the order. In Shark Hole she speaks of the damage caused by imported species and plants: “Because the original Hawaiian birds had become nearly extinct, bird lovers had brought in others. The imported birds, lacking the food to which they were accustomed, became fruit eaters and the Hawaiian orchardists paid dearly for their birdsong.” Crawfish had been brought in to eat mosquitoes, but fell on the taro roots instead. Lantana had once been grown in gardens. Now it made miles of highland country all but impassable.” Although Burglon’s head-on approach to the world’s problems was accepted without a blink by her many young readers, it was not necessarily so with their parents or teachers. I was told by one former student of 1944, that when she suggested that Burglon be read aloud, the idea was put down because of the impression that Burglon had “communistic leanings.” Her deep faith in Christianity might have surprised her detractors. For instance, how many kitchens do you know that have the entire Lord’s Prayer written in Swedish (or any other language, for that matter) surrounding the room in a border? Or “Blessed are they that do” and “Work is Love made visible” written in decorative script on a cupboard door or ceiling beam? Burglon’s little cottage had these and more.

In Better Homes and Gardens magazine (Sept.1940), Burglon described her motivation for building her home, “I suppose it was those hearty, stubborn Swedish pioneers, my grandparents, who bequeathed to me my life-long hunger for simple walls of white, for bright rafters and flowering beams, for vibrant homespuns, gleaming copper-studded chests, and sunny braided rugs.” And build it, she did, throughout the 1930s, and often at odds with the advice of her carpenters. Her books were typed out from a desk by the window of the small loft bedroom, designed as “the maiden’s bower” where unmarried daughters slept. She described this room as containing “great quantities of manuscripts in various stages of construction or decomposition.
“Mine is a joyous little home of singing colors and great peace. In my many authoring trips to the north countries, I had gathered the weavings and chests, the buckets and kettles, the color harmonies and folk designs that would make it truly Scandinavian, completely my own. I built a harmony of vermilion and royal blue, hues as strong and hearty as the Swedish peoples themselves. The motifs on doors, rafters, and beams I drew from the peasant art of these people, …..” “The limb [of the tree of life] was their first symbol, the wheel of the sun-worshiper, the second, the “sacred heart of Jesus” their third. The heart has become a heart-shaped leaf, the base of a flower, or the center of the design from which stalks and buds appear to grow.” Burglon lived, surrounded by the beauty she created, for the rest of her life in the little cottage in Everett.
Nora Burglon died in 1976 at the age of 75. Her books were out of print, most of the print forms having been melted for scrap during the war. A short obituary stated that she was a retired teacher with the Everett School District and left numerous cousins across the country and a niece and nephew in Sweden. But, what of her life before and after that prolific and public period of the ’30s and ’40s? The Women’s Legacy Project members are writing a book about Snohomish County women. Burglon deserves a prominent chapter. If you have any information about her, please contact us (see menu above). I want to fill in the gaps and do justice to the story of a remarkable woman.

© 2003 – 2006 Louise Lindgren, All Rights Reserved

Mary Gertrude Stockbridge Allen

Artist, Musician, Mother and Wife

By Annabelle Birkestol
The arrival in Stanwood of Mary Gertrude Stockbridge Allen over one hundred years ago marked the beginning of a new era in the cultural life of old Stanwood. She was an accomplished artist, as well as musician, and her achievements were notable.

She was born October 7, 1869 in Mendota, Illinois. Her parents were David Henry and Ann Elizabeth Murry Stockbridge. She was a descendant of John Alder and Elder Brewster who came over on the “Mayflower”. She was also descendant of Sir John Stockbridge of England.

When she was just a young child she displayed a natural aptitude for painting and gift for art. By the time she was ten years old she was working in color. She attended elementary school in Springfield, Illinois and graduated from the Morrisonville High School, also in Illinois. In later years she enrolled in various college and university courses, mainly by extension.
On December 23, 1890 she was married to Dr. Orville Reid Allen. Dr. Allen was born in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois October 11, 1965. His father, Samuel C. Allen was a native of Virginia. His mother, Jane E. (Gore) Allen was born in Ohio. The father was a well-educated and successful farmer. He figured prominently in Macon County affairs and served in a number of public offices. He and his brother in partnership with Abraham Lincoln operated a country store for a period of two years. In 1858 when Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas over the issue of slavery, it was his good friend Samuel Allen who accompanied Lincoln during these debates. Samuel Allen’s son Orville was born only a few months after Lincoln was assassinated. One of Dr. Allen’s prized possessions was a death mask of President Lincoln.
Following his graduation from Decatur High School, Orville Reid Allen studied medicine at Rush Medical College of Chicago, graduating in 1887. He first practiced medicine in southwestern Missouri for one year. In 1888 he returned to his hometown of Decatur where he remained for the next ten years. He married Mary Stockbridge in 1890. Their only son, Everett S. Allen was born in Decatur July 4, 1893. In 1898 Dr. Allen and Mary and their 5-year-old son moved to Stanwood where he established his medical practice. His first office was located on Market Street.
In 1904 the Allens built a new home which was considered one of the finest in Stanwood. It was described as a “three-story residence containing twelve rooms and six closets. It was piped for city water and serviced with steam heat and electricity from the hospital. Entrance to the residence was from the front piazza into a hall that led to a spacious living room with a large old-fashioned fireplace. Music room, library, dining room, pantry, kitchen and laundry were on the two upper floors, much of which was done in Washington fir and Alaska cedar. A hand-carved mantle was a special feature of the house.”
In January 1905 Dr. Allen opened Stanwood’s first hospital. It was located at the corner of Broadway and Augusta Streets and was described a “a modern two-story facility, complete with surgery, six private rooms, a large ward, two baths, X-ray equipment and hot air cabinet for treatment of rheumatism and inflamed joints. Also included were nurse’s quarters, doctor’s office, two sitting rooms, spacious dining room and kitchen, heating plant and its own electric light plant.” Dr. Allen also built a hospital in Burlington, although I haven’t been able to determine exactly when that occurred.

Mary Allen’s relatives played an important role in the development of early-day Stanwood. In 1887 her brother William R. Stockbridge, who came to Stanwood from Puyallup, purchased all the holdings of the original town proprietor, Henry Oliver. In the following year, 1888, a town site of twenty acres was laid out. This was surveyed by Peter Leque and filed on September 28, 1889 as a plot belonging to William R. and his wife, Augusta M. Stockbridge. The shortest street in Stanwood–Augusta Street–was named in honor of Mrs. Stockbridge. She was also noted for her patchwork quilts. One of her quilts is displayed in the D.O. Pearson House Museum. In later years, William R. Stockbridge served as president of the Bank of Commerce in Everett.

Stanwood was incorporated as a fourth class town on September 29, 1903. Dr. Allen was one of the five people chosen to serve on the first town council. He was also known as one of the early canoe doctors. Automobiles were introduced to Stanwood in May, 1907 and Dr. Allen was one of the first people to own one.

Meanwhile, Mary Allen’s paintings were bringing her fame among Northwest artists and her legacy remains to this day. The first time Mrs. Allen exhibited any of her work occurred in March 1906 when she entered one of her paintings titled “Street Arabs” at the third annual exhibit of fine are sponsored by the Women’s Century Club of Seattle. According to an article that was published in the Stanwood Tidings “this painting showed a style absolutely individual in technique, coloring and choice of subject and was the subject of many complimentary criticisms by all who visited the exhibit.”

Some time after that, Mary Allen was commissioned to paint the altar piece for the First Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon. She also painted portraits of two Japanese heroes–one was a General, the other was a Major–who had served in the war between Russia and Japan shortly after the turn of the century.

Tragedy struck the Allen family on July 11, 1910 when their son Everett lost his life in a drowning accident while learning to swim in the Stillaguamish River. Dr. Allen and Dr. McEacheran and two nurses worked for three long hours trying to revive him, but they were unsuccessful. Just one week before, on July 4th, Everett had celebrated his seventeenth birthday. He had attended the Hill Military Academy in Portland where he held the rank of second corporal of his company. He had been home only about two weeks when the tragedy occurred. A story that circulated at the time was that a few days before he lost his life, Everett was lying on the ground one day and looking up at the sky he casually remarked to his mother, “I wish I could lie on a bed of roses”. At his funeral, his coffin was literally smothered with fresh roses. In the years following the loss of Everett, the Allens raised and educated a total of six children.
Mary Allen painted and generously donated the altar piece in time for the dedication of Freeborn Lutheran Church in September 1911. She did not sign the painting because it’s a copy of the painting, “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane” by Hofmann, a 19th century German artist. I have been told that she also painted the altar piece for the Lutheran Church at Port Madison on Bainbridge Island.

One of Mrs. Allen’s best-known works is the idealized portrait of Marcissa Prentiss Whitman hanging in Prentiss Hall at Whitman College in Walla Walla. This work was painted on a commission from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Dr. Allen retained his medical practice in Stanwood until August 1911 when the O.R. Allen Hospital was purchased by Dr. L. H. Jacobsen of Seattle and Dr. Donald McEacheran of Stanwood. Dr. and Mrs. Allen moved to Lake Stevens where he continued to practice medicine. In 1937 the Snohomish County Medical Association honored him at a formal dinner in Everett for having completed fifty years of serving as a medical doctor. The Allens observed their fiftieth wedding anniversary December 23, 1940. They lived for a time in Laguna Beach, California and also in Everett.

Resources :
Essex, Alice. The Stanwood Story, vols. I and II, 1971, 1975 Stanwood/Camano NEWS, Stanwood, WA
Whitfield, William. The History of Snohomish County Washington, vols. I and II, Pioneer Historical Publishing, Chicago, 1926
Pollard, Lancaster, A History of the State of Washington, Vol IV, Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon 1937
Trip, Dode & Sherburne F. Cook, Jr. Washington State Art and Artists, 1850 – 1950, Olympica Washington Sherburne Antiques and Fine Art, 1992
Sharylen, Maria, Artists of the Pacific Northwest / A Biographical Dictionary, 1600’s – 1970, McFarland, Jefferson N. C., 1993
Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West, vol I & II. Chicago, Sage Books [1974] – 1985
Fielding, Mantle. Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers, Poughkeepsie, N. Y. Apollo, 1986
Who’s Who in the State of Washington, 1939-40
Newsclippings from Stanwood Tidings, Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer

© 1999 Annabelle Birkestol All Rights Reserved; WLP Story Number 7 ~

Mae Randall Parkhurst Swanson

Hard-working Businesswoman 1879-1952
WLP Story No. 6 ~ By Sandra Schumacher
Mae Randall Parkhurst’s role as breadwinner was thrust upon her by the death of her husband in 1915. She was already working, but as a young widow with three small children to support, Mae knew life would not be easy. Determination, perseverance and love would be required to keep her family together, but these Mae had in abundance.

She had come to Everett at age 26 around 1905 with her parents, William and Rose Ellen Randall, and Mae’s sister, Lydia Randall, from Cedar Falls, Iowa, where William, previously a farmer, had studied for the ministry. Rev. Randall was to become the pastor of the First Baptist Church on Lombard. Mae attended business college, then promptly went to work as a court reporter.
Mae recalled that it was a challenging job because it was difficult for her to understand the testimonies of people with Scandinavian accents, a sound new to her ears. She had a good head on her shoulders, and before long was working for the county treasurer at a time when most transactions were done in cash.

Still close to her parents, Mae took a trip to Portland, Oregon with her father. There she met Paul Parkhurst, who had left a comfortable life in Templeton, Massachusetts to mine gold in the Klondike with several friends. The adventure was not successful, but they did not return to the East Coast, choosing instead to remain out west. Paul and Mae married in Everett around 1907. She continued to work for the county and was promoted to County Cashier. It was a good job and convenient since the couple lived a few doors away from the courthouse.
Throughout the marriage, Paul had never been well, due to an illness he contracted in the Klondike. His death left Mae with three children under the age of seven. Mae’s daughter Helen Parkhurst Sievers remembers her mother as a very resourceful, generous and hard working woman. Helen remembers, “She stepped out in the world at a time when most women were in the background.”

Mae recognized that she needed more income in order to raise her children, so she opened Vanity Bazaar, a variety store on Hoyt Avenue in Everett. Later she would open opening The Variety Store in Snohomish. She counted Pilchuck Julia as one of her many customers, and, because of Julia’s recurring leg problem, often had to drive Julia home. By 1925 Mae decided that she would ply her business skills in the Delicatessen business and opened Parkhurst Deli in Everett with her sister Lydia.
Her retail business may have continued for years were it not for a late rent payment on her Lake Stevens home that resulted in the loss of her home and all of her household belongings. She and the children were forced to start over with the help of Mae’s father. May applied for a position in the cashier’s office in Everett again, and was gladly rehired due to her fine work record over the years.
In 1928 she remarried Everett’s beloved Fire Chief, Charlie Swanson, a long time family friend. During her retirement years, Mae enjoyed fishing and boating with her husband, and divided her time between Everett and Baby Island Heights. Emphysema took its toll on Mae, who said that she “probably contracted it by talking too much!”

In December 1952, the city of Everett lost one of its earliest female business owners, as well as a respected employee. Never the victim, she rose from adversity and built both a strong family and a successful career.

Source: Helen Parkhurst Sievers

©2006 Sandra Schumacher, All Rights Reserved

To learn more about Mae Randall Parkhurst, see the story of her daughter, Helen Parkhurst Sievers, on this web site.