ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS AGO Hiel Barnes staked a claim on a gentle south facing bluff overlooking the Snohomish River, just downstream from a graceful bend that turned the flow due west, as if the river was entering stage-right, auditioning for the future settlement to be named in it’s honor.
Let’s push pause on the confetti machine long enough to consider Mr. Barnes contribution to the founding of Snohomish. After all, it was his job to assemble Ferguson’s cottage in the spring of 1859 – not far from where it still stands today as a private home. Emory C. Ferguson, who apprenticed as a carpenter in the place of his birth in Westchester County, New York, built the cottage in Steilacoom, then took it apart in order to fit it aboard the side-wheeler Ranger No 2 for shipment to Barnes. The founding father of Snohomish actually didn’t arrive until the following year, 1860, but in the spirit of the town that also survives to this day; he arrived with enough supplies to establish a store.
Hiel Barnes was also born in New York State, but he traveled the Oregon Trail west with his parents and siblings, arriving in Portland in time to be listed in the 1850 decennial census as “Hyel” and described as a “tinner” — he was 22 years old. We follow his historical paper trail next to the gold fields of British Columbia’s Fraser River, when a letter to his brother in Olympia, dated July 20, 1858, was published in the local newspaper. Hiel writes,
“You would confer a act of kindness upon all person who think of coming to these mines, by telling them not come this way […] This river is considerable of humbug.”
There is no record of Barnes and Ferguson meeting along side the Fraser River, although both were there around the same time, and both left the gold fields for the safety of Steilacoom, home to the one of the first military forts established in the Pacific Northwest in 1849. But it’s ten years later now in this story, and Hiel Barnes agrees to stake a claim for Ferguson, who was a business partner of Barnes’s brother-in-law. In the absence of any record to the contrary, let’s imagine that it was Hiel Barnes (perhaps in consultation with fellow claim holders, Edson Cady and Egbert Tucker) who was responsible for selecting the site that eventually becomes the western portion of Snohomish City.
Barnes voted on July 9, 1860, along with 16 other men – in the Ferguson cottage he assembled — to establish the settlement site (called Cadyville at the time) as the seat of the new Snohomish County; and Barnes was elected constable. Five years later he married Mary F. McDonald in California, yet they show up in the 1871 Washington Territorial Census as residents of Thurston County, neighbors of the Morgans, parents of Ferguson’s wife, Lucetta. His paper trail ends with the 1910 census when he was counted as living in Randle, part of the Rainer National forest, aged 82, now described as a widower.
Many thanks to Ann Tuohy for her detailed genealogical work-up on the parents and siblings of Hiel Barnes – the so-called paper trail. And please join us on March 7th at the Soccer Dome (and other locations) for our citywide Birthday Bash.
The Ferguson Cottage as it appeared around 1900. Emory Ferguson is seated in the center of the image, standing to his right is M. J. McGuiness, the owner of the property at the time, who moved the cottage slightly east to its current location in order to build his home on this prime location overlooking the river. Seated on the porch is James Burton as indicated in the October 13, 1911, issue of the Snohomish County Tribune in the story of Ferguson’s death.
Photo courtesy Snohomish Historical Society Archives.
The Ferguson Cottage as it appears today. Rebecca Loveless (standing) purchased the cottage in 1997 not knowing that she had just purchased the oldest house in the county. Sheryl Maultsby (seated) has rented the home since it was renovated by Loveless.