Edith Blackman's Album

Edith Blackman, 1885-1936 PERHAPS YOU ARE READING this column, month after month, maybe even for the past three years, with a family album of 19th century photographs still in storage; and, with the nagging thought of doing something about it one of these days? If so, I hope to inspire you with the story of Richard Guttormsen’s gift of Edith Blackman’s Album to the Society this past August.

Richard grew up in Everett, with his parents but in his grandmother’s house on Hoyt Avenue. He raised his own family in Lakewood, Washington and when his mother died in 1984, his grandmother’s effects, including her Victorian album of family portraits, passed on to him, which he kept in a box in his garage for over 20 years!

His grandmother was Edith Blackman, who was born in Maine to Elhanan and Francis in 1871. The following year the four Blackman brothers and families migrated to the Pacific Northwest. Edith was the only child in the group that most likely traveled by ship around Cape Horn to San Francisco, then to Port Gamble for work with the Pope and Talbot lumber mill. Within a couple of years, the brothers established their own logging operation on a small lake that now carries their name. All three families built homes on Avenue B in the newly named settlement of Snohomish City, but only one has survived. It has been the Blackman House Museum at 118 Avenue B since 1970.

Back in Lakewood, around 5 years ago, Richard’s son, Michael, told him of the museum in Snohomish that carried his grandmother’s maiden name. Perhaps it would be interested in the album since neither he, nor his siblings, were interested in keeping it? Finally, this past August, Richard and his domestic partner, Alberta, made the trip to Snohomish where they met Marcia O’Hair on duty at the museum. Marcia eagerly accepted the album and even helped Richard identify some of the photographs.

Richard Guttormsen with Alberta and his grandmother's album.We learned from Richard that Edith married a William Morris in 1891, though she did attend classes at the University of Washington when it was located in downtown Seattle. The marriage ended suddenly in divorce in 1911, one year after building a new home at 1231 Hoyt Avenue in Everett, (which is now gone). She never remarried, raising her two children, Francis and Douglas, alone. Beginning in the 1930s with the Richard’s birth to Francis and Andrew Guttormsen, his family lived with Edith at this address. Richard has many memories of his time with Grandma Edith, including trips to Snohomish to visit old friends. Edith died in her home in 1965. She was 94 years old.

Please consider this story a call to action. You may come to learn, just as Richard has, that the Victorian album of old photographs that nobody in the family wants is a priceless treasure of local history. As further encouragement, I will be telling stories about some of the historic photos used in my book “Early Snohomish” at the Upper Case Bookstore on Saturday afternoon at 2pm on November 21st. Joining me will be Kathleen Lince, the Society’s professional archivist, who will advise interested persons on the best practices for the care of your family photographs. You are invited to bring along your album to share and for a free consult as to its care and historic content.

Published November 18, 2009 in the Snohomish County Tribune