Ferguson Wharf, 1877 -2009

Ferguson Wharf, 1888-2009

WE CONTINUE OUR TOUR OF EARLY SNOHOMISH’S RIVERFRONT this month to the western end of town, when Avenue D was little more than a rutted dirt path.

E. C. Ferguson and his wife Lucetta, platted the town site they named
Snohomish City in 1870, which comprised of Avenues A through D, and three
or four streets. Seems that between the two of them, they couldn’t come up
with, or agree on, names for the avenues. Woodbury and Mary Low Sinclair*
on the other hand, the couple who purchased the Cady claim to the east,
named the streets after trees. Evidently, both couples agreed on naming
the shared street “Union. ”

Ferguson was serving as a territorial representative in Olympia, where he
met Lucetta Morgan and they were married in 1868. Returning to Snohomish,
the couple appears to have worked together to develop the town site,
including the wharf and warehouse pictured in this month’s historic image.
There is still much to learn about the Fergusons’s business dealings in
those early days, but we do know that by the time railroad arrived in
1888, the Bruen and Henry business had taken over the wharf location. And
Ferguson had built a handsome building at the corner of 2nd Street that
featured a large window built into the roof, which was required for a
photographer’s studio.

We have yet to learn which photographer(s) rented the studio from the
Fergusons. It could have been the one who captured this month’s image
since we have no record. So, we are left to imagine the festive scene
that brought the Nellie to town, and wonder why it was photographed at
Ferguson’s wharf rather than Jackson’s at the east end of town?

Plus, the sight of the unknown photographer setting up the large format camera
across the river didn’t go unnoticed by the workers in the warehouse who are filling very doorway, with a curiosity that is related to ours, watching back we could say, even though ours is from a viewpoint over a hundred years away.

*Follow this link to read more about Mary Low Sinclair
Ferguson Wharf, 1877
The steamship Nellie tied up at Ferguson’s Wharf. This is most likely the first photograph of the year-old steamship that grew to become very popular and essential to the everyday life of early Snohomish. Behind Ferguson’s warehouse is Isaac Cathcart’s Exchange Hotel built around 1875. On the right, looking at this image, we are treated to our first view of the muddy lane leading from the river that eventually becomes Avenue D. (Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society Archives)


North bank, west end of town

The Snohomish Riverfront at the west end of downtown as it appears today, 2009. The Snohomish Visitor Center, pictured here just west of the Avenue D Bridge, is the approximate location of the Ferguson warehouse.


Riverfront at Cady Landing: 1885, 1892 and 2009

Riverfront at Cady Landing

THE FIRST LAWYER IN TOWN, Eldridge Morse, and the first doctor, Albert Folsom, initiated the organization of the Atheneum Society, and produced a hand-written newsletter, The Shillalah, Devoted to Art, Science, Literature and General News. This effort led to their publication of our first newspaper, The Northern Star in 1876, but businesses didn’t have to wait until then to place an ad.

Shillalah cover, 1874
Shillalah cover, 1874

Thanks once again to Ann Tuohy for transcribing an ad for the Riverside Hotel (the three-story white building in the center), from a hand-written business directory issue of the Shillalah (circa 1874), which I am including in its entirety with only the spelling updated, but wtih the tongue-in-cheek firmly in place.

Riverside Hotel. By Frank Mathews, lately proprietor of the Iceburg House, North Pole. This house has been fitted up in princely style with all the modern and ancient improvements. Guests have the privilege of being eaten by the landlord or of eating themselves. A large number new 0 nails have just been purchased from John Hilton, and sincerely driven in all the rooms, so that any number of patrons can be accommodated with a place to sleep on short notice. Those preferring light airy rooms can be accommodated on the new side walk, on the west side of the hotel, lately erected by the celebrated architect and builder, Mr. Ward, of Jersey City, Forks of the Snoqualmie. There is a fine bar attached to the house, and the best evidence of the superior quality of the liquors furnished to customers may be found in the fact that the former proprietor and the present landlord are both still living, and are liable to linger along quite awhile longer. A spacious hall may be found in the 3rd story where the light-fantastic toe and ponderous heel often smite the floor at the same time. A beautiful zoological garden and pleasure ground are adjacent to the building and free to all the guests, here is the finest collection of old hens, chickens, roosters, mice, rats, hogs, pigs, puppies, dogs & bears ever before kept in any hotel in Washington Territory.

By 1892 Snohomish boasted of its first four-star hotel, the Penobscot, at First Street and Avenue B, so we are not sure how this building was being used when Anders Beer Wilse captured this informative image. Ads in the newspapers of the 1890s list Ferguson’s Blue Eagle Tavern, west of the hotel building, as “Ferguson’s old store,” and it seems that other merchants were using it for selling overstock.
Albert Folsom passed away in 1885 and so missed the expansion of Snohomish’s riverfront with the coming of the steamships. Morse retired to a farm outside of Snohomish to grow vegetables that he sold in town until his death in 1914.

Eastside Riverfront circa 1885. A prized image captured by Gilbert Horton, Snohomish’s own pioneer photographer. Far left is the Ferguson Cottage, built in 1859 and still standing; next in line is Ferguson’s famous Blue Eagle Tavern; then the two story Riverside Hotel and behind it is the Sinclair store and first home.
[Photo courtesy Snohomish County History Museum]
200903_1892 Another pictorial gem showing the eastern end of early Snohomish’s riverfront captured by the Norwegian photographer Anders Beer Wilse. Barely included on the left is the Ferguson Cottage next to two unidentified buildings, then the two story Blue Eagle Tavern with a new addition, and the Riverside Hotel building is still standing. The age of the steam ship is in full bloom showing two ships double parked at the Jackson Wharf, only the stern-wheeler Florence Henry is identified. And that’s Maple Street meeting the river on the right.
[Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Wise No.11007]
Cady Landing, 2009. The eastern end of Snohomish’s downtown riverfront as it appears today. The Ferguson Cottage stands out on the left, sporting a recent coat of white paint, and Cady Landing at the end of Maple Street is on the right.

Ferguson Cottage, circa 1900-2007


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.

Ferguson Cottage, 1885-2009

Ferguson Cottage (on the left)

Since the “kickoff” for Snohomish’s 150th Anniversary celebration attempted an end run around the history of Snohomish’s loss of the county seat to Everett in 1897 by asking for the county records back, I thought it would be fun to feature this historic photograph of the county’s very first “official courthouse” — which is still standing.

Mother Nature, a bit of a joker herself when it comes to upstaging history, touched us with a flood of historic proportions, forcing the kickoff organizers to huddle for reconsideration of their game plan. As has happened through out the history of our riverside town, a planned trip to Everett had to be cancelled due to flooding. Perhaps a good thing since the decision avoided any potentially loud confrontation with the team from Mukilteo demanding that the re-acquired records be turned over to them!

Mukilteo was the first home of the county seat established by the legislation signed on January 14, 1861. But it was a pro tem designation, pending official elections in July. The first meeting of the county commissioners was held in March, in Mukilteo, and it focused on the building of a road connecting Snohomish with Woods Prairie, the future site of Monroe. At the second meeting the new county was divided into two voting precincts, with voting places at Frost and Fowler’s store in Mukilteo, and Ferguson’s cottage. On July 9, 1861, voters decided 17 to 10 to establish the county seat in Snohomish; in other words, seven more men voted in Snohomish then in Mukilteo!

In a letter written by Jacob Fowler shortly after the election, lamented,

“Some of our boys did not turn out and that many was off at work. Our election is all over. It passed off very quiet, no fighting or drunkenness.”

E. C. Ferguson, on the other hand, recalled how he returned to his home, the small cottage overlooking the river, with the county records in his vest pocket. We will have more about the Ferguson cottage next month, and the move of the county records to his Blue Eagle Saloon.

Courtesy Museum of Snohomish County History, it was taken by Snohomish’s own pioneer photographer Gilbert D. Horton. The Ferguson Cottage is the one story white building on the left, Ferguson's famous Blue Eagle Saloon next in line, then we assume the Jackson Wharf building, since the title of the image is "Jackson's Wharf." The small building on the right is a store selling logging supplies opened by Woodbury Sinclair in 1864, around the same time that Ferguson opened his saloon.

Warner’s Thumbnail History of Snohomish at historylink.org

Margaret Riddle’s Thumbnail History of Mukilteo

Cadyville, 1866-2007

County Seat 1866

We inaugurate this weblog with the first article of the column published in the Snohomish County Tribune, January 17, 2007. It’s the oldest image of our collection, dated 1866, which makes it a fitting choice to also mark the city’s 150th Anniversary of it’s founding in 1859.

Reverse of County Seat 1866

The inscription in graceful period handwriting on the reverse reads:

The County Seat in 1866. The Eagle Saloon conducted by E. C. Ferguson on the left of the picture, Sinclair and Clendenning Store on the right. [And on Wm. Whitfield stationary glued to the back] Snohomish in 1866. Taken from south bank of Snohomish River.

Wm. Whitfield was a pioneer businessman and historian who wrote a comprehensive history of Snohomish County published in 1926, and I would like to believe that this photograph hung in his office at 138 Maple Street offering inspiration, as it does for me.

David Dilgard, history specialist with the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room, has done some digging into who might have been the photographer of this unaccredited image; and in collaboration with the University of Washington Special Collections, he is reasonably certain that it was taken by E. M. Sammis on his way to photograph “The Falls of the Snoqualmie,” as they were referred to at the time. Sammis, from New York, had a studio in Seattle from 1861 to 1866, during which time he captured the only studio photograph of Chief Seattle.

Of particular interest is the dramatic change in vegetation and the complete absence of the giant firs that greeted our first residents.

— Warner

The historic image is courtesy of the Snohomish Historical Society’s archives. Following the travels of E. M. Sammis in local news accounts, researchers have established that Sammis photographed “The Falls of the Snoqualmie” in 1865, which means that he had to pass through Snohomish traveling upstream, when he could have captured this image. Since this story was published, the author has come across accounts that the man posing for the camera may be Woodbury Sinclair who operated a store in the small structure on the right.

The Now image is a self-portrait where I am standing in the same spot as Mr. Sinclair(?) in the historic image. Of course, this is the boat launch called Cady Landing today; and in fact, this clearing on the north bank of the river was first called Cadyville, named by Edson Cady, the first claim holder who has disappeared from the pages of history.


This new site marks the beginning of my third year writing a monthly column for the Snohomish County Tribune and this weblog might be a good way to celebrate the popularity of the articles.  The intention is to bring you into the conversation of how the historic city of Snohomish has changed over the years.

Please contribute if you have historic photographs of Snohomish you wish to share, if you once lived in Snohomish and enjoy seeing the old pictures, and especially if seeing an old photograph reminds you of a story about early Snohomish.


First Street and Avenue A

This month’s image is the last of the Gilbert Horton photographs featured in the exhibition at the Blackman House Museum, and it is the latest one in the Society’s collection. Taken in 1908, ten years after he had sold his floating gallery, Horton labeled the photograph “Laying the Golden Brick / Snohomish.” The first question that comes to my mind, probably to yours as well — is the brick still there after all these years and layers of asphalt?

Public Works Director for the City of Snohomish, Tim Heydon, has never seen or heard of a golden brick being discovered, and wondered if it was even left in place after the ceremony was captured on film?

And it’s a good point since the First Street merchants were being taxed $17 per foot of their property facing First Street to pay for the paving, and many of the owners were dragging their feet, suggesting that the city just repair the wooden planks instead. Reaching the end of his patience for this back and forth, Mayor Lamprey hired contractors to begin tearing up the planking in 1907 – which quickly convinced the property owners that paving with stone was a good idea after all. Within this context, it’s difficult to imagine that paying for a golden brick would have been supported; or that it would have even remained in the street through the first night!

First and A today

Second question that comes to mind is why not expose the brick paving, like many streets have in Seattle, and build upon our reputation as the historic town of the region to visit?

Heydon had a ready answer for me, based on his experience in 1986 when he supervised the removal of the asphalt before repaving, right down to the original brick — and no golden one was found. Heydon reported that large sections of the brick paving was gone because of repairs, other sections had sunk due to the soil under the brick absorbing moisture. In other words, a picturesque cobblestone First Street, would require removing all of the 8-inch thick bricks in order to prepare the ground properly, and then, lay the bricks back down, by hand. The dollar numbers for labor alone become pushpins of reality to the easy bubbles of imagination.

Researching this image for my book “Early Snohomish” (page 77), I was unable to learn anything about the ceremony pictured because of a six-month gap of missing issues of the Snohomish County Tribune for the year 1908, both in our library and at the University of Washington.

So I leave you with a third question, could the missing issues be related somehow to the missing golden brick?

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, October 15, 2008.