Snohomish Police Department

When discussing the future of the Snohomish Police Department, let’s be clear about its past — the department is not 150 years old.  Looking for the beginning of a paper trail establishing our Police Department has lead me to the unexpected discovery that legally, the entity called “The Snohomish Police Department”  is only 38 years old.

Ironically, we are marking the 150th anniversary of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office this year, since  it was established by the Washington Territory Legislature with the formation of the county on January 14, 1861.  The office provided county wide policing services, such as it was in a place with around 50 white men, and at least that many guns. Those were the days of deputizing citizens who provided law enforcement with an emotional interpretation that inspired popular western movies and TV shows.

The clearing in the woods on the north bank of the Snohomish River that quickly developed into a viable town was not called “Snohomish” until 1871-72, when the Fergusons, then the Sinclairs laid out their claims with streets and avenues joined at Union Street.  It’s easy to imagine that the new town had its own Marshall, as the population of loggers and saloons increased, but there is no record to point to, nor reliable news coverage to help us out here.

Early Snohomish as the county seat, was home base for the Sheriff, an elected office since 1863. The famous Benjamin Stretch was first elected in 1867, then re-elected every two years, serving until 1875 when W. B. Stevens became the first full time Snohomish County Deputy Sheriff.

It seems we must wait until our town first incorporates as the Village of Snohomish in 1888 for a written record concerning police matters.  At an early meeting of the Village Board of Trustees held in April, 1888,  it is recorded: “On motion of H. Blackman, Chas. M. Jordan was appointed Marshal of the Village of Snohomish with Salary at $20 per month and $2 for each arrest made.”  (This record has been inaccurately published that Blackman was the first policeman, a certain conflict of interest with his position as a Trustee.)

And Ordinance #8, approved on May 10, 1888, by E. C. Ferguson, Chairman, ordained in Section 2: “The night watchman shall be on duty from eight o’clock P.M. until six o’clock A.M. of each and every night during his term of office, unless excused by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.”  The pay was $50 per month, but only $1 per arrest.

All of these fine, handwritten details were set aside with statehood in 1889; and the carefully watched-over sleeping citizens of Snohomish woke up and voted to incorporate as a third class city, rejecting Ferguson’s wish to remain a village.  And if that wasn’t insult enough to our city father, Ferguson went on to lose the election as Mayor of the new City of Snohomish to Hyrcanus Blackman.

The ordinance count begins again, (we are currently at #2218) and Ordinance #3 establishes a “Police Force” that in addition to a Marshall, “shall consist of one captain if the City Council shall determine, and such members of police officers not exceeding five as the City Council may from time to time determine.”  The ordinance was approved in July, 1890 and in October the city purchased a lot on Avenue A and built the complex of buildings pictured in this month’s historic image, primarily to house the city’s first  fire engine and prisoners in the new jail. No mention of a “police department” in the weekly newspaper, The Eye.

The facility was serving way beyond its expiration date when the July 21, 1927 issue of the Snohomish County Tribune announced the move to “new civic homes.” One is pictured as this month’s Now image, the former fire station, and the second new home was the City Hall at 1009 First, now called the “City Mall.”  The article notes that the jail is already in use but still no mention of the “Police Department” or “Force.”  Yet the label “Police Dept.” is used in official documents throughout the years without any ordinance establishing it, or amending Ordinance #3 that authorized a “Police Force”  of only five policemen?

In 1964, Ordinance #3 was repealed, but  nine  years went by before Ordinance #1250 was approved and published November 22, 1973, finally establishing the “Snohomish Police Department” — 38 years ago.

Next month we will feature Police Department personnel, Then and Now. Please contact me with your stories and pictures of Snohomish policeman past and present.



Engine House and Jail, circa 1900

Courtesy of the Snohomish Historical Society Archives
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Firehouse Center, 2011
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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, August 17, 2011.

“This Place Matters”

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This Place Matters: March with the Mayor 2011
A good time was had by all who turned out Saturday, July 23rd to help carry this important message to the great turn-out by the parade fans of Snohomish.

Hope you will join us next year; in the meantime, please follow this link to the National Trust for Historic Preservation website to learn all about the “This Place Matters” campaign.

And use our new tab “This Place Matters” to view pictures from the past two years of parades.

John Harvey’s Hops Kiln, 1884

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Without the photographer’s label “J. Harvey, 1884,” we would not know that Snohomish pioneer John Harvey built a hops kiln on his homestead.

Great-granddaughter Donna Harvey’s extensive accounts of both John and his son Nobel, written with her father Eldon and published on the website, has no mention of a hops operation. It’s an action packed story of a man who sailed from England to San Francisco, then to Seattle where he bought a claim on the shores of Lake Washington that was destroyed in the Indian wars of 1855. He was lucky to get any money for his claim, but sold it for $2000 and eventually bought the claim across the river from the Snohomish town site for $50 in 1859.

[singlepic id=13 w=320 h=240 float=right]Two years later, Harvey accepted a seat on the first Board of County Commissioners, which was delegated to organize the new Snohomish County. The Snohomish City Mill Company located on the Harvey claim, was incorporated in 1866. The Seattle-Snohomish Mill continues to operate in the same general location today.

Christina (Noble) Harvey (1839-1892)

Christina (Noble) Harvey (1839-1892)

John married Christina Noble in 1872, and welcomed their son Noble into the world the following year. By this time, John was growing enough potatoes to ship downriver to market in Port Gamble, according to stories told years later, but none about the hops kiln and harvest crew shown in the historic photograph.

In the October 3, 1885 issue of The Eye, it was noted, Over a hundred Indian canoes have passed down the river this week from the hop fields. Ezra Meeker began planting hops in the Puyallup valley in 1866 and by the time of this mention in our local paper, Meeker was a wealthy hops merchant with a branch in London selling hops on the world market. The photograph that accompanies the Meeker article on, is a stunning achievement in photographer patience posing a much larger crew than shown in our local version. It’s easy to imagine migrant photographers making the rounds of hops fields seeking commissions to document the harvest.

John died a couple of years after this picture was taken. Donna Harvey believes that the fellow on the far right, seated, with his hat off is her great-grandfather, John. Noble Harvey would have been around 11 years old in 1884 but has yet to be identified in this fascinating composition. He took over management of the Harvey homestead when only 19 years old following the death of his mother in 1892.

Noble George Harvey (1873-1952)

Noble George Harvey (1873-1952)

Young Harvey helped clear the way for the first train to cross the Harvey property on its way to Snohomish City; and, he built the baseball park that was used for the first airplane flight in 1911. The hundredth anniversary of this event will be celebrated in grand style with a fly-in of historic aircraft on Saturday, July 23, and an exhibition, along with another of David Dilgard’s popular slide show talks — “100 Years of Flight in Snohomish” at 2p in the Community Room at the Harvey Airfield.

Keep in mind that the hops harvest crew posing for the camera in the fall of 1884, as if staring into the future, had yet to hear the word “airplane.”

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, July 20, 2011.

Penobscot Hotel, 1888

Hotel Penobscot, 1888-1911

Let’s continue with more about Snohomish’s great fire of 1911 that was described last month. Specifically, let’s remember the town’s, even Washington Territory’s greatest loss, the Penobscot Hotel.

Lumberman, financier, and politician Hyrcanus Blackman built the stately structure on First Street, just around the corner from his home at 118 Avenue B, now the Blackman House Museum. He had to demolish a popular roller skating rink to make room for the hotel and an adjacent building on the corner of Avenue B and First. It seems the lumber was sold to the Catholic church for its building at the corner of Avenue B and Third. Both projects shared the same builder, A. H. Eddy.

The opening of the hotel was trumpeted in the May 5, 1888 issue of The Eye as One of the Finest Hotels in the Territory. The hotel is three stories high, 100 feet long and has frontage of 40 feet on First Street, and contains 43 commodious and well ventilated sleeping apartments. (That seems also to be describing an air circulation issue with the existing hotels.)

The kitchen 20 x 30, supplied with a Montague French range and very conveniently arranged, occupies the rear with the laundry and store room. The dining room could accommodate 80 guests. Across the central hallway was a large sample room for commercial travelers.

Like a movie scene, my imagination is going widescreen showing the salesmen scrambling to gather up their product samples in the room full of thick smoke and suffocating heat. The Snohomish County Tribune (June 2, 1911), did report that many hotel customers lost their baggage to the fire.

The parlor was on the second floor – a fine view of the river and valley, with Mt. Rainier in the distance, is obtained, the delightfully archaic description continues. The wainscoting of the corridors, stairways, office, reading, bar and dining rooms is of curly maple which under a hard oil finish adds to them a rich appearance. The writer finally gives up: It is difficult to give an adequate description of the office counter and bar.

The Tribune reported that Blackman intended to rebuild the hotel, but his reason for not doing so is lost to history. All that remains of this optimistic era is the inlaid tile work in the threshold at 1112 First Street reading simply: “Penobscot.”

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snohomish then and now image
Aftermath of the Bakeman Furniture Building fire in 1893. The Penobscot appears in the background on the left only to meet a similar fate 18 years later.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 15, 2011.

The Great Fire of 1911

Disastrous Fire Visited Snohomish Tuesday read the headline in Friday’s issue of the Snohomish County Tribune. Old news by then, but the subhead led the reader to the facts they were looking for, Thirty-five Business Places Wiped Out – Total Loss $150,000.

The fire broke out in the basement of a restaurant on the south side of First between avenues B and C, referred to as Block 2 in those days. The entire bunch of buildings were flimsy structures, all frame buildings, the paper noted in its June 2, 1911 issue. The buildings were built on poles, some 10 to 20 feet long in order to bring the structure up to street grade from the riverbank below. Looking down on Kla Ha Ya Park from First Street today, will make this situation clear.

In thirty minutes after the fire was discovered it had leaped across the street to the old Blackman building in which were located the Post Office, the Penobscot Hotel and other business places, which burst into flames so rapidly that the hotel guests barely had time to escape by the rear entrance, many of them losing all their baggage, reported the Tribune.

Not a breath of wind was stirring [otherwise] the entire business portion of the city would have been wiped out. Heroic efforts on the part of our splendid volunteer fire department kept the flames confined, the hometown paper boasts, that it was hot where they were working may be judged from the fact that part of their fire hose was burned in two while in use.

No deaths or even serious injuries were reported. One rumor on the street as reported in the paper was that three intoxicated men sleeping over the Owl saloon were burned to death; later it was found they had left before the fire.

This is just a hint of the kind of detail David Dilgard includes in his slideshow talk about the dramatic event, and he will be giving his presentation – Marking 100 Years Since the Great Fire of 1911 — at the Upper Case Books at 611 Second Street on Thursday, May 26th at 6:30pm – but I suggest you show up at 6 for an espresso and a seat. David is co-founder of the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library and his popular slideshow talks are always free.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, May 18, 2011.

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The photographer William Douglas came to Snohomish with the intention of capturing the Wiseman airplane flight on May 7th, the subject of our past two articles. However, Douglas was still in town when the fire broke out early on the morning of May 30, 1911, and captured the dramatic images that accompany this story.

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Thanks to all who showed up for David’s slideshow talk at Upper Case Books. An overflow turnout had store owner Lorraine and her employee TJ scrambling for chairs.

Banners for Downtown Snohomish

The idea for lamp post banners began with the intention to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the county’s founding, especially since Snohomish won the election in July 1861 to host the county seat. E. C. Ferguson returned to Snohomish that July with the county records in his vest pocket. His home overlooking the river, and still standing, was de facto the first Snohomish County courthouse.

ferguson-bannerE. C. Ferguson, considered the “founding father” of Snohomish, apprenticed as a carpenter in the place of his birth in Westchester County, New York. He arrived in 1860 aboard a side-wheeler steamship with enough supplies to establish a store.


mary low sinclairMary Low Sinclair, with her infant son and household goods, arrived at Cadyville, (eventually renamed “Snohomish”) on May 1, 1865, which she described in her 1911 remembrance: “There was no time to be lonesome …”


john harvey bannerJohn Harvey was born near Modbury, in Devonshire County, England, 14 miles from Plymouth, on March 9, 1828. Harvey had a boyhood dream of going to America. Harvey’s Homestead established 1860, is located on the south side of the Snohomish River, directly across the river from the City of Snohomish.

This was a volunteer project for the Historic Downtown Snohomish (HDS) organization.

The First Airplane Crash in Snohomish



Fred Wiseman

'Bird Man' Wiseman

Fortunately, the field had turned to soft mud after all the rain, and aviator Wiseman emerged muddy but uninjured from the plane, now nose down. Most important, he made good on his money back guarantee “to fly.” The plane was repaired in time to fly again in Olympia on May 18th with Snohomish’s “Bird Man” at the controls.

Earlier in the same year, Wiseman carried mail with him on a flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, California, which was eventually recognized as the first to carry airmail in U. S. history. Today the restored aircraft hangs in the atrium of the Smithsonian’s Postal Museum in Washington D. C.

First flight and crash graphic

First Flight and Crash graphic by David Dilgard

Back in 1911 Snohomish, the Tribune boasted: “It was a great day for Snohomish, the smallest city on the American continent that ever gave an aviation exhibition.” The writer reminded the readers that aviation exhibitions rarely come off as advertised. “Snohomish made good, we furnished the goods as agreed and the crowds that thronged our city on that day were not disappointed.”

Nor are we disappointed today. The photographic record of the event provided by William Douglas is a gift of memory.


Save the Date: Wednesday, July 20th, this summer, as part of the Kla Ha Ya Festival — David Dilgard’s slide show talk on the First Airplane Flight in Snohomish, at the Harvey Airfield Community Room as part of an exhibition marking 100 Years of Flight in Snohomish.

Read David Dilgard’s article at
Read more about Wiseman’s first airmail flight



first airplane crash in Snohomish

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Photographer William Douglas must have run down the railroad tracks to capture this image — note the rail in the bottom left of the frame. We imagine that he was using one of the cameras designed for the postcard format. Kodak’s model 3A was introduced in 1903 and sold until 1915. The 3A created 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 inch postcard format images on Kodak 122 roll film, and the film came in four, six and ten exposure lengths. This raises the interesting question that perhaps other images were captured by Douglas on that day?

Photograph by William Douglas, courtesy Donna Harvey and the Snohomish Historical Society Archives.

first airplane crash site today

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The author, on the other hand, uses a digital Sony DSLR-A100 to capture the repeat images. The flash memory will capture over 50 exposures in the RAW format and at over 50 inches wide! The John S. Bateman farm is gone as far as could be discovered. This open field and buildings beyond borders along side State Route 9.


Published April 20, 2011 in the Snohomish County Tribune.