The Ferguson Cottage, 1859

A turn of the century snapshot from the Ferguson Album of Sylvia (Ferguson) Lenfest posing in front of her father's one room home, assembled here in 1859.

BAD NEWS THIS MONTH: we may have celebrated the founding of Snohomish a year too soon.

It seems that our founder, E. C. Ferguson, didn’t take up residence here until 1860 – around this time of the year, 150 years ago – according to historian David Dilgard, of the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library. He wrote in the Journal of Everett & Snohomish County History a story titled, “The Adventures of Old Ferg” published in the summer of 1981: “Ferguson made his journey to the site, known initially as ‘Cadyville,’ in March of 1860 aboard the Ranger No. 2, a sidewheel steamer captained by John Hill.”

If we were to be challenged on this technicality, however, we can point to his first home that is still standing and say: but his home was here in 1859!

E. C. Ferguson, circa 1903
Ferguson, only 26 years old, built the one-room home in Steilacoom where he was living and working with a group of wide-eyed businessmen looking for an opportunity to cash in on the planned military road to Fort Bellingham. Their idea was to establish a ferry service where the imagined road was to cross the Snohomish River. But, Federal funds and troops were diverted to support the Civil War and the military road ended as barely a path at the river’s edge on the south bank. (I have found no record of regular ferry service until one was licensed by the county in 1887.)

Ferguson’s business partners disappeared like the cigar smoke that once hovered over their boisterous talk of how rich they were all to become. Only Ferguson followed the shipment of his home to the high bluff overlooking the Snohomish River. His claim holder Hiel Barnes assembled it for him.

Historian David Dilgard created this drawing of the Ferguson Cottage from on site measurements he gathered in 1980.
In 1980, Dilgard was awarded a grant to document the structure, which at the time was in danger of being demolished before in fell down. It measures 16 feet across the front and 24 feet deep. Ferguson lived in the house, expanded to two-rooms, for 20 years, and later in life told a reporter for the Everett Daily Herald, “It wasn’t a palace, but it was home sweet home to me for many a year, and I never have been happier than while I lived there.”

The Ferguson Cottage was purchased and renovated by Rebecca Loveless in 1997 and has been occupied since that time. It is considered the oldest building still standing in the county and it can be viewed only from the Snohomish River Trail. This is the time of the year to check it out, before the blackberries block the view completely.

The Ferguson Cottage as it appears today from the Snohomish River Trail. It was purchased and fully restored by Rebecca Loveless in 1997 and has been occupied since then. This is the only public view of the historic home.

Join me in silently celebrating Snohomish’s secret year of when its founder finally showed up.

Published April 21, 2010, in the Snohomish Country Tribune

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

901 First Street Building

901 First around 1930 and 2009

RESEARCH ON THIS MONTH’S POST presented me with the perfect excuse for making a Sunday afternoon call on Rosemary and Cliff Bailey. I needed to learn more about the fact that Cliff’s grandparents once owned the store at 901 First Street, and that he had a photograph of his mother and grandmother behind the candy counter.

John and Margaret Kleisath were Pennsylvania Dutch people, who found their way west and landed in early Snohomish, date unknown. John worked as a barber before opening the candy store on the southwest corner of First Street where Union Avenue ends at the famous Snohomish gulch. Let’s imagine they were the first tenants of the building, built around 1900, with their storefront business (pictured below) on the street level and their new home above.

Interior of the Kleisath Cand Store at 901 First Street sometime before 1918.  That's when the young clerk on the left, Florence Kleisath, married Earl Bailey and moved to the Bailey Farm that still exists south of town.

Perhaps it was the birth their daughter Florence (pictured above on the left) that marked the beginning of the Kleisath’s passion for making ice cream. But by the 1930s, the family operation was too large for its Snohomish home and the K & K Ice Cream Company opened a manufacturing operation in Everett. In the meantime, Florence had left the family business when she married Earl Bailey in 1918, and seven years later, Clifford was born, the middle child between two sisters.

Clifford and Rosemary, who are Snohomish High School sweethearts, don’t know how the store passed on to someone named “Edwards” – but they do have teenage memories of Mona’s Café that occupied the storefront space during the thirties since it was an after school hangout. The popular café also served as the Stage Depot for local bus service, so there must have been an air of anticipation amongst the young people of escaping to the big city of Everett at any minute.

Since those happy days, the wooden building built on tall posts on the steep slope facing the now dry gulch began looking worse for wear as it continued to serve a number of storefront businesses and residency’s on the second floor.

Three years ago, Zouhair Mardini and Joshua Scott of Mosaic Architecture began the journey of saving the building that has ended with its current full occupancy, featuring Mardini’s antique storefront, law offices on the second floor, plus a condo in the back and more office space below grade that opens up in back to a private view of the gulch. (It’s worth the short trip around back, where you can compare the building’s new foundation of concrete with the existing wooden posts of the Oxford Saloon.)

It should come as no surprise to the long time Snohomish reader that I left the Bailey’s with a generous bag of corn and home grown tomatoes. More important, I left with stories, a folder of old photographs and a promise to return.

[Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 16, 2009]

901 First Street Building circa 1935
The 901 First Street Building was home to Edwards Confectionery in the late 1930s, featuring Snohomish’s own K & K Ice Cream, and it was the Stage Depot for local bus service. The image captures the annual Memorial Day parade marching east on First Street.

901 First Street Building in 2009
The 901 First Street Building as it appears today in the morning light. The renovated building is sitting on a new foundation of concrete, boasting restored storefront windows for the Mardini & Company antique store, and featuring the addition of an enclosed stairway to the second floor business and residence. This renovation was given a Founders Award for Historic Preservation from the Historic Society.

Early Snohomish Goes "Down-to-Camp"

Camper,s Row at Clinton, 1913-2009

JUST AS THE LEADING FAMILIES OF EARLY SNOHOMISH WOULD DO, we are going “down-to-camp” for the month of August.

Perhaps beginning as early as 1890, all three Blackman families would board a steamer at Snohomish and head down river loaded with tents, cots, and 30 days worth of supplies. The boat would head out into Possession Sound, past Hat Island, and aim for the sunniest beach on Whidbey Island. The overdressed passengers joyfully set up a row of tents along a narrow beach hemmed in by an unscaleable bluff of thick green woods.

The name “Camper’s Row” remains to this day. Even though a very steep road now allows the contemporary camper to park closer to the beach, it’s still necessary to walk-in, past several cabins to reach your destination.

I am looking for the cabin called “Drift-Inn” where I am to meet co-owner and author Frances Wood. We became acquainted several years ago when she visited the Blackman House Museum and introduced me to her book, “Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island.” The story begins when Nina Blackman arrives in Snohomish to begin teaching school and she stays with her cousin Hyrcanus Blackman’s family in the home that is now our museum. But her stay was short, for within the year, she married Charles Bakeman, an early Snohomish furniture maker who responded to the demand for coffins by becoming an undertaker. Saving that story for another time, the union gave birth to Inez who is Frances’s grandmother.

"Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island"Frances’s story reveals another wonderful fact about our famous Blackman brothers: they had an older sister, Mary Ursula. With her husband Eugene and their son Elmer, the family arrived in Snohomish around the same time as Nina. Trained as a civil engineer, Elmer landed a job immediately as the city and county surveyor. Next, Elmer met and married Sylvia Ferguson, Emory and Lucetta’s eldest. With the birth of their only child, Norman, the Lenfest family eventually out grew tent camping and built a cabin on the beach around the time their son reached 8 years of age.

Following his mother’s death in the early fifties, Norman, who had no family, lived out his life between the cabin and a home in Snohomish until his death in 1978. While the cabin is no longer in the family and has been modernized of course, it is still in use and right next door to the Drift Inn on Camper’s Row.

Author Frances Wood outside her family's historic cabin on Whidbey Island Frances’s book is available at the Blackman House Museum, which is closed for the month of August to give our volunteers a little “down to camp” time; after all, as Frances says in her lively book, going down-to-camp is more than a place, it’s also a state of mind. Please contact me if you can not wait until the museum reopens in September to purchase her book.




Brighton Beach at Clinton, Whidbey Island, 1914. Still called “Camper’s Row,” the tradition of early Snohomish families camping on this beach began around 1890 and was referred to as going “down-to-camp.” Several tents are visible in this image, which is how the habitation of this summer place began. Off the left hand frame are the cabins of the Blackman Families, still in use though expanded and updated over the years. The first structure in view on the left is the Lenfest Cabin, built in the early 1900s by Elmer and Sylvia. Elmer was the son of the Blackman sister, Mary and Eugene Lenfest; while Sylvia was the first daughter born to Emory and Lucetta Ferguson. In the center, is the cabin built by the Morgans, Lucetta’s parents, currently owned by descendants of the Bakeman family. The image documents a dramatic slide of the hillside behind the cabins, one of many through the years.


A section of “Camper’s Row” in Clinton, Whidbey Island as it appears today. The Lenfest cabin passed on to the son Norman and was sold upon his death in the 1970s. Next door is the addition of a guest cabin to the “Drift Inn” in the center, now in the family of the author Frances Wood. The cabin on the right is new and not included in the historic image.

Brunswick Building

Bob Bickford had this month’s historical photograph, labeled on its face “Bobo Studio, Snohomish, 1935,” in a folder of old pictures of the family business. It’s a revelatory image that has been added to the Society’s digitized collection of historic images, just in time to share with you as we celebrate our annual festival this weekend, currently called, “Kla Ha Ya Days.”
In 1935, Snohomish celebrated the 12th Annual Garden City Grange Fair. A banner headline for the September 5, 1935, issue of this paper, shouted across the entire page: “3 BANDS, 42 FLOATS, WILL PARADE HERE. The gathering of women and girls on and around the black convertible is Queen Irma Salvadalena and her entourage. The parade, boasted as the largest in years, is scheduled to “move off promptly at 2:30 [Friday], the line of march will carry the entrants down First and Second Streets, past the Grange Hall and through the business district. A newsreel cameraman will be in the city to take pictures of the parade and will be stationed on an especially constructed platform at the corner of First Street and Avenue B.”

You may have noticed by now that the name of the company is Reed & Bickford Motors listed on all three sides of the stylish portico. The partners began the firm in a small building on Maple a few years earlier, quickly outgrew it and moved into the east half of new Brunswick Building in 1934, when they also acquired the local Ford agency. Effective July 1, 1936, Lawrence Bickford became the sole owner by buying out his partner Paul Reed, who was the repair shop foreman, overseeing some half dozen mechanics. Just up First Street was the Chevrolet dealership owned by Charles Poier, which also became a family operation just as Bickford Motors, now located north of downtown on an avenue bearing the family name. Mike Bickford said that his Sunday school teacher was Art Poier, one of Charles’ sons that took over the business, then relocated to Second Avenue when it was sold and eventually closed in the 1970s.

Beginning on Saturday, August 21, 1937, the first annual Kla Ha Ya Days celebration was held. It featured the early morning arrival of the “Northwest’s finest yachts from boat clubs in Everett, Bellingham, Seattle and other towns.” Besides the parade that afternoon, there was a street dance in front of the library on Cedar, and a wedding was held on a platform erected near the First National Bank (now John Scott Real Estate office) where a mystery couple, “well known in the community, will exchange vows.”

For history fans, the Society is hosting a two-week exhibition in the Waltz Building, 116 Avenue B, to celebrate along with the city its 150th and our 40th anniversaries. Admission is free to the extensive exhibition, which will be open to visitors daily, 11 a.m. to 3p.m. The exhibition runs July 11-25. Wish we had a pristine 1935 Ford V-8 Sedan on display, but the bidding often exceeds $50,000 these days!


Then: Brunswick Building, 1935
Once called Reed & Bickford Motors, the family firm was first located on First Street in the Brunswick Building. Lining up for the 12th Annual Garden City Grange Fair parade are sparkling new 1935 Ford Sedans, festively decorated to carry Queen Irma and her Maids of Honor. Note the corner building that was home to Snohomish’s own Moehring Shoe Company; and how handsome the transom windows are above the entrance, which are now buried in years of stucco.

Photo courtesy the Bickford Family

Now: Brunswick Building, 2009
Part of the Brunswick Building as it appears today, and the former Moehring Shoe Store on the corner. The service entrance for the Ford dealership was where the stripped awning is now.

This article was first published in the Snohomish County Tribune on July 15, 2009.

Girls’ Basketball Teams: 1909-2009

Girls' BBall Teams, 100 years apart!

LET’S BEGIN WITH A CHEER OF THANKS to the 2009 Snohomish High School Girls Basketball Team and their coach Ken Roberts for making time during a busy graduation week to step back a hundred years by repeating the charming pose of the 1909 team.

Most readers are familiar with the terrific season enjoyed by the 2009 team; unfortunately, there is nothing to report about the 1909 team. The reverse side of the historic photograph is blank, I could not locate a 1909 yearbook (if one was published), and most mysterious of all, there are no copies of this paper’s issues for all of 1909! Not in the boxes at our public library, nor on film. Consequently, I am sending out a plea for readers to search their family albums stored in the attic or forgotten closets, for anything that can help us learn more about the 1909 girls basketball team.

In the meantime, let’s thank photographer Dennis Bishop, who has generously shared his photographic skills with us in the past, but he has out done himself with this stunning shot.

The Society has been using the historic image on its letterhead and other promotional materials as one way to celebrate our 40th Anniversary. And on Saturday, June 20th at 6:30pm we are hosting a gala Anniversary Dinner with keynote speaker Sunny Speidel, owner of Seattle’s Underground Tour, and daughter of the Charter Night Dinner speaker, Bill Speidel, in 1969.

Plans are in the works for the Society to produce a poster using the two images as another way to mark our anniversary, and to raise awareness of the Society’s contribution to the community by asking the rhetorical question, “Are You Making History Today?”

Girls Basketball Team 1909
THEN: 1909 Snohomish High School girls basketball team. None of the members pictured have been identified; readers’ help is encouraged.

SHS Girls Basketball Team 2009
NOW: 2009 SHS girls basketball team posing as the team did 100 years ago. This team finished their season as district and league champs, and placed second in state. Pictured left to right: Corrine Wayman, Emily Guthrie, Marissa Timmerman, Karley Lampman, Katie Benson, Ally Schmitt, Joanna Balin, Jennifer Berg.
Photo by Dennis Bishop

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.