Looking Back:  A man named Fred Drew and some Lynnwood and Edmonds history

Giant trees like these drew loggers to Lynnwood. (Photo from Betty Lou Gaeng’s personal collection)

Part 1 of two parts

Before Lynnwood – a peaceful land of giant trees

When the loggers and the homesteaders came to the area we know today as Lynnwood, except for the sound of the birds and the soft breeze as it rustled through the branches of the immense trees, there was silence. Located a few miles east and inland from Puget Sound, this land seemed to offer little attraction for the native Salish people. Records indicate they preferred to settle near the rivers or salt water. This land had neither. It was the prospect of lumber—the giant trees—the fir, hemlock and cedar that became the force behind the allure for a completely different group of people—the loggers from the East. They did arrive—and the land would be forever changed.

Later, when Kansas native Charles Breed heard of the many acres of homestead land available out west, in 1887, he and his family packed up their belongings and headed by train for a new and better life in the Pacific Northwest. When they settled on their 160-acre Swamp Creek homestead, about a mile west of Martha Lake, Mr. Breed remarked that the trees were so tall and thick, the warming rays from the sun seldom reached the ground.

An introduction to Fred Drew

The unfamiliar name of Fred Drew and his connection to the beginnings of Lynnwood first came to my attention several years ago while reading the 1949 book Time, Tide and Timber, a Century of Pope & Talbot by Edwin T. Coman, Jr. and Helen M. Gibbs, as it related to the community of Alderwood Manor. It was written that in 1858, 20-year-old Fred Drew — his clothing in tatters –arrived at Port Gamble in Kitsap County, Washington Territory, to apply for work at Puget Mill Company. Young Fred Drew was hired, and remained to became the shrewdest log agent the lumber company ever had.

In 2003, Fred Drew was also mentioned in the Pope & Talbot book Rooted in the Past, growing for the future: Pope Resources by Henry Stein. Information on page 72 says: “Veteran timber surveyor Fred Drew estimated that annually, the Puget Mill Company cleared trees from 6,000 acres. On Aug. 17, 1909, he told George A. Pope that as many land-hungry Europeans are coming to this country, I think the demand for stump farms will increase. Between 1900 and 1920, Washington state added almost 17,000 farms; small ones in cutovers bulked largest.”

Later, it was amazing to discover the number of times Fred Drew’s name appeared in Bureau of Land Management records in connection with the issuance of land patents in several counties in Washington Territory. My own personal interest in this previously unknown man concerned his connection to South Snohomish County—mainly Lynnwood and Edmonds.

Land acquisition and Northwest lumber giant Puget Mill Company’s role in local history

Although this is a story about Fred Drew and his involvement with Puget Mill Company, it also reflects on many of the 19th century lumber companies that acquired title to federal lands through the passage of legislation, such as the 1862 Homestead Act. There can be no doubt that the lumber companies themselves did benefit from the federal programs for land ownership; however, in the process, they were also fulfilling the expectations of a majority of citizens who wanted cleared and useable farmland.

Historically, there were several different methods to acquire ownership of federal lands. The earliest were the Bounty Land Warrants. These warrants were rewards for service in the military during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, or the Mexican War. Because the bounty lands were not usually located near their homes, very few veterans of these wars took advantage of the opportunity. Instead, they sold or exchanged their warrants—often to speculators.

By far, the most popular method of acquiring federal land came later, by way of the Homestead Act, which had been signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. This Act became an important piece of legislation and helped lead the way for our country’s expansion.

Of considerable interest regarding the Homestead Act is a report from the National Archives stating: “Unfortunately, the Homestead Act was framed so ambiguously that it seemed to invite fraud.” Originally intended to open federal lands for individual ownership, the ambiguous language led to a good share of available federal lands falling into the hands of speculators, cattlemen, railroads and, of particular interest to the local area—the lumbermen. In the Pacific Northwest, the lure of acquiring ownership of what appeared to be endless acres of timberland became a drawing force for some lumber companies. One of these companies, with special ties to what we know today as Lynnwood, was Pope & Talbot, and its newly established subsidiary, Puget Mill Company of Port Gamble. 

In 1853, Cyrus Walker traveled from his home state of Maine to Port Gamble in Washington Territory, and became an important member of the newly established Puget Mill Company. Mr. Walker devised a plan for what he called “making hay while the sun still shone.” The object of the Walker plan was to acquire and hold desirable timberland in abeyance for a future time when available lumber for their Port Gamble mill became scarce. Because of his innovative methods of doing business, Cyrus Walker was later known as Mr. Puget Mill. Much of the city we know today as Lynnwood, had its beginnings because of Cyrus Walker and, ultimately, the company’s log agent, Fred Drew

Fred Drew’s working days on behalf of Puget Mill Company

By the early 1860s, Fred Drew had become an expert at locating the best land for Puget Mill Company’s future needs for lumber, as well as securing the company’s ownership of thousands of acres of virgin timberland.

Although he seemed to keep a low profile, through the years Fred Drew’s name became well known in the halls of the Olympia Land Office. His name also appears numerous times in the records of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), not only in Snohomish County, but also in Kitsap, King, Jefferson, Pierce, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Island, and Mason counties.  As part of Cyrus Walker’s plan for “making hay,” the many thousands of acres acquired in Fred Drew’s name were subsequently re-assigned to Puget Mill Company.

From log agent to land agent – a different assignment for Fred Drew

In 1906, when Puget Mill Company decided they needed a viable plan to sell some of its logged properties, Fred Drew was relieved of his long and successful duties as log agent and appointed as land agent, with a younger man, George W. Johnson, as his assistant. The two men began their assignment by determining the company’s best properties as to location and value, and when and how its logged land should be sold.

An 1880s family on their stump farm. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Some of the South Snohomish County properties selected to be sold were platted into 5- and 10-acre plots, and by 1917 widely advertised throughout the United States and Canada as the planned community of Alderwood Manor. In retrospect, Alderwood Manor is often remembered for what became known as its stump farms.  Dreaming of owning a place of their own, many families enjoyed a Sunday drive to the countryside to look at the cleared land offered for sale at a very reasonable price. The attractive real estate shown here was located on Poplar Way in Alderwood Manor.  Today, most of the former community of Alderwood Manor has become a major part of the city of Lynnwood—farms are rare, and only an occasional stump marks the landscape.

A car next to stump land on Poplar Way in Alderwood Manor during the 1920s. (Photo courtesy Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association)

Fred Drew’s family and his personal history

Fred Drew was born and raised in an upper-middle-class family in Boston, and it must have been a challenge for the young Drew to adapt to a lonely life in the Pacific Northwest’s wilderness as he blazed trails through the thick brush and the forests of giant trees.

Frederick “Fred” Drew was born Aug. 27, 1838 in Boston, the son of Joseph Lawrence Drew (1808-1882) and his wife Amelia Smith Drew. Fred Drew’s father was also born in Boston, and was the son of Job and Sarah Drew, and a descendent of a Mayflower family of Plymouth, Massachusetts

An interesting sideline to Fred Drew’s own story is his father’s unusual occupation in Boston. Census records list his father as a goldbeater. Even as a longtime genealogist, that term was one unfamiliar to me. However, I soon found that goldbeaters were known as far back as ancient Egyptian times. The Bible’s Old Testament mentions that the Israelites during Moses time, and their Exodus in Egypt, learned the art of goldbeating. Goldbeating is described as the act of hammering gold into thin sheets, so they became the gold filigree used for decoration. During the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840), the art of goldbeating emerged again, and was considered an occupation only a select few were privileged to follow. Late in the century, even though they were few in number, the goldbeaters established a very powerful labor union in the United States.

In the 1855 state census for Boston, Fred Drew, age 17, is listed as living at the home of his parents Joseph and Amelia Drew, along with younger siblings, Josephine, Arthur, Anna, Frank and Maria.  No information was found as to how or why young Fred Drew traveled to Washington Territory.  What we can be sure of, is that after his employment by Puget Mill Company, he become a respected life-time employee of the company. Surprisingly, in addition to his duties on behalf of Puget Mill Company, in the early 1870s, he also found time to act as the Collector of Customs at Port Townsend.

Alderwood Manor town center in 1929. (Photo courtesy Puget Mill Company’s Port Gamble Museum)

Port Gamble was a company town, and as an employee of Puget Mill Company, Fred Drew once had a personal home there—appropriately remembered in the company’s archives as the Drew House.

A single man for most of his life, in 1908 at the age of 70, Fred Drew married for the first time. His wife was 47-year-old Eugenie Adalade Howe, the daughter of James H. Howe and Julia Grannis.  He was soon left a widower when his wife Eugenie died the morning of Jan. 9, 1910, at the couple’s home in Seattle’s Hotel Washington. Later, Fred Drew made his home at the Camlin Apartments, an upscale apartment house located in downtown Seattle. The 88-year-old retired lumberman died there on Dec. 17, 1926, due to a longtime heart condition. Since Mr. Drew left no known survivors, C. E. Ridgeway, an officer of Puget Mill Company, whose office was in Seattle’s Walker Building, handled the final arrangements for cremation.

More about Fred Drew and his connection to the history of Edmonds

Some early plat maps show Fred Drew as possibly the first to acquire title to some of the virgin timberland located several miles further west—in today’s city of Edmonds. Thus, before we leave Mr. Drew to his final rest, there is more to the story of his connection to the early history of Edmonds.

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. She is also an honorary member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.



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