Part 2 of two parts. You can read Part 1 here.
In 1910 – on the way to the waterfront mills in Edmonds
Nothing depicts the early days of the town of Edmonds more than timber. It was what brought many New England and Eastern people here; and also, the farmers from the Midwest. On the East Coast, they had pretty much depleted their own forests, and in the Midwest, the farmers were just plain worn out from fighting the weather, mainly in the form of dust storms and droughts.
To me, this photo is one of the best reminders of early day Edmonds, and the richness of the timber. And, if you enjoy eating at Chanterelle’s Hometown Bistro between Third and Fourth on Main Street, you should recognize it as it looked in 1910—the building is on the right in this photo. It really hasn’t changed that much. The building on the left is the former State Bank of Edmonds, and the office of C. T. Roscoe, Jr. is upstairs. The log haulers are V. J. Kelly & Sons of Edmonds. Pictured on the logs, left to right, are Orville Kelly, V. J. Kelly, Dolly Kelly, Toby Kelly, and back of the lead horse, is Sid Kelly.
Before Edmonds – a hillside of dense timberland
In 1870, George Brackett was travelling in his canoe along the eastern shoreline of Puget Sound a few miles north of Seattle, while on a scouting expedition to find a good timber source for his logging enterprise. He encountered a sudden storm and it is said, he made a safe landing on the rugged beach of what we know today as the Bowl of Edmonds. Waiting for the storm to abate, he looked around and to the east, he saw the hillside was densely covered with huge trees—firs, cedars and hemlocks.
Mr. Brackett soon found he was not alone on this stretch of the waterfront. Nearby, he probably met and talked with 29-year-old Daniel Hines, who was busily at work operating a small shingle business.
No doubt, he also noticed that a short distance south, the land showed signs of occupancy, but that property would have held no interest for him. He would have ignored these tidelands, the large marsh, the high bluff, and the sparse trees. However, it was the type of land that had apparently suited the purpose of Indiana native James C. Purcell, an older man. A farmer and fisherman, Mr. Purcell had homesteaded 79 acres of the marsh lands and the Point Edwards bluff and had made his home there a few years earlier, along with his native wife and extended Suquamish family.
If experienced logger George Brackett had any hope that those trees he could see in the distance were available for his logging operation, he would have been disappointed. He was too late—ownership to over 550 acres of the land he was viewing was already held by a large lumber company.
The 140.75 acres where he was standing was also no longer available. Once the homestead of Pleasant Ewell, it was now owned by three Mukilteo business men, Jacob Fowler, Nat Fowler and Morris Frost. Of course, it is common knowledge that six years later George Brackett was able to purchase this property from the three men, and eventually it became the birthplace of Edmonds.
Puget Mill Company’s log agent Fred Drew’s interest in the future Edmonds area
In the early 1860s, a man attracted to this area because of the timber was Fred Drew, the premier log agent for Port Gamble’s Puget Mill Company. Mr. Drew became a busy man as he acquired title to forested lands for the lumber company’s future needs. As he worked his way east from the shore of what would become Edmonds, Fred Drew secured title to some very valuable properties. It was years before all of the timber selected by Fred Drew would be needed by Puget Mill, but it continued to be held in the company’s name—no longer available to ownership or use by any other logging company, unless a sale or exchange was arranged with Puget Mill Company.
It is hard to even comprehend that in 1882, records of Puget Mill Company show that they held title to 186,000 acres of timberland in several counties in Washington Territory. Later, vessels of the company-owned Puget Sound Tugboat Co. became a common sight on the waters of Puget Sound and the Straits as logs from their lands were towed to its Port Gamble mill for processing.
Who was the owner of most of the timberland George Brackett viewed in 1870?
Of course, the answer is the lumber giant Puget Mill Company of Port Gamble, and the three land holdings shown here are excellent examples of the choice land the company’s log agent Fred Drew selected. Especially, note the second acquisition on the following listing. This is the 1866 property, which will be discussed later in this bit of Edmonds history.
It appears that the first land patent issued in what is now Edmonds was dated Nov. 1, 1864. A Military Bounty Land Warrant for 160 acres in Sections 25 and 26 of Township 27 North, Range 3 East, W.M., Snohomish County, W.T., it had been issued in the name of Private Jose Dolores Alcon of New Mexico, for his service in the 1846 Mexican War. Pvt. Alcon had served with the 2nd New Mexico Volunteers under the command of Capt. Jahiel Sabedra. He was deceased sometime prior to 1864; thus, the warrant had been issued in the name of his widow, Altagracia Alcon, and then assigned to Fred Drew. The warrant was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on the date shown above, and later assigned to Puget Mill Company. The acreage of the bounty land ran lengthwise from west to east—and was north of today’s Westgate area and the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.
This next land holding is especially significant to some history of Edmonds. Another Military Bounty Land Warrant was issued on Aug. 23, 1866 for 160 acres in Sections, 24 and 25 of Township 27 North, Range 3 East, W.M., Snohomish County, W.T., in the name of Almon Witherill, who served in Capt. Dayton’s Company, New York Militia, War of 1812. The original warrant shows it was assigned to Fred Drew, and signed by President Andrew Johnson on the date shown above. The bounty land was later re-assigned to Puget Mill Company. The property ran lengthwise north to south—and was directly east of the 1864 Alcon/Drew property discussed above. Making this bit of real estate especially inviting was the creek that wound its way through the plethora of trees and ravines. For many years, the residents of Edmonds have come to know this ecologically important stream as Shell Creek.
Adjacent to the east of the Witherill bounty land in Sections 19 and 30 of Township 27 North, Range 4 East, W.M., Snohomish County, W.T. was a land patent issued for 223.39 acres, under the date of September 20, 1869—the title to this land surveyed by Fred Drew was issued to A. C. Pope, W. C. Talbot and Cyrus Walker, all officers of Puget Mill Company. This acreage encompassed today’s Five Corners where Bowdoin Way, Main Street, 84th Avenue West and 212th Street Southwest meet.
What do the War of 1812 and an Edmonds water supply system have in common?
With the approach of the 20th century, the population of Edmonds was increasing, and the need for a safe and adequate water supply became a major concern for the town fathers. Several individuals and groups had been providing their own water, but the city was discussing a quality water supply system for all. At this time, Puget Mill Company was beginning to sell some of its hillside logged land, and one buyer to a portion of the Almon Witherill bounty land property (described above) was Allen M. Yost, a businessman in Edmonds. This land purchase led to the local newspaper reporting that “On October 17, 1899, a tract of land for water was deeded to the town by A. M. and Amanda Yost. The city was almost in the municipal water business, but along the way, problems developed, and at this time, the plan was terminated.
Mr. Yost then formed the Edmonds Spring Water Company and on Oct. 1, 1902, his son, Daniel M. Yost, applied for a franchise, and the Yost family was in the water supply business. As the city’s current website says: “In 1902, Allen Yost and family formed the Edmonds Spring Water Company to supply water to the residents of the young community. They dammed Shell Creek, and piped the retained water into the town for consumption.”
For those curious readers wishing to know more about the water supply issues in the early days of Edmonds, the May 2011 issue of The Museum Light, the newsletter of the Edmonds Historical Museum, published an article by Kathe Hall under the Research Corner. Kathe Hall’s article From Buckets to Faucets, Water Supply to Edmonds, is a comprehensive history of the Edmonds Spring Water Company.
As the years passed, Puget Mill Company still held ownership to some of the unlogged timbered land on the Edmonds hillside, and was continuing its logging operations in the area near Shell Creek, the Edmonds Spring Water Company’s water supply source. In July of 1915, the logging company ran into difficulties when they became involved in condemnation proceedings brought against them by the Edmonds Spring Water Company over protection for a safe water source. Finally, in December of 1916, the value of the condemned property was set at $6,000, the suit was settled, Puget Mill Company stepped aside, and the company’s logging activities in the vicinity of Shell Creek came to an end.
Eventually, the city did enter into the water business, and residents of Edmonds no longer had any need to worry about an adequate supply of safe clean water piped to their homes. It was a surprise for many Edmonds residents when in the 1950s, the city in the process of repairing the system’s water pipes, discovered that some of the old cedar water pipes used by the Edmonds Spring Water Company were still in use.
Today, Fred Drew is part of the past—and Edmonds has a popular city park
In our time, the first-growth timber, as seen and coveted by George Brackett over 150 years ago, is no more. Visible reminders of log agent Fred Drew and of Puget Mill Company’s logging operations are mostly gone. In reality, after the War of 1812 had ended, veteran Almon Witherill never left his home in New York, and he never traveled to the Pacific Northwest, although his name forever remains connected to Edmonds in the records of the Bureau of Land Management, as well as on old plat maps of the city. Widowed for several years, Mr. Witherill died in 1875 at the age of 86.
In our time, the former War of 1812 bounty land has acquired a new face as a popular city park—Yost Memorial Park. The first-growth timber that once covered the land is now part of history, remembered only by a few stumps. However, new growth dominates the area; and, there is no doubt, when warm weather arrives, the park’s swimming pool is a favorite of both young and old.
A publication from the Edmonds Parks and Recreation Department takes us back to another age: “The Sword Fern Trail drops steeply to Shell Creek at the base of the ravine. Here and at the end of the Weir Trail you’ll see remains of old dams.” The article then explains that these dams are left from the time when the Edmonds Spring Water Company supplied water to the growing city. The article further states: “Along the creek and elsewhere in the park, you’ll notice big stumps—remains of the giant cedars and firs that once grew here. Along the park’s uplands however, maturing second growth trees are beginning to reach some impressive dimensions.”
The web page of the City of Edmonds provides more historical information: “Yost Memorial Park today contains one of the few areas of native vegetation that remain in Edmonds. “The mixed stands of Western red cedar, red alder, big-leaf maple and Western hemlock trees offer a glimpse into the past, and the future.”
— 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.