Looking Back: Reuben Hunter and an early-day mystery

The Hunter house.
The Hunter house. (Photo courtesy Alderwood Manor Heritage Association)

Over 70 years before there was a City of Lynnwood, and even before Alderwood Manor, a few pioneer families were living on land that is now part of Lynnwood. They were the homesteaders, and three of the most well-remembered family names were Hunter, Breed and Morrice.

Without a doubt, the most interesting of these was the Hunter family: Duncan, a Scotsman; his wife Jennie; and their four sons, William, Gordon, Reuben and Basil. There was a little girl, also named Jennie. Sadly little Jennie died in 1897 at the age of five months. First buried next to the today’s 36th Avenue West in Lynnwood, Jennie’s grave caused quite a stir between the county road commissioners and Mr. and Mrs. Hunter. However, that is a story for a later time. Baby Jennie Hunter now sleeps undisturbed, beside her mother and father at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

The property that was once the Hunter’s 80-acre homestead was located between 36th Avenue West and 40th Avenue West, beginning at 188th Street Southwest and ending just north of Pioneer Park.

The family first lived in a rustic log cabin, but in 1914 Duncan Hunter built a commodious home for his family. Facing what was then North Trunk Road North (36th Avenue West), it is shown here in earlier times.

In 1979, the house was standing as a sentinel over the newly opened Alderwood Mall until the remaining 40 acres of the Hunter property was sold following the 1982 death of the youngest son, Basil Hunter. The old house was razed and the property now is home to Alderwood Court retirement apartments, Pioneer Park, ManorCare Health Services of Lynnwood and Brookdale Alderwood memory care; also, Alderwood Highland Townhomes condominiums, Alderwood Heights Apartment Living, and numerous private homes.

Alderwood Court
Alderwood Court

There are a lot of stories to be told about the interesting Hunter family, but this particular one concerns abduction and a mystery–a mystery never solved. Use your own judgment in making a decision as to whether it is truth or just an interesting tale told by Reuben Hunter in 1909 when he was a 15-year old boy with perhaps an overactive imagination. Reuben’s story was published in the Thursday, Oct. 28, 1909 issue of the Edmonds Tribune.

Reuben Hunter as a young man.
Reuben Hunter as a young man.

REUBEN HUNTER VICTIM OF ASSAULT….High School Student Tied to Railroad Track. Further Developments Expected in the Case.

“The Mystery of the Beach, or Who Tied Reuben Hunter to the Railroad Track?” might make a fitting heading for this story if it was not too serious a matter to treat with levity. But, nevertheless it is a question in the minds of many people in Edmonds.

Reuben Hunter is a young man whose home is five or six miles northeast of Edmonds, and about a mile north of Hall’s Lake, but Reuben spends the winters in Edmonds attending the high school and this winter he is living at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John McNamara in North Edmonds, occupying a room in an ell of the house and having an outside entrance.

It is Reuben’s custom to spend his evenings in his room studying and reading. Sometime last Saturday night someone attached a note to Reuben’s door in which it was stated that unless he returned home where he belonged, he would get into serious trouble. Reuben took it as a joke and thought no more of the matter.

On Monday evening, about 10 o’clock as he was sitting in his room reading, there came a rap at his door. On answering the summons, he saw a man standing outside who asked if he could show him the way to the beach. Reuben replied that he could, and putting on his hat started out, taking a path leading through the woods from the McNamara home to the beach. Shortly after leaving the house, two other men stepped out of the darkness and joined Reuben and the stranger. Reuben thought nothing of this as fear or curiosity does not enter very strongly into his makeup. But, he was soon to have a rude awakening, for on reaching the beach he was suddenly grasped by the men and thrown to the ground.

Thereupon his hands were tied behind his back with a handkerchief and the suspenders holding up his overalls were removed, one end being tied around his neck and the other fastened to one of the rails of the railroad track. His body was on the outside of the track, with his head within about six inches of the rail.

After completing their nefarious deeds his assailants left him and started to go into the direction of Edmonds. No noise was made in the foregoing proceedings and after the departure of the three men; Reuben laid there in silence thinking over his plight. He made up his mind that it was no use to cry out as everyone in the neighborhood was in bed and would not hear him.

After being tied for what he thought must have been over half an hour, he heard footsteps approaching from the north along the track. Then a man came up to him and the first question he asked was, “Do you want to get loose?” He spoke in broken English and his tone was muffled. Without waiting for a reply, he loosed Reuben’s hands and then hurried away in the direction of the city.

Reuben returned to his room and the next day went to his parent’s home and told them of the occurrence. The matter has been placed in charge of the authorities and as they have clues to who the perpetrators of the deed are, further developments in the case may be looked for.

If there were any further developments reported by the authorities, it was never published in the newspaper. Thus, we are left with an unsolved mystery.

Reuben Lester Hunter was born in Edmonds on Jan. 29, 1894. He was schooled at the old Hunter School on the family’s property and possibly at the Maple Leaf School west of what is today Fred Meyer’s on 196th Street. He then attended high school classes in Edmonds. After completing those classes, Reuben attended college, as did all four of the Hunter brothers.

After college, Reuben moved to Eastern Washington where he worked for the Washington State Horticultural Department as an inspector in the apple industry. He married and adopted a young boy. Reuben was living in Union Gap near Yakima when he died in 1956 at the age of 62. If there was ever any solution to the abduction mystery, that information went to the grave with him.

– By Betty Lou Gaeng

A long-time resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum. Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.

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