About Mindy

Northwest Room Historian at Everett Public Library

Star-studded Audiobooks

Confession: I’ve only recently read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know, I know. It’s something I probably should have read in high school, but didn’t.

Second confession: I didn’t read it per se, but I did listen to it as an audiobook. While Harper Lee’s classic coming-of-age story of race and justice in a small southern town was compelling, the nuanced voice work of actress Sissy Spacek really pulled me into and through the story.

Audiobook fans know that the narrator of the book can make or break the reading/listening experience. Whether you’re new to audiobooks or a veteran listener, you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of these star-studded selections:

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, read by Reese Witherspoon. This is the long-awaited, controversial follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. 

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, read by Colin Firth. That’s right, you too can have Colin Firth whisper in your ear as he reads this novel about a love triangle in World War II-era London.

If Homeland star Claire Danes is more to your liking, try The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Want something lighter? Try Heartburn by Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep.

For a pop culture romp of sci-fi fun, listen to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by the perfectly geeky Wil Wheaton.

If science is your thing, perhaps it’s time for The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, ready by Benedict Cumberbatch.

If you can’t settle for just one celeb reader, give Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders a listen. It’s read by an ensemble cast of 166 stars!

What’s your dream audiobook? What celebrity reader and book title combo would be sure to entice you?

How Everett Got Its Name

In honor of Everett’s 125th anniversary celebrations, this month we’re sharing the story of how Everett got its name.

At a New York City dinner party in 1890, a group of East Coast capitalists gathered in Charles Colby’s home to discuss their ambitious project. They planned to develop a robust industrial city on the Puget Sound, nearly 3,000 miles away. The investments and business plans were underway, but the town they were developing needed a good, strong name.

That’s when the group’s leader, Henry Hewitt, spotted the host’s teenage son, Everett Colby, ask for more dessert. He was a hungry kid, who wasn’t yet satisfied. “That’s it!” Hewitt laughed. “We should name our city Everett. This boy wants only the best, and so do we.”

Everett Colby

Everett Colby (1874-1943), the original Everett

Our city’s namesake, Everett Colby, never lived here. Everett was born in Wisconsin in 1874 and attended Brown University. (Fun fact: his college classmate was John D. Rockefeller, Jr., whose famous capitalist dad was also an early Everett investor.) Everett Colby became a prominent politician in New Jersey. He visited the Washington state city named for him only once, in the spring of 1898.

The story of how Everett was founded and got its name is included in Norman H. Clark’s Mill Town, the definitive book on Everett history. It’s a great read for anyone wanting to know the fascinating facts about Everett’s roots.

We’re excited to hear your favorite Everett stories!

Drop by the library to fill out an official time capsule entry form. We’ll be closing it on August 19, to be opened in 50 years! Check out our 125th anniversary website for all the details about the time capsule and our special programs this summer.

Happy Birthday, Everett!

As you may have heard, Everett is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year! We’ll be celebrating this weekend at the big birthday bash on Saturday, June 2, at Everett Station from 10 am to 1 pm. We’ll also be hosting programs at the library throughout the summer to celebrate Everett’s past, present, and future. And we’re creating a special time capsule to be opened in 50 years! Everyone is invited to complete an entry form and tell us something special about Everett…the future will thank you for it. Check out our 125th anniversary website for program details and time capsule info.

If you just can’t get enough Everett history (and hey, who can blame you?), check out our photos of Everett when it was just a wee young thing on our Northwest Room digital archives.

In October 1891, Seattle photographer Frank LaRoche traveled by steam wheeler to the townsite on Port Gardner Bay, lugging his equipment with him. The peninsula was bleak—stripped of timber and heavy in smoke from burning stumps. He documented the two small settlements that would soon grow to be the City of Everett. Check out his photos here.

Studio photographers King and Baskerville arrived in January 1892, and they photographed the growing town as well. Although they were only active here for about six months, they captured the spark and spirit of the community in a way that was unmatched by other local photographers. Check out their images here.

These are just two of the many photo collections of Everett history across the ages that you can explore in our Northwest Room digital collections.  And since you only turn 125 once, we’ll keep the birthday celebrations going all summer long. Next month, I’ll suggest some Everett-centric books to read and tell you how Everett got its name.

Shining a Light on Women’s History

March is Women’s History Month, a national celebration of the vital role women have played in American history. Historical narratives that focus almost exclusively on men tend to erase women’s diverse experiences and contributions. That’s true at the national and local level.

But of course, we know women have been here from the very beginning, shaping the history of our community through their work in all kinds of occupations—paper makers, labor leaders, entrepreneurs, club women, photographers, teachers, nurses, doctors, journalistspoliticians, aerospace workers, and beyond. Several of these individual women’s stories are documented on the Snohomish County Women’s Legacy Project. Yet much more work needs to be done to fully weave women’s history and perspective into our understanding of local history.

Even in women’s history, we tend to celebrate those people in positions of prominence— women who make policies, headlines, and waves in our society. Their contributions to history are powerful, but I’m personally drawn to the stories about the humble lives of women who didn’t live in the spotlight. Although it’s harder to find their stories, they are compelling. Learning about the challenges and triumphs of “regular” people can shine a powerful light on the social and cultural life of a community.

Eva Jones Davis is one such woman in Everett history. Eva spent most of her 98 years in the Riverside neighborhood. Her family moved to Everett when she was about eight, and her father installed machinery at the paper mill in Lowell. When she arrived in Everett around 1891, it was a rough and tumble town site, just a hint of the industrial city she would watch it grow into one day.  Eva grew up and came of age along with the City of Everett.

In an oral history interview conducted at the Everett Public Library in 1977, Eva shared her perspective as an Everett pioneer who grew up and raised a family here.

In her interview, which you can read or listen to online, Eva recalls a lonely childhood. She lacked siblings and neighbors, and her only playmate was a young Native American girl, Gracie Spithill. Eva’s mother was a founding member of the Baptist Church in Everett, who also worked as a midwife and taught Eva to make home remedies. Eva recalled one particularly colorful incident in which she created a salve from Stockholm tar and Vaseline to save an injured boy’s leg from amputation!

Eva’s stories provide a fascinating glimpse into what daily domestic life, childhood, motherhood, and marriage looked like in Everett in the early 20th century.

Madame Luella Boyer

February is African American History Month. Libraries, archives, museums, and other organizations around the country observe this month as a way to recognize and honor the rich and challenging history of African Americans. In honor of this occasion, I am sharing the story of one of the most fascinating individuals I’ve come across in my work in the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library— Luella Ruth Brown Boyer Brent, aka Madame Boyer. Boyer was a successful African American businesswoman in early Everett at a time when few economic opportunities existed for African Americans or women.

1908 Everett City Directory listingMost of what I know about Madame Boyer I learned from local historian and genealogist, Margaret Summitt of the Mukilteo Historical Society. She painstakingly examined decades worth of genealogical records, newspapers, and city directories to reconstruct Boyer’s life story.

Luella was born in Iowa in 1868. Her father’s lineage traces back to the first slaves brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Her parents had moved to Iowa, a free state, from Missouri, a slave state, in 1864 while the nation was still engulfed in Civil War. Her father worked as a laborer and her mother worked as a domestic servant. Neither could read nor write, yet they worked to ensure their children could achieve more. Luella’s brother, Samuel, became an attorney, civil rights activist and NAACP leader in Des Moines, Iowa.

The available historical records only reveal bits and pieces of Luella’s life. We know that by 1900 she was married to John C. Boyer, a barber, and living in Lewiston, Idaho. They moved to Everett around 1902 and became part of the black community in this region. Around the time they moved to Everett, Luella began marketing herself and her professional services—hair care products—as “Madame Boyer.” She was likely inspired by Madame C.J. Walker, a self-made millionaire and wildly successful African American entrepreneur with a popular line of hair care products. (Walker was the Oprah Winfrey of her generation.) The couple adopted a daughter in 1903 and separated around 1905.

Even as a single mother, Boyer’s career flourished during these years. She promoted herself not just as a hair dresser, but also a dermatologist by 1908.

Boyer remarried in 1910 to Bertrand Brent at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. Mr. Brent was white and employed as a waiter and a janitor at Everett Public Library.

Luella was a trailblazing entrepreneur during a time when few economic opportunities were available to black women. But she is also notable for her contributions to Everett’s cultural life and as a leader on issues of race and social change.

In May 1902, Madame Boyer and her husband went to a theater performance in Seattle by Bert Williams and George Walker, pioneering black entertainers. Boyer—who also made ends meet by working as a housekeeper for the Everett Opera House for $1 a night—is thought to have been a key player in bringing Williams and Walker to perform their landmark musical “In Dahomey” to Everett in 1905.

Receipt from 1905 for Luella Boyer

Madame Boyer’s social activism was well-documented in the Seattle Republican, an African American  newspaper. She participated in the newspaper’s Sunday Forums regarding social issues, submitted discussion questions, and addressed the forum twice. She offered one talk on racial discrimination and another on prostitution and gender inequality. She died from diabetic complications in 1912, at age 44.

Although we may know a lot about when, where, and what Boyer did in her life, I am more intrigued by all that we don’t know. What did she look like? (There are no known photos!) Why was she in Idaho and Washington at a time when 90% of the country’s African American population still lived in the South? What motivated her to move here, and what hardships did she endure? What inspired her business, civic, and familial decisions? What was it like to be an African American woman in Everett in the early 20th century, a rough-and-tumble mill town?

Related readings:

book coverAfrican American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000 by Quintard Taylor

In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 by Quintard Taylor

The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era by Quintard Taylor

Seattle’s Black Victorians, 1852-1901 by Esther Hall Mumford

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

A Look at Everett’s Mayors

Last week, Cassie Franklin became the 37th mayor of Everett in its 125 year history. To commemorate this change in leadership, the Northwest Room staff has been looking back at the history of mayors in our city. Did you know that we’ve had three Canadians, two Danish, and one Dutch mayor? It wasn’t until 1977 that Everett had a mayor who was born and raised in Washington!

You can check out our Everett mayors webpage and videos on Mayor Dwyer, Mayor Hartley, Mayor Ebert, and Mayor Stephanson.

Thomas Dwyer was elected on April 27, 1893, as Everett’s first mayor. He won with a mere three vote lead. (And you thought the 2017 election—with a 196 vote difference—was a close race!) In that same election, voters in Everett also chose to incorporate their 5,000-person community as an official municipality. That decision wasn’t as tough—voters chose to incorporate, with a vote of 670 to 99.

For one year prior to incorporation, Everett was led by a group called “The Committee of Twenty-One.” This popularly elected body acted as an interim authority to address issues of public concern such as crime, sanitation, and health. Only one of these 21 early Everett leaders went on to serve as mayor, James H. Mitchell (1906-1907). Although an early Everett mayor, Mitchell was better known in the community for his role as assistant postmaster. His wife, Becca, was Everett’s first postmaster.

The first official City Charter was adopted in 1893. It employed a mayor and council format and annual mayoral elections. Everett was led by 11 mayors under this Charter during its first 14 years. One mayor, Jacob Hunsaker, served two non-consecutive terms. His daughter, Hallie Hunsaker, recalled in a 1976 oral history interview with the Everett Public Library that he was a hands-on leader. He went out with a hammer and nails to personally fix a wooden plank so nobody would get hurt during a parade!

In 1907, when Everett’s population surpassed 10,000, the city passed a First-Class Charter. The new charter preserved the mayor and council format and extended the mayor’s term to two years. By this time, Everett had completely recovered from a devastating economic depression to become a thriving industrial city. Notably, Roland Hill Hartley launched his political career as mayor during this era. His tenure was marked by significant controversy and conflict, particularly around issues of labor relations and local prohibition. Hartley went on to serve in the Washington State Legislature and two terms as Governor of Washington. Over 100 years later, Hartley is still a contentious figure in local and state political history.

The political structure of the City changed again in 1912, with the adoption of a commission charter. The mayor was chosen from a small group of city commissioners and the role was largely honorary. The City functioned under this form of government for 56 years with 15 mayors. Mayors from 1912 to 1968 wielded far less authority than those governing before and after them. Lacking significant executive power, the role of mayor was largely symbolic during this era. One notable mayor of this era was John Henry Smith, a public works commissioner, who was considered a founding father of Anchorage, Alaska.

The passage of a new charter in 1968 marked the beginning of our current political era. The charter eliminated the commissioner form of government and implemented a strong mayor and council form. You can listen to Mayor George Gebert—a shoe salesman turned politician— reflect on the commissioner and mayor-council forms of government in an Everett Public Library oral history interview.

Mayor Robert C. Anderson was the first mayor to serve under the new city charter and he held the position for nine years. Anderson resigned in October 1977 for a banking job. City Council President Joyce Ebert served out the remaining two months of his term. Ebert became Everett’s first female mayor, and she was the first mayor born in Washington. Mayor Ebert had to personally sign each city employee’s paychecks during her term. Given the short term and short notice, there was no official signature plate available for her to automate the tedious process.

Five more men served as mayor after Ebert: Bill Moore, Pete Kinch, Edward Hansen, Frank Anderson, and Ray Stephanson. Ray Stephanson holds the distinction of being Everett’s longest-serving mayor, with service from 2003 to 2017. In January 2018, Cassie Franklin became Everett’s first elected female mayor.

Join us next Tuesday, January 16, at 7 p.m. at the Valley View Neighborhood Association meeting to learn more about the history of Everett Mayors! The program is free and open to the public, and it will be held at the South Everett Police Precinct. Full program details are available on our calendar.

November is Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Indian Heritage MonthIt is an opportunity to pay tribute to the contributions of indigenous people to national history and culture. It’s also a time to reflect on the complex and difficult relationship between native cultures and the dominant culture.

While Native American Indian Heritage Month is observed nationally, it has important resonance locally. Everett was built on land ceded to the United States government in 1855. On January 22, 1855, leaders  of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other tribes signed the treaty with the United States government. They agreed to cede their ancestral lands and relocate to a permanent home on the bay at what is now Everett. In exchange, they would be recognized as a sovereign nation with certain fishing and water rights. These tribes became collectively known as the Tulalip Tribes.

In the pre-World War I era, several white photographers from Everett entered the Tulalip reservation to document various aspects of tribal life, community, and customs. The photos of J.A. Juleen (1874-1935) form a key part of the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room collections. Juleen’s outsider perspective created a unique body of work documenting a new longhouse, the dedication of a story pole created by William Shelton, portraits of tribal members, and life at the reservation school. His photos of Tulalip are available in the Northwest Room’s digital collections

tulalipbook

As useful as these images are for recording and preserving aspects of Tulalip heritage and history, it’s critical to explore these issues through the native perspective as well. One such native perspective is presented beautifully in the book Tulalip, From My Heart. This  book presents an autobiographical account by Harriette Shelton Dover (1904-1991), daughter of the famed Tulalip storyteller and wood carver William Shelton (1868-1938), and a tribal leader in her own right. Blending history, anthropology, and memoir, Dover draws on her culture’s oral traditions to tell the stories of her community back to 1855.  Her story includes heartbreaking reflections of her experiences at the government Indian boarding school she attended as a child.

While the Everett Public Library has numerous resources available to commemorate Native American Heritage Month, the Hibulb Cultural Center is the expert on presenting and interpreting the stories of the Tulalip Tribes.