About Mindy

Northwest Room Historian at Everett Public Library

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.

Haunted History

Everyone loves a spooky story this time of year. The requests for ghosts, ghouls, and tales of macabre misdeeds even find their way to the Northwest Room, where ghost hunters pore over our city directories, maps, and archival resources for historical evidence.

Evergreen Cemetery, 1912

Evergreen Cemetery, 1912

We’ve rounded up a few of the most ghastly tales—all true stories—from the Northwest Room to both frighten and enlighten you:

Evergreen Cemetery Podcast Tour

Narrated by retired Everett Public Library historian David Dilgard, this downloadable audio recording meanders through Everett’s historical cemetery to describe many monuments and memories in local history. Use this award-winning podcast as a guide for a stroll through the cemetery any time of year.

Evergreen Cemetery Digital Collection

A visual companion to the Evergreen Cemetery Podcast Tour, this online exhibit contains photos of the same sites described on the podcast. You can research sites and stories from the podcast or from your own explorations of the cemetery without ever leaving your chair.

Dark Deeds: True Tales of Territorial Treachery and Terror!

In this slim volume, David Dilgard recounts three true crime cases from the territorial era. T.P. Carter’s murder in 1860 prompted the creation of Snohomish County, separating the large mainland portion off of Island County. Peter Goutre’s violent demise on Gedney Island in 1875 remains unsolved. And the 1874 axe murder of Lowell’s Charles Seybert continues to intrigue neighbors there.

Postcard, November 1916

Postcard issued by IWW; funeral of three Wobbly victims of Everett Massacre.

The Everett Massacre Centennial Commemoration

The Everett Massacre of 1916 left seven dead and many more wounded in the bloodiest battle in Pacific Northwest labor history. The library has put together a digital exhibit and curated a series of public programs and videos on the topic. This 101-year-old violent labor dispute remains a seminal event in local and regional history.

Of course, there are many more stories of tragedy, treachery, and true crime threaded throughout Everett and Snohomish County history. For example, in the Nelson-Connella fracas of 1898, local newspaper editor James Connella shot and killed his political adversary Ole Nelson near the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore. Connella was tried and acquitted, but local animosity forced him to leave town.

The prosecution of the Jim Creek double murders in the 1930s are famous for launching the political career of Senator Henry M. Jackson. The library has an oral history interview with Fred French, the detective who solved the crime in 1940.

To me, the most haunting true crime tale in our collection is the Halloween murder of 1934. On October 31, 1934, a young baker was murdered by a man who would go on to serve time and escape from Alcatraz. The victim’s family moved back home to Germany, and they became disconnected from the criminal investigations in the United States due to the events leading up to World War II. The family didn’t learn that justice had been served until 76 years later, when the daughter contacted the Northwest Room.

We don’t tell these stories merely to entertain, entice or frighten you for Halloween, although we know true crime stories certainly do that. We share these stories as a way to educate and to acknowledge the tragic aspects of our history while offering credible resources for anyone wishing to research our past.

Strange Everett

October is Archives Month, and archives around the state are celebrating the occasion with the theme of “Strange Washington.” We in the Northwest Room—the Everett Public Library’s local history collection of books, maps, newspapers, photos, and manuscripts—are no strangers to strange stuff. In fact, we’re quite fond of the quirky tales of Everett’s eccentric past—the stories and collections that make our local heritage feel odd and interesting.

But recently we managed to push our love for Strange Everett to its limits. In cleaning out an archival storage room—the former garage for the beloved Pegasus Bookmobile —we stumbled on a couple of particularly strange items.

ArchivesFirst up, nestled deep in a box full of old glass bottles and other treasures that had been dug up from a construction site and inexplicably buried in our basement, we found this jaw fragment. Bonus points if you can tell us what kind of creature it belonged to. (Remember, we’re librarians/historians/archivists, not dentists or veterinarians).

Jaw

In another box a few shelves over, we found a bit of library lore. The cardboard box—carefully labeled “Notorious Bloody Nightshirt and Other Disgusting Exhibit Files” — contained precisely that. nightshirt

Forty years ago, the library received a donation of old photos and archival materials from someone cleaning up at the Snohomish County Courthouse. The photos and documents were properly archived and added to our historical collection. It seems nobody quite knew what to do with the rest—the so-called “bloody nightshirt” and assortment of broken eyeglasses and other personal items in the box. The soiled sleepwear had been used as evidence in a murder trial in the 1910s, and then it languished in a cardboard box for a century. While the shirt and its owner had a strange and sad story to tell about Snohomish County history, the library was not the appropriate final resting place for this material. The nightshirt is now happily haunting the Everett Museum of History, where it can be properly cared for and stored with other historical textiles. May its owner rest in peace.

While we don’t have these particular strange items on display, we have many other weird and wonderful stories and photos to share in the Northwest Room. Browse our digital archives to explore Strange Everett and drop a link in the comments of the strangest photo you find.

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Several libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions nationwide use this month to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans “who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”

Northwest Washington is rich in Hispanic heritage dating back to 1774, when Spain claimed the Pacific Northwest. According to Historylink.org, Spanish captain Juan Perez led the Santiago from Mexico to the coast of what would eventually become Washington state. Early Spanish expeditions were typically led by Mexican crews. These Mexican explorers were the pioneers in the late 18th century settlements of Neah Bay and Vancouver Island, and they produced our earliest non-Native scientific and topographical studies of the region.  Think also of the familiar nearby place names like Fidalgo Island (home to the City of Anacortes), and the San Juan Islands. The Hispanic legacy of our region is abundantly evident.

EverettMap

In Everett, the overall Hispanic population is between 14 and 15 percent. Some neighborhoods have Hispanic populations exceeding 50 percent.  This City of Everett Planning Department  map illustrates Everett’s dense and robust Hispanic communities.

It seems only fitting, then, that the Northwest Room—the corner of the library dedicated to preserving and interpreting local history—acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing a highlight from our collection, as we recently did with Jewish Heritage Month and Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

In researching this blog post, we found some terrific books in the library collection, like Color: Latino Voices in the Pacific Northwest and We are Aztlán!: Chicanx Histories in the Northern BorderlandsColor is an anthology of intimate stories of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Northwest, based on a Spanish medical interpreter’s clients and their lived colorexperiences. We are Aztlán! is a collection of scholarly articles on historical and contemporary issues faced by Chicanx (Hispanic) communities in the Pacific Northwest and Midwestern United States. For example, one chapter explores a recent history of Latino voter suppression in Yakima. Another tackles activism in the Yakima Valley and the Puget Sound regions. The library also has interesting books documenting early Spanish explorations—like Wagner’s Spanish Explorations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca—which provide useful historical context.

aztlanUnfortunately, though, we had trouble coming up with items in our Northwest Room archival and photographic collections that specifically document the history of Hispanic heritage and rapid growth in Everett and Snohomish County. We are concerned about this lack of representation in our local history collection. It is certainly an area of importance and increasing relevance to the communities we serve. Part of the Everett Public Library’s mission is to “embrace the future while preserving the past.” We can’t do that alone. Please reach out to us at libnw@everettwa.gov if you have knowledge and resources to help us better preserve and share the rich, diverse, and growing history of Hispanic communities in Everett—now and for future generations.

The Early 20th Century Japan Bazaar on Hewitt Avenue

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history—at the national, state, and local level. Asian Americans have a complex and difficult history in the Northwest since the mid-19th century, when waves of immigrants began arriving from China, Japan, and the Philippines.

Today, we are sharing one striking image from our Northwest History collection: a portrait of the Chinese Kan family inside their Hewitt Avenue business, the Japan Bazaar. This compelling image from the summer of 1907 offers a glimpse inside their lives and hints at the complexities and conflicts this community may have faced in early 20th century Everett.

Although we do not have a full history of the Kan family or their business, we are able to stitch together pieces of their story based on the image and other Everett Public Library resources such as: oral histories, Polk’s City Directories, Everett Herald archives, and genealogical and archival databases.

As the Northwest region’s Asian population grew, so too did anti-immigration hostilities and policies. Chinese immigrants in California and Washington faced discriminatory taxes, prohibitions against marrying white people, and owning land. In 1882, Congress passed a national Chinese Exclusion Act to restrict Chinese immigration entirely. Chinese populations were expelled from Seattle and Tacoma in 1885 and 1886.

It was amidst this culture of anti-Chinese fears and policies that Charles Kan and his wife, Beam Owyong Kan, arrived in the Pacific Northwest.

JapanBazaarEDHDec31901

Everett Daily Herald, December 3, 1901

We know that the Charles and Beam Kan family arrived in Everett from China by way of Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle, but it is unclear when and why they first immigrated to the United States. Like many Chinese immigrants, they may have felt a combination of push and pull factors that caused them to seek a better life in the United States.

The earliest record of Charles Kan is from 1892, when he was identified as a merchant from Japan in the Washington state census. This description matched his listing in the 1892 Seattle city directory as a purveyor of Japanese goods. The Kans operated Everett’s “Japan Bazaar” on Hewitt Avenue, from 1901 to 1910.

japanesegoods

Seattle City Directory, 1892

Birth records indicate that the oldest Kan children, Samuel and Ruth, were born in Portland, Oregon, in 1897 and 1899. The youngest two children, Mary and John, were born in Everett, in 1904 and 1907. Unlike the 1892 census records, all other readily available public records indicate Chinese—not Japanese—ancestry.

The family moved back and forth between Oregon and Washington cities for many years before arriving in Everett. In some years, Charles Kan operated his own business. In others, he clerked for Andrew Kan, an importer primarily based in Seattle. While Charles Kan seems to have consistently marketed his business as Japanese, Andrew Kan’s businesses varied between Chinese, Japanese, and simply “Oriental.” This fluid ethnic identity may have been a simple marketing tactic designed to sell more goods. Or, perhaps, it was a response to heightened tensions facing Chinese immigrants.

EDHNov211901

Everett Daily Herald, November 21, 1901

When the Kans arrived in Everett in 1901, the city was less than a decade old. Brimming with economic and industrial opportunities, it attracted an influx of immigrants and job-seekers during the first decade of the 20th century. On November 21, 1901, the Everett Daily Herald announced the opening of Charles Kan’s Japanese Bazaar on Hewitt Avenue. On the next page, the Herald ran a story entitled, “Says Keep the Heathen Out.” The article described President Roosevelt’s attitude toward the policy of Chinese exclusion: “The heathen has been slipping in…either by stealth or bribery of immigration officials…”

In this environment of prosperity, opportunity, and overt hostility, it is unsurprising that the Chinese family wanted to pass as Japanese, a more culturally and politically acceptable ethnicity at the time.

In December of 1907, a few months after our photo was taken, the Everett Daily Herald featured the store in an article on Christmas shopping. They author described the busy manager, Mr. Kan, peddling a colorful range of affordable, quality products for all ages, such as “humming tops and other amusing toys for children, delicate drawn work, embroider, brasses, ivories, paintings on silk, cigar cases, match safes and countless other artistic oddities…” The writer was enthusiastic about the store’s exotic Japanese atmosphere. He described a “fairyland to be sure in these purely Oriental windows” before enthusing: “one may almost see the cherry blossoms fall from imaginary trees and hear the soft tones of busy Japanese in far off Mikadoland…” The Herald writer seemed perfectly convinced of the Japan Bazaar’s authenticity.

In a 1975 oral history interview, Rita Yeo Richmond, an early Everett pioneer and the daughter of a local business owner, reminisced about visiting the Japan Bazaar as a child. According to Rita, the other business owners in town all knew—and accepted—that the Kan family was Chinese, not Japanese. She recalls:

“And then there was a Chinese store. Did anybody speak of that? That was nice. He stayed open until nine o’clock in the night, and my dad used to take us down there. And oh, he had so many Chinese things. Big store. He had a little girl named Ruth and a boy named Sam. My dad used to go down there real often, and was real friendly with them, you know. In Everett they wouldn’t allow a Chinese in at that time. But he kind of posed as something—as a Jap or something. But anyhow, my dad got talking to other merchants in town, and they all thought he was so wonderful that they should let him stay, you know. So they let him stay. They kept it hush.”

Sometime between 1910 and 1912, after a decade in Everett, the family moved back to Seattle, and then, eventually to Los Angeles, California. Although the Kan family’s story remains largely unknown, they nevertheless filled a unique role and left a mark on the business community of early Everett.

Recommended reading on early 20th Century Chinese and Japanese American experiences in the Northwest:

Reflections of Seattle’s Chinese Americans: the First 100 Years

Dreams of the West: a history of the Chinese in Oregon, 1850-1950

Subverting Exclusion: Transpacific Encounters with Race, Caste, and Borders, 1885-1928

May is Jewish American Heritage Month

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, the Northwest Room—the library’s local history collection—is highlighting two notable Jewish families in Everett’s history and their stories.

The first Jewish settlers arrived in Everett in the early 20th century. The Michelson family was among the first to arrive. Abe Michelson first emigrated from Latvia to Tacoma. In 1906, Abe and his wife, Etta, relocated to Everett. Abe and his brother, Sam, opened a second-hand store on Hewitt Avenue, the Riverside Junk Company.

The Michelson family was active in building Congregation Moses Montefiore, in a house-turned-synagogue on Lombard Street. There were about 60 Jewish families in Everett in the 1920s and 1930s, who participated in Orthodox services and organized religious classes for children. Attendance declined with the construction of Highway 99, which made it easier for Everett’s Jewish community to attend other synagogues in Seattle.

Michelson

(Moe Michelson portrait, Northwest Room Collection, Everett Public Library)

 

Abe and Etta’s eldest son, Moe Michelson (1908-1996) is remembered as an active member of Everett City Council. He served in position #2 from 1968 to 1989. Find more pictures of Councilman Michelson in the Northwest Room Digital Collections.

The Glassberg family was also familiar in Everett and its Jewish community. The Glassbergs—Maurice, Susie, and children Abe and Ruth—moved to Everett from Salt Lake City, Utah, in the early 20th century. They operated a pawnshop at 2905 Hewitt Avenue.

While a student at Everett High School, Abe Glassberg (1898-1994) began writing for the Everett Daily Herald. He became the newspaper’s managing editor in 1937, and held the position until retirement in 1963. In 1975, Glassberg was recorded for a brief interview, which is part of the Northwest Room’s Oral History Collection.

 Recommended reads:

Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State, by Molly Cone, HoFoSward Droker, and Jacqueline Williams (2003)

Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community on America’s Edge
by Ellen JofPCEisenberg, Ava F. Kahn, and William Toll (2009)

The Northwest Room has many resources to help you research and explore your history at your library.

City of Refuge

City of Refuge is a passionate love letter to New Orleans. This story about how Hurricane Katrina affected two families—one white and middle class, one poor and black—is by turns heart- and gut-wrenching.

On a sweltering hot, late August day in New Orleans we meet SJ Williams, a widowed carpenter and Vietnam vet, who lives and works in the Lower Ninth Ward. Williams must care for his ailing sister Lucy and her troubled son Wesley. We also meet Craig Donaldson, a native of Michigan, who lives in a comfortable middle class neighborhood near Tulane with a wife and two children. These two families make radically different plans for getting through the coming storm. Williams opts to board his windows and tough it out at home. Donaldson and his family evacuate north across Lake Pontchartrain to Mississippi.

After the levees break and the flood waters rush in, SJ and his family are scattered to the Convention Center, the Superdome, and eventually across state lines. Do you remember being glued to the television that summer, observing with horror the plight suffered by thousands of New Orleanians? The Williams are those people. City of Refuge paints a much more intimate portrait of them than we saw on television.

Meanwhile, the Donaldson family manages to evacuate first to Mississippi, then to Chicago. Safe and sound thousands of miles from home, Craig and his wife must confront their rocky marriage and make the difficult decision of whether or not to return to their adopted hometown. Whereas the Williamses feel like composite characters based on thousands of victims and evacuees, Craig reads like an autobiographical character and it is clear that the author really relates to him.

Large chunks of City of Refuge read like narrative non-fiction: descriptions of the city, the levees, the damage, and media attention during the storm and its immediate aftermath, and diatribes about an ineffective and disorganized government response. Nevertheless, Piazza weaves his concerns about race and class through the contrasting experiences of the Williamses and the Donaldsons with great compassion and a compelling intensity.

If you enjoy other accounts of Katrina, such as Dave Eggers’s  Zeitoun or Treme give City of Refuge a try.

Mindy