About Mindy

Northwest Room Historian at Everett Public Library

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.

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.