Joan Curtis, historian and author of “Town on the Sound” the history of Steilacoom, traveled to Snohomish on Sunday, October 11th, to participate in a discussion about the founding of Snohomish.
The event was held in conjunction with an exhibition titled, “E. C. Ferguson in Steilacoom, 1858-59,” which is on view during Museum hours, weekends from 1 to 4pm.
Joining Joan was David Dilgard, well known to Society members as the History Specialist in the Northwest Room of the Everett Public Library who has adopted the history of Snohomish to the benefit of us all.
Moderating the discussion was Warner Blake who first introduced David as one who introduced him to the history of Snohomish. “And David’s accounts always began with Steilacoom,” Warner said, “so finally, early this year I visited the Steilacoom Historical Society and was lucky enough to show up on a day when Joan was at work in the archives.”
Immediately, she found a reference in the history of Pierce County referring to E. C. Ferguson and some 95 other bachelors calling for a meeting to ” devise ways to secure the emigration of the fair sex from the Atlantic States to our shores.” At the discussion on Sunday, Joan reported that no other account of the meeting has been found, and David felt it was most likely a fraternal activity without serious intentions of taking further steps. In fact, the meeting was called for a day in February 1860, three months before Ferguson took up residence on the Snohomish River.
Four years later, Asa Mercer acted on the idea when he brought 11 women to Seattle from the east coast who became known as the Mercer Girls.
The account that Ferguson had a child with a native woman in Snohomish before his marriage in 1868 to Lucetta Morgan was brought up. David reminded us that it was common for the white settlers of Snohomish to take an Indian wife and that in fact, the first school in 1865 was attended by the children of these mixed marriages. Joan reported that this was not common in the early years of Steilacoom, perhaps due to the transit nature of Steilacoom’s population — most were on their way to somewhere else — as was the case with our Mr. Ferguson.
Following the discussion, guests visited the exhibition in the Gallery of the Blackman House that features images and text of life in Steilacoom when Ferguson lived there, along with portraits of his business partners in the plan to establish a ferry across the Snohomish River for the military road proposed to connect Steilacoom with Bellingham.
Only Ferguson took up residence here when financing for the road fell through. David reminded us that it’s very unusual for a founding settler to actually settle-in as Ferguson did in the town that he named after the river and where he lived until his death in 1911.