Remembering Bill Bates

“Stories at the Blackman House: A Visit with Bill Bates” was presented by the Society on Sunday, March 16, 2008. Bill tells his version of the Society’s beginnings.

William Lawrence Bates, a longtime editor, and publisher of The Snohomish County Tribune died April 24 in Snohomish. He was 95. Read more …

Forest Morse Visits the Blackman House

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Stopped by to give friend Lya Badgley encouragement for her new volunteer job as a docent at the Blackman House Museum on a Sunday in May when a grandson of one of my favorite historic characters of early Snohomish paid a visit to the museum.

Forest and his wife Marliss drove up from the Tacoma area where they live with more information about his connection to grandfather Eldridge Morse, Snohomish’s first lawyer turned newspaper editor and publisher of the Northern Star, Snohomish County’s first newspaper established in 1876.

Extensive documentation of Eldridge’s life and work was written by the late Noel V. Bourasaw in his Skagit River Journal with the help of our society’s genealogy ace Ann Tuohy.

Big thanks to Lya for taking on the task of welcoming visitors to the Blackman House Museum — you don’t have to be descendants of the early Snohomish elites to be warmly welcome and filled with historic stories.

Video: Norwesco Telephone Museum

Morrie, who is dialing the phone, told me the short version of Almon Strowger, the man who invented the dial telephone system while keeping his day job as an undertaker!

The longer version begins that Strowger went to his office one morning, hung his Prince Albert coat on the wall, secured the Kansas City morning paper, sat down in his chair, placed his feet upon his desk, and began to read. Suddenly his attention was attracted to an item of news, which told him that a friend had died. To his astonishment and amazement, he read that the burial was to be handled by a competitor. When he saw this, he jumped to the conclusion that his friends had tried to reach him by telephone, but the operator had undoubtedly given the call to his competitor. As a result, he had lost the business.

Immediately, so it is told, he flew into a rage. His eye fell upon the telephone on the wall a few feet distant; he crossed over to the instrument, rang the bell impatiently, and when the operator answered spoke to her angrily. The operator’s protestation that she was entirely innocent did not satisfy him and slamming the receiver back onto the hook, he impatiently walked the floor.

Suddenly the thought came to him; why not build a telephone system that will not require an operator. “Surely,” he must have reasoned, “just so long as there are human operators with their human frailties, there will be human mistakes.” He began to ponder over this, and the more he thought about it the more he resolved that he could and would build such a telephone system. . . .

Download a word doc to get the whole fascinating story of the Strowger Switch.


Snohomish resident Morrie Sachsenmaier founded the telephone museum now located in the new museum of the Marysville Historical Society. Morrie’s on duty at the Marysville Museum on Tuesdays, 10a to 4p–you won’t be disappointed.

Video: Parlour Tour Preview

The historic Ferguson Cottage will be open for the 2015 Parlour Tour, December 13th, 12-4p, a rare opportunity to see the inside of Snohomish’s first residence of city founder E.C. Ferguson. The structure was saved from falling down by Rebecca Loveless who tells the story in the first part of this eight minute movie.

Christmas Greetings from 1901

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A newsprint copy of this rare historic photograph of a church service in progress was found in the Methodist church folder on file in the Snohomish Historical Society Archives, with the caption: “1901 was a good year to hold a Christmas pageant. This one at the First Methodist Church in Snohomish came complete with all the trimmings including ten angels on front stage. Photo, courtesy Everett Library Historical Collection.”

Please follow this link to read more.

Season’s Greetings

This Christmas card, signed by Mary Ursula Lenfest, the eldest sibling of the Blackman brothers, was left behind when the Blackman family heirs sold the home and most of its contents to the Society, over 40 years ago.

Mary was born in 1837, of Adam and Mary Blackman, in Bradley, Maine. She married John Lenfest in 1863 and the union gave birth to their only child, Elmer, a year later. Mary and John waited to join her brothers living in Snohomish until after Elmer received his degree in civil engineering. The family arrived in town in 1889, where Elmer landed a job with the newly incorporated city as its engineer. He married Sylvia Ferguson in 1891 and their only child, Norman, was born two years later. Mary lived to reach 90 years of age, passing on in 1927, the same year that our Ella Blackman also died.

Please allow us to add our sincere wishes to Mary’s for every happiness for you and yours in the New Year!

Trudy Stack, Friend of the Society, Passed Away May 19, 2013

Trudy Stack
Trudy Stack with one of her paintings.
Trudy (Wood) Stack (1916-2013) was born in Snohomish,  in the front bedroom of the home her father built at 404 Avenue C.  The family moved to Seattle a couple years later, but Trudy continued to visit since her sister Ruth taught at Snohomish High School for many years.

Married to Harold Stack, who survives her, 70 years ago, they would often make the trip to Snohomish to visit Trudy’s birth place.  A few years before Trudy was born, her father, William, was a three term Mayor of Snohomish, winning in the 1911 election with 343 votes of the 366 cast.

The Stack Family Foundation made an unsolicited donation to our Historical Society in the generous amount of $6000 in 2008.  It was used to purchase museum software for cataloging our photo collection, and the hiring of an museum studies intern to help us get started.

As the president of the society at the time, I continued to stay in touch with Trudy and Harold, as have the new owners of the grand home, Joelle and Andy Blair.  Just the other day, I came across a short story in a 1910 issue of the Tribune about her father taking the family of eight children to the new beach home at Moclips. I planed on sending it to her.

Trudy was the ninth child, but I can’t imagine how any of the others could have loved Snohomish more than she.

Thirty-Four Years of Memories

Eleanor Leight at the Blackman House Museum
Eleanor Leight with the second Chinese Dragon puppet head

The first puppet head wore out. So Bill Jack built another one, now on exhibit at the Blackman House Museum’s Gallery — along with costumes, props and photos galore!

Besides, the first one was to big. Eleanor tells the hysterical story of her oldest son, Steven, who was wearing the puppet head in one of the early shows and couldn’t get through a door. The dragon puppet glows wen lit with only black-light and is an audience favorite.

Eleanor led the Leight Fantastics dance troupe along with a variety of talent through 34 years of shows that came to end this past Mother’s Day weekend.

It all began when the first president of the Society, Everett Olsen asked Eleanor if she might put a show together as a fundraiser for the new historical society — never thinking it would turn into an annual event.

(Scroll down for a documentary excerpt of Everett.)

But Eleanor, who celebrated her nineth birthday this year, will continue on with rehearsals for smaller shows at the Evergreen Fair and other venues. So, it’s still not too late to learn tap.

You can join Eleanor and the gang on Monday evening’s at St Michael’s Hall, and on Thursdays at the Snohomish Center Center; which is a good place to contact Eleanor for more information. “No one is turned away,” she emphasized.

The Blackman House is open Saturday and Sunday afternoons from noon until 3 o’clock, and by appointment — call 425.315.2256 to make arrangements.

You may read more about Eleanor on the web at The Women’s Legacy Project.