Preserving the stories of loggers and miners, sailors and veterans
BY ELLEN HIATT
We connect to one another by connecting to place, understanding our shared history, the common experience that’s part of our DNA if not our memory. How do we look at the land? How do we value its resources? How do we interact with each other? These questions can all be answered by a visit to your local museum.
In the Snohomish County area, there are plenty of communities preserving the memories of the past, collecting and displaying the artifacts, studying and sharing the stories. All of the small regional pioneer museums showcase the history of colonization — settlers’ axes that felled the forests, the railroad that brought people, goods and change, the cooking utensils, tools, clothing and photographs that tell the story of the time.
Each has a unique story of place.
In Marysville, the Historical Society tells a powerful story of change through the telephone. In their 10,000 square foot building, they house a most unusual display of telephone history, specifically GTE history. If anything tells the story of culture and how we interact with each other — it’s the telephone. Ubiquitous today, with a device in every hand, the early days of telephones involved switchboard operators and party lines, where nosy neighbours and operators might pick up the phone to listen in to a conversation.
The museum’s phone collection dates from the late 1880s, with wall mounted examples in wooden boxes and a bell on the outside. Want to know where the old phrase “get ’em on the horn” came from? The old phones had a horn-like megaphone to talk into.
For entertainment for young and old alike, two of the museum’s crank phones are connected so visitors can talk through them. The display shows the progression of phone styles and technology all the way to the dial phones. The collection includes teletype machines and switch banks.
It’s a story of communication, technology, innovation, and dramatic changes in society. Watch this video (https://tinyurl.com/yj2wzcxd) showcasing the museum’s dial phone and the automation innovated to remove the operator from the equation.
TALE OF TWO CITIES
As loggers and farmers settled onto the shores of Port Susan, bets were placed on where economic prosperity would land. Would it be on the shoreline, where the Irvine Slough ferried in rafts of logs for the lumber mill, or along the railroad track which brought prosperity to new towns across the nation? East Stanwood and West Stanwood, incorporated as two separate cities, gave the town the Twin Cities nickname that lasts today. Between the two incorporated towns, the state’s first paved road was built on the mile distance. The vitrified brick is still found in West Stanwood’s business district.
In the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center, this tale of two cities is told, along with the story of the Stanwood men who made their riches in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 and returned to invest in farms and businesses.
The “Trees to Peas Prosperity” exhibit tells the story of the town’s shift from logging to farming, and the impact of Twin City Foods
A long-time vegetable processing plant whose building on the slough still bears its name, but who no longer creates the demand for peas that once filled the farm fields here.
Visit for a tour of the cultural center’s exhibits, as well as the D.O. Pearson House, the historic home of West Stanwood’s first mayor, preserved as a Victorian period home.
RAILROADS AND MINING
True railroad aficionados can become obsessed. In Granite Falls, that obsession is leading to a gift to the local museum. A team of dedicated volunteers has created a computer simulation covering the entire length of the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway, built to transport over 300,000 tons of gold and silver ore in a mere decade.
“Initially, we’ll be using [the simulation] to create a video that can be viewed, but by next year, we will be allowing visitors to actually drive the trains!” museum volunteer Fred Cruger explained. “The creation of the simulation has been a multi-year effort by friends of the museum who happen to be true railroad aficionados.”
Also in the museum is a fully-rigged spar tree, a shingle-cutting machine with a video of it in full operation, antique vehicles, and a 1915 engine that powers the five-gallon ice cream maker.
The crowning glory may be the thousands of artifacts, photographs, and digitized maps of homesteads and plotted land throughout the county, combined with photos and documentation, that are available on site or in a virtual history tour for smartphone users. The project took thousands of hours and dedicated volunteers that came from as close as the local high school and as far away as the Oklahoma State Department of Corrections. The archive lured in a fellow from New Zealand who traced his family ancestry to Granite Falls, and a man who wanted to confirm his family once homesteaded the property on which Stanwood’s Twin City Foods plant was located.
VETERANS TO MARITIME
For more recent history, visit the Northwest Veterans Museum in Lynnwood, which showcases artifacts and a round table for veterans to swap stories.
For maritime history, visit the Mukilteo Lighthouse, the county’s only lighthouse, built in 1906 and thought to be a plum assignment for a succession of 18 lighthouse keepers. The Port of Everett Waterfront Historical Program also honors the lumber, commercial fishing, and boat building history of the region with a website chockablock full of information, and an interpretive program throughout the waterfront.
CONFIRM YOUR DATES
Some museums are free to enter, and some charge a nominal fee. All ask for donations, the steady stream of which helps keep the doors open. Many of these museums hold events: a holiday bazaar in November in Marysville, a holiday performance of the South End String Band and Spirit of Swing Ensemble in Stanwood. Visit their websites for hours and days of opening, and, in some cases, to schedule a visit.
Other museums you will want to visit on a rainy day:
The Blackman House in Snohomish is a Victorian period home of lumbermen brothers.
Edmonds Historical Museum, housed in a restored 1910 Carnegie Library building, greets guests with a “Marsh Life” Panel carved by Tulalip Tribes member and carver Ty Juvinel. Inside, visit the model train room, a Victorian parlor and step inside an original jail cell.
All of the small regional pioneer museums showcase the history of colonization.
The Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum preserves the artifacts of the North and South Forks of the Stillaguamish River valley, including logging, dairy, and military to keep “alive the heritage of the original homesteaders of the area.”
The Monroe Historical Society and Museum brings Old City Hall to life with pioneer exhibits and a self-guided walking tour through the historic town.
Snohomish County Museums
- Blackman House Museum – Snohomish City
- Edmonds-South Snohomish County Museum
- Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour
- Granite Falls Museum
- Imagine Children’s Museum – Everett
- League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations
- Marysville Museum & Historical society
- Monroe Historical Society Museum
- Mukilteo Lighthouse Museum
- Stanwood Area History Museum
- Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum – Arlington
- The Flying Heritage Collection and Combat Armor Museum
- The Historic Flight Foundation at Paine Field