The Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company – “All Electric” Mill

by David Battey (originally published in 2004)

Frederick Weyerhaesuer. Minnesota Historical Society Collection.

The plan was to build the second “all electric” mill in the nation.  The first such mill being an upgrade of Weyerhaeuser’s Everett Mill B, completed in 1916.  It is important to remember that the underground power plant at Snoqualmie Falls, the first hydroelectric plant in the State of Washington, went on line in late 1898 and helped prove the viability of the alternating current system of power transmission over the direct current system espoused by Thomas Edison.  The town of Snoqualmie did not have electricity until 1912 and outlying Valley farms were without electricity until the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

So the use of electricity in heavy manufacturing was still relatively new and using it to run a large lumber mill was an experiment honed on Everett Mill B and perfected at the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company facility.

Mill powerhouse and mill 1, c 1920. Cress-Dale photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.381.0003.
Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co stack smoke. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.040.3035.

The original power house at the mill was designed to accommodate four 750 horsepower Stirling boilers from Babcock and Wilcox that burned waste chips, shavings and sawdust to create steam and power the “turbo-generator.”

Previously, lumber mills used steam for “everything”.  This new mill used electricity for much of the rotary motion, saving steam for saw carriage motion, dry kilns, lifting cylinders and other situations where electricity was inefficient.  In fact by 1921 the mill was utilizing over 400 electric motors having an aggregate connected load in excess of 6500 horsepower.  The same electrical engineer that designed Everett Mill B, Albert H. Onstad, became an independent consultant for the Snoqualmie Falls operation earning a salary that equated to thirteen dollars per day when the general forest products labor rate was three dollars.

Dinner Group at Snoqualmie Falls home. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.288.0009.
Mill 1 bandsaw. March 1, 1918. Cress-Dale. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.534.0195.

Of primary interest to first mill manager W. W. Warren, was the innovative and untested concept of extending power lines into the woods so that electricity rather than steam could provide the energy for yarding logs.  The value of electric yarders/loaders (donkeys) was not just in their assumed efficiency and speed over steam units but the fact that steam donkey boilers create sparks and the attendant risk of forest fires.  Starting with the opening of the mill in 1917, the company went through four years of experiments using equipment from Westinghouse, General Electric and others before accepting and installing the fast, efficient, spark-free units in 1921.  Electricity was provided by running wires all the way from the power generating plant at Mill 1 into the deep woods and directly to the electric donkey.  The electric yarders were an immediate success as noted in these quotes from W. W. Warren to George Long at Weyerhaeuser:  “The new electric loading machine is a wonderful success, and has this week justified our faith, hopes, and expectations.  Mr. Lewis (the logging foreman) is very enthusiastic.  The crew is proud of it, and the yarding part is the fastest machine in the woods.”  In a postscript he states, “Lewis says this A.M. the loader picked a butt log (7’ to 8’ on stump) up bodily and placed (it) on (a railroad) car on top of two other logs.  The Duplex steam loader couldn’t do that.”

1917 correspondence between George S Long and WW Warren regarding potential sale of power to Puget Sound Traction Light and Power Company. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.
Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co Mill 1, Greenchain and Powerhouse. May 11, 1917. Cress-Dale Photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.534.0210.
Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co stacks, after 1944. Harold Keller Photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection

Dreams of efficient harvesting of Snoqualmie Valley timber began in 1900 when Weyerhaeuser purchased thousands of acres in Western Washington from railroad interests.  The Grandin Coast Lumber Company purchased railroad lands checker-boarded with the Weyerhaeuser holdings in the Valley in 1906.  By 1914 the feasibility of heavy investment in milling and marketing the exceptional timber resources of the Snoqualmie Valley bore fruit in the incorporation of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company (SFLCo) by Weyerhaeuser and Grandin Coast.  With capitalization of $23,000,000 this was serious business.

Snoqualmie Falls Power Plant. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.
Arc flame in cavity at Snoqualmie Falls Power Plant, c.1898. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.112.0076.

It took two years of planning before actual mill construction began in 1916.  The heart of the mill was a large brick fuel bunker, powerhouse, generating plant and stack, built between Mill 1 (with its 11’ electrically driven headrig or giant bandsaw) and the mill pond.  The still existing 211 foot ‘stack’ for this generating plant was constructed of special “radial perforated” curved brick and is nineteen feet in diameter at the base and thirteen feet in diameter at the upper lip.  Still visible on the side of the stack are the company initials, SFLCo.

Although World War I specified wood as a strategic product, attempting to get the mill up and running during times of severe shortages in manpower, metals and machines was a challenge.  It was especially difficult obtaining the large electric motors required for the mill and the delivery of the 4,000 Kilowatt Allis-Chalmers “turbo-generator” was the last piece of equipment required before the mill could go operational on November 25th 1917.

Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co powerhouse construction progress. August 22, 1917. Cress-Dale photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.534.0176.
Snoqualmie Falls Powerhouse equipment. March 11, 1918. Cress-Dale photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.534.0201.

In addition to power needed for production, this mill created “home” electricity for the lights and appliances of the new and growing mill town of Snoqualmie Falls (250 domiciles at buildout in 1924).  That the mill created their electricity was made evident to all of the households at the mill site.  Their lights would dim when the eleven-foot band saw (head-rig) of Mill 1 ripped into a large knot, a hog (gigantic motor driven chipper) gobbled a hard to digest log or one of the electric donkey engines in the woods was working extra hard.  Electricity at the townsite was also very obvious to neighboring farms, many of whom did not have power in their homes until over a decade after the mill began operation.

WW Warren, Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co manager. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.473.0101.
Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co Triple drum electric donkey engine on skids on log car. Kinsey Photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection. PO.486.0007.
Electric logging donkey on skids. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.320.0026.

During planning, engineer Onstad recognized that the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company could easily generate additional power for sale into the Puget Sound Traction Light and Power Company grid.  Negotiations began in 1917 and the first co-generation contract was signed in 1920.  This process allowed the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company to sell excess power to Puget Power.  It also provided for Puget to act as backup in case the mill was unable to generate enough power of her own.

As the mill and mill town grew, the need for electricity and steam rose.  In the early 1929 a fifth, much larger boiler was added.  A second stack some 250 feet high and 16 feet in diameter at the base was added in 1944.

In 1989 Mill 1 was dismantled, but the generating plant was still required for the kilns, planer mill, grading and shipping that remained in service.  Green cut lumber from the Weyerhaeuser White River sawmill was trucked up to Snoqualmie where it was dried and finished.  In 1991 the two power house smoke stacks were assisted by pollution-combating scrubbers.

In 2002 Weyerhaeuser sold the Snoqualmie Tree Farm and in 2003 the mill itself was closed and the dismantling of the buildings began.

On August 11, 2004 the “new” stack erected in 1944 was toppled but the original brick stack currently remains.

Addendum: In 2010, Weyerhaeuser sold the mill site to Snoqualmie Mill Ventures who created DirtFish rally school on the site.

Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co mill 1, powerhouse and beginning of mill town, c 1920. Cress-Dale photo. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.381.0003
Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co Mill site, c 1950s. Harold Keller. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.045.402.b.
Weyerhaeuser Mill and Townsite, November 2004. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.
Powerhouse and stack, 2004. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.

Research Inquiry: What is that bench by DirtFish? It looks important!

Dr. Richard Burke Memorial

Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co

Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co mill and town.

Where DirtFish is located in Snoqualmie was once part of the second all electric mill built in the United States. The Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co was formed in 1914 and began operating in 1917. At its peak, the mill and associated mill town included 250 homes, a hotel, community center, 50-bed hospital, barber shop, grade school, boarding house for single men and eight bunkhouses built for Japanese workers.

By the 1950s, Weyerhaeuser could see the industry beginning to wind down and with the post WWII boom, most people had their own transportation, so workers living in a mill town was no longer as vital. The houses at Snoqualmie Falls were in need of expensive maintenance, and mill workers, who rented from the company, wanted the chance to own their own homes. Many of the houses were moved across a temporary bridge on the Snoqualmie River to create the Williams Addition to Snoqualmie in 1958.

By 1960, Snoqualmie’s population had stabilized at around 1,200 residents. Weyerhaeuser’s mill operations were still a mainstay of employment, but with the completion of Interstate 90 in the 1970s, more Snoqualmie residents began commuting to jobs outside the city. Over the next 30 years, only about 11 people were added to the city’s rolls each year. In 1989, Weyerhaeuser closed its main mill above Snoqualmie. In 2002, the company announced it was shutting down its Snoqualmie dry kilns and planing plant. The closure, effectively ended the company’s 100-year logging operation in King County.

In June 2010, Snoqualmie Mill Ventures purchased the property and created DirtFish.

Snoqualmie Falls Hospital

“The Mill maintained a large three-story hospital for its employees and their families…There were generally two doctors working at the hospital along with several registered nurses.  The doctor and his family lived in a house near the hospital.  The building was one of the first ones built at the mill at the time the mill community was built.”

“It sat on the highest part of the mill property, above the school.  It was built of white siding and was well equipped for a hospital of that day.”

“The emergency room was on the north end of the first floor.  The women’s ward, which contained at least ten beds, was above it on the second floor.  The men had two wards on the south end of the building, one on the first floor and one on the second floor.”

“The operating room was between the wards on the second floor on the east side of the hall, while the west side of the hall on the second floor consisted of several private rooms.  The kitchen was on the east side on the first floor.”

– Memories of a Milltown by Edna Hebner Crews

Snoqualmie Falls Hospital, under construction, 1920.
Hospital at Snoqualmie Falls Washington. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection: PO.159.0011.

Dr. Burke

Dr. Richard Burke was the head surgeon of the hospital. He had a reputation for being a brilliant surgeon.

Dr. Richard Burke, while mayor of North Bend in 1912. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.

“… Dr. Burke was the absolute best surgeon that there was.  And he may have deserved this reputation.  These were the days that doctors worked day and night and drove through all kinds of weather to make home calls and were consequently worshipped.  There was no end to the tales that were told of his feats in the operating room.  And men were pointed out to us who were walking around with metal plates in their heads which Dr. Burke had put in after logging accidents.  Those were the pre-antibiotic days so that his surgeries done with a scalpel and ether were all the more marvelous.  As we walked by the hospital on the way to school we could always tell when a surgery was in progress.  The smell of ether wafted strongly out of the open surgery window down to us.”

Memories of a Milltown by Edna Hebner Crews

“Dr. Richard Burke came in 1908.  His first home and office was … in Snoqualmie.  He made calls on horseback unless taken by some one else via horse and buggy.  Even when cars became plentiful, Dr. Burke traveled the valley on horseback during floods.  Because of poor roads, horses often were more dependable than cars.”

“Trips to Seattle over rough roads, through deep mud, were very agonizing to patients.  A story is told of a man who was shot in the neck during a quarrel on Snoqualmie’s main street.  Dr. Burke got this man into a Ford car belonging to Claude Northern and started for Seattle.  They skidded off the road on the Falls hill.  The rear axle hung up on a stump and saved them for a second try in another car.  Snoqualmie was blessed with the sum of three cars at the time.  Trucks were used for ambulance service and later the hearse was used.  A locomotive was once sent to bring Dr. Burke back to the hospital during a blizzard.  He arrived with icicles hanging from his mustache, but after warming up, proceeded with an emergency operation at two in the morning.”

“The first hospital was started by Dr. Burke in 1910 in the former Joyner residence in North Bend.  This was across the street from Platts’ store {the building now houses medical offices}.  The hospital was moved in 1912 across the railroad track into the old Taylor residence.  It remained there from 1912 to 1921 when Dr. Burke took charge of the Snoqualmie Falls Hospital.  This was the latest addition to the “company town”, and it was located at the top of the hill overlooking the mill. “

“Major surgery was first performed at the old Taylor residence in 1912.  Getting a stretcher case up the stairway was an operation in itself, requiring a strong back and much skill.  Dr. Burke, often impatient with this slow method, simply picked the patients up in his arms and carried them upstairs.  His impatience was lessened somewhat when on an urgent call because a special siren was installed on his car which gave him the right-of-way.  Mrs. Dave Cunningham of North Bend, well describes Dr. Burke:  ‘When I saw Doc Burke going through town on two wheels with the horn tied down . . . . . .I knew someone was hurt.’”

“Dr. Burke was the ‘company’ doctor for the Snoqualmie Falls Beneficial Company, composed of employees of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company, from 1921 until his death in 1927.  When a young boy, he fought in the Spanish American War and was also a veteran of the First World War.  He never lost his love of adventure and medical practice, with him, has been described as ‘wild and wooley’.  Although Dr. Burke sometimes lived up to the title of ‘wild Irishman’, he is remembered as a kind, chivalrous little doctor who cared for his patients tirelessly, without thought of himself.”

-Our Snoqualmie Community: 1856-1956

First hospital in North Bend on N Bendigo and 2nd. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection: PO.668.0003.
Dr Burke’s hospital in old Taylor residence, North Bend. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection: PO.028.0043.

Dr. Richard T. Burke was in the upper valley in 1910, but I do not know exactly when he came.  I think he came here from California, as Mrs. Burke one told me the doctor wasn’t afraid of anything; and she often worried about him when he went to see patients ‘in the worst dives of San Francisco.’ ”

Dr. Burke was very well liked, and I often heard it said that Seattle doctors thought he should go to the city, as he was too good a man to be working in the country.

About 1910 Howard Johnson’s Hotel, where the Falls Printing Co. now stands, burned; and two men jumped from a third-floor window.  Dr. Burke was called and said that one of the men, who had a broken hip, should be taken to Seattle.  I had a 1909 EMF and was asked to take him.  We removed the car’s fold-back top and laid the stretcher across the doors.  Dr. Burke and John McLeod went with me.

On reaching Duthie Hill, Dr. Burke and McLeod got out to walk up the hill, but the car stalled half-way up anyway.  Since I had to use both brakes to keep the car from coasting backward, it was up to the doctor or McLeod to crank the car.  Neither had any experience cranking, but after some time they managed to get it started.

The injured man was in considerable pain, and every now and then, the doctor asked me to stop so that he could give him a drink of whiskey.  Dr. Burke remarked that he had never killed a man with whiskey.

It was a bad road to Seattle in those days.  We went to Renton, then along the waterfront on a mile of rough road, then across the Grant Street Bridge to the old Providence Hospital at Fifth and Madison Streets.  We were all very tired when we arrived at midnight.  This was the first patient Dr. Burke took to a Seattle hospital by car.

Mrs. Goldmeyer became very ill while at Goldmeyer Hot Springs.  Dr. Burke went in with others to bring her out.  I heard later that he had done more than his share of carrying the sick woman’s stretcher.  The park trail to the springs in those days was considered to be about 40 miles each way.

I remember seeing Dr. Burke riding his horse through a blizzard over the Meadowbrook fields, with the snow drifted as high as the fence posts.  One time I meet on the old Meadowbrook-North Bend Road.  I was driving a car and he his horse and buggy.  He waved and got down to hold his horse till I drove by.  Not long after, he was driving a car himself.

Dr. Burke told me the following story: A man in North Bend came to him and asked for morphine for his wife.  Dr. Burke told the man that he couldn’t give him morphine without first seeing his wife.  Dr. Burke said that when he examined the woman, he knew right away what her trouble was, and that she needed an operation.

“He spent until two or three o’clock one morning with the husband, going over in his medical books the woman’s ailment and treatment.  He convinced the husband of his diagnosis and the surgery.  The woman recovered; and the husband said, “To think that I have spent over $3,000 and traveled all over the U.S. and consulted many doctors including the Mayo Brothers, and have come to a country doctor in a little town and found help.”  Much later, the daughter of this couple visited Dr. Burke to tell him that her mother was well and working every day and to thank him again for what he had done.

Years ago, Joe Frizelle was seriously injured while topping a tree and taken to the Snoqualmie Falls Hospital.  For some reason, the men carrying the stretcher to the second floor couldn’t manage to get it around the corner of the narrow hospital stairway.  Dr. Burke picked up the injured man and carried him up.  The story was told all over the community.

Money meant very little to Dr. Burke, and he was known for not sending bills.  The late Isa Heady Mahoney, who was a bookkeeper at the hospital, said that once she asked Dr. Burke to come into the office.  When he did, she locked the door and put the key into her pocket, determined to go over a long list of overdue accounts with him.  When she went down the list of names, the doctor swore and said over and over, ‘Mark it paid; they don’t have anything.'”

I once asked Dr. Burke how much I owed him.  He said, ‘What did I do?’I said, ‘You have been to the house several times.’ He said, ‘Oh, send me $10.'”

A friend in Snoqualmie recently told me that years ago, some time after she had had a baby under Dr. Burke’s care, she approached the doctor with her check book in hand and told him she wanted to pay him.  ‘Oh, haven’t I ever sent over a bill?’ he asked.  When she told him he hadn’t, he said, ‘Well, send me $35.”’

-Dio Reinig, Valley Record

Oral tradition at the Museum relays that Dr. Burke died unexpectedly after being shot and was greatly mourned by the community.  The story had been that a woman and girl appeared on his door step with the woman saying the girl was his daughter.  It continued that he was shot but would not reveal the name of the shooter for the honor of a woman.  There were lots of rumors that it might have been a jealous husband as he had a way with the ladies and had delivered most of the babies in the region for almost two decades. That if he had been able to operate on himself he would have survived but the other surgeons were not as good as he was an were unable to save him.  One of his relatives visited the Museum a few years back and related to one of our board members that their family oral tradition is that it had been his wife who had shot him when his former mistress had arrived. 

Though Dr. Burke may have had issues in his personal life, he was still widely respected in the community. So widely respected that the community took up a collection for a bronze memorial to honor him. The maximum donation was set at one dollar so that most people could contribute a full share. The plaque was unveiled at the Snoqualmie Falls hospital in September of 1927 where it remained for many years, until one night it disappeared, stolen, presumably for the value of the bronze. It was a great loss, but happily years later it was quietly returned, anonymously, to the museum.

“After Dr. Burke’s death a plaque of bronze was placed on a seat part way up the steps leading from the road up to the front of the hospital.  A tall fir tree stood beside this monument.  There was a ceremony dedicating the monument one afternoon…”

Memories of a Milltown by Edna Hebner Crews

The original bronze plaque was built into a bench that still remains near DirtFish. The bronze was donated to the Snoqualmie Valley Museum, but stolen before the Museum could secure it, and later returned to the Museum’s possession.

Dairy Farming at Monte Vista Farm During the Great Depression

by David Battey

My niece asked me how difficult it was for my mother and her parents and her siblings during the Great Depression. Here is my answer:

The Ralph and Hazel Swenson family did quite well on Monte Vista (means mountain view in Spanish) farm during the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 until WWII (1941).  There was certainly no danger of not having enough food – which was a problem for some families.  Their farm was located directly above the big Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company mill (became Weyerhaeuser in 1948).

Painting of Monte Vista Farm
Turkeys raised by Hazel in the 1920s.
Betsy, one of the dairy’s cows.

The Great Depression hit the Snoqualmie Valley and the big Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company mill (where my father, George Franklin Battey worked), cut pay and number of work days per week, but did not close down.

However, times were not EASY on the farm, especially a dairy farm.  Lots of work and you had to feed the cows and milk them twice a day and you could not fail at this – ever.  So no vacations.  There were nine family mouths to feed and often a family visitor – making it ten mouths – three meals a day.  There were generally fifteen cows being milked and the younger cows and the steers (for beef) made the stocking of hay, grain and feed quite expensive.  There was no tractor on the farm until after the Great Depression.  Your had trucks, but no tractor.  Fancy clothing was not a priority for every-day on the farm and my mom (Grace Swenson Battey) talked about sewing cloth sacks that flour came in for clothing during the Great Depression.  Mending clothing was continuous.

RJ Swenson in vegetable garden on Monte Vista Farm.
Bob Swenson washing milk bottles.

There was a very clear line between men’s work of caring for the cattle, woodcutting, land clearing and most of the dairy work and the woman’s work of providing three meals a day, continual baking, the vegetable garden, canning fruit and vegetables, taking care of the younger siblings and taking care of the chickens and gathering eggs, etc.  Before automatic milk bottlers came to the farm, the women sometimes helped in the dairy by filling each of the tall, thin-necked milk bottles by pouring them full from an aluminum pitcher.  They would then pop a 56mm milk bottle cap on top.

There was no pasteurization and no homogenization back then, so cream always rose to the top of the raw milk in those long-necked bottles.

Uncle Stewart, the oldest of the Swenson children and Uncle George, the youngest, both shared with me that Grandfather and his four boys played an ongoing game – trying to figure out more efficient and less expensive ways of doing their daily chores:)

Winters could be difficult.  It got colder back then and sometimes the (non-electric) water-driven hydraulic ram pump at the creek would freeze and stop pumping and you had to have water for all of those cows to drink and to wash all of the milk processing equipment…  You had to milk the cows by hand – in the COLD.  Seven days a week – no Sunday time off 🙂  There were no heaters in the barn and if there were, you could not afford the electricity to run them.  Surge brand milking machines came to the farm about 1935, meaning that they were milking by hand for about half of the Great Depression.

And cows standing in the barn being milked, let fly with their poop…which had to be cleaned up twice a day.

The Swenson family.
Back Row:  Ralph Elliott, Grace, Stewart, Hazel, Ralph Johan, Irene. Front Row:  Robert, Trudy & George.  c 1930, when electricity first came to the farm.

Plus, grandfather was selling milk, which was considered critical to normal nutrition – especially for babies. Some people in the community owed grandfather money for milk and ‘worked it off’ by doing work for grandfather. One of the huge fir trees blew over and I know grandfather had folks who owed him money cut the monster fir up and split it into firewood for use on the farm (wooden furnace and fireplace in the farmhouse and wood-fired boiler in the milk house). Fortunately, Grandmother got an electric kitchen stove in 1930 when electricity first came to the farm. I have heard stories about grandfather making certain that some babies had milk whether their parents could afford it or not. There were no home freezers yet, but in Snoqualmie there were large walk-in freezers and you could rent a locked space for the food you needed frozen. Not very convenient though, when you had to take a trip to town to get something out of the freezer. Grandfather butchered beef as needed and also raised hogs and lots of chickens for eating and eggs. For a while they raised turkeys.

Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co mill, c 1920.
Apron made out of flour sack from Snoqualmie Valley Museum collection.

You would never ‘waste’ money by buying bread. You baked almost every day and we have grandmother Swenson’s famous bread recipe in her own handwriting. You canned both fruit and vegetables in glass jars for the winter. You did not buy shampoo for your hair. You saved all of the ends of all of the bars of soap that a big family consumed, put them in a jar with some water and stirred them up to make a slithery good-smelling concoction that you used (sparingly) to wash your hair…The girls cut each other’s hair.

You churned your own butter, and we still have the glass butter churn. They also sold butter, eggs and apples from the farm on the dairy route and since the income was very important, sometimes the family did not have enough butter or eggs or apples for their own use because it was important to provide for customers. This did not mean the family went hungry, it just meant that things they could sell might be unavailable to them sometimes. Milk was delivered six days a week. Never on Sunday. Gasoline was a big expense for a business that drove down literally every street in Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Falls (the mill town) and the little town of Meadowbrook in order to deliver the milk to customer’s homes.

Swenson Brother: George, Ralph & Bob
Former Monte Vista Farm residents Carl, Sophia, Frederica and Max Winter milking cows before Swenson family purchased farm. 1910s. A Haug photo.

Learning More About Your Property

One of the frequent types of research requests the Museum gets is for information about a house or property. But, the first thing we need to know is the full address of the property when you contact us. There are several ways we can potentially help with researching the property:

  • Maps
  • Images
  • Help using King County Parcel Viewer
  • Recommending the Puget Sound Region Branch Archives


The Museum has a collection of township maps from various eras that can list former property owners for larger tracks of land. By knowing former property owners sometimes we are able to locate an image of the property in photographs donated by that former owners family. This can also help track subdivisions and changes of ownership over time.

We also, for the downtowns, have some copies of Sanborne maps that show the locations of buildings.

North Bend Township map
Sanborne map of North Bend
Aerial photograph of North Bend c 1945.
Boxley House on Bendigo Blvd
Boxley House on Bendigo Blvd
Boxley House on Bendigo Blvd


The Museum also has a large collection of photographs. If the property is in a downtown, there is a chance we have an aerial photograph. There is also a stronger chance we have a street photograph as well. That being said, the Museum’s collection is not very strong in images after 1940s nor in residential neighborhoods.

Some times we do have a lot of images though. For instance, the Boxley house, that was located roughly where Bank of America’s parking lot now is, was featured frequently in the background of other images.

Even if we do not have an image of the property we might still also have an image of the former owners.

Joe and Minnie Boxley wedding photo, both aged 25, 1898.

Other Resources

Even if the Museum’s collection does not have information on your property, there are still some other resources that we can help direct you to.

King County has a wonderful website that features information on your property called the King County Parcel Viewer. It will often tell the year your house was built and can contain older image of your house. By clicking on the parcel and then clicking on Property Report the site will take you to information on your parcel. This includes your parcel number, year the main building was built, images of the property and other interesting information. If you then click on the top bar on the right side on Property Detail, it will take you to another page with even more information. Scroll down on that page it provides more images and sometimes a floor plan. If you click on the blue camera icon it will bring up even more images. This site only has some of the assessors images digitized and publicly available, but the Puget Sound Region Branch Archives have more of them.

If you take your parcel number and contact the Puget Sound Region Branch Archives, they can help you find additional historic images of your property. In 1939/1940 as part of the National Works Projects each building in King County was photographed and this archives holds those photographs. They even include buildings that no longer exist! But, to access them, you need the parcel number as that is how their images are sorted.

They can have property reports that contain information about the buildings as well as images of the property.

Another resource that is available to property owners is the title abstract. This is often run and given to property owners when they purchase property among their closing paperwork. It contains the history of the transfers of ownership of the property and legal description. It often also contains more detailed maps of the property. The Museum does not have access to this report but it is often a good place to start that many people do not think of. They can also be run by title company.

King County Parcel Viewer Parcel Map
King County Parcel Viewer Property Report for Museum
King County Parcel Viewer Property Detail for Museum
Property report on Brook Theatre from Puget Sound Regional Branch Archives
1940 photograph of Brook Theatre from Puget Sound Regional Branch Archives

One of the most recent resources now available is the King County Historic Preservation Viewer. This great map has information what properties qualify for the historic register (with a green dot) and may be eligible for Landmark status and which properties are Historic Landmarks (red squares). If your property is marked you can contact the King County Historic Preservation office and they can help direct you to further resources available to help you preserve your historic building. Historic Landmarks have tax incentives and grants available for preservation work. These incentives can be available for properties marked with green dots as well.

Research Inquiry: Meadowbrook Hotel

One of the Museum’s research inquiries this month was for information on where the Meadowbrook Inn or Hotel was located.

Built by the Hop Ranch Growers’ Association around 1884 to act as a summer hotel for tourists and business men to the upper Snoqualmie Valley, it operated for about 16 years. The Snoqualmie Hop Ranch and Snoqualmie Falls was being promoted internationally as a grand destination for those wanting a wilderness experience, though the hotel register is filled with the whose-who of famous Seattle residence of the time. Visitors fished and boated along the Snoqualmie River, were taken on hunting trips, toured the Snoqualmie Hop Ranch in a hack (a type of horse carriage).

Part of an 1889 drawing of the Hop Ranch showing the hotel in the bottom right quarter.

The Hop Growers’ Association had purchased 1200 acres of the upper Snoqualmie Valley in 1882 from Jeremiah Borst and his wife Kate Kanim Borst. The land included the Snoqualmie Prairie which was the largest of the Snoqualmie Tribe’s traditionally tended prairies, at least one Snoqualmie Village, the site of Fort Alden, Jeremiah Borst’s first orchard, along with many other very important sacred and historic sites. The association then commenced creating the Snoqualmie Hop Ranch which they billed as the World’s Largest Hop Ranch and to create amenities to attract workers, tourists and finance to the area. The Hop Ranch Hotel (later Meadowbrook Inn or Meadowbrook Hotel) was one of these amenities.

Hardware from the hotel in Museum’s collection.
Frame of mirror from the hotel, image courtesy of Bob Antone.

Constructed of clear old-growth logs, in 2″x6″ timbers. Laths of 8′ by 5/8″ thick were then finished in plaster. Ceiling joists were rough 2″x12″ timbers and the floor fine vertical grain fir 1.5″ thick. Some boards 28′ long. Nails were used through out and it featured lead plumbing considered a luxury. The ceilings were centered with elaborate fixtures holding a hook from which kerosene lamps hung. Wide 3 piece molding topped the walls and bordered the ceilings with two-toned wainscoting finishing the lower floor rooms.

There were two larger and ten smaller rooms on each floor of the upper two stories, totaling 24 rooms for guests. There was one indoor bathroom on the main floor and some rooms even featured wash bowls.

Rooms were furnished with oak furniture and wall to wall carpet. The Parlor had walnut furniture covered in horse-hair fabric that was shipped around the Horn.

The hotel closed around 1904 about the time the hop ranch was sold to A.W. Pratt. It was then used until the 1940s as a bunk house for Meadowbrook Farm workers. In the late 1940s Bert Willard bought the building and in 1949, he and some mill workers he hired tore the hotel down to salvage the lumber. The chandelier was salvaged and sold to a woman in Portland for her home. Other fixtures and furniture were salvaged within the community. The Museum has some of the fixtures.

Hotel in 1949 just prior to being torn down.

Today just over 800 of the original 1200 acres of Meadowbrook is preserved as park land but some of the land was sold and developed over time. In the 1920s the town of Meadowbrook was built on part of the property. Since the 1950s multiple schools have been built on the farm and on the North Bend end of the farm many businesses have been developed on parts of the property.

So where exactly was the Meadowbrook Hotel?

We know that the Meadowbrook Hotel was in the area that most people think of when they think of the Meadowbrook, but that in itself is still a big area. We know from the images to the right that the hotel was located along the south side of Park St and fairly close to the river. We know from the drawing at the top of the page that the hotel was located west of Meadowbrook Way as the barn in the image was also west of Meadowbrook Way. Verbal descriptions of the location tell us that it was on property that is now part of the Mount Si High School campus, but that is still a large tract of land. Where exactly was the hotel? For more specifics, we are lucky that part of it shows up on a Sanborne Fire Insurance map of Snoqualmie.

Meadowbrook Hotel on Park St.
Meadowbrook Hotel on left just peaking through the trees.
1926 Sanborne Map, courtesy of King County Library system.
Aerial view of Meadowbrook.

In this 1926 map, the hotel is shown in the upper left corner, south of Park St listed as farm bunk 110. We can then look at a current map of the area to try and determine the exact location. Also on the 1926 map is the later Meadowbrook Hotel now known as the Colonial Square Apartments, the garage which still stands, along with several other of the town buildings. In the upper left corner by the number 4 is also a house that still stands. With all of these markers it suggests that the hotel would have been around the new driveway. To double check this, we can actually over lay the map to the aerial view to match up the locations. Though the scale is not 100% accurate, the overlay does strongly suggest the hotel was roughly right where the new driveway to the high school is located.

Overlay of Sanborne map and aerial view.

Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman

Originally republished in our 2015 Snoqualmie Valley History Magazine, we have since found the original publication at the University of Toronto featuring more information including additional text and images, please check the original out here! In this blog we are republishing the condensed version of the text but adding the new images. Please check out the original version for the full text.

Congress passed the Northern Pacific Railroad Act in in 1864, with the goal of building a transcontinental railroad from the Great Lakes to Puget Sound. The Act fulfilled a promise in Abraham Lincoln’s election platform of 1860, but progress was delayed by the continuing Civil War. The eastern terminus of the line was set at St. Paul, Minnesota, but at the time that actual construction of the railroad began in 1870, the western terminus and the route across the Cascade Mountains in Washington Territory were uncertain.

Early speculation focused on Snoqualmie Pass, and this prompted British travel writer and artist Edmond T. Coleman to travel to Puget Sound to look over the prospects. Later, in a London travel publication, he wrote, “The belief that Seattle would be chosen as the site of the terminus of the North Pacific Railroad was founded on the fact that the Snoqualmie Valley in the neighborhood, affords the lowest known practicable pass across the Cascade Range.” Part of Coleman’s original text was reprinted in the Washington Historical Quarterly in October of 1932. Here we republish the portion of his account as he traveled from Seattle to Renton, to Squawk (then the name of Issaquah), to the Snoqualmie Prairie and to the summit. The Washington Historical Quarterly in October of 1932 is available online here. The original full text was printed in the Illustrated Travels magazine in four articles with an additional fifth article about Coleman’s trip home to London. The section about his visit to the Snoqualmie Valley in Part II. The full set may be found here.

I was desirous of visiting the pass, so Mr. Denny was kind enough to arrange a party for that purpose, as well as to accompany it himself. We were joined by Professor Hall, of the University, and Dr. Wheeler, of Seattle, and started on the 25th of July. Mr. Denny was our leader. He carried an axe to clear away obstructions, for we heard that there was a good deal of fallen timber, owing to the bush fires which were all over the country, so he looked like a fireman at the head of a May-day procession. The pack animal came next, then followed Professor Hall. Just before starting, he had been coaxed into buying a small box of cigars for the benefit of the party. It was too late to be inserted in the pack, consequently he was obliged to carry it; but the box proved to be useful, for the pack-animal was lazy, so, in the absence of a whip, the professor having first pocketed his dignity, made use of the sharp corners of the box to goad the animal with, much to our amusement, as he had to lean forward in an awkward sort of way every time to reach the offender. Next came the writer, who was artist and historiographer to the expedition. He was equipped with a note-book, and a black-lead pencil, ready to take off everything and anybody. The rear was brought up by Dr. Wheeler, surgeon to the forces.

Image from Illustrated Travels: Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman Part II.

He was armed with a lancet, a bottle of “pain-killer,” and a box of pills, wherewith to succour the distressed, and alleviate suffering humanity. The doctor was not able to start with us, but overtook the party on the road. He had been delayed, taking in freight in the shape of a stock of combustibles to keep his pipe alight, being a great smoker. Indeed, he had such a large cargo, that on entering the house where we stopped for the night, and going into the room where he had placed his pack, I was under the impression that I had got into a lucifer match manufactury, so strong was the smell of brimstone.

The road for the first twelve miles was level, and lay through fir forests. The wild pea, which abounded, was fading, but its tints of raw sienna agreeably diversified the monotonous greenery of the forest. Before reaching our destination, we crossed over Black River, which flows from Washington Lake, and is of some width at this point; then, passing by another stream, called Cedar River, which has its origin in the pass of that name, we came to a large clearing surrounded by alders. In the centre there was a neatly-built farmhouse, belonging to Mr. W. P. Smith, who made our party welcome, and invited us to pass the night.

Image from Illustrated Travels: Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman Part II.

Next morning, on awaking, we were alarmed at the appearance of Professor Hall, for his face was of a blueblack, and we imagined he must be very bad. But it speedily turned out, that the colour of his complexion was owing to a pair of new blankets of blue colour, the indigo dye having rubbed off on to his face; thus he appeared as a devil in a Christmas pantomime. This little interlude was repeated every morning, and furnished an unfailing source of merriment to the party. On leaving Mr. Smith’s, the road passed under some over-arching maples of large size, leading to the forest, which abounds at this spot with fine cedars. We passed through a level country, and by a good road, to a settlement called Squawk, twelve miles from Mr. Smith’s; but, owing to the smoke caused by the bush fires, it was very gloomy travelling. We made a lunch, and cut some green oats for our horses, and bought some shelled oats, not being certain whether we should reach a proposed camping place this night.

After leaving Squawk, we began to meet with the obstructions which we had all along dreaded – a great fire had just passed over our track, and the trail was covered with fallen timber, which was smouldering, so the axe had to be brought into use. Every Western man knows how to handle this mainstay of the pioneer, and Mr. Denny plied it with vigour and skill, but we had some difficulty in getting our horses through, as the flames frightened them. Singular effects are produced by these fires; the scorched trees assume rich red and yellow tints, exactly as if in autumn season; but in other places the charred and blackened trunks, the hideous stumps, leaves curled up to cinders, the earth strewn with ashes, and the light of the sun obscured, present a sad and melancholy spectacle. About the middle of the day, the road opened out into a beautiful and park-like country, but we had to surmount three steep hills before camping. At length the tall firs began to dwindle, and the forest opened out, showing glimpses of the sky. Presently there was the welcome sight of the tops of some cotton-wood trees, always an indication of bottom-lands and of water. We stopped about five o’clock, at a Mr. Boorst’s, on the outskirts of Snoqualmie prairie, about forty miles from Seattle, having only made 300 feet of elevation since leaving Squawk. We camped in a beautiful orchard, which, with the farm-buildings, strongly reminded me of those comfortable and substantial-looking homesteads which are met in the valley of St. Gervais, on the Italian side of Mont Blanc – homesteads that suggest peace and plenty –a land flowing with milk and honey. The ranch adjoins the river Snoqualmie, which runs at the rear of the house; and after the heat and dust of the journey, we enjoyed a refreshing bath in its cold waters.

Jeremiah Borst. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.

Snoqualmie Falls. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.

Next morning, three of the party started to visit the Falls of the Snoqualmie. The river is about fifty yards broad, and presents the usual characteristics pertaining to the lower portions of streams in this territory; viz., long reaches of firs, sprinkled with cedar and maple, alternating with cotton-wood and alder; the banks are occasionally covered with a dense growth of willows and underwood, while at every sharp bend of the stream there are piles of logs and driftwood, brought down by the spring freshets, and every now and then snags obstruct the way. After proceeding down the river about three miles, we came to the top of the falls, and crossed to the other side. We then made a steep descent, through forest as usual, till we gained the river again, and walking up it along the banks, over smooth and slippery boulders, came to a point where the spectacle was superb. An immense amphitheatre of perpendicular cliffs bounds the view. These are apparently of trap rock, with seams of quartz and sandstone, the latter uppermost. The river plunges in one leap of 275 feet over the centre, with a loud roar. Clouds of mist and spray rise up from the basin beneath, and a beautiful effect is produced by the waters in their descent. They resemble immense icicles, constantly elongating till broken, then reforming, and ever renewed. When one reflects that this immense volume of water pours forth from day to day, from age to age, throughout the rolling centuries, with its deep tone of music, its everlasting anthem, it gives one a grand image of Almighty power, of the majesty of the Creator. I thought of certain grandseaux at Versailles, much vaunted in their day, and reflected how feeble are man’s best works, compared with those of God! People who have seen the falls earlier in the season say that the month of June is the best time for visiting them, as there is then a still larger volume of water.

We resumed our journey on the following morning. Mr. Boorst joined us; we were also accompanied by an Indian woman, who went by the name of the “Widow,” together with her young husband – this being her third –as he was to guide us to a reported lead of plumbago near the pass which we were desirous of examining. On leaving Mr. Boorst’s, a fine view of the Cascade Range presented itself. Shortly after, we entered upon the Snoqualmie prairie, which is about four miles long, and from one and a half to two miles wide. It was unenclosed, and reminded me of an English common, in the absence of trees, besides being perfectly level, and covered with fern. There were blackberries, as well as a quantity of strawberries, and many plants of the same species as those found on open lands in England. Eight settlers live here. They have all large farms, averaging from 100 to 200 acres. The principal produce is hogs. They also raise cattle, and cure bacon, which finds a ready market at Seattle. Nearly all the open land hereabouts is taken up. We stopped at a ranch, and bought some hay, not being quite certain where we should camp at night. After crossing a considerable portion of the prairie we came to the river, and left the road, which continues on to the Cedar River Pass.

The timber growing on the banks comprises fir and cedar; it is of a very fine quality, being suitable for lumber. Salmon run up in the winter, and up the Yakima or Cedar River in the early spring. Fording it, we crossed a couple of good-sized prairies, from one and a half to two miles across, divided by belts of timber, and about eleven o’clock came to a very steep ridge, called “Perkins’ backbone,” as Mr. Perkins before mentioned first blazed the trail. It is about one mile in the ascent, and divides the middle and south forks of the Snoqualmie, the latter being the one we had hitherto followed. The ridge is very narrow, in one part not more than ten feet across.

Alice Borst’s Grandmother or Great Grandmother Ki-ya. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection.

According to In the Valley of the Moon by Peggy Corliss, Jeremiah Borst was married three times. Very little is known of his first wife Sally other than she was of Native descent. His second wife Mina was the daughter of “the Widow”. “The Widow” was the daughter of Betsay’oos, a chief of the Snoqualmie tribe, half Snoqualmie and half Yakama. She kept house for Spencer Kellogg (another settler on the Snoqualmie Prairie). Mina’s mother, “The Widow,” was known as “kiya” (which means Grandmother) to the Borst children. According to Ada Hill in A History of Snoqualmie Valley Ki-ya was the Borst children’s great grandmother, rather than grandmother.

Below, at a depth of perhaps 500 feet, we could just discern the middle fork of the river, winding in a semicircle; for the day was obscured with smoke, which spoilt the views. We now entered thick timber. After travelling some distance, one of the party feeling very unwell, we were obliged to camp early in the afternoon, at a spot in the middle of the forest, where there was no grass. This mattered but little to those of our animals which were of the Cayoosh, or native breed. They would eat anything – fern, bramble, willow, and all kinds of plants, even the prickly “devil’s club:” nothing seemed to disagree with their digestions. Next morning, we continued our path through the forest, crossing several gullies, in which a kind of blue sandstone predominated, and we passed by a number of magnificent cedars in a hollow which was favorable to their growth.

Many of these were twelve feet in diameter. As the afternoon came on, the sun broke out, partly perhaps owing to our elevation – for we had been gradually ascending all the morning, and were now above the smoke of the bush fires. We crossed the river several times in the course of this day’s journey. About five miles before reaching the summit, the old Indian trail before mentioned strikes off to the right, or south-east, and follows a ridge leading to Lake Kitchelas on the eastern side.

Image from Illustrated Travels: Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman Part II.

About this spot Mr. Boorst drew my attention to some cedars which had been stripped of their bark, and informed me that it had been done by the Indians in the days before blankets were introduced by the Hudson Bay Company. They first stripped off large sheets of it, then laid them out on a flat stone or piece of wood, beating the strips out with a stick into fine threads; after which they worked them up into clothing. About two and a half miles below the summit of the pass, I noticed a large mass of granite in situ, cropping out of the mountain side.

The ascent now became comparatively steep. The trees began to dwindle and thin out, affording in their openings glimpses of pine-clad heights, and bold escarpments of rock, together with precipices strewn at their feet with debris, exhibiting, in fact, all the features of a mountain country, for we were now in the heart of the Cascade Range. Towards four o’clock we emerged into an open tract of turfy, marshy, meadow land, about a couple of acres in extent, and affording plenty of grass, with here and there pools, bearing waterlilies, all hemmed in by the common red fir. We had gained the summit of the pass. It is surrounded on three sides by lofty peaks bearing patches of snow. They have received the names of Mount Gregory Smith, after the chairman of the board of directors of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Mount Annie, after a lady on Puget Sound, and Mount Edwin F. Johnson, after the late engineer-in-chief to the railroad company. One of the company’s surveying parties, the summer before last, determined the height of the pass to be 3,010 feet above the sea. A party sent to report on the greatest depth of snow, found it to be seventeen feet on the 1st of March, and there was none whatever ten miles on the western side of the pass; also that there was no drifting of snow, and not a single slide, thus obviating any necessity for the erection of snow sheds, and showing that snow ploughs will be entirely adequate to keep the line in running order. We noticed heather, but it was not in bloom; also the mountain ash, and other plants peculiar to high elevations. There were quantities of berries, which were of finer flavor and larger size than those growing on the lowlands. This is attributed to the drier atmosphere. Another indication of our altitude was the squeak of the ground hog. A little further on, we found a wagon with a family in camp. They had come from Utah, and had passed through Idaho and Montana. One of the party informed us that he had walked 1,500 miles by the side of the wagon since leaving home. They had run out of flour, and were very glad to get some from us.

-Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman

Image from Illustrated Travels: Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman Part II.
Image from Illustrated Travels: Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific Railroad by Edmund T. Coleman Part II. Not mentioned in the 1932 version of the article, Chief Saniwa is mentioned in the original version. This is the only known image of Chief Saniwa of the Snoqualmie Tribe that the Museum is aware of. An important figure in the region in the mid-1800s, Chief Saniwa was a very influential figure in the mid to late 1800s Snoqualmie Valley.
Mount Gregory Smith, now known as Denny Mountain. Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection PO.304.0010.

Postscript: In spite of Coleman’s favorable account of Snoqualmie Pass, in 1873 the directors of the Northern Pacific Railroad announced that their line would cross the Cascades through Stampede Pass and reach Puget Sound at Tacoma, the self-styled “City of Destiny.” It was not until March 29, 1909, that the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway completed its tracks through Snoqualmie Pass, and Cedar Falls became a stop on a transcontinental railroad.


Edmund Thomas Coleman was born in 1824 in Leicestershire, England to Rev. John Sherard Coleman and Henrietta Charlotte Lucy Mangeon Coleman. Prior to her marriage, Henrietta was a singer and actress, performing on stage at The Drury Lane theatre 1816. While pregnant with their seventh child in 1829 John Sherrard Coleman passed. In his will John left most of his possessions to his oldest son Henry Sherard Coleman and his widow. Edmund’s mother remarried to Charles Walker in April 1832. They then had five more children.

In 1841, 17 year old Edmund was living with a Thomas and Elizabeth Lincoln along with his older brother Frederick and older sister Fanny. Frederick was listed as living of Independent Means while Edmund is listed as an Artist. In 1849, Edmund exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. In 1851 Edmund was still living with his brother Frederick (now a wine merchant), sister-in-law Elizabeth, and their other brother John S. Coleman.

From 1855-1858, Edmund traveled to Mont Blanc and around Charmonix and St. Gervais Routes. In 1859, Edmund published Scenes from the Snow-Fields: Being Illustrations of the Upper Ice-World of Mont Blanc.

In 1862, Edmund journeyed to Vancouver Island.  In 1865, Edmund was chosen for the position of Librarian of Mechanics’ Literary Institute in Victoria. In 1866, he attempted to climb Mount Baker and then in 1868 ascended Mount Baker. In 1869 he published an account of the expedition. That same year he traveled throughout Washington Territory.  In 1870 he attempted to ascend Mount Rainier. Edmund then moved to Portland, Oregon. 

In 1873 he exhibited his sketches of British Columbia at the Alpine Club and set out for the east coast to begin the return home to England.

Edmund died in May 1892 at Charing Cross Hospital, London. It was reported in Victoria in 1895 that he had committed suicide.

Special thanks to Chris Erlich for helping us learn more about Edmund Coleman.

Research Requests

The Museum regularly gets inquiries from researchers, historians, students, genealogists, civil servants and other members of our audience. Sometimes these can be answered quickly and other times they take much more in depth search. Over the years we have found that we often get similar inquiries later on from others so we have begun documenting our findings to more easily pull up answers in the future. As part of our goal this year to increase our online content, we will share some of the inquiries and their answers online. Feel free to reach out if you have additional information!

First Images of Snoqualmie Falls


There is mention of a Carl Missimer being the first artist to provide a photograph of Snoqualmie Falls. I am curious if you know of a photograph in that area taken before 1877 (and of the falls in particular)?

Follow up:

The earliest image the Museum has of Snoqualmie Falls is a photographic reprint of a drawing done in 1878. Most of our early photographs of the Falls are undated. There was someone in Mercer Island who had purchased an image by Herman Herzog who painted the falls in 1871, they shared a photograph of it several years back with the Museum. There were several artists that were on the original surveys of Snoqualmie Pass for the railway between the 1850s and 1870s, these likely have earlier images but so far we have not been able to track down most of them.

Herman Herzog 1871 painting of Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls,1878

Upon additional researching the Museum was able to discover that since the last time we searched George McClellan’s field notebooks have been digitized by the National Archives and they contain the earliest known image of Snoqualmie Falls to date! We will post a further story about this discovery in the weeks to come.

George McClellan’s sketch of Snoqualmie Falls, January 1854.

Saved From the Dump

Thanks to a second grant from 4 Culture, the Museum has purchased additional supplies to preserve the Valley Record Collection. In 2011 the Snoqualmie Valley Museum received a pair of donations from the publishers of the Snoqualmie Valley Record of historic 1913-1940s newspapers and negatives and photos spanning the years 1970-2005 from the Snoqualmie Valley Record and in 2018 further received bound copies of the newspapers through 2016. The newspaper has been the only continuing newspaper serving the Snoqualmie area from 1912 to the present and has been an invaluable recorder of all aspects of local life. The donation required immediate attention as a portion of it was in unstable condition, literally being saved from a “trip to the dump.”

The first donation consisted of loose and bound copies of the paper covering the years 1913-1940, and thousands of photographs, proof sheets and negatives spanning the years 1970-2005. In this case, the Museum was given only a few hours’ notice before these items, heaped into boxes, were scheduled to go to the dump. In 2018, as the Record thought it would close it offices in the Valley, the publishers realized that the remaining bound copies of the paper (1940’s-2016) should stay in the Valley and be available through the Snoqualmie Valley Museum. The Museum now has possession the single best source for the social, political, economic, cultural and natural history of the area stretching from Snoqualmie Pass and Cedar Falls down the Snoqualmie River through North Bend, Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Falls, Fall City, Tolt, Vincent, Novelty, and Stillwater to Duvall. The key now is to preserve these materials and make them easily accessible available to the public.

The Museum has broken the project into phases in order to stabilize the collection while working on bringing the whole Valley Record collection up to modern archival standards.

The project phases are outlined as follows:
Phase I. Complete. The hard bound 1913-1924 newspapers were copied onto microfilm by the Washington State Library, adding new material to its collection and providing a copy to the Snoqualmie Valley Museum.

Phase II: Complete. The Museum consulted with Nicolette Bromberg, University of Washington, Special Collections Library, regarding a strategy for processing the collection and use of cost effective materials. Provided training for Assistant Director Cristy Lake in her lab class. Under the direction of Nicolette and Cristy, Shannon Moller, a UW graduate student as a Capstone project, sorted the negatives and prints into chronological order using materials loaned by the UW.

Phase IIIa: Complete: The Museum received financial assistance from 4Culture to purchase archival materials, including negative sleeves, folders, and boxes to store and stabilize the photos and 43,591 of the negatives. At the start of this phase it was estimated that there were between 20,000-40,000 negatives. This phase was completed using trained volunteers and members of the collection committee under direction of the project director. During this phase negatives from 1980, 1982-1988, 1990-July 1993, 2002-2005 were rehoused. On completion of this phase the print boxes loaned from the UW were returned. The softbound newspapers were also housed in archival boxes.

Phase IIIb: Current Phase: The Museum received additional 4Culture support to purchase archival materials, including negative sleeves, folders, and boxes, to store and stabilize the remaining ~40,000 negatives. Remaining are negatives from 1989, and August 1993-2001. Originally intended to begin in the Spring of 2020 as the Museum wrapped up its multi-year inventory of its collection and shifted focus back to the collection; this was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic causing a closure to the interior spaces of the Museum. The Museum has recently been able to go ahead and purchase the supplies and is beginning the process of rehousing the remaining negatives over the winter.

Phase IV: Current Phase: Digitize the bound newspapers. The Museum is currently in negotiations the Valley Record and the Washington State Library with hopes to digitize the newspaper and make it available with OCR search functions on the State Library’s website. Museum has budgeted $5,000 for this phase of the project out of its general fund, received a $5,000 grant from the Snoqualmie Tribe and is working through a local heritage alliance to undertake community fundraising for additional funds for this phase of the project if the negotiations are successful. In 1989 the majority of the newspapers were microfilmed, but many of the issues did not film well and should be reimaged rather than having the microfilm digitized.

Phase V-VII: Future Phase: These will include additional sorting for photo duplication, scanning negatives and photos, accession and entering into Past Perfect where they will be accessible to the public.

The Snoqualmie Valley represents roughly a third of King County’s geography, in the northern half and eastern 2/3rds of the county. It is chronically under-served in representation, financial and educational opportunities and access to services because of the low population density and remoteness of some areas of the Valley. For long stretches of our history the Record has been one of the few ways the events in our area have been recorded. The Museum’s collection contains very few images of the Snoqualmie Valley from the 1960s through present; the Valley Record negative collection fills a substantial part of that void. This project directly allows the Museum to better preserve and share a neglected aspect of King County heritage.

The Valley Record is now currently only available via microfilm at libraries over an hour away for most residents (especially in the lower portion of the valley) via the fragile original copy at the Museum which is currently unable to offer physical access because of the pandemic. The negatives that the Museum seeks to preserve are the best sample of the images from this period.

1950 Exhibit

Between 1940 and 1950 the population of Washington State grew over 37% from 1.7 million people to just under 2.4 million people. In the Snoqualmie Valley, our population jumped a dramatic 61% from 7862 people to 12,679. In April 2022, the 1950 census records will be released. The 1950 census was the first census in which more than one state recorded a population of over 10 million, every state and territory recorded a population of over 100,000 and that all 100 largest cities recorded populations of over 100,000.

This census included questions about addresses and whether people lived in house on a farm; their name and relationship to the head of household; their race, sex, age and marital status; their birthplace and if they were a naturalized citizen if foreign born; and questions about employment including number of hours worked in a week, occupation, industry and class. Additionally, select individuals were asked additional questions covering income, marital history, fertility, and other topics.

With the release of the 1950 Census, the Museum is planning an exhibit on life in the Valley in the 1950s.  Do you have artifacts, photographs, documents or stories to share about the 1950s? If so, we would love to hear from you!

From the Collection: 1893 Fires

Mount Si from North Bend, c 1900.

This past summer huge fires have burned out of control throughout the West, and it is worth remembering that the Snoqualmie Valley is as vulnerable as areas in Eastern Washington, Oregon and California.  Many of the early accounts of Valley life mention sweeping fires, and the photograph above records just one of the many fires that burned the face of Mount Si. The trees we see on the mountain today are only about eighty years old. 

The story below is a composite of two newspaper articles describing the great fire of 1893.  The first account appeared in the September 3 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, while the second was published in the Washington Standard of Olympia on September 9.

A special from Snoqualmie says: Forest fires are raging south of Preston.  They started on D. J. Graham’s slashing Thursday night, and spread over a large tract of country, destroying a vast amount of timber.  No houses were destroyed.  One barn and several tons of hay belonging to D. H. Graham were burned.  Crops and orchards were badly scorched. 

The trail between Preston & Kennedy’s coal mines was blocked for two miles.  Only two families were driven out – those of A. Reek and T. Anderson, who went to Falls City.  The smoke settled so thickly around their houses that they barely escaped being suffocated.  Miss Susie Cook, the teacher at the Echo Lake school, who was at Anderson’s, went to Monohan to get out of the smoke, but will return on Monday.  The fire there is rapidly dying out. 

Forest fires are raging north of Snoqualmie and south and east of North Bend.  Hugh Cameron, a rancher 10 miles north of Snoqualmie, escaped being roasted only by digging a hole in the ground.  His cabin was burned, also that of L. W. Gore and A. L. Rutherford. A great many others have likely shared the same fate. 

Fire on the south and middle forks of the Snoqualmie River are playing havoc with the timber.  North of the town of North Bend the flames broke out in the scrub timber and brush on the side of Mount Si, and at night they could be seen leaping from one batch of timber and brush to another.  They extend far into the north and middle forks of the river, and Timothy Niles, from the middle fork of the Snoqualmie, reports fires having swept each side of the river for ten miles, destroying at least 60,000,000 feet of cedar alone.  The fire is still burning, and the whole valley is enveloped in smoke.

Further along the south fork fires are raging and the wagon road over the pass is blocked and many teams are delayed near the summit.  O. D. Guilfoil’s logging camp and skid roads were damaged to the amount of $1000.