It took ten years but the amazing book on the history of Snohomish County, Washington, is now available. “Snohomish County: An Illustrated History” features 432 pages packed with geological, environmental, historical, social, and political history of Snohomish County. There are 400 photographs, maps, and topical sidebars with many illustrations by local artist Bernie Webber.
Project coordinators and editors were David Cameron, Charles LeWarne, Allan May, Jack O’Donnell, and Larry O’Donnell. Many contributions were made by local historians, experts, and genealogists to make this the most extensive county historical book ever. The last one was written by William Whitfiled in 1926.
The book is available through the Museum of Snohomish County History (425-259-2022), Pilchuck Books (425-303-0345) and many local stores and shops in Everett, Snohomish, Lake Stevens, Monroe, and Marysville.
Having grown up in Snohomish County, the book is especially important to me because of my family’s strong connection with the area.
On the Elwell side of the Knapp family, we can trace our roots back to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe. His sister, Gow-Gue-Wait, our ancestor, married into the Snohomish Tribe. Even today, her descendants live in Snohomish County.
The book talks about the whites struggling for dominance and control of the Pacific Northwest Indians, which eventually resulted in many of the local Indian tribes and peoples being forced onto land set aside for them in the area of Tulalip, which borders Snohomish County to the northwest.
John Elwell (1841-1895), who married Guaquiath Kektidose of the Snohomish tribe and daughter of Gow-Gue-Wait, was among the first men to see the “gold in them thar trees” and helped developing the logging industry. His sons, Charles and Simon Elwell, worked the Snohomish and Skagit Rivers, as well as the whole waterway of Puget Sound building boats and ferries, and hauling logs, supplies, and passengers up and down the rivers.
They are also mentioned on page 112 regarding the building of the town of Monroe, Washington:
Residents also participated in railroad construction activities. Barges 60 feet long and six to eight feet wide were filled with supplies and towed upriver by mules. Two brothers, Simon and Charles Elwell, built a 44-foot canoe to carry materials for railroad construction. Reportedly, the huge craft could hold up to 4,700 pounds.
The Knapp family also has its roots strongly embedded in Snohomish County, marrying into the Elwell, Odell, and Handley pioneer families. The Knapp brothers had grown up in the logging camps of Northern Wisconsin, so they came with experience and strong backs to work the rivers and logging camps with the Elwell family.
The West family also has a long tradition as part of the history of Snohomish County. Howard West Sr. and his son, Howard West Jr., lived their lives in the Pacific Northwest between Oregon and Washington. Howard Sr. called Everett, Washington, his home since not long after World War I. He worked on the lighthouses and dams throughout Washington State for all of his adult life, serving in the Coast Guard and Lighthouse Service, after an early stint with the Marines.
“Snohomish County: An Illustrated History” is a valuable resource to help us understand all of the cultural, political, and societal issues going on during the times of our ancestors. I learned of the political battles that overthrew the town of Mukilteo, where I spent my teenage years, as center of Snohomish County to the town of Snohomish, which was later taken over by Everett, as an open port city and military base, and eventually the home of Boeing.
Snohomish County has a very diverse and mixed history, not all pretty, but not all terrible, and gives us a chance to see what it was like for our ancestors as they struggled to survive in a tough new wilderness.
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