It was a beautiful sunshine and blue-sky day on Sunday, Aug. 10, when a group of diehard old settlers of south Snohomish County gathered at Edmonds City Park to celebrate a gathering that had its beginning 115 years ago.
Through the years the numbers have declined — less than 40 people attended this year. We all walk a little slower, but the joy of seeing old friends and former classmates never lessens.
Halide (Lobdell) Patterson, the eldest of the old settlers, never misses the gatherings. Halide finds that each year her contempories are fewer, and this year she was the only one attending from her Edmonds High School class of 1939. Shown here standing in front of a beautiful array of plants at the park, it is difficult to remember that Halide is 92 years young.
The Old Settlers Picnic had its beginnings at the homestead of Hiram and Della Burleson in Cedar Valley, about five miles east of Edmonds. It was Thursday, Aug. 5, 1899 when several pioneer families from south Snohomish County gathered to celebrate the 34th birthday of Della (Bartholomew) Burleson.
At this celebration, the pioneers decided to continue the picnic gatherings on the first Thursday of August each year. Martha Lake soon became the popular place to celebrate. In 1908, 130 pioneers gathered there. A 60 x 3 foot wide table was overflowing with food brought by each family. After the meal, ice cream was served and music from two gramophones echoed across the lake.
In 1917, the picnic was held at Eisen’s Resort at Hall’s Lake, a handier spot for the old settlers of Edmonds. During the day there were games to be played and swimming and boating. At dusk, music filled the air as families gathered in the dance pavilion. Through the years candidates for public office joined the picnickers. This event became a great place to get to know the voters and for the voters to hear what the candidates had to offer.
With the closing of the resort, in 1945, the old settlers moved their picnic to the Edmonds City Park. In 1949, the golden anniversary of the event, extremely bad weather forced the old settlers to gather inside at the American Legion Hall in Edmonds.
Eventually, to make the picnic day more compatible for working people, the day for the picnic was changed to the second Sunday of August. Each year a new president was elected whose duty it was to organize the event.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Washington Territory, well over 100 people were in attendance for the August picnic in 1953. One of the largest gatherings was in 1957 with a total of 200 people congregating at Edmonds City Park. For the next 37 years, the traditional picnic was still a popular event on the second Sunday of August.
However, by 1994, the attendance had dwindled and the yearly election of a new president had been discontinued. Old settler Karl Stadler, whose family had settled in Alderwood Manor in 1928, offered to be the organizer for the annual picnic. For 20 years Karl and his wife Marlene have been the ones that have kept the celebration alive. This year was to be their final year, and there was little hope for the Old Settlers Picnic to continue its tradition. However, two younger descendants of early day pioneers of the Meadowdale and Cedar Valley areas have stepped up and we can look forward to another Old Settlers Picnic next year.
Almost hidden amid the beautiful garden of plants at the Edmonds City Park is a plaque presented to the park in 1999 in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Old Settlers Picnic.
Each year, the Sunday picnic is unnoticed by most people. As a large crowd gathers on the same day to attend the more popular Taste of Edmonds, the significance of the quiet gathering of a few of our senior citizens is mostly ignored. We are left to wonder what Sunday, August 9, 2015 will bring. Maybe we will see you next year at Edmonds City Park.