Walk Back in Time with local teachers at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery July 25


A photo of the old Wellington Smith house, from a 1935 issue of the Edmonds Tribune-Review.

Walk back in time on a guided tour at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium on Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 1 p.m. Members of the cemetery board and some of their friends will lead the tour as they introduce and portray former teachers buried at the cemetery. The historic cemetery is located at 820 15th St. S.W., one block north of the Westgate QFC.

Some of the featured teachers are from the earliest days of Edmonds and its surrounding settlements — others are more contemporary.

As you walk back in time, the board members and their friends will tell the stories of six of the more contemporary teachers.  You may remember them from your own schooldays: Edward “Ed” Gene Aliverti (1932-2010), Robert B. “Bob” Anderson (1917-2012), Justin Salvatore “Gus” Bonanno (1922-2000), Eleanor J. “Ellie” Bonanno (1928-2014), William “Bill” James Hamilton (1942-2005), and Heine I. Sorensen (1927-1997).

Looking back to earlier days in Edmonds and Lynnwood, what follows are stories of two teachers — mother and daughter — both pioneers.    

Flora Arabella Brown Smith and Ethel B. Smith Mowat

The early years in Edmonds

In 1885, when Wellington and Flora Smith settled in the developing town of Edmonds, they found that the village, originally known as the Ten-Mile Beach Settlement, had just been renamed as Edmonds the year before.  It would be another five years before it would officially become an incorporated town.

In the southern section of South Snohomish County, 10 miles south of Mukilteo, this small settlement of a few hardy pioneers along the beach of Puget Sound, was in its infancy. To the east, an immense forest of giant trees covered the land. Many years later, the land to the east would become Lynnwood. However, in 1885, the great forests were still silently awaiting the arrival of the homesteaders and the loggers.

The few residents of Edmonds lived in cabins built of logs or rough timber. Even George and Etta Brackett had yet to build their lovely home. According to a newspaper article in a 1935 issue of the Edmonds Tribune Review, Wellington Smith, soon after the family’s arrival, built what was to be known as the first wood-framed house in the town.

Located at what is today the northeast corner of Third and Main Streets, the Smith’s two-story home became haven for many visitors. In 1905, the house and property were sold to Edmonds business man J. A. Robertson (mayor of Edmonds 1916/17). After his death in 1924, his widow Mary held title, and during its declining years, the house had numerous tenants. In August of 1935, after two years of standing empty, the house was sold by Mrs. Robertson, and it was then demolished. Later the Yesteryear Restaurant was located at the site, and in 1968, Claire Petosa opened her popular restaurant, Claire’s Pantry. The restaurant at 301 Main Street is now under new management. Renamed Claire’s Restaurant, it remains a favorite eating and gathering place for both local residents and visitors.

An interesting story involving Wellington and Flora Smith and their hospitality has often been told. It appears that the Smith’s abode became the week-day home for the stepchildren of another pioneer, John Lund. When widow Matilda Deiner married John Lund, a bachelor living in what became Meadowdale, about four miles north of Edmonds, Mr. Lund accepted his role as a responsible father to her five children  The nearest school was in Edmonds. Each week on Sunday afternoons, during the school season, Mr. Lund rowed the school-age children in his sturdy small boat to Edmonds, and there the children stayed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wellington Smith. On Friday afternoons, Mr. Lund again rowed his boat back to Edmonds. He then took the children back home for the weekend.

Flora Arabella Brown Smith – 1852-1916

Flora Brown Smith was born September 17. 1852 in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William T. Brown and Cynthia Scott. In 1876 in Corry, Erie County, Pennsylvania, she married Wellington Freelinghausen Smith and they had two children, both born in Corry, Pennsylvania—Ethel Smith in 1878, and Allen Vaughn Smith on June 2, 1881.

Leaving Pennsylvania and moving west to Edmonds in 1885, the family become pioneers in the new town.

This photo of the Edmonds Congregational Church was taken in 1901 and appeared in a 1953 issue of the Edmonds Tribune-Review.

Although, Flora Smith never taught in the public school, she did become a teacher who made a large impact on the lives of many people. She and her husband Wellington opened their home as the first Sunday school in Edmonds—with Flora Smith as the teacher.  Her first students were the children of the town. With no church in Edmonds, the adults in the community soon joined the children and began attending her Sunday classes. As the town grew, so did Flora Smith’s congregation, and with the need for more room, in 1888, the Congregational Church, the first church in the town of Edmonds, was organized. For many years, the church with its tall spire was very noticeable on the northeast corner of Sixth and Dayton Streets. Many years later, with some remodeling, mainly the removal of the church’s tall spire and the adding of a basement, the building became the home for Frank Freese American Legion Post 66, until it recently moved to a smaller building on the same property. The church is shown here as it looked in 1901.

Flora Smith died Dec. 5, 1916 at the age of 64. She is buried at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery, next to her husband Wellington Smith. Preceding his wife in death by several years, Mr. Smith passed away in Seattle on Jan.25, 1899 at the age of 53. Their son Allen married and remained an Edmonds resident. He died in 1936 at the age of 55, and is also buried at the cemetery.

In 1896, Wellington and Flora Smith’s 18-year-old daughter Ethel left the family’s comfortable Edmonds home and traveled on a primitive trail through the heavily forested wilderness of south Snohomish county to a location referred to as Swamp Creek — approximately seven miles to the east of Edmonds. Many years later, the land became Alderwood Manor.  In the present day, it is part of Lynnwood. At the age of 18, Ethel Smith became the first teacher at the historic Hunter School, a newly established Edmonds district school located amidst the tall trees in a very rustic one-room log building on Duncan Hunter’s 80-acre homestead. Ethel Smith’s story follows.

Ethel B. Smith Mowat – 1878-1961 

This photo of the old Hunter School is courtesy of Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association.

Ethel Smith was born Sept. 16, 1878 in Corry, Erie County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Edmonds pioneers Wellington Freelinghausen Smith and Flora ArabellaBrown. She came with her parents as a seven-year-old girl to settle in the village of Edmonds in 1885.

When Ethel was 18 years old, having completed her own schooling at the Edmonds school, she accepted a position as a teacher in Edmonds School District #15.  Her assignment was to become the first teacher at a district school located in a very rustic one-room log building.  This school opened in 1896 on the northwest section of the 80-acre homestead of Duncan and Jennie Hunter.

Ethel Smith’s salary was the grand sum of $40 per month. The Hunter School predated all the other Edmonds district schools, except, of course, the school in the town of Edmonds. Since only a rough miles-long trail led the way through the still heavily forested land to the east of Edmonds, Miss Smith probably had to make her home in the school building.  Close by, Duncan and Jennie Hunter’s own small cabin was already over flowing with their four exuberant boys: William, Gordon, Reuben and Basil.

Thomas Stiger of Everett, the next teacher hired by the school district, when speaking of the condition of the school building, said that the space between the logs was wide enough so that birds and other small animals in the forest would at times invade the building, and the wind whistled as it blew through the open spaces between the logs.   In our time, the location of the former school is the northwest section of Pioneer Park in Lynnwood on 36thAvenue West, a short three blocks west of busy Alderwood Mall.  If you follow the walking path as it circles the park, to the northwest you will pass the spot which once held the old Hunter School.  Because of its poor condition, the school district closed Hunter School in 1904, and eventually it was demolished.

Ethel Smith’s teaching career was not a lengthy one and on April 26, 1900 at the Edmonds Congregational Church, she married a young man from another early Edmonds family — James Russell Mowat. At age 30, Russell Mowat (his preferred name) was already an established and important figure in the shingle and logging operations around Edmonds and the surrounding area.  Later he expanded his operations across the sound to Kitsap County and in 1930 the family moved to Poulsbo. Russell Mowat died at the age of 59 on March 18, 1930 at Port Orchard in Kitsap County. He is buried at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

After her husband’s death, Ethel Mowat remained in Poulsbo and for 11 years she owned and operated a women’s dress shop. She sold the shop when she became ill and nine years before her death, she moved to a rest home in Poulsbo, where she died July 20, 1961 at the age of 82. She is buried next to her husband at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.  She was survived by a daughter, two sons, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

 — By Betty Lou Gaeng 

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood and Edmonds.

    1. Because the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery is still an active cemetery, Thursday has always been the best time for this event; in order to prevent any conflict.

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