June Brides

By Julie Hunter & Erica Maniez

June has traditionally been known as “Bride’s Month.” In today’s era, September and October are popular for weddings, with June coming in third. In past decades, however, many brides traditionally selected June for their wedding month. The month of June derives its name from Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. If you married in June, it was thought that one would be blessed with prosperity and happiness.

We have a variety of wedding portraits from all eras in our collection. Today we’re looking at three different June wedding photographs from our collection.

First is a 1910 bridal portrait of Grace Eastlick in honor of her marriage to Mahlon Settem. The portrait was taken in a studio, and Grace stands in front of a backdrop. Grace is wearing a gown typical of the Edwardian era. It’s a two-piece blouse and skirt set with a bloused bodice. Most brides of this time period – unless well-off – would have used their wedding dress for special occasions for some time afterward. We’re looking at a black and white image, so the dress looks white in the photo, but it probably was not.

Next we have a portrait from June of 1941, just before the start of World War II. Violet Aune and Willam Vaughan probably posed immediately following their wedding ceremony for this picture. Violet is wearing a simple, country wedding dress. The gown is floor length, and is accompanied by a chapel-length veil. Her generous bouquet makes it hard to see what’s happening with her sleeves.

In our final wedding portrait, Rachel Guetzlaff and Robert Nova pose in front of an altar at their outdoor garden wedding in 1971. Rachel’s dress is made of “crepe backed satin,” which is a synthetic fabric. It has a yoked lace bodice, puffed upper sleeves, and a floor-length skirt – demonstrating an excellent example of the “granny dress” style that was popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to the wedding announcement, Rachel’s aunt made the dress “in the style” of the bride’s mother’s dress from 1934.

Were you married in Issaquah, either in June or any other season? Email us at info@issaquahhistory if you’d like to contribute a wedding picture to our collection of community artifacts.

Henry Smith & the Ill-fated Gilman Hotel

By Doug Bristol, Volunteer & Mine Hike Leader

In hindsight, some people should have chosen different careers. But, of course, they don’t know it at the time. This can certainly be said of the career of Henry Smith of Issaquah. Henry came to Issaquah in 1895, and built a “residence” hotel to cater to the coal miners of this pioneer community. There were many such hotels in the Issaquah of that era.

The first problem that Henry ran into was that about the time that he finished his hotel, the coal miners of Issaquah went on strike. Many of them left town. Henry had a great hotel, but a severe lack of guests to fill its rooms. Henry put his hotel up for lease, and it was eventually let to a Mrs. John Foster. Mrs. Foster is a bit of a mystery. But she obviously had a plan to make money using Mr. Smith’s hotel. She was still leasing the hotel from Henry in early 1898, so her plan, whatever it was, must have been working.

But on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1898, both Mrs. Foster’s lease and Henry Smith’s luck abruptly ran out. In the late morning hours of that fateful day, the Gilman hotel caught fire. Guests had to flee in their underclothes. The fire was so intense that for a time many buildings, including the train depot (known that year as the O&I – Oregon and International), were threatened with destruction.  There was a real fear that the entire town would be swept away by the conflagration.

Just down the street from this hotel was Coopers Roost, a hotel and drinking establishment where out of work coal miners could buy booze and drink it at an outdoor patio on the corner of what is now Front St. and Sunset Blvd. There were plenty of men drinking there that day, but they were either too drunk or too disinterested to help fight the fire that could easily have burnt down their town.

Thanks to the efforts of Miss Helen Simpson, a bucket brigade of town women was organized, and through their efforts they kept the fire from spreading to other nearby buildings. The men of the town just sat around and watched (and drank). The Gilman Hotel burned to the ground, but was fully insured. Mr. Smith presumably collected his insurance money, but he never rebuilt his hotel, and left town several years later.

The destruction of his hotel, and the lackluster support of the men of Issaquah, should perhaps have been omens for Mr. Smith that he might be in the wrong profession. Maybe being a hotelier wasn’t what he should be doing. But hindsight is 20/20, and Mr. Smith moved to Portland, Oregon. He built a new hotel in that city, and probably in homage to his original beloved hotel up north, and wanting to carry on the name, named it the Gilman Hotel.  The 4-story hotel opened in 1909.

But once again, fate took a hand in Henry Smith’s life.  In the early morning hours of  Monday, February 26, 1912, his second Gilman Hotel burned to the ground. One person died of a heart attack. One person jumped to his demise from a fourth floor window, and late in the day it was determined that 3 others were missing. His second Gilman Hotel was not insured, and this put Henry out of the hotel ownership business permanently. He went to work in a clothing factory. Thankfully, as far as I can tell, the clothing factory did not burn down. It seems only hotels held bad luck for poor Henry Smith. After the burning of his second hotel, Mr. Smith disappeared from history.

The Tale of Ole Bergen

By Doug Bristol, Volunteer & Mine Hike Leader

Ole Bergen (also written as Berger and Bergan) caught my attention because of his long history of coal mining in Issaquah, and the fact that he left home when he was 14, as did I.  He was a fun loving guy from all accounts, and wasn’t opposed to “bending” (not to the breaking point) the law when it suited his purposes.  He once told a judge that he wasn’t breaking the law,  he was just “liberally interpreting” it.  In Ole’s opinion, laws were more a set of “guiding principles” rather than strict dictums.

Ole was born in Norway in 1873. Leaving home at age 14, he worked in several coal mines in the Spitsbergen mountains.  Although coal mining would continue there for the next 120 years, it would do so without Ole. He didn’t like the cold arctic temperatures, the terrible working conditions, or the low pay in the mines of Norway.  He felt that he could have a better (and warmer) life in the United States. At the age of 17, travelling alone, he boarded the good ship C.V. Island in 1890, and sailed for America. 

The ship dumped Ole off in New York, and he got a job working in a railroad yard.  He had very little money, and didn’t much like working in the cold New York winter weather any more than he liked Norway.  Being a coal miner, he no doubt considered where he could work where the weather was more pleasant, and came up with the Pacific Northwest. But how to get there……

Ole couldn’t help noticing that he worked in a railroad yard. He saw all these trains leaving New York for various places, some of which were places he wanted to go. I’m sure that in Ole’s opinion, since the train was going to Seattle whether he paid to get on board or not, he might as well hop into a freight car and go for a ride courtesy of the railroad. Hiding in freight cars, eating what he could find aboard, he managed to get to Illinois. He worked in a coal pit mine there for a year, and then, we hope, bought a ticket to Seattle and arrived in style in 1893.  

Issaquah and Newcastle were where the coal mines were operating, and for reasons unknown to us Ole chose Issaquah. He began work at the Issaquah mine, located across the creek from town.  He was to work there, off and on, for the next 11 years.  

The bridge over Issaquah Creek to the park, where Ole Bergen worked as a guard.

When Ole started working at the mine, no miners were needed, but he got a job as Bridge Guard.  He was posted at the bridge across Issaquah Creek to keep unauthorized people out of the mining property.  The city had a park on the east side of the creek, and the mining company had a much nicer park on the west side of the creek.  Although there were strict rules allowing only miner’s families to use the mining company park, Ole saw those rules as guiding principles only, and had a tendency to let anyone he liked cross the bridge and use the company park. When the company discovered this, Ole lost his job as Bridge Guard. He went to work for the Cedar Mountain Mine in Maple Valley.

In 1896, there was a fire at the Cedar Mountain Mine, and Ole was credited with dragging several unconscious miners to safety, thus saving their skins.  The local Cedar Mountain paper praised Ole as a hero, and, indeed, he was a hero. We don’t know this for sure, but perhaps his new reputation for bravery in the face of danger impressed the operators of the Issaquah Mine, because a year later Ole was working at Issaquah as a coal miner.     

Ole never married, and was a boarder in many of the local hotels in Issaquah. When one mine would go on strike, he would get a job in another mine. In his career he worked in coal mines from Bellingham to Roslyn to Renton to Issaquah, wherever he could find a job. But mostly he worked in the mines around Issaquah.  

Ole must have tired of living in hotels, because eventually he bought himself an acre of land near where Issaquah’s water storage tanks were situated. At the time, this was below the ridge where Lake Tradition sits just east of town. Ole needed drinking water, and there were these two big tanks full of drinking water, and Ole sat down and pondered exactly how he could resolve this dilemma, and eventually devised a plan, which will be revealed later in our story. 

Ole loved to hunt, and what he loved to hunt most was deer.  Ole knew that there were strict rules about hunting season, but he obviously felt these were more guiding principles rather than strictly enforced laws, and hunted deer under his more liberal interpretation of these rules. To avoid trouble with the law, and since deer were always wandering around town back in those days, a mysterious “someone” would shoot the deer from a well concealed hiding place. The deer would drop in its tracks along Front St or Mill St., and pretty quickly, Ole, who lived nearby, would magically appear with a skinning knife, and make short work of the deer. This became somewhat of a running joke in Issaquah, but it was not funny to the local game warden, namely one John Reif.

Now John Reif was nobody’s fool, and hadn’t just fallen off the vegetable wagon as it hit town. He knew exactly what was going on, and exactly who was doing it. His only problem was catching Ole in the act. Ole was very cagey, and very careful, and it was surely very frustrating for Reif. So, in November 1914, he hatched a little plan.  

The plan involved corralling a deer in the woods, and waiting for Ole to take his prized bloodhounds out for their daily run. Ole always took his rifle with him, just in case something or someone wanted to attack him. The dogs’ normal practice was to run down to the shore of Lake Sammamish, and then run back to Ole waiting by Issaquah Creek. But on this day when Ole released his hounds, John released his deer, and the chase was on. It was simply too much for old Ole to resist. He undoubtedly surveyed the area, saw no one, and went after the deer. His dogs chased it into the shallows of Lake Sammamish, Ole let go with his trusty rifle, and then went into the water and dragged the hapless deer back to shore. He was greeted upon his return to land by none other than Warden Rief. John had been lurking about in the trees out of sight, waiting for Ole to wade back to shore.  Ole was caught red handed, and Reif slapped on the cuffs. (It is unclear what happened to the deer).  The headline in the Seattle Times screamed:

Ole’s argument at trial was that he had been entrapped by the law. He claimed that the town was overrun with deer, that the deer in question had charged him, and that thanks to his trusty rifle, his life was saved and the town was rid of a dangerous animal.  The Judge didn’t buy it, and fined Bergen $25.00 plus court costs.

So, Ole was finally brought to justice, of a sort.  His claim that he had been  entrapped by the law was certainly true, but it was impossible to prove.  Ole went to the court clerk and paid the fine.

Ole continued to mine coal, and from what we can find (or couldn’t find) in old records, stayed out of trouble, or at least was never caught doing anything wrong……but, oh yes, the drinking water mentioned above.  Here is the rest of that story.

Ole Bergen’s shack, circa 1941

Ole died on January 14, 1938. On July 7th, 1941, his property was sold to Mr. T.F. Keefe. When Mr. Keefe was in the process of tearing down the old cabin so he could build a new home, he found, of all things in this old shack, a water faucet. This, in Mr. Keefe’s mind, meant that there was a heretofore unknown well on the property from which Ole got his water. WRONG! When the pipe was traced, Mr. Keefe found that sometime in the distant past Ole had installed a well disguised tap in one of the city’s water tanks, and had been getting free water from the city for at least 20 years. Ole apparently saw no harm in taking a little water from the city. They had so much and he had so little, and he was probably still bitter about the whole deer entrapment incident. Ole is buried in an unmarked grave in Hillside Cemetery in Issaquah Washington.

David Edmonds

By Doug Bristol, Volunteer & Mine Hike Leader

Events large and small were transpiring around the world on May 13th, 1900. Police in Bombay fired on a mob, killing 11 and wounding 16 others. Russia shipped 100,000 workers from China to Manchuria to construct the rail line to Port Arthur.  In Paris, a bomb placed under the carriage of the country’s finance minister exploded, but neither he nor his wife were hurt… and in Issaquah Washington, the Superintendent of the Issaquah Coal Mine had disappeared.

Superintendent David Edmonds was born in Wales. He came to America when he was only 7 years of age. Abandoned by his family, he suffered a hard life being raised in various orphanages. But he overcame these trials, and in 1882 was accomplished enough to be appointed State Mining Inspector for Washington. He held this position for 8 years.

Bridge over Issaquah Creek, circa 1889. (IHM 72-21-14-180)

In 1888 he was appointed Superintendent of the Issaquah Coal Mine. Production was just ramping up with the arrival of the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern railroad. David arranged for a road to be built to the mining camp from town, and supervised the first bridge across Issaquah Creek as part of that road.

But the position of Superintendent was a stressful one at this time.  The United Mine Workers Union was saber-rattling about a possible strike for higher wages and better working conditions. Miners were threatening to burn down the mine buildings. Guards hired by the company patrolled the mine property armed to the teeth. Resolving these issues, and keeping production moving, fell directly on David Edmond’s shoulders.

David had contracted Typhoid Fever in 1887, and barely survived the illness. It left him a permanently weak invalid. Still, he struggled on and did the best job he could, calming down both miners and union organizers and keeping coal production going.

But David’s friends and family were worried about him. In several conversations he spoke of the responsibility and duty of a person who was unable to take care of himself to die and not be a burden to his family. He made several references at different times about “winding up ones affairs” and “wrapping things up.”  Still, he seemed happy at family functions and carried on his job, so people thought things were okay.

But they weren’t okay. His increasing pain made it necessary for him to resign his position as mine superintendent. His declining health made it impossible for him to get another job. He knew that if he died within one year of leaving the mines, the company would pay his salary to his widow for a period of one year.

David Edmonds, circa 1898.

On May 5, 1900, David Edmonds disappeared. A massive search turned up nothing. Then there was a report that he had been seen in Yakima Washington. But on May 7th his body was found in woods near Seattle.  He had taken his own life.

David had done his part getting the coal mines of Issaquah up and running. He hired the miners. He built the roads. He ordered the mining equipment. He kept the lid on the proverbial kettle, mediating between the miners and the mining company. But he did it at the cost of his health, his family, and his future.  It’s a sad end to a small piece of Issaquah mining history and the building of the town. Had Edmonds lived today, help would have been more available to him, as we better understand the impacts of chronic pain and depression on mental wellness.

David Edmond’s funeral was held on May 15th, 1900.  It was attended by over 150 people, including the current governor, John Rankin Rogers. Edmonds was laid to rest in Lake View Cemetery, Seattle.

Bob Gray and the Church Without a Church

By Jean Cerar, IHM Volunteer

The recent death of Bob Gray was a reminder that Issaquah was once home to an unconventional church. The Pine Lake Presbyterian Church, where Gray was pastor, never owned a building and turned its efforts toward serving the community. In an oral history he completed for the Issaquah History Museums in 2006 Gray recalled his days with the church.

“I came here [in 1966]. It was unusual that I not only organized the church but then I was called to be minister on a full-time basis. And I stayed for 25 years, which is unusual.” Soon after arriving Gray started to communicate to the congregation “that I had a different concept of the church. The primary one was the church was people and not buildings.” The church met on Sundays at Providence Heights (later the Lutheran Bible College). All other meetings were held in people’s homes.

“We began to look around at what we thought might be needed in the community. …I thought that we needed to find ways to bring people together. … The first thing we did involved the Issaquah Theater. … We’d bring films to the theater that had some substance that would provide for the opportunity for discussion. We called it ‘Forum Theater.’”

“We eventually took over the theater when the owner decided to retire. However, … before we did that, we started a bookstore across the street. … We called it the Forum Bookstore. We wanted it to be a kind of drop-in center, where people could sit and have a cup of coffee and talk. … We turned the place into a coffeehouse on Friday nights. … We’d have book readings and speakers.”

“In 1970 Boeing hit a low spot and laid off 35.000 people. … An organization formed in the Seattle area called ‘Neighbors in Need.’ I was asked to come to a meeting, and I ended up forming the food bank in Issaquah.” It was run by volunteers from Pine Lake Presbyterian, and then volunteers from other churches joined in. A clothing bank followed.

“We started an emergency financial aid program. … Money came from about five churches. I had the checkbook.” At first there were referrals, then people simply started showing up at Gray’s office. Eventually, “the whole organization got together – the emergency aid program, the food bank, the clothing bank – and that became Issaquah Valley Community Services.”

The church’s most unusual project involved setting up a lab in 1976 for member Ruth Shearer, who had a Ph.D. in molecular genetics. Twelve people in the church became the board of directors. It is now the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle.

“I saw a lot of things happening here that I had hoped would happen, in regard to people getting together and developing things like Salmon Days. And I didn’t really have a part in that. But the church did.” It had a booth that raised funds for the Eastside Sexual Assault Center for Children, which Gray helped start.

“I’ve talked about my doing things, but it was always with other people in the church.” All the group’s projects were staffed by volunteers. Considering that the congregation never grew beyond 121 members, Pine Lake Presbyterian’s impact on the community was far beyond its size.

Bob Gray was elected to the Issaquah Hall of Fame in 1989. He retired in 1991. At the request of the few remaining members, the church was dissolved in 2000.

Issaquah’s “Lady Mayors”

While Issaquah’s first woman mayor was referred to disparagingly as a “lady mayor,” she set a precedent for other women who would run for — and attain — the office of mayor.

Issaquah Depot

Issaquah History Museums Reopen to the Public

In March of 2020, the Issaquah History Museums closed their doors due to the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic to visitors, volunteers, and staff. Now that Washington State is beginning to slowly reopen, we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the Gilman Town Hall and Issaquah Depot Museum. You can purchased a timed entry ticket for your household group through Eventbrite for Fridays and Saturdays in July and August; additional dates and times will be added after this pilot program. Here’s how we plan to keep visitors safe:

  1. Visitors should be from the same household group (Phase 2) or friend group (Phase 3). The museums are too small for groups to be able to social distance from each other.
  2. Visitors and museum staff will be required to wear masks while visiting the museums and jail, per King County requirements. Museum staff will practice social distancing from visitors.
  3. Frequently touched areas (door knobs, surfaces, etc.) will be disinfected between visitors.
  4. Public restrooms are not available at the museums at this time; please plan accordingly.
  5. Hands-on exhibits may not be available at this time, because the cleaning and disinfecting of artifacts may not always be possible.
  6. The Issaquah Valley Trolley will not be running this summer, due to the challenges of social distancing on the trolley.
Purchase Tickets

Quarantine Baking: Vintage Recipe Edition

Thanks to the quarantine, you, like our archivist, may now have some time to try out some of Issaquah’s vintage recipes. Click here to try out Vic’s Cream Muffins!

From the Issaquah Mines to France: Al Larson’s Service

By Doug Bristol, Mine Hike Leader

All the really interesting stories about Issaquah’s coal mining days involve the people living in the town during that era, and how their lives were interwoven into the fabric of the community. One of these people was Carl “Al” Albert Larson. Al was born in Spink Co. South Dakota on June 29, 1886 to Charles and Severina Larson. He grew up to be a handsome young man with brown hair and blue eyes.

The family moved to Issaquah in 1908, when Al was 22 years old. His father was a mining carpenter, and taught his son the carpentry trade. Father and son worked for all of the mines in the Issaquah area, and also did standard house carpentry. The family lived on Hill St. in a house Charles and Al built themselves. The family settled into a quiet life of work, church, friends, and community with the usual parades, dances, picnics and potlucks. Issaquah was a good place to live and work. Sadly, however, Al’s mother Severina passed away on March 10, 1913.

In 1915, Al married Leona Smithey, of Seattle, and they settled into a home in Issaquah on Third Avenue in a house that Al had built for them. But happiness was not to be. Leona died unexpectedly just 2 weeks after their marriage. So life, both happy and sad, continued on for the Larsons, as it did for many families in Issaquah and throughout the country.

In spite of the simple life of Issaquah, tensions were growing in the world outside. When Crown Prince Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated on July 28, 1914, the world flashboiled into World War 1. This had a profound effect on Issaquah, as one of the largest mines in town was owned by a German, and was shut down. Al was out of work, along with many others, and carpentry work of any kind was scarce. Nobody had any money and many families left town. Still, Al and his father managed enough work to remain living in town.

When the United States entered WWI on April 6, 1917, a draft was begun to fill the ranks of the Army. Al registered for the draft on February 26, 1918 and entered the Army on April 6. After training, Carl Albert Larson Private First Class. went aboard the U.S. Military Transport vessel Scotian on July 6, 1918, and sailed to war in Europe far from the peaceful streets and fields of Issaquah.

Arriving in France, Al was assigned to Company I, 91st Infantry division, 361 st Infantry Regiment, and was sent to the Argonne Forest 100 miles north of Paris. He and 2.5 million other men were shortly involved in the horrible trench warfare of that infamous place. Every day at an early hour, the men would be ordered “over the top” of the trench to face the machine guns of the Germans. With the loss of so many men, promotion came quickly, and Al shortly found himself promoted to Corporal.

On October 8, 1918, Al received a package from his father in Issaquah. It contained local newspapers, candy, coffee, letters from home, and tobacco. Al shared it with his sargent Bartel L. Nelson of Douglas Wyoming, commenting that the candy “sure was awful good”. Nelson had noticed that Al had not been himself for the last few days, and that the letters and other items from home really seemed to cheer him up. But the next days battle loomed large in all the men’s minds, and Al asked his friend Claude L. McDermott, “Do you think we’ll have to go into it again tomorrow?” Claude replied that he “didn’t see any way they wouldn’t. “

At 8:00 AM on October 9, 1918, the order was given. The men charged forward into the blazing machine gun fire of the enemy. Many a young man met his maker that terrible day. Al was running out in an open space, and was struck in the head by a bullet and killed instantly. His sargent called to him three times to continue the advance, but Al remained on the ground. Going over to him, Sargent Nelson found him dead.

So Al never made it back to the peaceful town from which he had sailed just months before. Never got a chance to marry again. Never got a chance to perform his carpentry craft. There were no more dances or potlucks for him. Life went on in Issaquah, but Carl Albert Larson was not there to partake. He died at 8:15 AM on October 9, 1918. His father Charles died just 3 days later on October 12th. Neither father nor son lived long enough to know that the other had died. Charles and Severina are buried in Hillside Cemetery in Issaquah. Al is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France, 5,000 miles away. WW1 ended just 32 days after Al died. He almost made it home.

Issaquah’s Veteran’ of Foreign Wars Post 3436 was named after Albert Carl Larson.

The Case of the Inlaid Knife

Volunteers were preparing to pour a concrete floor at the Auto Freight Building one Saturday in the mid-1980s, when Eric Martin came across a knife. Using his shovel to backfill a hole, Martin felt the shovel hit something other than sandy soil. A knife had been buried there. Martin brushed off the dirt and took the knife home to clean it up. After a good cleaning, the knife joined his personal collection of interesting objects. 

Some twenty years later, Martin happened to visit the Renton History Museum. There on exhibit was a knife that looked remarkably like the one he had picked up at the Auto Freight Building two decades earlier. This knife, however, was labeled ― Native American Trade Knife.

Martin went home and examined his knife again. There were striking similarities between the two items. He brought the knife to the Gilman Town Hall and told staff members his story. Collections Manager Andrea Mercado, together with Museum Director Erica Maniez, began locating experts on trade knives, both locally and via the internet. If the knife proved likely to be a Native American artifact, then it would become part of the museum’s collection. If it was just another knife, Martin would take it back home again.

Internet searches revealed a number of similar knives up for sale on eBay, as well as recreations of the same type offered for sale elsewhere. Knives of this type, often called trade knives or fur trade knives, were produced in Europe as early as the 1700s (and later in the USA) for the specific purpose of trading them for furs with Native American trappers. The design was relatively common for trade knives in the Plains area. Local experts at the Burke Museum and the King County Office of Archaeology both felt that the knife was quite likely used as a skinning knife, or belt knife, by a Native American. It was probably produced specifically for trade with Native Americans; the design on the knife’s walnut handle might have been inlaid by the knife’s owner, or by the manufacturer according to the Native American style. It was conservatively dated to the late 1800s. 

And so the knife, decidedly a local Native American artifact as well as an object with an interesting story to tell, joined other Native American artifacts as part of the Gilman Town Hall’s permanent exhibits, In This Valley.