James William “Bill” Flintoft: Accidental Mayor

Mayor Bill Flintoft

Mayor Bill Flintoft

James William Flintoft (most often called Bill) never set out to be Mayor. In fact, he didn’t seem to harbor any political aspirations. According to his son Tom Flintoft, Flintoft likely got involved in local politics because something happened that annoyed him. Nevertheless, Bill Flintoft served as Mayor for twelve years, the longest running mayor in the history of Issaquah up until Mayor Ava Frisinger’s anniversary as mayor in 2010. During the course of his term in office, the population tripled. Along with the growth came an enormous amount of change. Flintoft managed to navigate the challenges that this kind of rapid growth brings.

Bill Flintoft was born on June 21, 1908 to James and Lena Flintoft. At that time, his parents were living in Canada. However, Flintoft was born in Illinois. Accord-ing to Tom Flintoft, Lena Flintoft insisted that they go to the United States to have their child, so that when he reached 21 he could choose his citizenship.

Flintoft spent his early life in Ontario; after completing high school, he served in the Merchant Marines for several years. He later attended mortuary school in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1934, Flintoft moved to Washington state. He worked for Clark, Rafferty and Putnam, a funeral home in Seattle, for several years. While living in Seattle, he met Alberta Zulauf. They married in 1935.

Within a few years, the Flintofts de-cided to relocate to a smaller town. They considered Edmonds and Enumclaw, but ultimately selected Issaquah. At that time, Issaquah’s long-time coroner and undertaker, named Fisher, was selling his business. Fisher made a handshake deal with Bill Flintoft, agreeing to sell the business to him. The Flintofts had already made all the arrangements for their move when they found that Fisher had sold to a Seattle funeral home instead. Undeterred, they decided to stay in Issaquah and take their chances running a second funeral home.

Alberta Flintoft chose the site of Flintoft’s Funeral Home. She noticed a graceful house on Mill Street (today’s Sunset Way) where the Hobbs family lived, knocked on the door, and asked if the oc-cupants wished to sell. Although Harriet Hobbs hadn’t really thought about selling until asked, her husband had died just a few years before and her sons were now grown. She sold to the Flintofts, who opened their business on April 12, 1938.

The population of Issaquah at that time was 800 people. The rapid growth made possible by Highway 10 and the floating bridge would not begin for a few more years. Issaquah was known for being tightly-knit, but the Flintofts quickly made themselves part of the community’s fabric. Flintoft served as Master of Issaquah’s Myrtle Lodge in 1943, and also participated in the local Masonic lodge. As early as 1941, he served as Deputy Coroner for King County, which probably inspired confidence in him among Issaquah’s residents. As the “community mortician” (as stated in one of the newspaper ads he ran), he also developed relationships with community members during times of personal loss and vulnerability.

Although Flintoft and his family were active in the community, it was not until 1951 that Flintoft got involved in politics. He attended two Council meetings in spring of 1951. At the first, he persuaded the City to purchase pipe to be laid up to the cemetery, to provide water and a means of irrigation. At the second, he requested that the Council do something about the cows that wandered into the cemetery, treading on graves. At the spring political caucus, Flintoft was selected as a candidate for the City Council. He was sworn into office as council member on June 4 of 1951.

Although Bill Flintoft and his family were active in the community, it was not until 1951 that Flintoft got involved in politics. He attended two Council meet

Miss Issaquah Sharon Weiss, at left, Issaquah Homecoming Queen Laura Shunk, in middle, and Mayor Bill Flintoft, at the the ceremonies for the dedication of the Park Boulevard Bridge, 1970.

Miss Issaquah Sharon Weiss, at left, Issaquah Homecoming Queen Laura Shunk, in middle, and Mayor Bill Flintoft, at the the ceremonies for the dedication of the Park Boulevard Bridge, 1970.

ings in spring of 1951. At the spring politi-cal caucus, Flintoft was selected as a candidate for the City Council. He was elected, and was sworn into office June 4, 1951.

Flintoft served as a councilman for seven years. On July 17, 1958, Mayor Alting R. “Buck” Lee resigned from his post. The Council accepted his resignation with regret. As most senior council member, Flintoft was designated Mayor Pro-Tem. The following week, he was officially elected by the other council members to serve the remainder of Lee’s unexpired term. Flintoft was re-elected to three more mayoral terms. Up until the tenure of Ava Frisinger, he was the longest-serving mayor of Issaquah.

Issaquah’s population was just under 2,000 when Flintoft became mayor — twice what it had been when the floating bridge opened in 1940. It would double again be-fore Flintoft’s term ended. Along with the growth came an enormous amount of change. Flintoft managed to navigate the challenges this kind of rapid growth brings. Skip Rowley, recalling the city’s primary challenge, remembers, “the city had no services to offer.” Issaquah lacked an adequate water supply and a sewer system, for starters.

The secondary challenge was that Flintoft worked for a community that did not, by and large, welcome change. According to his son, Tom, Flintoft’s perspective was that growth was inevitable. The city could either control the growth or let growth control the city. If appropriate planning took place, the community could benefit from growth. Flintoft’s common sense approach was to find a compromise between the pro-growth faction and the no-growth faction.

Skip Rowley describes Flintoft as “one of the smartest men I think I have ever met.” Flintoft had the ability to “get other people to make things happen.” According to Rowley, “if you didn’t know any better, you would think that he wasn’t as smart… And Bill loved it when somebody would think that.”

Keith Hansen was a council member during the last two years of Flintoft’s tenure. He remembers that Flintoft, “was very good at running the city. Running the mortuary, he knew people in their best and worst times.”

In 1969 Flintoft chose not to seek another term in office. That fall, Keith Hansen narrowly beat Rod Anderson in the mayoral election. He continued the work of building the city’s infrastructure.

Flintoft died on December 14, 1971, at only 63 years of age. His memorial was held at Flintoft’s Funeral Home, the business he operated for nearly 35 years, and he was interred at Hillside Cemetery. The business he built continues to operate under the management of his son and grandson.

William Mitchell

William Mitchell

Served as Mayor 1938-1940
Served as Town Marshal in 1923

William Mitchell

William Mitchell, who served as both Mayor and Town Marshal of Issaquah.

William C. Mitchell was born in England in 1889. At the age of 20 he immigrated to the United States, and within a few years had married another English immigrant named Beatrice Mary Cobbeldich. The couple lived in Montana, where their three children Edith, Beatrice, and Roslyn were born. Circa 1918, he was working as the shift boss at Pittsmont Mine, in Butte, Montana.

By 1923, the Mitchell family had moved to Issaquah, where William C. Mitchell served as town marshal. Their youngest child Marion was born in Issaquah in 1924. Beatrice Mitchell died in 1929.

In 1930, Mitchell was employed driving a road grader, most likely employed by the County in the construction of Sunset Highway.

Major crime during this period consisted primarily of burglaries to both home and business. On December 12, 1923 the Grange Mercantile Store was broken into after the front door was pried open. Clothing in boys sizes were taken, as well as a considerable amount of other merchandise including candy and cigarettes. The store posted a $100.00 reward for the capture of the culprits.

On December 20, 1923 burglars again struck. This time the Alexander Blacksmith Shop was the victim. Around $10.00 in tools were taken. These amounts may seem trivial in today’s money, but when you consider that a 1923 Ford Touring Car cost $295.00, it puts the value of a 1923-dollar into perspective.

Things got so bad that the Town Council met that same month and considered radical changes of the Marshal’s duties. A proposal was made to abolish the Marshal’s Office and make him a night watchman instead. The town newspaper reported, “Some places are arranging to have an armed watchman sleep in their buildings, and a cold shower of lead would prove a wonderful argument at that”!

During Mitchell’s tenure the Sunset Highway from Seattle to Preston was completed in October of 1923.  The road was graded and graveled, but wouldn’t be asphalt paved until many years later. That same year the Department of Motor Vehicles required that all cars carry a receipt verifying that the vehicle’s headlights had been tested and were in state compliance. It made no mention if any other safety inspection was required.

During the 1920’s Scarlet Fever made an appearance in Issaquah and resulted in several families being quarantined to prevent it from it from spreading. Several youngsters died during this time.

Mitchell left office in 1924 and successfully ran for Town Mayor in 1937. He held that office until 1940.

Back to Law & Order

P J Smith

Peter J. Smith


1926–1928Served as Town Marshal, resigning in June 1920

P J Smith

P. J. Smith took several turns at being Mayor during Issaquah’s early years. (IHM 2014-18-3)

Peter J. Smith was born in Illinois in 1848. He married Josephine Laird around 1872. By 1875, the couple had made their way to Seattle. In 1876 they were living in the Squak Valley, where Smith purchased property and established a dairy farm. His wife died in 1908, and Smith began a new chapter in his life, remarrying a young Swedish girl named Selma Johnson. Selma was nearly 40 years younger than her husband. Together they had one daughter, Helen Smith.

Smith was appointed the first State Dairy Commissioner in 1895. He also served as Issaquah’s mayor between 1913 and 1915, and again between 1918 and 1920. It is not known precisely when he became the Town Marshal, but it is likely he held this post on an interim basis. He would have been in his early 70s at that time. Smith tendered his resignation as Town Marshal in June of 1920, to be effective July 1. Several weeks after he gave his notice, the council and mayor met for a special meeting. The minutes show that the council had determined that it was not possible to appoint a Town Marshal who would accept the current salary of $90 a month. As a result, the council raised the salary to $125 a month. At the following council meeting, Jack Chalfa submitted his first marshal’s report.

Smith went on to serve another term as mayor between 1926 and 1928. He died in Issaquah in 1940, at the age of 92.

Peter Vroom Davis

January 10, 1893–January 8, 1895

Peter Vroom Davis was born in New Jersey, to parents William Smith Davis and Phebe A. Morton. Although William Smith Davis was a farmer, he was descended from an old New Jersey family that included Peter D. Vroom, fifth governor of New Jersey. P.V. Davis had a long career as an attorney in Washington State. Davis moved to Issaquah with his first wife, Willmena, and was living there as of 1892 when the territorial census was taken. In addition to his wife, his brother Augustus W. Davis, and son Walter, age 3, were living with him. Davis became the major of Gilman at the tender age of 25 and served until 1895. His must have been divorced or widowed between 1892 and 1896, because he married Nettie Doxy of Issaquah in December 1896. Nettie’s father John served on the Town Council. By 1900 the couple was living in Seattle, where they remained until at least 1931. Peter Vroom Davis died in California in 1948.

Dr. W. E. Gibson

Dr. W. E. Gibson

Apr 27, 1900–Jan 8, 1901
June 4, 1906–Jan 14, 1913

Dr. W. E. Gibson

Dr. William Elry Gibson was a well-known personage in early Issaquah. He served several terms as Mayor.

Dr. William E. Gibson is a frequently mentioned personage in Issaquah’s history. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1859, and moved to Iowa with his family in 1866. After completing his medical training, he married Sarah Garner in May of 1888. He settled in Gilman in 1889, where he opened a medical practice and acted as the local physician for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. Gibson was also active in town politics. He served on the Town Council, and he was the Mayor from 1900-01, 1906-1913, and 1921-1924. Dr. Gibson was known for his interest in horticulture. The gingko tree at the southeast corner of Front Street and Andrews Street was planted by Dr. Gibson around 1900.

By all accounts, Dr. Gibson was extremely well-liked. The author of the 1913 publication “Plain Facts” wrote of him, “To say that Dr. Gibson is modest would be putting it lightly. He takes his public work as a part of every-day life and is unassuming in any respect. Pleasant, congenial and friendly, he is especially fitted to head the commercial organization.”

Dr. Gibson was also recognized as a skilled medical practitioner, uniquely suited for the challenges of working as a small-town Doctor. His role as the sole (for many years) doctor in the isolated frontier town meant that he had to travel a large territory and attend to a variety of medical problems, from delivering babies to patching up gunshot wounds to dealing with a smallpox outbreak among Native American hop pickers.

Dr. Gibson died in 1945, at the age of 86. He was buried in Hillside Cemetery. There are still a few folks around Issaquah who were delivered by Dr. Gibson.

We are fortunate to have a first-hand recollection of Dr. Gibson preserved on audiotape. In 2010 we received a grant from 4Culture to begin transcribing the older oral histories in our collection. We began with an oral history of Jake Jones, Jr. (1881-1958), whose memories were recorded in 1958. The following was excerpted from Jones’ oral history:

“Doc Gibson was the first doctor that came here to Issaquah… And he had a big district. He had Carnation, and he had the upper valley, and down to the lake, down Inglewood, and North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fall City.

“He had two chestnut sorrel horses that he used to ride. He went night and day, any time, over all that district. There were a bunch of shingle weavers, and they got cut pretty regular. They’d cut their hands and cut their fingers. Sometimes, they lost their arm. Doc had a chair that he used. He put them in that chair, then he’d look around out on the street to get some young fellows to come and help him. Some of them couldn’t stand the sight of blood or anything, and they’d run.

“But he’d get about four of us that he used to get a hold of the patient — some of those fellows was pretty husky and strong, you know – and he’d strap them in that chair, strap their legs and strap their arms, and he’d start to work on them. I helped him quite a few times. And he always gave me the ether cap [chuckles] to put on them. As they’d go out, they’d struggle pretty hard. And boy, they’d make the old racket and he had the other three fellows to hold them in till they got enough ether to be quiet. He’d watch them and he’d tell me when to take the ether cap off. And when they’d begin to come to again, he’d say, “Well, you better put it on again.” He never got excited. He never got nervous or anything.

“Didn’t have many tools to work with. He’d trim up their fingers, and cut the flesh back and saw the bones off and put the flesh on. And he took four stitches, two one way and two across.

“Once he had one great, big guy, his name was Bozo… And he was a very powerful man. In fact, he cleaned up a whole bunch of fellows one night. Three of them was going to pile on him and he had them all laid out on the floor. [laughing] But he was the hardest one. Boy, he pretty near turned the till over and everything else, with three fellows holding him. I had the ether cap on him, and finally he got quieted down. Doc fixed him up. He took off the end of two of his fingers.

“Then, there was the train. There were three men at different times fell off the big trestle here out of town and he took care of them. One fellow got his foot in between the railroad coal train and the couplings, the old-style couplings, and smashed his foot up… Doc Gibson fixed up his foot.

“And he had lots of outside calls away from home. He went up to Cedar Falls, and he went to North Bend. And one time, he went up to the Goldmayer Hot Springs. He rode his horse to North Bend – awful fine horse – and then he changed there. He got a fresh horse and he went up about 30 miles, in the night. He got up to Goldmayer Hot Springs and he took care of Mrs. Goldmayer. And then he went back through North Bend, he got his own horse and started home. Well, he hadn’t had any sleep for, oh, two, three days and nights. It was long, hard riding, and it was summertime. Well, when he got out here about four miles from home on the old Immigrant Road, he fell asleep on his horse. Fell asleep and fell off his horse.

“So he seen he couldn’t go no more, and he tied the horse up. He always had a big overcoat, and a satchel in one hand and the lantern on the other hand. It was about four o’clock in the morning – he pulled the overcoat tight over his head and laid down to sleep.

“Well, he went to sleep and he didn’t wake up till the next day about eleven o’clock. And it was summertime, and the sun was straight up, you know, [chuckles] and he hadn’t made it home. He was all wringing wet [laughing] with sweat, but he says, “I got a good sleep!” Anyhow, that was his experience on that trip.

“He used to go to Fall City a lot. There’s be a great salmon run at the Raging River there – there was an awful lot of salmon there at that time and there was lots of Indians there – and they used to get feeling poorly. After the salmon run, there’d be a mild epidemic of diphtheria. Doc Gibson, he thought it was caused by so many decaying salmon along the banks of the river. And, of course, the Indians, they drunk that water, so he figured that was the cause of it. And then the many of the whites got it. Many of the whites had it. And they didn’t have an inoculation for that.

“Almost all the young Indians about 14 years of age up to the older ones, was all scarred around the throat – great, big scars – and some reached up to the ears and along the side of their face from this diphtheria. He had quite a fight with that.

“Doc Gibson was about 6’2” tall. And every 4th of July, they always got Doc with his fine horse to carry the flag. He was a very fine rider, and he always led the parade. “

Related articles:

W.E. Gibson House: Victorian Home Fell to Wrecker’s Ball, Progress
Ginkgo Tree

Jake Jones’ Oral History

John McQuade

John McQuade

Mayor from from Jan 3, 1900 to Apr 27, 1900
Town Marshal from April 1892 to February 1898

John McQuade

McQuade served as both Mayor and Town Marshal.

John McQuade was born Oct 14, 1863 in County Tyrone, Ireland. He immigrated to the United States in 1880 and lived in Pennsylvania and Montana for four years, after which he traveled west on the overland route. John married Margarette (Lewis) in Seattle on March 15, 1890. They had four sons; Thomas, Charles, John and William and three daughters; Edith, Ethel and Margarette

On April 25, 1892, the King County Council approved the incorporation of the town of Gilman, following a vote by the citizens of the would-be town. The application for incorporation included a proposed slate of mayor and council members. The minutes of the first Gilman Town Council meeting on April 27, 1892 note that the name of John McQuade was put forth for the office of Town Marshal, and was unanimously approved. McQuade remained in office until 1898, when Frank Day was eleceted town marshal. At the Februarty 7, 1898 council meeting, “By motion of Councilman Newton, a vote of thanks was tendered to the retiring Marshal (motion carried) and a revolver and belt were presented to him as a mark of acknowledgement for the good services in his long term in office.

Jack McQuade with unknown man

Jack McQuade (at right) with another man. (IHM 2011-5-30)

Jack McQuade’s occupation as listed in the 1900 census was Marshal, which causes some confusion in the succession list. Like Henry Beebe, he may have served as a substitute, or he may have served a partial term during that year.

It’s unknown what McQuade’s pay was as Marshal, but it is recorded that his salary was cut to $30.00 for the last five months of 1894. It was later reinstated back to it’s unknown original amount.


From January to April of 1900, McQuade served as Mayor of Issaquah. To give an idea of the size of the Gilman voting precinct in those days, the 1900 census recorded it’s population as 1,060. In 1900 the Issaquah Independent also started business with George Webster as owner/editor. In August of that same year, the Issaquah Telephone Company was organized. In January 1901, it had two subscribers! McQuade was succeeded as mayor by Dr. William E. Gibson.

McQuade appears to have gone into private business after leaving office. He was listed as a coal miner, Alaskan prospector and timberland developer in various sources. A 1926 newspaper article noted that he was owner of the West Coast Mine at Cedar Mountain, and that he had built a “splendid” home there.

McQuade died at the family home on Cedar Mountain on June 24, 1934. He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Renton. Margarette, who was born on April 8, 1869, died on April 12, 1940.

He is listed in Vol. II, page 313, of Washington State Pioneers published by the Washington State Genealogical Society. Obviously he played an important part in the early settlement of the state.

Ordinance 1, signed by Frank Harrell

Frank W. Harrell

Ordinance 1, signed by Frank Harrell

Ordinance 1, signed by Frank Harrell, set the time and day for Town Council Meetings

Apr 27, 1892–January 10, 1893

From Volume 1, pages 589-599 History of Washington, The Evergreen State, From Early Dawn to Daylight. Julian Hawthorne Editor, Published by American Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1893. (Now in the public domain)

HARRELL, Dr. Frank W., Mayor of Gilman, Wash., was born in Suffolk, Va., July 24th, 1858, received a classical education in the University of Maryland and the College of Baltimore, graduating with a degree of M. D. in 1879, and at once accepted the position of Acting Assistant Surgeon in the United States Army, which he continued to fill until his resignation in the spring of 1882.

After practicing medicine for a short time in the Indian Territory, he removed to Edenton, N. C., where he remained until the fall of 1883. In the spring of 1884 he went to to Japan and connected himself with the Episcopal Mission. In 1885 he entered the Imperial College as Professor of English Literature and Latin, and assisting at the inauguration of that institution. He is a member of the Imperial Surgical Society of Japan.

In 1889 he went to Washington and practiced in Pierce County until his removal to Gilman in July 1891.

He was elected Mayor of Gilman without a dissenting vote in April, 1892.

He is the surgeon of the Seattle Coal and Iron Company.

He is a member of the Royal Society of Good fellows, of which he is the Secretary and Medical Examiner.

He was married in Yokohama in April, 1885 to Miss Carrie Ballagh. She was the first child born in Japan of American parents. Two children grace their union.

The doctor is a Democrat, an active politician, and has been a member of both the State and county conventions of that party.