Kateri Brow

This article originally appeared in the Issaquah Reporter on October 30, 2009

By Barbara de Michele

In Native American culture, the raven is a mystical symbol of change.

If you patronize the Issaquah Public Library, you may have noticed a set of three ravens — one on a bench facing Front Street, one “flying” into the library over the entrance, and the third near the children’s section, clasping a set of keys in its talons.

Looking closer, you may have even noticed that the library’s three ravens memorialize Kateri Brow.

Who was this remarkable woman, what role did she play in Issaquah history, and why the three ravens?

Kateri Brow (pronounced Bro) served as superintendent of the Issaquah School District from January, 1987 until her death in 1992.

A little like our current President Obama, Brow faced significant challenges when she took the helm of our local district.

Financially devastated, the district was in severe financial straits.

Unprecedented community growth was pushing the district to hire teachers and build schools for 500 to 1,000 new students per year.

And, in the mid-80’s, the state of Washington embarked on a school reform effort that was turning traditional curriculum topsy-turvy.

Given these circumstances, the school board turned to a most unusual choice to lead the district.

Kateri Brow was a short (about 5’ tall), squat, round-chested woman with a booming voice and a booming laugh.

Born and raised in Neah Bay, Brow was proud of her Native American heritage. She wore her hair long and straight, reminiscent of the hippie era in which she came of age, and she favored flowing shirts over slacks.

In some respects she was a hippie, with her love of acoustic guitar, photography and her forested home on Beaver Lake.

But the Issaquah educators and parents who revered Brow also knew of her shrewd intellect and wry sense of humor, her ability to lead people through difficult decisions, and her integrity.

A Seattle University graduate, Brow arrived in Issaquah in 1971 as a Maple Hills Elementary special education teacher.

Once, in an address before the Issaquah Women Professionals organization, Brow explained her decision to build a career within a single district.

As a student, Brow had carefully researched Washington school districts, looking for the right combination of a progressive community, creative educators, opportunities for professional growth, and a good place to live. Issaquah fit the bill, and she applied for a job which she readily received.

Issaquah would become the place where she would stake her life and career.

Brow made rapid progress from classroom teacher to Special Education Manager in 1973, to Director of Program Planning in 1977, to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in 1983.

During these years of professional growth, the Issaquah community increasingly embraced Brow as “one of our own.” Brow’s reputation and stature grew along with the status of her titles.

In late 1986, the Issaquah community received shocking news: the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office was threatening to take over district operations because of a significant budget deficit.

At a packed meeting held at the Issaquah Valley Elementary School gymnasium on January 5, 1987 the board named Brow as Interim Superintendent, replacing James Swick.

Public confidence in the district hit an all-time low. Voters expressed skepticism over the district’s ability to handle levy and bond funds. Parents removed students and transferred them to other districts and private schools. Fifty-three classified workers and nearly 30 certificated teachers and administrators lost their jobs.

Brow moved quickly to restore confidence, visiting schools, classrooms, PTA and Chamber of Commerce meetings.

At one point she climbed aboard school buses and rode with students and drivers, asking for their input into solving Issaquah’s financial woes.

In a “stump speech” that became rather famous within the district, Brow went from school faculty to school faculty, extolling the virtues of saving every penny of taxpayer’s money.

“Pull the drawers out of your desks and see how many paperclips you can find,” she would tell the assembled teachers.

Her already-established credentials as a master teacher and administrator helped. A strong sense of teamwork began to pervade the district.

Internally, Brow re-structured the district’s finance office. Within a few short months, the board enacted budget controls and oversight measures still in place today. Subsequently, the district’s bond rating was renewed at the highest possible level.

Finally, Brow directed district curriculum leaders to establish a cyclical review system, ensuring that every area of student learning was subject to continuous quality improvement.

In the spring of 1987, the first test of Brow’s leadership loomed large: a levy and bond election. Significantly, voters approved the levy and bond, an amazing accomplishment for the neophyte superintendent.

On May 1, 1987 the board named Brow permanent superintendent, her title until her death from cancer in Nov., 1992.

In her short tenure, Brow received numerous awards and honors, as did the Issaquah School District. Most memorably, in 1988 she was named Washington State Superintendent of the Year.

Across every curriculum area, student test scores rose until Issaquah was at or near the top of all districts in the state.

Students were also recognized for excellence in sports, in the arts and drama. Issaquah became known as an innovator in technology, well ahead of other districts.

Encouraged by Brow, parents established the Issaquah Schools Foundation, an organization that has since raised millions for Issaquah schools and students.

Beyond Issaquah, Brow played a significant role in the development of standards that later shaped Washington State’s school reform movement.

Which brings us back to the Issaquah library’s three ravens, particularly the raven with the keys in its talons.

Brow told the story of how one of her own Neah Bay teachers had shown her a set of keys.

“Learning is like this set of keys,” the teacher said. “Every time you learn something new, you find a way to open another door.”

In Native American culture, the raven is a mystical symbol of change, sometimes whimsical but often profound.

Brow was such a change-maker, opening doors for herself and others throughout her life.

From the Digital Collections: Back to School!

With the end of August and summer comes back to school season. Here are some class pictures of Issaquah’s schools from the past 130 years.
Tibbetts’ School ca 1883
Full Record
Squak School ca 1890
Full Record
Issaquah’s First School Building ca 1898
Full Record
Issaquah Grade School ca 1923
Full Record
Issaquah 6th Grade Class ca 1934
Full Record
IHS Junior Class ca 1948
Full Record
Clark Elementary School ca 1966
Full Record

Looking for Local History: Ed Mott and WAM 2012 Wrap-Up

And so concludes Washington Archives Month 2012! We hope that you’ve been following our daily posts on Pinterest and Facebook as well as the occasional blog here.

We’ve been saving the best for last: a part of our Issaquah Oral History Video (available here in our online gift shop – this is a collection of stories told by the Issaquah people who lived them), this is a section called “True Crime in a Small Town.”

Ed Mott ca 1967-68
Full Record

It features Ed Mott, an Issaquah Police Officer who experienced everything from small crimes to D.B. Cooper and Ted Bundy. He tells his own personal stories about being first one on the scene to one of Ted Bundy’s crime scenes and much more. See the video posted below.

All of these items posted during Washington Archives Month are made possible by generous grants from 4Culture. But a lot of what we do is made possible by donations and volunteers in the community. We hope you will consider donating, volunteering, or becoming a member. Or just stop by and visit one of our museums!
Ray Robertson

Issaquah History Museums Celebrates Washington Archives Month!


Welcome to WashingtonArchives Month, October 2012!

Ray Robertson and his two oldest children
Full Record

The purpose of Archives Month is “to celebrate the value of Washington’s historical records, to publicize the many ways these records enrich our lives, to recognize those who maintain our communities’ historical records, and to increase public awareness of the importance of preserving historical records in archives, historical societies, museums, libraries and other repositories across the state.”

In short, we’d like to share more of our archives with you.

This year’s theme?

Law and Order in the Archives: Crooks, Cops, and Courts

As you may (or may not) know, Issaquah has some interesting stories in this theme. Over the month we’ll share some of the more simple records like town marshals, “progressive” police cars, and great pictures from our collection. We’ll also touch on people like D.B. Cooper and Ted Bundy and share how they relate to Issaquah’s history.

Everyday we’ll share with you via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, a link of the day – either to our website or digital collections – that will take you further into the theme of law and order in Issaquah.

As you can see from previous blog posts and our digital collections, much of what we will share with you was made available by a generous grant from 4Culture.

Another way we can continue to share our collections with you is through generous donations made by the community. If you’d like to support our work, Archives Month 2012, and our ability to share it with you, you can help in the following ways:

–     Visit either of our museums (or both!) in Issaquah.

Gilman Town Hall Museum
165 SE Andrews Street
Issaquah, WA 98027

Thursday-Saturday, 11am-3pm

$2/adult, $1/child, $5/family of 3+
$10 family pass gives all-day access to both museums
Friends of the Issaquah History Museums visit for free

Issaquah Depot Museum
150 First Avenue NE
Issaquah, WA 98027

Friday- Sunday, 11am-3pm

$2/adult, $1/child, $5/family of 3+
$10 family pass gives all-day access to both museums
Friends of the Issaquah History Museums visit for free

–     Join us! Become a member of the Issaquah History Museums.

–     Make a donation.

–     Volunteer!

–     Follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and our blog.

    Subscribe to our newsletter.

So follow us this month as we share with you some great records we have in our archives and come learn about your local history!

Looking for Local History: Using Our Digital Collections: Finding People

There are a few ways to go about finding people in our Digital Collections. You can use Keyword Search, Advanced Search, or Click & Search. There are reasons for using each one, and I will go through them here. 


Keyword Search


Using the Keyword Search is your basic catch-all search, just like an internet search engine. Simply type in what you are looking for and you’ll receive your results. The Keyword Search searches all available fields including Name, Description, Title, Collection, etc.  


The main page of our Digital Collections is the Keyword Search. Should you navigate away from the page, you can return to it either by clicking “Home” or “Keyword Search” from the left-hand buttons.


To find people using Keyword Search: 


1.       In the box on the main page, enter the name you are looking for. Putting quotes around the name will search for ONLY that phrase – exactly as you’ve typed it. This is not really recommended when searching for names, as often times maiden names, nicknames, and other spellings will be excluded from your results. 


2.       On the right hand side, there is a box with options for narrowing your search. You can search for only records with images by clicking the button labeled “Only records with images. 


3.       You can also search specific content sections in our database. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, it’s recommended to search “All Content”. To search one or more specific sections, click the box next to the section you wish to search. 


4.       Click the Search button and your results will appear on the next page. To view the item record, click on the text link. To view only the image, click on the thumbnail and it will pop up into a new window as a larger image.
Click & Search 


Using the Click & Search is a fun way to peruse the Digital Collections. It is also helpful when finding people if you aren’t sure of the spelling of a name or have limited information. It is also fun just to browse! 


To find people using Click & Search: 


1.       Click on the left-hand button labeled “Click & Search.”


2.       You will see rows labeled different things, all with letters of the alphabet following them. In the row labeled “People”, select the letter of the last name of the person you are researching.


3.       A dropdown box will appear. Click on the down arrow and make your selection.


4.       Your search results will appear on the next page. To view the item record, click on the text link. To view only the image, click on the thumbnail and it will pop up into a new window as a larger image.
Advanced Search


Using Advanced Search is helpful if you want to search specific fields for names or you have other parameters you wish to use to narrow down your results.


To find people using Advanced Search


1.       Click on the left-hand button labeled “Advanced Search.”


2.       You will see different fields you search. Each of these boxes searches the database in the specific field labeled to the left. Entering a name in each box will search ONLY that field in our database for that name. As in Keyword Search you can use quotation marks to search for specific phrases.

3.       Enter names and other information you wish to search by in the boxes. Choose which parameter you wish for your results to sort by clicking the radio button next to the box.


4.       As in Keyword Search, you can limit your results to records with images only, and choose which section/s you wish to search (or search All Content). Click the Search button and your results will appear on the next page. To view the item record, click on the text link. To view only the image, click on the thumbnail and it will pop up into a new window as a larger image.

Tip: If narrowing your results in Advanced Search based on date, you have two options:


1.       You can enter a specific date (format: YYYY/MM/DD; YYYY/MM; or YYYY) in the box labeled “Date”. This will search for that specific number in either the Date field, or the Year Range fields. It will NOT however include dates that fall into a range with numbers other than the one you typed in. For example, if you are searching with the year 1914 in the date field, you would get records with a Year Range 1914-1918 but NOT 1913-1918, even though 1914 falls within that range.


2.       You can use the Year Range feature in the Advanced Search by entering in your “Start Date” and “End Date.” This will give you results with dates within that range. This is the recommended method. 

Things to Know 


·         Generally, women are listed by their married name. However, their maiden name is included in their full name listing  (if known) and is therefore searchable using Keyword and Advanced Search.
·         From any page on our Digital Collections you can click the button on the left-hand side labeled “Help” for more information.
·         When viewing the Full Record of an item you can click on a name and then click on “Related Records” to view all Records with that name. This is just like finding the name through “Click & Search.”


Archives Preservation Roadshow

Most of our staff’s professional efforts are, appropriately, concentrated on the work of the Issaquah History Museums. But it is also true that we benefit from contact with other people in our field, and we can also help or be helped by people who do not happen to come to Issaquah. A year or two ago, I was in the process of finding the best home for some glass plate negatives that had nothing to do with Issaquah but much to do with a prominent alumnus of UW. We wound up transferring the gpn’s to the Special Collections at the University. In the process, I was invited to join the Seattle Area Archivists organization. I have been very glad I joined. The group is composed of bright, professional people who work with archival and photographic collections throughout the region. We meet in each other’s facilities, learn about the holdings and projects for their care and study, and have a chance to share knowledge up and down a couple of generations of archivists and curators. Our next sharing opportunity will be the “Archives Preservation Roadshow,” to be held on Saturday, May 14, from 10:00 to 2:00, at the National Archives and Records Admistration faciltiy at Sand Point. (The poster is reproduced below, but the print is looking very tiny.) We will be providing free advisory services for people who have questions about the care of documents and photos. Note, though, that we will not be providing price valuations–that’s a different specialty. I am looking forward to volunteering that Saturday and hope that some of you will make it in. There will be tours and talks, as well as opportunities to meet with archivists one-on-one. I wonder what the coolest thing we’ll see that day will be?

The Importance of Being Meticulous

In this blog post are scans from Ruth Johns Anderson’s personal photo album. They are currently being cataloged into our database and perfectly illustrate how taking the time to label your photographs now can make a difference in years to come.
The most frustrating thing for me is when am faced with a photograph with no indication of those four important things: who, what, when and where. It’s usually a wonderful photograph, in-focus with an interesting subject, stacked right in the middle of a bunch of other photographs that have been overly labeled. More interesting than trying to figure out the provenance of the picture is why someone took the time to label all the others and not this one. Where did it come from and why is it here?

Here at the museum, we often run into this problem – a photo that isn’t labeled or is mislabeled. Between all of us, and sometimes the help of members, we are able to identify people fairly easily. But there are those pictures we can’t identify – and we may never be able to.

The most important factor in labeling a picture is just putting a name down. First and last names if you know them. Any other information will be well appreciated. I determined everyone in a personal family album because I knew the original owner of the album and could therefore figure out who she meant by “Aunt and Uncle” and “Cousin.” And don’t forget to label yourself! These photos will not always be in your possession.

Try and take the time now to fill in the other “W”s: What is going on in the picture? When was it taken? Where is the place in the picture? I can assure you this information will be well appreciated in the future.

Digital photos pose a bit more of a conundrum – it’s not as easy as taking a Sharpie to the back of the picture. Thankfully, there are easy options:

1. Windows actually has a built in system for labeling your photos. Your digital camera should automatically embed the date taken into the picture but once you have uploaded your photos onto your computer you can then begin to add details. In Windows 7 it’s as easy as single-clicking on the picture – this will bring up a bar in the bottom of your window where you can then begin to add details such as “Date taken”, “Title”, “Tags”, and even “Rating”. The information you enter then becomes embedded into your picture file.

In previous versions of Windows it’s as easy as right-clicking on the picture and selecting “Properties.” In there you’ll find fields to enter in information.

2. Windows also provides Windows Media Center as a program to organize and detail your photos. There are also programs available for download on the internet. Here is a site that provides some options with a summary of each:

I am not an Apple user but I imagine there are similar options available.

3. There are many photo sharing sites available online. I feel like this is a fine option for now – but I’m not sure how far in the future these programs will be available. But at least it’s another way to store your photos.

Honestly, I feel a little shaky on the stability of digital photos. I’m not a doomsday type of person at all, but I wonder what would happen if all the technology we currently use just went away. If you’re as anxious as I am about this, your best option (although most time consuming) would be to have all the pictures you couldn’t bear to lose professionally printed. Then you could easily label the back of those and keep them safe.

The other side of that is to digitize your heirloom photographs. In the case of a non-doomsday scenario, your best bet is to have a CD of digital copies of all your photographs (old and new) and to keep them in a waterproof, fireproof safe in your home.
I would go so far as to recommend you do all of the above for photographs that you really care about. This way you ensure that your photos will remain safe. Just make sure they’re labeled!
If you’d like more information on this topic as well as how to properly care for your family heirlooms, Issaquah History Museums will be offering a program on “Preserving Family Photos and Heirlooms” on Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 11am. The program is FREE to the general public. Please visit and click on the link at the top of the page for more information.

Touching History

I credit my father with sowing the seeds of my career choice. He was a history teacher, and traveling across America with him in the ’60s was like traveling with my own personal tour guide. It was an era when most children from rural Maine, where we lived, went on very few school field trips, but as we drove through long stretches with no exterior entertainment but the scenery and scratchy AM radio music, he would tell me about what had happened in those places. I still have vague memories of General Mad Anthony Wayne in the Revolution in New York, and there are pictures of me standing in the rain at Little Big Horn and in the sun in the ruts of the Oregon Trail where it crossed into Kansas. I was fascinated, and I kept imagining what it would have been like to be part of the events that these places had hosted. I desperately wanted a time machine.

Probably the day that sealed my decision to work in museums, rather than in formal academia, came during the summer that I was eight. Not that I knew it then, but here’s what happened.

We were in North Dakota, and it had been a hard day. On our way between Grand Forks and Mount Rushmore, we either got lost, or there were no good roads. The gravel washboard that we’d spent the morning driving over had done a number on my little girl’s stomach, and car sickness won. My mother got out and walked with me until I could deal with the car again, but I was pretty bedraggled. Late in the day, we arrived in a town called Medora. There was a house museum in town, and we were all eager for an interesting reason to get out of the car. So we stopped at the Chateau de Mores. They were about to close, but it had been a quiet day, and we had four people willing to pay for a tour, so the guides on duty gave us a very personal one. Medora de Mores had been a wealthy woman, and she had fine things even in her summer house in the Badlands in the 1880s. When she stopped summering there, she left almost everything behind. What I actually remember from that day in 1965 are her square piano (they let me play some of my careful beginning piano student music on it), her many travel trunks (I always like to pack plenty of wardrobe, and they could have packed me and my clothes and dolls and books in any of several of those behemoths!), and her side saddle (which they let me sit on). As a museum professional who is dedicated to preserving the artifacts and documents that show us the past, I am horrified by how much contact they let me have with the original artifacts. But the truth is, it is the things I could touch that I experienced most fully that day. The lesson I learned that revealed itself over time was that nothing replaces being in the real setting, with the real things, that defined the parameters of the happenings of the past.

So how does this apply to here and now in the Issaquah History Museums? We preserve and share real buildings where key parts of Issaquah’s history happened. The Gilman Town Hall was here before the town became “Issaquah,” and it housed not only early town decision making, but also early elementary scholars. It continues in that tradition, holding exhibits that share and explain the development of this community from the days of the Native American inhabitants to the present. It has many “hands on” features that let visitors have the opportunity to connect physically with the ways in which people carried out the tasks of their lives before they had today’s tools. The 1920s jail still stands in the back yard, and visitors can go inside. The Depot is located a couple of blocks away, between the train tracks, where it facilitated the relatively easy connection between local daily life and the rest of the world. You could ride the train north a stop or two to Monohon to work in the mill, or you could take it to connect to Seattle and boats across the Pacific. You could ship coal out or milk in on the trains, and the mail came more than once a day. Today’s visitors can experience the spaces that housed the commercial and transit hub of the community. They can try the telegraph, too, using the fastest communication method of its day. They can climb aboard the caboose, and they can visit the diorama in the Army Car to see how the train connected a variety of places in this part of the world. Next year they will be able to board the Trolley for a ride through the center of town.

One of the ways in which we share these physical legacies is through providing tours to school groups. Our school tours are tailored for the ages involved, and we can do them for any group from pre-school to senior high. The tours provide an enjoyable personal connection to the history of this place where we now live our twenty-first century lives. There are groups who come every year, but we would like to share this experience with more students. We know that teachers at all levels must fulfill specific curriculum needs, and we work to ensure that our offerings will help that effort and be a good and effective use of their class time. The cost of bussing students to visit on location can also be an issue, but there may be funds available to underwrite this kind of personal local learning experience.

Please contact us if you want to discuss scheduling a tour or any of the logistics of doing so. We want to make Issaquah’s history available and engaging to all ages. When you touch history, sometimes history touches you.