Photo Mystery!


Unidentified image from the Anderson Collection
photo 2010.011.051
Downtown Issaquah, cars, people, and a man with a lottery style cage on a platform

We’ve had this image in our collections for a few years now, and it hasn’t been added to our digital collections for the sole reason that we’re not sure exactly what we’re looking at. And so we can’t properly date and catalog it.

I first assumed that it was part of the draft in World War II since it came with a collection with many other items related to the war. However, it could be something else completely.

I’d love to know more specifics of what’s going on here. It’s an obviously important event, with cars lining the streets and people filling the sidewalks. If it is draft related, what exactly am I looking at?

The Mystery of the Haunted Mansion

There’s something about an abandoned house that captures the imagination. No one’s childhood is complete without a nearby haunted house to inspire scary stories, and offer the challenge of exploration.


We received an email asking about an abandoned house that once existed on the shores of Lake Sammamish, in what is now the South Cove neighborhood. It read:


“I was raised on Lake Sammamish and when I was in grade school, Jr. High,  and High school (1964-1970) there was a very strange mansion on Lake Sammamish, near the state park, that had fallen into ruins.  As kids we would play in it and make up scary stories as to its origin and history.  Now, as an adult I am very curious about its true origin, who built it, who lived there, and why did they leave it?  It was located on West Lake Sammamish Pkwy near the spot where there are many sunken trees and logs, not far from the shoreline.

We always called it the “Haunted Mansion” or “The Green Mansion.”  You could not see it from the road but it was visible from Lake Sammamish if you were in a boat.  I believe it butted up beside the Lewis property on the southwest end of the lake, not far from Lake Sammamish State Park.  It was lake front property, completely covered in vines and blackberries, but we were always able to find our way to the house by following a small trail from the lake.  It was a mansion to us (3 stories, I think, plus a basement and an attic) a brick exterior, fireplaces, and I still remember the flocked wallpaper in the living room.”


We passed the message along to the folks on our mailing list. Many of our mailing list members, and the friends they forwarded our email along to, remembered the house and it’s rough location. A few people also recalled the name of the people who owned the property — Shaw.


Who were the Shaws?

John Nivett Shaw married Gertrude Fagan in 1896, and the couple settled in Seattle in 1899. Between 1899 and at least 1938, John Shaw was the president of the Commercial Importing Company, which imported and sold coffee and spices under the names Corona Coffee and Hollywood Spices. Passenger documents available at show that the Shaws frequently traveled by boat to a variety of destinations, including New York City, Vancouver BC, Tokyo, and Honolulu. Obituaries for both John and Gertrude Shaw note a Seattle address (1226 22nd Avenue), suggesting that the mansion on Lake Sammamish was not their primary residence. According to the King County property records, the house at 1226 22nd Avenue E, on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, is 7,000 square feet in size and was built in 1920.

Hollywood Spice tin.

Hollywood Spice tin.

The Shaws probably acquired their Lake Sammamish property sometime between the 1930s and late 1940s. However, it was never their primary place of residence. Dan Greenwood, whose family owned land adjacent to the Shaws, recalled that the property was “very elaborate, with ponds, tennis courts, a boat house and a saw mill for the construction. You can still see remnants of the mill in the shallows along the shore. There was also a fancy multi-car garage next to the caretaker’s (Lars) residence.”

The couple did not have any children. When John Shaw died in 1953, his wife was his sole inheritor. After Gertrudge Fagan Shaw died in 1957, settlement of her estate was delayed by one of the provisions of her will. A June 18, 1958 article in the Seattle Daily Times notes that Gertrude’s will specified a bequest for all employees of the Commercial Importing Company who had been there longer than 5 years. However, the company was purchased by Continental Importing after John Shaw’s death. This left some question as to whether Mrs. Shaw’s estate was legally obligated to pay the bequest, given that the company in question was not actually owned by Mrs. Shaw at the time of her death.


Aside from charitable contributions and the questionable employee bequest, the estate was left to Gertrude Shaw’s siblings, who ranged in age from 60 to 71 at the time of their sister’s death. We don’t know how many years it took to settle the Shaw estate, but Gertrude’s siblings were of an age that anything they inherited was likely to end up as part of their own estate, leaving the ownership and use of the property potentially tied up for some years.

What about the ghost story?
The story of a maid who drowned in a pool on the estate is well known, but difficult to substantiate. I wasn’t able to find any information to confirm the drowning, but there are several other stories of drowning accidents that may have become tangled up with the story of the Shaw family.  Gertrude Fagan Shaw’s brother, Edmund, worked for the Commercial Importing Company. He died by drowning while on a fishing trip in Allyn, Mason County, Washington in 1939. There have also been a number of drowning deaths on Lake Sammamish over the years, including incidents of multiple drownings in 1907 and 1916. There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to the question of what inspired the ghost story — at least, not yet.


Drowning or no drowning, dozens of kids (maybe hundreds?) who grew up in Issaquah reinforced the story that the house was haunted. Even those who didn’t necessarily believe the story of a haunting did enjoy capitalizing on the story for entertainment purposes. Chuck Olsen remembers, “My father told me about Shaw because he hauled coal for his house. My grandparents owned Alexander’s Beach resort on the east side of the lake. Every summer people from all over the states would come and camp at the resort. The kids were then  our victims of the scary “Haunted House”. We would load them in our boat and take them to the house. One of my cousins would run up to the house and hide and when the victims entered the house they would be scared to you know where! Just by what we could see it was a beautiful home and a beautiful piece of property.”


The Shaw property was located roughly where 187th Street is today, in the Meadowbrook Point neighborhood. Among the many unknowns is when the grand old house might have been torn down. The property was subdivided into a number of lots, which seem to have been built on between 1977 and 1980. A visit to the Puget Sound Regional Archives could help us pin down the years when the Shaws purchased the property, and who owned it in between the Shaws and the time it was developed. But for now, we have a pretty good solution to this particular history mystery.


Thanks to everyone who shared memories, bits of information, or just enthusiasm for the search!

Photo Analysis: Can you identify anyone?

We recently had some photos digitized and realized we don’t really know a whole lot about them. We are looking to gain as much information as possible about the two photographs – specifically, the who and when. Click on the pictures to see them larger.

The first picture in question is just listed in our catalog as “Group of Men at Logging Site with Machinery (donkey).” Nothing is known about who the men are, where it was, and when it was taken (we can guess about 1900-1915.)

The second picture is of Climax Logging Engine 1 from the Preston Mill Co. The person sitting on the engine is possibly Hugo Johnson. There is no other identification.

Mystery Artifact from Tiger Mountain

A hiker sent us the images below, along with the following note:

My girlfriend and I were hiking along 15 Mile Creek on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah on Tuesday afternoon, when I stumbled upon what looked like a large metal coil of some type. It looked like it was pretty old, especially since one end of it was buried in the hillside. It is extremely close to the old railroad grade which used to go up Tiger Mountain, and maybe a couple hundred feet away from the sealed entrance to an old coal mine. There is also the concrete foundation of a historic coal crushery, and also a coal washery (which have been recorded by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources) about a half mile from where I saw the coil. This makes me think it was part of a piece of mining or railroad equipment.
I’ve been researching and trying to figure out what it was used for, and just wondered if you guys might have any insight? Each loop was roughly 20 cm in diameter. I took some pics and used my camera bag for scale so you can take a look if you want.
I contacted a couple of my coworkers to see if they had any ideas, and they think it could be remnants of a trolley car wire or blasting line.

If you have any ideas about what this cable might have been used for, let us know!

Photo Analysis: What Roads are These?

We recently got a call from someone who purchased Images of America: Issaquah, WA, a pictorial history of Issaquah that we published several years ago. He was fascinated with this picture, and called to see if we could help him figure out what roads are pictured (one runs straight from left to right, and the other curves through the lower left of the frame).

Our catalog notes indicate tht the picture was taken in September of 1943 by William Conway. The picture was taken from Squak Mountain. In the center of the picture is Tibbett’s & Sutter’s gravel pit. The straight road in the background is Highway 10, and the house at right (in distance) is probably the Barlow Farm.

But as the caller and I looked at the picture, we both agreed that if the two roads in the image were Highway 10 and Newport Way, than the photo must have been taken from Tiger Mountain. Right?

On the other hand… another note in the catalog indicates that the image might be reversed, and the original image might look more like this:

What do you think?

Rod Receives AFPMP 6122

A generous grant from 4Culture is currently funding the digitization and cataloging of several archival collections, include the letters of Rodney and Vernon Anderson, Issaquah residents. Rod and Vern both served in the Army in the 1940s, and they wrote home to their mother regularly. This post is part of a series of posts about their lives and letters.

When Rodney Anderson was drafted into World War 2 he was placed in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and began his training at Camp Abbott in Bend, Oregon. In Rod’s first letter home he says he is surprised that they didn’t put him in the Air Corps.

So Rod took matters into his own hands and, after covertly asking his mother for his birth certificate (he didn’t want to worry her), he applied to the Army Air Forces (previously called the Air Corps.) Rod was accepted into the AAF and moved to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas. There he began his training.

Training sent Rod to Drake University in Des Moines, IA. College life seemed to suit him and his letters were happy and excited, talking of classes and coeds. After 1 month at Drake University, Rod received memo AFPMP 6122 titled “Army Ground Forces and Army Services Personnel.” The memo basically said that any men who had not yet fully completed AAF training were to be pulled from their training and placed back into Army Ground Forces due to a shortage in men. Rod wrote a disappointed letter to his parents on April 7, 1944 and included memo AFPMP 6122.

Here is the memo followed by the letter Rod wrote home to his parents:

(click on the pictures to enlarge)

The memo is not a clear indication of why the men are being pulled from training. The memo indicates that there were “accumulated shortages that [had] developed since last July [1943] in Selective Service.”

In Vernon “Babe” Anderson’s (Rod’s brother) oral history, he speculated that it was a result of heavy losses during the Battle of the Bulge. So many troops were lost that they had to pull some out of training and send them back to infantry. But the Battle of the Bulge didn’t really begin until December 1944 – almost 9 months later.

Doing some research into the AAF during WWII indicates that enrollment reached its highest point in March 1944 at 2.4 million men with less than half being overseas. At that point men were sent back to the branch of the Army that they had come from due to a surplus. It is also important to mention that D-Day occurred only a few months later and men may have been pulled in preparation for anticipated loss.

Rod went back to the Engineers and had some good times in training near Los Angeles (stay tuned for a future post on all the wonderful things Rod saw in Hollywood.) He ended up overseas both in Europe and Japan and returned safely home.

The only remaining mystery I haven’t been able to fully decode is what “AFPMP 6122” stands for…any ideas?

The Case of the Unknown Lake

This week we received a request to help us identify the photograph above; the inquirer was planning to use the image for a magazine article and thought that it was probably Pine Lake, but wanted confirmation to be sure. I sent the image out to our members mailing list and we received a variety of replies. Although several people thought it was indeed Pine Lake, others were sure that it wasn’t. Because the photo caption stated that it was the opening of trout season, one person explained, it was not likely to be Pine Lake, which is too warm and shallow for trout. Another long-time resident on the Plateau thought it was unlikely to be Pine Lake because Pine Lake did not have a boat launch of that size. A third person said that it couldn’t be Pine Lake in 1962 (the year sited) because at that time, the area around the boat launch was heavily treed.

Other replies suggested a variety of lakes that it might be instead of Pine Lake. I compiled all the answers and sent them back to the author, not sure what he would make of them. It turns out he’d sent the image to a few other people for ID, and the Federal Way Historical Society (and the Federal Way maintenance staff) were unanimous in their agreement that the image is Steel Lake.

This turn of events is not unusual. Efforts to identify photos in our collection often result in multiple choice options when one person is identified with three different names by three different people.

The first lesson? Label your pictures! Twenty years from now there may be heated debates over who, where, or what is pictured in your snapshot!

The second lesson, for museum staff, is to record our line of thinking in the museum catalog whenever we make an educated guess. For example, the image to the right has the following catalog entry:

Eric feels and I (Erica) concur that this was not located in Issaquah. Although there was a Wilson Tibbetts who had an automotive agency, we don’t know of any G.I. Wilson. Also, the building behind the Wilson building has “Reliable Auto” painted across the side.  There were no businesses in ISQ by this or similar names, although there was a Reliable Auto Parts in Seattle for some time. Issaquah had very few commercial buildings that were two-story. Our guess is that this photo was actually taken in Seattle.

It would have been quicker to note “Not in Issaquah,” but fifteen years from now, someone looking at the catalog might be left to wonder, how do they know it’s isn’t Issaquah? who decided this? where is it, if not Issaquah?”

Along in the same vein are the identifying notes for the image at left:  Young couple with small baby…. Erica’s note: since this came in the same batch as photos of Jacob & Mary Wilfong, and appears to be taken in the same setting and on the same day, I suspect that this is Paul Wilfong and Hazel Wilfong holding their daughter.

Again, rather than just labeling the image with my suspicions, I recorded my line of thinking. This way, if it is discovered in five years that I am a mentally unhinged and/or legally blind, other staff members know that they need to go back and re-examine this (and many other) conclusions I’ve made.

But don’t panic. I’m pretty sure my faculties and eyesight are within the normal range. So far.

Henry L. Beebe, Three-Day Marshal

We are in the process of updating our web site, and as I go through the many, many files that make up the site, I’ve been reading some of the pages for the first time in years. It struck me that many of the biographies of police and marshals bear updating, now that we have gathered more information in our community family tree. Since it makes the most sense to start at the very beginning, as Julie Andrews would sing, I decided to investigate Henry L. Beebe first.

Henry Beebe was reportedly the first town marshal in Gilman (today’s Issaquah), although he served for only three days. Beebe appears in the 1892 Washington State Territorial census. At that time, he was living in Gilman with his young wife Ada Sloper Beebe, and their one-year-old son Henry. The census shows that he was born in the United States in about 1867, and that he was working as a laborer. The Washington State Digital Archives contain copies of the certificate he signed upon his marriage to Ada, and another marriage license for his marriage to Sula Turner several years later.  And this is the extent of the information I have been able to locate about Mr. Henry Beebe. Did his first wife die? Did he move away? What happened to his son?

And how did he come to be the town marshal for only three days? The only source I can find for this information is a scribbled note among Harriet Fish’s papers — but no information as to her source for this tidbit.

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.

Did some other associated incorporation paperwork include Beebe’s name as the proposed marshal? Why didn’t his name come up during the nominations at the first council meeting?

As is so often the case, seeking the answer to a historical question often leads us… to more questions.

If you have any additional ideas about Mr. Beebe or Gilman’s first town marshal, I would love to hear them!