On July 3 and 4, 1874, Snohomish County residents gather at Lowell (now part of Everett) to celebrate Independence Day. The steamer Zephyr brings guests to a grand ball and dinner, hosted by Eugene D. and Margaret Smith and Martin and Olive Getchell. That night they return home and are brought back the next day to enjoy the holiday festivities in style.
Celebrating in the Wilderness
Snohomish County’s sparse and scattered population in the 1870s mostly attended to the business of clearing and developing land and building communities. The 1870 United States Federal Census lists the county’s population at 575 in 1870 and 1,386 in 1880. Winter took a heavy toll on the new settlers and a number died, including several children. Few joyful occasions arose that could bring these settlers together.
One such event was hosted by the Smiths and the Getchells of Lowell, in celebration of Independence Day 1874. The celebration was recorded in a handwritten account written by a member of the Snohomish Atheneum Society. The writer observes:
“We had the pleasure of attending a ball at Lowell by E. D. Smith on the night of the 3rd in July. The attendance was very large, the hall spacious and well lighted, the music excellent and the supper abundant and in excellent taste. The steamer Zephyr took most of the passengers from here and brought them back again on the morning of the 4th. The ball was a complete success and gave universal satisfaction.”
Bright Happy Faces
A temporary picnic ground was set up for the occasion, complete with swings for the children. The journal notes continue:
“[B]etween swinging and innocent games of pleasure, the fusillade of firecrackers, the merry shouts and joyous laughter, we concluded that the children were having a red letter day indeed. A bountiful and elegant lunch was appropriately spread upon the grass, to which all did justice. It was better than a play to see the bright, happy faces and graceful fairylike motions of these untrammeled children as their bird like feet tripped through the figures of the dance.”
These rare handwritten journals are archived in the University of Washington’s Special Collections. Preceding the Northern Star, an early territorial newspaper published at Snohomish in 1876, the Atheneum Society notes give us a rare glimpse into an otherwise vanished era.