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Brackett, George (1842-1927)
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George Brackett is customarily regarded as the founder of Edmonds (Snohomish County) as well as an early logger in Bothell. Born and raised in eastern Canada, he logged there and in parts of the United States before coming to Seattle about 1870. Searching out new stands of timber, he rowed along the eastern shore of Puget Sound in 1870 and was attracted by the site that became Edmonds. In 1876, he purchased acreage and moved there; meanwhile he logged an area along the Sammamish River at a spot still called Brackett's Landing in present-day Bothell. In 1884 he platted a town, which he named Edmonds; after its incorporation in 1890, he became the first mayor. He operated a mill and a wharf and maintained several businesses in Edmonds and was the first postmaster. He donated property for a school after classes were originally held in his barn. He served several terms on the city council, the last one a few years before he died in Edmonds on December 27, 1927.
Born to Logging
George Brackett was born in eastern Canada (probably in New Brunswick) on May 22, 1841, one of 20 children of Daniel and Mary Brackett. His father was in the lumber business and while in his late teens the son left home and over the next decade logged timber in New Brunswick and then in Wisconsin. He later expressed the thrill and perils of “driving logs over falls and down swift rivers” (“Founder of Edmonds Comes to the End of Life’s Journey”). In 1869 he headed farther west, staying briefly in San Francisco before moving to Washington Territory where he and his brother logged at several locations around Puget Sound. Together they established a logging camp in Ballard, but George soon bought his brother out and logged land in present-day Ballard and Fort Lawton (later Discovery Park). He also secured a land claim at LaConner which he later traded for property in Seattle, all the while acquiring sufficient funds to buy ox teams and more logging equipment.
Scouting out new sources of timber, he is said to have rowed north along the shore of Puget Sound in 1870 and was attracted to a hillside above a marshy area, the eventual site of the town of Edmonds. In 1876 he purchased 140 acres for $560, land that stretched a half-mile along the waterfront and up the hill. Pleasant Ewell had been the first owner of Edmonds shoreline property, but he had sold out to others from whom Brackett made his purchase. Brackett moved there. Within a few years he acquired more land, reaching a total that today encompasses much of the downtown (bowl) area of Edmonds. About this time Brackett also logged at present-day Bothell, headquartered at a site on the Sammamish River that today remains known as Brackett’s Landing. But the Bothell efforts were always secondary to Edmonds and it appears he never lived there.
Although at least two other individuals lived in the immediate Edmonds area, it was Brackett who led toward creating a town. He drained marshy land, built a cabin, and started a logging operation. In 1880 he established the first store in Edmonds and four years later the settlement acquired a post office, with Brackett as postmaster. Two versions vie for the name of the post office and community. One holds that it honors Senator George Franklin Edmunds of Vermont, whom Brackett much admired, with a spelling change that apparently stemmed from a bureaucratic error. The other version, generally considered more likely, has it as a derivation of Point Edwards, located at the town’s southern border, which had originally been named Point Edmund by Lt. Charles Wilkes during the United States Exploring Expedition of 1841.
Meanwhile the population was growing. In 1890 Brackett took the lead in incorporating Edmonds as a fourth-class village, and he became the first mayor (1890-1891). Legend holds that at the incorporation election, his bull and his dog were listed as residents in order to obtain the required 300 necessary to incorporate. Brackett later served several terms on the City Council. He helped to oversee the development of the young town’s streets and infrastructure. The first school was held in Brackett’s barn in 1884 with six students, three of them the Brackett children; he later donated land for a school building at a site that continued to be used for schools over many years and is now the Frances Anderson Center.
When the Great Northern Railway showed interest in building through Edmonds, a newly formed land company bought much of Brackett’s now extensive land holdings. But after making some improvements including construction of a wharf, the company failed, and in its foreclosure Brackett regained the properties along with the improvements. Indeed, Brackett acquired other properties when owners failed during the depressed 1890s. He worked toward securing automobile ferry service at Edmonds, which was accomplished two and a half years before his death. A waterfront park north of and adjacent to the present ferry dock is, like the Bothell park, named Brackett’s Landing.
Life and Legacy
George Brackett and Etta E. Jones, originally from Minnesota, were married on June 20, 1877. For four years, she was the only woman living in Edmonds who was not Native American. They had six children and her home, for some years the largest in the area, hosted social gatherings and prayer meetings. The couple divorced in a bitter contest during the fall of 1905. The 1910 federal census indicates that she later married Edward A. Carpenter. At the time of George Brackett’s death she was living in California and only one of their children remained in Edmonds. Their granddaughter, Eleanor Sill Milholland was born and spent her entire life in the community and was active in several organizations, significantly the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society, until her death on December 12, 2007, less than four weeks after her 100th birthday.
George Brackett died at the age of 85 on December 12, 1927, at his sister-in-law’s home in Edmonds. He is buried at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery. Summarizing his life, the local newspaper called Brackett “a potent factor in the building of a modern city. He realized the dream of his life and lived to see the forest cut into timber, land cleared, streets built, houses erected, and business blocks constructed on the ground which he once owned and cleared with his own hands, with the aid of ox teams” (“Founder of Edmonds Comes to the End of Life’s Journey”).
Ray V. Cloud, Edmonds, the Gem of Puget Sound: A History of the City of Edmonds (Edmonds, WA: Edmonds Tribune-Review Press, 1953); Robert Hitchman, Place Names of Washington (Tacoma: Washington State Historical Society, 1985), 80, 233; Michael Plunkett, “Who Founded the Bowl? No, Not George Brackett,” Edmonds Beacon, June 15, 2006, p. 2; William Whitfield, History of Snohomish County, Washington, Vol. 2 (Chicago and Seattle: Pioneer Publishing Company, 1926), 682-685; “Founder of Edmonds Comes To the End of Life’s Journey,” Edmonds Tribune-Review, December 30, 1927, p. 1; “Historic Edmonds: Brackett’s Landing,” The Enterprise (Edmonds, WA), February 19, 1973, p. 13; “Eleanor Sill Milholland,” The Seattle Times, December 13, 2007, p. B-7; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Wilkes, Charles (1798-1877)” (by Junius Rochester), and “Edmonds is incorporated on August 11, 1890,” (by Alan Stein), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed January 29, 2008); Miscellaneous items in “Brackett Family File,” Edmonds Historical Museum.
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George Brackett (1842-1927), city council portrait, 1905
Courtesy Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society (Image 201.7)
Brackett Mill, Edmonds, 1889
Courtesy Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society (Image 141.5)
George (1842-1927) and Etta Brackett on the porch of their home in Edmonds, ca. early 1900s
Courtesy Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society (Image 181.2)
George Brackett (1842-1927), founder of Edmonds, 1926
Courtesy Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society (Image No. 201.4)
George Brackett (1842-1927), ca. 1880s
Courtesy History of Snohomish County
George Brackett (1842-1927) holding a salmon on the Edmonds beach, n.d.
Courtesy Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society (Image No. 201.5)
Grave of George Brackett, Edmonds Memorial Cemetery, ca. 2008
Photo by Joni Sein, Courtesy Edmonds-South Snohomish Historical Society