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Everett Neighborhoods: Lowell -- Thumbnail History
HistoryLink.org Essay 8570
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Lowell is located along the west bank of the Snohomish River, south of 41st Street in Everett. Annexed into Everett in the 1960s, Lowell dates to 1863, predating Everett by nearly 30 years. The town was platted in 1873 but never incorporated. The site is believed to have once been a burial ground for the Snohomish tribes. The town’s namesake was Lowell, Massachusetts, the home town of an early settler. Eugene D. Smith set up an early logging camp here and, with his wife Margaret Getchell Smith and Martin and Olive Getchell, began creating a town. Due to its geography and a strong economic base, Lowell has been a self-sufficient community for much of its history, daily life centering around work at the Everett Pulp and Paper Company, the Sumner Iron Works, and the Walton Lumber Mill. Construction of Interstate 5 in the 1960s cut through Lowell and the paper mill closed in 1972, leaving the town with an uncertain future. Lowell is now a residential community with modest homes, a few dating back to the 1890s and early 1900s. Even though Lowell is only a few miles away from downtown Everett, it has retained a sense of its heritage. The year 2013 will mark Lowell’s 150th anniversary.
Snohomish tribes called the place Chi-Cha-dee-a (ccadi?-Hess), and their canoes undoubtedly passed the spot daily on their way upriver to inland locations. The spot was perfect for berry picking and gathering salmonberry sprouts along the river bank in the spring as they were more plentiful here than on the beaches.
The Lowell area does not appear to have been a native settlement area, but there is evidence that it was once a burial ground. In 1892 pioneer Arthur E. Prudden (1855-1939) discovered human relics while clearing to build his own home at the corner of 3rd Street and Main Street. The story was reported in an issue of the Everett News. Prudden contacted Tulalip tribes and returned the relics to them for burial, and the reporter speculated that Lowell may have been a burial site.
Credit is given to Eugene D. Smith (1837-1909) and Margaret Getchell Smith (1840-1909) for the creation of Lowell. Unlike many young men seeking adventure in the west, E. D. Smith appears to have come to the region to engage in logging. It is probable that he followed in the tracks of Pope and Talbot families who were from his home state of Maine. Smith settled in Port Gamble in September of 1858. After four years of logging there, he tried mining in the Caribou, but within the year, he had returned to the Puget Sound and logging.
Partnering with Otis Wilson, Smith worked in the Brown’s Bay area that became Edmonds. By summer of 1863, he established himself at Lowell, claiming land from squatters Frederick Dunbar (1829-1906) and Bellingham Brown (b. ca. 1830). With solid experience behind him by this time, Smith set up a logging camp in Lowell.
Smith’s Logging Camp
At one time Smith operated three logging camps in the region, employing about a hundred men. The Smith camp at Lowell was situated on a hill, about a mile and a half from the river. Here Smith built a timber-planked railroad to transport the huge cut trees out of the woods. A 2,000-foot chute allowed the logs to race rapidly to the river below, and they were transported on the river to regional mills.
Smith chose a location at a bend in the Snohomish River since the bend created an undercutting current that naturally held the log booms against the bank. New residents found it entertaining to watch as the logs dangerously descended from logging camp to the Snohomish River. By the end of the 1880s, Smith had built a $60,000 sawmill, which produced 75,000 feet of lumber per day, and machinery for the production of lath and shingles as well.
Building a Community
Settler Reuben Lowe built a bordello here, but Lowe’s part in Lowell history is much greater than his business establishment. It was Lowe who suggested that Smith name the place for his own home town of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Smith’s logging business was promising enough that he sent for his sweetheart, Margaret Getchell. E. D. and Margaret had not seen each other for 11 years. She traveled alone by schooner from Maine, across to the Isthmus of Panama and then north up the coast to San Francisco, where she and E. D. married in 1869. Although she made the trip alone, she was not without family when she arrived. Brother Martin Getchell (1832-1920) came to the area in the 1850s and helped to clear the land in what became Snohomish City. In the 1860s Martin returned to Maine and stayed only long enough to help move his parents back with him to live permanently in Lowell. The first Getchell home still stands in 2012, across the river from Lowell, on property currently owned by a Getchell descendant. E. D. and Margaret had four children, Lowell, John, Phene, and Cyrus Smith.
By 1870, Lowell was a town. That was the year that Smith built his general merchandise store and when the first post office was established there in 1871, the official name was given as Lowell. Smith was postmaster for the next 21 years. The Smiths (E. D. and Margaret) and the Getchells (Martin and Olive) filed the Lowell plat on May 8, 1873. The plat consisted of 33 blocks with 60 by 120 foot lots. The Smiths seemed to like a good party and frequently hosted holiday gatherings at Lowell. The rare, handwritten notes from members of Snohomish’s Atheneum Society give a glimpse into this otherwise vanished past.
Travel between established towns was mainly by water and the Snohomish River connected Lowell with Snohomish and settlements at Port Gardner Bay. But roads were built as well. The year 1883 was a good one economically, and with excitement over railroad construction and new settlers arriving, Snohomish County boasted of having 140 miles of road leading out of Snohomish City. Two roads connected with Lowell. The Lowell Road ran from the town uphill and eventually connected with a county road at Fiddlers Bluff (between Snohomish and Monroe). The Mukilteo Road ran from Mukilteo, east to Lowell and up the south bank of the Snohomish River to Snohomish City. Out of Snohomish it continued southeast, along the Snohomish and Snoqualmie Rivers to the King County line.
Paper, Iron, and Lumber
For a small community, Lowell has had more than its share of big industry. This strong economic base made it possible for the community to be self sufficient for many decades. E. D. Smith’s logging and mill operations were the beginning. By the time Washington became a state in 1889, Smith owned large land holdings that included Lowell and parts of what became Everett and Marysville. When investors began making plans for Everett, Smith sold 500 acres to the Everett Land Company, the official group of developers that included Tacoma lumberman Henry Hewitt Jr. and John D. Rockefeller. Smith convinced them to put $400,000 into industrial development and the Puget Sound Pulp and Paper Company was born. The company’s name changed over the years, first becoming Everett Pulp and Paper Company soon after the business began, then Simpson Paper Company and Simpson-Lee Paper. But to Lowell and Everett residents, it was simply considered the Lowell Paper Mill.
One of the large corporations that began the Everett development was Sumner Iron Works whose original plant from 1892 was on the east bank of the Snohomish River in Everett. Sumner made heavy machinery for the lumber and mining trades. Fire destroyed the plant in April 1913 and the Sumner brothers, Frank and George, operated temporarily from a vacant plant in Tacoma. A site in Lowell was chosen for a new Sumner Iron Works complex and only eight months after the fire, the company began moving into its new facility. Sumner Iron Works became Black and Clawson (1962) and eventually Acrowood (1985), which in 2012 still produces machinery for the pulp and paper industry and is the oldest continuing industry in Everett. Walton Lumber Company was another long-term business in Lowell. Organized in 1912, the company continued operating until the 1960s. The Walton mill added a walnut veneer plant at this location in 1923. Of these three industries, only Acrowood (Sumner Iron Works) is still (in 2012) operating.
Lowell Community Church
Lowell’s small-town atmosphere led to building a community church in 1891, Smith donating both the land and lumber. Over the years, many of Lowell’s residents have worshiped here and the church hosts community meetings as well.
On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1984, a few years before its 100th birthday, the Lowell Church was burned. In its rehabilitation, the original siding was replaced and various features were remodeled, but despite the changes, the Lowell Community Church is the oldest surviving church building in Everett.
The 1960s and Interstate 5
The construction of Interstate 5 during the 1960s cut through Lowell, eliminating dozens of homes and creating a hostile western boundary for the neighborhood. The highway even ran over the site that had once been Lowell School. Although the school had been demolished in 1952, it remained symbolic in the hearts of many older Lowell residents, who still feel its demise was a result of highway construction.
A burst of town pride gave birth to a park along 3rd Street when members of the Lowell Civic Association volunteered their time to clear land for this purpose. A contest to name the park resulted in its first name “Candy Cane Park.” In 1966 the park was given to the city of Everett and is presently called Lowell Park.
New Directions for Lowell
Although closure of the paper mill at Lowell in the early 1970s at first seemed to devastate the small community, some residents saw opportunity and hope in new beginnings. Properties were cheap and, without industrial smoke, the location was beautiful, with splendid views of the Cascades and Snohomish River.
A trail was built along the waterfront that is used frequently by joggers and strollers. In 2008 the City of Everett planned a $500 million development that was to be called Everett Riverfront. This would have included boat docks, shops, and a movie theater. About 100 acres of the 221-acre project was planned for trails, buffers, open space, wetlands enhancements, and a city park. Many Lowell residents felt the plan was unwise and would be devastating to the character of the neighborhood. The large-scale plan fell victim to the economic collapse in 2008.
In 2012 the Lowell Civic Association is planning to celebrate Lowell’s 150th anniversary of Lowell with a collection project to again survey and document its historic sites (a previous survey was done in the mid 19980s), oral history interviewing of longtime residents, a book, and celebratory events to be held the second weekend in August 2013.
Don Berry, The Lowell Story: A Community History (Lowell: Lowell Civic Association, 1985); Hazel Clark, Lowell Remembered (Lowell: the Lowell Civic Group, 1977); David A. Cameron, Alan May, Charles Le Warne, J. C. O’Donnell, Lawrence O’Donnell, Snohomish County: An Illustrated History (Index: Kelcema Press 2005), 69-70, 94-95; William Whitfield, History of Snohomish County, Washington, Vols. I and II (Chicago, Seattle: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926), Vol. 1: 569-570, 807, Vol. 2: 182-183, 224, 402; William Sidney Shiach, editor, An Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, Their People, Their Commerce and Their Resources, Vol. II (Chicago: Interstate Publishing Company, 1906), 930-931; Anonymous author, Atheneum Society notes, 1874, copies in the Manuscripts Division, University of Washington; David Chircop, “Everett Riverfront Study Raises Concern,” The Herald, March 22, 2008, Local p. 1.
Note: This essay was updated on October 4, 2012.
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Eugene D. Smith and Margaret Getchell Smith, 1906
Courtesy Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties
Map of Mukilteo-Lowell Road, 1897
Courtesy United States Geological Survey
Getchell house, Lowell (later Everett), 1901
Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No. 1040)
Smith's logging camp, Snohomish County, 1880
Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No. 0199)
Bird's Eye view of Everett Peninsula, including Lowell, 1893
Courtesy City of Smokestacks promotional brochure
Grading 2nd Street, Lowell, 1892
Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No. 0102)
Prudden House, Lowell, 1892
Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No. 0716)
Mill workers' cottages, Lowell, 1892
Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No. 0016)
Steamer Alki, Snohomish River at Lowell, 1892
Courtesy Everett Public Library
Church on 3rd Street, Lowell, 1920s
Photo by J. A. Juleen, Courtesy Everett Public Library
3rd Street, Lowell neighborhood, Everett, March 15, 2008
HistoryLink.org Photo by Margaret Riddle
Photo by J. A. Juleen, Courtesy Everett Public Library
Snohomish River (with Getchell house on far shore), Lowell neighborhood of Everett, March 15, 2008
HistoryLink.org Photo by Margaret Riddle