Frederick, Fay (Swick) (1891-1959): a Biography by her Great Grandson

  • By Gordon Padelford
  • Posted 5/23/2002
  • Essay 3793
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This biography of Fay Swick Frederick, wife of the founder of Frederick & Nelson's Department Store, was written by her great grandson, Gordon Padelford. Gordon Padelford is 13 years old at this writing (May 2002).

Fay Frederick

Fay Swick (Detmering) Frederick my great-grandmother, was born in Salem, Oregon on September 6, 1891. She lived in Dayton and Portland, Oregon. Her father, Mr. Benjamin F. Swick, was described in the newspaper accounts of her wedding as being "a wealthy retired farmer." Her family was called "one of the most prominent Willamette valley families."

This story of her marriage to my great grandfather, D. E. Frederick, gets a little juicy for several reasons. First she claimed to be a widow, but some doubt this version because she most likely divorced her former husband. Second at that time divorce was seen on the same sinister level as suicide. Third, it is family knowledge that she destroyed many records of her life so she could not be found out. Fourth they were 31 years apart in age; she was 24 when they married and he was 55.

She knew D. E. because she had a good friend in Seattle, Mrs. A. S. Kerry, who introduced the couple. They knew each other for 12 years before they got married in December 23, 1915. The wedding was totally secret until they were in Oregon. Not even his closest business associates knew D. E. was getting married. They were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Portland and were only witnessed by Charles H. Farrell (a Seattle lawyer) and the bride's parents. For their honeymoon they went to Florida, California, and Cuba and then they went to their home in the Highlands in Seattle in March of 1916.

Mrs. Frederick was a fairly strict person but she loved her grandchildren and would often bring them sweets, much to the dismay of their parents (my grandparents). She also held an annual Christmas ball with Scottish dancing and bagpiping in the beginning. She also was a "patron of arts" said The Seattle Times and a member of the Seattle Garden Club, the Sunset Club, the Seattle Tennis Club, the Seattle Historical Society, and the Music and Art Foundation.

Mrs. Donald Edward Frederick died on June 26, 1959. Even though her husband had died many years before, she had one daughter, Fay (my grandmother), and five grandchildren to look after her remains. Thank you for reading this unusual biography.


University of Washington Archives, Padelford Family Papers, Accession number 3359-87-3; The Bulletin of the University of Washington No. 1 (June 1901); Clippings, The Seattle Times.

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