Emory C. Ferguson Recalls Early Days in Snohomish County

  • By Emory C. Ferguson
  • Posted 2/19/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8492
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Often referred to as the patriarch of Snohomish, Emory C. Ferguson (1833-1911) was a pioneer who followed the same routes as many early adventurers who came West in the late 1850s.  He first searched for gold but found better money selling goods to the prospectors and soon traveled north to join with others building roads and settlements in the Pacific Northwest.  Ferguson chose for himself land that eventually became the city of Snohomish where he stayed for the rest of his life.   Here he served as  postmaster, mayor, realtor, saloon keeper, store proprietor, legislator -- even justice of the peace -- and was on hand to give birth to Snohomish County when it was formed in January of 1861.  A well-loved pioneer figure in his senior years, "Old Ferg" helped to humorously craft his own image through his writings and after-dinner speeches in which he depicted himself as a rugged pioneer once living alone in the wilderness.  The following accounts, collected by Margaret Riddle, were taken from early Snohomish County newspapers.

From the Snohomish Daily Sun (December 19, 1889, p. 1)

Snohomish in its Early Days

Among the interesting features of the program at the Wranglers last evening was the following ten minute extemporaneous speech by the Hon. E. C. Ferguson as taken by the Sun's stenographer.

“Ladies and Gentlemen -- I have had very little time to prepare, or think over this subject so I will have to tell it just as it comes to mind. Snohomish County was up to about the year 1860 a part of Island County. At about that time it was separated from Island and the present county of Snohomish was created. I don’t know there was any reason for doing so unless there were more politicians than counties and the matter was adjusted by making another county rather than killing some of the politicians.

The first election, I think was held in June for the purpose of deciding whether the county seat should remain at Mukilteo, then the largest town in the county. The election was a very hot one and owing to the large settlement which had located up on the Snohomish River they succeeded in moving the county seat from the metropolis to its present location. The vote after a long and tedious count was determined to be ten for Mukilteo and eleven for Snohomish.

Our mail facilities were not so good in those days as they are now. The mail used to be sent up from Mukilteo by anyone who chanced to be coming up and left at my house and I would distribute it to the settlers who lived up the river. But one day I saw an Indian coming up in his canoe and thinking he might have mail I went down to meet him and he handed me a bunch of papers among which was a large envelope addressed to me. I opened it and found that it was my commission to act as postmaster at Snohomish and I said “three cheers for the new post master,” and I whooped her up all by myself. But upon examining the papers I found this clause: ‘You will defray the expenses of carrying the mail from Snohomish to Mukilteo out of the proceeds of your office and send the balance to this office.’ Well, I presume there were about three letters a month mailed at my office and I thought the balance would be coming to me, but I went to work and made arrangements with the postmaster at Mukilteo that when he got a chance to send me the mail by anyone coming up an I would watch my chance and send it down to him when I caught anyone going down that way. So at the end of the quarter we actually had a surplus of 27 cents and promptly remitted it to Washington, D.C. By return mail and in those days it took a good while to return, I received another big envelope and was informed that thereafter the Government of the United States would defray the expenses of carrying the mail between Mukilteo and Snohomish and I said ‘Three cheers for the new post office,’ and I whooped it up again all by myself. The first white family came to Snohomish about ’64 from Oregon and lived in my house for a short time but being a little fastidious I guess, they didn’t like the society of this community at that time and so returned to Oregon.”

The audience was anxious for Mr. Ferguson to go on, but he said it would take all night to tell a small part of the story of the early life in Snohomish and that he might as well quit where he was.

From the Everett Daily Herald (February 6, 1902, p. 4)

Hon. E. C. Ferguson

Who Built the First House in Snohomish


Hon. Emory C. Ferguson has been identified with the history of Snohomish from its earliest days and is deeply interested in all that contributes to the growth and prosperity of the now pleasant little city, so commonly spoken of as the Garden City of the Sound. He is full of many interesting little reminisces of the early days of Snohomish and it is always pleasant to meet and converse with him on those historic matters so closely interwoven with the history of his own life for over 42 years. In a recent interview, Mr. Ferguson said:

“I remember well the first Fourth of July celebration in Snohomish,” said Mr. Ferguson with a twinkle in his eye. “It was in ’61 and on the day, without following any preliminary or elaborate program, I took the old Yeger musket that the government furnished in those days to its frontier army -- and going outside, blazed away volley after volley till I thought the day had been suitably observed, and then returned the old musket to its accustomed corner. It was a patriotic observance of the day,” said Mr. Ferguson, “though there was no one present or within hearing but myself, to participate,” and he smiled as he recalled this reminiscence of “early days in Snohomish.”

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