Finding a home at Edmonds' Holmes Corner
You may have driven through the intersection of 76th and 212th for years – which is undergoing major renovation beginning April 10 – and not know a thing about its history as Holmes Corner.
Jim Underhill sure didn’t when he and his wife moved to his house on 215th Street SW in 1996.
One day, he met a neighbor who had lived on the street since it was built in 1958 who referred to “Holmes Corner” when riffing on the neighborhood’s history.
“I had no idea what she meant by this name,” Underhill said. “Who was Holmes and why would anyone think much of the guy?”
Intrigued, Underhill – who you might guess is a history buff – dug into the city’s history. He had to learn about the man who the intersection was named after: Samuel Holmes.
“In sum,” said Underhill, who in 2015 published a booklet titled “Samuel and Anna Holmes: Edmonds Pioneers,” “Holmes was strongly linked to local and Snohomish County history during most of his adult lifetime, having been elected twice to the post of deputy assessor for the county.”
With information in hand, Underhill started a campaign to bring recognition to his adopted neighborhood. It took years of “pestering the city to say it’s a historic place,” but he was finally successful, finding an ally in former City Councilmember Michael Plunkett, who helped create the Edmonds Historical Preservation Commission.
Today, there are two signs at the intersection reading “Holmes Corner City Pioneer Samuel Holmes 1853-1918.”
There also is a plaque on the north side of Edmonds Stadium at the high school recognizing the pioneers: “Edmonds Pioneers Samuel & Anna Holmes. The E-W campus is the site of the earliest known homestead east of the Edmonds waterfront. Established by the Holmes (sic) in 1887, the 40-acre site included a ranch, dairy, sawmill and a cozy house for they (sic) and their four children. The surrounding community is still called ‘Holmes Corner.’”
The grammatically challenged marker was dedicated in September 2008 by the “Edmond (sic) -South Snohomish County Historical Society.” (Also grammatically challenged and sporting unnecessary quote marks – gee whiz.)
According to an Edmonds Beacon article from 2008, Holmes family members traveled from Tacoma, Shoreline, Sequim, and Gresham, Oregon, for the dedication.
The article mentioned that Bert Holmes, then 84, came up from Tacoma. He never knew his grandfather Sam, he said, but he remembered his grandmother Anna as a great woman who always had a smile on her face.
“Edmonds values its neighborhoods,” Underhill said in the article. “We have a vibrant business community built around this location, with lots of people flowing in and out daily from the high school. We have substantial buildings in the high school and nearby Stevens Hospital (now Swedish-Edmonds), and now we have a clearer idea of its place in our local history.”
So what did Underhill learn about the pioneering family?
It’s documented that Samuel, born in 1853, and his second wife, Anna (Samuel had a “wandering eye,” it’s been told) arrived in Edmonds in 1886 – four years before the city was incorporated – by way of Woodbine, Iowa.
Holmes was, by trade, both a veterinarian and a butcher. As they arrived by steamer, one of the few who arrived to greet them was none other than George Brackett, the founder of Edmonds, who invited the couple to live in his house.
After a few months, with deed in hand, Samuel and Anna headed eastward, hiking two miles up a steep hill through the woods to where they would make their homestead along an established route called Indian Trail. He found the spot, felling trees to build his house, a ranch, a sawmill and the Deer Creek Creamery.
The site is a little different today: It’s home to Edmonds-Woodway High School, which is why the historical society placed the plaque there.
Samuel and Anna had four children and, while Samuel became known as a pioneer, businessman and politician, Anna raised four children – who would play in the woods and fish and swim at nearby Chase Lake – and taught numerous Edmonds students to play the piano.
Several of the Holmeses’ children were in the earliest high school classes in the city. One picture, from 1909, shows Guy and Anna Holmes in an Edmonds High School photo with friends such as Edith Brackett and Frances Anderson (of Frances Anderson Center fame). Guy was a member of the high school’s first football team, and would go on to serve on the Sequim City Council.
Samuel Holmes may have been an important pioneer, but his life came to a tragic end. In 1918, it was reported that he had attempted to kill Sevilla Salyer, a new resident who had just purchased the entire Holmes homestead.
After Holmes chased her around the house and attacked her, Salyer was able to escape. Holmes then committed suicide by pointing a gun to his head and pulling the trigger.
Jim Underhill’s “Samuel and Anna Holmes: Edmonds Pioneers” booklet (with a cover illustration by noted Edmonds artist Andy Eccleshall), is available for $13 by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the information for this article is also from the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Committee.