Teachers remembered at annual Walk Back in Time at Edmonds Cemetery

Annual event is July 25
By Betty Lou Gaeng | Jul 18, 2019
Courtesy of: Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association The picture of the rustic Hunter Schoolhouse was provided by Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association (LAMHA).

The City of Edmonds’ annual Walk Back in Time and Open House returns to Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium 1 p.m. Thursday, July 25. Members of the cemetery board and some of their friends will lead the tour as they introduce and portray former teachers buried at the cemetery.

The historic cemetery is at 820 15th St. SW.

Some of the featured teachers are from the earliest days of Edmonds and its surrounding settlements. Others are more contemporary.

As you walk back in time, the board members and their friends will tell the stories of six of the more contemporary teachers. Some may remember them from their own schooldays: Edward “Ed” Gene Aliverti (1932-2010); Robert B. “Bob” Anderson (1917-2012); Justin Salvatore “Gus” Bonanno (1922-2000); Eleanor J. “Ellie” Bonanno (1928-2014); William “Bill” James Hamilton (1942-2005); and Heine I. Sorensen (1927-1997).

Looking back to earlier days in Edmonds and Lynnwood, what follows are stories of two teachers. They are both pioneers, and are mother and daughter: Flora Arabella Brown Smith and Ethel B. Smith Mowat.

The early years in Edmonds

In 1885, when Wellington and Flora Smith settled in the developing town of Edmonds, they found that the village, originally known as the Ten-Mile Beach Settlement, had just been renamed Edmonds the year before. It would be another five years before it would officially become an incorporated town.

In the southern section of south Snohomish County, 10 miles south of Mukilteo, this small settlement of a few hardy pioneers along the beach of Puget Sound was in its infancy. To the east, an immense forest of giant trees covered the land.

Many years later, the land to the east would become Lynnwood. However, in 1885, the great forests were still silently awaiting the arrival of the homesteaders and the loggers.

The few residents of Edmonds lived in cabins built of logs or rough timber. Even George and Etta Brackett had yet to build their lovely home. According to a newspaper article in a 1935 issue of the Edmonds Tribune Review, Wellington Smith, soon after the family’s arrival, built what was to become known as the first wood-framed house in town.

Located at what is today the northeast corner of Third and Main streets, the Smiths’ two-story home became a haven for many visitors. In 1905, the house and property were sold to Edmonds businessman J. A. Robertson (mayor of Edmonds 1916-17). After his death in 1924, his widow Mary held title, and during its declining years, the house had numerous tenants.

In August 1935, after two years of standing empty, Mrs. Robertson sold the house, and it was then demolished. Later, the Yesteryear Restaurant was located at the site, and in 1968, Claire Petosa opened her popular restaurant, Claire’s Pantry.

The restaurant at 301 Main St. is now under new management. Renamed Claire’s Restaurant, it remains a favorite eating and gathering place for both local residents and visitors.

Flora Arabella Brown Smith: 1852-1916

Flora Brown Smith was born Sept. 17, 1852, in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William T. Brown and Cynthia Scott. In 1876, in Corry, Erie County, Pennsylvania, she married Wellington Freelinghausen Smith and they had two children, both born in Corry – Ethel Smith in 1878 and Allen Vaughn Smith June 2, 1881.

Leaving Pennsylvania and moving west to Edmonds in 1885, the family became pioneers in the new town.

Although Flora never taught in public school, she did become a teacher who made a large impact on the lives of many people. She and Wellington opened their home as the first Sunday school in Edmonds, with Flora the teacher.

With no church in Edmonds, the adults in the community soon joined the children and began attending her Sunday classes. As the town grew, so did Flora’s congregation, and with the need for more room, in 1888 the Congregational Church, the first church in Edmonds, was organized.

For many years, the church with its tall spire was very noticeable on the northeast corner of Sixth and Dayton. Many years later, with some remodeling, mainly the removal of the church’s tall spire and the adding of a basement, the building became the home for Frank Freese’s American Legion Post 66, until it recently moved to a smaller building on the same property.

Flora Smith died December 5, 1916, at 64. She is buried at Edmonds Cemetery next to her husband. Preceding his wife in death by several years, Wellington died in Seattle Jan. 25, 1899, at 53. Their son Allen married and remained an Edmonds resident. He died in 1936 at 55, and is also buried at the cemetery.

Ethel B. Smith Mowat: 1878-1961

Ethel Smith was born Sept. 16, 1878, in Corry, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Edmonds pioneers Wellington Freelinghausen Smith and Flora Arabella Brown. She came with her parents as a 7-year-old girl to settle in the village of Edmonds in 1885.

When Ethel was 18, having completed her own schooling at the Edmonds school, she accepted a position as a teacher in Edmonds School District No. 15. Her assignment was to become the first teacher at a district school located in a very rustic one-room log building. This school opened in 1896 on the northwest section of the 80-acre homestead of Duncan and Jennie Hunter.

Ethel’s salary was the grand sum of $40 per month. The Hunter School predated all the other Edmonds district schools, except, of course, the school in the town of Edmonds. Since only a rough miles-long trail led the way through the still heavily forested land to the east of Edmonds, Smith probably had to make her home in the school building.

Today, the location of the former school is the northwest section of Pioneer Park in Lynnwood on 36th Avenue West, a short three blocks west of busy Alderwood Mall. If you follow the walking path as it circles the park, to the northwest you will pass the spot which once held the old Hunter School.

Because of its poor condition, the school district closed Hunter School in 1904, and eventually it was demolished.

Ethel Smith’s teaching career was not a lengthy one, and on April 26, 1900, at the Edmonds Congregational Church, she married a young man from another early Edmonds family – James Russell Mowat. At age 30, Russell Mowat (his preferred name) was already an established and important figure in the shingle and logging operations around Edmonds and the surrounding area.

Later, he expanded his operations across the sound to Kitsap County and in 1930 the family moved to Poulsbo. Russell Mowat died at the age of 59 on March 18, 1930, in Port Orchard. He is buried at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

After her husband’s death, Ethel Mowat remained in Poulsbo, and for 11 years she owned and operated a women’s dress shop. She sold the shop when she became ill, and nine years before her death, she moved to a rest home in Poulsbo, where she died July 20, 1961, at 82.

She is buried next to her husband at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.


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