Wagner School District

Part 13 of 14: Memories of Long Ago

by Hiram Ellsworth Pearsall

My memories return to the little schoolhouse on the hill; to School District No. 40, now known as Wagner School. I think I have a right to tell about that school, as it was there that my children got their primary grades of learning. I will tell of some of the differences between that time and this. [This article was published in 1944].

My memories start six years before the district was formed [in 1891], when there was but one youngster of school age in the district. I will tell how the district was settled up and needed a school. Now, as I view the many miles of paved highway running across the country in every direction, and see the hundreds of miles of country roads leading to every nook and corner, my memory returns to the only county road in Snohomish County east of Snohomish City. That only road is now the paved highway between Monroe and Snohomish City [the old Monroe-Snohomish Road].

At Park Place, a branch road crossed the Skykomish River by ferry and extended across into the Tualco Valley. The road then ran to Woods Creek, branched again, crossed the creek, went over the hill, and then dropped down into the Skykomish Valley and ended in a settlement then known as Swede Town. William Stockton, a Swede, was an early settler there. When a few more Swedes settled close by, it was known as Swede Town. That branch, is now known as the old Sultan road [Calhoun Road], the other branch extended up Woods Creek to Woods Prairie, now known as the Bosch place.

That 16 miles of road was the only county road east of Snohomish City but what a road! After leaving Cedergreen hill [east of Snohomish], the road to Park Place was mostly through the forest, with many places very narrow and some of the mudholes were corduroyed with split cedar puncheon. I can better illustrate the condition of that only county road by telling a little of my own experience.

The early settlers with families made a practice of laying in a winter’s supply of provisions. That had long been done with canoe up the river. In 1882, the pony trail from Snohomish City was turned into a county road and then some of the settlers used horses and wagons. That hauling had to be done before the rainy season set in or the road to Snohomish City would be impassable.

In the fall of 1886, after Jack Stretch and I came back from the Snoqualmie hop ranch, I had no money to put in that winter supply. But as I had a team of horses and a wagon, I got a job hauling for some of the neighbors that had no team. In that way I got money enough to buy a small supply for the winter.

As I was thinking of going after my supplies, it commenced raining and continued for several days. The river valley was flooded and the road out of Snohomish City was covered with water. One neighbor said we couldn’t get to Snohomish City with a wagon until spring. After a few days, the flood was past and I decided to try and make the trip.

I found plenty of mud but no water until I got near town. There I saw a little running over the road. It looked bad, but I decided to try it. The team was floundering and the front wheels were in the mud. I had to get out and let the whiffletrees loose, then the team managed to get out on solid ground. Then, by attaching a chain to the wagon tongue, the wagon was soon drawn to solid ground and I again started for town.

When I drove up to Comegie’s and Vestral’s store, Mr. Vestral came to the door and looked and began to laugh. It might have been a laughing matter, but I couldn’t see the joke. I was covered with mud from head to foot. The horses and wagon were covered with mud. As Mr. Vestral was still laughing, I said, “Why don’t you people in Snohomish fix the roads so the settlers can get down here to do some trading?”

He only laughed harder and said, “Well, what will you do, there is no other place to go.”

“No, Mr. Vestral, there is no other place to go, but I hope to live to see the time that we won’t have to come to Snohomish to get our supplies.” (And thank God I have.)

I started this wanting to tell about the little schoolhouse on the hill, but this far I only got stuck in the mud. On Feb. 5, 1885, I filed on a claim overlooking the Woods Creek valley. Four years later, the road was accepted as a county road and extended five miles further up in the Woods Creek country.

Again I will say the increase in population in the county all started when the first railroad came into Snohomish County in 1887. In the following two years, many homeseekers were coming up into the Woods Creek country. Many came on foot. Many came with teams to the end of the road which ended in my barn and which some said was the end of navigation.

Some would sleep in the hay in the barn and then take their packs and start up into the great forest. Many took claims and others would return dissatisfied. In 1891, the district was pretty well settled. A number had moved in with their families and they began talking about school. But for a long time nothing was done but talk.

The nearest school was at Park Place. There had been a school there for many years. The early pioneer children that hadn’t grown up moved out of the Park Place District and there weren’t enough left for a school. It was getting along toward fall and something had to be done. There were many children in the district that needed the schooling. They finally met at my home to talk it over. I had been to Snohomish City and had an interview with the county school superintendent. By his ruling, we would have to apply for a new district, elect officers and take a school census. With a certain number of school age, we could draw school funds to build a schoolhouse and hire a teacher. With a limited number of school age, we could draw money for teacher hire and build our own schoolhouse.

The directors elected were Henry Walter, L.R. Hilary, and George Udell. I was elected clerk. These men all had large families of children. On taking the census, we found out we would have to build our own schoolhouse. We had a school district formed and officers elected, but no schoolhouse or a place to build one.

woods schoolAnother meeting was called on ways and means. At that meeting, there were different suggestions made for location. One of the suggestions was to go with me a little way along the country road. I offered to donate an acre to the district. This offer was accepted and they decided to build the schoolhouse by donations. Nearly all donated a little money to buy lumber and windows. The shakes for the roof were split. When the material was all on the ground, we all got together and soon the little schoolhouse on the hill in School District Number 40 was ready for a teacher. Now they call it the Wagner School. George Wagner was here fifteen years too late to help build that little schoolhouse, but was in plenty of time to harvest the great wealth that for hundreds of years was hidden in the great forest of the Woods Creek country.

Barton Reeves was hired to teach the first term in the little schoolhouse. He had thirty pupils enrolled. Some of those pupils walked two miles. The Bonnell boys lived in the Skykomish Valley below Fern Bluff. They walked up over the big hill, down across the Woods Creek valley and up to that little school to try and get a little learning. Ed McDougal was the only boy left in Park Place of school age, and Bob Stretch the only one of school age in what is now Monroe. They had to walk.

Now let us draw a comparison. Today the kids are picked up at their homes and carried in school buses over a good road to school. There they have a $30- or $40,000 gymnasium in which to exercise. But such is progress.

A circumstance happened about ten years later that show how greed for a few dollars can make a fool out of a man and gain him the ill will of his neighbors.

When they accepted my donation of the acre for School District No. 40, I told them to pay for making the deed and I would sign it. Eight years later I sold the old place and the making of the deed was still neglected. My old place changed hands a number of times after I sold it. I was living in Monroe and didn’t know much about the little schoolhouse on the hill until years later. Elmer Odell, one of the directors, came to me in Monroe. He started in by saying, “What will we do? We have decided to build a bigger and better schoolhouse but the man owning your old place says we have no deed to the acre and it belongs to him and if we will give him $75 he will give us a deed.”

Elmer was rather excited and didn’t know what to do. I told him to go back and tell the would-be owner to look at his deed and if that didn’t convince him, to go to Everett and look at the records. That deed described a certain tract of land excepting one acre starting at the county road and running north on a subdivision line sixteen rods, then south, sixteen rods, thence east sixteen rods to place of beginning.

They then came down and paid for a deed which was signed and the new schoolhouse was built to take the place of the little schoolhouse on the hill.

It was about forty years before I heard much about School District Number 40. Then a resident of the district looked me up. He said they were talking of abandoning the district and he didn’t want to see it done. It was to be put to a vote and the man on the old place was working for it as he thought it would revert to him and the schoolhouse would make a dandy barn. He wanted to know if I knew about it. Well, it looked to me that if they abandoned the School District Number 40, I would have an acre of ground with a nice schoolhouse on it as the deed given to the School District Number 40 said, “as long as used for school purposes.”

I may be old fashioned but I think it would be very wrong to abandon a district with so many children. Long may the school district on the hill stand.


–transcribed from the 1944 Monroe Monitor by Nellie Robertson

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