Friday, June 13, 2014

Mr. & Mrs. Forbes Come to Juanita Bay

Eliza and Dorr Forbes came west from Iowa in the 1870s and settled at Juanita Bay.
The story of Juanita’s “first family” was first preserved back in the late 1930s. With a pen and the back of an envelope, the late Dorris (Forbes) Beecher sat on a porch with her grandmother, Eliza (Waggener) Forbes (1849-1942), and began recording the historic Forbes saga. Though Eliza was getting old (she had been widowed for nearly two decades) her mind was clear and sharp.

Mrs. Beecher’s first name was spelled Dorris rather than the conventional Doris, to honor her late grandfather, Dorr. Eliza and her husband Dorr Forbes (1841-1919) arrived on Seattle’s primitive waterfront in 1877 with two young sons and all their belongings. In 1861, at age 20, and in the first year of the Civil War, Dorr enlisted and served as a mounted scout and sharpshooter with E Company of the 33rd Illinois Infantry Regiment of Volunteers—a battle-hardened unit which saw considerable action, including the Siege of Vicksburg. He was wounded in action and discharged in 1863.
After the war, Dorr moved to Iowa where he became a cattle buyer and farmer. There, he met a young teacher, Eliza Ann Waggener. The two married in 1874 and were soon planning their move west. In 1876 the couple and their young son, Ray, boarded an emigrant train in Knoxville, Iowa, and rode the train for two weeks until it finally reached Sacramento, California.

The family then boarded a ship in San Francisco and traveled north to Hillsboro, Oregon where they took up residence in a log cabin. Shortly thereafter a second son, Leon, was born. Eliza and the boys remained at the cabin, but Dorr made a trip north to scout the opportunities in Puget Sound country. He returned with a favorable report and the family took a boat to Kalama, Washington, then a train to Tacoma, where they boarded a Seattle-bound steamer. They stayed overnight in Seattle, then a rough-and-tumble logging town and seaport, at the old New England Hotel.  

This is what Eliza and Dorr Forbes saw from the old New England Hotel on their first day in Seattle in 1877. This 1875 photo taken looks up First Avenue from South Main Street. Seattle was then a rough-and-tumble western lumber town and seaport. The hill was called Denny’s Knoll and has been softened somewhat through regrading since that time. The highest building, with the cupola, was the old Territorial University, the earliest incarnation of the University of Washington, which did not move to its present Portage Bay location until 1895.

The next day, the family hauled their possessions by horse drawn wagon over the hill to Lake Washington to a spot derisively called Fleaburg—today’s Leschi—a flea-infested Native American settlement with only one permanent cabin. There they loaded everything onto a steamer so tiny Eliza told Dorris years later that it “looked more like a ship’s boat.”
The steamer chugged north, and Eliza said her apprehension about the move melted when she first laid eyes on Juanita Bay. She said there wasn’t a soul in sight, just a beautiful bay surrounded by giant trees. She said she knew at that moment that Juanita was where she wanted to live.

The family’s first home site was near the northwest corner of the intersection of what became N.E. 116th Street and 100th Avenue N.E. They had one neighbor, Martin Hubbard. Although at that time the community was called Hubbard, the name Juanita was coming into use. Their first house had already been constructed in Seattle, and they had it hauled to the foot of Madison Street and then barged it across the lake and dragged it up to its final position, which must have been quite a task. During their first year in Juanita they had a third son, Allen. The small community was soon joined (in 1877) by Charles and Mary Dunlap (1850-1908) and their four children. Charles Dunlap (1846-86) was also a Union Army veteran who had fought with I Company of the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Dunlap worked as a school teacher. The Forbes and Dunlap families had known each other in Iowa. 

In the early 1880s, Dorr attempted to raise cranberries on additional property they homesteaded on Rose Hill at Forbes Lake. He lost his war with the beavers and sold that property in 1889 to the Kirkland Land & Improvement Company. It later became the site of the Great Western Iron & Steel Works.

In addition to his shingle mill, Dorr Forbes was a logger. He had a contract to cut cordwood, which was used to fuel the early Lake Washington steamboats.  
 Eliza gave birth to their fourth son, Leslie, or “Les” as he was known, in 1886 at their first home. Soon thereafter the couple built a second home off today’s 97th Avenue N.E., and Dorr built a shingle mill nearby on Juanita Creek. Hubbard worked there with him, and the two also logged trees from Finn Hill and the surrounding area.

Dorr and Eliza built their house, seen as 1880s. It was their second house at Juanita, off 97th Avenue N.E. When it burned in 1905, the couple built a new home on the same property.
View looking south at Lake Washington in 1913, down today’s 97th Avenue N.E., then called Bothell Road. The Forbes home was on the right, at their mailbox.
Among their friends were other noted Eastside pioneers, Ole (1837-1914) and Marit Josten (1840-1913), who homesteaded 160 acres at the site of today’s Juanita High School; Bothell founders, David (1820-1905) and Mary Anne Bothell (1823-1907); and Woodinville founders Ira (1833-1906) and Susan Woodin (1848-1919). Like Dorr Forbes, both men were Union Army veterans. Mrs. Beecher said her grandmother and fellow pioneer woman Susan Woodin were good friends. Susan Woodin often walked from her homestead in what became Woodinville, to stay overnight at the Forbes home and then the next day cross the lake to Seattle by rowboat or canoe, where she landed at the foot of Madison Street, and then walked the three miles to downtown Seattle to sell butter. Then she walked back to the lake, crossed by small boat, stayed overnight at the Forbes place, and from there walked back home. Susan Woodin, a tough example of a pioneer woman, was also Woodinville’s postmistress.

Eliza said during her early years that she was frightened one day when a group of Indians showed up at her door. They were migratory group, however, with peaceful intentions. All they wanted was to warm their feet at the stove inside. 

On January 23, 1887 Eliza was the first woman elected justice of the peace on the west coast. In Washington Territory women could vote before it was possible in most of the rest of country. When Washington became a state in 1889, women lost that right and Eliza had to step down from office. She remained a political activist and had a large photograph of Teddy Roosevelt prominently displayed in her living room. She frequently attended Republican Party meetings in Seattle. Mrs. Beecher recalled that once when Eliza was in her late 80s she made the trip across the lake to one party function and fell and broke her arm. Undaunted, she returned home and her daughter-in-law, Alicia Forbes, got Dr. George Davis to splint the broken arm. But Eliza stubbornly refused to wear the splint. Despite her uncooperation, her arm healed perfectly.

In her later years, a Forbes family member typically provided transportation for Eliza, but if a family member was not available, she didn’t let that stop her. She’d call the jitney (taxi) in Kirkland to come pick her up and take her to the ferry so she could attend Republican Party meetings. When she was in her 90s, her sons asked the jitney operators to refuse to fetch her when she called. This did not stop her. One time she disappeared, causing her family to launch a search. They heard from a neighbor that he’d seen her out on the road hitching a ride to the ferry. Eliza Forbes did what Eliza Forbes wanted to do.

Another time, again in her later years, Eliza disappeared for the day, but returned very excited. As a young woman in the 1800s she’d had a dream one night that she was flying in a machine that carried passengers through the sky. This dream was years prior to the first powered flight. Eliza disappearance turned out to be a visit to Seattle where she flew in an airplane to Bremerton and back. She claimed the experience was her dream coming true. At the time of her adventure, few Kirkland-area residents and certainly no other member of the Forbes family had flow in an airplane. This feisty pioneer grandma was the first. 

King County owned the 1905 Forbes house from 1956 until 2002, when the City of Kirkland acquired Juanita Beach Park. The family extensively remodeled it in 1937, so its appearance has changed since 1905, but it still stands on its original site at 11829 97th Ave. N.E. Mrs. Beecher said her grandparents planted the fruit trees around the home, which still produce fruit.

The 1905 Forbes house seen in June, 1959. To the right of the house the apple trees Dorr and Eliza planted in the 1880s can be seen, and in the above photo, too. Eliza liked to sit on the porch and shoot robins from those very trees with her .22 rifle. Sadly, the apple orchard was destroyed by King County Parks Dept.
 Mrs. Beecher said that even into her pioneer grandmother’s senior years she caught fish in Juanita Creek, then a thriving salmon stream as well as home to trout and other edible species. She also picked stinging nettles, dandelions, and wild berries, all of which were a regular part of their diets. Mrs. Beecher said Eliza also enjoyed sitting on porch and shooting robins from her fruit trees with a .22 rifle. Pioneers considered robin’s breast a culinary delicacy. She lived the life of a rugged, individualistic pioneer, right up to her death in 1942.

Eliza and Dorr Forbes are interred at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery, on the Washelli side (east of Aurora Ave) .

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Percy Boarts won his wings.

Percy Frederick Boarts is interred at the Kirkland Cemetery.
As another Memorial Day weekend comes to an end, we at the Kirkland Historical Foundation  were gratified to see so much emphasis on the true meaning of what was once called 'Decoration Day', for the tradition of communities turning out to clean up their local cemeteries and decorate the graves of fallen military personnel.
Memorial Day is about honoring those who died in military service, but it is important to remember that in most of our past wars, many, many died not in battle but from sickness and disease that but for their military service they would not likely have been exposed to.
Battlefield or other combat deaths are the stuff of movies an adventure novels, but often the huge numbers who died in much less romantic ways might be forgotten, were they not honored today.
Case in point was young Percy Fredrick Boarts. Percy had come as a youngster with his family from PA and they settled near Issaquah, He and his family members were mentioned a few times in the 'Issaquah Press Newspaper', in the context of the who visited whom, who was ill, who had company visiting their home types of stories common to small town newspapers during that era. One 1911 story mentioned that he was attending the Acme Business College, located in Seattle. He would have been about 16 then, but this was an era when graduation from the 8th grade was often a significant achievement and study at what was essentially a private, business-focused high school was a great way to get marketable business skills.
On November 6,1916, Percy married Nora Brooks, of Kirkland. Her parents, Emery "EA" and Annabelle 'Belle" (Patty) Brooks, had come to Kirkland around 1891, during the Peter Kirk steel mill boom years (~1888-93) and quickly entered the grocery business. They were very hard-working and did well, even through the depression--the 'Panic of '93--and after changing the location of their 'Pioneer Grocery' a few times over the years, constructed in 1905 the Brooks Building, which still stands at 611 Market Street.

Record show that EA Brooks often owned owned property in Kirkland, Seattle and elsewhere and it seems likely that he would hold notes on real estate as collateral to secure credit in his store.
On April 6, 1917, the US entered the bloody carnage that had been raging in muddy European trenches since 1914: World War I.
President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Selective Service Act of 1917 on May 18 of that year  and Percy's draft registration card, dated June 5, 1917, reveals that he and Nora at that time living and working on a Gold Bar farm, owned by her parents. Percy, then 21-years-old, sought exemption from the draft, citing "dependents" as the reason, though the two did not have any children. He was not exempted, however, and entered service in the US Army.

Aviation had come a long, long way between the virtual motorized, unarmed kites used at the outbreak of the war in 1914, to the fast, deadly SPAD S.XIII French-built biplane fighter used by the US with its lethal, synchronized .303 caliber Vickers machine guns.

Just after Thanksgiving, 1917, flight cadets began reporting for duty at Rich Field, near Waco, TX, a newly constructed flight training facility. It was associated with the new Camp MacArthur, a very large primarily infantry training camp opened in July, 1917. This would have been an exciting, cutting edge and glamorous military specialty to have been entering, by that time the public on both sides of the war was enthralled by the tales of the brave young dogfighting knights of the air and their dashing exploits even served to entertain the men on the ground, hunkered down in the miserable, soggy trenches.
We are no sure of the exact date that Private Percy Frederick Boarts arrived at Rich Field for his 8-week flight cadet training course, but he was assigned to the 377th Aero Squadron of the Army's Air Service, Signal Corps (Yes, what ultimately became its own branch of military service, the US Air force, began in 1908 as a subdivision of the US Army Signal Corps. This is largely because the airplane was seen at first as primarily a mans of watching enemy troop movements, but unarmed observers quickly began firing pistols, and then rifles, at each other and soon the airplane has adopted a direct role in combat). In WWI, enlisted men were admitted to flight training, so it was not unusual that Percy arrived for training as a private first class.
Though Percy Boarts is not in this photo of soldiers at Rich Field, we seen men he served with at the time and a little insight as to where he spent the last weeks of his life. 
An abandoned Rich Field hangar decades after the war, it as demolished in the 1960's. 

A wartime shot of barracks at Camp MacArthur, c.1917.
What we do know is that the living conditions in the barracks were such that the aspiring airman from the small, fourth-class town of about 600 souls on the east shore of Lake Washington got sick. First a bad cough, then fever. He was admitted to the Camp MacArthur base hospital on Saturday, February 2, 1918 and he did not get any better, he got even sicker. In 1918, medical technology was still quite crude -- for example, antibiotics would not enter widespread use for another 25 years or so. There was not much doctors of that time could really even do.
A Curtiss JN-4 'Jenny' trainer assigned to Rich Field when Percy Boarts was stationed there. Post war, surplus Jenny aircraft were the plane of choice for the barnstormers who enthralled crowds during the 1920s.
Percy Boarts' death certificate.
It is not yet known whether Nora or Percy's other family members back home in Kirkland even knew of his hospitalization. We do know that at 12:02 AM on Thursday, February 7, that a base hospital doctor, 1st Lt J.W. Henry, declared PFC Percy F. Boarts, A.S, S.C. dead of  Bronchopneumonia. He was 22 years, one month and one day old and he left behind a 20 year-old widow.
His father, John Boarts, of Kirkland, provided the additional details to the Army for his death certificate. His body was shipped home to Kirkland, where he was interred in the Kirkland Cemetery near his late brother-in-law, Robert R. Wiley, who had died in 1916 at age 27, a Seattle Police Officer who, along with his partner, Sgt. John F. Weedin, 45, was gunned down when the two came across a burglary in progress when they were off duty and headed home. Wiley's widow was Etta Mary (Brooks) Wiley, Nora's sister.
Nora remarried Leslie Burgess of Yakima in 1919 and moved there with him, where the two had three daughters. Nora died in 1958 and was laid to rest in Yakima.

There are still a great number of Emery and Belle Brooks' descendents living in and around Kirkland today.   

Percy died while trying to earn these wings in life. If you look closely at the top of his grave marker you can see that he received them posthumously.
 NOTES: The unit on Percy's death certificate is listed as the 337th Aero Squadron. This seems to be an error, the 337th was not near Camp MacArthur. Percey's marker states "377th Aerial Squadron" (sic) and other documents put him in the 377th Aero Squadron, which was at Rich Field and Camp MacArthur. 

I have not been able to locate a photo of Percy in life, nor does there seem to be a surviving image of his brother-in-law, Robert Wiley. If you are a family member and have any of these men, we would like to scan it to make it available for further research efforts, please drop us a line!