Sunday, February 26, 2017

Apples along the tracks

A visit to the Northwest Railway Museum provides you with an opportunity to connect with other local history.  As you ride the train, look closely and you can see history of the Snoqualmie Valley all around you: The rock cut at Snoqualmie Falls.  Landmark buildings along the main streets of downtown North Bend and Snoqualmie. Farmers, native meadows, and bogs. The original road between North Bend and Snoqualmie that parallels the track. In short, the valley's own railroad is intimately tied to the history that surrounds it. Recently the story behind another one of those sights was rediscovered, the story of an historic apple orchard that predates the track.  But first, some history.

European settlers come to the valley

The Snoqualmie Valley has been home of the Snoqualmie People since time immemorial. However, in 1855 there were two major events that would forever change the landscape. In January, the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed by tribal representatives granting their land to the United States, which allowed American settlers to move into the Snoqualmie Valley. In August, Frederick W. Lander's Pacific Railroad Survey party successfully surveyed Snoqualmie Pass. These two events laid foundation for the railway's arrival in the Valley. 

When the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed, tribal members were required to relocate from their home villages to several small reservations around the Territory. Within weeks of the signing, word spread among the Native Americans that their leaders had signed their land away.  There was unrest and rumors of potential war.  Snoqualmie Chief Patkanim decided to ally the Snoqualmie People with the Washington Territorial forces because he believed that joining with the stronger force might better ensure the survival of their people. He worked with his council and convinced Chief Saniwa to support the American side if there was to be a war.

In 1856, just a year after the treaty was signed, settlers in Seattle feared that the Yakama were going to come over Snoqualmie Pass and attack Seattle.  Twenty-five Washington Territory Militia men and seventy-five Snoqualmie Soldiers were selected to guard the pass from potential attack.  They built five small forts in the Valley next to several of the Snoqualmie villages.  Two minor skirmishes occurred, but the rumored invasion never happened. The forts were abandoned in the fall, but the next spring several of the militia men returned and set up farms, likely on pre-existing Snoqualmie fields.

Two years later, in 1858, Jeremiah Borst settled at present-day Meadowbrook (in Snoqualmie).  Borst had earlier passed through the valley while en-route to visit his sister Diana Collins on the Duwamish River (present-day Seattle) and it made an impression on him. Collins and her family had arrived in Seattle in 1851 as the first American party to settle in what is now King County, followed shortly thereafter by the now famous Denny party. Within a decade, Jeremiah Borst’s niece Lucinda Collins Fares and her husband Joseph also moved to the Valley, along with her brother Stephen Collins.

Lander’s 1854 survey of the Snoqualmie Pass (a component of the Pacific Railroad Survey) laid the ground work for the Snoqualmie Valley’s connection to the outside world.  Prior to the 1860s, travelling to the Snoqualmie Valley was no easy task.  There were two common modes of travel to Seattle: 1) a two week canoe journey down the Snoqualmie River to the Snohomish River to Everett followed by a sea-going journey from Everett to Seattle on the Puget Sound waterways, and 2) a multi-day overland hike on paths barely passable to horses over the hills and mountains between Fall City and Issaquah, and then a series of canoe journeys and hikes from Lake Sammamish, the Black River and Lake Washington.  

Stories tell of Borst hiking from Duwamish to the Valley with loads of apple saplings on his back to plant his first orchard on Meadowbrook Farm.  (The remains of the original Borst orchard on Meadowbrook were destroyed in the early 2000s when Mount Si High School redeveloped the sports fields.) He used the apples he harvested to feed hogs and then shipped salted hams by canoe to Everett and then on to Seattle. With Lander’s and other subsequent surveys, transportation was simplified in 1865 with the construction of the Snoqualmie Pass Wagon Road. This road construction was led by Borst and Arthur Denny, and allowed rough wagon travel between the Valley and Seattle in just two days.

During this era Jeremiah Borst became one of the largest land holders in the area. He loaned money to settlers to help them homestead, but then took over their properties as repayment if they could not make it. In 1867, Joseph and Lucinda Fares homestead land, later known as Tollgate, was improved by constructing a house and converted the remains of one of the 1856 forts into their barn.

In 1883 the road over the pass was improved and converted into a toll road.  The Fares farm became the western toll station thereby earning the name Tollgate Farm.  That same year, Jeremiah Borst purchased the property to help Lucinda Fare - who was in a deteriorating marriage - stay on at the farm. At that time, Borst constructed at least two additional houses on the Tollgate property, including one in what is today the triangular property between North Bend Way, the railroad tracks and the NW 8th railroad crossing.  During the period of the Fares-Borst family occupation of Tollgate Farm, the family operated a dairy, and also had an orchard. Lucinda was infamous for selling her sometimes rancid butter to the miners in Newcastle. Borst’s assistance was short lived, in 1886 Lucinda passed away shortly after her brother.  In 1890, Borst also passed and the farm underwent a series of owners prior to the Winlock Miller family taking it over. Many of the references to the orchard were from the Miller ownership period, so the date of orchard planting remains unknown. The next farm over was owned by Mose Morse and leased to the Kenos Branam family. They also had an orchard.

Snoqualmie gets a railroad

In 1884 news that the Northern Pacific Railroad would terminate at Tacoma instead of Seattle led to incorporation of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway.  Seattle's railroad was formed to build track between Seattle and Walla Walla via Snoqualmie Pass.  This planned railroad would help ensure Seattle remained the economic center of the Northwest, but would also put the Snoqualmie Valley on the map by creating improved access. 

Borst was excited about the new railroad and in anticipation platted the town of Fall City on some of his property holdings in the lower Snoqualmie Valley. In 1889 William Taylor - friend and former employee of Borst - platted North Bend.  Meanwhile stakeholders in the railway formed the Snoqualmie Land Improvement Company and platted Snoqualmie as a tourist destination. The railroad was surveyed to pass over the former Stephen Collins property (just Railroad East of the Stone Quarry between the current Railway History Center Campus and North Bend Way) and through the south part of Tollgate Farm including right through the middle of their orchard. 

The orchard rediscovery

For many years the exact location of the orchard had been lost, though there were scraps of evidence including seedling trees along North Bend Way, and orchard references in historical documents.  Yet the original trees were assumed to be long gone. 

Recently, local historians were exploring the Tollgate Farm to validate research conducted for the Tollgate Farm Park development plan.  In a "eureka" moment, they realized that the apple trees along the railroad tracks were not seedlings but part of the original apple orchard. Some of the evidence: the trees are all heritage varieties, of a substantial size, were obviously planted in surveyed rows, and are bisected by the tracks. At the time of rediscovery, all the trees were substantially overgrown with invasive Himalayan blackberry, which put them at risk. Because the tracks bisect the orchard, it suggests that the orchard was planted prior to 1889, during the Fares-Borst family and Branam family occupation. The trees overlap the property lines suggesting that they may have planted their orchards together to help encourage pollination. It also makes it one of perhaps only a handful of pioneer orchards left in the area.

This winter the young men's faith-based character development group Trail Life offered to conduct a community service project for the Museum.  They agreed to help preserve the orchard by removing invasive blackberry bushes around several of the trees. This mitigation will help the ancient trees survive, and make it easier for visitors to see them. So on Saturday, February 25, members of Trail Life spent 29 hours clearing bushes from four of the trees along the railway. Thank you to Trail Life for helping begin the process of preserving this historic resource, and for helping preserve the railway's context.

This guest article was researched and written by Cristy Lake, Registrar and Volunteer Coordinator for the Northwest Railway Museum.  Ms. Lake is also the Assistant Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum in North Bend.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Training teachers

Teachers need training too, and what better place to get trained than at a railway museum?  On Saturday February 4th, 2017, the Northwest Railway Museum hosted the Washington State Council for the Social Studies K-8 conference. The train transported more than 70 attendees from the Snoqualmie Depot to the Railway History Center on a very rare winter excursion. There, teachers split into four break-out sessions located in the classroom and reading room of the Railway Education Center, and the foyer and between tracks 3 and 4 in the Train Shed Exhibit Building.

After two hours of break-out sessions, participants grabbed lunch and re-boarded the train for a trip to Snoqualmie Falls and back. Then, the teachers were treated to docent tours of the Train Shed before returning to the Depot. Many teachers commented how they didn’t even know the Museum was there and pledged to return again – we’re hoping they come back with their students!

The Museum is honored to have had the opportunity to host a group of history educators, and is delighted to have put the new Railway Education Center to use for a program that so clearly aligns with the Museum's Mission. A huge thank you to the volunteers (train crew and docents) that came out to support the program. The Museum looks forward to many similar future programs.

This guest blog was written by deputy director Jessie Cunningham.  Ms. Cunningham manages interpretation and educational programming at the Northwest Railway Museum.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Better lighting

Brent does the honors using
Star Rental's 45-foot lift.
The Northwest Railway Museum collections care work space now has brighter lighting that saves money by using less power. Thanks to an energy conservation grant from Puget Sound Energy, the high intensity discharge metal halide ("HID MH") lighting installed in the Conservation and Restoration Center ("CRC") during its construction in 2016 has been retrofitted with new light emitting diode ("LED") bulbs. Now, lighting is brighter than ever before!

Bob and Kyle "Re-manufacturing"
light fixtures.
An industrious crew of participants removed the light fixtures from the ceiling, removed the HID MH electrical ballast and rewired the fixture, screwed in new bulbs, and rehung the fixture from the ceiling. Bob, Kyle, Gary, and Arnie worked under the direction of Brent, a retired industrial electrician.  Just two days were required to remove, modify and reinstall 24 light fixtures.

A re-manufactured light fixture flickers
to life 30 feet above the floor.
The old lighting served the Museum well, but was always a little dull due to the high ceilings.  And LED lighting is up to six times more efficient than traditional lighting, and even compared to HID MH lighting there is a significant reduction in energy consumption.  For the CRC, a 400 watt HID MH bulb was replaced with a 110 watt LED, which still resulted in a net increase of light intensity.  And this "bright" idea will improve the quality of all the work performed in the CRC because to see what you are doing is, well, pretty important.

"Vanna" Arnie models a
new LED module, which
is roughly 17 times brighter
than an old fashion 60 watt
The new bulbs look like over-sized cobs of corn.  They are covered with dozens and dozens of miniature LED bulbs. The bulbs screw into the same sockets as the original bulbs, and can operate over a wide voltage range, from 110 volts to 277 volts. Each bulb emits more than 14,000 lumens, and has a life expectancy of more than 50,000 hours.

This lighting retrofit was a relatively small but impactful project.  It is reducing operating costs while improving the overall lighting conditions in the CRC, and is a further example of the Museum's commitment to the King County EnviroStars program.  Many thanks to Arnie, Bob, Brent, Gary, and Kyle for their efforts installing the new lighting, to Puget Sound Energy for a grant in support of the project, Ryan at Platt Electric in Preston for their excellent service, and to Star Rentals for a great price on a 45-foot lift.