Book documents history of Lowell, Everett’s ‘magic kingdom’

In 1863, 30 years before the city of Everett existed, a young man from Maine set up a logging camp at a bend in the Snohomish River. That man was Eugene D. Smith, and that place became Lowell.

Along the west bank of the river just east of I-5, Lowell is now officially in Everett. Although the city annexed it in 1962, Lowell remains its own distinct community, a place literally off the beaten track.

“It was its own town with its own history — a stubborn, independent history,” said Gail Chism, 69, a longtime Lowell resident and community activist. “You get a different feeling when you come into Lowell. It’s like entering a magic kingdom of a busy city.”

Chism is the co-author, with Karen Redfield, of a new book, “150 Years of Lowell History.”

She has lived in Lowell nearly 50 years and has long been involved in the Lowell Civic Association. Chism has collected stories, photos and other historical artifacts of the place which took its name from Lowell, Massachusetts.

In the summer of 2013, the community celebrated its 150th anniversary with birthday cake in Lowell Riverfront Park and a parade. Legendary entertainer and former Lowell resident Stan Boreson was grand marshal. There were hopes to have the book published in time for the sesquicentennial, but the birthday party brought out more stories, photos and memories.

It took an extra year, but the 346-page volume, packed with stories of local families, historic pictures, first-person memories and the area’s economic developments, was worth the wait.

Redfield isn’t from Lowell, but the Everett woman became interested in the project when she heard Chism talking about it on KSER, 90.7, Everett’s independent public radio station. With a bachelor’s degree in human services and a master’s in education, Redfield became the primary author and designer, tying together the photo collection and research and serving as the book’s editor.

Redfield wrote in the preface that once the massive photo collection was scanned, a private blog was set up to reap comments from picture donors and local history buffs. That brought new information.

With oversight from the Lowell Civic Association, the book’s worker bees were members of a history committee headed by Chism. Members of that group included people whose ancestors settled in Lowell in the late 1800s.

On Friday, Beth Buckley, Elaine Wilson and Jackie Minchew gathered in Chism’s 1918 house to share memories of the community. Buckley and Wilson have family histories in Lowell dating to the 1890s. Minchew moved to Lowell in 1990, and soon became involved in the community.

“I’ve never lived anywhere that felt more at home,” Minchew said. Within a few months of his arrival, he said, Chism was knocking on his door to invite him to a meeting of the Lowell Civic Association.

Buckley, who now lives in Snohomish, said “all four sides” of her family were in Lowell by 1895. Wilson’s grandfather, Christopher Graham, headed Lowell’s water department, which in the 1930s funded the creation of a volunteer fire department.

Any newcomer might be astonished by what was once in Lowell. The Everett Pulp and Paper Co., which later became the Simpson Paper Company, had a towering smokestack. There was the multistory Great Northern Hotel, and the impressive Lowell School, pictured on the book’s cover.

Lowell School, a turreted wonder designed by architect Frederick Sexton, was built on the slope above town in 1893 after an old schoolhouse had burned. The school was at Fifth Avenue and Main Street, “where the freeway is now,” Chism said. Minchew noted that Everett’s only Main Street is in Lowell.

Jim Ransopher, 76, spent his first 23 years in Lowell. The Marysville man said Friday he was a member of the old school’s last class, in 1951. Ransopher, whose grandfather had a dairy and delivered milk by horse cart, remembers a community where everyone knew each other.

“The mill people were familial and the farmland people were familial,” Wilson said.

When Everett annexed Lowell “we were mad,” Buckley recalled.

Chism, who grew up in rural Lake Stevens but raised her family in Lowell, remembers the community coming together when the park was built. Wilson spoke out to the Everett City Council years ago to help kill a proposal to change the park’s name.

Many are credited in the book, which includes photos from The Herald and the Everett Public Library. Financial support came from grants, including $5,000 from the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission’s Community Heritage Grant Program, and from Acrowood, a Lowell manufacturer of equipment used in the pulp and paper and lumber industries.

The Lowell history was the last book published by the Snohomish Publishing Co., which closed its doors last month.

“It’s not about us, it’s about Lowell,” Chism said. “It’s about the old-timers who stuck it out through thick and thin.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Lowell history

book available

“150 Years of Lowell History,” by Karen E. Redfield and Gail Chism, is available for $25 at Firewheel Community Coffeehouse, 2727 Colby Ave., Everett, and at the Grow Washington store, 1204 First St., Snohomish. To become a vendor for the book or more information: 425-258-9381.

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