Found photos may show Everett’s early pioneers

  • Sat Feb 4th, 2012 9:05pm
  • News

By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist

Daniel Lum didn’t go looking for Everett history. And quite possibly, the Alaska man didn’t find Everett history.

Nonetheless, he’s sharing treasures he found. Lum has great hopes for old photographs that turned up in a box he brought home from an estate sale. He wants to return them to their rightful owners — the ancestors of pioneers pictured in the photos.

Family and history matter to Lum, a 38-year-old Alaska Native of Inupiat heritage.

“I find history fascinating,” said Lum, who is from Barrow in northernmost Alaska but now lives in Fairbanks. “I found the photographs amazing because of the size of the logs. I had a strong respect for those guys in the pictures.”

Lum contacted The Herald a week ago because of a name he saw on three early 20th century photos that were buried in the box. The name is Rucker.

All it took was a Google search of “Rucker” for Lum to see “rucker mansion everett wa” “rucker tomb” and “everett wa.”

He went to the sale a couple months ago, but didn’t dig through the box until recently.

“These two little alabaster sculptures I wanted for my wife were in this box,” Lum said. “I took the sculptures out, but didn’t go through the box. Then we were cleaning up our garage, and I decided to look through this box. On the bottom mixed with old newspapers were three photos.

“They’re magnificent,” Lum said.

They certainly are. One picture, labeled “Wildwood, California 1905,” has the name “Great Grandad Elmer Rucker” written on the bottom. It shows yoked teams of oxen pulling a wagon loaded with one massive log. Two men in hats stand proudly in the picture.

Another photo, of a couple on a horse-drawn wagon in treeless farm country, is labeled “Rucker Place in Enterprise, Oregon. Hauling water during World War One 1915.” The third picture, “Freight Wagons Minam Hill — 1906,” shows horses pulling loaded wagons on a forested hillside. It also has “Grandad Rucker” written on it.

Each rugged scene is a testament to the intrepid farmers and loggers who settled the West. In Everett, though, the mystery of the pictures is not yet solved.

Bill Rucker, 71, is the grandson of Bethel Rucker, an early and prominent Everett pioneer. “I’ve never heard the name Elmer,” the Everett man said last week.

“My grandfather was alive until I was 5 years old. It has only been two generations,” Bill Rucker said.

The name Elmer also stumped David Dilgard, a history specialist at the Everett Public Library.

“Boy, I’ve never heard of one. I don’t know an Elmer,” Dilgard said when asked about the pictures. “I don’t know what other branches of the Rucker family were back in Ohio,” he said.

Before 1900, Bethel and his brother, Wyatt Rucker, came West from Ohio with their widowed mother, Jane Rucker. They went first to Tacoma, and then in 1889 to Everett. The father, Wyatt Rucker Sr., had died in Ohio.

According to Dilgard, Jane Rucker and her two bachelor sons acquired land in what is now Everett’s central business district.

“Somehow, they bought all of Everett, the downtown part of it, from a guy who was here,” Bill Rucker said. “That might have been Swalwell.”

Snohomish was the established town in 1889. In a 1999 Herald interview, Dilgard said that Everett’s two early landowners were the Ruckers and the Swalwell family. By 1892, Dilgard said, the Rucker brothers were involved in filing a plat for the main section of Everett, which was incorporated in 1893.

Today, Everett’s Rucker Avenue is named for the pioneer family. The house known as the “Rucker mansion,” on Everett’s Laurel Drive, was built in 1905. Bethel Rucker lived there as a newlywed with his bride, his elderly mother and his brother.

After Jane Rucker died in 1907, her sons had a massive pyramid-shaped tomb built at Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery. The private mausoleum holds the remains of Jane Rucker, her husband, whose body was moved from Ohio, and other family members.

Any connections between the Everett family and Elmer Rucker, the giant log, the oxen or horse carts are unknown.

Even without a clue about Elmer Rucker, Dilgard is heartened by the efforts of a man in Alaska.

“That’s just great that he would do this,” Dilgard said. “It’s such a beautiful gesture, for somebody to go that far.”

Lum is determined to find the right Ruckers.

“I don’t know who the Ruckers are,” Lum said. “Grandchildren should have these pictures.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,