If this Walnut Street house could talk

Before he died in August, 87-year-old George Deane asked for a favor — a final wish. He hoped to share the story of his family’s old house.

He asked his eldest son, Bruce Deane, to see if The Herald would tell the tale of the 115-year-old house in Everett’s Delta Neighborhood.

“My dad was an interesting person — always reading and writing,” said Bruce Deane, who spent much of his boyhood in the house.

At least four generations of Deanes have lived in what was once a rooming house on East Grand Avenue. The house was built in 1898, before the city had water or sewers. In the early 20th century, the Delta area was bustling with mills, a smelter and a maintenance shop for the Great Northern Railway.

Railroad men and other workers found temporary shelter in boarding houses.

The house where George Deane grew up had been moved on its property after the water hookup in 1906. Now with a Walnut Street address, it is still owned by Deane’s sister, 78-year-old Dolores DeMonbrun, who rents the house to another family.

Fifteen years ago, another sister, Winifred Deane Crowley, wrote a book about it. Titled “Home: The Story of a House and its Family 1898-1998,” it tells how two railroad tragedies shaped the histories of the family and the house.

On June 10, 1909, an Everett man was killed in a train collision in British Columbia. Ezekiel Holcom was a Great Northern Railway fireman. He died when the train he was on hit another train near Vancouver. Genoah Holcom, his widow, used railroad life insurance money to buy the rooming house at 1407 East Grand. Still in her 20s with a young daughter to support, she paid $1,300 in 1911 for the house.

It was 1913 when Charles A. Deane, a 40-year-old divorced railroad man from Missouri, rented a room in the house. By 1914, the renter and the young widow had married. Charles Deane had brought his teenage son, Charles Merle Deane — known as Merle — from Missouri to live in Everett.

Their happiness was cut short by a second railroad accident. On Feb. 19, 1917, Charles A. Deane was the engineer on a westbound freight train. Its brakes failed on the west side of a tunnel through the Cascades. The engineer was killed when the runaway train derailed and careened down the mountain, according to a news account published in Crowley’s book.

Charles Merle Deane, the engineer’s son, was the father of George Deane, who died in Everett Aug. 20.

George Deane graduated from Everett High School in 1944 and served in the U.S. Army as a combat infantry soldier in the South Pacific during World War II. Until he left for the Army, he lived in the Delta area house, as his father and grandfather had before him.

After the war, George Deane married, lived in Burien and had three sons, Bruce, Curtis and Scott. He was a lineman for Seattle City Light. George Deane divorced when his oldest son, Bruce, was in eighth grade. He moved with his three boys back to the Everett house, where his mother Edith Deane, a widow, still lived.

George Deane, his son said, acted in community theater, volunteered during Everett’s 1993 centennial celebration, served as a Delta Neighborhood Association representative with the city’s Office of Neighborhoods, and was an accomplished orchardist.

He retired from the Snohomish County PUD after 30 years. He lived in another Everett home in his later years, but Bruce Deane’s brother Scott stayed for a time in the Walnut Street house.

DeMonbrun fondly remembers her childhood in a big family. Along with brother George, there were brothers David and Jack, also deceased, her twin sister Donna and older sister Winnie — who wrote the book.

“We had a raspberry patch in back. We’d pick berries and sell them. My dad had a huge garden. When my brother moved in, he started planting fruit trees,” she said. “It’s been busy ground.”

Once a rooming house with a privy out back, it’s been remodeled and it’s been home to generations. When the train engineer died, his funeral was in the parlor. When DeMonbrun was a girl, children filled the house.

“It’s a long story,” she said.

What’s the saying? If walls could talk.

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

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