Some old Snohomish County road names are rural vestiges

Roads with names aren’t uncommon. Some of the older ones’ namesakes are legacies of local history.

STANWOOD — The numbered roads and streets make sense.

Start in one direction then the number decreases or increases from there, north to south, east to west.

Or you name a series of roads as a theme, like the tree streets in Everett: Cedar, Chestnut, Elm, Maple, Pine and Walnut. Others are named for a place, such as Lake Stevens Road around its namesake water feature or Woods Creek Road, which loosely follows — you guessed it — Woods Creek.

Some are named for a historically important figure. Everett’s founders live on: Colby, Hewitt, Hoyt, Everett, Rockefeller and Rucker.

But some rights of way are recognized for a local person, whose name lives on even if their legacy was forgotten by the people who see the sign every day.

That is the case for Frank Waters Road, a 3.3-mile stretch of pavement near Stanwood and Warm Beach. It connects Lakewood Road and Marine Drive in unincorporated Snohomish County, making it the county’s responsibility since 1898. An average of 2,044 vehicles travel it daily.

“I’ve driven past the road so many times and never bothered to look into anything about him,” said Richard Hanks, president of the Stanwood Area Historical Society.

Waters was born in Pennsylvania in 1859, moved to the Stanwood area and became a farmer with little more than 38 acres for livestock near Hatt Slough, according to records that Hanks reviewed while he was snowed in this week at his home on Camano Island.

The 9.3-mile Ben Howard Road begins (or ends) in Sultan and ends (or begins) in Monroe. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The 9.3-mile Ben Howard Road begins (or ends) in Sultan and ends (or begins) in Monroe. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

“Frank Waters (Road) #287 was originally petitioned in 1897 by Frank Waters (and others) and ordered established by the County Commissioners in 1898,” said Jeanne-Marie Lane, a right of way investigator with Snohomish County Public Works. “If you look carefully in section 5 on the page from the 1910 plat book, you’ll see Frank Waters’ property at the north end of the road at the Stillaguamish River.”

Waters and Anna Fassett married on March 13, 1905 in Everett. They did not have children. She later was placed in an asylum, and when he died April 4, 1911 she was declared incompetent. He was buried in the Florence Cemetery, and the estate was granted to his brother-in-law, Hanks said.

“Whether you can find his headstone is another matter,” he said.

Back in the county’s early days, many of the original roads were named after residents, like Waters, who asked that the road be built. They often donated some of their property, Lane said.

Another prominent named county street is Ben Howard Road, between Monroe and Sultan. The 9.3-mile road parallels U.S. 2, south of the highway and Skykomish River. A daily average of 1,655 vehicles use it.

There are quite a few barns along Ben Howard Road. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

There are quite a few barns along Ben Howard Road. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The current Ben Howard Road was established as the Skykomish Road #14 in 1882. Ben Howard was not one of the original petitioners, Lane said. County records don’t show Ben Howard Road until sometime after 1947.

Ben Franklin Howard owned a berry farm near Sultan, according to Monroe Historical Society and Museum records.

“But we claim him,” said Chris Bee, a member of the Monroe historical society.

Among the sights to see along Ben Howard Road is this abandoned, trestle-like thing near Monroe. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Among the sights to see along Ben Howard Road is this abandoned, trestle-like thing near Monroe. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The Ben Howard School was opened for children of the berry farm workers and the nearby Russell Shingle Mill.

Howard died Sept. 28, 1937 at Providence Hospital in Everett at 72 years old and was buried at the International Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, just east of Monroe.

He was survived by a son, Frank Howard, and four grandchildren.

When 911 became the go-to emergency services phone number in the 1970s, many historically named roads were renamed to adhere to the county grid system, Lane said. Ben Howard and Frank Waters roads were kept.

The number of named county roads is high, and not every one is named for a local person from long ago. Lane recommended people interested in them review the index of the Snohomish County road atlas. The print version lists historical road names in alphabetical order. The online version does not include the index pages, but a new interactive road atlas with index will be available early this year.

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