Local News: Pioneering women pilots of WWII get a belated honor

This morning’s Seattle Times features a front-page article about “Pioneering Women Pilots of WWII” who are, at last, being honored with Congressional Gold Medals. Eleven women who served as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) will receive the honor, and another 16 will receive the award posthumously.

During World War II, more than 350,000 women served in women’s divisions of the military, among them several of Issaquah’s young women. One of these was Elizabeth Erickson, who trained as a WASP. These women received extensive flight training and relieved men of their non-combat duties. Among other things, they ferried new fighter planes to Europe so that fighting men would not have to leave the front lines to do so. This proved to be an appealing vocation for young women whose early years were filled with news coverage of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights – and eventual disappearance.

Erickson, a graduate of Issaquah High School and the University of Washington, reported for duty at Sweetwater, Texas in January of 1944. Tragically, four months later she was killed in a mid-air collision over Texas. Thirty-seven other women died in service to their country, but never received military recognition. Because they are still considered civilians, the U.S. Army did not even provide military burial.

Erickson was not among those who received a Congressional Medal, perhaps because she did not survive to serve in Europe. However, her name is inscribed on the monument to Issaquah’s war dead that stands in Memorial Field.

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More information on Erickson’s training and last flight is available here.

Township 24 North, Range 6 East

While looking for a township/range map for the Issaquah area, I stumbled across this fabulous web site, Historic Mapworks.The site features old maps from all over the country, including some of the old insurance maps that show the owner of many larger properties. The site has maps available for Issaquah from 1907 and 1912. One of the questions we get from researchers most often is, where did my family live? These maps can help some folks answer that question.

Today in History: January 13, 1893

On January 18, 1893, Preston opened its first post office. John F. Hudson was the postmaster, and mail was distributed from his home.

Thirty-nine years ago today, the January 13, 1971 Issaquah Press reported that Issaquah Creek had overrun its banks for the second time in a month, and that ground had been broken for the construction of Bellevue Community College. Meanwhile, Munson’s Thriftway (located where today’s Front Street Market stands) offered USDA choice chuck roast for 47 cents a pound, just beating the 49 cent per pound advertised by the Hi-Lo on Highway 10 (today’s Gilman Boulevard).

Record Year for Museum Attendance

We’re starting to crunch the 2009 numbers to see what kind of year it was – and apparently it was a very good one! Last year we welcomed 8,163 visitors to the Issaquah History Museums, breaking the 2004 record of 6744 visitors. Our annual average is right around 6,000.

If you visited the museum during 2009, thanks for helping make it a banner year.

The Story of a Quilt: Mona Jane Beers’ Baby Quilt

Today marked the first meeting of the Issaquah Quilters Guild at the Issaquah Depot. I’m pleased that the Guild has chosen the freight room as their new meeting space. I dropped by this morning to welcome them, to share some information about Issaquah’s history, and to show off one of the quilts in our collection.
Aside from their artistry and their use as a houseware, quilts played several roles historically. They were educational tools, providing hands-on experience in math and geometry. They were often an exercise in thrift, as scraps from other projects were combined to make something new. Quilts can also tell us a story, about the person who made it or the circumstances under which it was created.
The quilt that I shared with the guild members was a crazy-quilt created from scraps of different fabric. It is an unfinished piece, and the process of quilt-making is visible. Although the quilters enjoyed looking at the quilt (and provided me with more information about its construction), it was not the quilt I had intended to bring with me. Ahem. In order to minimize wear on the quilt, I didn’t open it before taking it to the meeting, not realizing that we had more than one crazy quilt stored in the collections.
The quilt I intended to share with the quilters appears at left. It was constructed in 1932 as a baby quilt for Mona Jane Beers (whose name is embroidered in the middle of the quilt). The maker of the quilt was Jane (or Jennie) Usher.
Born Sarah Jane Lynch in 1864, Jennie grew up in Ohio. She met and married William Usher in 1881. Around 1898, William died, leaving Jennie a widow. Jennie went to live with her daughter, Edith Usher Beers. The household also included Jennie’s son-in-law Charles Beers, and grandson George. Around 1912, the Beers family moved to Issaquah. Charles worked as a mechanic at a garage and Edith became involved with the Issaquah Garden Club and the Order of the Eastern Star. Jennie Usher added to the household income by sewing. Scraps from the dresses and other garments she made were incorporated into quilts.
Mona Jane was George Beers’ daughter, and Jennie Usher’s great-granddaughter. The quilt was constructed in part out of scraps. It is a crazy quilt, although the scraps appear to have been pieced into twelve blocks of approximately the same size. The most interesting thing about the quilt, in my opinion, is the middle layer. Contemporary quilters use batting between layers of fabric; before batting, quilters used wool, felted blankets, or even old quilts as the quilt’s filling. Through some of the paler fabrics, it is possible to see the filling of this quilt — sugar sacks with the words “Pure Cane Granulated Sugar” printed on them. At the height of the Depression, Jennie Usher combined scraps and sugar sacks to create a beautiful heirloom for her great-granddaughter.
To me, this quilt tells a story of thrift, self-sufficiency, and making do in times of economic hardship.
If you’re interested in looking at another quilt that tells a story, visit the Gilman Town Hall Museum and view a Salmon Days quilt made in 1983.
Interested in renting the freight room for an event, meeting, or party? See our website for rental details.

Today in History: January 7, 1953

Douglas C-54

Douglas C-54, courtesy Wikipedia

Fifty-three years ago today (January 7. 1953), a Douglas C-54 Flying Tiger cargo plane flew into Squak Mountain and exploded. All seven of the passengers were killed. Phil Dougherty’s account on HistoryLink.org draws on original news coverage of the incident, as well as interviews with people who remember the event.

Issaquah’s history has been marked by at least two other airplane accidents.

On Octber 12, 1969 a Shelton man piloting an ErCoupe 415D crashed near Lake Side Sand and Gravel (near exit 17). He had been circling the area for several hours, unable to get his bearings. He did not survive the crash. What is purpoted to be the steering wheel from his plane is part of the Issaquah History Museums collection.

On June 9, 1971, two men escaped without injury after crashing a Cessna 150 near Pine Lake.

Henry L. Beebe, Three-Day Marshal

We are in the process of updating our web site, and as I go through the many, many files that make up the site, I’ve been reading some of the pages for the first time in years. It struck me that many of the biographies of police and marshals bear updating, now that we have gathered more information in our community family tree. Since it makes the most sense to start at the very beginning, as Julie Andrews would sing, I decided to investigate Henry L. Beebe first.

Henry Beebe was reportedly the first town marshal in Gilman (today’s Issaquah), although he served for only three days. Beebe appears in the 1892 Washington State Territorial census. At that time, he was living in Gilman with his young wife Ada Sloper Beebe, and their one-year-old son Henry. The census shows that he was born in the United States in about 1867, and that he was working as a laborer. The Washington State Digital Archives contain copies of the certificate he signed upon his marriage to Ada, and another marriage license for his marriage to Sula Turner several years later.  And this is the extent of the information I have been able to locate about Mr. Henry Beebe. Did his first wife die? Did he move away? What happened to his son?

And how did he come to be the town marshal for only three days? The only source I can find for this information is a scribbled note among Harriet Fish’s papers — but no information as to her source for this tidbit.

On April 25, 1892, the King County Council approved the incorporation of the town of Gilman, following a vote by the citizens of the would-be town. The application for incorporation included a proposed slate of mayor and council members. The minutes of the first Gilman Town Council meeting on April 27, 1892 note that the name of John McQuade was put forth for the office of Town Marshal, and was unanimously approved.

Did some other associated incorporation paperwork include Beebe’s name as the proposed marshal? Why didn’t his name come up during the nominations at the first council meeting?

As is so often the case, seeking the answer to a historical question often leads us… to more questions.

If you have any additional ideas about Mr. Beebe or Gilman’s first town marshal, I would love to hear them!

Today In History: December 10, 1909

The December 10, 1909 Issaquah Independent reported that the school board had placed a drinking fountain on the school grounds for the benefit of the pupils. Progress!

Researching Monohon

Monohon was a small town on the banks of Lake Sammamish. The town was centered around a lumber mill, which burned down in 1925. Today, the Waverly Heights development is located there. Over the years we have received visits from a number of people who live in Waverly Heights and want to know more about their community’s story. Last month another Waverly Heights resident named Ethan made a research appointment to learn more about Monohon for a second grade school project. Ethan was interested in the major landmarks of Monohon — the depot, lumber mill, and railroad tracks. I showed Ethan and his mom our research files and several different maps of the area while his dad and little brother looked around the museum.

It’s always fun for me to help people track down the information they are looking for, and even more fun when the researcher is developing an interest in local history at such a young age. Kudos to the Sunset Hills Elementary teacher who asked students to research the history of their community!

Ethan sent us this picture of his completed project, along with a note of thanks:



Although we deal with the past on a daily basis, we also try to keep current. Staff and volunteers at the Issaquah History Museums will use this blog to share bits and pieces of what we do with readers. If you have a question about Issaquah’s history, or an item to share, let us know!