by and © Margaret V Reid
Have you ever heard of “The Thumb”? Or “Punkintown”? Have you ever gazed at the “Welcome to Grace” road sign on Highway 9 just north of the Snohomish County-King County line? Do you wonder about “Wana”? What about “Western New York? Were there REALLY whales in Whaleback Precinct?
Yes, Virginia, these ARE honest-to-goodness Snohomish County place names, and this project is an attempt create a Master List with locations and rudimentary source information for ALL county localities, past and present, big and small, famous and obscure and just plain WIERD!
About the Localities Project
The localities project started about eight years ago, when a genealogy researcher who lived in the mid-west emailed me, asking where “Manor Lake” was located. She said her target ancestor lived in “Manor Lake Township, Snohomish County” in 1930. She couldn’t find this township on any county map. It took a bit of head scratching before I figured out that “Manor Lake” (actually a precinct in 1930) was described on the 1930 census enumeration page as a “township”. No wonder that researcher was confused!
Yes, there are any number of really good locality reference sources – in print and online. However, the localities that I was trying to find never seemed to be in any single one of those sources. I had to look at many of these reference sources, and even then, I often couldn’t find my target locality listed in ANY of them. Apparently, some localities were just too obscure, deemed “too unimportant” to be included in these sources. It was time for a MASTER LIST!
Definition of Locality
First I needed to decide on a definition of “locality” So, in this project, a “locality” had to have a NAME and defined BORDERS. A person could put his/her finger on a map and say, “Yep, ‘Grace’ (or ‘Wana’ or ‘Bostian’ or wherever) is/was RIGHT HERE, and THAT’S where my Great Grandfather’s brother lived!” That’s why a voting precinct, in this project, is considered “a locality” because it has a name and defined borders. (One thing to remember about voting precincts – the names and borders of some voting precincts have changed over the years, and they continue to change.)
You will notice that I’ve included in this Master List some entries that at first glance don’t fit the definition for “locality” – lakes, mountain peaks, streams and the like. I’ve learned that county precincts often were given names of nearby landforms and roads; adding these exceptions to the data file may provide clues as to where the precinct actually was (although not always!)
Using the Data File
You might notice what appears to be duplicate entries for a given locality, numbered (1), (2), etc. In these situations, I lacked sufficient information to decide that these WERE the same place.
In a given entry, if other localities that appear in the data file are mentioned, they are in UPPER CASE, inviting the reader to check those localities’ entries.
Sources for Locality Information
Sources for the information given for each locality are listed in brackets at the end of the locality’s entry. Some of the sources were: the new Illustrated History of Snohomish County, Warren Wing’s “To Seattle by Trolley”, Whitfield’s History of Snohomish County, “Place Names of Washington”, “Washington Place Names”, “The Name on the School House”, the GNIS online data base, the Tacoma Public Library’s online data base, “Postmark-Washington”, Swanton’s “Indian Tribes of Washington, Oregon and Idaho”, two historical post office records groups on microfilm (at the National Archives), a gazetter of Washington from 1901, various maps and atlases (current and historical), several reference books on “old railroads”, online “Ghost Towns of Washington”, community histories like “Darrington: Mining Town/Timber Town”, online “Destination Darrington”, resources available at local museums and historical societies, lists of precincts from censuses and the Snohomish County Auditor’s office, and, of course, interviews with some wonderful Snohomish County resident experts.
“Naming” has been described as a basic human tendency. Ancient philosophers and mystics taught that knowing the name of your enemy gave you power over that enemy.
Our ancestors knew that future generations would remember them and what they had accomplished. When our ancestors gave names to communities and landforms, they were doing more than just distinguishing one place or land feature from another. The act of naming gave them a sense of ownership of the place where they lived. Naming a locality after something or someone “back home” helped our ancestors to recreate the familiar, reminding them of another time, another place, another person.
Researching our families is a bit easier when we have “a sense of place” – I hope this project will be of use in your research.