Elsie Mann stumbled into becoming a local historian.
It was 1990 when the Maltby First Congregational Church asked her if she’d help research the church’s early history as it approached its 100th anniversary in 2003. Church leaders knew she’d become an avid researcher of her own family’s genealogy, and they wanted to tap into that expertise for their church’s history.
Using the Internet for any kind of significant research was in its infancy, but Mann was very knowledgeable with local historical archives for King and Snohomish counties where she’d spend hours reading old local newspapers and poring over fragile, dusty documents searching for clues.
In researching the church’s early history, she collected enough stories about the local history of the areas we now know as Grace, Maltby, Cathcart, Clearview, Lake Beecher and Paradise Lake that she was encouraged to write and publish a book. Titled “Maltby and Neighbors,” the book tells the stories of early settlers to the region and includes photos of early life, too. It is available through the Monroe Historical Society.
“In those early days [towns] were so far and few between, but they each had their own distinctive names and kinds of people that settled there,” Mann said, adding, “With Grace, Cathcart and Maltby, those are all because of the railroad that each little area became developed.
“I think that’s what happened with Grace. Where Grace originated there were mills, and a store and a post office about 1900 because there was a train stop. They did build a depot there when the mills were there, but it never had a station agent. It was just a building they put up and the loggers would wait there to catch the train,” she said.
None of those areas developed clear boundaries for their communities, and to this day, Mann said, people still debate exactly where Grace is. She interviewed a man who’d grown up in Grace from about 1909 to 1919, and he recalled that Grace went north until about the Bear Creek Cemetery on Highway 9, where a buddy of his lived nearby, but the people next door to his friend said their address was Maltby.
“So I can’t really tell you the boundaries of Grace, but maybe up to Little Bear Creek,” Mann said.
Another community that built itself around farming, the area just west of today’s Turner’s Corner at Maltby Road and Highway 9 changed from cattle farms to chicken farms to berry farms to summer cabins for wealthier people from the Seattle area, Mann said.
“When the Great Depression got really heavy and those people weren’t in good financial shape, those cabins became permanent homes,” she said. Only a few of those original summer cabins still remain in the area.
While the Paradise Lake area had no railroad, a group of Welsh miners working in Sumner and Black Diamond hired a guy to find them some good property with water on it, according to Mann. Those Welshmen were the first settlers at Paradise Lake.
“One of them was a fellow named Henry Davis who had been a pastor. He built a little church in 1890, which burned a few years later,” Mann said.
The Paradise Lake Cemetery stands on the site where the church was before it was burned.
The original settlers at Paradise Lake formed a social group. The ladies in the group made an American flag a little before 1889 that is now housed at the Snohomish Historical Society. “It still survives and is in great condition and color,” Mann said.
Eventually, there was a resort built on the lake that operated from about the 1920s to the 1930s. To her knowledge, there are no remnants remaining of the resort.
When asked what were some of her favorite stories she came across in her research, Mann said with a laugh, “Well, you always learn about the bootleggers! And, Grace did have first the loggers who had their stills going.”
Many bootleggers who were caught were sent to the poor farm, but in her research Mann discovered the poor farm in Redmond was the biggest source for producing illegal stuff.
In 1992, a few business owners in the Grace area thought it would be a grand idea to resurrect the town of Grace, according to Mann, who said Grace has never officially been a town. The businessmen announced a meeting and were overwhelmed by the community turnout at the meeting.
They erected the sign welcoming people to Grace, created a town song, held monthly town hall meetings and organized other events to celebrate the town of Grace. They even initiated an annual Grace parade from the interchange of SR-522 and Highway 9 south to where the entrance of Costco exists today. The parade only lasted a few years.