Who was Mary Fell Stevenson?
Enumclaw itself was homesteaded in 1879 by Frank and Mary Stevenson. In 1885, the Northern Pacific Railroad routed their transcontinental mainline through the site, accepting their offer of cleared, level land on which to build a siding, confident that the area would grow, the Stevenson's filed a plat. They built a hotel, and gave away lots for a saloon and a general store. At first the people called the town "Stevensonville" after the founders, but they soon refused the honor. One resident suggested "Enumclaw," which was the name of the strange sawed-off promontory north of town. The name's uniqueness gained favor with the locals.
Mary Fell Stevenson moved with her husband from California, and they were considered the "father" and "mother" of the town. Mary Fell was born in July 1852, emigrated to America from Canada in 1869. Through 1878, there were few settlers in the area and none of them were women. She was 27 years old when they filed their claim. Frank cut a path through the dense forest and built a cabin, crude and without windows. They later built a bigger one, but it had only one room. The Stevenson's had no children nor would there be any in the years to come. Mary recalled the homestead in the shadow of Mt. Rainier was "wild and woody land, full of mud, water and mosquitoes." Mary rode her horse along rough forest trails to a post office seven miles away. In 1885, the Northern Pacific Railroad accepted the Stevenson's gift of cleared, level land for a siding and routed its transcontinental railroad through their homestead. Through 1889-1891, they platted new additions and sold lots for homes and businesses.
As caring stewards of the community, they gave away additional building sites for the Catholic and Presbyterian Churches, a cemetery and a public school, as well as land for a lumber company.
Generosity and civic mindedness of Frank and Mary Stevenson gained them the title of Father and Mother of Enumclaw.
Mr. Stevenson was identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, his only fraternal affiliation. Alert, energetic and purposeful, he utilized his opportunities to the best advantage and all that he possessed was won through his own unaided exertions.
She is described as a popular hostess, good humored, generous, witty, civic-minded, modest and personally interested in all aspects of the town’s growth.
He was honest, sincere, kind-hearted and public-spirited and these qualities won for him the high and enduring regard of all who were brought within the sphere of his influence.
Mary Stevenson was the spark that activated and complemented her husband’s honest and hard work.” “Her reputation as a good cook.” “She drove her fast horse and cart” at a “gay pace” “Her interest in all the aspects of the growth of the town ...enhanced Frank’s generous support of the institutions that would make it grow.”
“She was modest...resisting calling the town “Stevensonville.” “Together the Stevenson's set the standards and contributed immeasurable to the economic, educational, cultural and moral climate of Enumclaw.” After Frank’s death and her remarriage, “her
generosity extended past her death, when her old home was willed to the town for a library”—the site of the present day library.
Hall, Nancy Irene. In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Pioneer History of Enumclaw. The
Courier-Herald Publishing Co., Inc. Enumclaw, WA. 1983.
"First woman to the area which would later be called Enumclaw, when she remarried, everyone wished the best for their lady ‘founder’ of the town."
On Saturday, February 8, 2014, the 20 organizing members of Mary Fell Stevenson National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) met to complete their organizational procedure. The day coincided with NSDAR's National Board of Management in Washington, D.C.
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