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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit.

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan. An evolving history dedicated to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Ethel Lamb Murrow,
Egbert R. Murrow's mother

(Edison Basketball)
This photo of Edison High School's basketball team in 1925 shows Egbert R. Murrow in the middle of the lower row, in front of the team trophy.

      Ed. note: Florence Smith Lowe, now 93 and living in California, has become a friend and confidante as we have studied the history of Blanchard over the past few years. Along with Frank Pratt of Blanchard, she is one of the few living people who were friends of Egbert "Edward" R. Murrow when he grew up and went to school in Blanchard and Edison. She has an unusual perspective, which has unfortunately been overlooked by people writing articles that lead up to the new movie, Good Night and Good Luck. You can read her other memoir of Blanchard itself and her memories of Murrow at links that we provide at the website for this story.
      Florence is the sister of the late Frederick E. Smith, who wrote a manuscript about Equality Colony (1897-1907 on the hill above Blanchard and Bow) ten years before his death in 1979. Florence lovingly edited the manuscript, added footnotes and printed it in final manuscript form as the book, Equality Colony. In 1988 she remembered the annual August picnic in Blanchard so she traveled north from California and showed her completed project to JoAnne Prentice and other old-timers in town. They were very enthusiastic, as were the librarians in Skagit and Whatcom County whom she contacted. She then brought the whole project to the attention of the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies in Fairhaven, which is now part of the Northwest Regional State Archives. James Scott and his staff took over the printing and distribution and the resulting book, Equality Colony, has become sort of a bible to students of the Colony. It is crammed with hundreds of names and citations to newspaper stories from the period of 1896-1910, along with many photos. We have corresponded with Florence for some time, having been introduced through the mail by Paula Thomas, who is preparing a book about Whatcom pioneer Isaac S. Kalloch.

Ethel Lamb Murrow's role
in "bringing up" Edward

By Florence Smith Lowe, Murrow's friend and schoolmate in Blanchard and Edison
(Murrow brothers)
This photo in the Dec. 7, 1966, Bellingham Buyer newspaper is of the Murrow brothers (l. to r. Dewey, Lacey and Egbert — Edward) who were described as "frequent riders on the Bellingham-Mount Vernon Interburban."

      Mrs. Murrow was a paragon, a good woman "nobly planned" (Wordsworth), who devoted herself to the daily tasks, but never lost sight of the distant view; who demonstrated her powers by raising three remarkable sons: Lacey V., Dewey J. and Egbert (Edward) R. Murrow.
      Mrs. Ethel Lamb Murrow moved with her husband, Roscoe, and their family of three young boys from North Carolina to the small lumbering and farming community of Blanchard, Skagit County, Washington, [in 1913], and this made all the difference to me and to many others. Mrs. Murrow had a talent for friendship, and she was never too busy to lend an ear to someone in need of a good listener and to give a gentle nudge to helping facing up to a problem. Running away or turning one's back on a difficulty was simply not to be considered.
      To look at her, one would never think that she was an "iron lady." She was just over five feet tall, weighed perhaps 85 pounds (soaking wet as one of her sons put it),. The appearance of frailty was enhanced by an unusual hair arrangement: two long braids of colorless hair wound around and around on the back of her head, which must have required 50 hairpins to hold it in place and which gave the impression that she could easily fall over backwards. She spoke in a quavery voice with a southern drawl, but the words she spoke were well chosen and directed toward the interests of whomever was concerned — unhurried, quite and serene.
      Me. Murrow had been a farmer in North Carolina, but because of financial panics and bad weather, the family, lured by stories told by relatives of a better life in Washington, decided to move. After a sojourn in a tent on the property of their relatives, the George C. Coble family, the Murrows moved into a two-story house in town.
      It was soon made plain to the neighbors that here was a person with energy, ambition, imagination and strong principles; a person who was quiet, but purposeful. Nobody actually ever saw here ding her work, but her house was neat and orderly, her cupboards stocked with endless rows of beautiful canned fruits and vegetables from the garden she tended herself, and her intricately designed anti-macassars, doilies and crocheted edgings won countless blue ribbons at the county fairs. [Ed. note: anti-macassar is one of those quaint old lovely words that have almost disappeared from our conversation. But if you are old enough to remember when men used "greasy kid stuff" to slick back their hair, you will remember that an anti-macassar was stitched and then pinned to the upper back of an easy chair to keep the Macassar-brand hair oil from soiling the chair fabric.]
      Withal, she found time to be on the school board so that she could help in making commonsense decisions. Early on, she had a firm conviction that her three sons were to go to college and t hat the only way that could come about was through hard work; given their lack of resources, each boy would have to earn his own way. Mr. Murrow got a job as engineer on the train that hauled the logs out of the woods for the Samish Bay Logging Company, as soon as the boys were old enough, they, too, worked summers as whistle punks and axers. This meant that they arose at 4 a.m. and with their well packed lunch boxes and wearing heavy spiked boots were off to the logging camp. During t he winters, after school hours, they helped with farm chores at the Coble ranch.
      When Edison High School opened, Lacey, a senior, got the job of driving the school bus that carried the Blanchard and farm-country pupils to school. In turn, Dewey took over the job; during my freshman year, Egbert, a junior, inherited the job. The all did a responsible job of it, considering the miles covered, some unruly passengers, and the weather. When Lacey left to go to Pullman College (now Washington State University), I remember well, sitting with mother and helping her to write the initials, "L.V.M." on stacks of linens, which he was required to take. Listening to her talk, I decided then and there that i, too, would go off to college some day. Until then, I hadn't known t ht such an opportunity existed, and i never forgot my promise to myself. As we sat doing the job, we played the phonograph, songs that included; The Preacher and the Bear, Cohen on the Telephone and Freckles. Another time, she sat patiently trying to teach me to knit while she turned out miles of sox, sweaters and scarves. I'll never forget her patience in trying to teach me the intricacies of tatting, which I still enjoy doing, but have never won any prizes she did.
      To her, Sunday was strictly observed as a day of rest. Her sons were required to attend Sunday School and church at the little Methodist Church in the community, but she never approved of the visiting evangelists who exhorted people to come up and give their souls to God. She already knew where her Soul should be.
      However, one Sunday, I was dressed in my best Sunday School dress, and Dewey and i sat on a blanket on the Murrows' front lawn and read aloud to each other. One of the books was Love Letters from Bill to Mabel, a funny, innocent book that came out during World War I. We read until I, attempting to stand, pulled the hemstitching across the waist to my dress by too much knee pressure, and the whole front of my dress fell down, much to my embarrassment, until Mrs. Murrow basted my dress together so we could finish the book. I was, perhaps, eight years old; Dewey was about 15; and Egbert was 12 or 13 at that time.

School days in Blanchard and Edison
      Mrs. Murrow encouraged her boys to have friendship with girls. My cousin, Dewey's age, often went to school affairs in Edison with the Murrows, but any suggestion of dating or love interest was definitely frowned upon. Her plans for her boys did not include this. There was too much work to be done and accomplishments to be achieved.
      The boys, each in turn, were all much involved in school activities: debating societies, athletics — basketball and baseball, particularly, and they were all good students
      The Murrows had one of the first automobiles in our town, an Overland touring car. They were very generaous in seeing that young people had rides to important functions.
      Egbert was nicknamed Blow because he whistled all the time, and sometimes was called Egg or Eggie, and later on — which one can appreciate, he changed his name legally to Edward R. Murrow.
      Early in the 1920s, the State Highway Department sent a large crew to our town to rebuild a bridge and replace the graveled roads with cement paving. The older Murrow boys both got jobs, which eventually determined the course of their careers. Lacey became Director of the State of Washington Highway Department and the floating bridge across Lake Washington is named for him. Dewey established his own highway and bridge building business in Spokane. Ed never was interested in road-building, but rather in communications, which stemmed from his debating activities in high school. As everyone knows, he became famous for his radio broadcasts from London during World War II and later for his CBS television programs. He is now considered a cult figure in broadcasting.
      I remember so well, seeing the Murrow family walking down our street in Blanchard, the father on one side of mother and a son on the other side, solicitously supporting her. She suffered from asthma, but other than that, she was invincible, outlived her husband and one son, and came close to surviving them all. At the age of 85, she spaded and planted her own garden, collected antiques, gave talks on them, and kept an interest in world affairs although she seldom left her own home.
      Her life was a tribute to human nature.

      Ed. note: Donna Macy Sand of Bellingham is our ace researcher for all things Northwest as Roger Peterson is for all thing Sedro-Woolley. I was referred to her by Al Currier, who is quite a history researcher, himself, and Donna has never failed to be challenged by even the most mundane of requests. We asked her to track down Mama and Papa Murrow after the boys left home for school and their professions. This is what she found.
      From an undated, unknown source. ""His lecture tour brought him (Ed) to Seattle late in January of 1942 and to a reunion with his mother and father. Their circumstances had changed, but they had not. Roscoe's health had begun to fail, and so he had given up railroading. He and Ethel tried for a time to make a go of a clutch of tourist cabins on the Olympic Peninsula, a forerunner of the contemporary motel. The venture had not succeeded. They moved to Bellingham, north of Seattle. With the military buildup, the shipyards were booming and Roscoe Murrow got a job as a night watchman."
      The earliest city directory at the Bellingham Library is 1942. Donna volunteers there on some Wednesdays to aid people in the genealogy section. That directory lists: Murrow Roscoe C (Ethel L), 903 13th St., and does not list an occupation for him. They lived just a few blocks from my parents' place, on the corner. The next directory is for 1945 and has the same information. "Something to remember is that a person can appear in the directory in the year after they move away, and not appear in the year they become a resident, depending on the timing of the move and of the collection of data for the directory," Donna notes. And she adds, "the (Washington State Regional) Archives (in Fairhaven) also has the deed books for Whatcom County and Clallam County as well, for those who want to research the family further. In 1946, Roscoe had a stroke and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
      "Re: Class of 1923 of Edison High School. I was shuffling files and decided to look in the one with some copies of names from old high school annuals from Bellingham schools. To my surprise I found a photocopy (20 small pages) for Edison made from Tillie Coble"s original! They are listed by class year, name (maiden and married for women), and "current" address. The first is Class 1910. 1923: Dewey Murrow, E. 1417 Overbluff, Spokane WA 99200. This address is obviously much later than 1942. The other two boys are not on the list, although they all did go to WSU. There is a department of broadcasting there, named for Ed, and his papers are also there.
      "I have been reading a bit in Joseph Persico's biography of Ed Murrow, and discovered his Murrow Quaker ancestors were in Guilford County, North Carolina at the same time my Quaker Macy ancestors were, but I don't know, without checking the Quaker records, if they were a part of the same monthly meeting."
      Thank you, Donna, once again.

More links and background reading
      Links to all the Journal features about Murrow and the towns of Fravel and Blanchard.
      Oral interview with Name: Lowe, Florence M. Interviewer: Keith Murray, James Scott, and Jim Moore. Florence Lowe discussed her early education and her work on a book about the Equality Colony of Blanchard, WA. She talked about Blanchard as it existed in her youth. She also reminisced about Edward R. Murrow who came from her town. Mrs. Lowe talked about many early childhood memories in and around Blanchard. She remembered taking the Inter-urban trolley to Bellingham to shop. She attended the Normal School in the early '30's and remembered Leona Sundquist, Dr. Upshaw, Dr. Masters, President Charles Fisher, Mabel Zoe Wilson, Nora Cummings, Georgia Gregg, Ed Arntzen, Sam Carver, Paul Woodring and many of her favorite teachers. She discussed the controversy surrounding Dr. Fisher's presidency and the hostility of Frank Seifert of the Bellingham Herald and the Committee on Normal Protest. Mrs. Lowe talked about the attempted formation of a communist group by students in the 1930's. She also recalled a number of student organizations such as the Student Council, the Relations Club and the Scholarship Society. She then discussed downtown Bellingham in the 1930s and the many businesses of the time, including the Grand Theatre, the American Theatre, Wahl's Department Store, the Montegue [Montague?] pStore, the B.B. Furniture Company, the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, and the Pacific American Fisheries. The discussion returned to Edward R. Murrow and his beginnings in Blanchard, WA.
      This HistoryLink website tells the story of Murrow at Washington State College and especially Ida Lou Anderson, his speech teacher who he described as teaching him how to speak. Anderson was born in Tennessee and moved to Washington as a small child, settling with her family in Colfax, the Whitman County seat near Pullman. She had polio as a child, resulting in serious physical handicaps. Nevertheless, she excelled in speech and drama classes and at the campus theater at WSC.
      Frederick E. Smith Papers. Includes Reel-to-Reel recordings with many pioneers and their descendants

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Story posted on November 8, 2005
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