Echoes of Snoqualmie Valley’s Segregated Past: Silver Creek neighborhood and EJ Roberts Park

Western Washington is widely known as being a bastion of liberal thinking, but most of us don’t know what secrets lurk in the not so distant past.

Less than 100 years ago the State of Washington, and areas of North Bend and Snoqualmie, were practicing racial segregation in the form of restrictive covenants and by enforcing sundown rules.

In conversations surrounding the recent Black Lives Matter protests, a relatively open secret about North Bend’s Silver Creek neighborhood resurfaced. I personally heard about it 4 years ago and had it in the back of my mind to investigate and write a story someday.

The tale is about a neighborhood’s racial restrictions included in covenant agreement within many Silver Creek homeowner’s deeds. It reads:

“No person of other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or lot except as servants domesticated with any owner or tenant”

The developer of the Silver Creek Tracts in North Bend was Earle J. Roberts. He was born January 14, 1891 in Joplin, Missouri; married in 1911 to first wife Anna; moved to Washington state; and in 1914 had his first child in Seattle.

In 1915 his second child was born in Snoqualmie and a third son was locally born at some point. According to ancestry.com, he was drafted into both WWI and WWII; at some point divorced his first wife; then remarried Sylvia McConkey in 1937. He worked at Puget Sound Power and Light before starting a real estate/insurance business in 1918.

Roberts died on March 3, 1972 and is buried at the Mount Si Memorial Cemetery.  His obituary states that at retirement, he donated five acres of land that became a North Bend park that now bears his name.

As of publishing, these are the few personal facts uncovered about EJ Roberts. We also know he was the developer of North Bend’s Silver Creek Tracts in the late 40’s – and as the developer, wrote the restrictive covenant that disallowed property ownership by people of color.

Timeline of U.S. policies that Segregated America

Prior to 1917, city ordinances prohibiting the sale of property to people of color in white-majority neighborhoods or buildings existed. A Supreme court ruling, Buchanan v. Warley, though, said this violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections for freedom of contract.

This court decision gave rise to the use of racial restrictive covenants as a way for segregationists to continue denying blacks home ownership in some areas. Another Supreme court decision in 1926, further solidified use of covenants by declaring that private deeds and developer plat maps were not affected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1934, the practice of redlining began. According to the federal reserve: “This term refers to the presumed practice of mortgage lenders of drawing red lines around portions of a map to indicate areas or neighborhoods in which they do not want to make loans.”

The National Housing Act of 1934 encouraged land developers, realtors and community residents to write racial restrictive covenants to keep neighborhoods from being redlined. Such segregation was endorsed by the government when they refused to underwrite mortgages for homes unless a racial covenant was in place.

Federal Housing Administration, which was established in 1934, furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods.[1] Builders were basically being subsidized for building subdivisions where blacks were not allowed to live based on the beliefs that their presence would cause property values to plummet.

Finally, in 1948, a Supreme Court case (Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1) outlawed racially restrictive housing covenants. However, discrimination in housing continued until the Civil Rights Act of 1968 when Title VIII (or the Fair Housing Act) finally prohibited covenants entirely.

Silver Creek Tracts Subdivision plat approval was dated February 10th 1947.

So, having a little bit of knowledge under my belt regarding the history of US housing segregation and knowing a little about EJ Roberts, I decided to ask my experts their opinion on if the man himself was to blame or if it was a bank practice that required the covenant.

Dr. James N. Gregory is a Williams Family Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington and the Director of the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project. Dr. Gregory replied to my email question saying:

“The answer to your question is that Mr. Roberts was under no compulsion to establish a racist restriction. No bank told him that he needed to do so. And most other developers in that region did not. Probably not because they were any less racist, but rather because that region of King County used other means to exclude families of color.”

That seems pretty definitive, but when I asked one of our local historians, he indicated it was possible the restrictions were so common that Mr. Roberts simply did what he was told was normal for that era.

When I asked Dr. Gregory if he thought that was a possibility, he said:

“That part of King County enforced “sundown” rules in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s. Black women could work as maids, but it would be dangerous for an African American man to be in the area in the evening. He would be stopped and questioned by residents and by sheriff deputies. You will see…. that there were almost no Black residents in that census tract”

According to public records, the only Snoqualmie Valley African American found in the census up through 1940 was a man named Manual Udell, whose grandparents and mother were the first black settlers in Snohomish County. His father was a white settler. In 1910 he was living in Cherry Valley (now Duvall) in a logging camp. By 1920 he identified as white. Two other African Americans were working at Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company in the 1940’s.

There is also an oral history of John Antone Jr. where he recalls a family that lived across from Silver Creek in the 1950s. According to the story, the father worked for the Milwaukee Railroad, where the Snoqualmie Valley Trail mill is now located. The next African Americans identified are the Freeman brothers and Angie Baker in the 1960s/1970’s school photos.

So, the questions are: were there no African Americans living here because they weren’t welcome? Or because they just weren’t? Was EJ Roberts merely a product of the times in which he lived, not questioning the way things were done and perhaps a bit intellectually lazy? Or was he a racist fully participating in the segregation of North Bend?

I decided my opinion was a very small part of the equation, as my life and the lives of my ancestors were not impacted by these racist practices. So, I decided to ask POC friends or who are parents of POC children. Here is what they had to say:

Gerrit: “And as I’m sure you’ve guessed already, I’m not an advocate of erasing terrible or even uncomfortable history. We’ve already forgotten our history and are starting to repeat it while thinking we’re helping – so no, leave the park. Thinking it promotes racism is like a homophobe thinking acknowledging the gays will cause others to catch the gay. Conversations lead to reminders, which lead to learning and not repeating.”

Ekow: “I don’t believe in tearing things down immediately because I’m triggered. I would want to know, as you said, if it was a bank-led initiative or whether it was a local covenant to keep the d*****s out. Either way, it’s objectionable, but I would want to know. Also, as you said, even if it was a local decision, I’d need to know if engaged in order to facilitate the development, which isn’t that much better. These measures are partially if not mostly responsible for the ghettoization of minority populations and the wealth gap. IMHO”

Sheryl: “My feelings are that somebody who was racist and whose thought and belief was that people of color were inferior should not be a celebrated name for a park in a community. A park should honor a name of someone who reflects unity, love, and innocence. A park is a beloved gathering place where people come together to show their love of community not a place of separation and hate. As a mother who is raising children of color and knowing that EJ Roberts goal was to keep persons of color out of “HIS” community it breaks my heart to think this park, this community has its dark past. Why do we have his name honored?  Why do my children have to go by this park when we go to the Blue Hole to swim? Why is his name such an honored name in our community? North Bend is such a loving community. We have so many amazing wonderful humans that have given their all to bring love and compassion and humanity to this wonderful valley. Why do we have a park named after this man? Seriously when there are 1000 other amazing people out there that we could honor!”

In the end, I still don’t know the answer to the question of renaming the park. If you’d like to learn more about this park you can join the Facebook group that was formed to address this issue and others facing the valley.

Look for Reconciling Racial Segregation in North Bend and join the conversation.

Say Their Names:

  • Eric Garner
  • Michael Brown
  • Tamir Rice
  • Walter Scott
  • Alton Sterling
  • Philando Castile
  • Stephon Clark
  • Breonna Taylor
  • #BLM
EJ Roberts Park 2016. PC: Park Facebook page, John Calderon

[1] Catherine Silva, “Racial Restrictive Covenants History Enforcing Neighborhood Segregation in Seattle,“ Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project https://depts.washington.edu/civilr/covenants_report.htm

Comments

  1. Patricia McKiernan says

    I would hate to think that our beautiful peaceful area might become a hostile racesist place, please don’t promote name changes from the past! I also grew up in North Bend, moving here as a child in 1943 and while I remember Mr. Roberts as a man not beloved by the community, it was his land to declare he wanted a park named after him so please just let it go and enjoy the park for what it is, not who it was named for. Please don’t stir up discord here!

  2. Denise Nedry says

    Why would you even want to bring that up now. With all of the protests going on around the country you bring that up. I feel like you are asking for trouble here in our community. I too have lived here all of my life and agree with Pat, don’t stir up discord. Have you nothing else to talk about on a positive note.

    • Tammie Adams says

      Exactly what I was thinking!

    • Being afraid to reckon with your past is a surefire way to keep repeating its mistakes, and ensure future generations do as well, Patricia.
      Good job, I guess.
      Thanks for leaving us to fix your mistakes.

  3. Thank you for bringing this up for everyone to consider. It is good to know about and reflect on the past.

  4. Thank you for bringing this out in the open. We should not be memorializing people who kept people of color out of our communities. Those of you who say it shouldn’t be changed because it’s always been called EJ Roberts are really not being asked to give up anything of importance. Did you care about the name or the man before this was exposed? I don’t understand why anyone would want to hold on to a racist history. This is a small thing that will help everyone feel more comfortable here.

  5. The beliefs held by EJ Roberts at the time were fairly common. The father of the progressive movement and the 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, was an avid bigot. He re-segregated much of the US government, and even showed the KKK propaganda piece “Birth of a Nation” at the Whitehouse. He was a huge supporter of eugenics, as were many progressive democrats at the time. Planned Parenthood sprung from all this, and its founder, Margaret Sanger, was no fan of black people and frequently worked with the KKK. If you want to be horrified, look up the “Negro Project” to better understand how Planned Parenthood came to be, and what their initial mission was (link 1).

    The 1924 Democratic National Convention was dominated by the KKK. In 2016 the NYT wrote “At the 1924 Democratic National Convention, held at Madison Square Garden in New York, the most powerful bloc in the Democratic Party was the Ku Klux Klan” (link 2)

    Seventy years prior to that, the governor of Washington was a huge believer in the rights of states to own slaves though he fought for the union. He went on found the University of Washington.

    And even as recently as the 1940s, beloved president FDR told the press that the the number of local Jews in various professions “should be definitely limited” so as to “eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany.” (link 3)

    And of course, LBJ in the 60’s had big, big problems with black people that I won’t go into on a family forum. He was a nasty, nasty man.

    In short, learn your history. The only people offended by history are those that don’t know it. What is important to take away is that America was leading the charge in the world against racism at every step (and continues leading the way today). The entire world practiced slavery, and it was the west and the US that first said on a large scale “This isn’t right.” Slaves built the pyramids. And slavery was still practiced in China in the 1940s. One of the original colonists in the new world, John Smith, had been a slave in Turkey for many years before killing his master and making his way back to what is now Europe.

    Complicated times for sure. Singling out narrow slices of history to “fix” them never ends well. If you are worried about EJ Roberts but not FDR, LBJ, Planned Parenthood, Woodrow Wilson or the founding of UW, I’d ask “why?”

    1) http://archive.is/rbyWh (Planned Parenthood in USA Today)
    2) http://archive.is/hmGxC (NYT story on 1924 DNC)
    3) http://archive.is/2VwUK (LATimes story on FDR and Jews)

    • I am so on board with what J R posted!…an even-handed response to the subject at hand! I grew up in North Bend & NEVER heard racist sentiments & my family was very immersed in many aspects of
      of the community & of course interacted with families from all over the valley. My parents settled in the valley in the late forties & my siblings & I grew up in the civil rights era watching as our nation took a great leap forward….We need to learn from history & take delight in the lessons learned & changes made to correct our course.

    • Actually slaves did not build the pyramids, stop believing the bible most of it is wrong anyways. Slavery is a relatively new thing.

      • Slavery was common in Egypt long before the pyramids were built. While Egypt’s brightest probably worked on the design and execution of the pyramids, what makes you think slaves were not the ones dragging the blocks when they were already doing the better jobs in Egypt? Of course slaves dragged the blocks. Not sure how the bible factors in here.

        PS. Slavery has always been with us. It was practiced by north american indigenous long before white folks showed up.

  6. When I posted the link to the plat on the Nextdoor Juneteenth post, I didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it did – it was really meant to just add some local history to the more generic stuff that was already there about racially segregated neighborhoods in Washington State, for those who weren’t aware that this happened literally next door, too.

    But seeing these comments above about not “stirring up discord”, and similar reactions elsewhere, I’m really glad it did! It seems there’s still a lot of people who don’t want to talk about race. To them, I’ll say this: ask yourself why that makes you so uncomfortable? why do you feel that it’s “asking for trouble”? Could it be uncomfortable, because you know that it was very wrong? Could it be “asking for trouble”, because the wrong was never set right, or even apologized for, and you’re afraid that somebody would be *justifiably* angry about that?

    This country is supposed to be about liberty and justice for all. But we’ll never fulfill that promise, if we remain so eager to “forget and move on” every time it’s broken. It not something that you can just speak out loud and then rest contentedly, as if the words were self-enforcing, like some kind of magic spell. They’re not, and there’s no magic – it takes people *acting* to reshape the world in the beautiful image that the words conjure. I hope to see you all there one day.

  7. Oh, and as far as the claim that it was EJ Roberts’ land, so it was for him to decide how it was named… Have you ever wondered how that plat of land came to be out of what was the land of the Snoqualmie tribe (they even had a longhouse nearby!) in 1850s? And what happened to said longhouse, for that matter?

    I don’t have a clear answer to that question, by the way – and that’s one piece of history that I’d be very eager to learn. I understand that it was homesteaded as a consequence of the Treaty of Point Elliott, but it would still be interesting to hear about how exactly it was implemented in the Valley. Most sources on its history don’t dwell on that period – they briefly mention the presence of the Snoqualmie, early wars, and the treaty, but then immediately jump to the first white settlers, their economy, and their society. Yet the first site in North Bend wouldn’t be homesteaded until 10 years after the treaty, and the town wouldn’t be platted until 35 years after.

    • Patricia McKiernan says

      I am no racist, in fact I have several nationalities married to my family, Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino who I dearly love and enjoy the different cultural traditions they bring to my family. Also I live in lower Snoqualmie Ridge end almost all my neighbors are from other countries. I quite simply am sick and tired of all the marches and protests that are happening in this country today, like never before in my long lifetime. Enough said.

  8. Oh yes, the people of North Bend are going to be stirred up and probably become violent learning more about the history of the area. I much prefer to remain ignorant of history so when someone speaks of “systemic racism,” I can innocently say “Oh.no, that would never happen here. They’re just using that as an excuse to explain away their laziness. The only reason I’m on SNAP and AFDC is because I’m in a hard patch and need it. I don’t buy lobster and caviar . . . .”
    The whole point of learning about how the system has worked against people is that most middle-class wealth is in the primary home. If a person cannot get a mortgage to purchase a home, s/he is locked out of the pathway to building wealth. If one has a home with a few years of payment history, one can get a loan for a more reliable vehicle, and have more freedom for job mobility and reliable attendance. Credit card rates are lower. Student loans are easier for the children. Et cetera, Living in a better neighborhood exposes children to more opportunities and chances for contacts that can help one move ahead. I attended university of a full-ride four-year scholarship that I didn’t know about until a friend from a well-to-do family told me about it. That sort of contact can be life changing, and is rarely found in areas where renting is the primary mode of housing. So yeah, Melissa has written a really good article about our local area, and why some groups may be unhappy about “systemic racism.”

    • Bob, blocking people from getting a mortgage based on physical attributes has been illegal for nearly 50 years. And you are far better investing in the market than a house. Even in Seattle. If you dumped a mortgage payment into the market 20 or 30 years ago instead of a house, you’d be far better off. And yes, you can take all that money you’ve dumped into a market and borrow against it–it’s a secured loan. It’s not buying a house that gives you the win–it’s saving and investing.

      Systemic racism means that no matter how qualified you are, you still can’t catch a break. That isn’t the case in the US and it hasn’t been for many, many decades. True systemic racism means no matter how good you are at hitting a baseball, you still can’t get a job playing in the majors. True system racism means no matter how good you are at coding AI and ML algorithms, you still can’t get hired at Google.

      Today, if you graduate at the top of your class at an inner city school, the scholarships will be waiting for you. That is the very opposite of systemic racism.

      There’s plenty of stuff we need to fix–no question. But pick a decade. From 1492 to modern day and tell me what country has done better than the US on race issues? Our black middle class is posting median incomes that are the envy of the world. Our hospitals are filled with surgeons from all over Africa. And our immigrants from Asia and North Africa are far out-earning the median income. Indian-Americans are posting a median income that is 2X the median white income. These are things we should all be very proud of.

      I’ll ask again: What country has done better?

  9. Randall Brown says

    This is not just a Snoqualmie valley thing. Some years back there was a big article on William Boeing. Besides building airplanes he was a land developer. He had almost word for word the same restrictions as EJ Roberts. If you look hard at other developers of this time period you will probably find more of the same. I’m not saying it was right but more common than what people think.

  10. Systemic racism goes way beyond just not catching a break. It means our societal systems:economics, education, healthcare, politics, housing and the criminal justice system are infused with and impacted by the racism within which they were created and maintained. It means its embedded in our society. Wealth is, in part, created by equity in housing. The inability to own a home can impact generations. Lack of wealth can impact health and education. White people moved to suburbs and retail followed. Low income people are left with no grocery stores but lots of liquor stores to this day. Tell me you haven’t noticed this? Yes, we are doing better but the impact must be recognized and acknowledged.

    • JR Bakes says

      Melissa- your own words betray your point. “White people” go to the suburbs and “low income” people are left without infrastructure. This is a socioeconomic issue even more than a race issue, but it’s in the best interest of those in power not to recognize that.

      • White people moved to the suburbs because they could get mortgages. Those who stayed were largely minorities who could not get loans because of racist practices. It goes way beyond just a socioeconomic issue. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/racial-wealth-gap.html

        • No, people moved to the suburbs because the cost per square foot was cheaper. People wanted a yard, a dog, two cars. Those things are hard to have in a city. Minorities have been able to get loans for 50 years under the exact same terms as whites, and anyone denying them would face federal civil rights charges and would be sued into oblivion. It’s 2020, not 1965.

  11. Thank you for mansplaining, JR. Let’s see, low wage job, pay rent plus invest in the stock market. Why didn’t they think of that? It’s like Ivanka says, “Try Something New.”
    “Redlining is illegal.” Oh! That explains a lot. There hasn’t been a bank or brokerage house break any laws for nearly 50 years, or whenever any law was put in force. There hasn’t been a single real estate agent steer a family toward this area or that. Oh yes, if you graduate at the top of you class, or if you have well-to-do parents, you can get into at least a first or second-tier school. How many people graduate in the top of their class? Don’t bother answering, these are all rhetorical. Your initial reply showed standard talking points.
    BTW, I live in this country. I expect it to do better.

    • Bob, it’s a common fallacy that renting is more expensive than buying. it’s not. Buying a home is usually much more expensive with very meager short and mid term gains in most areas. Take the gap and invest it. You’ll come out way, way ahead. For example, home prices have risen about 1%/year in the Chicago metro area over the last 30 years. The stock market is 7%.

      The things you mention have been illegal for 50 years, and if it was happening, there would be class action lawsuits galore, people fired, etc. Are you seriously arguing there are law firms deciding to pass on billion dollar payouts against big banks and lenders? The lawsuits aren’t happening because the things you allege aren’t happening.

      Finally, I’m glad you agree that our top black high school graduates in the country are having no trouble getting into college with full ride scholarships. And our black college graduates with competitive degrees in computer science and engineering are enjoying bidding wars as our top companies fight to hire them. A black engineer graduating from college today will likely see a starting salary of $120K from Google or Microsoft. How awesome is that?

      The black middle class in the US far outearn the black middle class in Canada, UK, France, Finland, and any other country in the world. So, in the end, you’ve run out of examples demonstrate “system racism.” Please try again.

      You say the US could “do better” but since you didn’t cite an example, it sounds like you already agree the US is doing better than any other country in the world in terms of racial integration. The US is just falling short of *your* standard. Uh huh.

      In short, I think you need a new world view. The 1930’s have long passed. Accusing your neighbors of horrible motives is a bad look.

  12. Mark. Jacob says

    Great article, thank you!
    I think a playground (or park) should be free from anything that reminds us of indignity & injustice done on certain people. it should. be. welcoming. to. all! Such. names. like. EJ. Roberts. should. be. in the. history. books. not. parks. So, please. join. this. group. and. vote. yes. to. rename the. park to something. neutral. – like. silver creek. community. park. etc

  13. Mark. Jacob says

    Join. facebook. group. : Reconciling Racial Segregation in North Bend. and. vote. yes. to. rename the. park

  14. No one’s going to die if we contextualize the park’s name and remember history accurately.
    The history is clear: the Silver Creek plat excluded everyone but “Caucasions” [sic] from living there. By design. You could not move to Silver Creek to live unless you were of European extraction.
    Owning a home was *the* key way to build wealth in the 50s-70s. And home loans at low rates were available through the FHA–but almost always only for those of European extraction.
    That means that at least two, if not three, generations of families were able to benefit from asset-building that was unavailable to anyone who was not of European extraction.
    It would be good to acknowledge that our past has effects upon today. Something that seems common in the forgotten past–excluding everyone from Silver Creek except those who are of European descent–affects people today, in ways that seem to be invisible, but that was by design.
    As far as we know, Mr. Roberts chose to add the exclusion. It doesn’t matter what his motives were or what he felt–the results are three generations of wealth-building for a select group of people.
    We can talk about this and mention this without having to go into motives. Just state the facts: “The plat for Silver Creek included a restriction by the developer, EJ Roberts, that limited home ownership and residency to only those of European descent, and forbade all others. We have grown in our understanding of the value of all human lives, and we now welcome everyone to live in North Bend and enjoy this park, formerly named “EJ Roberts Park” and now named [new name].”
    Seems easy enough to do. Doesn’t demonize anyone. Acknowledges the past w/o erasing it. Brings up history as history.

    • Stephen, why stop at renaming EJ Roberts park? The high school was obviously full of people that felt the same way. Do we rename Mt Si High School? Do we rename North Bend because the city allowed EJ Roberts ad the high school to practice their hate? Do we erase FDR from the history books? How about UW?

      And why fight EJR but not UW? UW was founded by a man sympathetic to slavery. As was the founder of the NYT.. The obvious answer: You do this because it’s easy and hollow. That’s it.

      Instead of empty gestures, who here is willing to give half their paycheck every year to BLM in the name of equality? Who here is willing to give back their house and land to the folks that previously lived in the valley and had their land taken through shady dealings?

      Let me guess: Nobody. All we’re left with is a bunch of white people that won’t give up a damn thing, but are willing to dig up old contracts to find “bad” people so they can feel better about that. Something that does nothing to help our most marginalized PoC.

      Is anyone here willing to give substantially to the cause? Or are you only willing to type a few cheap words, and then pat yourself on the back for being awesome?

  15. Karen Granger says

    I am not born/raised in North Bend, but my children are. I moved here in 1978, and have been told by several local residents of “how black people” were systematically kept out, and kept “down.” They knew because their parents/families were part of the systemic racism practices. A lot of the same practices have been in place against white women in North Bend, as well. This town is a white man’s world, by and large. I’m glad to see today’s civil rights movement taking place across our country, and especially right here in North Bend. It is long overdue. Whatever the history was, it was not equitable, and it disgusts me to know that the park’s namesake kept hardworking citizens out because of CV the color of their skin. Let’s give everyone the chance to thrive and prosper. That’s the principle our country was founded on, after all.

  16. It seems fairly easy to me.
    North Bend has adapted its self-image and its policies to welcome everybody.
    Our past existed, and so we can face it squarely.
    E.J. Roberts, like all men and women, was flawed. His flaw in the plat development was excluding all but the “Caucasion” [sic] race.
    It is no harm to him to change the name of the *park* to something that honors the people and heritage we’re still proud of, such as our natural beauty or the genuine heroes of this area. (McClellan, trying to find the way through the Snoqualmie Pass, stopped here. We named a street after him. Maybe we could name a park. I’m just spit-balling.)
    Mr. Roberts is dead and can’t be harmed by us looking at his past and the past of North Bend. We aren’t harmed ourselves by looking at the past.
    We have a saying in the corporate world of “trying to boil the ocean.” We don’t have to think of the universe here. Let’s just focus on this one park name, and see if we can reach consensus on a better way to name one of the more mature recreational areas that would bring honor to our city.
    I appreciate the cordial discussion.

  17. Why stop at renaming the park, it would be wrong for the City of North Bend to accept such a gift from an individual who held such views. The property should be returned to EJ Roberts ancestors.

  18. The park was named separately from the donation.
    It’s possible to rename the park to honor other people and still keep the memory of Mr. Roberts intact and in full.

    • Stephen, Have you read the wiki page on George McClellan? The man’s writings on black people were abhorrent and there for all to see on Wiki (just search the wiki page for the n-word). Though he fought for the union, he believed the constitution conferred the right to slavery on the states and was a believer that North should settle with the South. He was a poor general, failing to finish General Lee’s army when he had the chance, and he was a poor surveyor, failing to find the 3 better routes over the Cascades. Wiki notes that even Isaac Stevens, the racist founder of UW that also believed slavery was OK, didn’t like McClellan.

      Why on earth would you bring this man’s name onto a street in North Bend? And why would you be proud of that fact? Everyone that walks downtown now has to see the McClellan street sign and be reminded that we’re celebrating a man that believed slavery was good.

      History is complicated, eh? I hope those that find the time and energy to re-name EJ Roberts park will then re-name the development Silver Creek, and will then take back the street that was named after McClellan. And then I hope they turn their energy to renaming all the pacific northwest institutions, including UW, and the name Seattle itself–Chief Seattle’s Duwamish tribe had slaves.

      Or, we could just devote our time and energy to moving ahead, acknowledging that history is complicated and messy, and do our best to educate everyone about how it is important to understand that today’s mores were not yesterday’s mores, and that the US has moved faster than any other country in the world to build the most just society known to mankind.

  19. I think I’ve been pretty clear on my views.
    We *already* have a street named after McClellan. I’m bringing it up because we’ve chosen names for our streets in the past that we haven’t examined. We’re untroubled, and as we explore the history of these names, we can reconsider our choices.
    Renaming a park is a simple thing. Call it “Harmony Park,” because park names aren’t engraved in stone. No one is going to lose their life or their property if we rename a city park. And by keeping Mr. Roberts in history we keep his full life active without honoring a plat that deliberately designed for only the white race.
    Thank you for your courteous reply.

    • Hi Stephen, you haven’t addressed the hard question of where the line is drawn. The Snoqualmie tribe were fearsome, doing unspeakable things to the other tribes they conquered, including enslaving them. The name Snoqualmie is everywhere. Do we replace it? Who will be in charge of scrubbing all the streets/parks/schools/etc named after “bad” folks as identified by busy-bodies with too much time on their hands? The park name isn’t set in stone, but there are costs associated with all changes. is that really where we want our gov officials spending their time? Holding meetings to rename streets? Parks? Buildings? Schools?

      And in the end, what does it change? Nobody even knew who EJ Roberts was. Nobody even knew of McClellan’s sins. And suddenly, with a little digging, we’re all horrified. And now what? Rename the butte? rename the park, rename the street? Where does it stop?

      I’ve always assumed the EJ Roberts that lived in the fabled mansion in Spokane is the same guy that our park is named after. If Spokane isn’t scrubbing his name, why are we?

      If you must, then add a sign stating the lifetime achievements of EJ Roberts and why he was a significant figure at the time, and also note that this development originally forbade non-white people, as was common throughout all of America at that time. And then do the same for Chief Kanim, Snoqualmie schools, the casino, the town, the high schools, and every other building and street in North Bend.

      In the end, no other country has come close to delivering what America has to a population of so many colors and religions. Our story is unique, and unequaled. And it should be celebrated. It’s not perfect. But nobody has done better.

  20. We can change what we can. We can change a park name because a park name is not engraved in stone.
    If no one remembers Mr. Roberts, that is a sad testimony for him, but that is the memorial he earned, I guess.
    All the more freedom to change the name of the park to something more inclusive.
    Thanks again for the cordiality of the discussion. It’s important that while passions can be raised, we step back and think through what we want and what is the highest and best value we can honor.

  21. Courtesy is always on the menu! But, you are being evasive, Stephen. If you were king for day and you had a chance to re-name cities and symbology associated with people that did bad things, would you change them? WA state, McClellan Butte, the city of Seattle, King County’s MLK logo, the city of Snoqualmie…all are named after men and groups that did very, very bad things at some point in their life. Enslaving, raping, killing.

    Would you rename them if you were king? Or would you opt to keep them and instead explain the good with the bad?

  22. From my point of view, it seems that we can rename a park for something more inclusive without saying that someone is a “bad man.”
    What Mr. Roberts felt is irrelevant. What matters is what he did in excluding People of Color from North Bend is something to bring up to the light of discovery and examination.
    That seems to be a fairly easy question to answer: can we move beyond our past by looking at it and making changes. I think it’s great if you want to expand the scope–I’d say, go for it! Get people together to support your views. That’s how community works.
    Grateful to consider you as someone who’s willing to risk resistance in order to value diversity and inclusion.
    The first, easy thing we can do is to consider renaming E.J. Roberts Park, though.

  23. Stephen, you continue to evade the questions. So I’ll try to make it even more concise. I am starting a petition to remove MLK’s likeness from the King County logo. The reason is that MLK appears to have participated in raping women, and I do not believe survivors of rape should have to look at the picture of this man on county buildings, trucks, ballots, etc.

    Will you sign the petition?

  24. This seems to be a difficult thing for people to comprehend.
    We’re asking that the name of EJ Roberts Park be re-evaluated. That’s all.
    This is causing all sorts of reactions that are beyond the scope of the request.
    Anyone who feels as if other names should be reconsidered should feel free to build consensus for that.
    In my line of work we have the phrase “Don’t boil the ocean.” Meaning, don’t attack every problem. Address the one that’s in front of you.
    We’ll handle the issue with EJ Roberts Park. That’s all we’re doing.

  25. Steve, there’s nothing to comprehend. Today it’s EJ Roberts, tomorrow it’s a ballfield, then this statue then that airport. Quit beating the dead horse, all this amounts to is a stupid sugar high reaction to you peoples white history guilt.

  26. The article started a conversation so mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned! Thanks all

    • Melissa, it’s definitely a good conversation to have. My only hope is that before tearing down our history, we understand it and apply the standards of the time to that history AND THEN use that to educate. Making the park name disappear potentially means an entire group of people won’t understand this type of zoning was common and widely supported by the community.

      FDR was generally a very good person with some deep flaws. We don’t erase him because he interned American citizens of Japanese descent. Nor do we erase Chief Seattle because of his ferociousness on the battlefield and what he did to his victims.

      Instead, we realize these were both exceptional people and highly regarded by their peers of the time, and we explain the good AND THE BAD so that people know and learn, and hopefully won’t repeat the bad.

      I think it would be very appropriate to put up a brass sign on the EJ Roberts wooden sign that explains who the man was, and explain that North Bend had neighborhoods that restricted who could buy there based on race, as was common at the time throughout the country. It acknowledges the wrong, brings it out from the shadows (as you have done with your research) and it makes it clear moving that it became unacceptable to the community (though the town obviously embraced the sentiment at the time–Not just EJ Roberts).

      I personally don’t mind having things named after flawed figures (I am not a fan of McClellan, but I think he was a significant figure for the time and the names of things are justified). History is messy. It is ugly. But it’s critical everyone understand it and it must not be whitewashed away. Otherise, we’re doomed to repeat it.

  27. Stephen, the notion of “boiling the ocean” is well know to every profession, from ditch diggers to brain surgeons. Please quit bringing it up as if it affords you some special insight. It does not.

    Mob justice is applying an arbitrary standard to a situation, with no promise that the standard will be applied to earlier or later similar situations. You can couch that as “democracy” if you wish, but a democracy requires a strong set of uniformly applied rules to work. If you cannot articulate a clear standard that will be applied to all namesakes in North Bend and Snoqualmie, then you are simply destroying something as a show of force. No more, no less. It’s mob justice couched as majority rule.

    Thus far, in spite of the self import you’ve placed on your professional experience, you have failed to define a simple standard by which we should rename any entities in our town. You’ve gone out of your way to to type needless paragraphs of why it’s not needed, when a simple answer would have taken far less time. The only thing I can conclude is that you aren’t acting in good faith. And it suggests a small mob would like to have the ultimate authority to decide all matters based on rules THEY define, and those rules will be secret and change on a case by case basis. And they will rely on the majority being too busy to pay attention. No thanks.

    Before we go about tearing anything down, we should have a clear rule to be applied to all namesakes in the valley. If you cannot formulate a clear rule other than “because I judge this person to be bad” then you have no business tearing anything down.

    What we know so far: You are cool with slave owners, anti-abolishionists, rapists, murders and on and on having substantial things named after them. But for some reason, this tiny park in North Bend cannot stand in your world.

    BTW, this same man (EJ Roberts) seems celebrated in Spokane as an architect and land developer. Maybe North Bend should should send a team to Spokane to educate them on how wrong they are.

    Or maybe, the North Bend busy-bodies can get to work on solving the real problems plaguing our community. I’ve seen people shooting up in the Ace parking lot. Anything you can do to help there? Or is “boiling the ocean” too?

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