Honoring Our Valley History: Kinsey Street on the Ridge

In his second installment of Honoring Our Valley History, Local Historian Dave Battey shares the connection of history to the street names that honor individuals and remind us of families that have been important in Snoqualmie history.

The Kinsey Family was raised in Grant Township, Nodaway County, Missouri.  Edmund John Kinsey and his wife Louisa had six very entrepreneurial children: in birth order, Alfred, Darius, Clarence, Emily, Edmund Jr, and Clark (sometimes spelled Clarke).

In the 1880 U. S. census for Missouri, Edmund is listed as a farmer and his oldest son, Alfred, as a farm laborer. This census also recorded Louisa as just recovering from typhoid fever.

Settling a Family and a Community

In 1889, the two oldest Kinsey boys, Alfred and Darius, came to the newly platted town of Snoqualmie on the first official train from Seattle over the new Snoqualmie, Lake Shore and Eastern line.  In 1890, Edmund and Louisa brought their family to Snoqualmie.

Family tradition states that Edmund and Louisa bought the first lots in the new town.  Soon, this energetic family-owned and operated Snoqualmie’s first general store, meat market, and livery stable.  They also built the Mt. Si Hotel and provided the first community center, post office, and church. 

A bronze plaque honoring the Kinsey family to the right of the door into the old brick city hall at River Street and Falls Avenue was created and installed by Puget Sound Power and Light for the city’s 1989 Centennial.

Establishing the First Church

The Kinsey family was critical to founding the first church in Snoqualmie. Emily Kinsey, their only daughter, documented the church’s very beginnings.  

A Sunday School was formed in the summer of 1889. In September 1989, Methodist circuit rider Reverend Curtis, from Falls City (yes, it originally had an ‘S’), rode through the Snoqualmie Hop Ranch fields. Curtis called folks to form a church congregation under a huge maple tree at the end of River Street (the river has since taken out the tree).

Services continued near the maple tree every Sunday until bad weather started. Then the meetings moved into a tent owned by Edmund John Kinsey. Services were regularly attended by workers from the nearby Schneider and Wilson mill. The workers enjoyed the hymns, played by the school teacher, Mrs. Austin, and helped store the organ in Kinsey’s Mt. Si Hotel next door between services so that the dampness wouldn’t harm it.

It should be noted that the Kinsey tent was also used for other social gatherings, including temperance organizations, until 1891, when the Good Templars Hall was built just beyond the Gustin and Tibbets store (now the location of the Snoqualmie Market at 8030 Railroad Avenue). The church then moved from the tent to the new hall.

In 1892, volunteers began building the first church in Snoqualmie. It was in approximately the same location as the present United Methodist Church structure. The land was donated by Crawford and Conover, a prominent Seattle developer.  This structure was rolled across Maple Street in the 1920s to become the Snoqualmie American Legion Hall.

Both Reverend Schoonmaker, the first Methodist pastor, assigned to Snoqualmie (1889), and Edmund Kinsey were carpenters, so they planned and supervised the construction. Valley pioneer Dionis George (Dio) Reinig said of Mr. Kinsey that he “was a carpenter and quite religious. He built the first church and worked alone a good deal of the time.”

Methodist Church Bell Honoring Edmund
John Kinsey Sr.

Edmund John Kinsey passed away on February 15th, 1896, at age 52.  When it came time to dedicate the 400-pound bronze church bell (Foundry dated 1901), it was decided that Edmund John Kinsey had done more than anyone else to build the Methodist Church in Snoqualmie.  Community leaders decided to have his name engraved on the bell.  This bell is still in place and rang 100 times during the Centennial Celebration of the City of Snoqualmie on August 4, 1989.

Continuing the Kinsey Legacy

But the Kinsey family is famous far beyond the Snoqualmie Valley. Three of the boys learned photography from a Kinsey Hotel client, and two of them, Darius and Clark, became the most famous of all Pacific Northwest logging photographers. 

Clarence also became a professional photographer.  He and Clark went to the Yukon, and their photos are published in Klondike Lost, A Decade Of Photographs by Kinsey and Kinsey.  After learning the photography trade, Darius was hired by the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad Company, the first railroad to reach the Upper Snoqualmie Valley.  He worked for them for five years, documenting their operation and then began photographing logging and mill operations.

In 1918, Darius and Clark split the Pacific Northwest logging industry photography between them, selling their images to the workers and the logging companies.  Darius’ early images were on glass plates.  His brother Clark used the newer nitro-cellulose film.  They came to prefer our often sunless Pacific Northwest environment and compensated by keeping their camera lens open longer. 

Mary Jane Kinsey, Clark’s Wife, & Camera
From Clark Kinsey Family Album (undated)

Critical to Darius’ success was his wife Tabitha, who developed the hard to handle glass plates and then created the positives. Clark’s wife, Mary, actually traveled with him and developed negatives and made prints for them to sell to the lumber camps before they left.

Tragically, many of Darius’ glass plates were cleaned and recycled for their high-quality glass. There are about 4,700 images in the remaining Darius collection at the Whatcom Museum.

Darius, Tabitha & Clark (undated)
From Clark Kinsey Family Album

Clark’s nitrate film did not age well.  The family asked for help to preserve the collection. In response, Weyerhaeuser collected donations from all of the pictured lumber companies still in business and paid the bulk of the cost of the restoration of his collection – around 5,200 images housed in the Weyerhaeuser Archives and the University of Washington Special Collections in the Suzzalo Library on campus.

Of local interest, the Clark Kinsey collection contains seven views of the North Bend Timber Company and 196 views of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company (which became Weyerhaeuser in 1948).  These pictures are heavily weighted toward woods crews, but there are also many mill crews and lots of locomotives and donkey engines. 

Also included are some photos of the mill town of Snoqualmie Falls and Camps A (Tokul) and B.  Meadowbrook views include the Sunset General Store (now the vacant lot across Meadowbrook Way from the Colonial Square apartments) and a dedication ceremony on October 19, 1921, celebrating a major rebuild of the Meadowbrook Bridge.

Amazon lists a half-dozen books featuring Kinsey photographs.  Be alert that if you find a Kinsey photograph (usually signed and numbered), it may be the only existing copy!  The Kinsey brothers took tens of thousands of images, and only about 9,900 are in the archived collections.  Please consider obtaining a scan of the image you find and sharing it with the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society Museum.

[Dave Battey, the Official Historian for the City of Snoqualmie and member of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society Board]

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