Picture box frames a look at Mukilteo history

By Paul Archipley | Jun 11, 2014
Photo by: Paul Archipley History aficionados display the picture box Saturday made by pioneer Louisa Fowler Sinclair, who was the daughter of Mukilteo co-founder Jacob Fowler and Mary Warren Fowler. It is on loan to the Mukilteo Historical Society. Pictured are, from left, MHS President John Collier, Everett Museum of History volunteer Ed Anderson, EMH commissioner Neil Anderson, and EMH President Gene Fosheim.

In an era before TV, radio, Internet and other distractions, Louisa Fowler Sinclair no doubt had time on her hands for other pursuits.

Born in Mukilteo in 1861, hers being the first recorded birth in Snohomish County, Sinclair used some of that time to make an intricate picture frame out of locally found shells and stones.

A more accurate label would be a picture box. The shells cover both the wood frame and a cross inside its middle behind glass.

In the right light, one can see the words “Rock of Ages” inscribed in tiny pebbles along the horizontal piece of the cross.

Measuring about 20 inches by 30 inches, the picture box is now on display in Quarters B at the Mukilteo Light Station in the exhibit “Mukilteo: The Way We Were,” thanks to the generosity of the Everett Museum of History.

EMH volunteers presented the picture box to the Mukilteo Historical Society during a brief ceremony on Saturday at the lighthouse.

EMH commissioner Neil Anderson said he and other volunteers began searching for the relic recently after seeing a 1964 Seattle Times article about Mukilteo that included a paragraph about the picture box.

He was on hand Saturday with his brother Ed Anderson, EMH President Gene Fosheim and Executive Director Barbara George to present the treasure to John Collier, president of the Mukilteo Historical Society.

No one knows exactly when Sinclair made the picture box, but because of the artistry, Collier guessed she would have been an adult, so it could date to the 1880s.

EMH has some 40,000 historical items in storage. Volunteers have long sought funding for a permanent building in which to open a museum.

While that effort continues, they jumped at the opportunity to put at least this one piece on display for the public to enjoy. It’s on loan to MHS for at least two years.

After seeing the newspaper article, Neil Anderson said he and others began digging around in boxes on a sort of treasure hunt. They were thrilled when they succeeded.

EMH President Fosheim said their work to bring Snohomish County’s history to its current residents is a labor of love.

“During an hour, we typically spend 10 minutes looking and 50 minutes talking history to each other,” Fosheim said.

The group is busy lobbying for grant money, as well as city and county support, in its ongoing effort to open a museum, he said.

Noting there is “a ton of treasures” stored away out of sight, he said, “It’s a crime all our school kids are missing out on that history.”

Putting Sinclair’s picture box on display means at least one piece of history is back for all to see.

“This is just special,” Fosheim said.

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