Looking Back: Ira and Julia Bartholomew, Mountlake Terrace pioneers

The roots of Mountlake Terrace

Unlike the history of Lynnwood, its neighbor to the north that included the lumber giant Puget Mill Company and its planned community of Alderwood Manor, Mountlake Terrace has a far different beginning. The role Puget Mill Company played in the roots of Mountlake Terrace was very insignificant, and it didn’t include 5- and 10-acre chicken farms and egg production. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) records, early plat maps of south Snohomish, as well as historic newspapers tell the actual story.

Of course, we can all acknowledge that the land first belonged to the native Salish people until it was ceded to the federal government with the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty at Mukilteo on Jan. 22, 1855. However, even though this had been Salish tribal land, there is no evidence that what became South Snohomish County had ever been the site of any village. The Salish were saltwater and river people and this inland portion of South Snohomish County had neither. If the Salish people had any permanent presence, they left behind no footprints.

Two of the first men to become interested in what is now the southwest corner of Mountlake Terrace were Hugh McAleer, a prosperous logger, and Ira Bartholomew, a retired Pennsylvania farmer and hotel keeper. Hugh McAleer was attracted by the vast forest of trees and also the convenience of a lake and a creek water course to Lake Washington for marketing purposes. Ira Bartholomew visualized a secluded island home for himself and his wife Julia. The two men probably never met each other, but they both became part of the earliest history of Mountlake Terrace.

Pioneers Ira and Julia Bartholomew

Following their 1849 marriage in Pennsylvania, Ira and Julia Bartholomew became the owners of several farms. One was a farm in Potter County, Pennsylvania, and following that they owned and operated a hotel in Port Allegany, McKean County, Pennsylvania. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Port Allegany was a port on the Allegheny River about 30 miles west of the river’s headwaters, where travelers who had come overland from the Susquehanna River could conveniently continue their trip by boat.

Very soon following the completion of transcontinental railroad service all the way to Tacoma in Washington Territory, Ira and Julia Bartholomew and their family made the decision to make a fresh start in the Pacific Northwest—Washington Territory. Altogether, it was reported that about 20 members of the family and extended family members chose to move west in 1887.

Five children had been born to the couple in Pennsylvania: Daniel and Charles Bartholomew, who remained in Pennsylvania; and also, Della (Mrs. Hiram H. Burleson) and Mary (Mrs. Thomas White) who along with their spouses followed their parents and traveled out west. Lillian, their unmarried youngest daughter, also joined the family’s westward journey.

In the spring of 1887, when the family left Pennsylvania by train for Washington Territory, Ira and Julia Bartholomew were no longer young. At the time, Ira Bartholomew was 69 years old; born September 28, 1818 in New York. Julia Chambers Bartholomew, born January 28, 1832 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, was 55 years old.

An unusual homestead in early-day south Snohomish County, Washington Territory

After arriving in South Snohomish County, Ira and Julia Bartholomew made an extremely unusual choice for a home — perhaps, the only homestead of its kind in the entire country. They chose an island in the middle of a lake. Consisting of only 2.95 acres, the island was located in the middle of Lake McAleer — a lake surrounded by a dense forest of trees, mostly cedar. Originally named for Hugh McAleer, we currently know it as Lake Ballinger. The eastern section of the lake and its island are now part of Mountlake Terrace. Its creek, which feeds into Lake Washington, still carries the name of McAleer Creek.

After moving onto their island, Ira Bartholomew went to the federal land office in Seattle to file for a homestead. He found that according to the land office, the island he and his wife chose did not exist — government records had no survey records for the island. In fact, since the island was not recorded in the land records, it was not open for homesteading. For some unknown reason, in 1859 when the federal government made its first land survey of the area, they had completely overlooked this small island.

In the beginning, the couple lived there with only squatter rights until the government finally sent a surveyor. Then the slow process of getting the island accepted and open for a homestead entry began. Eventually, after building their house and a barn for the livestock, planting a vegetable garden, and considering their island farm as their home for many years, on May 1, 1902, the Bureau of Land Management at last issued land patent BLM No. WASAA 072255 for 2.95 acres in the name of Ira Bartholomew.

During a 1971 interview with a Lynnwood newspaper The Enterprise, Mountlake Terrace resident Sadie Anderson told of her grandmother Julia Bartholomew’s enjoyment in sitting on the porch of their island home in the evening while she relaxed and smoked her little pipe, a habit her grandmother had picked up after their Pennsylvania hotel was sold. The family accepted “grandmother’s pipe smoking” and “nobody gave it a second thought.”

Sadie Anderson also liked to tell about her grandfather Ira’s unusual method of rowing his boat ashore from the island. Instead of sitting, he rowed his boat while standing upright. Her grandfather suffered from an old Civil War back injury and rowing the boat in this fashion was easier for him.

By the time his patent for the island was issued in 1902, Ira Bartholomew was almost 84 years old, and because of his age and disability it had become difficult to keep up with the work on their farm and to travel for needed supplies. In addition, Julia Bartholomew was 70 years old. Living a peaceful life of retirement on their island had become a challenge for the elderly couple.

Another change and a move for Ira and Julia Bartholomew

The Bartholomews had also operated a hunting and fishing lodge on their island, which became popular with sportsmen from Seattle. The secluded and undeveloped land surrounding the lake had been part of the 249.75-acre 1870 timber claim of Hugh McAleer, a very prosperous logger who also held extensive timberland holdings in King and Whatcom counties, as well as those in Snohomish County. When Mr. McAleer died in 1888 at the age of 52, the lake and the acreage surrounding it had become involved in a lengthy ownership dispute.

Meanwhile, former Civil War Union officer and Seattle attorney Col. Richard Henry Ballinger, an avid fisherman, developed a fondness for the island. Col. Ballinger had been assigned the task of locating a much-needed untainted fresh water supply for the independent municipality of Ballard (before its 1907 annexation by Seattle). While investigating McAleer Creek as that possible source, he discovered the existence of the lake and the island. Col. Ballinger then became a regular visitor to the Bartholomews’ sportsmen’s lodge, and eventually he persuaded his son Judge Richard Achilles Ballinger to purchase the island property.

Soon after their land patent was official, Ira and Julia Bartholomew accepted a cash offer from Judge Ballinger, and the judge became the new owner of the island. There is a long-held tradition that the agreed-to sale price was several $20 gold coins. The Bartholomews retired to live in the town of Edmonds and, thanks to help from their old friend George Brackett, they acquired a comfortable house.

Ira and Julia Bartholomew were living in their little Edmonds home on Front Street, when Ira Bartholomew died on June 3, 1908 at the age of 89 years and nine months. He is buried at the IOOF Cemetery (now Edmonds Memorial Cemetery). His place of burial is very fitting since the cemetery land had been part of his son-in-law Thomas White’s 160-acre homestead. Mr. White had deeded four acres of his home site south of town to the Odd Fellows in 1894 for the establishment of the cemetery.

After her husband’s death, Julia Bartholomew moved into her own little cottage on the Cedar Valley farm of her daughter and son-in-law, Della and Hiram H. Burleson; on land now located within the city limits of Lynnwood. After a very short illness, Julia Chandler Bartholomew died at her daughter’s home in the evening of Jan. 7, 1914, just three weeks before her 82nd birthday. She was buried at the IOOF Cemetery in Edmonds next to her husband. Four of the couple’s five children survived her, as well as 19 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Julia Bartholomew

Of much interest, the current chairperson of the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery board is the great-great-grandson of Ira and Julia Bartholomew — a great grandson of their daughter Mary and her husband Thomas White. Julie Bartholomew is shown here, circa 1900 — the photo courtesy of her great-great grandson.

The Ballingers leave their mark on the history of Mountlake Terrace

Meanwhile, back at Lake McAleer, Col. Ballinger was living on the island when he died there on July 23, 1906 at the age of 73. His wife Mary Elizabeth Norton Ballinger died in 1912. Their son, Judge Richard A. Ballinger, in addition to being the owner of the island, also purchased the surrounding mainland and the lake from the heirs of Hugh McAleer, and in order to honor his father, he changed the name Lake McAleer to Lake Ballinger. By 1910, Judge Ballinger owned 400 acres of the 640-acre section of land and had started logging the land. Judge Ballinger then began making plans to develop some of the acreage into homesites. With that purpose in mind, he established the Lake Ballinger Land Company and commissioned a well-known Seattle real estate sales agent and developer to carry out his plan.

More history to come

As mentioned above, the history of the land that became Mountlake Terrace is far different from that of the of the logged land holdings of Puget Mill Company. Puget Mill Company (aka Pope & Talbot) had little personal monetary investment in the adjoining land to the south, since the few acres it had owned had been sold years before. However, in a much different way, the company did become involved in the city’s history.

Some of the company’s interest came because they were hired to do some of the logging of the land, but mainly it was the result of the company’s expert salesmanship record. In addition to its lumber mills at Port Gamble and Port Ludlow, Puget Mill Company operated a real estate sales office located in the Walker Building in downtown Seattle, where W. A. Irwin was a top sales agent. The real estate sales office not only represented its own Puget Mill-owned land holdings, it was also available for platting and marketing properties for other land owners — land owners such as the Lake Ballinger Land Company, which was under the ownership of Judge Richard A. Ballinger from 1914 to 1920.

Later we will look back at more of the history of Judge Richard Achilles Ballinger, his summer home on the island, the lake’s lumber mills, the business side of Lake Ballinger Land Company, and some of the history of the other land holders throughout pre-Mountlake Terrace.

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. She researches and writes about the history and the people of early-day Edmonds  Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

3 Replies to “Looking Back: Ira and Julia Bartholomew, Mountlake Terrace pioneers”

  1. Betty Lou,

    Thank you very much for your sharing your well-written articles with us. It is fascinating to learn the history of our community. I look forward to your next post.


  2. Great article! Thanks Betty Lou for all the great work you do to preserve our local history. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at the island and wondered about it. I had no idea about its interesting history. I am looking very much forward to your next article!


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