History: Edmonds’ early settlers — the Roscoe family

C.T. Roscoe Sr. and wife Amelia circa 1888. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

In the summer of 1888, two years before Edmonds incorporated, Christopher Theophilus (C.T.) Roscoe Sr., his wife Amelia and their nine surviving children arrived in Edmonds. They had earlier lost a daughter in infancy.

In 1861, at the age of 18, C.T. Sr. had joined the 98th N.Y. Regiment Infantry in the U.S. Civil War and served three years. He then re-enlisted and was severely wounded at the battle of Cold Harbor. During the war he had been nominated for second lieutenant, but was denied the rank due to his lack of formal education.

After the war, C.T. Sr. and Amelia were married in 1866 and had farmed in upstate New York before heading west. Upon their arrival, C.T. Sr. acquired land on what was then the outskirts of Edmonds, (now the southwest corner of 4th Avenue and Bell Street), and successfully homesteaded, farmed and logged on the property

As soon as the family home had been established, the family members became actively involved in town’s commercial and civic society. Let’s take a glimpse back in time at their contributions to Edmonds’ growth as a town.

The Roscoes’ nine children: Back row L-R: Rae, Edwin, C.T. Junior, Mabel and Reuben. Front row L- R: Emma, Frank, Lavinia and Minnie. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

C.T. Roscoe Senior – Civic Leader

C.T. Sr. set the tone and became a role model for the family’s involvement by quickly becoming entrenched in the town’s government. In 1889, one year after arriving, he was elected a councilman and the following year, when Edmonds incorporated, he was elected city treasurer.  After fulfilling that role for four years, in 1893 he was appointed street commissioner as well as city marshal by Mayor W.F. Armstrong.

Two years later, C.T. Sr. was elected mayor, and he served in that role during 1895 and 1896. Under his leadership many of Edmonds streets were graded for the first time, getting rid of the water-filled deep ruts caused by horse- and ox-drawn wagons carrying heavy loads of wood down to the mills. Planks and heavy timbers were also laid to create navigable crosswalks across the muddy streets. The number of mills doubled during his mayoral tenure. By the early 1896, there were four shingle mills and one lumber mill operating along the waterfront. The population was estimated at 750 and the Great Northern Railroad and multiple steamers were consistently bringing visitors to the area.

After his mayoral career, C.T. Sr. remained active in the city’s affairs, advising the city council and volunteering in various city activities in conjunction with the Masonic Lodge, which he was a member of for nearly 50 years.

C.T. Roscoe Junior

C.T. Jr. was 20 years old when the family arrived in Edmonds. He had had been studying law, and successfully passed the Washington State Bar in 1891.  Initially, he took a job as a county clerk to learn about the county’s operations, and then he accepted the position of Edmonds city attorney in 1895. In that role, he represented the city in all litigation and enforced ordinances put in place by the city council. It is interesting to note that during his tenure, the City of Edmonds went “dry” on several occasions in an effort to restrict alcohol sales and public intoxication. But those ordinances were often quickly revoked after a few months on the books.

C.T. Roscoe Jr. circa 1895. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Later in 1922, C.T. Jr. was elected Snohomish County prosecuting attorney, representing the entire county in any litigation matters. Upon being elected, he also appointed Edmonds resident O.D. Anderson as his deputy. O.D. Anderson was the younger brother of Frances Anderson, legendary Edmonds educator.

In the fall of 1924, C.T. Roscoe Jr. announced his candidacy for Congress from the 2nd District, which was comprised of eight counties.

Ad in Edmonds Tribune-Review Sept. 25, 1924. (Photo courtesy Sno-Isle Genealogical Society)

 C.T. Jr. wasn’t successful in his run for Congress. He returned to private law practice and was later re-elected as Edmonds’ city attorney in 1934, serving in that role for several years.

Emma Roscoe

Emma Roscoe married Ernest Heberlein. Together they owned the Edmonds Hardware Store on Main Street. Historical records indicate that she was a driving force in the business’ expansion and success. You can read more about the history of the Edmonds Hardware Store here.

Minnie Roscoe

Minnie married Dan Brackett, the nephew of Edmonds’ founder George Brackett. Dan had identified himself as a “laborer” in a 1905 census, but in 1908, he and Minnie’s brother Edwin opened the Brackett and Roscoe Grocery just east of the E. H. Heberlein Edmonds Hardware Store.

Dan Brackett and Minnie Roscoe Brackett circa 1908.  (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

The brothers-in-law operated the grocery store successfully for two years. In 1910, Edwin and Minnie’s younger brother, Reuben Roscoe, joined the operation. A year later, Dan Brackett decided to sell his interest in the grocery store and moved to Grandview, Washington, where he and his family went into the orchard business. Dan and Minnie subsequently had six children and lived in Grandview until they retired.

Photo of the Roscoe Brothers Groceries at 318 Main St., next to Edmonds Hardware, which was owned by E. H. Heberlein and his wife Emma Roscoe Heberlein. Today Housewares resides in the old grocery store space and Chanterelle until last month had been a long-time tenant in the space occupied by the hardware store. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

 The Roscoe Brothers – Edwin and Reuben

Edwin, who was approximately two years older than Reuben, welcomed him into the grocery store operation as a full partner with the departure of Dan Brackett.  Prior to his arrival, Reuben had worked as a shingle weaver in several Edmonds mills and apparently had no grocery experience. The store was renamed Roscoe Brothers Groceries and Edwin’s wife (Clara Thornton Roscoe) also became active in the store’s day-to-day operations.

The Roscoe Brothers Groceries store circa 1912. Edwin Roscoe is second from the left holding the hat. To his right is Clara Thornton Roscoe (Edwin’s wife). Reuben is standing to the right with his hands on his hips in the doorway. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

During the World War I years, the Roscoe brothers successfully ran their grocery, expanding their offerings and building a solid reputation for their products and services in the community.

Interior of the Roscoe Brothers Groceries circa 1916.  L-R: Mrs. John Thornton (Mary), Edwin Roscoe, Mrs. Edwin Roscoe (Clara Thornton), Rueben Roscoe, Vern Gist and John Lund, seated. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

In late 1918, as World War I was ending, the Roscoe Brothers — along with several stores — merged to form the Home Stores Company. But one year later, the Home Stores Company and J.N. Janeway’s Coal and Feed business were acquired by the newly formed Edmonds Cooperative Association, which further consolidated a number of small stores in the downtown area.

Author’s note: Reuben Roscoe continued to work for the Edmonds Cooperative Association for over a decade.  Sadly, his brother Edwin and his father C.T. Roscoe Sr. both passed away in 1919 due to the deadly influenza that ravaged the country that year. C.T. Roscoe Sr. was 76, and Edwin was only 44 at the time of their passing. Reuben died 30 years later, in 1949, from natural causes.

The Remaining Roscoe Children:

Lavinia – married Pete Schreiber, who was also an Edmonds councilman and the city’s street commissioner in 1909. They were both active in Edmonds civic affairs for several decades.

Rae – became a nurse and worked in the Edmonds area during her life. She never married.

Mabel – was also a nurse. She married a Mr. Macomber in 1902, and they moved to Bremerton, where they remained the rest of their lives.

Frank – married a woman by the name of Teresa Nordenburg. There is little historical information regarding them, except that they had two daughters.

Author’s notes:  Amelia Roscoe, wife of C.T. Roscoe Sr. and the mother of his 10 children, died in 1911.  C.T. Roscoe Sr. was 68 years old at the time and he later married a widow by the name of Mrs. Rose Abbott before his death in 1919. C.T. Roscoe Sr.’s eldest son, C.T. Roscoe Jr., married late in life, and passed away in 1936 at 68 years of age. He had had a distinguished career in law serving the City of Edmonds and Snohomish County for more than three decades.

This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. Thanks go to the Edmonds Historical Museum and Sno-Isle Genealogical Society for their assistance.

    1. The Roscoes most likely purchased the land from George Brackett Sr. who is recognized by most people as the founder of Edmonds. When the Homestead Act became law in 1862, the area that later comprised Washington state had territorial status. Formed in 1853, Washington Territory encompassed an expansive area soon cut back by the establishment of the Idaho and Montana territories in 1863 and 1864.

      On October 10, 1866 Pleasant Elwell filed the first claim for the land which we now as the Edmonds Bowl and purchased it from the U.S. Government. Seven years latr, Pleasant Elwell sold his land holdings to M.H. Frost, J.D. Fowler and Nat B. Fowler, who were Mukilteo pioneers.

      Two years later George Brackett purchased the 147 acres that now comprises most of the Edmonds bowl from the aforementioned gentlemen. He then started the town by building a cabin, and a wharf while draining the extensive marsh that sat along the shore. The 147 acres would have included the land that the Roscoes purchased and homesteaded on in 1888.

      Historical records indicate that there were no settlements by indigenous people in the area, due to the reported dense marshlands along the eastern shore of Puget Sound and the dense forest with large amounts of undergrowth above the marsh.

  1. CT and Amelia Roscoe are my great-great-grandparents. Their daughter, Lavinia, is my great-grandmother. She passed away at the age of twenty-nine after giving birth to her second child. Her first child is my grandmother, Marie. Both Marie and her brother Carl were raised by CT and Amelia after her death.

    1. Tina, thanks for the additional information. I will make sure it gets added to the Roscoe’s Historical file at the Edmonds Historical Museum.

  2. “By the 1850s, when the first EuroAmerican settlers arrived at Alki Point and along the Duwamish River, diseases had already taken a devastating toll on native people and their cultures. During the 80-year period from 1770s to 1850, smallpox, measles, influenzas, and other diseases had killed an estimated 28,000 Native Americans in Western Washington, leaving about 9,000 survivors. The Indian population continued to decline, although at a slower rate, until the beginning of the twentieth century when it reached its low point. Since then, the Native American population has been slowly increasing.” by Greg Lange HistoryLink.org Essay 5100

    Maybe not “empty” so much because of a swamp. I think this is worth mentioning.

    1. Thanks for the additional insight. There was definitely a decreased population of indigenous people due to the diseases you mentioned. Those that did remain along the eastern coastline of Puget Sound traveled back and forth up and down the shores. I only mentioned that there was not a settlement in the area where Edmonds now sits, as a reference point. The land and its resources definitely belonged to the indigenous people for centuries before EuroAmerican explorers traveled into the Puget Sound region by ship.

  3. Author- when you quote the homestead act of 1862 and the formation of the Washington Territory in 1853, I believe you are missing the point of the reader’s question of who the land was purchased from.
    Some of our current City leaders and volunteers due the day that Brackett redirected the course of a stream and drained the marshy land in the name of property development. Read the current material about the restoration of the wetlands in Edmonds, especially the consultant study done within the last 5 years. It comments on putting a key stream back into its natural course and undoing some of Brackett’s work. Also think about the persistent flooding of the street intersection at Dayton and Hwy 104. The rerouting of the natural water flow by Brackett contributes to that- along with huge amount of paved surfaces, of course.
    Thank you for your story about the Roscoe family. I had an Aunt Lavinia, and Lavina Roscoe is the only other woman with that name that I have learned about.

  4. Wonderful history and truly appreciate the additional information, insights and thoughtful comments and responses. Well done Byron and all who contributed.

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