In the early 1900s very few people lived in the Wedgwood area of northeast Seattle. Many who did come were immigrants or first-generation Americans from Germany, Scandinavian countries or the Netherlands. Others came from across the United States, hoping to get a new start in Seattle. People who bought land in Wedgwood in the early 1900s were willing to live a rural lifestyle so that they could afford to have their own homes. It was common for people to keep chickens and cows at their Wedgwood homes up until the 1940s.
In 1897 the still-small, struggling city of Seattle received a big publicity boost from the Yukon Gold Rush. Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce sent press releases all over the USA, advertising Seattle as “Gateway to the Yukon,” claiming that all passage to the North Country was through Seattle and that all supplies could be obtained here. Some people responded immediately to the lure of gold and came to Seattle as the jumping-off place, but the romance of Seattle as a land of opportunity lasted far longer than the Yukon Gold Rush. For years afterward people were attracted to Seattle’s reputation as a place to make a new start.
Charlie Schultz comes to Seattle in the 1890s
Out in New York State, 22-year-old Charlie Schultz, a first-generation German American, was one who took up the challenge to make his fortune in gold. Charlie did go North in 1898, but like many others he soon realized that the real money to be made was in Seattle itself. Upon his return from the gold fields Charlie sought work in Seattle and he settled down by marrying Charlotte, a Swedish immigrant.
Charlie & Lottie bought land in an area outside of Seattle where they hoped to have a home in a few more years when they could afford to build. In the early 1900s it was common to invest money in land as a kind of savings account, thought to be safer than putting money in a bank. The Schultzes built their first small wood-frame house on the hilltop on NE 75th Street at 32nd Ave NE, and they became one of the first few families to live in the Wedgwood area prior to 1910. The neighborhood did not have any name at that time and was usually just called northeast Seattle, though technically it was outside of the Seattle City Limits.
The Schultzes’ northeast Seattle home was farm-like, but Charlie never characterized himself as a farmer. He worked at various occupations, including carpentry, until he obtained a good job as a steamfitter in a Seattle shipyard, where he worked for the rest of his life. At home, Charlotte tended a kitchen garden and kept chickens and cows.
In 1925 the Schultzes were able to build their dream house, a stucco structure at 3202 NE 75th Street. The house may have been expanded, with the presence of a central brick chimney a “clue” that the house may have once been heated by a wood stove. Although stucco houses are uncommon in Wedgwood, the construction method was popular in the 1920s as a less-costly alternative to brick. Stucco was thought to be sturdy and resistant to both sun and rain.
Clarence Sherman brings his family to Seattle in 1905
The lure of Seattle continued to be strong even after the Gold Rush years were over, and not just for young men in their twenties like Charlie Schultz. Out in Fredericksburg, Iowa, in 1905, Clarence Sherman approached his fortieth birthday and dreamed of Seattle.
Clarence had grown up in Fredericksburg as the only son of a prominent merchant, Milo Sherman, who was a Civil War veteran and well-respected in town. Clarence worked in his father’s store. Perhaps Clarence was beginning to feel overshadowed by his father and oppressed by life in a small town. After contemplating his dead-end prospects as a forty-year-old store clerk, in 1905 Clarence resolved to move his family (wife Madge and five children) to Seattle and make a new start.
The Shermans had a difficult struggle to get established in business in Seattle, and in 1908 they suffered the death of their twelve-year-old daughter, Marrion. In 1909 Clarence began listing himself in the Seattle city directory as a poultry breeder on NE 75th Street at 34th Ave NE. The Sherman’s wood-frame house had a big sign in front: “C.H. Sherman & Sons,” offering poultry and eggs for sale. In addition to their house on that corner, the Shermans owned parts of the blocks over to 32nd Avenue NE where they had chicken sheds.
By 1919, even though three of their four remaining children were grown, married, and out of the house, income from the chicken-and-egg business was not enough to sustain Clarence & Madge Sherman financially. Clarence and his youngest son, James, age 18, both obtained jobs in the burgeoning oil and gas supply industry as automobiles were increasing in popularity.
The end of the Sherman chicken ranch in 1921
The final blow to the chicken ranch came when Clarence’s wife Madge died in 1921. Clarence and his son James moved out of the house and took an apartment downtown, close to the gas station where they were working. In 1922 Clarence remarried and moved to Beacon Hill. James married one of the Verhamme girls whom he had known while growing up in the neighborhood around NE 75th Street. Dorothea Verhamme was a member of the large interrelated Dutch immigrant group which had settled on 75th to 80th Streets near 35th Ave NE in the years 1910 to 1920.
Over the course of the 1920s Clarence Sherman sold the rest of his land holdings in Wedgwood along 34th Ave NE. The sale of these lots may have helped finance the purchase of a gas station on Beacon Hill, where Clarence worked the rest of his life.
Clarence sold his chicken-ranch house to a Wedgwood neighbor, but property records show that by 1925 the house was gone. In its place, in 1930 the new owner built the present brick structure at 7503 – 34th Ave NE.
Charlie Schultz still keeping cows in the 1940s
Throughout the years of the 1920s and 1930s Charlie Schultz continued working as a steamfitter but he also expanded his farm-like activities from his house at 3202 NE 75th Street. Into the 1940s Wedgwood was still outside the city limits, and many people kept chickens and cows. There were many vacant lots where the Schultz’s cows were allowed to roam freely and graze. On August 10, 1942, Charlie Schultz was killed by a bull which came up from behind and rammed him. Schultz was 67 years old and perhaps his hearing had deteriorated due to his long years of work in the noisy shipyard, for he had not heard the bull’s approach.
Although I do not know the exact place where Charlie Schultz was killed, I suspect it may have been at the present site of Eckstein Middle School at 3003 NE 75th Street, just across the street from the Schultz house. From the early 1900s the site was a pasture owned by Swedish immigrant neighbor John Blomquist and it seems likely that the Schultzes may have kept their cows there.
After her husband’s death Charlotte Schulz moved out of the house. Things were changing: the neighborhood would soon be included within the City of Seattle, and cow-keeping would no longer be allowed. Like Clarence Sherman and his son James, the Schultzes’ son Charlie Jr. took a job in the gasoline business, as a driver for Ajax Fuel Company. After the end of World War Two, in the 1940s and 1950s Wedgwood began to change from a neighborhood of chickens and cows to that of streets, cars, new schools and new housing developments.
Notes on the Schultz family:
The original house number was 3206 E. 75th Street; for simplification purposes I have given the address as 3202 NE 75th Street as it was changed in the 1950s. The 1942 newspaper death notice of Charles T. Schultz said that he had gone to the Alaska Gold Rush in 1898 and was a member of the Alaska Yukon Pioneers, Seattle Chapter. The notice did not mention the manner of his death; that was told to me by neighborhood residents.
Notes on the Sherman family:
The 1962 newspaper obituary for Neil, the older of the Sherman’s two sons, noted that the family came from Fredericksburg, Iowa, to Seattle in 1905.
The newspaper death notice of Madge Sherman stated that she died at home, September 6, 1921. The cause of death was not given; she was 51.
Marriage dates obtained from Washington Digital Archives: the Sherman’s oldest son Neil in 1914; daughters Marguerite and Melba each married in 1919; James in September 1922; and Clarence Sherman remarried in December 1922.
Sherman family history info from History of Fredericksburg, Iowa.
Census and City Directory listings showed the kinds of occupations of the Sherman and Schultz family members. The census can be accessed on-line through the Seattle Public Library website. Old city directories are on the 9th and 10th floors of the downtown library, and also at the Municipal Archives in City Hall, Seattle.
Property records accessed at the Puget Sound Regional Archives showed property ownership which gave me an outline of when the Schultz and Sherman families lived on their homesites.