Here is our collection of historical photos and information as we work to piece together the history of our home and property.
We are grateful to Marvin and Kay Brons for generously sharing with us their old family photos and information.

The Original Homestead

The history of Boise Creek Farm begins almost thirty years before our house was built. It begins in the late 1800's when Niels and Ida Brons made their home on a 50-acre parcel of land near the corner of Warner Avenue and Blake Street southeast of Enumclaw. Niels worked as a Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company treasurer in town. He and his wife Ida built the house shown below in 1898. Below left is a 1909 photo of the original Brons house; below right is a photo taken in the early 1920's after the house was significantly enlarged to accommodate Niels, Ida, and their thirteen children. Click here to learn more about Niels Brons.


1909 (mouse over for a 1960 photo)

early 1920's (mouse over for a 1990 photo)
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In its early days, Enumclaw was a small pioneer community with unpaved streets as shown in the photos below.

Enumclaw 1890

Enumclaw 1900

Here is a photo taken from downtown Enumclaw in 1909 looking toward Mt. Peak and Mt. Rainier. Click to enlarge.

 

The 1930's photo below is of an eight-sided barn erected by Niels Brons and his neighbors around 1909. A small portion of the original Brons barn (now our barn) is just visible at far right. We are looking east from Blake Street with the Brons house in the background to the left and Mt. Baldy in the background to the right. Niel's grandson, Enumclaw resident Marvin Brons, shares the following:

An Eight-Sided Barn
"My dad [Herb Brons] relayed the story to me about how the eight-sided barn came into being. It was built when he was a young child. His father [Niels Brons] was raising hay for the White River Mill [later known as the Weyerhaeuser Mill] for their horses that they used in logging. In exchange my Grandfather would receive from them lumber. That is how he had gotten the lumber to build the original house. The lumber he got for the barn was all kinds of odd sizes. My dad said his dad decided how to cut it all out to fit together. He planned the shape to use the lumber he had. Niels pre-cut all the lumber, had a barn building party and the local farmers came and helped. He handed out each piece of pre-cut lumber and told them where it was to be nailed. At he end of the day there stood an eight-sided barn." 

The eight-sided barn no longer exists, but another barn stands in this spot today. It was constructed in 1948 using material from the original barn. Some of the old windows were reused and are identifiable in the photo below. Click to enlarge for a closer look.

Notice the bracken and trees between the two barns above. Early records indicate that Boise Creek once flowed between these barns. Check out the 1937 aerial survey image at the bottom of this page; the old creek bed can be seen as a wide indentation in the land. The creek was diverted in the early 1900's when a drainage ditch was created to control persistent flooding in the district. Today, our house and land (Boise Creek Farm) is located between the site of the original creek and the creek's current location, just two hundred feet to the right of this photo.

In the 1909 photo below, we see several members of the Brons family standing in front of a berry field that surrounded the Brons home. We are looking south-east from Warner Avenue near Blake Street with Mt. Baldy visible in the background at left. Notice the thickly wooded area behind the house with Mt. Peak just visible at far right. Today this forested area is open pasture. Click to enlarge.


The photo above was featured in the Enumclaw Courier Herald in 2007; the original text is quoted here:
"Marvin Brons brought by this photograph of the Brons' berry field from 1909. The photograph features, from left, his father Herb Brons; grandfather Niels Brons (one of the founders of Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company); who is holding Esther Brons; and grandmother Ida Brons, holding Rosamond Brons. The identity of the next person is unknown. From there, pictured are Amanda Brons, Alma Brons, Ella Marie Brons (wife of Marvin's great-uncle Hans Brons), an unknown man, and Paul Boysen (Marvin's great-grandfather). The farm was located at the corner of 456th Street and Blake Street. In the background is the home Niels Brons built in 1900".
This photo was originally published in a 1909 pamphlet by the Enumclaw Commercial Club, promoting local business. The pamphlet states that the berry culture is just being taken up and is proving a success. Niels Brons is mentioned as Secretary of the Enumclaw Fruit Growers’ Association. Note: 456th Street is also Warner Avenue, because it divides city from county land. Also, some records note that the original Brons house was constructed in 1898, rather than 1900. 

Here is a close-up of Herb Brons; Niels Brons holding Esther Brons; Ida Brons holding Rosamond Brons; an unknown woman; Amanda Brons; Alma Brons; Ella Marie Brons; Hans Brons (Neil's brother), and Paul Boysen (Ida's father).

From the book The Only Enumclaw is in the State of Washington, published by the Enumclaw Commercial Club in 1909...

"In the spring of 1907 a large acreage of small fruit---blackberries, red raspberries, evergreen blackberries and Burbank's phenomenal berries---was planted in the fertile bottom lands surrounding Enumclaw. The Pack of 1907 comprised over 2,900 cases of different kinds of fruit grown here. To accommodate this pack an addition, 24x70, was built on to the cannery. In March 1908 the capital stock of the association was increased to $10,000. The association has over 200 members who hold stock in the company. Shares are worth $5 each. Being run on the cooperative plan, the proceeds, over and above running expenses, all go back to those delivering the fruit. This year only berries were packed. Our rich alder-bottom land produces an abundance of delicious berries (six tons per acre being considered an average crop)  that nets the grower a nice margin. The net proceeds from our cannery for 1906 and 1907 was about 4 cents per pound". 

Note: The Phenomenal Berry (Rubus Phenomenal) or 'Burbank's Logan' is a second generation cross (two first generation crosses were crossed to each other) between the blackberry and the raspberry. It was created by Luther Burbank and introduced in 1894. This blackberry-raspberry hybrid had very large flavorful fruit, similar, but superior to the Loganberry (Wikipedia).

"In western Washington large plantings of the small fruits are growing in favor, some of the new fruits receiving especial attention. One plantation of thirty acres is devoted exclusively to Burbank's phenomenal berry" (The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Review of the Resources and Industries of the State of Washington, 1909, by Ithamar Howell.


 

The Brons Family


Niels Brons was born in Denmark in 1859. He came to America with his family at the age of twelve. Niels married Ida Boysen and they had thirteen children; ten girls and three boys. We can see that Niels had a wry sense of humor, because he would tell people that he had three sons and each one of them had ten sisters! In order of birth, the children were (1) Marie, (2) Lily, (3) Agnes, (4) Amanda, (5) Paul, (6) Alma, (7) Otto, (8) Ida, (9) Elenora, (10) Hilda, (11) Herbert, (12) Esther, and (13) Rosamond.


In this charming 1909 photo, young Esther Brons helps out in the berry field.

Niels documented much of his experiences in a personal memoir that he continued to write in until his death in 1945. His wife Ida died of influenza in 1918. Niel's grandson Marvin Brons, has generously allowed us to share some of his grandfather's memories here.

Boise Creek
"The creek that ran right past our house and barn, Boise Creek, had year after year, overflowed its banks until the silt had built its bed so that it was higher than the surrounding country. When we came, we cleaned the bottom of mud, leaves and branches down to pure sand, so that it did not overflow its banks at our place, but everywhere else the flat country would be like a big lake when the snow melted in the mountains. Some farmers thought this hurt their land, although in reality, it spread a layer of silt that made it more fertile. They therefore, started a drainage district. A deep ditch was dug further south and diverted the water from our beautiful creek into the ditch". 

"We were sorry to lose our clear cold water, that we used for the cattle as well as for drinking water. I dug a well, but the water contained so much iron that we could not use it. Now we had to try something else, so five of us farmers got permission from the Tacoma Waterworks to tap their 48 inch pipe that carried the water from Green River, 12 miles north of Enumclaw to Tacoma. This pipe runs parallel to the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks. The point at which we tapped the pipe was about a mile from my corner, and it was quite expensive to lay a 2 inch pipe to the different farms, but after the first outlay, it was very cheap. Now we had good water". 

"We had electric light before this, and now that they had telephone in town, the farmers made up several districts and put in their own telephone lines. Our line cost us our work plus $13 each. We had the service of the office in town for $2.70 per year, except for long distance, for which we paid the regular rate".

Click here to see a before and after map that shows the course of Boise Creek today and its original course.

The following excerpt was written after Niels recovered from a lengthy illness during the 1918 influenza epidemic; his wife Ida did not recover. The 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic killed at least 40 million people worldwide; some 675,000 people here in the United States.

Division of Acreage
"Since I did not have the strength nor the inclination to farm again, I decided to give two acres to each of the children, if they would pay the mortgage that I had been forced to take with all this sickness. This they agreed to, so I divided the lower 26 acres into 13 lots and numbered them 1 to 13, and then had them draw lots. They each got a deed on the lot they drew, but what should they use the two acres for? Five of them sold their lots for $800. Otto traded his for a car. Paul built a house and barn on his and lived there until he sold it and moved to Seattle. The other six kept theirs for several years and sold the hay that was raised. I sold four more for a good price. What was left I could take care of, and with my salary as Treasurer of Farmers' Mutual Insurance Co. I could get along nicely."

When Niels divided up his 50 acres, his fourth daughter, Amanda, became owner of the land that is now Boise Creek Farm.
Here is what we know of Amanda's story. 

 


Amanda Brons

Amanda and Victor Nelson


Amanda Brons was born in 1889. At the age of twenty-four she married Victor Nelson on April 27th, 1913. Victor and Amanda moved to Roy and started a family. The eldest of their three children was a son, Harvey Sigfred, born in 1915. In 1917, daughter Elenore Marjorie was born. A year after Elenore's birth, the family returned to Enumclaw to live with Amanda's parents. It is likely that Amanda wanted to provide care for Niels and Ida who were both fighting influenza during that terrible epidemic. Soon after returning, Victor built Amanda a small house (shown in the photo below) on her two acres. The house was located near the corner of Warner and Blake. In 1919, their third child, daughter Bernice Loraine was born.


Victor and Amanda Nelson pose for a picture in front of their nearly completed house. This house no longer exists.

Just one year after their third child was born, tragedy struck the Nelson family when Victor died of Bright's disease in 1920. At the age of thirty-one, Amanda became a widow with two small children and a baby to care for. But happier days were coming for Amanda. Six years after the loss of her first husband, Amanda married Jens Andersen in January 1926. With the help of Amanda's father, Jens built his wife a beautiful farm house (now our house) closer to Boise Creek and just south of her first little house.


Jens and Amanda Andersen, circa 1926

Jens, Amanda, and the children moved into their new house in 1927. The Andersen family was the first to call the house home. But tragedy struck once again when just a year later, Bright's disease claimed another victim when Jens died of this painful kidney disease. Twice widowed, Amanda remained in the house and raised her children until 1941 when she sold the house and moved into town.


Here is a photo, circa 1922, of Amanda and her children on a summer day. From left is Elenore Marjorie, Amanda, Bernice Loraine, the family dog, and Harvey Sigfred. Mouse over to see a photo of a young Amanda (far left) and her older sister Agnes (third from left) as Danish Gymnastic Exhibition Team members. Note: this 1905 photo appears on page 201 of Nancy Irene Hall's book, In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Pioneer History of Enumclaw.

Below is a photo of an eighth-grade graduation class that includes Amanda and her sister Alma.

This photo was found in the Historical Archives of the Enumclaw Public Library (photo #67). On the back is written: Eight grade graduation, 1908? From left to right: #3 Bessie Montgomery, #5 Alma Brons, #8 Amanda Brons, #9 Rose Grothen.


 

Our Home - Now Boise Creek Farm

Amanda's farmhouse was close to her parent's house as we can see from the late 1920's photo below. It was taken from Niel's and Ida's backyard looking west. We see the back of Amanda's house, a small garage, and the original Brons family barn. Amanda acquired the old barn when she received her two acres. The house, garage, and barn are still in good condition today. The farmhouse, built in 1927, was solidly and soundly built. The top story at the back of the house now spans the full width, because the upstairs was expanded on either side of the two-windowed dormer. A mudroom was added where the back porch once stood and the back door moved to the north side of the building. You can see the old back door beneath the dormer. The original back door is now an interior doorway between the mudroom and the kitchen. An original exterior window maintains its place between these two rooms. The old barn is well over a century old now, but we no longer have lightening rods attached. Mouse over for a closer look.


On the back of the actual photograph is written: "Taken from the fruit orchard looking west; Amanda's new house, garage, and old barn in the background. You see Benson's place up by the hill". Today, Benson's place is owned by the Van Wieringen family. 

 

Below is a photo of our house long ago, date unknown.
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The image below is from a 1937 aerial photography survey. Mouse over to see the same view from Google Earth in 2007. 

Boise Creek runs along the lower portion of the image. In 1937 the creek was actually a drainage ditch created to control persistent flooding in the area. Notice the berms (low earthen walls adjacent to a ditch) that run along both sides; there is very little vegetation present along the waterway. Today, the creek is not as wide nor as deep as it was decades ago. Today's flooding problems are partially due to the continuous build-up of of sediment in the creek bed over many years. In years past, the creek was periodically dredged to remove the excess silt, rocks, and bracken. Dredging the creek would help to eliminate the flooding we experience today, but it would also disturb salmon spawning beds. A flood plan is currently being studied that will attempt to find a balance between flood control measures and salmon protection. Click here for more information on this and other Boise Creek projects.


Here is what we know of the families that have lived in our house:
Jens and Amanda Andersen, 1927 to 1928; Amanda Andersen to 1941.
Peter and Mary Beyer, 1941 to ?
Joseph and Joy Aldrich, ? to 1996
John and Mary Pokorny, 1996 to 1998
Bob and Gina Ames, 1998 to the present


The photo of Niels Brons above is from page 151 of H. J. Glover's 1955 book, History and Highlights: The Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company, published by The Courier-Herald of Enumclaw.

Niels Brons Elected Treasurer
In 1901 members of Farmers' Mutual elected Niels Brons as treasurer, and office that he would hold for the next thirty-four years. Shortly before the Brons family immigrated from Denmark in 1872, Niels' father, who worked as a servant, died in Portland, Maine. He left behind his destitute wife and two young sons, At age twelve, Niels took a job in a shoe factory for four dollars a week, working ten hours a day and continuing to go to school at night. In 1876 he moved to Clinton County and then to Elkhorn, Iowa where he married Ida Boysen, bought a small farm, and continued to supplement his income with other jobs. Although no records have surfaced, the Brons family probably knew the Bruhns and Johansens, who preceded them from Elkhorn to Enumclaw. In 1898 Niels fulfilled his dream of owning a dairy farm, when he and his family purchased a fifty-acre tract south of town (Enumclaw). They cleared stumps, planted crops, built a house, and acquired a herd of purebred Jerseys. Niels was a leader in the Danish brotherhood and the Danish Lutheran Church, where he, Ida, and their thirteen children played an active part. In the 1920s after Ida's death, he retired from farming, but continued to serve as long-term secretary of the Cooperative Creamery, the Fruit Growers' Cooperative, and the Enumclaw Grange, and as treasurer of Farmers' Mutual (Andrews, 1998, p. 30).

From L. R. Poppleton's There is Only One Enumclaw: Niels Brons was influential in the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company in its pioneer days. He was a self-made Dane who started working at age 12 for 10 hours a day, then immigrated to America where he farmed and worked in a factory and continued his education at night school before bringing his wife and 13 children to Enumclaw in 1898. They stayed at the Bruhn farm although they arrived to find all the Bruhns had typhoid. "The Brons family came to church in a lumber wagon and tied the team of horses to a telephone pole. Mama and Papa sat on the springboard with the children on boards laid across the wagon," recalled Chris Slott. The young people in the large Bruhn, Slott and Brons families enjoyed many wonderful times together, such as dancing in the parlor as Jacob Slott fiddled, or going to parties at the Danish Hall (Poppleton, 1980, p. 20).

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Farmers Mutual Insurance Company - 1898

When a farmhouse or barn burned, it spelled disaster because cash to rebuild was so scarce. Pioneers had enough trouble just wrestling a bare living from the wilderness. They needed insurance against the misfortune caused by a carelessly overturned lantern or overheated stove. One February night in 1898, several capable farmers met at Sorensen's insurance office and organized to insure themselves against loss by fire and lightning, under the Mutual Insurance Act. Much credit must be given to George Bruhn who was the real organizer of the Company. He had previously organized an insurance company in Elkhorn, a Danish community in Iowa. Every district was represented by S. L. Sorensen, George Bruhn, Johan C. Jensen, Lou C. Smith, Frank Siefert, Niels Brons, Henry Brooks, Otto Tamm, William Eckhart, and Price. Bruhn was elected president; Tamm, vice-president; Eckhart, secretary; and Ivan Price, treasurer. Sorensen was the traveling agent to write up and renew insurance policies. He sold the first policy to George Bruhn but the other policies were more difficult to sell. He road by horseback or walked on narrow, dark trails and across swift rivers, through storms and torrential rains, throughout four counties writing up policies. Should darkness fall before he finishe dwriting a policy, he often stayed overnight at the home of the hospitable farmer.

From the 1940's to the present, many changes brought Farmers' Mutual to the forefront of modern business in spite of the criticism from those who felt the new spending policies were unsound and unorthodox.

Andre Anderson, who worked his way from the job of agent in 1928 to president, officiated when the new home office was dedicated in a celebration attended by 4,000 townspeople in 1953. He was succeeded by Art Killian, Nels Anderson and Peter Biege. Norma Baird was secretary for many years and saw it grow to the company known nationwide as Mutual of Enumclaw with 30 million assets, a tribute to the efforts of a long line of employees and officers who have had a vital interest in the progress of their company since 1898 (Poppleton, 1980, p. 34).

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References

Andrews, M. T. (1998). A Century of Service: Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company. Enumclaw: Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company.

Glover, H. J. (1955). History and Highlights: The Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company: The Courier-Herald of Enumclaw.

Poppleton, L. R. (1980). There Is Only One Enumclaw. Self-published.



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