Frances Anderson

Frances Elizabeth Anderson was born November 16, 1890 in Drummond, Montana to Jennie Potts and C.J. Anderson. Her parents and her older brother, Lorne Bruce Anderson, had moved from Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada to Drummond in August of 1889.  Both her father and her uncle, W.J. Potts worked for the Great Northern Railroad.

In January of 1891, when Frances was two months old she and her family moved to Fidalgo Island, Skagit County. Two years later on December 18, 1892, her brother Otto Duncan was born. Both her father and uncle continued to work for the Great Northern Railroad while living there. Later railroad work would bring them to Snohomish.


First grade school in Edmonds

In 1894 her uncle was transferred to Edmonds as a Station Agent and the Western Union Telegraph Manager so the family followed. Frances entered first grade at Edmonds Grade School at 7th Ave & Main Street when she was five years old; her first teacher was Mary Jones. At the time started school the population of Edmonds was “about 750” people.

Construction crew in front of the new high school, 1909.

Her uncle, who lived with them, had purchased 80 acres of land where the Standard Oil Company was located in Richmond Beach. In 1896 when Frances was in 6th grade, her family moved to Richmond Beach. However, Frances and her brothers refused to finish the school year in Richmond Beach, so they walked the railroad tracks to the Edmonds Grade School for the remainder of the year; her sixth grade teacher was Miss Naomi St. John. The following school year she attended the one-room Richmond Beach grade school where her brothers and she would be in the same class, and later when she was in eighth grade her family moved back to Edmonds. Unfortunately, on March 17, 1907 her father, a track-walker between Richmond Beach and Edmonds for the Great Northern Railroad, was struck and killed by a train.

The first graduates of Edmonds High School; L to R: Myrtie Rynearson, Elias Cook, Anna McKillican, Ethel McKillican, Earl Sweet, Frances Anderson, Anna Holmes, Oscar Johnson.

In 1909 construction was started on a new high school building on 4th Ave N (location of the Edmonds Center for the Arts) and the building was completed in time for graduating exercises. The three seniors who graduated that year were: Mary Dorgan, Paul Bigelow and Dunbar White. The following year the 1911 senior class was the first to attend classes and graduate from the new building, at this time the population of Edmonds was approximately 1,114. These graduates were: Frances Anderson, Myrtie Rynearson, Anna Holmes, Ethel McKillican, Anna McKillican, Earl Sweet, Richard Johnson and Elias Cook.

Frances Anderson and her brother, O.D. attended the University of Washington in 1913. She had to walk up the hill from Edmonds to get an Interurban street car and later she took the late night OWL train which she caught and would arrive at midnight in Edmonds. She took courses in physical education and earned “W” letters in baseball, track and basketball. At that time the university was offering women’s crew, but Frances didn’t try out because she could not swim.

The new fire-proof grade school building, 1930.

In 1916 the Assistant Head of the Physical Education Department, Ethel Johnson, headed to the Whitewater State Normal School (University of Wisconsin) to become the head of their P.E. Department, and invited Frances to come along. Frances stayed for a few years, but returned to Edmonds and accepted a second grade teaching position to be near her mother. At this time both her brothers enlisted and traveled to France to fight in World War I.  She taught second grade until 1924, when the Superintendent of Edmonds High School asked her to replace Principal Phoebe Reynolds, who was retiring. Frances held this position for 25 years until 1949 when she asked to teach at the second grade once again – she realized the pay difference between a principal and teacher was only $290 and wanted to teach again. She taught ten more years before she retired in 1959.

Her earlier memories of Edmonds include the grocery store being on the corner of Bell & Front Street (First or Sunset Ave); the many saloons and shingle mills along the waterfront; the logging wagons being pulled by oxen; Native American families camping on the Edmonds waterfront on their way south to Auburn and Seattle to pick hops.

In 1978 the City of Edmonds bought the old grade school at 7th and Main Street and named it the Frances Anderson Center; “Officials say it was a natural decision to name the new community center there after the person who had spent the longest time in its hallways”.

Frances Anderson passed away on June 2, 1990 just shy of her 100th birthday.