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Mary Posey: Leavenworth Pioneer – 02/09/24

Written by Chris Rader

Leavenworth in the 1890s was a growing railroad town with a few hundred residents. At least two of these early settlers were Black: Frank and Mary Posey. Both born in Virginia (she in 1870; his birth date is unknown), they had migrated from Montana to Leavenworth in 1894 on the Great Northern Railway. From the railroad company they purchased acreage about two miles east of town. Their only child, Frank Jr., was born in Leavenworth on September 4, 1904.

On their new property the couple developed an apple orchard; they also raised some farm animals and a large garden. Their place became known as Posey Canyon, a name that remains today on official maps. The canyon, which has a small creek running through it (emptying into the Wenatchee River), branches off from the North Road between Leavenworth and Peshastin.

Frank Posey was a barber. His downtown barbershop probably did good business, with all the railroad men who lived in or passed through Leavenworth – until it burned in the disastrous conflagration of Thanksgiving Day, 1896. The town’s first big fire destroyed seven frame buildings on Front Street: Posey’s shop, the Overland Hotel, Mrs. H.A. Anderson’s restaurant, three saloons and one residence (1). Posey found another downtown location and continued in the barber trade until he was reportedly stabbed to death by a drunken customer in 1904.

After her husband’s death, Mary Posey remained on the farm. She continued to run the orchard and also sold grapes, eggs, milk and other farm products – and occasionally took in laundry. In March 1906 she advertised in The Leavenworth Echo for someone to rent her “bearing orchard, eight years old. Will rent for cash and give tenant opportunity to work out part of rent. Address, Mrs. Mary Posey, Leavenworth” (2).

There is no indication that anybody took over her orchard. Indeed, Mary Posey was acknowledged as one of the town’s better farmers. A page-one newspaper article about a large exhibition of fruits and vegetables put on by Leavenworth growers for a delegation of Spokane merchants in September 1912 highlighted her entry: “Mrs. Posey, apples, grapes and crabs (crabapples), all grown without a drop of irrigation water” (3).

The private road into Posey Canyon from North Road leads to a residence. Photo by Chris Rader.

It is thought that Mary and Frank Posey bought 20 acres from the railroad. On several occasions she sold off part of her holdings: to Seattle investor Thomas Burke in 1908, 1909 and 1910 and to William J. Watson in 1910 and 1911. Sometime between 1904 and 1908 Mary Posey married again, to William Kellum. Little is known of him other than that he was Black. She occasionally used his surname, but usually referred to herself as Mary Posey. Under the latter name she placed ads in The Leavenworth
Echo over the years:

 

  • Three laying hens and one gobbler. Inquire of Mrs. Posey. (April 17, 1908).
  • Laundry work wanted, at Mrs. Posey’s old stand. (July 3 and 10, 1908)
  • For sale: Registered Holstein bull at the Posey ranch, two miles east of town. (Sept. 10, 1915).
  • For sale: An old Trusty incubator, a new oil stove and a thorobred (sic) Holstein bull. See or write Mrs. Mary Posey, Leavenworth. (April 27, 1917).
  • Good pasturage at Posey ranch at reasonable prices. Two miles east of town. See Mrs. Posey. (June 1, 1917).
  • Two horses, wagon and fresh milking cow, one spring-tooth harrow, one disc. Mrs. Mary Posey. (July 26 and Aug. 2, 1918).
  • Wanted — Second hand range in good order and other second hand household furniture. Mrs. Posey, City. (Feb. 7, 1919).
  • Selling a team of good horses, weight about 3,000. Also have a few chickens for sale. Inquire of Mrs. Posey. (April 16, 1920).
  • For sale – a few spring chickens and some rabbits. Also have a furnished house for rent. (Aug. 13, 1920).
  • Selling a sewing machine, range and heater, all about as good as new. Mrs. Mary Posey, Leavenworth. (Jan. 28, 1921).
  • A team of horses, wt. 1400 each, for sale cheap, can be seen at my place. Also some thoroughbred white Wyandotte roosters. Mary Posey. (March 4, 1921).
  • A No. 1 cow, just fresh. Also some household goods. Mary Posey. (May 12 and 19, 1921).
  • Range and heater, for sale cheap. Mary Posey. (Jan. 20, 1922).

William Kellum’s name only appears in The Echo once. It is likely that he did not spend much time living in Leavenworth. His wife placed only one classified in the newspaper as Mary Kellum:

“Wanted – To buy second hand household goods, including carpets. See
or address Mrs. Mary Kellum, Leavenworth” (4).

Posey Canyon is about two miles east of Leavenworth, on
the North Road. (USFS map, T. 24 N., R. 18 E.)

But two news articles referred to her as Mary Kellum. One noted that Mrs. Kellum, along with other early local tree fruit growers, was contracting with North Pacific Fruit Distributors for marketing her 1914 apple crop (5). The other article seems to indicate a tinge of racial discrimination, judging by the outcome of a lawsuit.

Cuts Down Bee Tree and Gets Arrested

Mrs. Mary Kellum, Colored Woman, Objects to Having Her Honey Taken by a Woodchopper

Mrs. Mary Kellum, who resides on a ranch about a mile east of this city, had John Mack arrested the first of the week because he cut down a bee tree on her land. Mack was employed by Mrs. Kellum to cut wood on her place, but she says he was instructed to cut only pine and fir trees. The wood cutter, it appears, when he noticed the bee hive in a big cottonwood wanted some of the honey and proceeded to fell the tree. Mrs. Kellum swore out a warrant for Mack’s arrest, charging him with willful destruction of property. The case was tried in Justice’s court Tuesday afternoon, Attorney Sorenson appearing for the defendant. Mack was dismissed (6).

Mary Posey Kellum’s last appearance in The Leavenworth Echo was another sad news item.

Mrs. Mary Posey says that she recently lost a little sack containing every cent she had, that she really needs the money and will be thankful if the person who found it will return it to her. She thinks she lost it between Yama’s restaurant and the city hall (7).

Mary and Frank Posey’s son Frank left Leavenworth at age 18, in 1912. He joined the U.S. Army and moved to California. Mary Posey died on October 31, 1924 after a long illness. She was buried on the outskirts of Leavenworth’s old cemetery on North Road; only white people could be interred in the cemetery itself. Next to her grave is the headstone of her second husband, with no birth or death dates – simply marked “Mr. Kellum, Husband of Mary Posey.”

The couple’s gravestones sit side by side outside the boundary of the old North Road cemetery. William Kellum does not seem to have had much of a presence in Leavenworth. Source: https://www.findagrave.com/

ENDNOTES
1. Richard Steele, History of North Washington, 1903.
2. Leavenworth Echo classified ads, March 16, 23 and 30, 1906.
3. Echo, Sept. 27, 1912.
4. Echo, March 22, 1918.
5. Echo, Aug. 28, 1914.
6. Echo, Jan. 29, 1915.
7. Echo, Nov. 10, 1922.

Note: Writer-editor Chris Rader is grateful to the website www.chroniclingamerica.com for access to old newspaper issues. Users can go to “Advanced Search” and enter keyword(s) and specific newspapers. The site is a valuable aid to historical researchers.

This story was originally published in Confluence Magazine in the Summer edition of 2022. In an effort to preserve these stories, the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center will be posting these stories on the museum’s official blog.

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