Community

Street named after Milo Smoots, early town marshal, councilman and 'one heck of a fine old guy'

Smoots Alley runs east-west, parallel to Guard Street, from Marguerite Way to Park Street. Smoots Alley provides access to 15 properties and is accessible via Marguerite Way on the east, Park Street on the west, as well as Scenic Place and Hillcrest Place.  - San Juan County Polaris Mapping and Information System
Smoots Alley runs east-west, parallel to Guard Street, from Marguerite Way to Park Street. Smoots Alley provides access to 15 properties and is accessible via Marguerite Way on the east, Park Street on the west, as well as Scenic Place and Hillcrest Place.
— image credit: San Juan County Polaris Mapping and Information System

— This version corrects the location of Smoots Alley.

Milo M. Smoots was born in Minnesota and his wife, Sarah, was born in Nebraska, but when it came to Friday Harbor life, the Smootses were as local as they come:

He served as Friday Harbor’s first town marshal. Sarah, also known as Sadie, gave birth to their son the month the town was incorporated.

Milo Smoots went on to serve as justice of the peace, and served as a Town Council member from 1940-45. At age 79, according to some local recollections, he died while giving the speech at a Friday Harbor High School graduation ceremony.

“He was one heck of a fine old guy and one of the well-known people in town,” Kip Roberts said.

Jim Cahail kidded, “He was justice of the peace for a good many years. I was very fortunate in that I never had to appear before him.” Cahail remembered Justice Smoots as being fairly liberal. “He was known for sprinkling a little holy water on them, slapping their hands, and telling them not to do that again.”

Now, this “heck of a fine old guy” is being memorialized with a street named in his honor: Smoots Alley, which runs parallel to Guard Street from Marguerite Way to Park Street. Smoots Alley provides access to 15 properties and is accessible via Marguerite Way on the east, Park Street on the west, as well as Scenic Place and Hillcrest Place.

The town was asked by residents to name the road. “Smoots” was on a town list of recommended names; the Town Council unanimously approved the name Thursday.

While Smoots died about 57 years ago, information about him is easily found in archives and in local memories.

According to records available on the Washington State Digital Archives online site, he was born in about 1874 in Minnesota. His wife, the former Sadie Middleton, was born in Nebraska.

It wasn’t immediately known when Smoots moved to San Juan Island. But a newspaper article in 1898 reported that on June 1 of that year, Smoots was best man at the marriage of Elsie L. Scribner, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James G. Scribner, to Charles D. Tucker in Argyle. And the July 5, 1904 Port Townsend Leader reported that Smoots was groomsman at the June 14 wedding of Herman Dightman and Mary Middleton “at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Middleton, Rev. J.H. Kevan officiating.” The bride's attendant: Her sister, Miss Sadie Middleton, the future Mrs. Smoots.

According to town records, Milo Smoots was sworn in as the town’s first marshal on Feb. 23, 1909. The following day, on Feb. 24, Milo and Sadie’s son, Ralph C. Smoots, was born. That’s according to records available on the Washington State Digital Archives.

According to local recollection, the Smootses lived on Blair Avenue, across from what is now Friday Harbor Middle School. Their property backed up to Journal editor Virgil and Maude Frits’ property. The Smoots house is no longer there. A nephew, Frank Buchanan, believes the house was moved.

According to records available on the Washington State Digital Archives, Mr. Smoots died in Friday Harbor on April 24, 1953. His son died in October 1976 in Mount Vernon. Relatives still live in the area: Buchanan, the nephew, on San Juan Island; and a grandson, Philip Smoots, in La Conner (a message was left on his answering machine Thursday).

The San Juan Historical Museum has a large collection of Friday Harbor Journals, from the Milo and Sadie Smoots collection. The Smootses were early advocates of local historical preservation.

“In the early years, the nucleus of the San Juan Historical Society’s Museum was a few keepsakes placed in homemade cases in the County Court House in 1953,” a history of the museum states. “O.G. Wall, Friday Harbor Journal editor, Milo Smoots and wife Sadie, Etta Egeland, and Frank Mullis with his Indian artifacts, kept alive the interest in local history.”

And, now, a tree-lined lane will bear the Smoots name, a reminder of a family that loved Friday Harbor and became a part of the fabric of its history.

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