By Polly Keary, Editor
Monroe may not have the history of lots of Irish immigrants that some St. Patrick’s Day-celebrating cities do, but the few Irish early residents of the area certainly had a large presence.
Whether notable or notorious, saloon-keeper Jane Berry and the Fausset brothers got noticed.
Perhaps among the most remarkable of Monroe’s early residents by any measure, Jane Berry arrived in Monroe in 1869.
She left Down County in Ireland at the age of 22, sailing to New York and then around Cape Horn.
It was commonly said that women were a civilizing influence on the West, but Berry was clearly an exception.
In 1900, 31 citizens signed a petition asking town commissioners to cite Berry for her conduct during an altercation at her saloon, which was one of Monroe’s first buildings, constructed while the town was nothing more than a dirt track between tree stumps.
She was said to have brandished a pistol, used foul language in the presence of women and children and allowed boisterous noise to emanate from her establishment, all between 5 and 6 p.m.
Berry accumulated property, including a brick building on East Main Street, which was rumored to have a brothel on its top floor. Mothers of the area’s schoolchildren even once petitioned to have the school bus (a horse-drawn wagon) take a route to school that did not pass Berry’s saloon.
Washington State passed a prohibition law in 1914, five years ahead of the nation. That law didn’t seem to impress Berry or many of the town’s citizens; 1917 found Berry and a large number of displeased residents watching as Berry’s supply of liquor was confiscated and carted out of town.
Berry was arrested, and within minutes, hundreds of local residents heard about it and made their way to view the alcoholic contents of the sheriff’s wagon before it left.
Berry eventually married Frank Donahue, who helped her manage her business in the last 13 years of her life.
Although a scandalous figure in early town history, Berry came to be widely respected. Known as “Aunt Jane,” she was often generous, and when she finally died, the mayor asked town businesses to close for her funeral.
When she died, she’d been in town for more than 55 years.
Just about the time Berry died in 1925, the fame of another Monroe Irishman, daredevil Al Fausset, was just beginning to grow.
The Fausset family fled Ireland during the potato famine, during which a full quarter of Ireland’s population either died or emigrated. They fetched up in Minnesota and Canada for a generation, but then the family’s sons went west to log.
The first Fausset arrived in Monroe in 1892, and by 1899, nine out of the family’s 10 children had settled in the area.
They might have had common heritage, but they didn’t see eye-to-eye, said local historian and Fausset decedent, Guy Fausset.
The eldest son, Robert Fausset, cut a wide swath in the early politics of the area. A stern and religious man, he became the school principal for a while before going on to become the county prosecutor.
While prosecutor, Fausset was a player in one of Everett’s darkest historical incidents; the Everett massacre.
While most law enforcement officials of the day were staunchly anti-union, Fausset, like many other Irishmen, sympathized with the labor movement, and, in fact, with human rights issues in general; for two years he headed the Humane Society in Seattle, which in those days was devoted more to people than to animal welfare.
In 1916, a group of pro-union members of the International Workers of the World, commonly called “Wobblies,” arrived in Everett to agitate. Law enforcement and business owners tried to turn them back, and a gunfight ensued in which as many as 14 people died.
Fausset prosecuted a case against some of the Wobblies for murder, but they were all acquitted.
Despite his pro-labor sympathies, Fausset was a conservative prosecutor, and he crusaded against some of the activities that others of his brothers avidly pursued. He opposed alcohol, gambling and boxing, and the contrast between himself and his siblings was a matter of amusement to the local press.
“The Snohomish paper said that, as Prosecutor Fausset was coming in the front door of one of the saloons in town, three of his brothers were climbing out the back,” said Guy Fausset.
He disapproved of a number of his brothers, but one in particular stood out.
Al Fausset was well-known around town for pulling crazy stunts in cars or in the boxing ring, but he wasn’t regionally famous until he decided at the age of 47 to take a canoe down 104-foot Sunset Falls.
A dashing fellow with a mop of unruly black hair tangling over one eye, he launched his canoe in front of a crowd of thousands, surviving the drop and earning about $1,500, a princely sum in 1926.The winnings weren’t enough to appease his wife, who subsequently divorced him.
For the next three years he grew famous for dropping over large falls in his canoes, three of them higher than Niagara.
Al Fausset’s career came to an end in 1929 after the stock market crash, when people stopped spending money to watch such spectacles.
Today, Guy Fausett is the last of the area Faussets.
“One time we were a huge family, but nobody had kids, and the ones who did moved away,” he said.
They certainly made a mark on Monroe before they did.